31 January 2011

Swallow flying

Few attempts at photographing a subject have as low a success rate as trying to photograph a swallow in flight. If I were still paying for film I wouldn't even think of trying. Actually, I haven't tried particularly hard because I don't have the patience — this was one of a mere handful I attempted the other day just before stepping back inside the house. In some photos I missed the little bird completely, and this was the best of a series of failures. The original's little more than a silhouette (I'd neglected to deliberately overexpose), but with some heavy processing I managed to rescue some colour and detail.

I don't claim this is a good photo, but I like it, at least in part because it reminds me of an illustration rather than a photograph. But why should that appeal to me?

[27 January 2011, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS with EF 1.4x teleconverter, ISO 400, 1/1600 at f5.6] 

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor


Relatively Retiring said...

That's wonderful! It's possible to see the aerodynamic properties at work.
The power of those fragile, semi-transparent wings is unbelievable - and the photographer may be underestimating his power, too!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
Very cool! As RR writes the translucent appearance to the wings is pretty awesome.

pohanginapete said...

RR and Robb — thanks :^) I've noticed that translucence in other photos of flying birds, and it always appeals.

Zhoen said...

It isn't perfect. For me, that only adds to it's beauty. I like the slightly blurred motion, the nearly awkward moment, the impressionistic edges. I love this one, even more than all your crystalline clear birds (which I thoroughly enjoy.) The nonchalance, an ordinary moment for this bird.

pohanginapete said...

Thank you, Zhoen. I appreciate those thoughts.

butuki said...

As someone who's tried all his life to capture birds in images (and never succeeded the way you do) I can appreciate the difficulty of getting this shot. And what a shot it is. I absolutely love the grey background. Can you imagine this image as a wall-sized poster in your room? Whew!

I just bought the most expensive camera I've ever put money on, the new Nikon D7000. In some ways all the myriad buttons and functions and controls are a real distraction from what I want my photography to be (I still very much miss the simplicity and reliance on my own intelligence of my manual film SLR), but at the same time now I finally can do some things that are difficult to do manually, like subject tracking. Perhaps I will have more luck with birds now that I can keep them focused and in the frame.

I tried over the last five years to lighten up my photographic equipment load by switching to small cameras. The Ricoh GXR I bought last year is wonderful, especially its image quality. It is the most delightful camera for BW photography I've ever used, already having a great BW capturing ability within its own system. There's nothing better than a small camera when you want to stick a camera in someone's face and take their picture. And I will continue to use it when weight and size are important. But trying to capture moving subjects, battery life, lens selection, big viewfinder, and creative control are still the DSLR's strong points. So after a lot of thought, weighing needs, and saving, I'm back to a DSLR, in spite of the weight and size.

But I still don't know how well I will do capturing birds. They hang out right outside my studio window, and I'd love to zoom in and get their more intimate details. Especially the azure winged magpies, the jungle crows, and occasionally the rose ringed parakeets that keep visiting day after day.

butuki said...

Oh, another thought... to think that very same swallow might be winging its way around in my neighborhood soon...

pohanginapete said...

Miguel, that overcast sky was a big factor in the decision even to try photographing the swallow — I thought the lowered contrast would make it easier.

I know exactly that dilemma you faced with the camera. I'd love to travel with just a small, high quality camera like the Ricoh or a an Olympus E-PL2 (or any of an increasing number of very impressive small cameras), but none can come close to doing what my 300 mm lens will do, and for the foreseeable future I can't see that changing. So, I'm stuck with lugging around at least a couple of kilos of gear :^(