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Closest I've come to a flying bird-help needed

Discussion in 'Birds' started by GeeJay, Mar 15, 2005.

  1. GeeJay


    Jan 26, 2005
    I'm always trying to get flying birds and this is the closest I've come.

    This guy was taking off from the nest. It's not in good focus but I figure it's more of an artsy picture anyway so the unfocus quality is Okay...what do you think?

    Also, I plan to go back to the Rookery this weekend and shoot only flying birds. I need Flew and Harris and anyone else to give me some pointers.. Do you try to focus on the flying bird in flight? I can't find the bird in the air to focus on... what's the trick to doing that?

    The birds fly in and out of the rookery like it's a major airport.

    Any ideas would be appreciated..

    As usual, I thank you very much!


  2. Just like when you use Binoculars for the first time, you see the subject with your eyes, then pick up the binoculars while keeping your eyes on the subject then put the binos in front of your eyes, soon it will be second nature. It takes practice but the method is the same. Keep your eye on the subject then move into the viewfinder and soon the bird will appear. Problems start when you take your eye off the subject to find the camera.

    Same as in baseball, the coach always said to me "Keep your eye on the ball"

    Enjoy learning, it is half the fun!
  3. GeeJay


    Jan 26, 2005
    Hi George,
    That's a great way of expressing it.. Thanks and I will be able to remember that with the binocular analogy..

    I hope to go this weekend and I'll only take flying birds..seems I should get one or two good ones.

    Also, it would be best to use my 200-400 without the 1.4TC for flying birds don't you think? I guess the best would be a 2.8 lens but don't have one that's long enough ...f/4 is the only I have....

    Thanks very much for your help,

  4. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005

    It really is a matter of practice, practice, practice. You first have to decide that this is what you want to accomplish, and then you go out and take a few thousand shots of gulls, pigeons, ducks, geese, and just about anything that you can find that will fly on a consistent basis.

    As for learning to track, and lock onto these guys, I would start at a relatively low zoom level (say 200mm), and then as you get more adept, increase the zoom until you are maxed out (400mm).

    This is about the only way that I know of that mere mortals like you and I can develope any level of competency.

    Good start. Just keep practicing.... :wink:

  5. They are a little soft but this adds to the mystique and takes them into the realm of artistic. Well done Gaye.
  6. GeeJay


    Jan 26, 2005
    Hi Gordon,
    I kind of like the softness in this particular picture..I want to fool around with the filters and see what I can come up with.... you're right, it's definitely an artistic picture but do wish I had gotten the focus on it...that would have been a good one..

    Thanks much,
  7. NeilCam


    Feb 21, 2005
    Ottawa, Ontario
    I'm a LONG way from being an expert on this, but one bit of advice I'd add Gaye, is that the gliding birds are a good way to start - gulls, geese, your egret friends, etc. They tend to maintain a constant speed and direction which makes practicing easier.

    I tried to get Red-winged Blackbirds in flight today. I succeeded exactly zero times. Well not quite true - I did have the RWB centered in the frame in a number of shots. I also managed to get some wonderfully in focus shots of trees. Now if you think about it, if the trees are in focus, it's not likely that the bird will be. :D 

  8. Hi Gale.

    Can I give you a tip from what I have learnt so far about things in flight. See my latest Macro Pictures posted yesterday.
    ALL birds and insects have a prefight mode. In other words they do something very similar each time they are about to take off. They also have a flight pattern. So as the other members have said it is a question of practice practice practice, but I also sit and watch and watch and watch. Suddenly you begin to notice what they do the instant before they fly or the direction their flight path usually takes.
    Some Birds flex their legs and jump, others dive before rising in flight. Butterflies leap upwards and left or right and bumble bees slide of the petals of flowers as their power to weight ratio is so bad.
    So go out and observe as well as take pictures. I make copious notes and I always PREFOCUS AHEAD OFF THE DIRECTION IN WHICH I THINK THE SUBJECT WILL HEAD OFF. I store the the prefocus, and place the subject in the top left=right=bottom etc. and hold that until it takes off or comes into range. Then WHAM THE BLIGHTER HAS GONE OFF IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION!! Result zero. However, when you come back with just ONE image in focus and you are as happy as a pig in the proverbial.
    I hope the above helps, and good luck at the weekend.

    My new D2H could arrive today, so I am hoping that the more sophisticated focussing will help me in 2005. I have a D70 at the moment.

    With my very best wishes. Bob F.
  9. Back Again

    I have just been studying your image. So here goes.

    I think this bird flexes its legs PRIOR TO TAKE OFF. It needs to spring upwards and forwards to gain sufficient momentum for flight. The wings are partially open so that the first beat lifts the bird into the air and clear of the surrounding vegetation. Focussing is therefore slightly forward of the bird and on the branches it has to clear when going in this direction. So if you can get back there at some time and the bird is in a similar position, place bird in lower right hand side of picture. Prefocus on crossed branches. Watch the birds legs and wings as soon as either of them move HIT THE SHUTTER BUTTON and pray. You can see what is sharp in your picture so study it for future reference.
    Of course all this could be a load of rubbish, as I have only just started to study flight patterns, but then again it may not be so idiotic after all.

    BW. Bob F.
  10. GeeJay


    Jan 26, 2005
    Hi Frank, Neil and Bob and others,

    Each one of you has given me excellent ideas about how to track and shoot the flying birds..

    Your replies have inspired me to move forward.

    My plan is to go up to the rookery this weekend and stay for two hours. It really is like a major airport and the birds are flying in and out every few minutes. It's a perfect place to practice everything you've offered in your replies.

    I won't start home until I've gotten 2 Gig of flying birds.. That should at least put a small notch in my practice of shooting flying birds.

    Thank you very, very much and I appreciate your time in answering my plea for help on this subject :!:

    Onward and Upward :!: :!: :!:


    PS......I have the 500P Nikon lens..it's manual focus so would that work for flying birds or is that one I should use later after I've gotten the 'hang of it'? I plan to use my 200-400VR --both of these lenses are f/4...
  11. This is a real informative thread.....thanks to everyone participating. I have been wondering about this myself!! :)  :)  :)  :)  :)  :) 
  12. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Beautiful Image Gaye

    Hi Gaye

    This is such a beautiful image I just had to play. Hope you don't mind.

    1 Original
    2 sharpen and some other stuff, levels
    3 Artsy Fartsy, with feivels gothic glow action.


    View attachment 6312
    View attachment 6313
  13. jfenton


    Jan 26, 2005
    Haverhill, MA

    A little trick Ron Reznick taught me to track birds in flight.....

    When you place the lens hood on the 200-400, make sure that the little tighner upper knob is pointed upwars and in line with the white dots on the centerline of the lens. Use the litle knob just like you would a gun sight. It's saved my butt countless times when I haven't been able to locate a flyuing bird by scanning the skies through the lens and never finding the sucker.
  14. GeeJay


    Jan 26, 2005
    Hi Gale,
    Wow, you made my day! Thanks for fixing up the picture. I had hoped you'd do that after seeing your white egret in another post..

    Thanks and such fun to see the difference..feel free to do that anytime

  15. GeeJay


    Jan 26, 2005
    Hi Jim,

    Your idea certainly jogged my memory. I had totally forgotten about Ron's trick with the hood. ...and that's something I need to remember and use.....

    Thanks a million for helping me with that suggestion. It will work wonders and I'll use it constantly with flying birds and any other time. I sure had forgotten that one and it's another of Ron's 'gems' that I should have remembered,

    Best to you,
  16. Re: Beautiful Image Gaye

    You did a fine job, Gale, but in sharpening the birds, you oversharpened the trees and leaves in the process, and the sharpening
    accentuated the slight noise in the background as well. This is a perfect case for selective sharpening through layer masking.
    If you didn't see it, I just wrote a tutorial on the technique here:

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  17. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl

    Anytime you need some help fixing up a photo, just email to me the largest size you can untouched and will try to help. My e-mail will handle 10 megs. RAW files ok also.


    I would be happy to share any of the little tricks I have learned, still a novice at this. But willing to share.

  18. GeeJay


    Jan 26, 2005

    Thanks, I"ll contact you later,

  19. Hi Gaye

    I was where you are at a couple of years ago, so here is some of my meager knowledge:

    1. Ron's tip using the lens hood screw as a gun sight works well. If you combine that with keeping your eye on the subject and both eyes open when you look through the camera you will soon be able to acquire the target rapidly.

    2. I find it works best if you set up your camera so that the focus is triggered by the AF-ON button - not the shutter release.

    3. Of course, you want to be in continuous focus mode.

    4. For birds in flight I have had most success setting the AF area mode selector to the second position - dynamic area AF.

    5. I carry my camera on my tripod when I anticipate birds so I can set the camera up rapidly. If you are using a ball head, then make sure the slot that allows excess vertical movement is facing you. This will allow you to tilt the camera steeply upwards if you need to. Conversely, if you anticipate tilting downward then orient the slot away from yourself.

    6. Make sure to orient your tripod so that you can pan in the direction of anticipated flight without a leg getting in your way as you (in an excited state), run around your pod tracking your prey.

    7. When you are panning, make sure you keep panning after the shot.

    8. Since you have a zoom, leave yourself some cropping room. Full frame flight images are for the lucky or the extremely skilled photographers.

    9. It is difficult to anticipate exposure on flight shots, as the background can quickly shift from trees to sky. In bright, sunny conditions I frequently set my camera on manual and expose for sunny f/16 or for the highlights. In duller conditions I will set my camera in aperture priority. In both cases, figure out the lowest ISO you can get away with in advance.

    10. If you can, focus on the eyes. If you are shooting larger birds, take the DOF you will require to keep the wings sharp under consideration. The temptation is to shoot wide open, but at 400mm and more that can be a problem.

    Believe it or not, all this becomes second nature with practise. I think that is why we see so many bird photos - they are a challenge, and who can resist that.

    Anyway, I hope these tips help.
  20. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005
    Excellent list Rory. Pretty close to the checklist that I go through each time I set up for shooting flying birdies.

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