Shooting fast moving flying objects is sometimes very challenging, especially if the auto focus isn’t very fast.  I haven’t been doing much since I’ve moved my primary camera to a full frame sensor.  So these images are using a Canon 550d with a 55-250mm lens.  The Canon 550D has 9 autofocus points and it isn’t terribly fast.  It also has a burst shooting rate of 3.5 fps – also not stunning for taking action shots.

I’m sticking with the smaller subjects for this post – birds like Ibis, swamp harriers and egrets are larger and appear to move more slowly as often you’ll be shooting them at a further distance.

The 3 methods I’ve used are:

  • Point focus
  • Machine gunning
  • Anticipating behaviour with a tripod

Point focus shooting dragonflies is really just a question of stalking and being very patient.  Dragonflies tend to hover for a moment and for those couple of seconds, even a slow AF point focus can home in on them.  Shooting with both eyes open helps with the situational awareness.  In this case I’ve used a 1/1000 shutter because I wanted to have a little blur in the wings to represent the motion.

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Machine gunning isn’t preferred – these were fast moving and I shot on manual focus and slowly shifted it on burst mode while tracking the subject.

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Next is my preferred method – watching the subjects behaviour and pre-focusing.  I found that dragonflies and rainbow bee-eaters tend to be creatures of habit and there is a reasonable probability that they will move back to the same or similar locations when they are hunting.  So what I’ve done is identify probable spots, setup a camera and prefocus on that location.  Using a cable release – will use the burst mode of the camera when they are returning/launching and even with a slow frame-rate was able to achieve some reasonable success.  Using the cable release also improves situational awareness and comfort.

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