Fast Moving Birds Are A ChallengeFor an amazing experience that is sometimes frustrating try shooting fast-moving birds. The Blue Fairy Wren appears to live in a state of nervous agitation moving at considerable speed. Perhaps it’s just that they’re concerned about predators. After all, blue doesn’t really blend in well with green and some of these blue fairy wrens have a cobalt blue colour that is simply staggering. When you show pictures of the Blue Fairy Wren, especially the splendid version, people often stop and ask if the colours are real. Surely a bird couldn’t be that blue. But this is real and they are an absolute delight when you see them. They just don’t stand still for photographers.
We had come across a few sites where the Wren seemed to live and we decided that we would give this a go. For the purpose of taking these photographs we were using both the Nikon 28 to 300 lens and the Canon 100 to 400. On paper and in reviews these lenses appear to be poles apart however the reality is that in situations like this you cannot tell the difference. Both lenses were paired with bodies that have freakishly good autofocus which was absolutely essential. Obviously the Nikon locked on like a homing missile which is a characteristic of the Nikon DSLR cameras. but I would have to say in fairness that the Canon was also remarkable and certainly up to the task.
The Blue Fairy Wren Looks Unreal
Blue Fairy Wrens are an amazing bird but they move quickly. The splendid fairy wren (Malurus splendens) is a bird in the Australasian bird family, Maluridae. It also known simply as the splendid wren or more colloquially in WA (Western Australia) as the blue wren. The splendid fairy wren is found across much of the Australian continent. The male in breeding plumage is a small, long-tailed bird of predominantly bright blue and black colouration. Non-breeding males, females and juveniles are predominantly grey-brown in colour; this gave the early impression that males were polygamous as all dull-coloured birds were taken for females. It comprises several similar all-blue and black subspecies that were originally considered separate species.
The birds move very quickly. They don’t pose for photographers as some birds do. Some birds seem to pose for longer moments and you can take your time. I’ve been able to take several minutes to compose and shoot some shots as the birds survey the surroundings. A lot of birds are very obliging. These birds in contrast don’t stand still for a moment. Well maybe just a very slight moment at times. For some of the shots we were at a tearooms in the forest near Margaret River enjoying some amazing scones along with English breakfast tea. We had heard that it was possible that we might see them but we weren’t expecting to get some of these images shown here. It was a real bonus and an absolute treat.
You have a split second to get the shot. You can’t wait for your camera to get there..
This is one of those features about photography that reviewers seem to miss. Whether you shoot professionally or in this sort of situation you have a split second to make a decision and get the shot. Your gear mustn’t get in the way. Sadly some gear takes way too long and is just not there when it comes to that split-second moment when you just have to get the shot. The autofocus needs to lock on quickly and you have to have made some decisions well in advance in regard to shutter speed and aperture that would be optimum. (Whether you work professionally or are shooting for fun there seems to be a moment when it is right to take the photograph. For example a bride smile is there and gone and can be replaced by a not so spontaneous smile if you keep asking for it. Better to catch it at the optimum moment. Your gear just has to work and you have to get on with the job.)
Thankfully the birds seem to establish a pattern
The Blue Fairy Wren is a bird on the move. And they like to loop in areas which makes it possible to predict their behavior slightly. Though having said that it’s still advisable to get a move on with the shot. We found three locations where they come and go and then staked them out. One was a dead loss. The other two were quite good. And overall I was delighted to add these shots to the collection. For those who want to try it out. The first location was Neil Hawkins Park. Take a walk and keep your eyes open and your camera ready. The second was just out of Margaret River in the forest heading south along Caves Road. For these shots I used a Canon DSLR and a Nikon DSLR on different occasions. One had twice the megapixels of the other. But there’s nothing to pick between them. There is an even mix of both in these images presented here. And of course they are all crops and therefore, even though they can be printed easily up to poster size they are essentially images of around five megapixels.
Pre Select both shutter speed and aperture and make the shutter speed fast.
The key to these was bright light and pre-selection of the aperture and shutter speed. I selected a 400th of a second as the speed I needed and hoped for enough light for f8 as the aperture. Some ended up as f5.6 due to less light but because of the speed the birds moved I wasn’t prepared to compromise the shutter speed. As it was they came out quite well. In fact we got a mix of images that I’m happy with and some are already in use.
The colours are always a problem with Blue Fairy Wrens. They never look real. And these days there are so many shots with false colours that people look sideways at you when you show these images. Can a bird really have cobalt blue colours like this? Yes! This is real.
Here behind the scenes in Lenscraft MFT we are totally focused on real photography and we are going to bring you a lot of shoots like this with insights into the sort of gear and thinking that went into taking these images.
In summary the minimum shutter speed that we use for images like this is 1/400 of a second. Optimum aperture is between F5 .6 and F8.
A few comments re Lenscraft Photography. When we comment on equipment in these pages the comments are based on use in the field. They are never based on a single use or just a couple of days using the equipment. We try the equipment with at least two disciplines in photography and determine how it performs from there. Lenscraft Photography is a website devoted to photography and sharing experiences with equipment. We are not affiliated with any manufacturer. We have used equipment professionally from Canon, Nikon, Ricoh, Minolta, Sony, Leica, Olympus, Hasselblad, Zeiss, Sigma, Pentax, Zenit, Bronica, Rollei & Kodak.
Some of these companies have been absorbed into others. Currently we regularly use equipment from Olympus, Nikon, Sony, & Hasselblad. [Plus lenses from Zeiss and Sigma]