"Eastern Bluebird in flight"

Bluebird heading out into the prairie

The Story Behind the Shot

 I am not sure if there is anything more challenging for a wildlife photographer than shooting birds in flight! Each bird species comes with its own challenging but the majority of them usually have some indication to the photographer that they are about to take flight! Many waterfowl will be quite noisy, head bobbing, turn to head into the wind etc. But the smaller birds these indications are much more subtle and very hard to detect. I will admit the majority of my birds in flight are images of larger species such as waterfowl, raptors etc.  I will not even hesitate to try and get the camera to lock on even when they are already in flight and usually quite successful. However the smaller birds on what I call backyard birds it is much harder to not only get them in the view finder but also to get the camera/lens to lock on. So my method on the smaller birds is to lock on the bird when on a perch and as they take flight try to get my flight images as they fly away from their perch. My success is much better when the camera is locked on with the bird sitting on the perch and when they take flight it is up to me to try pan with the bird and hopefully the camera stays locked on. That is exactly what I did on this image; this male Eastern Bluebird was resting on the mullein that you see in the frame. This male was actually hunting for insects to bring back to the nest box to the nestlings. 

What is important for the photographer is to be ready for the bird to take flight. I always have my camera aperture wide open, with a very fast shutter speed and for the smaller birds I prefer a minimum of 1/2500 or more depending on the bird species. At times I also may use my 1.4 X convertor, but I have to be in very good light. I never use a tele-convertor in any iffy lighting situation. One of the biggest mistakes of beginning wildlife photographers is they zoom in way too tight and the bird flies right through your frame before you even begin to hit the shutter. Always put the bird on the far side and give it room in the frame that you think they are going to launch from! Look closely and many times they will give you a hint they are about to take flight, even if you guess wrong fire away; remember it is only digital and easy to delete. But any hesitation the bird will be gone in a blink of an eye! To see more of my "backyard bird images click on this link.

Good Shooting

Technical Data

 Nikon Camera: D500

Nikon Lens: 200mm-500mm w 1.4X @ 450mm

ISO 2200 (Auto)

Manual Exposure

F-8 @ 1/3200

EV -2/3

Cloudy WB

Vehicle as a blind

Bean bag on door frame

Post-processing: Lightroom Classic and Photoshop