Bird in Flight Sample Video 1
Hi all. Please take a look at this video and let me know what you think of this as a teaching aid. Questions, comments, etc…
- Does this help you with questions on acquiring focus on birds in flight?
- How do you like the view through the camera? Or would you rather just see me on the screen talking about it?
- Would you like more discussion based videos or more videos like this where you can see exactly what my camera sees?
- Any other thoughts?
Thank you! – Matt
Matt, I think you are adding some great advice and pointers to this course. As mentioned many times by others birds in flight require practice and a knowledge of predictable behaviors from your bird subject. Wind direction, feeding characteristics, flight patterns and other species behaviors are all just as important for success. Enjoy and keep up the great content for the community.
Great information Matt, and thanks for letting us preview it. No additional comments from what has already been said. Thanks again. Tim
As mainly a bird photographer, and within that set a BIF photographer, I can provide a couple of comments. Unfortunately, they are all very positive and not really “improvement” comments.
1. Making a course like this is challenging because you naturally want your audience as large as possible. That means you want NOT just the novice but also the photographer who is more intermediate. You’re probably not going to get the advanced people. So, what I like in THIS video is you touch on what I would consider to be more intermediate concepts. Further, more and more people (including myself) are moving from DSLR to mirrorless and one of THE most popular mirrorless wildlife cameras is Sony and Sony’s birding lens for the majority of users is the 200-600mm. So, this tip is immediately useful for a big “chunk” of bird photographers right off the bat. I’m going to purchase your course as soon as it’s available and hoping it will be full of these intermediate procedures.
2. I like it that you are NOT focusing on “here’s a great image” – but rather “here’s a great technique”. Both of the techniques you show in this teaser are very useful and ESPECIALLY for the many who use the 200-600.
3. One thought – some of us use the Sony 600mm. I know you have this lens. I struggle at times with this lens for acquiring the bird. Although it’s not a lens many have, you might try to find a way to work in acquisition tips for the prime shooters.
Thanks Michael. I definitely DO NOT want advanced people buying this course. Trust me… I have plenty of them commenting and telling me what I should include in the course. That’s plenty of “advanced” people for me 😉
Matt I also agree with Michael. Everything you showed and spoke about is important info for people getting into bird photography. Im a Nikon shooter so I’m not sure if what I’m about to say is correct. What I saw, seems to show a seven point tracking. Is this correct? Also, if you don’t talk about it in your video, I would encourage you to do so. With my Nikon Z6ii. It took me several outings before I found the best focus setup for my camera.
Great information Matt! being able to see what you are doing in the view finder is a great help seeing how it works !! thanks
The video showing what you and your camera are seeing is a great help. I feel that is the way to go.
Hi Matt! 1. I agree that acquiring focus on something in the distance is the way to gain focus on the bird in flight. If it’s a large bird, I first focus on whatever the bird is somewhat near – a telephone pole, tree tops, tree trunk, roof of a building etc. Then as I move the camera to hunt the bird, it’s much easier to lock focus on it and track it coming closer. If it’s a little bird like a hummingbird, I focus on a large flower or leaf or small group of flowers or more often the edge of a feeder somewhere near the bird. When I focus on the feeder edge, then it’s easy to track the little one as it flies from flower to flower. That makes for awesome shots, and it works with both my fixed lens and my zoom lens.
2. My choice is more video through your view finder. Cool
3. More videos where we see what your camera sees is awesome.
Thanks for all your wonderful videos!
Hi Matt. I anxiously await the new course. Your use of ‘through the camera’ in the video is very welcome. I especially like your emphasizing the need to practice, practice, and then practice more. BIF is very challenging . I recently upgraded my gear (much better autofocus capabilities), which will allow me to more ably use your techniques. Please keep up the good work.
Matt, Something that trips me up sometimes using my Sony 200-600mm is making sure that my lens switches are set for what I am trying to do…as you know this lens has a focal range switch in addition to AF/MF switch, a steady shot switch and a steady shot mode switch. Getting these switches set for the task at hand has sometimes tripped me up especially when I change from a subject sitting still and relatively close to a BIF that is farther away. I have missed many shots because of focal lock issues that you talk about where the lens shows a blurred subject and getting it to lock on is frustrating. I find myself frustrated sometimes because I can’t find the right focus area for the BIF…Wide usually does not work so I start with zone and/or center. Zone usually works the best for BIF but sometimes Fexible Spot works. All depends on the subject, how close they are, how big they are how fast they are moving.
Hi Andy. Everything you said is perfectly normal and only solved by practice… And even then it still happens to me. For example I had my Focus Range limiter on by accident last week. If something isn’t working, then learning to troubleshoot fast is the only thing and that only comes from practice. And there is no one perfect Focus Area. Often I have to use several to get the results I want. Thanks!
Hi Matt, A+ Really good teaching tool using your viewfinder. Seeing is comprehending. Awesome tip about zooming out to locate the BIF – then zoom in – cool! Thanks for that. My 150-600m BIF lens focus limiter is always set to Full, VC off on tripod. Second camera carried with shorter lens for any chirpers that may be closer in.
I’ll echo the praise for the through-the-viewfinder videos when explaining your techniques. An important issue is acquiring the focus points, particularly for those who do not shoot with the Sony or Olympus bodies that have bird tracking capability (myself included). They may represent the majority of your viewers.
Hi Alex. Thanks! Just curious… what “bird tracking” capabilities did you see in this video that your camera doesn’t have? I don’t believe I mentioned anything about specific bird tracking. Best!
I like the way we can ‘see through the camera’s viewfinder’ while you explain the technique. I would just like to add 2 things:
1. What is your advice about VR while on a tripod, monopod and handholding ? What effects doaes it have on finding the bird in the viewfinder, focusing and maintaining focus. Does the image stabilization help ?
2. I find that in practice, zooming on the bird ‘after’ acquiring focus takes just too long. Either I miss some potential shots or by the time I am zoomed-in, the bird is flying away from me or behind a tree. So, just a few words and some practical illustration on how to ‘train’ to properly aim for the bird at 500 or 600mm would be a nice topic for the more ‘advanced’ shooter.
Thanks for your great videos.
View through camera will be a great teaching aid. I would think that the “picture worth a” etc. applies here and will enable more people to relate to whatever you are discussing on a much more visceral level~~~Sort of a hey that’s exactly what I see & can’t figure out why~~~
I’m sure, people who are not used to the larger zoom lenses often find that lack of acquisition blur issue and have no idea why it is occuring or how to avoid it.
The basics of how to handle/& issues involved W/the use of long lenses is key for getting bird and wildlife images. I’m sure you will include the atmospheric issues as well.
I vote more through the lens videos~~~You might even do a short segment at the end showing a issue W/a what’s happening & how would you resolve it quiz~~~or you could even start out your videos showing some issue that you will be addressing/solving in the video.
Nothing can be more frustrating to someone than not seeing what they expected to see happen and having no idea why or how to solve the issue.
Anyone can stand/sit in front of a perfect image & discourse about how they got the image~~~Seeing through the camera is Clarifying exactly what was involved with the acquisition of the image~~!!!
Look forward to how your new courses shape up~~~ Thanks
I like it! Simple and yet effective tools for finding BIFs. When there is a pause in the action, you might want to mention checking the focusing square. Some cameras move them to the right or left and this will cause frustrations. When checking focus, also check where the focus point (square) has come to rest. Then put it back in the middle of the field of view.
Excellent format. I think for anyone, novice or experienced, seeing exactly what your are seeing before and at the time you pressed the shutter is very different from having you just explain it to them looking at the final image-i.e. usual lecture technique. I’m impressed at the work you put in to set up a camera system to photograph exactly what you are seeing through the viewfinder. Great approach and I would expect it to work very well as an instructional tool for you in your classes.
Comment on using one or both eyes. I find using both eyes invaluable for shooting any moving object, especially if you can not tell exactly where it is and have to anticipate it’s course (exc.-marine mammals), but also erratically flying birds. If I can see something coming toward the camera’s field of view before it gets there, I may start shooting before the subject is actually in the field; often if it is in the field when I first see it, I’m too late. Does take practice.
The teaching concept of showing what you see in the viewfinder and explaining what you are doing works well for me. I like that idea.
I believe that seeing the action develop in camera is useful. Trying to just verbally describe a potential problem, would just lead to confusion.
I think the way you acquire focus is solid. If you’re able to use your method while using a BB focus, zooming and supporting a heavy lens, which is the setup I use, then I must try it. Too many misses with what I’ve been doing.
Also, your prefocus is an excellent idea, but one question- at what point would you start to focus on the bird?
I much prefer to see through your viewfinder while you’re discussing shooting technique. We get to see that shooting is much trickier than talking about it. Thanks for your good work.
I’m an absolute newbie to BIF and I thought it was pitched exceptionally well.
I also think that you qualified what you were trying to achieve in this short video excerpt and met that perfectly.
Thank you for seeking/encouraging feed back in your quest to produce the best training videos that you can. Wishing you well with it all.
Hey Matt-I do find it helpful to go through these points with a thru-the-lens POV. Helps viewers get a better understanding to actually see what you’re doing.
I very much appreciate the “through the camera lens” view. It made me realize people who take these amazing BIF shots, go through the same motions as do I. It enables the viewer to actually understand, through site, what you are saying. I liked the tip about using something else to acquire focus to help speed the camera’s auto focus tracking.
Heya Matt! I didn’t find this segment on focus all that helpful, sorry. My issues revolve around focus tracking and I find that it just doesn’t happen; no matter how well I get that “first shot” focused. I use the Tamron 150-600 (on a Nikon D7500 or D7200) and it just won’t keep focus on a moving target. Also, I don’t think many of us have that much sky available to follow a moving subject; i.e. smaller ponds, and not the ocean (which provides a bigger sky, if you know what I mean). I never had much of problem when I used my Sigma 50-500 lens (which is now a doorstop); but the Tamron just doesn’t seem to lock on focus as well.
Can you address focus settings in more detail to help with the tracking? Someone on Clubhouse told me to see if there is a “group” setting in focus and to try that instead of single point focusing, but I haven’t done that yet. If you look at my eagle shots on Instagram (the 7th photo down and click the tiles icon), I can get about every 3rd shot in focus, which doesn’t give me the sequence I really want. I am very frustrated using this Tamron lens… sigh…. THANK YOU!, ilene
For me, nothing really new or helpful. I think if someone is just starting out with birds it might be – especially telling them NOT to start zoomed at max. I’d be interested in a breakdown of the rest of the course just to know if it will have anything different than what I already due. Based on this, not so much. It’s helpful, but likely not to anyone who has been shooting birds in flight for sometime.
Hi Ilene – if you’re using a spot focus on birds in flight it can be very much luck. Not many people I know can have a bird in flight, close up, and keep one small spot on the bird the entire time. I would bet it’s your AF settings on your camera more than it is the lens you’re using. And whether you have a lot of sky or not, the concept is exactly the same. It doesn’t change if your background is different from mine. There is no magical setting in the camera or setting you can change that says “If it’s sky do this… but if it’s trees and smaller ponds, do this instead”. It boils down to practice… then more practice. And after you do that quite a bit… practice more 🙂
Do you use back button autofocus? Why or why not?
Ah, good question R. Beutel! 🙂
Hi… I do not. I cover it more in depth in the course, but it has no effect on what you saw in this video. Back button or shutter button focus would give you the same results here. Thanks!
REALLY like seeing what you see through the camera as you talk about what you do. Being able to show a student what its like in your camera is super helpful! When I used to teach workshops, its so much a concept you try to teach and then see the results. But if I could have been recording what my camera saw and then explain it to the students, that would have been great! Is this a SONY feature?
Yes! That works very well to see thru your camera.
1. I FOUND THE ACQUIRING FOCUS HELPFUL
2. VIEWING THROUGH THE CAMERA REALLY WORKS FOR ME
3. I FIND YOUR VIDEOS VERY HELPFUL AND WOULD LIKE TO HAVE MORE DISCUSSION BASED VIDEOS
Hi Dear Matt. It sure helps, even though, it is not new for me. I do so all the time. My question is more about the correct light metering mode for this kind of shooting. there is a big contrast between the bird and the sky. Even if I Start my shooting birst from the middle of the screen, In spot metering mode, after a second, the bird can be in the right corner in focus, but too dark because now the light metering is taken from the sky. Since birds are flying so fast, I can’t always lock the exposure, before shooting.
What would be your suggestion for this kind of fast shooting?
Hi Matt, I was impressed with your explanation and the way you explain this by showing what you do as you see it through the camera!
Coincidentally, I tried this myself to photograph butterflies in the garden with a lens Sigma 100mm-400mm. Definitely a challenge because of the many unexpected movements! With the techniques you demonstrate and discuss, I can certainly greatly improve mine. It encourages me to continue practicing that way. Thanks for sharing this and help us to improve our skills!
Looking forward for what comes next…
Yes seeing through the camera was helpful especially as it shows a bird a long way away. I never know how to capture the bird and then close in on it. All my bird pictures get chucked away!
Hello, Matt. Loved the quick BIF instructional video. The opportunity to see through the viewfinder, seeing what you were seeing, while you are giving explanation/instruction is absolutely the way to go. From my experience, being a retired high school science teacher, the majority of people are visual learners, certainly not all, but most. While we can listen to explanation/instruction, nod our heads, and intellectually understand, seeing it while also getting the auditory version, is like a learning “two-fer”, cementing it into our brains.
To specifically answer your questions:
1) Yes it did help with understanding acquiring focus.
2) Love the view through the camera.
3) Would love more videos like this – seeing what your camera sees.
4) Other thoughts – were actually mentioned at the beginning
of this response.
While BIF are not particularly my genre of photography, I do love all things nature and wildlife such that I can appreciate the talent and artistry of capturing BIF along with the beauty of it. Well done!
P.S. I didn’t read all the comments before mine, but I did read George Secor’s. His comment regarding target practice and muscle memory are right on.
P.P.S. Computer issues prevented me from sending this sooner.
Hi Matt. I think this is a great hands on way of teaching! Sometimes things sound quite complicated but it makes so much more sense when you are able to see exactly what you mean through your viewfinder. Really looking forward to the course!
A much needed and practical ‘how to’ solution to a problem I have always faced. Thank you. I will certainly try this out next time.
Your method of showing what the camera sees is the best way to explain what you are trying to teach.
Matt, EXACTLY what I needed for bird photography. I’ve been grappling with your two mini-issues–full zoom and where is that damn bird??? And get just a wing or something. And stupid focus won’t capture the bird in time!!! So thanks for a few minutes to solve those issues! Definitely buying the course. I had no intention to buy it, as I’m still going through the Lightroom and Photography courses I bought from you, but I think the Luminosity Masking and Birds are gonna be this month’s purchases. You are an awesome teacher!
I’m in central Florida six months a year and would love to do a workshop or two with you!
Hi Matt. I always love your courses. You have the ability to put everything in accurate and understandable terms. I like the video illustrations where possible. One thing you may want to drive home is to take the information and practice, practice, practice. Try to anticipate the take-offs and landings as they tend to make very beautiful images. Keep up the great work that you do!
Thanks for sharing the videos.
– I thought this was helpful in covering methods to acquire focus of birds in flight. I think it would be helpful show more than one camera brand, as Sony has the current reputation for best autofocus.
– I prefer your through the camera video over you talking about it. (no offense, as I do find your descriptions helpful)
– I believe describing, then showing is the best method for teaching. If that’s not possible, showing is better in a training video format, as the person can rewatch to better understand the concept.
Matt, With birds in flight do you ever try to focus on the eye/head which would probably require point focus or just let the camera do its thing on the whole body with an area focus philosophy?
Matt, good. The “pre-focus” is a good one. That will help me. Also the reminder to check and perhaps adjust the focus sensitivity is important too. Hopefully AF sensitivity will be explained. My camera has it but I never remember if I go + or -.
Hi Matt…I always like to see how the process actually works and appreciate the gotchas behind it having ‘lived’ thru the in’s and out’s of this actual experience. You always manage to set context as part of your teaching style anyway so that helps me know what to look out for…this is especially helpful in tying off the camera/picture taking process to the pre-editing result and ultimately, I would expect, to the post editing final product…While I don’t do wildlife photography, I do wildlife children photography ;*) so that is how I related to the video…Thx!
Because you shot through the lens, I realized I may need to change a setting to “track.” That notion was new. I use a 150 to 600. I zoom it out and focus near where I expect the birds. But I have a difficult time finding them. Seeing is believing. Your approach is very helpful for the learner.
Hi Matt. I have used pretty much the same technic you show in your video. It works but it is somewhat slow and not always reliable. Sometimes you may need to do it couple times to get acquisition and that may be too late. Bird is gone… However I found almost magical solution – Olympus DOT SIGHT EAGLE EYE EE-1 (https://www.getolympus.com/us/en/ee-1-dot-sight.html) It made by Olympus but work with any camera which has hot/cold shoe mount. It is NOT connected to the camera in any way (other then mechanically mounted on hot/cold shoe). You calibrate it once with your longest lens and all you do do to acquire BIF – is to put red dot on the bird looking through the dot sight and press autofocus button. Yes, it cost $129 but it worth it in my opinion. It is available on B&H and Amazon.
I have a 150-600mm Tamron G2, do you think using a Gimbal would make all this BIF photography easier?
Hi Joe. For me, it doesn’t make birds in flight easier or more reliable. However it does make holding the camera for longer periods of time (which can contribute to better photos) easier. But honestly, I am much more accurate handholding even though it does get tiring after a while. Thanks
So many comments already so I hope I am not repeating. I shoot Canon 5ds with a 300mm and 1.4 extender. I set one of three programs for 1.6 crop(20mp) for flight, one for 1.4 crop (30mp) for in a tree and one for full frame (50mp). I can not zoom to find the bird in flight, so I find a point to focus on about the distance I expect the bird to be. This normally gets the bird so the autofocus will find it.
Matt, If you’re photographing birds such as we saw in the video, why not put your lens on manual and preset it to infinity? I recently got a magnificent shot of the moon doing that. On automatic focus it was zooming in and out trying to find something on which to lock in.
Hi George. That will not work for most bird and wildlife photography. The photos would not be in focus.
I thought your advice was very useful. I’ve experienced both the “find the bird” and “ focus on the bird” issues. Your through the eyepiece approach works.
Here’s another related and short
topic. Sometimes when my camera (Olympus OMD E M1x)
tracks my bird subject one or more other birds appear in the viewfinder. This sometimes seems to confuse the camera and me.
Any experience with that?
Hey John. Definitely and it happens all the time. Your camera “should” do a good job at locking on to one and there are focus sensitivity settings that can help extend or cut down the delay before it tries to lock on another. Sometimes letting up on the shutter and focusing again can help. And sometimes it’s just not possible to think the camera or us can change or adjust that fast and read minds of what bird we want. Until we can tell it to “stick to this bird”, sometimes plain old luck and skill/practice will have to do 🙂
I agree that seeing thru the lens is effective. I wonder how you change the zoom while still tracking the bird – three hands?
Hi. If you watch most people that hold a zoom lens, their non-button hand (left hand for most) is on the zoom ring of the lens which means you can hold/stabilize the lens as well as zoom in and out while shooting.
I agree the zoom out/zoom in technique is great except for someone like myself with smaller hands. I shoot with an A1/200-600. Even with the short throw of that lens, by the time I adjusted, I would either lose the shot or fall short of full zoom. Rather, I’ve learned to spot over the barrel before lifting the camera to my eye. Works the majority of the time, whether it is a sitting, but distant subject or BIF. It is a technique worth teaching.
Demonstrating and showing through the lens would be my choice. This is a visual art and I learn from seeing examples. It would also be helpful to teach how you can judge where the bird will be at a point in its flight. For example, with a diving tern, it can be too fast to follow its dive, but you can judge by where it is hovering where it will strike the water. It is a technique I’ve seen others use with success but have yet to master.
I like the video of what you are seeing. Makes it very clear. Assume you are going to use different examples. As you said, those examples are not the greatest. But, the point is the same. The tips for what to do about it are very good.
Hope the course addresses tips to improve the Speed and Accuracy of acquiring the target. Of course, it is easier to acquire the bird when you can see them visually at a big distance. But, when they fly over your shoulder, or from behind some close trees, etc., it gets much tougher. Tips on what tracking modes, what size focus area and number of spots to use, things like that will be great teaching points. Sony has some great new software for birds that us lesser brand users don’t have. (Too bad that, years ago, I convinced myself that the only reason Sony bought Minolta was to get their copy machine business.) I would have stayed on board otherwise. )
I use a prime lens for BIF- I have trouble acquiring focus when bird flies up quickly or flies into view quickly.
Do you cover this at all?
I found this approach extremely enlightening, Matt. The problems you describe are common and the tips you provide are practical and on target.
Through the lens video is definitely better than just talking about what you are doing. Look forward to the course.
Thanks for the opportunity to preview the course. I think seeing the view through the view finder is a great teaching tool. Look forward to another excellent video course.
Two things which I thought about during your video. I shoot with a mirrorless and a DSLR. I would find the ability for one camera over the other to acquire and track is a big difference. How do your adjust for this difference in your technique? I noticed you only focused on birds at a distance… how does your technique change when the bird pops up at a very short distance or flies basically over head? From my experience your demonstrated technique addresses the easiest scenario for bird photographers and BIF and is quite effective. But as the birds get closer things happen faster and more unpredictable.
Hi Don. Well, I guess I would suggest that the camera will not find the bird for you right? So the tips in the video are exactly what you would practice… if things are closer, faster and more random then it’s just harder. The concepts don’t change… your skill at accomplishing them is what changes and that only comes with practice. Thanks!
I definitely like seeing what you are doing through the camera. The Sony is amazing how it locks focus on birds in flight. Although I still shoot with my Nikon D500, I find the Sony very impressive. Both concepts of zooming out ahead before zooming in and also the concept of zooming to focus on something distant to help lock in focus apply no matter what camera body is being used. Your teaching aids are very useful for those new to shooting birds in flight.
Hi Matt. Thanks for the preview. I didn’t hear anything addressing full frame vs. cropped sensor. Just my quick input.
Hi Pamela – First, what would crop or full frame change in this scenario? Nothing. Your tips for acquiring focus don’t change based on the sensor. Next… that topic is covered in the course but just not relevant to a video showing tips on how to quickly acquire a bird in flight. Keep in mind you are seeing 1 video topic from this course, out of about 25-30 🙂 Thanks!
I already knew the zoom out trick but I agree that it’s great to include in your presentation. Sometimes with very fast and hard to track birds, I stay zoomed out and just crop a lot. Love to know what focus settings your using with Sony A1.
I too like the thru the lens view teaching aid. The points you cover are ones many of us have come to of necessity and are good to teach as in my case it has taken me way too long to develop. One situation I continue to struggle with occurs when an insect, bird etc has landed and then takes off. AF frequently stays on the flower or perch rather than following the subject. With some tracking or eye detection if the focus spot is restricted to the eye or the subject it works sometime. If the focus square overlaps beyond the subject I think AF thinks the perch is the focus you want and misses the moving subject. How can we improve our hit rate. I use the eye tracking and keep the back button pressed and depress the shutter while still holding the back focus button and keep my fingers crossed.
I know that you are using continuous autofocus but what are you using to set the focus points. Are you using tracking, wide, etc.
Exactly same technique as I have used for a long time in shooting airshows. Probably the best and simplest method of getting focus quickly.
I learned a great tip in the first minute of your video. And that was to zoom out to spite your subject first and then zoom in on it once you have locked focus. Also acquiring focus on something that’s about the same distance away. It really helps to see what you were seeing through your camera viewfinder. I love this way of teaching that you have.
Seeing the camera view helps to cement the concepts.
Assuming that the camera is set to continuous auto focus and/or the shutter button ‘half way down sets the focus acquisition. How does using back button focus impact the techniques illustrated if at all?
Hi Paul. It doesn’t. Back button doesn’t change your ability to focus quickly or not, or how quickly the camera will lock on.
Add me to the list of impressed viewers! I have never seen anyone teaching through the camera like this, and it’s a revelation. Excellent teaching method and, even though it’s just an experiment at this point, I learned something today! Thank you, Matt.
I think your concept of seeing what the camera sees, and what you are talking about, is much better than watching you talk. Thanks for the tips.
Hi Matt, I like the way you explained how to get the focus on the bird. The video was a great way to show what you are talking about.
Hadn’t seen the zooming out then zooming in technique for capturing focus taught elsewhere for bird in flight photography. Looks good and a clear explanation.
Very well explained especially focusing on middle distance before trying the find the bird.
This is helpful in many other instances too.
Thanks. You explained the correct way to take the initial baby steps of the complex race.
The challenge is to progress from here to come up with a beautiful photo.
The foundation is excellent!
I like your concept of giving us as students the view you have through the lens. The only thing I did not like is when you are speaking and the moment of focus has passed, the student then has a blurry or slightly moving frame out of focus. As you teach I would like something in focus to look at. Thanks for all your hard work!
Hey Matt, although this is not a course for me or the type of camera i have (yet), I really liked the view through the lens point of view. I think it is helpful to see what I should be seeing. That way I am not imagining what I should be seeing. As a beginner, I find that I can imagine lots of incorrect versions 🙂
If there is any way to show the Zoom level (e.g. 200 mm up to 600 mm on the bottom of the frame rather than the 1/4000 F6.3 etc. it would be a big help in this video clip. I can hear you but i found the shutter speed/aperture distracting when you are trying to make a (very good) point about starting wide and acquiring the bird and then zooming in. Seeing the Zoom value would just emphasize your technique
Good concept with bird photographer’s eye view in viewfinder. I would appreciate brief mention of Image Stabilization for BIF. My experience with Nikon D5 System is to avoid IS over 1/1000 sec or so so I generally do not use it for BIF. Is the Sony System similar?
Agree with those suggesting good explanation of best focus area choices for various conditions. Also suggest covering the pros and cons of using a teleconverter with a telephoto lens. I would suggest discussing when it is useful to turn tracking off then back on again to reset the focusing efforts. Also, beginners may need to hear advice to start out with birds in slower flight (larger birds, flying against the wind) rather than starting out with swallows darting all over the place.
My first thought – aha moments for zooming out to lock on and then zoom in to shoot. The birds are so small and when you zoom in with the 600 lens are they grainy? Like the ‘seeing thru the lens’ but agree it would be good to see the distance and not just the speed. Learned a couple of ahas – thank you
Hi Matt I have a Canon 5D mark IV that I have had some nice shots of in flight birds at Nisqually National Park but have been thinking more on mirrorless camera maybe the new one coming from Canon. The reason I think Canon is that I could maybe use some of my Canon lenses without the expense of buying all new lenses. What is your thought on using DSLR lenses virus buying lenses made for the mirrorless camera especially when trying to shoot birds in flight?
i LIKE THE WAY YOU PRESENTED THIS. MUCH BETTER THAN JUST TALKING. ITHINK EVERYONE BELOW HAS COVERED JUST ABOUT EVERYTHIN. I LOOK FORWARD TO THE COURSE.
Very clear explanation of the very clever zoom out/zoom in tip for acquiring focus of a bird in flight.
Regarding the second issue (inability of camera to shift focus from a nearby point to a hard-to-see bird in flight) the demo doesn’t seem to match the narrative. You mention taking a quick focus on a distant object before shifting to the bird, but the demo seems to show the camera catching focus on another nearby spot (a road, I think) rather than a more distant object. May want to take another look at that.
Very helpful. I just bought a Canon R6 and it does a great job of focusing on the eye of a bird in flight. I found your video very helpful looking into the display and look for to your course.
Hi Mark. Not sure what I said, but the tip is to focus off in the distance. The camera was pre-focussed from the last time I shot on something closer to the frame. So trying to acquire something in the distance wasn’t happening. Thanks.
Hi Matt, In response to your comment about mirrorless cameras: I agree the tracking ability in my new Canon R6 is fantastic. However, I recently had an experience at Malibu Lagoon where there are a lot of birds flying in and out constantly. Even with the tracking, there were times, mostly when a bird flew over my head, where the camera still had trouble staying with a dead-on focus. I really liked seeing how you ‘train’ your camera to focus by using other distant objects. I think that will help me a lot. Your new approach to teaching through the camera is what I needed to understand how to do this. Thanks a bunch!
This manner to educate/train photographers is just the right one. Looking onto the diplay is very helpful – together with your explaination in the background. – I use a Panasonic Lumix G81 and I am fully satisfied by it. But I want to ask you: (1) Should I use a continous autofocus (AFC) for BIF? (2) should I make series shots to catch a good one within a greater number? (3) Do you use manual modus for time and aperture in order to avoid overexposure by the bright sky?
Hi Matt, I think this “through the lens” method of teaching is very effective. It is very helpful to see what you see as you are explaining the lesson. Good luck with your lesson plan.
Hi Matt. There is not a lot I can add to the many great comments and questions already posted. But I would like to emphasize that I hope you can provide as much detail as possible for those who shoot Canon and Nikon, especially the higher end models. (I have a Canon 5D Mark IV.) And any thoughts you may have on mirrorless vs DSLR for birds in flight would also be appreciated. Thanks, and keep up the great work.
Hi Chris. I’ll keep this short and simple. My opinion (I’ll stress “my”) here is that at this point if you’re using a DSLR for birds in flight you are hurting your keeper rate. Mirrorless in both Sony and Canon have surpassed DSLR when it comes to most wildlife and bird photographers. They are just too good. If you can afford it, moving to a mirrorless camera will improve your photography. I hate to say its’ about the gear… but sometimes (especially bird photography), it’s not about the gear… until it’s about the gear 🙂
I am in 100% agreement here Matt, gear makes the difference. One of the reasons Canon DSLRs became synonymous with BIF was not necessarily autofocus, but image stabilization in long lens. Once Nikon caught up, that was less true. Now, mirrorless is where it is at. A long time Canon shooter for BIF since 2005, I started getting more serious with my landscape photography in the past 6 years so now using a Sony A7R4. Even that with the Sony 200-600mm lens gives me more keepers then my Canon 1D Mark IV. Looking forward to getting the Sony A1 for BIF. Great content in your video Matt.
Bird photography is tough. Certainly there is a need for instruction like you shared with us. To make this short, I agree with Diane K’s input. You’re frank to the point type of teaching method with rationalization of why you recommend certain methods always works for me. Keep up the good work.
I agree with the majority of commenters that this way of teaching is really great because we get to see what you see. I would add that having a complementary video that shows what you “do” would be equally useful. We can see where your hands are, what you are doing when, what buttons are you pressing etc. The two videos would go together so not only do we see what you see, but we also see what you do. Even though I don’t shoot Sony this would be the perfect one-two punch for someone just starting to try BIF photography!
Hi Matt, This is a great initative for teaching and shows the benefits of a zoom lens in comparison to the small field of view of the long primes with the difficulties in finding the bird in the frame. I have practiced and get reasonable success with both eyes open and bringing the prime to my eyes at the last possible moment. I am about to change over to Sony and wondered if you have any clout with them to produce a 300mm f2.8 prime as the weight, size and price of the bigger primes is way over the top. It is so much easier to travel with a 300 plus extenders and I would make the switch in a flash if they make a 300mm.
Thanks for your videos they are always helpful.
I like the idea of teaching from the view through your camera it is the clearest way to understand what you are trying to convey.
Hi Grace. First, if you would be so kind and if you do switch to Sony (and go through B&H photo) I’d great appreciate if you use my links at mattk.com/gear. Thanks!
Next… I don’t have any clout on what they make – and honestly I would never want them to (personally). 300mm doesn’t even come close to being long enough for me and for most wildlife. But they have specs, stats and everything on what sells. If a 300mm prime will sell, my guess is they’ll make one.
I like the concept of teaching through the camera as we can all relate to the problems you are showing. Then I assume you will show us how to resolve the problems the same way.
As I only have a 70 to 300mm lens could you show the results you have when you are at say 200-300. What shots should you not bother taking as your kit won’t handle it, especially when you come to post production and cropping , only to find out that the bird is not sharp because it really was too far away for your lens you have.
I like this idea – to see what you are seeing and then follow through with instructions. I love bird photography but I’m not very successful at acquiring focus – yet! looking forward to the course
Let me answer as a beginner to bird photography as most of your responses seem to be from experienced photographers. I was able to understand the concept, aided greatly by looking through your camera. Much better than just hearing. Two senses. I agree with a prior response, handling the camera, tracking and focusing all at the same time will take practice….muscle memory, but with the steps outlined, I at least will know what to practice.
Yes, very interesting concepts indeed! I think this is the first time I have seen it done this way so I think you are on to something unique.
A couple of additional questions which may or may not be of use to you as you continue to develop the course.
When tracking birds with binoculars, birders spot the object with their eyes and then bring the binos up to their eyes where the bird should be “approximately” in view. Are you watching without the camera and then raising the camera to your eye so the bird is approximately in view through the camera at the start? Or…are you watching via the viewfinder “hunting” for the bird with the camera as your sighting mechanism?
Can you lock the focus while waiting for the bird to come into view and then release and re-acquire focus once the bird is spotted in the viewfinder or is that too slow?
Good luck with the course!
I like where this course is going. I have one thought that has helped me that may be helpful to others. It is possible you have already introduced this in an early part of the instructions as you mentioned.
Most cameras have memory settings to help get a photographer to the approximate settings for a specific situation. I found that if you are photographing birds, setting 2 different memory settings can increase the number of ‘keepers’. One setting is for birds at rest (slower shutter speed and possibly different focusing points), and a memory for birds in flight (fast shutter speed, wide open f, etc). With the excitement of trying to capture a bird going from resting to flight usually requiring several camera setting changes that can mean missing the shot. Memory settings make the changes quickly.
Thanks, Matt. Well done. A very promising approach. While I’ve been with you in the field as you were using these tools and methods (Costa Rica) and listened to you walk through it, seeing it through your viewfinder makes the teaching more vivid and memorable. The one thing I would stress is that this takes muscle memory to execute well. Even with the best visual explanation, it will take Steph Curry (and Matt Kloskowski) style practice practice practice. Find a place where there are lots of birds flying, even if it is a garbage dump or just Canada geese, and practice practice practice. Use up all those electrons and put a fresh battery in.
Love the recording of the viewfinder as a teaching aide. It makes it much easier to relate to ie what I see in my viewfinder is also displayed in what I see in your viewfinder. The issues that I have and see are not unique to me or my gear. We all struggle with the same problems to some degree. I think this technique will be one of the main differentiating features that make your course stand apart from many of the other bird photography courses out there.
Hi Matt, I do fair amount of wildlife/bird photography living on the beach. Acquiring the bird already in flight and waiting for the correct time to shoot can be puzzling. Do you suggest blasting the shutter? I like your approach of demonstrating thru the lens but at the same time a narrative on what you are actually doing at that moment to keep it focused. I know you are always stating to focus tight and not crop, but how tight on a moving object. I like seeing the actually demo and then going back and illustrate why and what you did at each moment.
Hi Rick. I will always suggest filling the frame as much as possible. But don’t confuse that with “focus tight”. If you go in too tight you will miss shots and clip wings, heads, tails etc… I 100% crop (sometimes heavily) all of my wildlife photos. And yes, sometimes it’s just about blasting the shutter. You can watch and learn about the wildlife and try to anticipate. And sometimes when I think something is gonna happen I just hold the shutter down to see 🙂
Matt, this is excellent! Seeing what you were doing while also listening to you describe your thoughts and actions, adds a whole new dimension to your teaching and its effectiveness. I look forward to more usage of this methodology.
Excellent approach. I also would be interested in the Sony Deep Dive focus course you mentioned. I assume that, as subscribers, we will be notified when this course is released.
Interesting concept of teaching.
Matt, I see you have tons of comments and I didn’t look at them all.
Perhaps I missed it, but you can eye the bird in the viewfinder while using the other eye to look down the lens at the bird.
It can help track that elusive target. Not so great if you are left eye dominant.
Thanks, Matt. Boy, I sure have the same problem and then I will take the camera away from my eye and try to find it again. It takes too much time and then I’m just watching the bird flying away. Watching through your lens and working with your tip will make it much easier. I’m looking forward to your course.
Definitely helps seeing it this way. I think you will find lots of ways to use this that will help viewers understand easier. I could see being used to help zoom in and find nice compositions in a busy landscape scene.
This is one of the most concise ways to explaining target acquisition I’ve seen. Well done and very innovative.
Hi Matt, Fantastic concept and this is exactly the sort of technical stuff I really appreciate when learning from others. We see what you see is the best way of learning in my view and as you identify obstacles/issues whilst taking your shot we learn how to deal with it or avoid it rather than having the issue later down the track and not knowing what to do. Love your idea and think it is a great way of teaching others.
Have a great day and appreciate what you do for others! 🙂
I think what you are showing is better than just talking you thru it. I do this already so it is nice to see someone of your talent does this too. Great teaching video
You mentioned setting the zoom at 200mm and then zooming to 600mm as you capture the image. I hand hold the lens for BIF and rest my left hand on the zoom control. If I have acquired the bird with autofocus and it flies toward me, I can reduce the zoom so if the bird gets too close, I can back off and still fill the frame.It works for me and saves landing bird shots.
Great and easily understood idea. It came just in time. Now I can jump into my F18 and targeet some UAPs for the Pentagon. 🙂
Is this course going to include photo editing? Photoshop, ON1, perhaps other photo editing programs?
Hi Paul. No it won’t. I have already done an editing course at mattk.com/wildlife
Yes Matt, your course does interest me. I have been into bird photography and specifically BIF. The couple of tips you provided are really great and look forward to more. It is really one of the most difficult challenges to pan and track a bird in flight. I have been taking some bird tours with Ron who lives here in Florida and you can check out his site at whistling Wings Photography https://www.whistlingwingsphotography.com/. I am the leader of our local Treasure Coast Photography Group and am wondering if you might be interested in coming over to speak to our group here in Stuart Florida? I am sure a future presentation by you to our group would give you more applicants for some of your courses. We have about 85 members and meet the last Thursday evening of the month. At this time we are holding off on in person meetings due to Covid infections increasing. Perhaps a live Zoom talk might be something we could work out so you would not have to come here?
Matt, That was a very informative video. It is an excellent training device. Great work. I’m looking forward to the entire course.
Hi Matt i would never have thought about doing it this way i usually fumble about and end up missing the shot definitely something i’ll be having a go at tomorrow as we have a massive aray of birds all day long were i live, I’ll also be looking into weather i’ve got the tracking option on my camera thank’s for the info
I think the “through the lens” approach is excellent. This lets us actually see what we should be trying to replicate on our own. Much better than just watching you and listening to you describe what we should be seeing.
Matt – these concepts will be very helpful and the through the lens viewpoint is an excellent teaching tool. I’ve had many of the same issues and have used some of the techniques you described and they have helped. One question that comes to mind – and this may end up being camera brand specific, but how many focus points (group) works best for acquiring focus in flight? I am still experimenting with different settings to find what works best with my Nikon cameras. Also, something I’m looking into is saving certain settings into a custom menu and maybe setting a button to apply those settings – again concept may apply across camera brands, but the specifics may be different. Reason for this is that I often find myself at a location where I’m shooting birds that are relatively still (wading, fishing in a pond, etc.) and then notice some bird(s) in flight. I will want to be able to change camera setup very quickly and I think this may help. I haven’t done this yet, it’s a concept I want to look into.
As always – I appreciate your teaching style and your content is always strong!
I certainly agree with this concept of a still sitting bird settings and then I programmed a button for quick access as a bird takes off to get the settings I need for that. It’s quicker than switching to a programmed number on the top dial. Especially on the Sony.
Looks as though it is going to be a great training tool.
Thanks Matt. Very interesting technique. Lots of practice required here.Really helpful.
Works for me! I was wondering if you were using a tripod or monopod, but I guess you would have covered that earlier. It’s good to see the difficulties that are encountered along the way, which the “finished” photograph never gives you. These techniques would also be useful for airshow photography, which I like doing.
Photographing birds in flight has always been a challenge for me. I have a Nikon 80-400 and it focuses rather slowly. Your suggestion to “acquire” the bird at 80mm and then zoom in after acquisition is very helpful. I will be sure to try that next time. Also, I like your technique of showing a demo through the lens of the camera.
Great video… as you always do!
I have the issue when photographing small birds i.e. warblers sparrows with tree backgrounds or bushes I can’t find the subject because I always have my Zoom lens set at 600mm. I don’t know why I never thought of this technique before I primarily use the 200 – 600 Sony G zoom lens and technique shown in this video using said lens is so much easier faster and better.
BTW your Wildlife course is so awesome and very highly recommended to my “birders” photographers (your name as in MattK is always getting mentioned amongst us).
The through the lens method, is a great idea. I think you are on to something, it shows exactly what you are teaching. You are on to a great idea, looking forward to your class.
Using the video catch from your camera is waay ahead of what everyone else is teaching but it shouldn’t be a ‘Light on’ moment for these other guys, they already should be using it. Video has been around for long enough but they are all sheep and until someone breaks the ice (You) the sheep will blindly follow those who they think are leading the pack.
It’s something that is a great teaching aid and I personally congratulate you on being the first to bring it to the table.
NOW sit back and watch all the sheep fall into line and follow. You have done more for Bird Photography in a couple of short years than those ‘Mavericks’ who are supposed to be the ones breaking new ground for us.
Well done mate.
Love it. It will help a lot of people. I would like to see adding additional thoughts on when I’m using a fixed focal length lens such as a 500mm, or a 500mm with a 1.4 adapter. I quite often experienced the lens “searching”, or where in the sky should I aim the 500mm to ??
Matt, I see you already have many responses. I liked the video looking thru your camera lens, it clarified your description of what was happening. I always learn more than I expect in your courses and videos. Looking forward to the new BIF course.
I’m a visual person when it comes to learning. So with teaching with video while explaining the process would be a great way to help visual learners like me.
Late to the party and I agree with what’s been said already. I love the “through the lens” teaching technique and think it’s really a nice partner to your verbal discussion of what you’re doing.
I never considered myself a “bird photographer “ but this past year, it’s been a fun activity as I just discovered Sand Hill Cranes (yeah, once again late to the party)
I use the very technique you’re teaching with great success so this is a perfect tip for beginners.
Keep up the great work Matt!
I like the concepts you present here. Also the video demonstration helps. I look forward to the course.
I too like the “through the lens” video. It feels “hands-on” without being out on location with you. Great tips, and I already learned something new (the zoom in – zoom out part… D’oh!)!
Finding the target by zooming out I discover by experience and practice. It also works for stationary subjects. The second method I had not thought about, but plan to try. I like the through the lens teaching approach. I will want to know if you are using continuous auto focus will shooting.
Hi Ron. Yes. The only way to track and focus continuously is with AF-C. Thanks!
Matt this is very helpful as I am a visual learner, as many of us photographers are. Keep going with this concept.
I think through the viewfinder will be a great learning tool Matt.
Although personally I’m not wild about the “zoom out to acquire” technique 🙂 It’s too slow for fast moving BIFs and doesn’t work at all for primes!
Similarly for pointing the camera somewhere else to acquire focus, I prefer to give the focus ring a quick tweak instead, which is a lot faster.
I agree with that. For fast flying birds – especially the smaller birds – you just don’t even have the time to point at the bird, never mind trying to zoom out and in. Although my Olympus 150-400 Pro lens is a zoom – I hardly use that in the field – I often preset the zoom in advance – and use a dot sight to do the wide angle acquisition first ….
Thanks, Matt, I enjoyed your video and liked viewing through your camera’s lens. My Canon R5 has no problem acquiring focus at 200 to 400mm, I just aim and it focuses. But with large primes (like Canon’s 600mm F11), I have difficulty. I think it would be helpful if you could address finding and focusing with these large primes.
Zoom out to pick up and zoom in helpful tip, so too the “prefocus”. You seem to be on autoISO. Your tracking sensitivity setting is excellent to keep focus despite intervening structures. Would love to see your finished course.
I moved from Nikon mirrorless (due to tracking issues) to Olympus MFT and love the Procapture to preempt bird movements faster than I can push the shot trigger. Thanks Regards
This is a great idea. Makes earning more interesting.
Loved this Matt. Lots of us are “show me” rather than “tell me” learners.
Yep I think this is a good way to teach this through the lens technique. However some folks use primary telephoto lenses so the technique is not relevant in easily finding your flying bird subject. Do you have any useful tips for those using long focal length primary lenses ? Keep up the good work Matt. Sadly I do not do much bird photography these days as now in my mid 70s I am finding it harder to get out and about.
Try using a dot sight – Nikon makes a very good one …. definitely way better than trying to hunt for a flying bird by looking through a viewfinder of a camera attached to a prime telephoto lens.
Very helpful, especially for someone who is new to using a large zoom lens like a 400 or 600mm. Explanations are clear with good examples.
I’ve been hooked on the challenge of bird photography for many years and this through the lens teaching method is very refreshing and useful, I hope to see more of it in your upcoming course . It will be helpful to emphasize the importance of practice and being creative with these techniques…
I like it. Listening to you explain and we see it in the video is like being there with you as you lead a hands on demo. Go for it.
The WYSIWYG approach is very useful to demonstrate what you’re talking about, but don’t do it at the expense of good headbone discussion of technique. A separate camera recording of you “making the recording” with your camera would be a nice addition. I know, editing can get hairy.
I love this concept Matt. Especially since I gave Sony. I’m very impressed. I also want some scenes where you show how you are using a camera with a long lens eg tripod, monopod, hand held, even moving with gear. I find trying to move through first with gear so cumbersome. I am a newbie and struggle with gear and then trying to keep in my head processes.
Through the viewfinder/lens is best for me to show what you’re described in concept or as a tip. There is nothing like an example to set in a concept.
I vote for “Thru the Lens” training.
I had been taking bird photography for a long while now – I found the use of a dot sight to acquire a fast moving bird flying across my view from left to right (or vice versa) – very useful. If the bird is flying straight towards me – that’s much easier – but is rare. So – I put up a dot sight (Nikon) on my Olympus EM1X (with bird tracking turned on) – using my Olympus 150-400 Pro lens – and that combination makes it a winner for me. And yes – I also pre-focus the lens by pointing it to an appropriate area before I try to get that bird. Cheers.
Love it. Direct and concise. For the situation that you present with a grey sky and a dark bird, this is a sweet bit of training.
I do like the through the camera view, and obtaining focus is definitely a struggle. The problem that I see, in this case, is that most bird photographers I know, myself included, shoot with a Prime lens. Because I’m poor, mine is only an old 400mm, but most people I shoot with use a 500 or 600mm lens. I do wonder if the many segments of the course will be applicable to those of us that don’t have zoom capabilities.
Thanks Matt. Like everyone, I like your through the lens teaching style. I have only played around with BIF, loving others’ BIF images, but not doing great with them myself. I did stumble upon pre-focusing on other objects, but then forgot about it. Your video highlighted that tip, and now I won’t forget it. Seeing the blob was a good reminder. I have tried BIF with my Olympus M10 and a 75-300 mm handheld. I also discovered that tracking the bird at 75 mm and then zooming in to 300 mm helped me find the bird. I wish I had known this up front. Sounds like your course is going to go over almost everything – so helpful.
I often shoot with my right eye, with my left eye open also, especially when I am zoomed to 300 mm. I think this has helped me find the bird (or wildlife) and maintain the ability to track it, but I haven’t done this enough to be sure.
I agree with others that it might help also to show a visual of your selecting the continuous auto focus mode, etc. in your camera? I have figured out how to set this mode, but it was confusing for me at first. I can’t handle the weight of the cameras most people teach with. I am always having to try and figure out the equivalent settings on my Olympus, which sometimes don’t exist. For example, I have Continual Auto focus, and face and eye detection, but not bird eye or animal eye, etc. Nevertheless, it still would be helpful to see also the view of your camera as you choose a setting. Yes, I have to try and translate for my camera, but still the visual helps. (I know that my camera set up is not typical nor mainstream. I accept that I just have to spend some time figuring out which settings I do have and how they work.).
Good luck with your course. It sounds great.
Thanks for sharing. Thru the camera is what I prefer. What I did notices is the birds are too far away. Even with the 200-600 and a body like the a7r4 when you crop the detail will be hard to get. Many people like to take images of raptors which fly much different than shorebirds. Taking into consideration wind direction vs light direction if they are in opposite you might just get backs of birds. Considering the type of bird against the background? A dark plumage like brown pelican with a tree line behind will take considerable more skill to keep the focus than a tern against the same background. Anyway hope to see the final product.
Thanks. As I said in the beginning, at this point in the course you will have learned all of that. You’re seeing 1 video out of 30 and one that is about 2/3’s of the way in to the course. Thanks!
I like the idea of what you are trying to achieve, but would also like to have that supplimented with your approach to camera position, hand position, possible tripod position, stance etc when you are aquiring focus for the bird. These movements and skills all play a part in the ultimate outcome – a sharp, in focus image right.
I definitely think the “through the camera” view will be much more helpful as you explain the process you are demonstrating than to just see you as you as you talk. To actually see what you are talking about while you are talking brings clarity to the topic you are discussing. I’m looking forward to your BIF course!
I think this technique – through your camera is an excellent idea. To see how your focus points (and how many you use) is extremely interesting to me as I find hard to keep the bird in view. Sounds really great.
I really like your use of video to demonstrate the point. For someone new to photographing birds it will be especially helpful.
I don’t think I can add much to the comments already provided, but I will say teaching this way is different than have seen done. It should absulotely allow people to learn techniques to focus and track BIF. Looking forward to the course as well.
This is great, to see it through your viewfinder. I do wonder how you manage to hold the camera steady with a large, heavy zoom lens on it, track the bird, and zoom in all at the same time. Perhaps my hands are just too small to hold the lens and zoom it at the same time, while my other hand is also supporting the camera. Or maybe it just takes a lot of practice. Tips for what to practice on might be helpful as well.
I’m on a tripod in this case. But if I were handholding, my non-button-pressing hand would be on the zoom ring while shooting. Thanks!
Super way to view tracking of the bird. I realize that technically using a 600mm is similar to using a 300 mm, but in your lesson could you also use some examples of the 300mm maybe even with teleconverter, for those of us that are hobbiest and do not have a 600mm. At least then we would have an idea of how well our bird should look. Also any suggestions for using Topaz gigapixel to enhance our bird. I also agree with the suggestion above on knowing which is the type of settings we should be using for our camera to track birds in difficult situations. Also any suggestions for being able to “see” the bird on the mirrorless screen in the sunlight.
1) I’m not sure what using a 300mm lens would have changed or added to this?
2) I don’t use gigapixel and editing won’t be covered in this course. I already have an editing course at mattk.com/wildlife
3) I’ve never had trouble seeing the bird through my viewfinder on mirrorless. What issues are you having?
The initial acquisition of a target is critical, fail that and you are playing catch-up all the way through the shot. A training technique from fire arms instruction and particularly shotgunning can be done almost any where. It will improve your target Inquisition time. The beauty of teaching this technique for photographers is that you need not mention firearms, guns shooting etc. The training is as follows:
Put up a target about the size of the bird species you want to photograph. With the camera and lens you are using for your BIF photography back away from the target 30 – 40 yards. Set the AF area to spot on the camera. Looking at the target, bring the camera up. When your eye is looking through the view finder press the AF and press the shutter. The LCD scene will tell the story, but with repetition the number of first shot in-focus will improve and the number of bird-butts on you card will. It becomes muscle memory.
I think the use of teaching “live” through camera video is excellent as well as the tips. Should have a section on how not to lose the subject. The pre-focus get ready tip I already use on some types (kestrels that return to the same tree consistently),but look forward to your course, your advice and improving.
Seeing what you see through the viewfinder is a very effective method of teaching BIF photography! In my opinion the lessons are far more easily absorbed and remembered.
The video definitely helps with acquiring focus and I like looking through the camera rather than you talking it through. More videos rather than discussion. A picture is worth a 1000 words. Thanks for sharing. Even though it was short, I learned something from it.
Hi Matt, this a great method of teaching, I really enjoyed it and I look forward to the class. I would love to see this method used more in other courses too. Thanks for all your hard work…
Demos of the real thing are always great. It helps to see how a pro starts out and that his initial pix are no different that what I see. He/you just know how to recover quickly and get the shot we both want.
ditto, ditto, ditto — all thumbs up!
I really liked seeing the “in camera” view. I have found photographing birds in flight very challenging and have had limited success. It was very helpful to see what the technique looks like when you are actually taking the photo. Thank you so much for sharing!
I like your tips for acquiring focus, particularly the idea of starting zoomed out. Never really thought to do that. One challenge I’ve had is once acquiring my target, keeping it in the viewfinder. When using my 150-600, especially near the 600 end, it’s really hard to hold the lens steady enough not to lose my target after I’ve found it. If I’m lucky I can lean against something to steady myself. Obviously practice will help, but curious if you will offer any tips on how to steady the lens while tracking. Looking forward to the course!
Hi Matt, to answer your questions:
Does this help with my questions – absolutely it does, got a couple of great ‘gems’ in just that short video
How is the view through the camera – it’s great to see it as you shot it & I don’t think anything is lost by not see you on screen
More of this type – YES please.
This was a great way to see how the thinks which I struggle with being addressed, it felt like it was almost done specifically to answer my questions.
Great product Matt, thank you
Through the camera will be very helpful in gaining the skills necessary for flying bird photography. I hope you will cover tips for when the birds are flying toward, away, and over as well. In the past my focus tends to be soft and camera shake doesn’t help. so tips and techniques will be appreciated.
Thanks for the opportunity to have some input to your process.
There are so many great comments here already that I don’t know that I have anything to add. Seeing this kind of real world problem solving and work around is very helpful and rarely shown. I’ve heard that one of the differences between an amateur and a pro is that you’ll never see the pro’s bad shots. But, learning from the bad shots is what leads to great photographs. Thanks, Matt. Keep up the great work.
I think the camera view video version will be very helpful. I do a lot of bird photography and had to learn a lot of this the hard way. I do have a Sony A9 and being able to back-button focus with zone and and tracking on 2 different buttons makes the switch much quicker. It’s not just finding the bird but what auto-focus mode you should use shown by video demonstration would be very helpful. I agree with most of what others have already said
Excellent approach, autofocus can need a bit of preliminary thought and planning. My only suggestion is to refer to the pre-focusing as “preparing the camera” for the target. (I guess my old Boy Scout training is kicking in — Be Prepared!)
As the others have said, seeing what you see in real time is exactly what is essential to teach this topic. I’m looking forward to the course. BIF is a tough skill to master (if the term “master” is even appropriate!). One little tip I’ve learned (from others, of course) is to keep both eyes open to acquire the target and get it framed more quickly so you can follow it. It feels really weird at first, but makes a huge difference.
Wow! This is very helpful but I usually get so excited when photographing birds that I forget everything. My Canon 100-400 usually does pretty well in spite of myself. Your demonstration is great.
Lots of great comments and not sure I can add anything, but I do really like you showing us what you’re seeing through the viewfinder, and it’s great seeing some of it in real time. Seeing still photos with markups just doesn’t quite translate for me to real life so this technique is great. I find shooting birds in flight to be very challenging to get a good shot so really looking forward to the course.
Matt, over the past few months I’ve been doing a lot of photographing of birds in flight. So this demo video is very timely for me. This will certainly help me acquiring focus on birds in flight with my zoom lenses. Will your tutorial include tips on acquiring bif focus with a prime lens? My longest lens is a prime and I’ve had some good results with bigger birds such as Herons, Ospreys and Eagles, but the smaller birds are damn impossible for me to find them when they’re zooming by. I very much like the view through the camera. The issues you were having are exactly what all of us struggle with. Yes, I would like to see more videos like this where I can see exactly what your camera sees because my camera as well as everyone else likely struggles with the the same challenges – so the ttl view is very very helpful. Looking forward to the new tutorial. Will you send out an email announcing the tutorial with instructions on where to register or have I missed it? Thank you so much 🙂
Hope you are well and here are some of my responses as a bird/WL photographer:
1)Does this help you with questions on acquiring focus on birds in flight? Yes, these are common problems for acquiring focus in BIF photography. Just an aside on your last observation. The lack of initiating af when the object is so far out of the plane of focus that it doesn’t create any contrast is unique to all mirrorless cameras which af off of the sensor itself. DSLR’s don’t exhibit this behavior because they have a separate af unit which has a high f/stop (irrespective of the lens setting) which facilitates af. As you illustrated, pre-focusing (an old technique we used to use before af), pointing the camera at an adjacent high contrast object to initiate af, or manually “bumping” the lens, i.e. slight mf to create some contrast all work.
FWIW, I was shooting DIF (dragonflies in flight) the other day and as fast, erratic, and small as they are no af system would easily acquire af without using the pre-focus technique.
Also, I would include a discussion of how small apertures (high f) are generally not needed for most BIF as the dof is usually adequate and shutter speed is more important. Equally important, I would touch on IS (how it is unnecessary at high Tv), discuss, panning, creating blurs (with slow Tv), etc.
2) How do you like the view through the camera? Or would you rather just see me on the screen talking about it? Definitely the camera view (you could include a small box of you talking or not). Stopping the frames, use of arrows, symbols etc. to illustrate points are good strategies.
3) Would you like more discussion based videos or more videos like this where you can see exactly what my camera sees?
Any other thoughts? I think that depends on the topic and application and whether the through the lens perspective adds to the narrative you are creating.
The technique of through the lens is very helpful. I have seen other training which has used still photos marked up showing the focus points and I find your teaching method much better. Also found the tip about focusing using a distant point before looking for the bird in flight very helpful. I really enjoy your teaching style Matt.
It is very helpful to see what the photographer is seeing along with a commentary of what you are doing and why. I assume you will add finished image in at the relevant point as seeing the before (or in this case the while getting image) and the after close together rather than at the end of the video is really good. I would even suggest this order, live video – raw image you ended up using – finished image, this would be very helpful to see what you saw and tracked, what you captured and what you ended up with . i would also add for the end a short slideshow of finished images.
regarding you bit on focusing. I always do this, focus on something about the right distance to where i expect to see something to photograph as i walk around. I also do a lot of events and sport and i often point the camera at things about the right distance (without looking through it) and press the focus button (back button focus) as you do not need to look through the camera, just estimate it, to grab a rough focus so if something happens i know i will be able to see what i am aiming at when i bring camera up and it is going to focus quicker.
I like watching through the lens. A picture is worth…
Tell me what you are going to do, do it while I’m watching and then I’ll try to do it.
I think watching through you lens is important because it allows me to see all of your camera settings. Specifically, I can see the focus mode, the focus tracking options and the focus area.
Is it safe to assume these techniques will apply to air shows as well?
Keep up the good work.
Good coverage of the topics, Matt – I’ve experienced all of them, and this approach really helps.
Very helpful…. discussion of birds flying in front of textured environment instead of blank sky…. also have you already mentioned handheld vs off a gimble and use of limiter switch on the lens?
If offered the opportunity to choose between the demonstrated method and the older method of tracking instruction, I would choose this method every time.
Having always relied on luck, I appreciated your tip to focus on something at the approximate distance.
As a teacher of nursing students, teaching while doing the photography is an excellent way to do the teaching. Keep to your points, and don’t keep giving excuses, such this is not good photography. Seeing the hands on is extremely important. By the time the student is ready for hands on, they have learned the basics and you can limit that as you did by not giving f stop, shutter speed and iso. Thanks
this is great sign me up !!!
Hi. I had to mention “this is not good photography” because it’s not. This isn’t a lesson I would be proud of to share as a paid course. The paid version will practice what I preach. But as a “test” I was able to get out and make something that would test the idea I had. But I do think it’s important to note it’s a test and that the photography isn’t good, nor are the conditions I was out in. Thanks!
Eugenia was correct: no need for excuses. They are not ‘great’ videos, but you are not teaching us to make great videos. And to see the accomplished photographer create something like this as you learn, well, that’s what we amateurs get our first times out, too.
Go with the TTL vids. It shows us what we should expect.
Hats off to you Matt for coming up with a great inventively new way to teach a bird in flight course. I think seeing through the view finder is so cleaver and I would like seeing more. Liked your finding focus tip also. Thank you 😊
I definitely like the through-the-camera view. I can see that this is going to take much practice. Are you hand-holding in the clip or using a tripod? I hope you will cover using a tripod for bif. I think I am too shaky for hand-holding.
Thanks for this, Matt–
Through the camera is a great way of illustrating this tip. Your narration along with the real time through the lens view made me feel that this is a lesson I will never forget (a very rare feeling in most training courses, so I write notes that I will never look at again). Great job and a real advancement in your teaching methodology.
I definitely like the TTL approach rather than the traditional method where the audience is focus on the speaker. Your methods is centered on the practical application rather than the theoretical. I would also include advice not to stop your panning as your fire your shutter but keep on following through as if hitting a baseball when you swing.
I love this approach of showing what’s in the viewfinder! I’ve had a lot of folks talk to me about strategies for photographing BIF & I think this would help me immensely. I have no questions other than when are you offering this class!
Hi. As always a great presentation.
A couple of tricks I use for hand holding a 150 to 600 lens is using both eyes to follow the bird. One on the eye piece and the other open to see the bird in real time. Takes lots of practice but in time you’ll get it.
Another thing about that method is to put target arrows on the lens shade to help you transfer from live to enlarged eyepiece view. I on help to find the bird if you might have lost it after you changed the zoom from 200
have to 600.
Matt, I would like to hear how you may have assigned buttons on your Sony A1(?) and how you may manipulate your exposure, changes in shutter speed, or a button you might push and hold to make in-camera changes for a sitting bird in the midst of waiting for the bird”s flight (which would require obvious changes your settings). So often in videos about how to set up a camera, it is done in a studio setting. In the field changes dictated by weather, light conditions or distances are much more useful for me. I do like the idea of through the lens teaching.
Helpful hints. Good to see the finished video
Hi Mat, Just a thought, I have older eyes so I use a 2x on my eyepiece (D6) with two results (1) I use release focus so I find sharpest input for my eyes more quickly (2) since the image looks larger in the frame then it actually is I have built in extra margin around the whole image if it is centered correctly thus I rarely cut off heads, tails, wings, etc…..J
I like watching through the lens. A picture is worth…
Tell me what you are going to do, do it while I’m watching and then I’ll try to do it.
I think watching through you lens is important because it allows me to see all of your camera settings. Specifically, I can see the focus mode, the focus tracking options and the focus area.
Is it safe to assume these techniques will apply to air shows as well?
Keep up the good work.
I like the approach of seeing what the camera sees and your explanation of what and why you are doing this. Love the addition of the pre-focus, on the ground or somewhere at the same distance where the bird will be, to assist the camera in acquiring focus faster. Don’t know if your lens is programable with the pre-focus distance but a mention to set a programable distance in the lens if it has that function. I am anxious to purchase this course and help my bird photography.
Thanks. The zoom technique was helpful. Other than practice/practice/practice any other tips on how to use that technique would be appreciated. Can you use a tripod with a loose ball socket to better stabilize the zoom while tracking?
As part of your course and especially in view finding, are you going to show how to backlight a bird so that the light show through the feathers.
This concept is excellent Matt. I feel that not enough teaching is done through the camera view. I am not really into Birds in Flight ( very few large or interesting birds in Northern Ireland ) but I can see this type of teaching would be very helpful. I always get more out of your on location videos when you show and explain your compositions and settings through the camera. So even Landscape tutorials are best done in this way. Keep pushing the envelop Matt keeps everyone interested Thanks
I liked the technique you use and seeing it work through your lens made it very clear what you were suggesting.
It would, of course need a lot of practice to perfect, zooming in while tracking the subject is not going to be easy.
Definitely looking through your camera is as close as possible to real life lesson. Would help if I could see how you hold your camera in the “ready”position and direct it to the bird in flight too.
Matt, given the topic, I think this approach is very effective. As a visual learner, seeing what the camera sees is the best way for me to learn.
I like your technique. Seeing what the camera sees is very helpful.
Hey Matt, my comment would fall under “any other thoughts”. I designed a SW Florida bird photography training class for our Photography Club that was primarily geared toward hand holding techniques, composition, focus settings, etc. I ended up adding a section on utilizing a Gimball head or monopod based on the percentage of Members who can no longer comfortably hand hold a 600 mm lens. Food for thought if you haven’t already done so.
Yes. Definitely like seeing what you see through your lens. Definitely will help when learning new techniques. Looking forward to the release of this new tutorial.
Your approach is excellent. Most of us spend a LOT (too much?) time with our eyes glued to the viewfinder, and so anything that explains what’s happening there is far easier to absorb than it would be just hearing or reading about it! You are a born teacher–and this kind of visual combined with your usual no-nonsense narrative really does the trick. Looking forward to the course.
Yes to all of what you are saying…. these things will really help get the subject. Some time ago I read something about turning off some of the setting that cause the camera to need more “thinking” time before focusing do you address that in the new video?
Love the ‘through the camera lens’ view. Can’t wait for the course to come out!
Matt, I like the through the camera view and look forward to the complete course. You are using a zoom lens here, will you also speak to getting BIF focus using a prime lens?
I have been following you since your Kelby days and appreciate your style of teaching. I think that it is a great idea to include this in you course. Trial and error has taught me to do as you described. It would have saved a lot of frustration if I was aware of this technique when I started birding. I currently use a 100-400 with a 1.4 converter. I struggle with this lens at times because the widest aperture is F/11. What are your thoughts on moving up to a 200-600mm?
The difficulty with focus tracking in birding I had attributed to a learning curve going from Canon to my Sony A9. Plus, I was just new to birding! Birding surely presents a whole new set of challenges from landscape photography
Matt, thank you for sharing. You demonstrate a good basic B.I.F. acquiring and tracking technique. You may consider mentioning that one should correctly set their lens autofocus limiter to minimise undesirable focus travel or hunting. As one gains experience, coordination improves and acquisition become much easier. I notice that you are using a mirrorless camera which really makes its quite simple. Using a DSLR adds greatly to the challenge and I wonder if you will touch on this in your course?
Again thank you and keep up the great work.
PS I recently purchased your Ps Luminosity Masking course. I must commend you on an excellent overall process and feel that your guide in the use of the course is novel and valuable.
Your tips are always helpful as are your videos. The ones you gave here are ones I use already, but I am sure you will have more to come. You do realize you are using the easiest birds in flight to capture as the examples here – birds flying in a easy to follow flight pattern. I hope you will talk about how to capture more difficult patterns like those of a swallow or hummingbird or many beautiful song birds.
Yes, definitely on the through the camera – because it’s more real life situation. Great idea!
This clip was interesting, should be included.
I notice that you and Steve at Back Country Gallery are doing a similar course, I just bought his, are you guys in cahoots!!😄😄 anyway I think what you are doing is fine it’s good to have an almost hands on experience just if I could ask you to remember we don’t all have Sony A1s and may not track around the screen like yours does. Otherwise a great idea.
Matt, I love the way you teach and this looks very interesting. I have the lens you have and am very interested in your new classes. I’ve had hard time focusing on birds in flight so this is perfect.
> Does this help you with questions on acquiring focus on birds in flight?
>How do you like the view through the camera? Or would you rather just see me on the screen talking about it?
The view through the camera rocks. (That’s not to say I wouldn’t mind seeing you talk 🙂 )
>Would you like more discussion based videos or more videos like this where you can see exactly what my camera sees?
I find that seeing exactly what the instructor’s camera sees is the best way to apply the techniques to my own photography.
>Any other thoughts?
You rock too! Keep up the great work.
This is something i would like to view, Takeing a boat trip with you wrote about that you did in fl.,a while back. I am going down in march 2022 and would like to get any training possible.
I think this is very useful! I’m a see it kind of girl and your video is good quality. i have learned the MOST from you about editing and taking wildlife. Thank you for resonating with me!
I think the videos work fine. It gives a person an idea of what they might see in the camera that they are using.
I think I like the idea of seeing what your camera sees and the discussions that they might start. It gives the viewer an exact idea of what you were thinking.
Jan Wagener and Duade Paton have YouTube channels that focus on bird photography. There is plenty of usual information if you need a second source to confirm what you are doing. They are both good bird photographers and produce great videos.
I noticed you stated you do not recommend aperture priority for bird photography. Sony cameras have a mode that is very useful called “Aperture Priority with Auto ISO Minimum Shutter Speed”, Really useful for BIF, video by Mark Galer for more details: https://youtu.be/gqqmqKFzHRg
I don’t know if monopods are being or have been covered elsewhere; at least for me, using a monopod provides the best balance of steadiness and flexibility. For birds at ground level it works well to provide stability; for overhead shots it can help me lift and hold steady my Nikon 200-500mm lens on my D500, and aid in tracking the bird’s flight.
Thank you for your all video classes, I have learned a great deal from them.
Matt, your meat hood of teaching works for me. I like how you have adapted through the lens to show the Meath of. It sinks into my brain more readily than watching it on computer. Keep up the good stuff.
Yes, I like the in-camera view for teaching this subject.
Look to be another great video Matt. The old adage “one picture is worth a thousand words” come into play here. Your new video is very effective by showing what the camera sees.
What I would also like to see with all purchased videos would be a downloadable PDF where you can follow each step by the numbers. A good example is at the website PSessentials.com. I hate to tell you how many times I re-watch a video, stop at certain points and jot down notes to continue in the workflow. Maybe I’m just not the brightest bulb in the room!
Hi. I do a lot of in-flight bird photography. I think that your through-the-camera approach is fantastic. Whether one is a beginner or advanced, there are many take aways with this approach. In a way, one could also call it over-the-shoulder instruction for effectively capturing birds in flight. I look forward to the video.
A suggestion. Use this training approach to show the pros and cons of bird eye AF in various situations, and switching from AF to bird eye AF and back.
Using the video of your actual process is extremely helpful, especially for someone moving to a different aspect of photography. Talking about what to do is usually not as effective as demonstrating in real life. This technique would work well for other types of photography as well, such as macro, sports, etc.
Thank you for your video, I always learn something new or am reminder of something I knew and had forgotten.
I’m too a visual learner and this type of teaching followed by the why you choose your set up works really well for me. I have to know why something is done not just be told this is what you are to do.
Matt as I recently switched to Sony, I found your approach thru the viewfinder right on target. Your previous videos on auto focus, etc, have helped immensely in increasing my keeper rate of BIF. I look forward to your course to take it to the next level. Thanks for all your help.
I like the idea of focusing beforehand on something so that I’m prepared for the bird in flight. However, my question is how to do I focus when I am in a moving boat along with a bird in flight? Do the same rules apply?
Hey Tom. Nothing really changes. At the shutter speeds you (should) be shooting at, the moving boat doesn’t really add much to the mix except if you catch a wave while you think everything is still. At 1/3200th of a second, almost every shot I take from a boat is sharp as long as AF picked it up. If you start getting slower shutter speeds then sure… the boat can affect it.
Matt, I think showing the view through the camera is a wonderful technique for instruction. I also shoot Sony, with the A9, a 100-400 GM lens and a 1.4x teleconverter. I use the animal eye focus (is there really a “Bird” eye focus that’s different?) My biggest concern is the usually best focus mode to use on the A9. I have been using wide -tracking mode.
The technique of zooming out to start and long focus before going up to the sky is a very good tip as well.
Not sure what to add. Lots of good comments. I too like seeing what you are seeing in real time so to speak.
Awesome! This is a great way to see what you are doing as opposed to watching it on a computer screen. It is as if I can see through the same camera you are viewing through! Keep it!
Thanks Matt – look forward to the release of another great course! YES view through the camera is a nice, novel, fresh approach. Perhaps you will cover Back Button Focus to lock on a subject. I too shoot alot in FL, so will look forward to some new tips!
Nothing to add that’s not already been mentioned, seeing what you see through the lens is definitely a plus. This course sounds groundbreaking compared to what’s already out there.
Hi! My name is also Matt, and I shoot a lot of birds. What I got from the video s a confirmation of the same bird shooting protocol I use, i.e., always zoom out first to actually find the bird! I shoot birds from my feeder quite regularly, and I start with a slightly wider field of focus then I will end up with, especially if there are a lot of birds in the feeder.
Your video confirmed my way of shooting birds. Granted it could have saved a lot of trial and error on my part had I viewed it first. But then, you weren’t teaching when I started photographing birds. For anyone new to bird photography, this view through the lens should be very helpful.
“Through the camera” view works well. It doesn’t matter if we have different brands of cameras. It’s fine if you need to use less than perfect footage to demonstrate a problem.
My infrequent shooting has been from a small expedition ship or Zodiak and the ship motion compounds the problem. Often, there aren’t any stable object at range to focus on, but parts of the ship or another Zodiak help to get the focus in range (that isn’t infinity). Doug Bank’s comments apply to my situations.
Thanks. Good Work, as always.
It’s the way I photograph birds and seeing the through the lens should help those new to birds in flight. Love the fast acquire of the sony as evidenced in the video.
Hey Matt, I think others have covered everything I would say. I think the through the lens video is fantastic as it shows me exactly you are doing. I have no negative input.
Thanks for sharing this.
Works for me like all the other courses that I have done with you.
Not being snide, this is a Camera 101 Basic. And yes, there are many of your viewers who will garner a lot of knowledge from tips like this. Never talk to the smartest bulb in the room. So, keep up the good work.
Hi Frank. I definitely follow the “never talk to the brightest bulb in the room” philosophy. In my experience, advanced people will see a tip and think to themselves “I could have figured that out” even if they hadn’t up to that point.
That said, this is FAR from basic. The fact that some one is even attempting to photograph a bird in flight and working on the AF settings needed to do so makes them infinitely far past basic. It is by far THE hardest and most difficult thing to do with your camera and the techniques are are definitely not for some one who just picked up a camera and thinks they’d like to take a photo of a bird. Thanks!
a) and yet you were being snide.
b) if your opinion is that this is a “101 basic,” you don’t have a grip what the general population considers basic, to be blunt.
c) I would amend this to say “Never talk to those who THINK they are the brightest bulb in the room.”
Matt, this is a subject that doesn’t get as much attention as it should. I like the way you walk through it, and I agree with others that it is more helpful to demonstrate it using a view through the lens as you’ve done rather than just talking on screen. I agree that some folks who are very familiar with their camera’s setting may indeed figure this out on their own, but having a tutorial like this can at the very least reinforce to those folks they’re on the right track. Looking forward to your session(s) in the next PS Summit.
Looks like most of the bases are already covered with the comments. I too like the through the camera shots.
With what you have now, I can’t wait to see the final course. You have already mentioned 2 things I have struggle with in the past. Locating my subject while zoomed all in the way in and not checking on my settings periodically during the shoot. Seeing my mistakes visually and how to correct them, will help me a lot. Thanks Matt.
Matt, your teaching instincts are spot-on…you keep doing YOU! That’s why we love learning from your teaching style! I love the real world view you gave us…I’ve certainly had my share of “where is that dadgum bird, anyway?!” moments!!! Hopefully these helpful tips will reduce their frequency. My birding lens is usually a 500m fixed, so I need the last option of focusing on something “in the distance-ish” (I love that word you made up!). 🙂 Can’t wait to delve into your new lessons!
I use a Canon R6 with a Canon 100-400mm telephoto lens (sometimes with x1.4 extender) for bird in-flight shots. I have set back button focus and assigned eye focus to another button so that when I acquire focus lock on the bird with back button, I then quickly activate the eye focus button to home in on the bird’s eye. Not sure if your Sony camera has this dual focus functionality but if it does it would be helpful to know how best to use the two in combination to achieve optimal sharpness on the eye as well as the rest of the bird.
Looking forward to your new bird photography course, which I’m sure will help me to capture better quality images of fast-moving birds in flight.
Hey Ian. I believe from talking to my Canon friends your Eye AF works a bit different and most of them wish I worked like the Sony. With the Sony, I turn on Bird Eye AF separately from where I choose an AF “Area”. So I’m able to use both. If Bird Eye AF is on, and I have the bird in the correct AF area, and I’m close enough or the bird is clear enough it’ll lock on to the eye. But for some reason, if it’s not finding the eye the camera will still revert back to the usual AF methods and find/track the bird just fine. In fact, the A1 (and recent firmware updates to the a9) have made it so that even if it doesn’t find the eye, the camera must know it’s a bird and the direction it’s flying and lock on to the head rather than just float focus points all over the bird. It’s really amazing to see and it’s almost like cheating. In short, I don’t ever think twice about whether the bird (and it’s head) is in focus. It just is. Hope that helps.
One small addition to this comment and response, is that using a dual back button focus, you can opt to have one of them set as a spot focus (canon R5), which facilitates focusing on a specific bird before they take flight, and also seems to be faster to prefocus on a general range to limit hunting, which you covered.
Another vote for showing through the viewfinder.
Thanks Bill. If you’re at the point where you even know what “Dual Back Button Focus” is, you’re far past of the point of who I’m targeting this course to 🙂 That is a VERY advanced concept and my guess is you are already an established bird photographer where there’s not much I’ll be able to teach you. Best!
Hi Matt. I like the idea, but let’s see if I understand it. Step 1 get the camera to focus roughly on an area in which the bird will be flying. Step 2 set the zoom to the lowest value possible. Step 3 acquire the target and then zoom in to the highest desirable value of the zoom.
Thanks Matt; crystal clear. Like others, I’ve also stumbled upon a similar process through trial and lots of error, and the problem for me is more holding focus as others have also mentioned.. Find the same process works with my cellphone photography as well; again not as ideal as having my “camera” with me ( and I do have to spend lots of time trying to sharpen the image in post) but it works for those unplanned opportunities.
This is a very good tip for people who are struggling to get birds in flight focused. I don’t think beginning and even intermediat e photographers think of this often enough and then get frustrated. Especially using long lenses.
Matt – I think the “through the camera” view is very helpful. I know this was only a brief sample but it would be helpful to include some of the challenges that may be camera specific or generic, like the tracking sensitivity issues etc.
Thanks Randy. That’s why I mentioned it in the video. There are nearly 15 videos on AF and Birds in Flight. This is just the tip of the iceberg as they say 🙂
I think you’re on the right track. I’m assuming you’re hand-held. Are you doing anything to steady the image? Is the zoom motorized or manual? Lastly, are you tracking thru the eyepiece or via the back of the camera?
Hi Ben. This is actually worst case scenario. It’s on my Flexshooter Pro gimbal like ballhead which is great. But, I’m still more accurate hand held. But since I’m recording, it’s smoother this way. Plus, I have my recorded HDMI thing attached to the camera so I’m looking at a screen above the camera and trying to focus and track and move. So… when I hand hold I can actually keep the bird where it needs to be much better than this 🙂
Oh and it’s a 200-600mm lens. I assume they’re all manual zoom – not sure how a motor would work here.
Looks like you have received lots of good feedback already. I follow a similar process to what you cover here, but I’ll pre-focus on a specific location (a perch for example) if the bird or bug or other critter is always returning to the same spot at high speed, and also not sticking around for any length of time either. Probably intuitive for most photographers. In rare situations, I’ll use manual focus instead of auto, and pre-focus on a spot ahead of or to the side of location a bird is flying to routinely. I’ll then watch for arrival and start shooting to catch them in flight near that cavity/nest. A bit hit and miss, but sometimes works better than auto.
Well stated Matt. I use a Canon EOS f4 600mm, lens so I can’t zoom, but wish that I could. I have been using the estimated point of focus as well known point of focus to help acquire the bird and have had great success over the years.
Hi Matt, I’ve discovered those techniques through a bunch of trial and error and definitely believe it will help folks learn how to get the focus locked more quickly. Definitely like the view through the camera but I’m sure folks would appreciate seeing you on the intro and general discussion portions of the video. Once you get through basic discussions showing the video through the camera is definitely more useful. I saw a bunch of comments regarding other settings like tracking modes, etc., and when you discuss camera settings it would be good to show you selecting those settings either on the screen for dial settings or on the camera’s menu for menu item settings. I know it will vary by camera brand and model but most folks will be able to extrapolate to their camera if they see you do it on your Sony. Love your relaxed and direct style of teaching. Keep up the great work!
I think it was useful to see what it looked like through the camera. Sometimes abstract discussions aren’t as useful especially when it’s a technical item.
Just returned from a trip to the States and was able to shoot some birds for the first time – Bald Eagle, Ospreys, Canadian Geese, Pelicans – and every single one of photos was absolute RUBBISH (using indoor language)!!! So, I am looking forward to adding this course to my MattK collection.
Based on your other courses, I like the mix you have between you speaking to the camera and through-the-lens views.
I thought that the technique to pick up focus by pointing at the ground was terrific… best taught, obviously, through the lens.
The only question I have is whether you can apply the same the same principles for bird photography to shooting military aircraft/helicopters? More of those in my part of the world than birds.
Absolutely. I use it for anything that’s off in the distance moving or still.
Terrific!!! Sign me up :)!
Crystal Clear! Nothing relevant to add, just good luck with your new course.
I think your video will greatly assist the visual learner. I’m reading Steve Perry’s book on photographing BIF and I’m looking forward to your video as an additional learning tool. I hope you address the importance of understanding the biology of birds. Knowing what they may do goes a long way to getting the shot. I practice by photographing dragonflies in flight but I had to learn the biology to get any degree of success. As my mentor said, “if you can photograph dragonflies in the air, you will find birds much easier”.
Thanks Robert. I’m very much a “Keep it simple” person. I will not be able to do the “biology of birds” discussion any justice. Other than making a mention of “know your subject and observe and research” there’s nothing more I can add to the mix. So in the beginning of the course I make that statement. After that, it’s up to the reader/viewer, and their personal responsibility, if they want to take the time and research to go further. But other than pointing the statement out, I don’t feel it’s my job to cover it in a course. Best!
I also focus on something in the distance. Works great. I’m going to try the zoom thing. Looks like a great tip. Sometimes it’s difficult finding the bird all zoomed-in.
I find this an excellent way to follow along and learn. Much the way seeing the screen and key strokes in LRC when someone is explaining how to do specific edits rather than just watching the person speak is more effective and if one has the video can easily be reviewed again. Thanks.
Very good and helpful to me especially checking the focus periodically, I have missed lots of birds by not being able to see them in the viewfinder. A lot of trial and error to get a focused shot, thank goodness for continuous shooting
I think through the camera instruction is the best way to provide students with great information and to teach tips & techniques. Its always easy when you see a video of how to do something, and its only a challenge when you switch on the camera and try to do it. Using this method you provide students with a good learning platform and show exactly what to expect.
Very helpful and a great methodolgy for your training session, best wishes for success
I think the video showing how to find your subject and acquire focus is very helpful and illustrates both the technique as well as the potential problems you mention. Another landscape/wildlife photographer I follow just released an ebook course on bird-in-flight photography with a section on how to find your subject. Many of the problems you mentioned are discussed, but I think seeing the video illustrating how to do it and the potentials problems is very helpful.
I love the in camera viewing. I have been photographing birds in flight for a few years and have had moderate success, even being published in national publications. But i still struggle with focus a lot. Seeing it in action really solidifies the concepts!
I like your approach to this subject. Will you be adding info into the course when it comes out on the Shooting Mode, I assume in this sample you were using Aperture Mode to keep the aperture wide open. But what about the Focus Area, there are a couple of different focus area settings, which is best for moving birds? What about Metering mode for moving birds? Do you use Auto White Balance or do you set the White balance to the type of sky (sunny, cloudy) that you are shooting in? I realize that white balance can be totally changed in lightroom so is not as important, but what would you recommend for this setting when shooting to get a closer look to the finished product in camera?
I see that you have taken a trip recently to South America to photograph Humming Birds, will you do a section in the training on the changes needed to take photos of birds with fast moving wings?
Will you do a section on how to photograph moving birds while panning the camera to get a sharp image of the bird while getting a motion blurred background that shows motion of the bird in flight?
Looking forward to you bird in flight training class.
Hi Art… whew! Lots of questions 🙂
1) I don’t ever recommend Aperture priority. Shutter speed is arguably one of the most important factors in a moving subject photos and in aperture priority you are giving up the control of shutter speed. I cover this extensively in the course.
2) I do cover metering but not what you think. I simply explain why I don’t change it from matrix/evaluative and illustrate why along with examples of what I do use to get good exposure.
3) I never change off Auto WB
4) I photographed the hummers in South Carolina in some one’s backyard. My Costa Rica trip was more monkeys sloths and some birds. But shutter speeds will be covered.
5) Yes panning is covered.
I think your perspective is good. But what about other scenarios? The scenario that comes to mind is when I was on a boat near Bear island between the tip of Norway and Svalbard. There were literally tens of thousands of birds. It was difficult to shoot because there were often too many birds in the frame at once, and the camera could easily be confused. Confused because there were multiple subjects, but also because there was often something in the background like a cliff or the water if I was shooting down on the birds. Even worse in that situation is that the birds could easily range from too far to too close very quickly, and it was a challenge because the camera constantly needed to be refocused because I stopped shooting at a close distance and then wanted to start shooting at a far distance only seconds later. Come to think about it, there were lots of times on that trip where a solitary or cluster of birds would be flying by just above the water. It was often a challenge to get the camera to get into and stay in focus with the birds, water, boat and myself all moving at the same time.
I have found your first approach to be the best for me. 1. The camera on tripod or in hand with viewfinder close and lower than eye 2 . The focus set for medium range to infinity 3. Range set for wide part of telephoto 4. Find the bird in viewfinder and center while zooming and letting the camera find the eyes of the bird by depressing the focus or back button and pressing the shutter as soon as it comes into focus. Since the bird is usually in the center I zoom in a little wide so that cropping is possible.
Seems like you have to peak over the top of the camera to find your subject first. BIF is really fun
i think it is valuable to teach using a real life simulation of the problem you are dealing with for inflight wildlife. The second situation i run into all the time and it is a good useful reminder how to get quicker at acquiring focus in situations that happen fairly quickly especially when you have just been taking pics at a much shorter focus distance. As for the first example hopefully you can discuss that situation if you are using a prime lens instead.
This looks like something I would learn from. Anything to help acquire focus quickly and accurately is a “must have” for me.
Good Day Matt
This video is helpful but only to a limited extent. For larger birds far out, zooming from 200 to 600 once you have it at 200 mm can work when you have time on your side. The biggest difficulty that I have had are birds that are fairly close but you cannot see them until their going by at 100 MPH. For me it is very difficult to raise the camera to your eye and then find a flying bird even at 200 mm starting point. I find using Nikon DF-M1 Dot Sight allows me to have a much broader field of view and can then sight in very quickly.
Matt, this is very helpful for me as well. I can’t think of a better way of demonstrating a technique than seeing what you are seeing through the camera.
I watched your video. I must say … when I’ve been shooting birds, it quickly became apparent that I was having trouble even finding the bird in my view finder. The solution came after a half dozen failed attempts to find the bird, that I needed to go wide in my lens and then narrow down when I found the bird. To me it was a very logical sequence of trial and error attempts that led me to the solution. Your video could have prevented the half dozen failed attempts, but I am finding that once you know your camera somewhat, there are many solutions (or work-arounds) to the many problem you will have in all types of photography; you can either learn through trial and error or via watching photography video tutorials.
I would be certainly interested in a video that could short-cut many of the photography problems with logical solutions that would avoid the substantial number of failed attempts beforehand, until I got it right.
Thanks for including me in this presentation. I agree that seeing the view through the camera is really helpful. I’m still trying to understand how my D7500 focus settings work and this will help. Most of my bird shots are from my backyard feeder but I have a few nice shots. My hummingbird shots are still challenging but I’ve been researching high speed sync flash so I’m going to work on that as well.
I love the in camera viewing. I have been photographing birds in flight for a few years and have had moderate success, even being published in national publications. But i still struggle with focus a lot. Seeing it in action really solidifies the concepts!
I like the through the camera shots and will buy the course. I just got Steve Perry’s e-book on BIF and it will be interesting to compare your course with his book. I like to read and I also like to watch, so there you go.
Yes a camera view is both different and useful. I would have a small concern on how brand neutral such a technique would be. In the example you mention the subject disappearing behind an object in the foreground. The settings for this are going to be very camera specific. Is there a settings video for each major brand or is it this is how the Sony settings work and you have to figure it out for your own brand? Overall looking forward to hearing more about the new tutorial content.
Hi David. All of the major brands have a setting for this that I cover in the course. Its fairly similar and I give the name of it for Sony, Canon and Nikon. At that point if you have another brand, you can usually figure it out. Thanks.
On the different camera brand settings. Could you provide a Cheat Sheet showing the different settings and then showing the names that each of the Manufacturer uses for that setting?
In my case, I’m trying to use a Nikon 1m reflex lens — fixed aperture / focal length and manual only focus. I wound up clamping a wide angle spotting scope to get the general direction and finger fiddle the focus as fast as I can. 🙂
I’ll have to try this technique on the Tamron 150-600, though it is a bit soft out at 600mm. It will require learning how to get the D810 camera to focus on a moving subject. I read the entire manual a couple of times and don’t remember such a feature.
Hi Bruce. I can sum it up for you in two words… Continuous Auto-Focus (well that’s 3 I guess) 🙂
Turn it on and your camera will now track a moving subject.
Always nice to visually see what the photographer is seeing, so I think you have the right approach. Although I’m not into wildlife photography, I think your course could be very helpful for those who might be thinking about getting into that type of photography. I have found your style of teaching to be very relatable and easy to understand.
Yes, I like the video looking through the camera. Helps me see what you are talking about. Makes me want to go out and try some bird photos right now.
I think you have the right idea. This is precisely the method I use and the 200-600 makes that technique very easy. My only other comment would be to specify what tracking method you are using. I know it’s Zone but it could also be Zone Tracking which provides less than 30fps on a Sony a1.
Definitely like the through the camera view as you are talking. No need to take time apologizing for samples you are using. We already know you are a great photographer and aren’t judging in that way. Congratulations on the new course! I’m sure it will be excellent.
Agree that pre-focussing at a specific distance in advance of tracking the bird ( Art Morris calls this acquire then fire) is very helpful as well as racking lens focus to the short end of a zoom tele helps find the bird prior to tracking at the longer – desired focal length. Can you discuss what AF tracking you are using such as Zone AF with eye AF vs expanded spot as this has a profound affect on acquiring and seems to vary with the proximity oft the bird. Can you also discuss back button focus using continuous AF vs shutter activated AF. Very helpful
Matt, A very innovative and helpful method to teach birds in flight tracking by seeing through the viewfinder. I personally retain material when it’s hands on, like your sample video. I have achieved mixed results by zooming out and then in because the dang birds are faster than I can zoom in. I need to find slower birds or speed up my zooming. Thank you for sharing your video and I look forward to the course.
In the past, I have been stymied by the bird in flight being out of focus. Have to say I nearly gave up trying to capture birds in flight until I learned to prefocus. Your comment about prefocusing your camera is a good practical suggestion.
Very helpful on capturing a focal distance before focusing on the bird. I have had the blobs myself and struggled to have the camera ‘see’ what I was looking at. Good instruction for something I have never heard discussed. Anticipate the release of the course.
I liked seeing the video through the lens. In addition to acquiring focus and zooming in, you may want to mention or demonstrate zooming out on a bird that is too large in the frame.
Perhaps this is covered earlier in the course, but it is what I struggle with since I recently upgraded to the A7RIV. Are you set up for Bach Button Focus or still tethered to shutter button? I shifted to Back Button Focus a long time ago, but not sure if I should shift back for action/ motion shots such as this. My concern is that I seem to always be holding down the focus anyway for moving shots (not sure if that is correct of if I am forcing the camera to refocus over and over on something it is already tracking). I like the view thru the viewfinder for your teaching style. This is what I would see in the viewfinder so it helps me correlate what I am seeing real time to what you teach.
I have custom settings on my camera, one for perching birds (back button focus, slower shutter speed and lower ISO, single point focus), and other favorite settings. Another custom setting is for BIF that ties the focus to the shutter button, a field of focus points, higher shutter speed, electronic low repetition setting. Another is using Olympus “Pro-capture” where I manual focus, (first back button than minor more critical focus), where I have the camera specifics for the “Pro-capture” allowing for shots before the bird leaves the perch or as the approaching bird lands on the perch. Having these C1 C2 C3 settings allows me to switch quickly between them and have the best of all 3 worlds instantly.
Like others, I like this, “slice of real life in the field.” As well as providing way to approach and solve challenges. Nice!
This does help in answering some questions about acquiring focus on birds in flight.
Using a combination of the through the camera view and explaining what you are doing to get the picture helps. You can do the through the camera video and then add audio after explaining what and why you are did the shot that way.
After you show the video you can talk more about what you did and how you achieved the final image.
Your discussion based video can be enhanced by adding the through the camera video with the explanations of what you did.
Definitely helpful, but I think it would make for a better presentation if you organized it at the beginning to say: (1) there are several ways of maximizing your capture of flying birds, (2) one way is to locate the bird using a wider field of view (e.g., 200 mm) and then zooming in once the bird has been located (e.g., 600 mm), (3) another method of capturing flying birds is to pre-focus on a distant location and then locate a spot where you believe a bird may fly through and then refine focus once you see the bird, and (4) any additional methods you recommend. Then I would show the examples with shots through the camera. In terms of additional matters, I would address whether you ever recommend shooting birds in flight through use of the back screen.
I like the tips so far. I also like the view through the camera since it gives me a reference as to what I’m supposed to see through my camera. I have set my AF-ON button to AF-ON + Tracking. Does that help besides when the bird goes behind a tree or something. I trust that you will be providing a lot of good tips (as always) to gain focus etc. Looking forward to the new course.
I’m a person who learns most effectively by doing rather than by listening. (I’m also have some attention-deficit disorder, so any form of non-participative learning is difficult.) I like this style of teaching because it shows me clearly how to do it myself. I’m not a bird photographer, but immediately after viewing this video I put my 200-500 on my D850 and went outside to try it out. The hawks were out hunting, which gave me a substantial size bird for my first attempts. Awkward the first couple of tries, but nailed it on the third. Ugly birds once you can see the details 🙂
This will be very helpful. When I first started shooting BIF I was using single-servo AF mode and group AF area. It was not working out well. Most of my images were out of focus. I did some research and found that the continuous AF mode with the Auto area was best. Since then most of my subjects have been tack sharp. I wish I had seen this video when I started.
I think using this visual tool will be very helpful for people learning how to shoot BIF. I know that anytime I want to learn about anything, my first stop is YouTube. I am a visual learner. I comprehend and retain more in a 3 minute video than I would by reading a 25 page manual.
I do the same in terms of focusing on a distant object on the ground, about the distance I anticipate a bird to be. The zoom wide to narrow is a good point–I shoot with a prime so that’s a good reminder for when I get a tele-zoom. One other thing is that I have my camera set to go “to sleep” after a few minutes. If there’s a time when no birds are flying over for 5 minutes or so, sometimes I’ll have to get my camera to “wake up” before it even wants to find a focus. So I routinely just tap the shutter to make sure my camera is awake. Finally, the first time I pick up my camera to take a BIF I 1) make sure the lens cap is off, 2) make sure the lens stabilization is the way I want it to be and 3) make sure that the “focus range” is set properly. If I was shooting hummingbirds 5 feet away on the closest focus range, it’s easy to forget I had it on that and then when a distant bird flies over I can’t get it to focus on it because the range is still set to close up. Finally, be careful to leave some room for the bird to fly into, so don’t zoom out so much that you’re not allowing room for some later cropping and composition. Hope this helps. Thanks!
These video clips through the camera are a great way to get these messages across.
The zooming technique works for you as I know that you do not use back-button focusing – which is fine but some of your viewers might already been using it. I don’t know how easy it would be to back-button focus while trying to zoom as well. I used to use a Canon APS-C sensor with the 100-400 zoom and x1.4 extender giving a full-frame equivalent of 896mm focal length (field of view). It took practice but I have had reasonable success without the zooming technique and don’t often miss the bird. I now use a full frame with a fixed 800mm lens, so much the same as before but without the zooming option. It might be worth mentioning the effect of back-button focusing on this zooming technique.
I too try to remember to pre-focus on something suitable before a bird even comes into view.
Hope this helps.
An excelent pedalogical technique. Very helpful.
Interesting format and perspective from camera point of view simulating what we all would see. Would continue with that. Could you also include final image of what you actually shot to aid in expectations? Assume you would have already covered in your course why you chose 9square etc. Thanks for sharing WIP.
Thanks, Matt very helpful tips! I learn better by seeing someone doing so viewing through the camera view is a great way to teach. I, like many people just started bird photography last year. It’s not as easy as it looks and these two tips will be very useful to me.
I like seeing through your viewfinder with the voice-over. I also like the technique of acquiring focus somewhere in the foreground and then looking up to see the bird. I assume you would be shooting continuous, although I don’t think you mentioned this here. (I sure it is mentioned elsewhere in the tutorial.)
Wondering which tracking mode you have camera set for – I have both Sony 7R3 and RX10iv
In this video I have it set to Zone. But I do cover other modes and more generic ways in the course.
This is exactly what I needed! I felt like I was out shooting with you and we were sharing our process with each other. You gave the tips and I tried to apply the process. Thank you!
Hello Matt, I think that a lot could be learned with this type of ttl instruction but I am not sure I see much from these videos as lessons. Presumably, your class would delve into technique not shared here. I’ve recently read some of Steve Perry’s book on autofocus technique (and less relevantly, exposure) and feel that these concepts are critical here and his concepts are well presented and could fuel your thoughts some. BTW, he is also sharing BIF media presently. I always love your presentation. Best of luck with this project. I am sure it will be exceptional.
Hi Brett. You’re seeing about 1 video lesson out of about 30 that are in the course. I talk about auto focus, exposure, etc… in the course. This was a sample of something done different that I was looking for feedback on. Thanks!
My problem with finding a bird to even get in focus is I am using the RF 800 mm f/11 lens and I’ve been ‘trying’ to keep both eyes open as I look through viewfinder, so I can hope to see the bird, and then acquire focus. It’s not easy, but I keep trying. I do appreciate you talking about finding it, and then getting it in focus. Any hints on a fixed lens would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Susan. While I mostly shoot with both eyes open, I can’t say it helps me track the bird one bit. I am not seeing it out of the open (non eyepiece eye) at all. The last tip in the video should help with fixed focal length lenses. I also have a few more tips that I included in the course so hopefully they help too. Thanks!
For the fixed focal length (1m/1000mm), I wound up with two eyepieces and keeping both eyes open. Takes practice. Lots.
Firstly, I like the “through the lens” view. Secondly, I suck at BIF photography. But to your “both eyes open” comment, I would say that I get my best results when I do keep both eyes open. I think the trick might be that I “pre-register” my view through each eye so they sort of “come together” then keep my camera/face/eye/body position that way while panning around from the waist. I can track the birds with my naked eye and often get good photos even though I might not be concentrating on the image in the viewfinder. If that makes any sense. Kind of like “wing shooting”.
My only comment is many people do not know how to hold their camera when tracking birds. Maybe show a clip of you tracking and focusing for birds.
The camera is on a tripod with a gimbal like system. However I do cover this and handholding tips in the course. Thanks!
Spot on, Matt. Clear, concise and practical. Looking forward to the course.
I think this is very helpful, definitely a good way to explain techniques for acquiring focus. Looking forward to the course!
Thanks, Matt. I like the teaching approach of showing what the camera sees. I know you were using a 200-600 zoom for this particular lesson. I am really glad you also included the third example that is a useful technique for us fixed focal length shooters.
I am a visual learner so I find this technique very helpful. You always know how to explain complicated things. I also live in the Tampa area so I am able to take lots of BIF photos. Thank you!
I like the through the lens approach. It shows how I see birds through my own lens. The trouble I have with birds in the sky is what you see in your video and that is it’s a black bird. Most of the time I can’t even see what kind of bird it is.
Hi Peter. I hate to say don’t shoot if you’re in those conditions but it’s almost like saying I have trouble controlling my car in icy roads. I’m not saying you won’t be able to get lucky and get a shot or two here and there, but those conditions are considered un-shootable for most. Your camera will ALWAYS have trouble focussing, your post processing will ALWAYS have trouble editing the photos. And you simply will not be happy with those photos when you compare them to whatever bird photography you find inspirational. It’s great to shoot in those conditions to practice, but you simply can’t expect good results. It’s not anything you’re doing wrong. It’s a product of the subject and light conditions you chose to go out in if that makes sense. Thanks!
These were some really good tips in acquiring focus on a moving object, which I have had problems with. Looking forward to the course!
The through the viewfinder videos with voiceover are the way that I learn best. I find this more helpful than in person workshops, where the teacher can’t see what you can see through your viewfinder (or you through the teachers viewfinder) in real time. Absolutely include them in the course.
This is really fundamental – how do I make those green boxes show up in the viewfinder. I have an A7R2.
1) Turn on AF-C focus Mode
2) Set your Focus Area to Wide or Zone.
Would suggest short clip each time illustrating the “problem” with verbal description and then follow with the clip and verbal description (length as needed) to illustrate the “cure” for the problem. By the way, this is very similar to achieving focus in action sports photography (which also includes pre-focusing on a place where the action will occur). Looking foward to the full bird photography video.
Good tip. This happens to me very often. I will check focus more often. Thanks
Matt as mention above in others’ comments I found this teaching method is good at simulating what to expect when practicing these new techniques. I also liked it when you added in teaching aid of the yellow circle on the screen. I find if you use these it helps clue them where to look on the screen so they are ready for when the item or event you going to mention happens. Also any time you can add keywords that are in the script onto the screen help helps the view track along with the narration so they don’t get distracted with trying to manage both trying to focus on what’s on the scene and what’s being said.
This is what I need. I would also like to know about filters and how to handle reflections off water or glair from snow.
Great job. I’m using a 100-400 on my
Fuji X-T2. I also go from 100 to 400. I set my focus tracking like you did. Yes, I sometimes have to focus on something in the distance. Depending on what I’m doing I either hand hold or use a gimbal. Great work as always!
Noticed that the tracking focus tends to lag somewhat. Any way to set a lead to the area camera looks at?
On slower moving subjects I’ve used an above center and forward of direction of travel starting point in viewfinder. Used mostly on bike racing riders helped to get the head/ face area not the handlebars.
Hey Jack. Definitely no lag going on there. The camera is doing its job and remarkably well considering the very poor lighting and subjects I gave it. In the one pelican shot (2nd one I believe) the camera is simply deciding it wants to focus more on the tail. That’s pretty normal considering I wasn’t practicing good photography technique (shooting a dark bird in a white sky). There is no detail for it to use – it’s not lagging it’s just focussing on the back. At least with most current cameras today you do not have to “lead” the subject. You’ll be much more successful letting the camera do its thing. But at the distance I was at, whether it focussed on the tail or the head, the photo would all be sharp considering it’s not close enough for depth of field to have an impact. Not sure what camera you have, but leading is not something I would recommend with current cameras (say last 3-4 years). Hope that helps.
I love your first course so I will buy your second course. It would be nice if you include the module on feathers into the first course.
I live in south east part of Florida and I don’t see the birds that you photograph. Any tips?
Hi Ken. Can you please elaborate on what a “module on feathers” would be? I don’t know what that means. As for tips for seeing birds… Google. You have to get yourself to the places that have them. Maybe photo groups on line or forums? Or come on over to the West coast. They’re on just about every beach here. You also have some great spots north of you too if you do some research. Hope that helps!
I think that it would be helpful (and maybe you do this in the video) to see the Straight Out Of Camera image that you achieved in your demo as well as the edited version.
Matt I think that all the tips are very helpful. I was I’m Michigan last month and used your bird guide tips and was a great help.
This seams like great tips course as well.
Member of the BCA
Thanks Jerry. The course videos will show photos overlaid on the screen. These photos were not photos I would ever take for real (horrible lighting) so I didn’t include them in this sample as they simply would not have been photos I would suggest people strive to take. But the course will have photos. Thanks!
Interesting and logical technique. I have always wondered about this type of photography and, in your usual fashion, you will make it a very complete and easy to understand course.
I’m never quite sure when selecting continuous-servo AF on my Nikon D750 which AF-Area Mode setting /# of focus points to use. Perhaps you can address this in your BIF video
Hi Dan. I do cover it in the course. In short… smallest focus area/point that you can reliably keep on the bird. If you can keep a small point on the bird and track it… great. If you can’t you need to increase the focus area coverage larger and larger. I’m typically always on a larger zone (what I had in this video) or Wide which is the largest.
Thks for the video.
Personally using a Canon 400 mm 2.8 i have a ring where i can set a distance (i set just before infinity) which i use to start focusing.
Quite convenient if added with the correct range of focusing settle
Thks for the video.
Personally using a Canon 400 mm 2.8 i have a ring where i can set a distance (i set just before infinity) which i use to start focusing.
Quite convenient if added with the correct range of focusing settle
This isn’t the type of photography I do, but I think the advice given is very good. My camera is old (Canon D60) so I don’t think it has as sophisticated focus acquisition as the Sony.
Hi Steve. It may not, but the concepts and techniques are the same. Whether focus acquisition is faster or slower than what I have, the idea of acquiring focus is necessary in wildlife and bird photography and what I did here would be applicable for any camera. Thanks!
This is totally the preferred way of learning for me. In just this small sample, you just reaffirmed the method that I use to acquire focus. Seeing that visually holds my interest and I bet most others of us who enjoy your videos——keep up your great work!
Valuable points and great reminders. Good information
I like what you are doing and it looks to be useful
One tip I would add for acquiring focus would be what I find helpful while using binoculars
If you see the object without the camera, continue to watch the bird and follow it with your normal vision, then bring the camera up to your eyes so that you are in the right area and easier to acquire the bird through the lens
Oh yes this is a very effective tool. I suspect many photographers are visual learners. I know I am. This is a technique I didn’t know and will definitely use. Going to the beach this weekend and love shooting the pelicans. My vote is through the camera teaching wherever it makes sense … can on,y add to the value of the course for us students. Thanks!
Both of those good tips and the “through the camera” view really nailed down what you were saying – so I’d go with yes… successful inclusion!
One thought for us non-Sony users – your focus acquisition with the bird tracking is great, but very Sony specific… do you deal with anything that helps for less effective cameras? I would never (again) use 3D tracking on my Nikon – it’s all over the place and totally unreliable (sigh)
This is an awesome way of teaching and effectively demonstrating the concepts/problems and solutions in real time.
Hopefully you will include a discussion/video on the different types of focus and tracking modes available and recommendations for each.
I am also really looking forward to this course!
This is great. I use that second technique (where you focus “ahead of time”) when shooting songbirds too. Particularly if they are moving towards me, and I’m thinking they might pop up on something that is very close for my lens to focus on. I’ll at least get my lens aware that it needs to be close focused. Does that make sense? Haha.
Looking forward to this release!
Thanks! That’s brillant and exactly the format that brings me further in photography 🤩. I’d definitely buy the course.
Matt, this is an effective and helpful approach to BIF. It is informative to see the “through the camera” view.
Thanks, Matt. This is extremely well done and very helpful! I believe the view through your camera makes this very easy to follow, while if you had just explained it in lecture format, I would not have understood the concepts as clearly. I also liked seeing your settings at the bottom of your screen. I wish you had taken a few shots and shown those as well.
I am very excited to try out this approach, zooming in with the continuous lock-on auto focus. SO much better than spotting the bird and then trying to find it in the immense sky through the 600mm viewfinder – that’s lucky hit and mostly miss in my experience.
Looking forward to your new course!
Much training on photographing non-moving objects has been to focus close (say 500 on a 15-500mm lens) then back off to the desired compositional image or lens sweet spot for the sharpest image. This sort of moves in the opposite direction. Thoughts?
Hi Barry. I’m not totally sure what you’er asking. But this is for fast action, birds in flight. I find most people don’t have too much of a problem with perched birds (other than branches in the way). I don’t personally believe a lens has a “sweet spot”, or at least to the degree that it should ever impact your thought process while shooting. It may technically and theoretically be there, but I’m not the technical or theoretical guy to follow so I don’t talk about those things 😉 Anyway, if you can elaborate on what you’er asking that would help. Thanks!
I like the technique, Matt — very effective to show process + voiceover. The 3rd example was most useful, I think, because many of us use fixed focal length lenses so can’t do the start-wide-focus-in techniques you show at first. Thanks!
Scrolling through the responses…I LIKE your name! 🙂 Spelled a little differently, but I’m a girl too!
Yes, you are showing folks how to do something that took me several years to figure out. For my EF600, I do the pre-focus and on the RF100-500, I do the zoom in, as well as, the pre-focus. Good tips for beginning BIF photographers.
Well done. I agree with the comments already made. Looking forward to your new course.
You are right, this will be a different course from most. I think it will fill a needed niche in bird action photography. I have had all the problems you describe and believe this course will help a great deal. I’m looking forward to its release. Thanks, Matt.
Thanks Norman! Hope all is well!
This is great. I like the real time video, in this situation more than discussion. This video shows alot of the everyday dilemmas
we are faced with . If you have not done so I think autofocus settings, especially for sony would be good.
Thanks buddy! The course won’t be Sony specific but I’m trying to carve out some time to work on a Sony Auto Focus Deep Dive course. I doubt it’ll be ready in time for this, but hopefully soon 🙂
I would purchase a Sony auto focus deep dive course just so you know. Lol.
So would I.
I would too
Count me in on a Sony autofocus Deep Dive Course
I think it is useful as an additional tool/example
I loved this. This video cleared up some questions I had (afraid to ask) and I saw my problem immediately due to through the view finder teaching. Thanks.
Yes – very good tips on acquiring focus. I was out last weekend and could have used the zoom tip. I love when you are out in the field going through a lesson and actually showing us what you are doing. The in camera view is very helpful. A combination of discussions based videos and where you can see exactly what your camera sees is extremely helpful to me. I loved your composition course because of the in field videos and practice examples.
I’m sure you’ll touch on your settings. I have recently purchased the A7RIVA, Sony camera and am working my settings. So your exact settings would be also helpful to me. Thanks!
I loved the through the camera shots. As soon as I saw it it brought back out into the field where I take bird photos. I also liked how you demonstrated focusing on something in the distance (approximately) to help your camera find and focus on contrast as the bird cane into view. I am looking forward to the course. The technique you showed is practical!
Thanks in advanced for your thoughts and feedback!
Very helpful information. Very good technique to demonstrate what you are teaching. The in camera demonstration is excellent. The information you are teaching in this clip would be very helpful in my bird photography.
These tips will be helpful.
I agree that videos illustrating the problem and then the solution with discussion between will be easier for the “learner” to understand.
Finding birds in the sky is fairly easy for the photographer. And focusing on birds in the sky is fairly easy for a camera. However, finding and focusing with birds against a background of foliage is much more difficult. E.g. eagles below the Conowingo Dam in the Susquehanna River gorge. I suggest including tips to help with this more difficult task.
Hi Matt! Good, practical stuff… In your mentioning “prefocus on a spot to aid in subject capture” you touched on something I use a lot in downhill/slalom ski photography and photographing kayakers on rivers: I’ll “prefocus” on the spot where I first expect my subject to appear… Birds will often appear somewhat predictably at certain times of day where you can use the same principles of prefocusing to aid acquisition of the target. The in-camera view grabs are a great way to teach these concepts… Great job!