Great blue heron in flight at 15fps

This article features a number of images of Great Blue Heron in flight captured during my recent trip to Cuba. All were shot hand-held using a Nikon 1 V2 and a 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens.

To help illustrate the AF-C and subject tracking capability of the Nikon 1 system I have included the next 10 photographs which are sequential images taken as part of one AF-C burst. All are full frame captures without any cropping.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-450
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-450
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-450
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-450
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-450
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-450
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-400
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-400
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-360

I shot my V2 in Manual mode, with centre weighted average metering, and Auto-ISO. The small size and light weight of my Nikon 1 gear made it far less tiring to keep my lens focused on a perched bird waiting for it to take flight.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720

Since the water in marsh area adjacent to our hotel was much deeper than usual there were only a couple of Great Blue Herons in the area which restricted the number of opportunities I had to capture them in flight.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 160mm, efov 431mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800

So, when image opportunities presented themselves I had to count on the AF-C and subject tracking capability of my Nikon 1 V2 to get the job for me…and I was not disappointed.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 141mm, efov 381mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 141mm, efov 381mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720

The image above is one of my favourite ones captured during my week in Cuba. The heron had been standing in the water motionless for some time and I had been diligently maintaining my focus and framing on it for over 5 minutes when it suddenly decided to take flight. I was able to capture it just as it became airborne with water still streaming from its feet and legs.

As you can see in the next three images (frames 10, 13 and 16 of the sequential series) my Nikon 1 V2 did a good job maintaining AF-C. All three images below are full frame captures without any cropping.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 141mm, efov 381mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-900
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 141mm, efov 381mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-900
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 141mm, efov 381mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 141mm, efov 381mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 141mm, efov 381mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 141mm, efov 381mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720

The final image that I’d like to share with you is a tad out-of-focus (for which I apologize)…but there is a bit of a story that goes along with this photograph.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 208mm, efov 561mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-450
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 208mm, efov 561mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-450

This particular heron had been perched opposite me, high up in a tree on the other side of an expanse of water in the marsh. I had been watching and focusing on it for quite a while when it started to get a bit agitated so I figured it was about to take off.

To my surprise rather than fly off at a good height it swooped down out of the tree and came straight at me about 6 feet above the surface of the water. As I furiously tried to acquire focus it loomed ever larger in my lens. It veered off just as my V2 locked focus on the long feathers at the base of the bird’s neck and as I rattled off a couple of shots.

I’m sure the heron wasn’t as close to me as I felt is was as I watched the bird approach me through my viewfinder, but none-the-less it was a rather invigorating experience!

Gaining familiarity with our equipment and learning how to use it effectively are very important factors in capturing usable bird-in-flight images.

When I visited this same resort last year I missed all kinds of birds-in-flight images even though I was using the exact same Nikon 1 gear. This year with far fewer opportunities I came home with many more images of birds-in-flight. This served as a good reminder to me that when we buy new gear it takes some time to learn how to use it properly.

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Article and all images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.

8 thoughts on “Great blue heron in flight at 15fps”

  1. Such pretty birds, and more good apparent resolution. How fun. When you say continuous tracking, you mean centerpoint, or are you using a lock-on and letting the focus points move as the bird moves in the frame?

    1. Hi Sean,
      With the V2 I have two different continuous tracking options, one is a fixed centre point and the other allows the focusing point to ‘float’ and find its target. I typically use the fixed centre point for my AF-C runs at 15fps. I’ve been doing a bit of experimenting with the ‘floating point’ but so far I’m not convinced that this option will work as well for me.
      Tom

      1. Thank you Tom. I assumed you were using center-point AF-C, that’s what works best for me with my D7100 and a6000 as well. Lock-on is a great idea but I’m getting tired of being unable to trust it!

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