A Bit of Patience Can Pay Dividends

When we’re out photographing birds-in-flight it can sometimes be a challenge to decide when to press the shutter to activate an AF-C run. This is especially true if our camera has a limited buffer size. Having some self-discipline and a bit of patience can pay dividends. This article features an AF-C run of 22 consecutive images showing an egret landing on a branch. To put the images in context…

I arrived at the Hendrie Valley Sanctuary at about 6:45 in the morning. Knowing that my Nikon 1 V3 is challenged in low light conditions I began looking for some perched birds to photograph. This would allow me to use some slower shutter speeds to help keep my ISO at a reasonable level.

Unfortunately it was pretty dead that particular morning with very few birds out and about. I noticed an egret on the opposite side of one of the ponds. It was wading in a dark, shady area and was quite distant so I didn’t pay too much attention to it at first.

After about a half an hour, I decided to move up onto the bridge so I could get a bit closer to the egret, my hope being that it may take flight and create an opportunity to capture a few images.

I changed my camera settings to continuous auto-focus with subject tracking, dialed in a shutter speed of 1/1250, and selected a frame rate of 20 frames per second. I then settled in on the bridge to wait for something to happen.

During earlier visits to the Hendrie Valley Sanctuary I had noticed the odd egret perched on a branch situated towards the middle of the pond. I decided that rather than capture a typical run of an egret in flight, my goal would be to photograph one landing on the branch if I had the opportunity to do so.

After about 15 minutes the egret got a bit more animated and soon took off from the water. Rather than press my shutter immediately upon the bird’s launch, I waited and tracked the bird as it flew from the opposite side of the pond, approaching me.

As soon as the egret’s wing beats appeared to change their normal flying pattern, I began my AF-C image run as I thought the bird was likely preparing to land. And, with any luck it would be on the branch in the middle of the pond that was my objective.

Resisting the temptation to photograph the egret taking off, or in the early part of its flight paid off. I was able to capture a nice AF-C run of the egret landing on the target branch. What follows is the series of 22 consecutive images that was captured.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1800
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1800
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1800
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1800
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1800
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1800
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1400
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1400
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1400
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1000
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1000
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1000
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1000
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-1000

Our patience isn’t always rewarded by Mother Nature, but she does cooperate from time to time! If we resist the temptation to fire our AF-C run too early, we can reap the benefits of a nice image run. And, sometimes a plan actually works out!

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured hand-held in available light using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

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4 thoughts on “A Bit of Patience Can Pay Dividends”

  1. Nice series of shots. In looking at this series, I noticed how the ISO values changed during the sequence. It makes me wonder why the new Nikon Z line locks exposure (AE) during high speed runs. The Nikon 1 series does not have that issue, so I can not understand why the Z series does.

    1. Hi William,

      I don’t understand why the Z-Series cameras have some unusual limitations either.

      In the image series the egret was transitioning from a darker, shaded area into one with a bit more light. The Auto-ISO setting on my Nikon 1 camera picked this up and adjusted the ISO since I was shooting in Manual. I guess ‘older technology’ sometimes has benefits.

      Tom

  2. Hi Tom,

    Indeed! Patience is synonymous with birding. I think yours is amply rewarded time and again. In this run, the ones with the ducks in frame are really fabulous. I particularly like #2, 7, 8 and 9.

    Oggie

    1. Thanks Oggie – I’m glad you enjoyed the images! I had to crop these photographs a bit and I consciously left the ducks in the final images as I also thought they added some nice context to the series.
      Tom

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