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PHOTOGRAPHING SWIFTS IN FLIGHT

July 20, 2016

Taking pictures of moving objects can be quite straightforward if the object, say an aircraft is travelling in one direction and at a constant distance,  but when it comes to a bird as agile as a swift that is another matter.The first thing to consider is the camera, if you don’t have a camera with a viewfinder you might as well forget it! I have a modest priced DSLR with 75 – 300mm zoom lens.

Not called swift for nothing this amazing  bird can change direction in a split second while travelling in excess of 60 km per hour at the same time. Two problems to overcome in taking a still picture are the focus and speed of subject.  As I want to get as close as possible I use the zoom lens. This adds to the focal problem because  if you set the focus to a distance that you think might catch the bird clearly it will for certain never appear at that point. What to do about it? Well you can set the camera on auto focus and let it set the focus for you but I  found the problem with that is unless you have an exceptional camera the auto focus is too slow to achieve the result.

I have found that if I set the speed manually to say 4000th of a second and set the focus to manual I can with practice get a reasonable result. I focus in on an object, say a tree, at what I consider the optimum distance and  wait for a swift to start  a run towards me with luck I can press the shutter at the precise time that the bird reaches that point and by keeping it in the centre of the viewfinder, bingo, missed it again, but with practice I will get maybe one out of five shots in focus.

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