I went out this morning with the intention of trying to capture some images of hummingbirds in flight. Sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate and I didn’t see any hummingbirds at all this morning. Instead I ended up trying to photograph some Purple Martin in flight.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Purple Martin are larger than any other common swallow found in North America. They are swift, acrobatic flyers and I haven’t had any real success photographing them in the past.
Even though the birds appear to be very erratic flyers I decided to watch the members of the colony at Ruthven Park to see what I could learn.
These birds certainly aren’t as predictable as larger, slow moving birds like cormorants, but they did exhibit a few common approach moves.
I positioned myself with the sun at my back and at a bit of an angle to the nesting boxes at Ruthven Park. This afforded me a rather narrow ‘shooting window’ with the sky as a background.
What I quickly discovered was that it was much easier trying to photograph these little speed demons at a focal length of between 150 mm to 210 mm rather than trying to use my 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 fully extended.
I was able to pick up the birds much better as they made their ‘dipsy-doodle’ approaches and keep them in the viewfinder. This necessitated some fairly aggressive cropping in post, but at least I was finally able to capture some usable images.
I used AF-C with subject tracking and shot my Nikon 1 V2 at 15 fps. I’d estimate that I missed about 50% of the AF-C runs I tried. This was more likely my fault than that of the V2 as I often pressed the shutter too quickly, before the camera had acquired focus on these little bullets.
I set my ISO to 800, forcing a faster shutter speed to try to ‘freeze’ the wing movement of the various birds.
I was able to capture AF-C runs of Purple Martin in free flight and as they approached their nesting boxes. This yielded an assortment of images.
Taking the time to watch the birds to determine the most advantageous shooting angle, as well as shortening the focal length of my zoom lens were the two biggest factors in the success that I had today.
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