Long time Ealing Wildlife Group member and nature photographer extraordinaire Nigel Bewley has put together two photography tutorials for us! This one is about Birds in Flight and the next one is Wildlife in its Environment. Thanks Nigel!

Getting To Grips With Photographing Birds In Flight

Exposure setting

Start with Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority.

Shutter Speed

Select a shutter speed fast enough to “freeze” the bird’s wings in your photograph. Go for at least 1/1000th of a second to 1/2000th of a second. Even faster is better, if possible.

Aperture

Select an aperture of around f/8. This aperture is likely to be the lens’s “sweet spot” where it is sharpest and you will also get a decent depth of field.

ISO

Set an ISO that will allow for the above combinations of shutter and aperture. On a bright and sunny day, start with an ISO of 250.

Focus Points

The most accurate focus point is the central point but it’s tricky to keep this centred on the bird. Activate all of the focus points or at least a cluster in the centre of the frame. Set your camera’s focus to continuous focus. The camera will continuously focus with the flight of the bird. Canon calls this function “AI Servo”. Nikon calls it AF-C or Continuous Servo.

Focus Points

Exposure Compensation

Your camera’s meter will be trying to expose for the bright sky. The bird that you are trying to photograph is not as bright as the sky so dial in around +1 EV of exposure to fool the meter into exposing for the bird and not the sky. If you are photographing a white bird such as a swan, you may need to dial in around -1 EV to stop the bird “burning out” in the photograph.

Plus/Minus

Look for a plus/minus button and dial in under or over exposure compensation

Lapwing plus 1
The dark lapwing needed +1 EV
owl minus 1
Pale barn owl needed -1 EV

The dark plumaged lapwing needed +1 EV but the bright, pale barn owl needed -1 EV for a correct exposure

Practice

Lots of practice in the garden or, if lock down allows, in the park.