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.
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.
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.