01 November 2019

Fast shutter speeds for slow and faster flying birds

Fast shutter speeds for slow and faster flying birdsFast shutter speeds for slow and faster flying birds - and one experimental slow shutter speed capture

Yesterday I briefly discussed the effect of slow shutter speeds on relatively fast movement subjects for creating motion blur in some of the moving parts (the areaoplane and the motorcycle) - capturing them with shutter speeds of between 1/60s - 1/125s if the objective of the photographer is to show motion blur (in i.e. the propellers and wheels).

With birds in flight photography it is generally quite the opposite: the objective is to freeze the motion of the bird in flight (main areas are the wings, heads and sometimes a few water drops as well).

The shutter speeds used for the 3 birds: the first two fast and the third bird is an application of a slow shutter speed of a medium-fast bird.

Image 1: for the little egret (a relatively slow flying bird) I used a shutter speed of 1/3200s with an aperture of f/5.6 (using Manual Mode). The shutter speed is responsible for stopping the motion and the aperture at f/5.6 is to provide sufficient background blur - the out of focus area between the bird and the background.

Image 2: for the pied kingfisher (a very fast and at time erratic flyer and diver) I used a fast shutter speed of 1/5000s to ensure stopping any motion of the bird and the water. I used an aperture of f/5.6 (using Manual Mode). The background in this image was slightly less blurred than image one as the subject here is very close to the water and the blurring effect with the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens at f/5.6 is less effective at a shorter background range).

Image 3: this is an experimental / abstract capture for showing a slow shutter speed on a relatively fast flying bird (white-breasted cormorant). Shutter speed was pre-set in Tv Mode at 1/60s.

To be safe, for most bird speeds, I use an average shutter speed of 1/3200s - 1/4000s. Lower in lower light and higher in good light / fast flying birds.

Note on ISO and Shutter Speed: I use Auto-ISO in Manual mode for all my birds in flight photography and with higher shutter speed comes higher ISO''s for my ideal exposures - i.e. if you are achieving an ISO of 400 with a shutter speed of say 1/3200s and you move to 1/4000s the ISO will move one stop more to ISO 640 or 800 (depending on your camera's ISO settings). In low light the ISO (when using Auto ISO) could go even higher.

Most entry-level DSLRs can only achieve a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000s. Higher-end models are capable of achieving shutter speeds of 1/8000s. For most birds in flight / fast action a shutter speed of up to 1/4000s should be fast enough for stopping the motion.

All three images captured with Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens at Woodbridge Island.

Fast Shutter Speed Action: Little egret in flight Woodbridge Island
Fast Shutter Speed Action: Little egret in flight Woodbridge Island

Fast Shutter Speed Action: Pied kingfisher in flight Woodbridge Island
Fast Shutter Speed Action: Pied kingfisher in flight Woodbridge Island

Slow Shutter Speed Action: White-breasted cormorant in flight Woodbridge Island
Slow Shutter Speed Action: White-breasted cormorant in flight Woodbridge Island

Birds in flight Photography View