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Brian next time you go to Mudeford Quay, go around lunchtime and the starlings will be settled on the lobster pots and let you get quite close. You seem to have better success than me with birds in flight, I have trouble with focus. I've tried all manner of settings and different cameras (Nikon/Canon) and none seem able to track birds in flight reliably.
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Thanks Brian, I do tend to steer clear of the Quay at lunchtime - too many people!
I rely on myself to track the birds rather than the AF servo or other such devices.
I simply spot the bird I'm interested in, get an approximate focus lock on it, then track it until the "moment of interest, then hit the button (gently).
I find that single point, single shot AF is then quick enough on the 5Dmk2 / 60D + 70-300 LIS to nail the focus better than 90% of the time
I too use the Canon 70-300 LIS on my 7D and will try your technique. If you see my lens wafting around on the quay I'll buy you a coffee!
For birds in the air with my now "Ex-7D" I used to find that using the centre group of focus points with AI servo, fast focus aquisition slow release (in the fn set, can't remember which now) and no IS, Tv around 1/1600th - 1/ 2000th was a pretty good technique for sharp BIF shots. Against a messy background though I usually revert to my standard method as above.
Keep you eyes open for an elderly, fat, balding guy with no teeth and a white lens (probably limping) , that will be me I'm always ready for a cuppa and a chat in the Avon Cafe
This is what a wafted 70-300L can do in auto focus
Basically if your shutter speed is high enough to freeze the action, 1/1600 should do it for most birds, small ones though may require 1/2000 to 1/2500, then you will need to use your camera at its highest frame rate to give you more chance of getting an interesting pose.
As for focusing, if your lens/body isn't magical then prefocusing on a plane that the bird will pass through should give you some in focus.
For small birds, particularly at feeding stations I tend to use manual focusing on a plane which hopefully the bird will pass through, and having the camera on tripod, and activating it with either a long wired or wireless remote, you can then sit back and watch with both eyes in comfort. Finches can tend to hover in flight and can give some very good in flight images.
One other thought is check out your background carefully as that can make or break an image
Good examples of whats possible Neil, I love using this lens
Great pictures and useful advice. I have a bird feeder in my garden but also lots of neighbourhood cats so get few visitors I do get keepers of course, this is a captive bird...
Brian, here is another example of a flight shot with a small subject,. The magpie was so far away that this is the full sized crop of around 1000 pix on the longest side. 5Dmk2 + 70-300LIS using my usual technique
I've even had it lock onto a Skylark I could hardly see - its ridiculous how well it works sometimes
Yes, well the owl is hard to miss so close I suppose! Yet I routinely do miss! Tracking at 300mm even a fairly slow moving and large bird as this owl is hard. I fire off on rapid burst and hope! Also, a 300mm on an APS-C sensor is still only about 450mm and too short for many birds without heavy cropping yet a longer lens (or extender) would probably only make it harder? May look into a 2x extender or whatever though. Any recommendations anyone for Canon 7D 70-300mm ISL?
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