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Gear Talk => EOS Bodies - For Stills => Topic started by: miah on November 28, 2012, 12:50:20 PM

Title: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: miah on November 28, 2012, 12:50:20 PM
I took my new 5D3 out over Thanksgiving weekend to try my hand at birds in flight with decidedly mixed results.

Having never attempted this before and having done no research, I did my best to find the optimum mix of ISO to shutter speed to aperture to AF traits with my EF 35-350 (no IS) mounted to a purposefully loose tripod head.

I chose AI Servo, Case #3, focus first, center zone. I found that in the early morning/late evening light an ISO of 800-6400 was required, but 3200 and above seemed awfully noisy. My slow lens begged to be shot wide open at f/5.6. And I was surprised that I was unable to stop the action (mostly gliding sandhill cranes, but some excitable geese/ducks, as well) with anything slower than 1/4000 of a second.

I'll attach one of my better shots from early morning. f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO 800, 350mm, tripod

Can anyone offer some general rules of thumb for setting up to shoot birds and birds in flight, especially with the 5D3? 1/4000 seems awfully fast, requiring a high ISO and wide aperture. When comparing my newby results to the many amazing BIF shots on this and similar forums, I realize that I have A LOT to learn. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: wickidwombat on November 29, 2012, 03:50:54 AM
I like that shot

I think you would be fine at 1/2000 though and let it expose by a stop to a stop and a half more to give more detail in the birds,

the sky is easy to pull back in lightroom by pulling the highlights right down and even some white if needed

shoot manual, spot meter and use the meter scale to set your exposure keeping it at that stop to a stop and a half over what it reads you can simulate the BIF exposure when setting it by getting down low and just metering off an object with a primary sky back ground.

if you want to shoot Tv with auto Iso then dial in the +EC to counteract the bright sky but personally i find shooting manual easier
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: canon816 on November 29, 2012, 06:04:33 AM
Shooting Geese and Cranes you will be able to stop motion at anything faster then 1/1000 sec.  Not sure why you are having trouble at faster then that. 

You are probably experiencing a lot of noise because your images are underexposed.  The image that you posted is way underexposed and that will magnify the noise dramatically.

Use your exposure override if you are shooting in AV mode to boost the exposure, or shoot in Manual so that your metering is not effected by when you hit on a goose or the sky behind it.

I shoot BIF all the time and with these large birds they omve so slowly that you really dont need that fast of a shutter speed.  1/4000 would be more for stopping a chickadee or other fast song bird.

Have fun,
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: miah on November 29, 2012, 09:04:26 AM
Thanks for the helpful suggestions!

Again, while I've not attempted to shoot birds in flight prior to this camera and this past weekend, I am well aware of what 1/1000 will do to stop action, including things like fast-flowing water and action sports. So, I was quite surprised as I played around with a range of settings to find that below 1/4000 things got blurry. Still, and as I said in my original post, that just didn't seem right to me: 1/4000 is "awfully fast."

Perhaps the blur was less due to the speed with which the birds were moving and more due to my own movement?

wickedwombat: I was using Evaluative Metering and Tv set to 1/4000, after I unscientifically determined that that was the necessary speed. I'll take your advice and switch to Spot Metering and either Tv with EC +1-1.5 or full manual.

canon816: The shot I included was taken right as the sun broke the morning horizon, hence the sunlit highlights on the birds' wings and bellies. I like the look, but you're right--it's underexposed. So, I'll try your and wickedwombat's suggestion to achieve better bird exposure, even if it compromises the sky (which is easier to adjust in post).

Do you guys have a suggested ISO range that is best to stay within? A lot of BIF shots I see appear to be taken in mid-day light, but I found the crane activity much more fascinating at dawn and dusk.

Regarding AF, I used the center zone and Case #3. Would I be better off using the whole 61-point field? Is Case #3 optimum?

And finally, is it better to set up ahead of the assumed trajectory and let the bird(s) fly into your field of view before pulling the trigger on a steady camera, or pan along with the bird(s), firing at will?

I appreciate your feedback.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: robbymack on November 29, 2012, 11:03:17 AM
it looks like the sun is rising to the right and slightly rear of the frame?  So you're basically in a back lit situation?  I know you don't control the birds, but you will find they all typically follow a similar flight path (especially in groups).  So set yourself up for those and position yourself for more front lit scenes which should help out the exposure and detail.  Just my $0.02. 
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: Jeffrey on November 29, 2012, 11:27:36 AM
For birds in flight, on my 1D-X, on bright days I start at f8, ISO 800, and shutter at 1/3200, sometimes use shady white balance, then adjust up and down to shoot to the right one setting on the exposure meter. I center meter and center focus. On less than full sun days, I switch to Tv of anywhere from 1/3200 down to the 1/2000 range, auto ISO, and shady white balance. I like capturing birds taking off or landing in water and find the fast shutter speed captures the splash of the water that adds so much to the dramatic effect of the capture. About the only time I will shoot a bird in flight with pure sky in the background is when I see an Osprey with a fish in its talons. Otherwise I find the images to not be very interesting. I say that because we rarely have migratory birds flying in a vee formation where I live. Good luck, and shoot as often as you can!
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: PackLight on November 29, 2012, 11:30:23 AM
Thanks for the helpful suggestions!

Again, while I've not attempted to shoot birds in flight prior to this camera and this past weekend, I am well aware of what 1/1000 will do to stop action, including things like fast-flowing water and action sports. So, I was quite surprised as I played around with a range of settings to find that below 1/4000 things got blurry. Still, and as I said in my original post, that just didn't seem right to me: 1/4000 is "awfully fast."

Perhaps the blur was less due to the speed with which the birds were moving and more due to my own movement?

wickedwombat: I was using Evaluative Metering and Tv set to 1/4000, after I unscientifically determined that that was the necessary speed. I'll take your advice and switch to Spot Metering and either Tv with EC +1-1.5 or full manual.

canon816: The shot I included was taken right as the sun broke the morning horizon, hence the sunlit highlights on the birds' wings and bellies. I like the look, but you're right--it's underexposed. So, I'll try your and wickedwombat's suggestion to achieve better bird exposure, even if it compromises the sky (which is easier to adjust in post).

Do you guys have a suggested ISO range that is best to stay within? A lot of BIF shots I see appear to be taken in mid-day light, but I found the crane activity much more fascinating at dawn and dusk.

Regarding AF, I used the center zone and Case #3. Would I be better off using the whole 61-point field? Is Case #3 optimum?

And finally, is it better to set up ahead of the assumed trajectory and let the bird(s) fly into your field of view before pulling the trigger on a steady camera, or pan along with the bird(s), firing at will?

I appreciate your feedback.

1/4000 should freeze a goose in flight. I think you had other problems if you were seeing some sort of blur.
1/2000 should be sufficient.

Set your ISO to auto, go in to your settings and set the range (provided the 5D III offers such which I am sure it does). Set your apeture as low as you can, set your speed as high as you can and still keep your ISO in a range your are comfortable with. Let the ISO do the adjusting when you are tracking a bird.

Use AI Servo mode, with single point and choose an option that gives you assist points.

Put the point on the bird in AI Servo mode and just keep on it as best you can. If you want to try the fly in view method you will need a extremly high shutter speed to stop movement. Not the best way for your equipment,

Also toward sunset it gets real tough, it is just the way it is. That is why the 1D X is such a big improvement. Its ability to handle the high ISO's. With the lenses you have now you will have problems overcoming this.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: miah on November 29, 2012, 01:13:58 PM
Great tips, thanks!

robbymack: As a biologist, I know this, but thanks for making it top-of-mind. I took my new body out for the weekend and was so overwhelmed by the wealth of migratory birds that I adopted a "shoot first and ask questions later" attitude. But once I realized my abysmal keeper-rate, I knew that I should have asked a lot more questions before I even headed out to the refuge.

Regarding the light in the shot I posted, the birds were flying N-NW with the sun rising in the E-SE. I rolled out of my tent at dawn and set up my tripod in a large clearing not far from my camp, back in the forest. This allowed me an unobstructed view of the birds as they flew towards me. But this plan backfired when they spotted me, as they'd simply climb to higher altitude or veer off to avoid passing too close to a bleary-eyed photog with a shiny, aluminum tripod and long white lens.

I had much better luck (including the originally posted photo) once I retreated into the forest and shot up through a hole in the canopy. My proximity to the birds improved dramatically (shooting full-frame, 350mm), although it came at the cost of light-source-angle and fair warning.

Jeffrey: Thanks for the rules of thumb. They help a lot in establishing a baseline from which to start.

Packlight: To be clear, 1/4000 stopped things dead, but less than that resulted in blurry shots. Some of that blur was coming from inadequate focus, my movement, etc. Intuitively, I agree with what everyone has said: 1/1000-2000 should be adequate unless I'm chasing water splash, as Jeffrey pointed out. I'm not sure why my shots were begging for such a fast shutter. The shot I'm attaching to this post, for instance, is in midday sun, f/8, ISO 800, 1/3200, 150mm. But even at 1/3200 there is motion in some of the birds.

Regarding AF, Packlight, are you putting the center point on the bird, tracking the bird from center, and firing away? If so, that sounds like a good way to find and keep focus, but a potentially boring way to frame what may be a scenic background.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: PackLight on November 29, 2012, 01:55:25 PM

Regarding AF, Packlight, are you putting the center point on the bird, tracking the bird from center, and firing away? If so, that sounds like a good way to find and keep focus, but a potentially boring way to frame what may be a scenic background.

Im sorry I thought you were talking about tracking a "bird in flight" not a flock randomly taking off. Nor did I realize you were taking landscape shots and needed it sharp in the background as well. I am sorry I bored you with my advice and my poor framing, proceed on with your superior techniques.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: East Wind Photography on November 29, 2012, 03:06:23 PM
Some cases I use zone AF but mostly center point or spot AF.  Center or spot AF is your best chance at getting the bird in focus against a random background such as trees or a cliff...unless the bird fills the frame.  When I do use zone or All point AF, I set the AF case to #5 to track accurately and ignore other things coming into the frame.

Another note is that when you use All AF points, the focus "should" be maintained with what was targeted initially when you locked your AF on target.  Zone AF will try to focus on the closest thing it can.  For birds that might not be what you are looking for depending on whether they fly across or toward you.  This is why I almost exclusively use center or spot AF and target the head or if possible the eye if it's close enough.

You should also try to use the center AF point in low light.  It is the most sensitive and most accurate when everything else starts to fail.  If you move your spot off to the side for better composition, you might not get a good AF depending on conditions.  Therefore you may have to crop in post to get the desired framing.  Unfortunately not all of the AF points are as sensitive.

If you consistently enjoy shooting in early morning or late evening then I would consider the use of a flash and if you are using a telephoto you can add a BetterBeamer accessory to the flash to extend it's range.  It's a Fresnel lens that goes in front of the flash head to concentrate the beam.  It can really aid in stopping motion even as a fill flash.  Meter for your scene background and use high speed sync on the flash and maybe some fractional power setting.  I've used some warming gels too on the flash so I don't lose the color from the early morning sun.

Getting good results is a matter of a LOT of trial and error and the use of fast lenses of F2.8 or F4 to help keep the shutter speed up.


Great tips, thanks!

robbymack: As a biologist, I know this, but thanks for making it top-of-mind. I took my new body out for the weekend and was so overwhelmed by the wealth of migratory birds that I adopted a "shoot first and ask questions later" attitude. But once I realized my abysmal keeper-rate, I knew that I should have asked a lot more questions before I even headed out to the refuge.

Regarding the light in the shot I posted, the birds were flying N-NW with the sun rising in the E-SE. I rolled out of my tent at dawn and set up my tripod in a large clearing not far from my camp, back in the forest. This allowed me an unobstructed view of the birds as they flew towards me. But this plan backfired when they spotted me, as they'd simply climb to higher altitude or veer off to avoid passing too close to a bleary-eyed photog with a shiny, aluminum tripod and long white lens.

I had much better luck (including the originally posted photo) once I retreated into the forest and shot up through a hole in the canopy. My proximity to the birds improved dramatically (shooting full-frame, 350mm), although it came at the cost of light-source-angle and fair warning.

Jeffrey: Thanks for the rules of thumb. They help a lot in establishing a baseline from which to start.

Packlight: To be clear, 1/4000 stopped things dead, but less than that resulted in blurry shots. Some of that blur was coming from inadequate focus, my movement, etc. Intuitively, I agree with what everyone has said: 1/1000-2000 should be adequate unless I'm chasing water splash, as Jeffrey pointed out. I'm not sure why my shots were begging for such a fast shutter. The shot I'm attaching to this post, for instance, is in midday sun, f/8, ISO 800, 1/3200, 150mm. But even at 1/3200 there is motion in some of the birds.

Regarding AF, Packlight, are you putting the center point on the bird, tracking the bird from center, and firing away? If so, that sounds like a good way to find and keep focus, but a potentially boring way to frame what may be a scenic background.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: miah on November 29, 2012, 04:45:26 PM
Man, Packlight, lighten up! I wasn't dissing your advice; not in the least. I was asking a serious question. Perhaps my inclusion of another flock photo was too confusing (in more ways than one), and was added only to show that 1/3200 was not fast enough to completely stop the action.

I'm new to this whole rapid-movement thing and everyone's advice is welcome. So, back to my question: I think what you described is how best to lock and maintain focus on a single moving bird, is that right? If so, I get it: single point AF, maybe with assisting points, and stay with 'em.

Now, in addition to that, I'm really asking you a second question: what about framing? Do you capture the bird mid-frame (assuming you're using the center AF point), then maybe make it a little more interesting by cropping it out of center in post? If not, it seems like all BIF shots would put the subject in the center of the frame with little regard for background. I'm sure you have an opinion/technique to apply to this, and realize that this is very much secondary to just getting the darn bird IN THE FRAME and in focus.

No offense was intended. I obviously should have posed it as a two-part question.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: miah on November 29, 2012, 04:57:33 PM
Excellent advice, East Wind Photography, thank you.

That was probably the first thing that crossed my mind this weekend, that this thing is complicated and would surly require lots of trial and error. That's why it's great to reduce the learning curve a bit by listening to all of your comments.

My very limited experience was mostly with flocks, some small, some large (see two example photos), though I'm interested in learning more about shooting individuals, as well. What you're advising about center point or spot AF makes perfect sense for single birds, but would you modify that advice for flocks? I understand flock size varies, backgrounds vary, bird size and color varies, but are there some general rules about shooting flocks that differ from shooting individuals?
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: East Wind Photography on November 29, 2012, 06:04:22 PM
For flocks my suggestion would be go for dept of field but in low light that's going to be an issue.  The 5DIII and 1DX both can handle pretty high ISO  3200 to 6400.  The trick to the noise is to shoot in RAW mode and post process in Lightroom or Photoshop to reduce noise.  In-camera JPG noise reduction is also good but once it's done it's done and you can't tweak or maximize the noise filtering afterwards.  The data is lost due to compression.  You can still shoot RAW and create a filtered JPG in camera using the playback menus though.  I shoot almost exclusively raw and the only time I use JPG is when I'm posting live to my webpage with an eye-fi card.  Takes more time but the results are much better.

As far as focus on flocks are concerned it would really depend on what you are trying to accomplish.  You might not want everything in focus.  Maybe some foreground and background soft.  It really depends on what you envision.  Controlling your DOF requires patience.  A depth of field chart for your lens focal length can be useful as well if you don't know where to start.  If you need 16ft in focus then look it up on the chart and set your aperture.  You can put your shutter speed and ISO on auto mode.

Excellent advice, East Wind Photography, thank you.

That was probably the first thing that crossed my mind this weekend, that this thing is complicated and would surly require lots of trial and error. That's why it's great to reduce the learning curve a bit by listening to all of your comments.

My very limited experience was mostly with flocks, some small, some large (see two example photos), though I'm interested in learning more about shooting individuals, as well. What you're advising about center point or spot AF makes perfect sense for single birds, but would you modify that advice for flocks? I understand flock size varies, backgrounds vary, bird size and color varies, but are there some general rules about shooting flocks that differ from shooting individuals?
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: PackLight on November 29, 2012, 06:21:03 PM
Man, Packlight, lighten up! I wasn't dissing your advice; not in the least. I was asking a serious question. Perhaps my inclusion of another flock photo was too confusing (in more ways than one), and was added only to show that 1/3200 was not fast enough to completely stop the action.

I'm new to this whole rapid-movement thing and everyone's advice is welcome. So, back to my question: I think what you described is how best to lock and maintain focus on a single moving bird, is that right? If so, I get it: single point AF, maybe with assisting points, and stay with 'em.

Now, in addition to that, I'm really asking you a second question: what about framing? Do you capture the bird mid-frame (assuming you're using the center AF point), then maybe make it a little more interesting by cropping it out of center in post? If not, it seems like all BIF shots would put the subject in the center of the frame with little regard for background. I'm sure you have an opinion/technique to apply to this, and realize that this is very much secondary to just getting the darn bird IN THE FRAME and in focus.

No offense was intended. I obviously should have posed it as a two-part question.

Looks like I took the comment to literal, sorry about that.

To answer your question about the rising flock taking off, I don't think it matters what type of AF set up you use as long as it does not jump around. You could take that picture in single shot mode or manual, focused on the area you wanted your DOF centered and then taken the shots. A faster shutter speed is the best way in that scenario. 1/4000 is very plausible, but the problem you will have is maintaining the DOF you want and fighting noise at high ISO's.

Framing a single BIF is hard to hold in center. Cropping the picture is the norm. You have to think blurred bokeh background or partially identifiable background and know which you want. Background and framing of the background has quit a few variables and they vary by what type of bird you are going after. Wild birds are exactly that wild, if you want a particular background you have to set your self up for just that in advance and then hope the bird cooperates. Any wildlife photography if you want to be really good you have to know your subject. Once you position yourself and the bird comes in to your blind you are going to have the background composition that the bird gives you from your vantage point.

If you have a long enough lens, and the bird has gotten close enough you of course will have to try and hold mid frame otherwise your bird goes out of frame. But there are exceptions to every comment like this.

If your a bird feeder shooter then you have much more ability to control where the bird will come in at. You will set up roosts and control your background.

For the first photo you posted of the geese, a few suggestions. For the most part everyone has flock of geese photos. They are very common and because of that they do have to be special to stand out. Some of the best I have taken have been a bit before sunset. They are usually low to the ground and coming in for the nights roost or flying at tree top level. If you know there patterns and can find a field with a decent background try and position yourself where your most probable shot will be with the sunlight coming in from your side not behind or back. In the evening an open body of water or field will have more light and your backdrop will have bit less. This situation can give you that 3D effect you hear everyone talking about. I have a few places in town that are fairly decent for this.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: PackLight on November 29, 2012, 06:47:41 PM
Jackson_Bill....Very nice.... Sometimes what makes a picture the "best" has nothing to do with technical skills.
If someone feels they should critique this picture ask them to show you their picture of an eagle flying upside down fighting three other birds.  :)
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: canon816 on November 29, 2012, 07:18:49 PM
If you are having problems stopping action at slower then 1/4000 sec then there may be an issue with the camera.

Assuming that you are using good technique and the lens is functioning (which it sounds like it is) you might have a loose shutter box.  I have known three cameras that this has happened with and it results in extra mirror slap causing blurring in the image. 

You can test this out by shooting a static subject with your camera/lens fixed on the tripod.  Just shoot your subject at various shutter speeds from say 1/500 to 1/4000.  If you are noticing blur then this could be the problem.

It is quite rare but does happen and canon should warranty it if it is a new camera.   Just thought I would mention this in the off chance you have something wrong with your gear.  1/1000 should be plenty fast enough.

good luck.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: Lnguyen1203 on November 29, 2012, 07:23:02 PM
You have a 5D3, which is an awesome camera with excellent AF capabilities.  This is what I would do if I were you.

1. Flock of birds: 61-point AF in AI Servo, AV in f8 or f11, Evaluative Metering, add light by 1/3 to 1EV with exposure compensation depending on how early morning/soft light, check the histogram to ensure that you have some data in the most right hand box but be careful not to over-expose the highlights, adjust ISO to get shutter speed above 1/2000 sec (you can go lower but 1/2000 is a good start).  A properly exposed image on the 5D3 should have very little noise at ISO 1600.  Even at ISO 3200, noise can be reduced at post processing.

2. Individual bird, same as above but switch to AF center point or center point expand with 4 or 8 surround points.  My favorite is the center point expand with 8 surround points.  You may have to add 1 EV or more in the early morning or if you have a lot of bright sky in the frame.

attached is an example of an osprey taken with a 1DX, canon 500mmf4, 1.4X TC (total focal length = 700mm), f5.6, Evaluative metering, +2EV exposure compensation, ISO 1000, shutter speed 1/2000, AF AI Servo, center point expand with 8 surround point.  At this speed, you can stop most anything.

Good luck.

Loi
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: miah on November 29, 2012, 08:08:19 PM
East Wind Photography: I pretty much always shoot RAW and use Lightroom and Nik Define to control noise, if necessary. Of course we'd all prefer to limit noise in the first place, as noise-control can also reduce sharpness. With regards to DOF you appear to be saying that it's a personal choice, not unlike shooting landscape or portraits, and I should choose a look that suits the situation and my vision. Good advice. Thanks.

Packlight:  No worries. Thanks for your detailed reply. Your point about not wanting the AF jumping around is well taken, I was just wondering (having just moved up from the T3i's 9 points to the 5D3's 61 points) if using all points simultaneously--in a shotgun approach--might not be the likeliest way to find focus fast--at least with a flock. But it appears that you and others are arguing that smaller defined focus areas actually improve one's chances of achieving accurate focus. Is that fair to say?

"Framing a single BIF is hard to hold in center. Cropping the picture is the norm. You have to think blurred bokeh background or partially identifiable background and know which you want." OK. Got it. This came to mind while shooting the second photo (flock of snow geese), admittedly not an individual bird. The geese pretty much covered a very large pond. The pond had only one tree at it's edge. And although it's autumn color was exhausted, it was about the only interesting feature anywhere near this body of water. So, I set up across the pond with the tree nicely framed. I then waited. Finally, a coyote appeared on the far shore and sent the geese skyward. I nailed the shot at f/8 thinking the tree and background mountains would turn out softer than they did. Regardless, I think these background features help the scene, as the rest of the pond's perimeter was rather bland.

Your points about knowing the animal's behavior and setting up well in advance with prior knowledge of best light, etc. is well taken. All good points. Of course, this past weekend may have been a bad example. First, I was just too enamored with my new 5D and the quantity and quality of wildlife to be thinking very clearly. Second, it was brief. Too brief. And lastly, this NWR is very tightly controlled, so visitors are only allowed to get so close to the critters and only in certain places, so there's no free access to areas that might serve as better vantage points or offer better lighting conditions.

Jackson Bill: Very cool shot! Regarding my "loose head," I only had an old Bogen tripod with a panning head, so after mounting my lens collar to it I left the various axes loose so I could move the camera around with the action. It was much steadier than hand-holding, but far from "locked in." This no doubt worked both for and against me, in what proportions I do not know. I also chose Evaluative Metering, but others here promote Spot Metering, hmm. I also exclusively used AI Servo, but mostly with zone AF, not point/expansion points. I'm still befuddled by the 1/4000 thing and appreciate you chiming in on your experience with far lower speeds being adequate with your 7D.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: natureshots on November 29, 2012, 08:15:06 PM
1st take your camera off the tripod. This should make a massive difference in the motion blur. Most people have no problem shooting at 1/2000 if they are moving the camera fluidly with the birds. It is extremely hard to keep up with BIF with a ballhead. You are jerking the camera and that's what's causing the motion blur, not the birds. That's why the results are inconsistently blurry. Also, try pointing your shadow at the subject or shooting when it's cloudy. Backlit or side-lit subjects almost always come out crappy. I shoot shots like this but only for bird ID photos. The birds should be flying perpendicular and low for nice shots. I could keep on going for pages on how to shoot BIF but instead I would google Arthur Morris and there's another great website too that he moderates. I don't think I'm supposed to link to other sites. If I can I'll happily link the other sites but...
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: PackLight on November 29, 2012, 08:21:01 PM
In the flock picture using all points would have focused on the closest birds only. If you use single point you could pick out a bird in center to track. But still with the rising flock picture you could have been stationary and focused on any area within the rise, even manually, as no single bird was the specific subject.

On single birds yes, a single point small focus area. I suggest reading the manual on AI servo mode as the response in this thread are only scratching the surface.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: miah on November 29, 2012, 08:26:11 PM
Thanks for the tip, canon816, it's a brand new camera, so I will check to see if there's an issue that might need warranty attention. That would be a real bummer if it did, but better to find out now.

Lnguyen1203: Your baseline information is extremely helpful and your osprey looks great at 1/2000. I have to figure out why slowly gliding sandhill cranes moving at a fraction of the speed of your hunting osprey required 2X the speed to stop...

natureshots: My tripod had a loose panning head--even worse--and I was jerking it around, trying as best I could to steady it, then fire when the birds flew into my FOV. Thanks for your input and references. The one comment I kept making to my wife as I got better and better at zeroing in on my settings was that my results were shockingly INCONSISTENT. This may have been, as you pointed out, due to the herky-jerky nature of that tripod!

Packlight: 10-4
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: natureshots on November 30, 2012, 02:54:19 PM
Thanks for the tip, canon816, it's a brand new camera, so I will check to see if there's an issue that might need warranty attention. That would be a real bummer if it did, but better to find out now.

Lnguyen1203: Your baseline information is extremely helpful and your osprey looks great at 1/2000. I have to figure out why slowly gliding sandhill cranes moving at a fraction of the speed of your hunting osprey required 2X the speed to stop...

natureshots: My tripod had a loose panning head--even worse--and I was jerking it around, trying as best I could to steady it, then fire when the birds flew into my FOV. Thanks for your input and references. The one comment I kept making to my wife as I got better and better at zeroing in on my settings was that my results were shockingly INCONSISTENT. This may have been, as you pointed out, due to the herky-jerky nature of that tripod!

Packlight: 10-4
I can pretty much guarantee that's what's causing the problems. I am very happy handholding and generally this is the best technique for BIF. Some lenses are extremely heavy and hand holding is too difficult but your lens should not fall into that category. If it is definitely too heavy for you your best bet is getting a gimbal head (I recommend the wimberley WH-200). Most will prefer shooting by hand to a gimbal head if they can for BIF but gimbal heads are your second best bet. Gimbals still can be restrictive for birds too far over head or super fast movement but if you can pan more smoothly that will give you the best results. Natural handshake is invisible at 1/2000+ but that speed is still vulnerable to improper panning (i.e. from using a ball-head for BIF). People who pan well can generally get good shots at 1/1000, that is enough to freeze wing motion on larger birds and once your are accustomed to smooth panning you can experiment with slower shutter speeds. If you check those references you will get access to an incredible volume of advanced sharpness techniques. You could spend weeks reading on how to improve your photography. Also for correct exposure I recommend using evaluative metering and doing some experimenting with dialing in the right exposure compensation. This will definitely give you the most consistent and quickest results but has a slightly larger learning curve then other techniques. You will have to learn to evaluate sun position, bird highlights/shadows to get the right shot and this is what most pros use for BIF. If you shoot raw you will have the ability to adjust for the mistakes you make early on.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: miah on November 30, 2012, 03:28:19 PM
Thanks again, natureshots, your advice is very helpful.

I just ordered a new tripod and much better ball head. Perhaps I'll order a gimbal head too, but only after I see how well I do/don't do with handheld panning.

Do you have a preferred method of handholding for BIF? Is standing better than sitting, for instance, or the other way around? And how about Image Stabilization. My EF 35-350 doesn't have it and some BIF shooters say it's essential. Others say "turn it off even if you have it." Then there are the lenses, like my 70-300 DO, that have two IS modes, including one for panning. Any advice there?

I really appreciate your input. Thanks.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: miah on December 02, 2012, 03:45:02 PM
After applying a little bit of everyone's advice, I took my 5D out this morning for a second attempt to nab a bird in flight. This marsh hawk was shot at 1/2000, hand-held, f/5.6, EC +1-1/3, ISO 1000, Tv, Spot metering, 350mm, 11:30 AM, center AF with 4 expansion points. Some of the sky was cropped out. Minimal contrast correction and sharpening were applied.

It's not razor sharp or perfectly lit, but it's a whole lot better than what I was getting before. I can tell this BIF-thing is going to be a lot of fun. Thanks again for everyone's input.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: Lnguyen1203 on December 02, 2012, 04:33:36 PM
Miah,  I think this is a very decent shot.  You had the eye in focus and sharp.  Congrats.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: natureshots on December 03, 2012, 04:49:14 PM
Thanks again, natureshots, your advice is very helpful.

I just ordered a new tripod and much better ball head. Perhaps I'll order a gimbal head too, but only after I see how well I do/don't do with handheld panning.

Do you have a preferred method of handholding for BIF? Is standing better than sitting, for instance, or the other way around? And how about Image Stabilization. My EF 35-350 doesn't have it and some BIF shooters say it's essential. Others say "turn it off even if you have it." Then there are the lenses, like my 70-300 DO, that have two IS modes, including one for panning. Any advice there?

I really appreciate your input. Thanks.
I've heard IS adds to sharpness but not for 350mm.  Once you are a good deal past 500mm then IS becomes useful, otherwise you have the chance of losing shots while the IS readjusts to your pan. Some IS systems are better or worse when it comes to high speed pans. Experimentation is usually a good idea but at 350mm on a full frame I wouldn't waste my time messing around because I'm nearly positive you will get better results without IS. That being said I usually leave my IS on because every time I turn it off I forget to turn it back on when I return to shooting stationary subjects and I rarely have problems. 
When shooting BIF the second image mode is rarely useful unless you are panning in a perfect plane which is highly unlikely in real life. 
I stand usually because it is easier to crane my head around and adjust to unusual flight patterns unless I am concealing myself from the birds in a low position. When crouched or sitting I tend to have many more problems keeping up a good pan but its better than scaring off all the wildlife I spent 15 minutes trying to get close to.
Title: Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
Post by: Nazareth on December 04, 2012, 12:26:56 AM
haven't read al lthe posts, matybe someoen sai this al;ready- but prefocus by focussing on objects i nthe general distance as the birds are flying- just roughly gauge it- then swing lens to the birds in flight, and it will locate and lock focus much quicker and more accurate with less lens hunting-