Blue and White Swallow in flight. Photo by Eduardo Libby

Birds in flight: Olympus, Nikon and the swallows

As you frame the flying bird, put a focusing sensor on its eye, initiate tracking and compose your photo so there is space on the front… ‘Yeah right…. I shoot Swallows around here!’

I live on the Costa Rican mountains. No lakes and no ocean nearby. Birds in flight for me means Pigeons with tail-wind and fly-hunting Swallows. On top of that, most of the time trees only let me see the birds when they are almost on top of me.

I was testing my reflexes using two lightweight cameras, a Nikon D500 with the 500mm PF lens and an Olympus EM1-3 with the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm. I say reflexes because with these birds all you can hope for is to get the bird somewhere inside the frame, and completely trust the camera’s autofocus and automatic exposure systems to do their jobs.

Blue and White Swallow in flight. Photo by Eduardo Libby
Only shutter speeds of at least 1/3200 s gave me sharp enough images, especially when the bird flew closer.
A sequence of bird in flight photos. Photo by Eduardo Libby
Both cameras gave me enough keepers… amid lots of pure blue-sky frames!!

Trusting the cameras is a must because… there is no way you can search for these fast birds with the camera’s viewfinder. There simply is no time! A Dot Sight is the only way to go.

Vaux's Swift in flight. Photo by Eduardo Libby
A Vaux’s Swift shared the Blue and White Swallows airspace during the hunt.

After some days of practicing, I am confident that next time I photograph flying waterbirds on a trip to the coast… well, they will seem to fly in slow motion!!

Blue and White Swallow in flight. Photo by Eduardo Libby
The Olympus setup was far easier to aim and follow the birds in flight as it is very lightweight.

3 thoughts on “Birds in flight: Olympus, Nikon and the swallows”

  1. Es una tarea bien difícil fotear golondrinas en vuelo. Lo felicito por lograrlo. Con el 500 mm es más difícil aún pues cuesta encuadrarla en el visor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love it! Although I enjoy photography and follow it, I’m mainly a binocular and spotting scope man, my camera is a simple Canon SX620HS; but of course the temptation to try is always there, so I’ll mount it on my scope tripod (it looks like a pimple on the Eiffel tower) and shoot away. Its fps is so slow that I often have pictures of recently-departed birds – just the birdbath visible! Still, its fun.

    Liked by 1 person

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