It’s seldom discussed in polite circles but an unleashed dog can aid the avian photographer. A tyro trying to raise his game, I last night consulted one site’s top tips for freeze-framing birds in flight. Heading the list was learning to predict, as with sports and other photography genres whose subjects are fast moving, what they will do next. For instance a large bird about to take to the air usually craps to lighten its load. It doesn’t always get the chance though.
Walking the woofer along Beeston Canal today I saw, fifty metres ahead, two Canada geese on the flagstoned rim of the towpath. With no one in sight to mutter darkly, and undermine my self esteem with dirty looks, I let nature take its course. I’d ample time to get the camera settings I wanted: single shot auto-focus,1 manual mode, ISO 400 and – with depth of field a non issue – lens wide open at f2.8. Shutter speed still wasn’t high but that didn’t matter too much either. With the wind to my back, and large birds needing the added lift of taking off into it, I’d a good chance of snapping one or both geese coming straight at me, or at any rate at a shallow angle.
So when Jasper ran at them – and by the way he’d be the one in trouble should he corner them2 – I didn’t order him to stop, which he does if I yell hard and early enough, but carpus diemed it to get this near full on shot.
Again, in close up.
And here’s my photography assistant.
- Experts invariably advise AI Servo auto-focus mode for moving subjects. Damned if I ever got it to work for me on any of my four Canon SLRs. Advice, anyone?
- It’s a game for Jasper anyway. Even with ducks, by the edge of a pond, he veers off at the last moment. The canine fun lies in seeing them leap one by skittled and splashing one into the water. Not, I hasten to add, that I make a habit of allowing this. First time was an accident, though an instructive one. There’ve been one or two repeats while my mind was on other things. To bird lovers everywhere, a thousand apologies. As for those mortified by their K9’s behaviour, thank your lucky stars you weren’t the hapless owner in Jesus Christ, Fenton!
Quite apart from the characteristically great pics and the chance to ‘meet’ Jasper (lauren says his expression says ‘What are you looking at?’ thank you for re-connecting me with Jesus Christ Fenton. A forgotten treasure!
Lauren is one perceptive, as well as highly skilled socially, young lady!
I shall have to bring Poppy along to retrain the errant wee beast. Ducks, geese and swans Pops just walks past without even a second look. They also seem to recognise her body language as non threatening and tend to sit tight.
However, I’m still having problems whenever we happen upon the odd Mink when she becomes a dog on a mission. Poppy 10 Mink 0
Look forward to seeing your opportunistically engineered minks in motion snaps, Mick!
Somewhere I think I still have a ‘Minks in Motion’ album – although for me it was a very brief foray into glamrock…
Never had you down as a glamrock man, Jem. I musta blinked for the moment it lasted.
one of your best Phil! – and no I can’t get servo auto-focus on multi shot on my Olympus EM1 ever to work either – trying to get shots of grandson Calum zooming past on feet or wheels – usually very ‘artistic’ (i.e. blurred)
and …. at work when the Fenton episode was current, we had a care assistant with that name – you can imagine the ‘gentle ribbing’ from our, mostly Barnsley resident, staff!
Thanks Paul. I bet your Fenton heard “Jesus Christ, Fenton!” every time they put the slightest foot wrong.
Re capturing moving subjects, I guess there’s no substitue for practice and – in respect of second guessing – observation.