Everything has it's beauty, but not everyone sees it. - Confucius
Sometimes the picture doesn't have to be perfect; it's the captured moment that counts. - me
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Monday, 5 April 2010

How do you photograph flying bullets?

The flying bullets in question, are Swallows and Sand Martins. We’ve got some good numbers arrived locally, so yesterday I spent a bit of time trying to photograph them, as they flew over Wilstone Reservoir, Tring.
It aint easy, but I had a lot of fun trying. Especially when some of them flew straight towards me, and over my shoulder. Incredible.
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These are not the best pictures I’ve ever taken, but I’m posting them to share the fun I had taking them. And to all those photographers that manage to get pin sharp shots of these missiles skimming over the water; I take my hat off to you.
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To get these, I switched to manual focus, focused a few feet out, and then tried to pan as they flew by.





A couple of the Sand Martins. They are fast!






And the Swallows. They’re pretty quick too!!
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And the last one, probably the best of the lot.



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I took loads; and deleted loads. But great fun.
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Can’t wait to try again.
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24 comments:

  1. Keith these are grand, if you are serious the only way, I can think, for archival, is to grow or build two fences from their nest and use flash photography. Like most birds they fly a corridor, hence road kill. Cheating NO....Mega effort yes. Thanks to you I can now shoot birds in flight. we will see how well when the wee devils get north, manual focus is my way too.

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  2. Fine photos Keith, I've tried and failed to photograph sand martins and swallows many times but you've inspired me to have another go ..... we saw our first swallow up here in Durham yesterday

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  3. Thanks Adrian. Yea, does seem mega effort; I'll stick to standing by the waters edge lol
    Good luck with them, when they reach you. Look forward to seeing your results.

    Phil, thank you. It's worth having a go again. I really enjoyed it.

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  4. Hi Keith, I tend to manual focus on a zone and wait for them to approach/fly through the area. I use a remote release with the camera tripod mounted. Still a bit hit and miss but with patience it pays off sooner or later. I normally over expose about a stop to get the detail in the dark faces. Good set off images though, I guess when you look through afterwards you have a few near missses and lots of blanks/out of focus. Like you say good fun and a bit of a challenge.

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  5. Hi Keith,
    yes there are not so easy right!!! I guess you can use a infrared camera, you know that one that takes photos as soon as something comes into the lens ;-) Well i also guess that you need perfect days to get these guys, with a lot of light so that the speed aperture is at the maximum!!!!

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  6. You must have a keen eye and a fast trigger finger Keith I have also tried to photograph these fast movers and failed, great shots.

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  7. You did well Keith, you've plenty time this summer.

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  8. Thanks Bob. I think the manual focus is the key here; and shoot and hope, in my case lol
    Certainly challenging, but great fun.

    Infra red a bit out of my price range I think Chris. Some good light helps though.
    Where's the sun?

    Thanks Keith. I had a huge dollop of luck too. lol

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  9. Thanks for your comment Bob.
    Yea, still a few weeks off work yet.

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  10. Well done Keith for getting these, they are pretty good. I've had a go trying to get pictures of these wonderful birds flying a couple of years ago, mine were all a blur:)

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  11. Great job. I find birds (of any kind) in flight almost impossible to photograph well. I tried my hand at just gulls and geese today and still came up frustrated. I'll have to see how they turned out a bit later. Your shots are great.

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  12. You have some patience to sit and take these images. Last summer I spent hours trying to catch hummingbirds in flight around flowers...
    Needless to say I have less hair on the top of my head now from the stress.
    BYW, it is snowing here again ;(

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  13. Thanks Linda. I think the trick is to take loads; and hope lol
    Great fun though.

    Thanks Hilary. It does take a lot of practice to get them flying. Geese and Swans are good to practice on; they're bigger, and a bit slower. lol

    Dale thanks. It's frustrating, but rewarding when some come out reasonable.
    You got more snow? I bet you'll be glad to see the back of that.

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  14. Well done Keith. I tried a couple of Summers ago and nearly drove myself crazy. The technique you used is the way I try to capture dragonflies.
    BTW did you use single shot or multiple shot? I keep meaning to try multiple shot for such things but always forget in the heat of the moment.

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  15. Good job, and thanks for sharing how you got these images. It's fun to watch swallows, but you're right; they don't sit still and pose.

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  16. Exactly what I called them, "little bullets".
    Hope you are going on alright.
    Sam

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  17. Not a bad job really Keith, they are never easy. At least you can see its a Swallow. Mine are always a blur.

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  18. Great shots Keith..well worth the time spent. Flight shots (well anything I have not super glued to a post) is my Achilles Heal. I must try harder.

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  19. Thanks John. I always have the camera set on multi shot. Never know when the action is gonna happen. :)

    JoLynne, thanks. They always seem to be on the move. Wish I had half their energy lol

    Thanks for your comment Sam.
    Generally ok. Some days better than others though. :)

    Thanks Roy. I had plenty of blurs to choose from lol

    Cheers Trevor. Great fun trying; but I'd rather have them still too ;)

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  20. You have done far better than I have ever managed, my shots have all been total disasters: a splodge of black! So far I haven't seen any swallows in this area though I thought I heard them on a couple of occasions. I normally have a pair that nests in one of my shippons but last year they never arrived so I can't wait to see what happens this year.

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  21. "...the fun I had taking them...". That`s what a good photographer will always say! When there`s no fun, one should quit taking pictures.

    Thanks, maybe the pictures are not your best, but they clearly show your passion. Unfortunately, I see that so rarely lately.

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  22. Thanks Kerry. I had to take a lot of shots to just get these few. lol
    I hope your Swallows soon return Kerry. Beautiful to watch.

    Marius, thank you for your very kind words. I really appreciate it.
    Yea, when the fun ends, (and I hope it never does), time to stop.

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  23. I struggle with manual when they are only in 1st gear never mind 'turbo boost' mode!!
    I'll test the tip out if & when the sun shines and the right species appear. Take care. FAB.

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  24. Cheers Frank. Not easy, but a lot of fun.
    Good luck.

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