Terns are one of the most common birds and various species can be found in many locations around the world. Since terns often dive to catch fish they can be regularly seen shaking momentarily while in flight. This helps the birds shed themselves of excess water on their feathers. This article shares photographs from an AF-C run of a tern doing a mid air shake.
What follows is a series of 14 consecutive images captured hand-held with a Nikon 1 V3 equipped with a 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
To capture this sequence of images I shot at 20 frames per second using continuous auto-focus (AF-C) with subject tracking. I used Manual camera settings with Auto-ISO 160-6400.
If you have terns in your area and would like to capture an AF-C run like the one above, it is important to watch your local birds to see how they signal this mid air shake.
The tern I photographed waited for between 2-4 seconds after leaving the water before doing its mid air shake. Just before doing this shake its flight path dipped and rose ever so slightly. It is at this point that a shutter release needs to be timed.
I’d recommend shooting at the fastest continuous auto-focus frame rate that your camera allows in order to get the most number of unique wing and body positions. If your camera has a deep buffer, you can simply track with the tern in flight and fill your buffer until it does its mid air shake.
The mid air shake motions captured in this sequence all occurred within a time span of about 1/2 second.
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held 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. All photographs were cropped to 4,000 pixels in width, then resized for web use.
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