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Posts Tagged ‘bird in flight’

So many factors have to work together perfectly to get good shots of a bird in flight—the lighting has to be right, the exposure needs to be correct, the shutter speed needs to be fast enough to stop the motion, and, most critically perhaps, the camera has to focus properly on the moving subject. Of course, it helps also to be able to capture the wings in an interesting position and to have a background that is not distracting.

I have been working on taking photos of birds in flight, especially Canada Geese, but it has been rare for me to get all (or even most) of the variables to fall into place at the same time. However, in late December I took a series of shots of a Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) that turned out really well. The background was the sky, which some folks don’t find to be very interesting, but at least the goose was not obscured by branches. Click on the photos to see them in higher resolution—I was thrilled that I even managed to get a catchlight in the visible eye.

The challenge for me will be to repeat this success with smaller birds that fly faster and less predictably.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Sometimes I don’t want to freeze motion entirely in the way that I did in a photo of a Canada Goose landing in the water that I posted earlier today.

Here is another shot of a Canada Goose in which I panned the camera, helping to blur the background, and the slower shutter speed left a certain amount of motion blur in the wings, helping to enhance the impression of speed. My camera was in aperture-priority mode and the shutter speed dropped when the goose that I was tracking flew against the darker background of the trees.

I really like the overall feel of the image, the sense that the goose is straining to slow down as it prepares for landing, but is still moving forward at a fast speed. Is the image “tack sharp?” No, it’s not, but I am happy that it is not—it’s a creative choice. Check out a recent posting entitled “Chasing the tack sharp mirage” by Lyle Krahn, one of my favorite photographers, for a provocative  discussion about this topic.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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No matter how quickly I try to focus on a bird, they often are quicker than I am. Often I am left with merely an image of an empty branch, but every now and then I’ll get a cool image of the bird taking off.

That was the case yesterday, when I tried to get a shot of this small, dark-colored bird. I really like the position of the tail and the detail of the wings, which help to form an almost abstract portrait of the unidentified bird.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I continue to try to photograph every hawk that I see. This past weekend I encountered a hawk that was perched relatively low in a tree that was pretty far away. I got a couple of shots of the hawk in the tree that had a surprisingly large number of leaves still on it.

As I was setting up my tripod to try to get a steadier shot, the hawk took off. Instead of flying up, he flew down low across a field with trees in the background. Although I didn’t really think I would be able to get a decent shot, I kept shooting and got the shot below. I like the position of the hawk and the contrast between its light brown color and the darker tones of the tree. It not often that I get a chance to take a photo of a hawk in flight at that angle.

I am also including one of the shots of the hawk in the tree in the hope that someone will be able to help me identify his type.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday I was observing ducks, geese, and gulls in one of the ponds at my local marshland, when suddenly they all took to the air. It seemed to me that something had spooked them and I quickly scanned the ground area and the water and found nothing. When I turned my eyes to the sky, however, I discovered a relatively large bird flying  across my field of vision in the distance

The day was dark and gray and rain clouds covered the sky, so the lighting was not very good. The poor lighting and the fact that the bird was so far away made it tough for me to lock on the focus of the camera, so I was able to snap off only a couple of shots before the bird disappeared completely in the distance.

The flight of the bird did not look like that of the vultures that I have photographed, so I thought that perhaps I had photographed a hawk, though it was hard to know for sure from the image on the little LCD screen of my camera. When I viewed the images on my computer, I was thrilled to discover that I had finally photographed a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Maybe it’s because of the symbolism attached with the bald eagle—all I know is that I felt really happy with my discovery.

These two images are not really that clear and I hope to get better ones in the future. In many ways, I am continuing what I recognize as a pattern in my shooting. The first time I capture a new subject, I am so excited that I will share the image, irrespective of its quality. The second time, the quality of the image normally increases dramatically.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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