David Papp Blog

Capturing Photos of Birds in Flight

I have always been fascinated by photographs of birds in flight. The crispness and wonder of how that moment was captured.

We have a bird feeder in our yard that is very popular particularily with chickadees.

I noticed that they tend to take the same flight path towards the feeder and leaving. The gears were turning in my head wondering how to capture one of them in flight.

Birds In Flight - SmallI setup my Canon SLR on a tripod with a lens allowing me a focal length of 500 mm so I could zoom right in near where they were landing on the feeder. I set the camera to Tv mode so I could lock the shutter speed to be extremely fast. Disabled auto focus on the lens then I manually focused on the very edge of the feeder to get the right spot. I then shifted the camera slightly to the left so there was nothing in the frame. I set my camera to continuous mode and waited. As soon as I saw a chickadee flying towards the feeder, I held the button… snap snap snap snap. I did this a number of times for each bird. Chickadees fly quite erratically and very fast.

Out of over 400 pictures taken in a short amount of time, about 10 of them caught some part of one of the birds. I copied the photos onto my computer to have a larger view and was rewarded with 2 amazing pictures… for an amateur!

Chickadee In Flight

I have a long ways to go compared to the professionals and their great photos. It is a fun hobby and I love learning more about it each time I experiment with my camera.

14 thoughts on “Capturing Photos of Birds in Flight”

  1. I fully agree it is amazing how they get such crisp photos. Being a part time amateur photographer myself I have tried to pull off some shots but for me my slight ability is Landscapes and macro. Really love these shots. Wildlife would be something that I would love to get into but the lens price is extremely high (not that the macro is much cheaper). I have found that it is the lens. The better quality the lens the better the photo can come out. Just my verdict.

  2. We have found a common taste here. I love bird shots, my father is an architect in NYC and one of his passions is taking his humongous lensed camera and take tons of pictures of birds, he even took this amazing shot of an eagle at winter time and won a national award in a photographers community (i cant really recall which) but I can surely spend hours just looking at then, specially if they are IN MID FLIGHT SHOTS.

  3. Those are great shots! And I agree, out of all the kinds of pictures you can take with a camera, birds in flight have got to be the hardest of them all to capture. Especially chickadees, as you mentioned, and the like, and sparrows. Birds are a beautiful part of nature and I deeply respect any photographer who can take pictures of birds flying like that. Keep up the good work!

  4. David, your photos are beautiful. The chickadees look so graceful, suspended in time like that. Considering how rapidly they fly, as you point out, it’s all the more of an achievement. And the lighting really showcases the intricacy of the wings and the feathers of the birds. Very impressive.

    As always, thank you for sharing your methods and strategies for producing such amazing photographs. I always enjoy your photography articles and I have been bookmarking them. They are very inspiring to this one-time hobbyist photographer who yearns to get back to it.

  5. Those pictures look amazing! Great job. I’ll have to remember the setting of 500 mm and give it a shot myself. I also enjoy owning a birdfeeder. You get so many cool birds in your yard. I can watch the birds for a good ten minutes.

  6. I love your articles like these which teach us various photography tricks!

    I’m a complete amateur when it comes to photography and barely know how to use my DSLR. These tips and tricks really help me get something out of it!

    Please keep up articles like these! Thanks.

  7. These shots are simply awesome! I low the way that you captured the full spread of their wings. I kind of want to take the last one and write a caption below it that says, “Come at me bro!”

  8. Wow these photos look quite amazing and it makes me anyone desire to become a photographer. There are places online that actually pay for unique photos and these shots of the bird look like great sellers.

  9. very nice images of the birds. They may not be pro-quality, as you say, but they are very good and pealsing to the eye. It was clever and observant of you to notice the flight and approach pattern, certainly helped preparing for capturing the images.. I hope you continue to take such images, and I look forward to seeing them .

  10. It’s amazing to have a camera that is able to capture such awesome photos. Especially of your subject, like the birds in flight. They are so beautiful. I love these photos. You did a great job.

  11. It appears that you have captured them in action. They look very active and sort of like they were performing for the shoot. What an amusing job.

  12. For your first time, you did great capturing photos of those birds that were they flying in the air. If you persisted with it, I’m sure your work would become even better. I wonder how successful I’d be trying to do something like this, and I don’t think I’d measure up. It does sound like a fun hobby to take up every now and again, though.

  13. Wow I have no idea how you’ve been able to take such great pictures. I’m not usually all too good at that, and any attempt to catch a flying bird is just a blur. I’ve never seen a chickadee before though, it probably has to do with where I live though. I probably just need a better camera.

  14. Reading this article made me appreciate bird watchers and photographers even more. 400 photos? Wow. that must take some serious dedication, if you are only getting two quality pictures out of it. Maybe I should pick up photography of birds myself.

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