Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Splash of Color: Flushing Mallards


Canon 100-400mm L lens, 1/640 shutter F6.3 ISO 320


A flock of mallards was also present at the small wetland Sunday morning. When they took flight they were a beautiful splash of color against a somber winter background.

As with the goose in yesterday’s post, these birds are also hunted wild birds and will not tolerate human intrusion. Although this makes for a difficult situation getting close to the birds but once I do I am assured of a rapid take-off once I am discovered.

Craig of Craig’s Bird Watching and Nature Blog has been posting his images of flight and I thought it may be helpful to Craig and others if I made a “how I do it” post, so here goes.

I tried capturing these types of shots back when I was shooting the Canon S2 point & shoot but it was an exercise in futility. The focus was both too slow and too imprecise. Once I had acquired the 30D and the 100-400 L lens it was a different story.

I use center spot focus and slow continuous drive mode (3 frames per second). When I’m expecting action I will set my aperture close to its widest setting and make sure the ISO is set to where I have an acceptable shutter speed. These settings are a balancing act between shutter speed and image quality.

As the birds take flight I begin touching the shutter button attempting to achieve focus on a bird and firing a 2-3 shot burst when I do while continuing to pan. I keep repeating this until the birds are out of range.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, that is what the delete button is for. The one problem that I find difficult to overcome is that of hitting focus on the background instead of the subject. In this case the trees were far enough in the distance that they didn’t interfere.


10 comments:

Ken Conger Photography said...

Like the dark background and colors.

Craig Glenn said...

Now that is information I can use! Thanks so much for this informative post. I am stuck with an old Olympus P&S and just trying to learn the basics and saving for the real deal.

Thanks again for the information and incouragement.

Craig

Shellmo said...

I'm glad you posted this! We must be on the same wave length - I posted on Mallards today too and got a flight shot. But yours was 10 times better than mine!!

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Beautiful picture.Thanks for the shooting advise.
Blessings,Ruth

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

A most informative post Coy. I love this action shot again.

Kekiinani said...

Nice colorful duckies.. :) :) are they not ducks?? I seem to call everything a duck and that is quite upsetting to some of my mainland friends that I go out shooting with.. :) :) They constantly correct me especially when I call the geese ducks.. :) :) Thanks for your info on shooting. I will try the center focus and continuous/burst shooting mode hmmmm that could be my problem.. not on continuous/rapid fire.... THANKS.....and see if I can get better results. Seems that my shutter speed is always just a little toooooo slooooow!!! Blurry birdies/duckies and geese.. :) :)

Bradley Myers said...

Good post and wonderful shot Salty. Panning is a difficult thing, some people make it look so easy. I tried my hand at it last week in Florida and until I go through the files closely I don't know just how well I made out, but I do know the delete button will get used.

Saty warm and I hope this front moving in doesn't hit you guys to bad.

Meggie said...

Good post, Salty, I appreciate the lesson. As a novice, I often wonder if more experienced photographers have the same problems that I encounter. Thanks for the tips.

fishing guy said...

Salty: Certainly something I have trouble with on the auto setting. Every once in a while it works out even with the lesser camera.

Bird Girl said...

I just love the colors in this image - and very nice flight shot!