“Consider the fowls of the air” – Matthew 6:26
Birds fly, but it is easier to take photographs of them when they are on the deck, or on a branch of a dead tree (with no leaves to get in the way). When birds are in the air, it is much more tricky. The first rule of photographing flying birds is to be prepared. You need to know where you are likely to see the bird flying, and select a vantage point where your view is not likely to be interrupted by trees or bushes.
Be aware of where the light is coming from. If the bird is flying towards the sun and you are tracking its progress, you could end up with a series of silhouettes.
It helps to have an idea of how fast the bird will be going, so you can adjust the camera’s shutter speed. The quicker (higher) the speed, the better, but use at least 1/1,000th of a second exposure. If you have a setting on the automatic focus to continue focussing on the bird as it moves across the sky, set it. Keep on pressing the shutter release to get multiple photographs as the bird moves on.
With zoom lenses, start with the widest angle so you can find the bird in the sky, then zoom in and try to keep the bird in shot. If you begin with the zoom in the maximum telephoto position, it can be very difficult to find the bird. You are looking at such a tiny piece of sky that by the time you have located the bird, the opportunity to photograph it is lost.
Don’t be frightened of pushing the ISO level to the max. Your pictures might be more grainy, but at least they are more likely to be in focus. They will probably be fine for posting on Facebook at low resolution. And be honest, how often do you order an A3 size print?
Taking a photograph while moving the lens to keep the bird in the frame, but using a slow shutter speed, is called “panning”. The background will be blurred, but the bird should be in sharp focus, giving the impression of speed. This doesn’t work if the background is just sky, of course.
The best bit of advice is to remember to take your camera with you all the time. You can’t get the shot if you haven’t brought your equipment.
Grey heron, Great Egret.