Birds In Flight photography tips: wings position

What is the ideal wings position for Birds In Flight (BIF) photography? My answer to this question often comes with three tips. Birds in flight tend to look their best either with their wings up fully extended or their wings down. The in-between is usually less than ideal as one does not see the wings very well. So, nine times out of ten those photographs go straight in my bin to be deleted.

American Kestrel - Birds in flight photography tips - BIF

American Kestrel in flight – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 800 | f/8 | 1/6400 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with gimbal head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The wings up position gives a very clear view on the under wing of the bird, or the upper wing for the wing the furthest from you. Note that the key here is to go after the full extension with feather tips clearly visible. In the span of a wing beat, you will often see the wing “broken” as the wing is folding and unfolding up and down. I really strive not to settle for the folding / unfolding motion as the feather detail is not as great and the “lines” are not as pure.

Great Blue Heron - Birds in flight photography tips - BIF

Great blue Heron in flight – Tampa Bay rookery, Florida
ISO 2500 | f/4 | 1/1000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 7D mark II on tripod while wading in the water. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The photograph above was created during the 2015 Spoonbill photo tour. The alternative to wings up for Bird in flight photography is wings down of course. For some reason I tend to create better results with the wings up position, but wings down with a full extension is also a very good way to go. Note that the bigger the bird, the harder it is to capture the full extension. Great Blue Herons for instance do not always fully extend their wings up or down, and rarely with wide amplitude. The same goes with Brown Pelicans.

Spoonbill - Birds in flight photography tips - BIF

Roseate Spoonbill in flight – Tampa Bay rookery, Florida
ISO 3200 | f/4 | 1/1000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 7D mark II on tripod while wading in the water. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

Also created during the 2015 Spoonbill photography workshop. As there is always the exception, some in-between positions in bird in flight photography can be very attractive given the situation. In this case, the beautiful symmetry really gives a strong touch. Plus, some detail from the upper-wings as well as the under-wings are visible. The spots of red from the upper-wings only visible during breeding season are very easily admired.

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds photography workshop – $990

Feb 20th-21st 2016 / limit 6 people – 4 open

Apr 16th-17th 2016 / limit 6 people – 4 open

Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com and $250 non refundable deposit to book your spot. Note that we will be wading in the water, about 50 feet from the point of highest tide in order to follow the Audubon society guidelines and help protect those beautiful birds during the nesting season.
Florida Spoonbill photography tour

Alaska Bald Eagle photography tour – $3900

January 16th-20th 2017 / limit 5 people – 3 open

The very best Bald Eagle tour hands down! Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com for questions and reservations. $1,950 non refundable deposit to book your spot.

Alaska Bald Eagles photography tour

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Steven

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