Birds in flight - spend a lot of cash if you want success?

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#1
A poor craftsman blames his tools but I am reaching the conclusion that to get decent BIF you need an expensive camera and the best glass which is also expensive. I have a a 7Dii and Canon 300L is f4 and a Sigma 150-600 C and have some great shots but the hit rate is low. Looking at other pictures, reviews etc it seems that I need to,get a 1DXii and a 500Lis to get more success.

I find tracking BIF difficult so better equipment may not make any difference.
 
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#2
A poor craftsman blames his tools but I am reaching the conclusion that to get decent BIF you need an expensive camera and the best glass which is also expensive. I have a a 7Dii and Canon 300L is f4 and a Sigma 150-600 C and have some great shots but the hit rate is low. Looking at other pictures, reviews etc it seems that I need to,get a 1DXii and a 500Lis to get more success.

I find tracking BIF difficult so better equipment may not make any difference.
I recently bought an A9 with 100-400 - never before had I attempted to capture a bird in flight, and now it seemed all to easy.

The novelty however wore off quickly, the technical ability to capture a bird in flight was easily met - however producing a compelling image was much harder.

I wouldn't worry so much about the gear if you don't want to spend money, put yourself in situations where you can capture interesting birds, doing interesting things with interesting backdrops... whilst my camera might make that easier, being in the right place at the right time will help a lot more.
 
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#3
I find tracking BIF difficult so better equipment may not make any difference.

That is not a good conclusion, IMO.

  1. Longer lens will permit to reach further away subjects
  2. Being further away, subject seem to travel slower in space
  3. Higher sencel count will allow even more "reach" through cropping
I use a D850 + 600mm ƒ4 combo for these reasons. Sure, it comes at a cost
but it not senseless…



 
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#4
if some of your shots are good then your gear is alright and you should be able to repeat that process for all your shots
it might just be your technique or lack of concentration
try tracking a bigger subject like cars or motorbike till you get the technique


even some of the so called " pro's " have all the gear and no idea just view there pictures
 
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That is not a good conclusion, IMO.

  1. Longer lens will permit to reach further away subjects
  2. Being further away, subject seem to travel slower in space
  3. Higher sencel count will allow even more "reach" through cropping
I use a D850 + 600mm ƒ4 combo for these reasons. Sure, it comes at a cost
but it not not senseless…QUOTE]

I should have been clearer. The main reason I cannot easily track BIF is due to the after effects of a stroke that had a bad effect on my coordination/dexterity skills. A better camera/lens combination however may still help.
 

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#6
I should have been clearer. The main reason I cannot easily track BIF is due to the after effects of a stroke that had a bad effect on my coordination/dexterity skills. A better camera/lens combination however may still help.
I this case, I would recommend to go further and get a solid platform
with proper gimbal.

Holty is right saying that your technique should possibly be improved
as top gear need to be mastered too and are no magical solution
to
the impairments you suffer from.

I had a stress caused stroke 6 years ago and it took me more than a
year to get back 95% of what I was. Now, I am doing fine, back on the
job and playing guitar again. My divorce made sure I would not go to
such situation again.
 
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#7
I this case, I would recommend to go further and get a solid platform
with proper gimbal.

Holty is right saying that your technique should possibly be improved
as top gear need to be mastered too and are no magical solution
to
the impairments you suffer from.

I had a stress caused stroke 6 years ago and it took me more than a
year to get back 95% of what I was. Now, I am doing fine, back on the
job and playing guitar again. My divorce made sure I would not go to
such situation again.
Thank you and I appreciate you sharing personal information. I have recently bought a good tripod and have a gimbal, just got to make sure I use it.
 

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#10
You shoudl be ableto get some decent BIF shots with that equipment - Depends on what birds are, their flight path, what they are doing etc to get a decent 'hit rate'Practice with larger slower birds and work your way up. You could always post some shots, in my experience someone will provide some help.
In my case I find the usual source of error is the nut behind the camera!
 
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#11
i would hope you got decent results with your 7dii+300, but I guess it all depends on expectations.?

Let’s try and get some more info and try and help.

Do you shoot with a tripod or hand held.?
What case setting are you using.?
Is your shutter speed high enough.?
Where is the sun in relation to your subject.?
What size bird are you trying to photograph.?
 
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#12
i would hope you got decent results with your 7dii+300, but I guess it all depends on expectations.?

Let’s try and get some more info and try and help.

Do you shoot with a tripod or hand held.?
What case setting are you using.?
Is your shutter speed high enough.?
Where is the sun in relation to your subject.?
What size bird are you trying to photograph.?
I use both tripod and hand held, but mainly the latter.

I am using tracking minus, acc/decc 2 and AF switching 2 which was based on some guidance I read.

Shutter speed 1250 to 2000.

Sun position varies, usually behind or to the side

Puffins to red kites. The latter of course being easier.
 
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#13
Do you back button focus.?

You may want to post an example so we can see what’s amiss.?

Well, I think puffins are not the easiest subject to photograph if your not getting good results. Again kites at somewhere like Gigrin isn’t easy either, to much choice.
 
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#14
I find tracking BIF difficult so better equipment may not make any difference.
[QOTE="Kodiak Qc, post: 8169159, member: 79796"]That is not a good conclusion, IMO.[/QUOTE]



This was taken with a Canon EOS 70D and a crusty old EF28-135mm lens.
Kodiaq, you are sounding more and more like a Nikon saleman every day lol.

The OP simply needs to practice technique, understand weather conditions and how and why it affect image quality then practice more.
 
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#15
Kodiaq, you are sounding more and more like a Nikon saleman every day lol.
Kodiak that is… :cool:
and I did not name the brand of my gear like you did!
I suggested a solid platform with proper gimbal with-
out giving names either. How do you sound like? :p
The OP simply needs to practice technique
We shall take that point again after a stroke (that I do
not wish you… ever!)
 
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#16
Do you back button focus.?

You may want to post an example so we can see what’s amiss.?

Well, I think puffins are not the easiest subject to photograph if your not getting good results. Again kites at somewhere like Gigrin isn’t easy either, to much choice.
Thanks. I agree that puffins are not easy, for such a slow bird on land they are rapid through the air and change their flight path. Given the gulls waiting to catch them, I am not surprised. Gigrin I found OK.

More practice and patience required on my part.

I have moved to back button focus, yet to try it much for BIF.
 
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#17
The OP simply needs to practice technique, understand weather conditions and how and why it affect image quality then practice more.
I agree on the practice point. As for weather conditions I prefer clear blue skies, perhaps you could could provide some further advice or a web link.

Appreciate use your response.
 
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#18
Kodiak that is… :cool:
and I did not name the brand of my gear like you did!

Kodiak Said quote:
I use a D850 + 600mm ƒ4 combo for these reasons. Sure, it comes at a cost
but it not senseless…
I know my photo is not perfect, there is a bit of over processing going on but that is my fault. My pretty low level EOS 70D(A D850 costs £2000,00 more) combined with a very old lens has produce very good results. You do not have to buy top of the range equipment to achieve sharp photos of birds in flight.

Practice, practice and practice again. That is what I did
 
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#19
I know my photo is not perfect, there is a bit of over processing going on but that is my fault. My pretty low level EOS 70D(A D850 costs £2000,00 more) combined with a very old lens has produce very good results. You do not have to buy top of the range equipment to achieve sharp photos of birds in flight.

Practice, practice and practice again. That is what I did
How do you get on with smaller/faster birds?
 

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#20
You do not have to buy top of the range equipment to achieve sharp photos of birds in flight.
My D850 may be new but the 600mm f/4 is a pre VR version… an
old baby! :rolleyes:
Practice, practice and practice again
I say to my students that understanding is more valuable because
once practices the right thing from the beginning and do not have
to reinvent the wheel.

Very nice shot, btw! (y)
 
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#21
Don't overestimated the success rate of pros with high end great. You just don't get to see all the ones they delete....

Secondly, flights shots are difficult but not in the get-them-sharp sense but the make-them-interesting sense. A single bird against plain sky is very difficult to elevate above perfunctory. It really helps when someone manage a background that has some context without being distracting, the bird(s) are doing something other than just be flying, and/or there's some additional foreground interest (eg hummingbird at a flower).
 

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#22
Don't overestimated the success rate of pros with high end great. You just don't get to see all the ones they delete....

Don't underestimate I would say, Paul. :cool:
Many would consider my trash as keepers as they really are
but why should I keep, where everything else is ok, more pic-
tures within a séquence when two or three are enough?

My first culling will remove the garbage… +/- 10%. Then PP
will be batch applied followed by second culling… +/- 10 %.
The rest will be PP'ed to final rendition follow by yet another
culling… may go up to 50% — these are technically ok but a
small details may disqualify them when compared to others.
 
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#24
I fully appreciate the problems caused by your health - any very serious illness can cause a drop in one's mobility and dexterity, as I know through experience over the past 2 years. It takes a long time to get back to anything like you were before, and, in most cases, it will not be quite as it was. Its very often linked to just getting older as well - this is unavoidable, but the alternative is not to be contemplated!

Many years ago, when I was still working, and producing radio programmes it was decided that they wanted to feature a series I was working on in a national publication, They sent a professional photographer from London to visit and take the photographs. He brought 2 rolls of of 35mm 36 exposure with him and he borrowed 4 more from me - a total of 216 shots! Only one was published and I could have done much better within a single roll. The moral of this is that with other photographers you don't actually see what they don't want to show - so how much is left unseen. That amount is possibly a lot more than you will be discarding. When I was training as a radio producer I was told that for every minute of broadcast time there ia about another 59 minutes on the editing room floor - it may not be quite as much with images, but actually what ratio of you shots can you actually use?

Possibly 1 in 10 (or even higher) is a very good ratio, and it is possible that many professionals would be happy if they could achieve that with birds in flight, as this is a very difficult area of work. Just keep taking the pictures and expect a slow improvement over time as your health improves or you learn new techniques of coping in your specific situation

Good luck, good health and keep persevering!
 
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#25
Just back from the Galapagos and whilst most of the Gulls, Frigates and Boobies were pretty easy when they were gliding some of the others were tricky. The Storm Petrels were very fast and low over the water. And don't get me started on Hummingbirds (on the mainland!)

 
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#26
Just back from the Galapagos and whilst most of the Gulls, Frigates and Boobies were pretty easy when they were gliding some of the others were tricky. The Storm Petrels were very fast and low over the water. And don't get me started on Hummingbirds (on the mainland!)

Nice shot, hummingbirds are tricky. I find they often fly in cloud forests so the light is very poor. This one is a bit noisy for example. I think I might try a flash stand next time.
Hummingbird EF7A8847
by davholla2002, on Flickr
 
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#27
As a follow up to my previous post in this thread - my wife and I spent the day at Bempton Cliffs last Thursday. I took 261 shots, and, after downlaoding them to my computer, I have already deleted 62 and expect over time more will go. Truthfully that is quite a low wastage rate. We were hoping to see some puffins, but, as it was cold and windy, they were hiding in the crevices so we didn't see any in flight. There were a lot of gannets, as you would expect, as well as kittiwakes, razorbills, etc. These are much easier to photograph in flight than puffins, as you can see:

As an encouragenent to the OP (Archie747) this was taken with a Canon EOS5DIII using a Tamron 150-600mm G2 hand held. I've not had a stroke, but if the OP wants to check out my personal situation in my details he may understand why I am trying to encourage him. My health has not changed a great deal since my last update, though I am told, unofficially, that I am getting better, but no-one knows how long it will take. In the meantime I am doing my best to live life to the full, as I hope this picture shows. I go everywhere with my wife, who uses a Canon EOS7D2 with an old, but very good, Sigma 120-400mm to get some good pictures, and that is quite a heavy load for someone who is slightly built and has had two replacement hips and spinal surgery in the last 9 years - and all her pictures are hand held too.

Don't give up, or even spends loads of extra money, you've got decent kit - go out and enjoy and the improvements will come.
 
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#28
As a follow up to my previous post in this thread - my wife and I spent the day at Bempton Cliffs last Thursday. I took 261 shots, and, after downlaoding them to my computer, I have already deleted 62 and expect over time more will go. Truthfully that is quite a low wastage rate.
Good photo, it does not really matter how many you delete, providing you get enough good ones to keep, providing you enjoy the process, which I do.
 
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#29
BIF photography is not necessarily expensive. I have an AF 500mm f8 reflex (mirror) lens, much smaller, lighter, and cheaper than any of the big refractive 500mm and 600mm lenses, but for distant birds it beats anything else I've got in terms of detail resolution. The trouble was that it was incredibly hard to locate a flying bird in the viewfinder, and if I ever did manage to get the bird in the viewfinder, it was incredibly hard to keep it there. The trouble was the narrow field of view of the 500mm lens on a crap sensor (APS-C) camera. I even found it difficult to aim the lens at stationary subjects if there were no good visual location aids such as a horizon I could track along. Once I tired to locate a particular rhododendron flower near the top of a very large rhododendron bush. The trouble was that when I had the wrong flower in the viewfinder I had no clue about in which direction to move locate the flower I wanted.

I decided I needed something like the gun sight ball and V of a rifle to aim the thing. I discovered that technology had moved on since the days of the school cadet force and that I could get a "red dot" optical gun sight quite cheaply, easier to use than the old traditional rifle sight, and requiring less DIY to add to my lens. Here's a photograph of the gun sight mounted on the lens.

Red Dot gun sight on 500mm reflex lens
by Chris Malcolm, on Flickr

This made it incredibly easy to aim the lens at a bird in flight and to track it as it moved. Here's an example of the kind of shot I'd previously found quite impossible to get.

MF 2012 Flying Seagull 6
by Chris Malcolm, on Flickr

The oddly green underside of the bird is because it was flying over a large expanse of green lawn, a playing field.

Apart from birds against a featureless sky, another thing I'd always had trouble aiming this lens at was tiny distant boats in a large expanse of featureless water. With the aid of the gun sight I was able to follow this little two man kayak out into the sea (Firth of Forth) right out to a distance where it was quite tricky to see it with my (aging) naked eyes. It was just a tiny barely perceptible fleck of colour in the water when it was nearly run down by this large ship which couldn't see it because they'd erected a helicopter landing platform right across the low frontal view which the dropped bow had been designed to allow.

kayak &amp; big ship: kayak turns
by Chris Malcolm, on Flickr

How did I mount the gun sight on the lens? I found a cardboard tube just a little too narrow to fir the lens body, cut a piece of suitable length, and slit id down the side so that it could be expanded to fit. That expansion also gave it a firm well aligned grip on the lens, and the slot gives space for the focus hold button. I simply glued the gun sight onto the tube, and used its calibration screws to line it up so that the red dot (or green if you like) is spot on what the central focus point in the viewfinder sees. The lens is aimed without the viewfinder, by simply looking with both eyes open, one looking through the sight, and moving the camera to place the red dot on the target.
 
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#30
I would say practice practice practice. You cannot expect to take great shots if you just pick your gear up and hope for the best.
 
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#31
If the OP finds tracking birds in flight difficult it is a practice thing. To start I wouldn’t use the 150-600 at 600mm come back to 400 or 500mm it gives a slightly wider field of view so acquiring the target is easier. Then you need to decide if you going to hand hold or mount on a tripod and gimbal. I handhold my Sigma but always gimbal mount my 500f4 due to weight. There is very different techniques for each method and both require practice.

The Sigma 150-600 and 300f4 are both more than capable of getting flight shots on a 7Dii. But do expect to bin plenty as well. The biggest problem with the Sigma is it’s auto focus speed. It is not really slow but it is also not really quick.

I find using my 500f4 for BIF so much better as the AF is so much faster than my Sigma 150-600. So gear will also help but at a cost.

A guy I often shoot with uses a 600f4ii and 1Dxii often with 1.4TC so basically all the best kit. He does get some stunning shots but also bins plenty if not all from some days out as I do, as the level of shot we find acceptable goes up.

The advantage of high end gear is he can ramp ISO up to get to 1/4000 f8 whilst I hate going up to ISO800 on my 7Dii so never really get the shutter speed or f stop I really want/need.

I don’t find tracking difficult but I have practiced plenty. I do know what a 1Dxii would improve but also know I would need a 600mmf4 and TC to give the same reach. If money was no object I would already have bought them. But the best part of £20k is a fair chunk of cash.

If you have the money don’t go for a 1Dxii and 500mm go for a 600mm and just do it get out there in the right places and make the most of it.
 
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#32
A guy I often shoot with uses a 600f4ii and 1Dxii often with 1.4TC so basically all the best kit. He does get some stunning shots but also bins plenty if not all from some days out as I do, as the level of shot we find acceptable goes up.

The advantage of high end gear is he can ramp ISO up to get to 1/4000 f8 whilst I hate going up to ISO800 on my 7Dii so never really get the shutter speed or f stop I really want/need.
What are you using to do the noise reduction on your high ISO shots? Good dedicated noise reduction programs can do a lot better than the usual RAW processor or in-camera jpeg converter. For example, I find Neat Image, used carefully, can give me around 3 stops better noise control and detail definition than simply using the usual defaults. Prime noise control on DxO Optics also seems pretty good, and needs less tinkering with, but I haven't yet done a comparative evaluation against my old favourite of Neat Image. Takes some time to learn how to best use it, and for best results requires individual tailoring for each image, or batch of images taken in the same lighting conditions, but using a good noise reduction program is a lot cheaper than buying a camera with a much less noisy sensor or a long lens with a couple of extra stops of aperture. :)

I'm retired, and living on what remains of the pensions I earned after I was swindled by pension companies and financial consultants, so my photography budget has strict limits. On the other hand, however, I have time, and quite enjoy doing experiments and learning (I used to work in a research lab). So finding less expensive ways of improving my images than buying the best gear works for me.
 
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#33
If the OP finds tracking birds in flight difficult it is a practice thing. To start I wouldn’t use the 150-600 at 600mm come back to 400 or 500mm it gives a slightly wider field of view so acquiring the target is easier. Then you need to decide if you going to hand hold or mount on a tripod and gimbal. I handhold my Sigma but always gimbal mount my 500f4 due to weight. There is very different techniques for each method and both require practice.

The Sigma 150-600 and 300f4 are both more than capable of getting flight shots on a 7Dii. But do expect to bin plenty as well. The biggest problem with the Sigma is it’s auto focus speed. It is not really slow but it is also not really quick.

I find using my 500f4 for BIF so much better as the AF is so much faster than my Sigma 150-600. So gear will also help but at a cost.

A guy I often shoot with uses a 600f4ii and 1Dxii often with 1.4TC so basically all the best kit. He does get some stunning shots but also bins plenty if not all from some days out as I do, as the level of shot we find acceptable goes up.

The advantage of high end gear is he can ramp ISO up to get to 1/4000 f8 whilst I hate going up to ISO800 on my 7Dii so never really get the shutter speed or f stop I really want/need.

I don’t find tracking difficult but I have practiced plenty. I do know what a 1Dxii would improve but also know I would need a 600mmf4 and TC to give the same reach. If money was no object I would already have bought them. But the best part of £20k is a fair chunk of cash.

If you have the money don’t go for a 1Dxii and 500mm go for a 600mm and just do it get out there in the right places and make the most of it.
Great response.

I do find the AF speed of the Sigma 150-600 a bit lacking, but considering the price I should not complain.

Can I ask what tracking settings you use on the 7Dii?
 
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#34
Great response.

I do find the AF speed of the Sigma 150-600 a bit lacking, but considering the price I should not complain.

Can I ask what tracking settings you use on the 7Dii?
It depends on what is flying, I have been doing Hobby's recently and found -2,0,0 seems to work but have used case 2 or 3 depending on size and distance. The Sigma is good for most things but fast moving small birds, if you have the dock you can tweak it and setting min focus distance further out really does help. It is also a lot lighter than any f4 big white and you can carry it around and get some grab shots of slightly slower but still quick birds. I would have been still setting up with my 500mmf4 when this flew past and yet the Sigma did OK.


Pigeon
by Martin Billard, on Flickr
 
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#35
I took this yesterday during a quiet moment at the Mach loop. Not the most interesting to look at, but this was on a 70-200. A cheeky chap, trying to nick off with our sandwiches. 6EC25CDB-4C4D-4D29-9627-776143FEB4BA.jpeg

Edit: Low res 800kb, the original is pretty crisp
 
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#36
I think over the years I have been through most canon and Nikon combo of bodies and lenses ,also now due to advancing years I have recently changed to a one camera one lens solution, only had it a few weeks but its falling into place and if I can get sharp shots of house martins and swallows in flight then its doing its job the combo is a Panasonic g80 and a panoleica 100-400 lens the two together come in at under 2K and weigh less than 1.5kg .takes time to learn but know starting to reap the benefits.three shots all with same lens all hand held .and i'm getting on for 73
are you ready
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just like that
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damsel in distress
by jeff and jan cohen, on Flickr
 
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#37
i am already 73 and still love my Nikon cameras and lenses. Only problem is hand holding the Nikon afs 80-400mm lens gets a bit heavy in my damaged hand
 
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