My Nikon is making me a good “birds in flight” photographer!

I have been taking pictures of birds for many years. I have made some nice images in that time, but I never considered myself very good at capturing birds in flight. While I have made some nice images in the past, I always considered those lucky shots. I feel like the percentage of sharp images I was able to capture using my Canon gear was maybe 20%. That meant throwing away 80% of my birds in flight images.

While I did not switch over to Nikon to capture birds in flight, it has become a bonus addition to the switch. (The Decision) While I still have a love/hate relationship with my new cameras, one of the big pluses is the cameras ability to track moving subjects. Based on the experience of a great bird photographer, and fellow former Canon Explorer of Light, that also switched to Nikon, Art Morris, I learned how to set up my camera to capture birds in flight.

On the Nikon, I obviously set my camera to continuous shooting, and for the focus selection I choose the “Group” setting. When I look through the viewfinder, I see 4 focus point, but the Group includes the 13 points contained within the boundaries covered by the boxes. In the camera it looks like this.

Group1.jpegGroups AF as seen in the camera


The great thing is when I am off and not all the points hit my target, my images stay sharp, as seen in this example.

Group4.jpegNot hitting all targets


In fact, I have found if I am tracking and get totally off the subject for a very short time, that the subject stays in focus most of the time. See this image.

Group2.jpegTotally missing target, yet still sharp


In this sequence you can see how my points shift as I try to follow my subject and all the images remain sharp.

Group3.jpegA shooting sequence


Last week I spent six wonderful morning photographing at Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida. I shot more birds in flight images in those six days than I probably had my whole life!  And this time the numbers were more than reversed.  I feel like I got 85% of the images sharp.  The downside of that is you have a more difficult time editing.  As you can see from the sequence above if they are all sharp which to you decide to keep? I ended up with thousands of new images. Maybe that’s a good problem?

Here are some examples of my favorite images from the week. I promise I won’t show too many! All images made with the Nikon D850 and the Tamron 150-600mm lens, hand held.

_TEL5198 2.jpgSnowy Egret - 1/2000 sec; f/8; ISO 400; 600mm


_TEL5238.jpgSnowy Egret - 1/2000 sec; f/8; ISO 400; 550mm


_TEL5023.jpgGreat Egret - 1/2000 sec; f/8; ISO 1000; 340mm


_TEL4915.jpgGreat Blue Heron - 1/2000 sec; f/8; ISO 1250; 300mm


_TEL2131.jpgOsprey, diving - 1/2000 sec; f/8; ISO 200; 600mm


_TEL1557.jpgGreat Blue Heron - 1/2000 sec; f/8; ISO 1600; 600mm


_TEL4265.jpgSnowy Egret - 1/2000 sec; f/10; ISO 500; 600mm


_TEL4196.jpgTri-colored Heron - 1/2000 sec; f/10; ISO 900; 600mm


I really am looking forward to seeing how I do when I go to Washington next month, and Alaska in March to photograph eagles.  I’ll let you know.