Practising Eye Hand Coordination

Regardless of the camera that each of us may own, practising eye hand coordination is a good idea. This is especially true if one enjoys photographing birds-in-flight or other moving wildlife.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 208mm, efov 562mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-360

Similar to playing a musical instrument, our bodies can develop ‘muscle memory’ as we practise. This can help us instinctively bring our camera up to our eye at the correct angle to acquire focus on a moving subject.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-400

Common small animals like squirrels, chipmunks, or the family dog can make good practise subjects.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-320

In a pinch, even cars travelling in the distance will do.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-500

I try to get out at least a couple of times a month to practise photographing birds-in-flight. In Southern Ontario the most common birds with which to practise are Canada Geese and various gulls.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 234mm, efov 632mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-250

In the late spring and summer months we usually have a plentiful supply of cormorants and terns.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-560

Choosing larger birds with predictable flight patterns like geese, ducks, swans and cormorants, are ideal for beginners to practise their panning technique.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 189mm, efov 510mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-450

Even more experienced photographers can practise with these larger birds in terms of getting their desired image framing.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 141mm, efov 381mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-280

Whether we choose to capture individual frames or AF-C runs during our practise sessions is a personal choice. I’ve found shooting individual frames can be helpful to practise shutter release timing.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-640

For example, at the moment that a tern begins to flutter over a target fish, or when it momentarily pauses in mid-air when making a significant change in direction.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 201mm, efov 543mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-250

I also like to practise doing AF-C runs. My objective with this type of practise is to see how well I can keep the subject properly framed in the series of images.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 201mm, efov 543mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-250

Going out to practise is beneficial when we have a new camera, or we are contemplating changing some aspect of our technique. For example, I stopped using VR when shooting birds in flight as I found that I had more success keeping a series of images framed properly without it.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/10,000, ISO-2000

Whether we get any usable images during our practice sessions doesn’t really matter. Developing good eye-hand coordination through practice will pay huge dividends when that split second moment arrives –  and you get your shot!

Technical Note:
All images were captured hand-held using a Nikon 1 V3 and 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens as per the EXIF data. All photographs used in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro 11, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

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