01 July 2020

Flexible Photography Private Training Milnerton

Flexible Canon EOS / Photography Private Training Offering = Bird / Wildlife Photography
Photography Training Milnerton, Cape Town 
Offering individual photographers with private and flexible Canon EOS / Photography training classes in Milnerton, Cape Town.

Training Objective
To assist the developing Canon EOS photographer with an integrated learning approach for mastering the more advanced camera and exposure settings within selected application and genres of any Canon DSLR EOS APS-C or Full-Frame interchangeable-lens camera (i.e Canon EOS 1300D / 60D / 7D / 6D / 5D).

The complete image management / workflow process will be discussed with an introduction to Adobe Lightroom Classic CC either as an introduction or a hands-on post-processing learning module (depending on delegate genre / module selection).

Delegates will be able to select specific areas to suite specific photographic applications / genres depending on personal requirements and current / future lens selections. Training may be scheduled over a period of time and does not have to be completed on a specific date.

Flexible Canon EOS / Photography Private Training - Landscape / Long Exposure Photography
Landscape / Long Exposure Photography Training - Canon EOS 700D
Flexible Modules
The training will be from any combination of the Canon EOS / Photography training I offer via workshops or private training sessions. All training will be structured around a general Canon EOS Menu / Exposure Modes module and then elective application / genre modules.

Duration of the Training
Three sessions of up to five hours each (with a minimum of fifteen hours) during the day, evening or Saturday mornings. All training will be inclusive of practical applications (depending on application / genre selection).

Camera / Photography Training Resources
Each delegate will receive Canon EOS-specific and application / genre-specif printed notes and updated URLs on my website linked with more related information.

Training Location
Flexible Canon EOS / Photography Private Training Offering - Macro / Close-Up Photography
Macro / Close-Up Photography Training - with Canon EOS 70D
All training is facilitated in my training studio apartment in Milnerton (opposite Woodbridge Island). Practical application will be discussed with individual delegates depending on application and genres. Map | Directions

Delegates are welcome to Contact Me for discussing specific requirements where-after a Canon EOS Photography Proposal / Invoice will be forwarded to email address(es) op choice with recommended training and EFT / online payment options.

Costing 
Cost per Delegate: R850-00 for two sessions. R1 250 for three sessions (5 hours per session and will include selected / specific practicals – depending on selections).

EFT / Credit Card Payment Options

Photography Training Gift Voucher
This photography training class is available as a Birthday / Christmas Gift training voucher option with a one year validity period. It could also form part of general Canon camera training option as well. More information>>

Accommodation for Photographers
Vernon Chalmers photography training is facilitated from a self-catering apartment in Arnhem, Milnerton (opposite Woodbridge Island) with an option for local and international photographers to overnight during the various training sessions. Optional accommodation will be calculated at reduced rates into the Photography Training Proposal / Invoicing. More Information

Learning Areas
Flexible Canon EOS / Photography Private Training Offering - Adobe Lightroom / Digital Workflow Post Processing Training
Adobe Lightroom / Digital Workflow Post Processing Training
It is recommended that delegates that will attending in small groups to have more / less the same learning and practical requirements.

Canon EOS bodies and lenses may differ, but the application and genre requests should be the same.

Specific learning areas are workshops and training sessions I frequently facilitate. Below links to provide more information on the two to three session training I do per genre.

General Learning Areas
  • Canon EOS Menu System
  • Exposure Settings (Av / Tv / Manual / Bulb Modes)
  • Creative application working with Aperture / Shutter Speed
  • Canon EOS Autofocus / Manual Focus Techniques
  • Adobe Lightroom Post-Processing Introduction (if required)

Specific Training Workshop Learning Areas (to select from)
  • Birds in Flight Photography Workshop More
  • Canon Speedlite / Ring Lite Flash Photography Workshop More
  • Macro / Close-Up Photography Workshop More
  • Landscape / Long Exposure Photography Workshop More
  • Digital Workflow / Lightroom Post-Processing Workshop More

Contact Me for more information or discussing other requirements.

Canon Photography Private Training Courses Milnerton, Cape Town
  • Introduction to Photography / Canon Cameras More 
  • Canon EOS Autofocus / AI Servo Master Class More
  • Birds in Flight Photography Workshop More
  • Canon Speedlite / Ring Lite Flash Photography Workshop More
  • Macro / Close-Up Photography Workshop Cape Town More
  • Landscape / Long Exposure Photography Workshop More
  • Digital Workflow / Lightroom Post-Processing Workshop More

Flexible Canon EOS / Photography Private Training Offering - Action / Birds in Flight Photography
Action / Birds in Flight Photography Training - with Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Cape Wagtails in Flight - Woodbridge Island

Fast flying Cape Wagtails over the Diep River / Woodbridge Island, Cape Town. These little birds are incredibly fast and nimble, making them quite challenging to capture in flight.

 All photos copyright Vernon Chalmers with Canon EOS 7D Mark II / Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens. (Manual Mode: f6.3 / ISO 800 - 1250 / 1/5000s / 10 fps / AI Servo / Extended Zone AF / AF Case 1 / Handheld).

(Click to Enlarge)
Cape Wagtail in Flight - Woodbridge Island
Cape Wagtail : Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens


Cape Wagtail in Flight - Woodbridge Island
Cape Wagtail : Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens


Cape Wagtail in Flight - Woodbridge Island
Cape Wagtail : Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens - Woodbridge Island, Cape Town


Cape Wagtail in Flight - Woodbridge Island
Cape Wagtail : Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens - Woodbridge Island, Cape Town


Cape Wagtail in Flight - Woodbridge Island
Cape Wagtail : Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens - Woodbridge Island, Cape Town


Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Birds in Flight Photography Gallery View

Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town 
View

Bird Species Woodbridge Island, Cape Town View

Small butterfly photography with Birds In Flight Setup

The small butterfly was captured while I was out doing some birds in flight shooting around Woodbridge Island, Milnerton Cape Town this morning.

This is exactly the same camera / lens setup that I use for capturing birds in flight around the island. Normally, I would use a macro lens / or a zoom lens with an extended tube, but I was keen to see how this setup could work. 


Advantages for close-up photography with this setup are very good image quality and fast Autofocus (AF) of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens combination.

A disadvantage of the 400mm lens is the Minimum Focus Distance (MFD) when capturing close-up subjects. the MFD is 3.5 meter, but the lens can be used with extension tubes and / or close-up lens filters. Filter thread is 77mm.

The rest is up to (AF) tracking and framing requirements. I've captured all three images with lens AF on.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II /  EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens (Handheld). Manual mode: ISO 1000 / f/6.3 1/5000s. Wide Zone AF / 10 fps. Handheld.


(Click to enlarge)
Butterfly Woodbridge Island : Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens
Butterfly Woodbridge Island : Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens

Butterfly Woodbridge Island : Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens
Butterfly Woodbridge Island : Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens

Butterfly Woodbridge Island : Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens
Butterfly Woodbridge Island : Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens

Grey Heron in Flight Photography Cape Town

Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town: Grey Heron
Grey Heron Fly-Past: Woodbridge Island Cape Town
I've waited a long time for these captures on / above the small island adjacent to Woodbridge Island, Cape Town- on most mornings he's already sleeping on his spot.


Canon AI Servo AF: EOS iTR AF Testing 
These low-flying Grey Heron captures are still part of my ongoing Canon EOS 7D Mark II EOS iTR AF Testing - determining enhanced tracking capabilities for moving subjects.

Conditions and Location

Crisp early morning sun with no wind at Woodbridge Island, Cape Town (just off the small island). Woodbridge Island Map.

Canon Camera / Lens Settings

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II 
  • EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens 
  • M Mode: f/5.6 ISO 640 1/5000s 
  • AI Servo: Case 1: Wide Zone
  • 10 fps 
  • Handheld

Post-Processing
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6: Colour correction / noise reduction / lens profile correction.


(Click to Enlarge)
Grey Heron in Flight Woodbridge Island Cape Town - Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens
Grey Heron in Flight Woodbridge Island Cape Town - Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens

Grey Heron in Flight Woodbridge Island Cape Town - Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens
Grey Heron in Flight Woodbridge Island Cape Town - Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens

Grey Heron in Flight Woodbridge Island Cape Town - Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens
Grey Heron in Flight Woodbridge Island Cape Town - Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens

Grey Heron in Flight Woodbridge Island Cape Town - Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens
Grey Heron in Flight Woodbridge Island Cape Town : Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens

Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town

Thick-knee in the Table Bay Nature Reserve

Stand-off with one of the two local water thick-knees in the Table Bay Nature Reserve. He was a bit grumpy on first sight, but a win-win situation.

Images by Vernon Chalmers with Canon EOS 7D Mark II and Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens.

Continuous Shooting at 10fps: 3 consecutive frames

Canon Camera Settings
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Auto-ISO 500
  • Shutter Speed: 1/4000s
  • AF: Large Zone (Case 1)
  • 10 fps / handheld
  • CF Card: Lexar Professional 800x / 120MB/s 32GB
(Click to Enlarge)
Thick-Knee in the Table Bay Nature Reserve Copyright Vernon Chalmers Photography
Water Thick-Knee in the Table Bay Nature Reserve / Woodbridge Island

Spotted Thick-Knee in the Table Bay Nature Reserve / Woodbridge Island
Water Thick-Knee in the Table Bay Nature Reserve / Woodbridge Island

Thick-Knee in the Table Bay Nature Reserve Copyright Vernon Chalmers Photography
Water Thick-Knee in Flight : Table Bay Nature Reserve / Woodbridge Island

Thick-Knee in the Table Bay Nature Reserve Copyright Vernon Chalmers Photography
Water Thick-Knee in Flight : Table Bay Nature Reserve / Woodbridge Island


My Woodbridge Island / Table Bay Nature Reserve Bird Species Index

Cape Town Photography: Sunrise V&A Waterfront

Low Light Photography: Sunrise V&A Waterfront Cape Town
Low Light Photography - Sunrise V&A Waterfront
Cape Town

Early Saturday Morning V&A Waterfront Cape Town

Objective: Demonstrating application of the Canon EOS 700D / Rebel T5i DSLR camera with EF-S 18-135mm IS STM lens (without any lens filters) at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront Cape Town.

Note: All photos on tripod in Av mode (Aperture Priority). Images captured in RAW (conversion via Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.4). With no correction.

Canon Camera Equipment

  • Canon EOS 700D SLR camera body
  • Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
  • Manfrotto Compact tripod

Av Mode - Aperture Priority Settings

  • f/16 - f/22
  • ISO 100
  • Shutter: .30 - 1/15s
  • Manual focus
  • RAW / JPG conversion (lens profile correction only)

(Click to Enlarge)
Low Light Photography: Sunrise V&A Waterfront Cape Town
Canon EOS 700D / EF-S 18-135mm IS STM Lens  V&A Waterfront Cape Town


Low Light Photography: Sunrise V&A Waterfront Cape Town
Canon EOS 700D / EF-S 18-135mm IS STM Lens  V&A Waterfront Cape Town

Low Light Photography: Sunrise V&A Waterfront Cape Town
Canon EOS 700D / EF-S 18-135mm IS STM Lens  V&A Waterfront Cape Town

Low Light Photography: Sunrise V&A Waterfront Cape Town
Canon EOS 700D / EF-S 18-135mm IS STM Lens  V&A Waterfront Cape Town

Low Light Photography: Sunrise V&A Waterfront Cape Town
Canon EOS 700D / EF-S 18-135mm IS STM Lens  V&A Waterfront Cape Town

Low Light Photography: Sunrise V&A Waterfront Cape Town
Canon EOS 700D / EF-S 18-135mm IS STM Lens  V&A Waterfront Cape Town

Low Light Photography: Sunrise V&A Waterfront Cape Town
Canon EOS 700D / EF-S 18-135mm IS STM Lens  V&A Waterfront Cape Town

Canon EOS 7D Mark II : AI Servo Autofocus / FPS Test

Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Autofocus / Frames Per Second Test
Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Egyptian Goose Woodbridge Island
Canon EOS 7D Mark II / Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens - Birds In Flight AF / FPS Test Woodbridge Island / Cape Town

Objective
: Testing the Canon EOS 7D Mark II body / EF 400mm f/5.6 USM lens AF / FPS accuracy and image sharpness.

Note: I capture Birds in Flight in AI Servo Autofocus mode in shorter bursts of 4 to 5 shots. The faster / smaller the bird the more frames per one consecutive burst. These consecutive images were all captured in less than 3 seconds (using the Canon EOS 7D Mark II's impressive 10 fps multi-shot mode).

All images processed in Lightroom 5.7. Converted from RAW to JPG. Lens profile correction. Minor colour correction.

Cape Town Location

Milnerton Lagoon Woodbridge Island, Cape Town

Equipment (Birds In Flight / Action Photography)

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR camera body 
  • Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens 
  • Lexar Professional 800x / 120MB/s 32GB CF Card 

Manual Mode Settings

  • Shutter speed: 1/3200s 
  • Aperture: f/6.3 
  • Focal length 400mm 
  • Auto ISO (ISO 500) 
  • AF Mode Option (Extended Zone / Case 1) 
  • Continuous shooting mode (10 fps) / AI Servo 
  • Lens AF On / No IS / Handheld 

(Click to Enlarge / Slideshow)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Autofocus / Frames Per Second Test 01
Canon EOS 7D Mark II @ 400mm Manual Mode: f/6.3 / ISO 500 / 1/3200s Cape Town

Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Autofocus / Frames Per Second Test 02
Canon EOS 7D Mark II @ 400mm Manual Mode: f/6.3 / ISO 500 / 1/3200s Cape Town 

Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Autofocus / Frames Per Second Test 03
Canon EOS 7D Mark II @ 400mm Manual Mode: f/6.3 / ISO 500 / 1/3200s

Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Autofocus / Frames Per Second Test 04
Canon EOS 7D Mark II @ 400mm Manual Mode: f/6.3 / ISO 500 / 1/3200s Cape Town

Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Autofocus / Frames Per Second Test 05
Canon EOS 7D Mark II @ 400mm Manual Mode: f/6.3 / ISO 500 / 1/3200s Cape Town

Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Autofocus / Frames Per Second Test 06
Canon EOS 7D Mark II @ 400mm Manual Mode: f/6.3 / ISO 500 / 1/3200s  Cape Town

Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Autofocus / Frames Per Second Test 07
Canon EOS 7D Mark II @ 400mm Manual Mode: f/6.3 / ISO 500 / 1/3200s Cape Town

Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Autofocus / Frames Per Second Test 08
Canon EOS 7D Mark II @ 400mm Manual Mode: f/6.3 / ISO 500 / 1/3200s Cape Town

Canon EOS 7D Mark II : Automatic Selection Autofocus Testing

Canon EOS 7D Mark II : Wide Zone Autofocus Testing 

Canon EOS 7D Mark II - Birds in Flight Photo Gallery

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography
Many photographers, when they first getting interested in Birds in Flight / Action Photography, are of opinion that they require professional grade gear, or at least the latest and / or greatest DSLR / Lens combination that they can afford.

With more than eight years of personal experience in the capturing of Birds in Flight and the training and development of new photographers in the capturing of Birds in Flight I have seen quite a number of substantial improvements via the photographer's ability without any significant change in body and / or lens combinations.

The more advanced Canon APS-C or Full Frame bodies (paired with i.e. a 300mm or 400mm prime lens) will provide for an excellent basis to start from, but from personal experience, have seen many new photographers with professional grade equipment coming to my Birds in Flight Photography Private Training / Workshops with the total honesty (and frustration) of not being successful in this exiting action genre.

Also read: Setup and Tips for Birds in Flight Photography

What I tell many Cape Town photographers staring out with Birds in Flight Photography is that they may just have a possible body / lens combination in their bags without spending any money on new gear.


'Gear Acquisition Syndrome'
Birds in Flight Photography gear acquisition (as referred to tong-in-cheek globally as GAS - 'Gear Acquisition Syndrome') can very quickly spiral out of control for new photographers putting gear first and not considering a more complete range of requirements / skills development for getting started. I generally recommend Birds in Flight photography delegates / beginners not to make any changes to current gear for at least three to six months (to focus on skills development first).

Birds in Flight Photography Learning and Training Opportunities Cape Town
For Birds in Flight Photography training and shooting opportunities please Contact me

Capturing Birds in Flight is a combination of the following requirements:

DSLR Bodies: FPS / AF / Shutter Speed
Any DSLR capable of shooting between 4 and 14 frames per second (fps) in continuous shooting mode are suitable for Birds in Flight. I.e the Canon EOS 600D / 700D's at 5 fps will get the job done. Even entry-level DSLR bodies with a limited 9-Point Autofocus (AF) system is responsive enough for tracking fast flying birds. 


Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography
Shutter Speed: 1/3200s
Understanding and application of shutter speed is a critical requirement in my view. About all DSLR's will offer shutter speeds of a maximum of 1/4000s up to 1/8000s (in some higher-end bodies) of which all is suitable for freezing the wings of most birds.

I generally use 1/3200s to 1/4000s shutter speeds for the majority of my Birds in Flight photography.
Popular Lenses for Birds in Flight Photography
After training many new Birds in Flight photographers at Woodbridge Island, Cape Town the following Canon, Sigma and Tamron lenses are the most popular for Canon APS-C and Full Frame bodies:
  • Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens
  • Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens
  • Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lens
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS (II) USM lenses
  • Sigma 150-500 / 600mm lenses
  • Tamron 150-600mm lenses

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town
With Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Lenses: Minimum Focal Length and Apertures
Telephoto zoom kit lenses in the minimum focal length range of +- 250mm are just about suitable as an entry lens choice for starting out at Woodbridge Island, Cape Town - as some areas will allow for very close access to low flying birds.

The 55-250mm or the 70-300mm variable-aperture f/4-5.6 tele-zoom lenses can't really be compared with the optical quality of a prime lens of 300mm or 400mm lens (with apertures of f/4 or f5/6), but under sufficient light you will be surprised of what is achievable - even at f/8 (the 'sweet spot' for image quality / sharpness of many 70-300mm lenses). 

Image one:  King Gull captured using an entry-level DSLR (EOS 700D) and the kit variable aperture zoom lens (Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.5.6 IS II Lens)

Image two:  Grey Heron captured using an entry-level Canon DSLR (EOS 700D) and a consumer variable aperture lens (Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens).

Image three:  Reed Cormorant captured using a mid-range enthusiast Canon DSLR (EOS 70D) and the very cost-effective 400mm telephoto lens (Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens)

Image four:  Swift Tern captured using a semi-professional Canon DSLR (EOS 7D Mark II) and the very cost-effective 400mm telephoto lens (Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens)

Image five:  Pied Kingfisher captured using a semi-professional Canon DSLR (EOS 6D) and sharp and fast Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens)

Image six:  Swift Tern captured using a semi-professional Canon DSLR (EOS 6D) and professional-grade prime super-telephoto Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens)

The biggest success criteria of the three images below are not the gear, but the most applicable exposure settings, quality of the light and the fact that I was quite close to the bird with an anticipation / understanding of the subjects's behaviour / flying pattern(s).

Birds in Flight Photography: Skills / Techniques
With learning any new photography genre there is a learning curve. Only many hours in the field will ensure the understanding and mastering of the most suitable camera body / AF / lens settings and the best exposure modes for action photography (ito best results for depth of filed, subject sharpness and overall satisfaction rate of the photographer).

It can take anything from six months or longer for getting a thorough understanding of the camera / lens settings, exposure settings and to learn the different bird birds ito their flying and general behaviour patterns. The objective should not be to master this as quick as possible, but to take time to learn, have fun and spend time with like-minded photographers.

Personal Dedication: Commitment / Motivation
I've seen many of my Birds in Flight Photography delegates increasing their Birds in Flight capturing skills over time well past the original workshop and practical shoots. Some then go on to purchase new and more advanced bodies and lenses, but most just keep on working their skills lens (by shooting as often as they can, asking as many questions as possible and not be afraid to experiment with camera / lens and exposure setting.

Two Cost-Effective Canon Birds in Flight Lens Options - Go Here>>

Capturing / Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in Flight Photography
Capturing / Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in Flight Photography

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography King Gull: Canon EOS 700D / EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II Lens
King Gull: Canon EOS 700D / EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II Lens

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography - Grey Heron: Canon EOS 700D / EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens
Grey Heron: Canon EOS 700D / EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens


Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography - Reed Cormorant: Canon EOS 70D / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Reed Cormorant: Canon EOS 70D / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens


Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography - Swift Tern: Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Swift Tern: Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography - Pied Kingfisher: Canon EOS 6D / EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens
Pied Kingfisher: Canon EOS 6D / EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens


Starting out with Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town - Swift Tern: Canon EOS 6D / EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens
Swift Tern: Canon EOS 6D / EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town

Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town

All 9 Birds in Flight images were captured around the Milnerton Lagoon / Woodbridge Island, Cape Town in mostly early morning and sunny conditions.

Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in flight Photography

Red-Eyed Dove in Flight - Capturing / Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in Flight Photography
Red-Eyed Dove in Flight  :  Woodbridge Island, Cape Town
During my Birds in Flight Photography Training in Milnerton, Cape Town I generally start with a slideshow of a variety of in-flight images (with different Canon EOS bodies / EF prime / zoom lenses) for pointing out basic EXIF data, location and other relevant information.

Important Birds in Flight Photography Considerations
The introduction is followed with the highlighting of important individual considerations and settings. Outcomes will depend on current gear, skill level, shooting style and exposure settings:
  • Gear (Body / Lens / Tele-converters)
  • Autofocus System
  • Shooting Modes
  • Fps / Buffer Speed / Memory Card Speeds
  • Image Stablization (IS)
  • Handheld vs Tripod / Monopod
  • Exposure Settings
  • RAW vs JPG (Buffer Speed / Post-Processing)

Reed Cormorant in Flight - Capturing / Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in Flight Photography
Reed Cormorant in Flight : Canon EOS 70D
Ensuring the best possible images
After spending a fair amount of time with various Canon EOS bodies / Autofocus systems and technique during the workshops I discuss the Capturing / Tracking Variables - this is generally a list of 10+ criteria for assisting the Birds in Flight photographer with the following in mind:
  • Expected outcomes
  • Pre-planning
  • During the shoot
  • Post-processing
  • Publication / printing

Many photographers are of opinion that only the high-end enthusiast and professional Canon EOS bodies and EF lenses are good enough for capturing birds in flight images. During these discussions and demonstrations the focus is on how to extract the maximum value out of most Canon EOS bodies and even 70-300mm lenses.

Capturing / Tracking Variables for Birds in Flight Photography
Listed capturing and tracking variables are based on my own shooting style and techniques at Woodbridge Island, Cape Town. All the images in this Canon EOS 7D Mark II Gallery was captured over a 4 year period using the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens.

Sandwich Tern in Flight - Capturing / Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in Flight Photography
Sandwich Tern in Flight  :  Canon EOS 7D Mark II
The interpretation and application of the listed variables are not necessarily always going to provide for extraordinary results in every situation, but after quite a few years as a Birds in Flight photographer the following criteria are some of the most important factors / decisions (for ensuring great looking in-flight images):

  • Weather / Light conditions: I stay opposite Woodbridge Island and have a substantial view of the weather conditions, wind speed and quality of available light.

    I will only go down to the island if the weather / light meets my specific requirements. Crisp and quality early morning (summer) light is essential when using a variable aperture lens / or shooting with a lens with a maximum aperture of f/5.6.

  • Position of the sun: For ensuring the best possible exposure I go out early morning with the sun at my back for providing direct exposure on the birds. The quality of the available sun light is important - in some cases I don't mind the odd cloudiness - just for some softer diffusion in strong sun light.

  • Distance: When photographers are new at birds in flight they tend to shoot at every bird flying at any distance and any height. With experience this will be dramatically toned down wrt distance from lens (for best / sharpest image quality). I only should within my mental geographical boundary lines ito specific Woodbridge Island sub-locations.

  • Bird Species knowledge: Getting to know the individual bird species and their behaviour (in a specific environment) can take a while. It took me more than a year to really understand and anticipate the movements of the various bird species at Woodbridge Island. On this website is a Bird Species Index to where I add every new species that I personally encounter in / over the Milnerton Lagoon, Diep river and the Table Bay Nature Reserve.

Pied kingfisher in flight - Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in flight Photography
Some of the most challenging shot - Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Size and speed: For the developing photographer small and / or fast flying birds are extremely challenging to track and frame. This becomes easier with experience. Autofocus speed is not (always) the reason for not getting a framed captured - inexperience in general camera handling, tracking and general speed anticipation is more likely to be the problem. Canon's modern Autofocus systems will assist in various configurations for faster and smaller birds.

  • Flight direction: The majority of the birds I capture around the Woodbridge Island area flies from left to right towards the sun and mostly close to the water. This is for ensuring better exposure, limiting the shadows under the wings and to provide for a slight glint in the facing eye. This is not to say I do not capture birds flying away from the sun.

  • Movement: In most cases the birds around Woodbridge Island / Diep river flies on the same plane across the water. Very easy to capture them this way as the wide open spaces provides for good and early sighting ito to their approach (and to prepare for the shooting burst). however, there are various super-fast and erratic flying challenges (diving for fish) with the terns and kingfishers.

  • Focus on the eye: With many fast and / or smaller birds I do not use this as such a strong criteria. I use a shooting style of shooting most birds from behind until I can see the Focus Points covers the eye-area. In most cases this is more than good enough. For some larger birds, such as a stretched-out flamingo, focusing on the eye at i.e. f/5.6 may  results in other part of the body being slightly out of focus.

Water Thick-Knee in Flight: Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in Flight Photography
Water Thick-Knee in Flight : Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Blur options: You do not require a large sensor full frame Canon body (i.e. EOS 6D) and the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II lens for generating  sufficient background blur when photographing birds in flight.

    I spend a lot of time in my workshops discussing and demonstrating background blurring possibilities and how to achieve effective blurring with an APS-C body (i.e. EOS 7D Mark II) and the EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens. More about background blur considerations

  • Background: With background I really mean what is behind the flying bird. Is it just blue sky or is it a nice bokeh of green grass or purple bush? Some of the challenges we have here are houses, cars and golfers that could become a huge distraction / part of the captured bird image. What I do to minimize this is to shoot in specific areas with certain (unfortunately, very narrow) windows of natural background opportunities.

  • Contrast: Black birds (i.e. oystercatchers and  red-knobbed coot) are at times difficult to track and capture. We've seen on occasion how even the advanced Canon AF systems sometimes struggle with some of these black feathered birds against a dark blue water / dark tree background. The Canon AF system needs contrast for the AF points to lock i.e. bird against the darker bush backgrounds will be more challenging than a white egret against the blue water. In most cases the AF points lock on without any issues.

Cormorant in flight - Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in flight Photography
Cormorant around the bend - providing a different composition
  • Composition: For the new Birds in Flight photographer composition is one of the last things to think about. A much bigger challenge at this stage of the learning curve is just getting a small / fast flying bird in the frame.

    With time the attention will shift to be more mindful of the type of compositions that could be achieved with flying birds. Cropping in post-processing will also provide for some compositional adjustment.

  • Post-processing:  Its far easier to import a good capture (ito exposure and various of above criteria into consideration) into post processing than a poorly exposed images /not meeting the photographers expectations. I do not spend a lot of time in Adobe Lightroom and generally apply cropping / noise reduction and a few other tweaks. I shoot in RAW and then over time (if required) will work on an image for a final JPG outcome.

Expose requirements, technique and AF settings
The above listed variables and suggestions are not by any means the only criteria for learning and excelling with Birds in Flight Photography. For instance, I did not discuss the various exposure requirements (ito ISO / Aperture / Shutter Speed) in this article. Neither did I discuss any specific technique or autofocus settings. During my Birds in Flight Photography / AI Servo Autofocus workshops and private training I discuss these settings and configurations in more detail.

A comprehensive understanding and application of the modern Canon AI Servo Autofocus System (with all the different configurations and settings) can take months to master. Like all other photographic genres Birds in Flight photography requires experience, patience and trial and error in learning the fundamentals and applying the learning for achieving required imagery outcomes. More on the Setup and Tips for Birds in Flight Photography.

Article / Images Copyright Vernon Chalmers


Capturing / Tracking Variables for Improved Birds in Flight Photography
Canon EOS 7D Mark II / 400mm Lens - Woodbridge Island / Cape Town

Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town
Birds in Flight Photography Cape Town

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