Photography of Birds in Flight

Yellow Winged Honeyeater

Birds in flight can be most difficult to catch without the right equipment. There are essentially two methods of photographing birds in flight.

Using High Speed Electronic Flash To Stop The Action

Using this method shorter focal length lenses can be used in combination with fast electronic flash the stop the action. Many flash units have manual settings on the flash units to set the flash duration to a small percentage of the full power. This can result in fast flash durations of between 1/1,000 to 1/20,000 of a second. Also remote control of the camera for this method can be useful. The first two images below were taken using this method. It is also possible to use a camera operated by a light beam as the bird flies through the beam.

THe Nikon ML-3 Compact Modulite remote control set which plugs into the Nikon 10 pin remote connector can be configured for automatic triggering if the infra red beam is interupted.

Using a High Shutter Speed to Freeze The Action

This method relies on using a long telephoto lens and a fast shutter speed, the last image below was taken using this method. In order to make this method successful the following need to be noted.

  • Use a telephoto lens
  • Use a high ISO setting
  • Use a low lens aperture, f/2.8 to f/4.0
  • Use a fast shutter speed, 1/1,000 second or faster
  • Use an image stabilized or vibration reduction lens
  • Use a monopod to steady the camera
  • Use fast reflexes.

The above yellow winged honey-eater was stopped in flight using fast electronic flash and a remote trigger.

Yellow Robin

The yellow robin has been stopped with fast electronic flash.

Silver Gull

The silver gull has been caught in flight using a long telephoto lens.