01 August 2022

Canon Autofocus Settings For Birds in Flight Photography

Learning, Understanding and Applying Canon EOS / Canon EOS R Autofocus

Canon Autofocus Settings For Birds in Flight Photography :  © Vernon Chalmers
Pied Kingfisher with Catch Woodbridge Island : Copyright Vernon Chalmers

Canon Autofocus (AF) Settings for Birds in Flight Photography

Mastering Birds in Flight Photography 

Canon EOS / EOS R AF System Application

Over the past 10 years I have used more or less the same AF Settings for photographing birds in flight at Woodbridge Island, Cape Town.

Here is an overview of the Canon AF Settings (and other considerations) that I have applied with various Canon EOS APS-C and Full Frame bodies during this period.

Dual Pixel CMOS AF System / Dual Pixel CMOS AF II System
My main camera during the 10 year was the Canon EOS 7D Mark II paired with the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens. I am very impressed with the EOS 7D Mark II's Dual Pixel CMOS AF System and the only other / best AF System I personally used apart from the EOS 7F Mark II was the Dual Pixel CMOS AF II System deployed in the EOS R6.

Birds in Flight Photography Image Gallery

Setup and Tips for Birds in flight Photography

Mastering Birds in Flight Photography   Canon EOS / EOS R AF System Application
EOS Bodies used for Birds in Flight Photography (some with different Canon lenses):


Human Behaviour for Birds in Flight Photography 
I am a firm belief that the camera, lens and AF settings in my hands is the 'default' configuration and that my own behaviour (mainly concentration / patience / handlings skills) and environmental factors are of much higher importance than the kit in hand (in the 'moment' of shooting). This is something I am mindful of each and every time I make the decision to photograph a bird in flight.

Canon EOS 70D Autofocus Settings For Birds in Flight Photography
My norm for birds in flight photography became 'all the other criteria' not part of the camera / lens pairing. The more experienced I became the more I settled with the same camera, lens and AF settings. I always attempt to shoot in the same light conditions. Not always possible, but I aim for the same environmental conditions on most shoots. 

Lately, the most important (and only) variable in my application and concentration is the particular bird in front of the lens (after making the decision to capture that specific in-flight subject).

This approach eliminates the thoughts that 'beter kit' will provide a 'beter image'. The (personal) focus now is almost exclusively on the self for enjoying the moment (with a secure undercurrent of trust in the technology and environmental factors).

This should also be the moment not only embedded in the mind of the photographer, but a moment shared with others for representing the sheer beauty of the natural world around us.

Considerations for improved Birds in Flight Photography

Canon Equipment 
  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR Camera Body
  • Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

AF / Manual Exposure Mode Settings
  • Shutter speed: 1/2500 - 1/4000s 
  • Aperture: f/5.6 - f/6.3
  • Focal length 400mm
  • Auto-White Balance (AWB)
  • Auto ISO (400 - 3200)
  • AF Mode: Zone / Wide Zone
  • AF Case: Case 1 (Default)
  • AI Servo / 10fps multi-shot
  • RAW processing (shooting to RAW only)
  • Handheld
 
Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens Setting
  • Autofocus On
  • No Image Stabilization
  • Focal Length 400mm
Canon EOS R6 Autofocus Settings For Birds in Flight Photography

Other Canon Lenses Used

  • Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens
  • Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM lens
  • Canon EF 800mm f/11 IS STM lens

Birds in Flight Photography Post-Processing

Adobe Lightroom (Classic) from Version 5.7

Page Image Information : Canon Birds in Flight Photography (Woodbridge Island / Cape Town)

Image 1: Pied Kingfisher in Flight with Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

Image 2: Reed Cormorant in Flight with Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

Image 3: Juvenile Kelp Gull in Flight with Canon EOS 70D / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

Image 4: Cape Shoveler Duck in Flight with Canon EOS R6 / RF 800mm f/11 STM Lens

Image 5: Grey Heron in Flight with Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

Grey Heron in Flight with Canon EOS 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
Canon Autofocus (AF) Setting For Birds in Flight : Grey Heron over the Diep River / Woodbridge Island

Canon Photography Training Milnerton Woodbridge Island | Kirstenbosch Cape Town

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