DionM wrote in post #17983027
I started off photographing birds "seriously" about 6 months ago. Mostly small perched birds here in Australia.
I have recently starting trying for birds in flight and it is frustrating me. I guess the easiest way to describe the photos is 'muddy'. Not particularly out of focus, but not especially in focus, and the colours are 'muddy'.
I know how to get sharp images of perched birds. But this is a whole other (frustrating) ball game.
I think my gear is up to it - I have shot birds in flight with both my 7D2 and 600/4 II (handheld) and my 70D with 400/5.6. Both combos gives excellent IQ for perched birds. For all intents and purposes, AF (when I am tracking the birds in flight) tells me it has a lock. I use AI Servo, typically single point focus, and I use backbutton focus so I have that held in the whole time while tracking the bird and hit the shutter as needed. I am shooting at 1/800 to 1/1200th, usually wide open, and on sunny days ISO is nice and low (less than 400).
I have attached two samples:
- The first was shot today > the bird going to your left of screen (with the more blue background). This was the 70D + 400/5.6; handheld, ISO200, 1/1000, f/6.3. I have +1.21 of exposure added in LR5 plus clarity and a bit of sharpening. Still not an image I'm very happy with.
- The second was shot a couple of months ago > the bird going to your right of screen (with a greyer background). This was 7D2 + 600/4 II + 1.4TCIII; handheld ISO100, f/9, 1/800sec. +1.21 of exposure in LR5 plus clarity and sharpening. A little better, but probably not where I want to be at (given how I can make the 600/4 II perform for perched birds this shot just doesn't have the same punch in terms of clarity and colours).
Can anyone point to some good tutorials (or post here?) about how I can lift my game for BIF? I know I should have had some exposure comp dialled in (as evidenced by the + exposure in post), and I think I have the bird in focus but when I get back the photos are just disappointing.
Heya, [IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/ETQhrb]IMG_1227
I bird all the time, and I shoot at 600mm on APS-C very often for this, but also 300mm on APS-C as well. I find 1/800 and 1/1200 to be too slow of a shutter unless the bird is hovering. But if the bird is banking, diving, etc, this is simply too slow. I start at 1/2000s. It's not just the bird that is moving, you are moving, and the longer your lens the more movement is occurring that you have to calm down with a high shutter. Think about it in arc degrees with a 600mm on your APS-C, it's a very small angle! It's moving. Your subject is moving. I can get away with 1/1000s with my 300mm because the angle is wider. But with 600mm, I find I have got to push to 1/2000s right away.
Your camera is capable of great ISO performance, I would not stress keeping it low. Stress your shutter speed instead. Also, it helps a lot to be on a gimbal. Hand holding a heavy rig and tracking a bird just adds more movement and shake to the system, and you have to account for that too. You can get away with slower shutter speeds from a tripod+gimbal setup. That said, sometimes it can limit your movement for tracking a bird--if they're close range and overhead, instead of distant and at an angle that is not above you. Push ISO to get your shutter up. If you think it's fast enough, it's not. I can get blur even at 1/2000s on wing tips, etc. Distance to subject also matters and whether they're panning or not. The closer they are to you, the faster they're rate of movement is relative to the pixel collecting light--compared to when they're distant, the rate they pass a pixel is less (same concept as why stars trail with telephotos, but less so with ultrawides, it's all about arc degrees & objects moving relative to a pixel).
Light matters. Shooting in the right light matters, from the right direction, etc. When I'm shooting in day light, I make sure the sun is on my back. I will move around so that I can get to a spot where I'm shooting with the sun behind me, and the bird opposite, so that I can get that light on their face/eyes. If I can't do that, I don't bother shooting unless it's just one of those moments you cannot pass up. But realistically, shooting a back-lit bird in flight is something I just avoid (and I shoot manual for that anyways). Quality of light makes a big difference too. Day light with direct sun can be punishing to a bird photo, giving it a hot spot on one side, darkness on the other. I prefer slightly over-cast days, where the light is more even. I also really prefer cloudless skies as it gives more interesting backgrounds if they're high up instead of just blown white.
I generally shoot AV when I'm in fast changing light (clouds, shore line at the beach, where I basically am most of the time) and I simply use EC to ensure I keep exposure up regardless of getting white clouds, sun, etc, in my shots or just reflections on things that shine near white. So I'm often at +1 EC when shooting in AV. However, I often shoot in manual mode and I prefer to use partial metering so that my subject area is the primary area evaluated for exposure purposes (personal preference). No matter what mode or settings you're using, the histogram is important to read. I basically will push ISO as much as I need to, to get the image exposed to the right, birds look much better slightly over-exposed. It also helps with recovering shadow areas to get color & detail there. And it helps with noise of course. But I will push ISO to whatever it takes to allow me to expose to the right via histogram, and keep about 1/2000s shutter speed. Even in poor light, I try to do that. I'll take grain over severe under-exposure nearly any day! But because it's hard to expose automatically when the sky is involved, the histogram is your best friend to know you at least have a base exposure to work from. And of course, shoot RAW for recovery (getting an extra stop of leeway helps tons when you're trying to expose to the right and recover a clipped highlight, etc).
I bring up distance because the farther you are away, the less pixels there are on the subject which takes away detail. Even if you have 600mm and APS-C, you still need to be very, very close. When you have more pixels on target, everything is easier to work with (better ISO pattern, easier clean up, better shadow lifting, better color pattern, more micro detail on feathers, eyes, etc). Doing hard crops will look muddy compared to getting a good 25~33% of your frame filled as a starting point, 50% is just awesome, and more than that and it's hard to get a good composition without clipped anatomy I find. I still try and get as close as possible without disturbing the bird(s). I'm at a point where I get so close, that I often have to use shorter lenses! But I prefer this, less atmospheric distortion.
Also note, shooting over water on a sunny day, or over any surface on the ground that radiates heat or evaporates water vapor, can have some consequence to your image, giving a weird haze that you cannot do anything about. Location does matter, temperature of the air does matter.
For me, my biggest issue with birding is always the focus speed of my glass, and the accuracy & aggressiveness of my AF. I use old or lesser gear. They're sharp as all get out when it lands, but when I'm doing birds in flight, the sharpness drops a lot because the focus is slightly off, and there's micro-blur from the overall movement (subject, my own forward/backward, the lens up/down/left/right, etc). Even at 1/4000s I can get blur if I'm not careful. Technique does matter quite a bit! I use an old 1D2, and now a 7D (I), and while the AF is great, I still find that my lenses focus slower than I'd like. So that's my next step is to get lenses that will focus as fast as my AF can keep push them.
by Martin Wise
, on Flickr [IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/E8JiBB]IMG_1028
by Martin Wise
, on Flickr