But in some ways it can help you with one aspect of bird photography and that’s being able to track something in flight. Oh sure, the plane isn’t flapping and depending on the type of plane it can fly from an easy to track speed to there goes something at Mach 1! In this case it was a biplane (no idea where it came from, what kind, who was flying it, etc.) that was easy to lock on and track.
The tip I’m sharing today is just one of many that can help you photograph something in flight and that’s shutter speed! What you set your shutter speed at will either give you a sharp image, a slightly blurry one or one that is totally blurred. If you are going for motion blur that is one thing but if you want your capture to be sharp then the correct shutter speed is paramount.
There’s this thing called the reciprocal rule which means in order to hold your camera by hand without introducing blur and camera shake your shutter speed should be no less than one over whatever your focal length is. In other words if you are shooting something at 200mm your shutter speed should be at least 1/200. Unless you are using a tripod then that doesn’t really apply because of its stability.
Photo math is easier than that high school Algebra class you took isn’t it?
What minimal shutter speed you use with birds also depends on if the bird is just sitting still or flying. If it’s sitting on a branch you can get away with a lower shutter speed than if it’s in the air or if it’s a twitchy little thing on the branch. But here’s something that’s a bit different when photographing an airplane compared to a bird. When photographing birds you want things to be as sharp as possible ergo a higher shutter speed. But with a plane (well one with a propeller anyway) you want to find that sweet shutter speed that will have the plane in focus but allow the propeller to blur giving you that sense of movement. The best advice I have for that – and in a way it also applies to birds – is to start with one shutter speed, take some test shots and adjust till you have things to your liking.
In the case of these photos I didn’t change my settings from photographing the birds in flight (f8 – ISO800 – 560mm – 1/2000) which gave me sharp images of the plane but no motion blue of the propeller. Its appearance was a surprise and I just turned from the gulls to it and then back again. Need to get a little quicker at changing those settings.
Cool plane don’t you think?