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12-17-2014, 10:19 AM   #1
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Settings for Flying birds

I have a K511s and a DA*300mm prime lense. I have tried many different ways to get clear, sharp, shots of flying with varying success. I am really keen on flying birds and would like some basic advice (without too much science) on where or how I should start with regards to basic settings. Mostly the conditions being, me on the ground with clear grey of blue skies above the bird. Let me also say that I am tryinf to take shots mostle of soaring eagles and hawks.


Last edited by photolady95; 12-17-2014 at 01:30 PM.
12-17-2014, 10:36 AM   #2
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Here are some tips that I use when photographing birds in flight, keep in mind that I am far from being an expert but I have gleaned lots of tips from the forum.
I use the TaV setting with the shutter speed at 1/1250 for the fast fliers and in continuous hi mode. I also try to keep the F stop at F-8 if possible. The ISO is unimportant as I would rather have the noise than no shot and the noise can be dealt with in post. I am one of those that use auto focus because I just don't have the eyesight for manual (or the dexterity). I keep the AF spot in the middle of the screen. I also use spot metering. I rarely use a tripod but will sometimes break down and use one if the birds are wading. Also I keep I have one of my user settings dedicated to wildlife so I don't have to worry about the settings if I happen upon something. I will play with shutter speed frequently while shooting too. Hope this helps and I am sure someone else will chime in with more tips for you.
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12-17-2014, 10:46 AM   #3
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You might also try to go full manual as the auto Ev will tend to pick up the background sky level. Stay high on shutter speed (>1000s) and moderate f/5.6-f/8. Keep ISO has low as necessary, while increasing shutter speed as rrequired to get correct exposure of bird.

For AF on a clear background and foreground, you can try AF.C and multi-point to track the bird. Pre-focus on the manual quick-shift of the lens.

And then shoot off in bursts with Hi speed.

You might also consider turning off SR as it may be problematic with panning and quick movement of camera.

Hope this useful.
12-17-2014, 12:14 PM - 3 Likes   #4
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Sometimes luck is involved too. I was on my way to a wood to hopefully shoot some birds, smaller birds. I was in the country at a stop sign turning on to another road when this eagle flies out of a tree in a cow pasture. I already had the 300 mounted and sitting on the seat. I stopped, jumped out and the eagle actually circled me, maybe 20-30 feet off the ground. I agree with Susan on center autofocus point and spot metering, unfortunately on this one is was set to multi segment metering (I may have gotten more detail on spot metering). And as Kevin said, pre-focus with the Quick Shift feature.

I was lucky here in that it was an unusual place to catch a bald eagle, even though they nest within a few miles, I was several hundred yards from a small river. The eagle was flying pretty slow. Shutter speed can vary a lot depending on the bird and situation, and predictability. You might get a gull with a pretty slow shutter speed, but try to catch a swallow!
K-30 & DA*300, F8, 1/400, ISO 200


12-17-2014, 01:47 PM - 6 Likes   #5
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I had pretty good success with the DA* 300 using f/5.6 and between 1/1600 and 1/2000s shutter speeds. This particular shot was 1/2000s and ISO 400. My K-30 is in the shop, so I couldn't use TAv mode. If I ever get an opportunity with my K-30, I will most likely put that sucker in TAv mode at f/5.6, 1/1600s and leave it there. My biggest problem was keeping the flying birds in my FOV and keeping them in focus.

12-17-2014, 01:51 PM   #6
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The TAv suggestion is a good one, but I would test out a few shots to get a feel for the exposure. Spot-metering helps as you really want the bird to be exposed correctly without much regard for anything else. Once you get a few test shots, you might move to manual and just fix all the exposure settings so you don't have to think about it at all.

Focus is quite challenging with any of the Pentax cameras. Birds move, although bigger birds are a little easier to get. Continuous focus might help you out, but don't be surprised if you find your keeper rate quite low. I've had decent luck catching pelicans and herons in-flight because they don't move a whole lot in the air. Other birds can be more challenging.

The other problem is that a 300 mm lens really isn't enough in most bird situations. It'll work because you can crop and get good results. But, cropping can also make issues with focus more apparent.
12-19-2014, 04:02 PM   #7
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I always shoot in manual mode, and all my lenses are manual focus. My typical starting point is:

f8 (almost always stays there)
ISO200
1/180 shutter speed early AM and 1/350 after about 10AM. If it's good daylight...

in fog or overcast conditions, I often have to go to ISO400, shutter speed stays at 1/180, sometimes ISO goes higher depending on exposure.

This shot was just a couple of days ago, cloudy skies, ISO200 and 1/180 at f8. Got some motion blur in the wings, and focus was a tiny bit off but a little sharpening made it look decent and this is a pretty large crop.

'

Another red shouldered hawk taken a day or two before, 1/250 shutter speed still got a little motion blur in the wings but much less, decent daylihgt but still couldn't get better shutter speed at ISO200, probably should have used ISO400 instead.



Mostly it's a matter of practice, I always try to keep my starting settings the same for consistency, and I've been doing it so long I usually set my camera by just looking at overall conditions. Both of these were taken at what I figured would work just by looking around.

you can let the camera determine the exposure, my K30 seems to do pretty well but the K-x seemed to usually underexpose a little. These were both taken with a Makinon 135mm lens, it does a good job but I have to get pretty close. The first shot was taken from the car window, second one from a mini blind on the bank of a lake where a pair of Red Shouldered Hawks live. I'm still trying to find their nest...

And remember the 3 p's...

Practice

Practice

Practice
12-20-2014, 12:10 PM   #8
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Thanks for posting this thread, I've been thinking of asking the same question. My biggest problem is getting sharp images. I've been blaming it on my DA 55-300 being "soft" but I recently acquired an DA* 300 and while it's an improvement I'm still not satisfied.

Here are some things I'm trying, or have tried:
I've turned off SR and I'm relying on a fast shutter speed. What's the minimum for a 300mm lens and a fast moving subject.
I've been shooting TAv mode, F5.6 to F8 while trying to keep the ISO under 800 and the shutter over 1/1000.
I'm using back button, center point, focus (half press the shutter button is disabled) but I'm wondering is using multiple points (auto selected) might be better. Any thoughts on that?
What about manual focus? I have an old M200mm that I used this summer with some success but a lot of misses too.

QuoteOriginally posted by loco Quote
I had pretty good success with the DA* 300 using f/5.6 and between 1/1600 and 1/2000s shutter speeds. This particular shot was 1/2000s and ISO 400. My K-30 is in the shop, so I couldn't use TAv mode. If I ever get an opportunity with my K-30, I will most likely put that sucker in TAv mode at f/5.6, 1/1600s and leave it there. My biggest problem was keeping the flying birds in my FOV and keeping them in focus.

LOCO, your eagle images are fantastic. They're exactly the type of image I dream about capturing but so far haven't had much luck.

12-20-2014, 12:29 PM   #9
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Tom & Lori; what amazing shots of the eagles! I'm hoping to try my hand this winter when ice fishing begins on the lake I live on, as the fisherman's cleaning of the fish, leaving the innards, brings bald eagles in.
12-20-2014, 12:39 PM   #10
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The two pics above were taken in one fly past, 1/1000sec F5.6, 200mm, ISO200

Swallows can be like dragonflies returning to the same spot and follow a fixed track over water courses. It is possible to get a few goes at an individual bird in one sitting. Freshwater stream behind sand dunes. I was there for the black backed gulls but this swallow was photo bombing for attention.

Stating the obvious: High shutter speed is necessary and use of as high a shutter frame rate as possible for the lighting conditions. Panning at this close distance beside a stream was problematic so I pre-focused and with left eye open waited for the bird to fly through the field of view and pressed the shutter. In this example I managed only two frames before the bird had exited the viewfinder. Handheld with K3 and DA 50-200.

Images are sooc but cropped. Perhaps could be sharpened and sliders applied a little for contrast - but just as examples.

Last edited by Arjay Bee; 12-20-2014 at 01:03 PM. Reason: add pics
12-20-2014, 06:15 PM   #11
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Jim and Carol, thanks!

Jim, it can be very frustrating. I took over 500 shots that day and threw out about 80% of them. Just keep trying. I think you have the right settings. I didn't turn off SR and I was using center point focus, mainly because I was struggling so much just keeping the eagles in my field of view, I really couldn't worry about placing them over a certain focus point. I figured their heads would be enough contrast with either the surroundings or the blue skies that center point would work fine.

Good luck, Carol! That sounds like a great opportunity to get some good shots!
12-21-2014, 12:36 PM   #12
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"
Good luck, Carol! That sounds like a great opportunity to get some good shots!"

I caught this bald eagle a long ways off, & decided to give it a try, handheld.

It's TAv mode; 1/250th sec, F8, ISO-100, full 300mm with DA55-300.

Heavily cropped, I know it's not good; but it gives me inspiration to getting some good shots when they are closer on the lake.
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Last edited by csa; 12-21-2014 at 01:46 PM.
12-21-2014, 02:58 PM   #13
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Nice job, Carol! You'll get some good ones, the hardest part is finding them! I actually got a crappy shot this morning of one that was perched about 400 yards from my house. They are becoming a little more commonplace around here, which worries me because of my kitties.
12-21-2014, 03:31 PM - 1 Like   #14
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Lori, thank you! I was very happy that I could follow the eagle (there were two), and actually keep the spot focus on it. I kept hoping they would come closer, but didn't. It was fun, and good practice.

Yes, you will have to be careful with your kitties. My neighbor has little weiner dogs, and also worry about eagles.
01-17-2015, 04:31 PM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by loco Quote
Jim and Carol, thanks!

Jim, it can be very frustrating. I took over 500 shots that day and threw out about 80% of them. Just keep trying. I think you have the right settings. I didn't turn off SR and I was using center point focus, mainly because I was struggling so much just keeping the eagles in my field of view, I really couldn't worry about placing them over a certain focus point. I figured their heads would be enough contrast with either the surroundings or the blue skies that center point would work fine.
The weather finally improved to the point where I was able to get out and practice a little more. While I had some blue sky it was never sunny and I had to use slower shutter speeds, wider aperture, and higher ISO than I would have liked.

Every forum thread I've read on SR says to turn it off when shooting birds in flight but I tried leaving it on as you did and I can't see any difference. The pictures with it on are just as sharp as when it's off. I noticed that the SR icon in the viewfinder goes off when I start panning so I think the K-50 may automatically disable it when it detects large movements. For now I'm going to leave it on and not worry about it.

I tried using "Auto (5 AF Points) for AF active focusing area but it didn't seem to work as well as Spot so I switched back. I may keep playing with this because I can't always keep the bird centered (or even in the field of view).
What do you use for exposure mode? I was using center weighted, again because I wasn't sure I could keep the bird totally centered. I'm definitely not getting as good an exposure as I'd like. Another thing that will require some practice.

Here are some of my attempts. Not too bad but not great either...

K50, DA*300mm, 1/1,600 sec, f/5, ISO 400


K50, DA*300mm, 1/1,600 sec, f/5, ISO 800


K50, DA*300mm, 1/1,600 sec, f/5, ISO 250


K50, DA*300mm, 1/1,600 sec, f/5, ISO 320
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