Birds In Flight photography tips: wind direction & shooting zone

Understanding wind direction and knowing when to press the shutter can give you a sure edge in Birds In Flight (BIF) photography. The general tip here is, as often, to understand bird behavior. Birds are more likely to fly, take off, land and even roost against the wind. If the wind comes straight from your back, then birds will tend to fly, land and take off facing you. This is why an East wind is great in the morning and a West wind will help with birds in flight photography in the afternoon.

Spoonbill - Birds in flight tips

Roseate Spoonbill landing – Tampa Bay rookery, 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 only way to create an impressive photograph of a bird facing you while landing will often be to have the wind coming straight from behind you. The big advantage of that situation is to have a chance at capturing an image with wings fully open and complete under-wing detail. I find the results can be quite impressive and convey a lot of strength to the image. The Roseate Spoonbill photograph above was created during the 2015 Spoonbill photography tour.

Tricolored Heron - Birds in flight photography tips

Tricolored Heron in flight – Loxahatchee, Florida
ISO 1250 | f/9 | 1/2000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens (Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM review), the Canon EOS 7D handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

If you prefer to see birds flying along a profile motion, then a wind coming from the North or the South will work for either morning or afternoon. While you will not get the facing impact, results can be quite satisfactory. These wind direction situations are very good to create silhouettes of birds in flight as well. Side note, the Canon 300m f/4 L IS USM is a fantastic lens for the money! Coupled with a crop factor you get the fastest and sharpest lens in that price range while reaching almost 500mm.

Great White Egret - Birds in flight photography tips

Great White Egret in flight – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 2000 | 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.

In a case where the bird is flying crossing your vision from right to left, there is only a sweet spot that is a proper shooting zone. You want to photograph the bird as it is coming towards you. As soon as the bird has crossed the perpendicular in front of you, the only thing you are going to create is a “butt” shot with nice views over the rear end of your preferred photography subject. The issue is that by the time some of us have acquired proper focus, the bird has already passed that perpendicular line and we are already too late. The key is to look around you and try to acquire focus very early on, so that you are ready to press the shutter when the bird crosses the shooting zone!!

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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1 Comment

  1. You blog have really amazing Collection of birds pictures, i really apriciate your work. you did really nice jab.

    Reply

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