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Shooting Birds in Flight

HigginsR1

Crawfordville, US
81 posts

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HigginsR1 Gold Member Nikonian since 14th Nov 2012
Sun 18-Aug-13 10:28 AM

What are the best settings on the D800E for catching birds in flight. I have tried various settings for metering without much success and getting a little frustrated!

Do you shoot birds using a tripod, mono-pod or handheld?

Thanks

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carlosnino

ES
70 posts

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#1. "RE: Shooting Birds in Flight" | In response to Reply # 0

carlosnino Registered since 22nd Jun 2012
Sun 18-Aug-13 09:23 AM

Hi,

I shoot handheld, with point-focus and between 125 and 250 shutter speed. ISO, aperture and W/B depend on the situation.

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jamesvoortman

Durban, ZA
1468 posts

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#2. "RE: Shooting Birds in Flight" | In response to Reply # 0

jamesvoortman Silver Member Nikonian since 06th Sep 2004
Sun 18-Aug-13 02:06 PM

What lens are you using?

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HigginsR1

Crawfordville, US
81 posts

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#3. "RE: Shooting Birds in Flight" | In response to Reply # 2

HigginsR1 Gold Member Nikonian since 14th Nov 2012
Sun 18-Aug-13 03:48 PM

I'm mainly using a AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II and sometimes a 1.7 or 2.0 teleconverter on it!

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danshep

Olympia, US
1629 posts

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#4. "RE: Shooting Birds in Flight" | In response to Reply # 0

danshep Gold Member Charter Member
Sun 18-Aug-13 11:13 PM


I shoot BIF handheld some of the time and tripod the rest of the time.

D800 with a 300 f/4. 1/2500 shutter speed for faster birds. Perhaps f/7.1 for f-stop.



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OMMBoy

San Diego, US
678 posts

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#5. "RE: Shooting Birds in Flight" | In response to Reply # 0

OMMBoy Registered since 22nd Feb 2007
Mon 19-Aug-13 02:09 AM

Hi, Rich! These are all excellent suggestions! My suggestion is to use your camera hand-held because a tripod or monopod may be too constrictive and you might trip over your tripod leg as you're panning. Apropos "panning": in addition to fast shutter speeds (if you want to freeze the bird in flight), you should practice your panning technique. Start by photographing a bicycle, a skateboarder, or a car as they ride/drive past you. Once you feel that you've got the technique down (which might involve twisting your body), then try it with birds. This, combined with the suggested settings, should result in some really great photographs of birds in flight.

Hope this helps!

Chris

_________________________________
The camera doesn't make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to SEE.
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HigginsR1

Crawfordville, US
81 posts

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#6. "RE: Shooting Birds in Flight" | In response to Reply # 5

HigginsR1 Gold Member Nikonian since 14th Nov 2012
Mon 19-Aug-13 01:43 PM

Thanks for the advise

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jamesvoortman

Durban, ZA
1468 posts

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#7. "RE: Shooting Birds in Flight" | In response to Reply # 3

jamesvoortman Silver Member Nikonian since 06th Sep 2004
Mon 19-Aug-13 02:40 PM | edited Mon 19-Aug-13 02:46 PM by jamesvoortman

OK I would read up in the camera manual about focus modes.

You should probably be in AF-C. If you focus using only the AF-ON button then you probably already are in AF-C. Then experiment with 9 point, 21 point or 51 point dynamic AF. The manual recommends 51 point for birds but others here have said that this mode slows the AF down. Dynamic area AF allows the camera to continue focusing using the surrounding points if your subject leaves the selected point momentarily....which happens when you are trying to track a bird in flight.

Regarding exposure - if shooting against the sky, the underside of the bird is usually in shade and the brightness of the sky will tend to bias the camera into underexposing the bird so consider setting a 1 to 2 stop overexposure if using matrix metering, or use centre weighted metering with +1/3 to +2/3 stop exposure compensation. Shooting against blue sky is much better than cloudy or overcast skies where greater correction may be needed. If the birds have light or white plumage and are brighter than the sky (e.g. seabirds) or if shooting against darker backgrounds such as foliage then the advice above will overexpose them so be prudent and set up your exposure compensation for the conditions on the day. Take a few test shots, even if not in focus and adjust if needed. Histogram could be useful for this.

Regarding ISO : Not sure what your appetite for high ISO noise is but mine is about ISO 2000 on the D800. So I have a bright-handheld shooting mode set up in the menu banks in which Auto-ISO is set up with a ISO 2000 upper limit and a shutter speed of at least reciprocal of focal length.

Aperture - set to preference. 70-200 with converters means you could be anywhere out to 400mm so depth of field could get too narrow to encompass the combination of nearside and farside wings plus a bit of misfocus. Suggest to shoot at about f5.6 to f8. Auto ISO settings will take care of the shutter speed.

VR - your lens may have a panning or "active" mode in which case this can be used. I suggest you don't use "normal" VR. If shutter speeds are routinely higher than about 1/500 then VR may not help and you can consider turning it off.

See how it turns out and adjust from there.

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briantilley

Paignton, UK
30235 posts

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#8. "RE: Shooting Birds in Flight" | In response to Reply # 7

briantilley Gold Member Deep knowledge of bodies and lens; high level photography skills Donor Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Nikonian since 26th Jan 2003
Mon 19-Aug-13 02:53 PM

>VR - your lens may have a panning or "active" mode
>in which case this can be used.

On Nikkor lenses, the "Active" VR mode (where present) is intended for shooting from an unstable platform like a boat or moving vehicle. It's unconnected with panning.

Brian
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HigginsR1

Crawfordville, US
81 posts

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#9. "RE: Shooting Birds in Flight" | In response to Reply # 7

HigginsR1 Gold Member Nikonian since 14th Nov 2012
Mon 19-Aug-13 03:33 PM

Thanks, this really helps!

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Henry64

DK
142 posts

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#10. "RE: Shooting Birds in Flight" | In response to Reply # 6

Henry64 Silver Member Nikonian since 13th Jan 2008
Mon 19-Aug-13 05:27 PM | edited Mon 19-Aug-13 05:28 PM by Henry64

Also be aware of the AF with lock on setting - for BIF and AF-C you might want to switch it to OFF, otherwise AF will stop even in AF-C

Using a monopod or my gitzo with ball-head and sidekick - when my 500mm is used to heavy to handle for more than a few shots.

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Antero52

Vantaa, FI
2675 posts

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#11. "RE: Shooting Birds in Flight" | In response to Reply # 7

Antero52 Silver Member Awarded for his expertise in post-processing, being  consistently helpful and professional. Nikonian since 07th Jul 2009
Tue 20-Aug-13 12:21 AM

James mentioned the 9-, 21- or 51-point settings and the 3D Auto-area. IMO the best mode depends on the background. 3D tracking is good if I can first focus on the bird against a clear sky. When the focus system learns the color of my target, it can track the target even against foliage or the like. But it's almost impossible to use the 3D Auto-area if the bird is already against a textured background. Focus with AF-ON and AF-C is the way to go.

Regards, Antero

G