Quick birds in low light

June 6, 2014, was a cloudy day here in Ritto City. Photographing young swallows in the car port in poor light was a challenge. It was sunny when I previously photographed them on June 2nd (Young Swallows Feeding). Here are some of the photos in a small gallery.

This time the adults seemed to spend very little time at the nest. Usually they remained in flight. I shot in short bursts of 9 frames per second, and I tried to freeze the movement of their wings in flight as they approached the nest, occasionally hovered, quickly fed their young, and then departed.

Technical notes

Using an Olympus OM-D EM-5 camera, I shot at an aperture of f4 with an old Om System 50mm f1.8 lens, attached with an OM MF-2 adapter. I shot some bursts at f2.8, but that did not provide enough depth of field. I needed a quick shutter speed of at least 1/500 second in order to freeze the action of their wings. In the relatively low light I had to raise ISO to 800 or higher to keep a high shutter speed and a reasonable depth of field. As I tried to freeze the action of rapidly beating wings, I tried higher shutter speeds and higher ISO. Image quality seemed okay until about ISO 1600.

Without adequate soft light from at least two directions, it’s pretty hard to photograph flying birds in a car port. Probably it’s too late for this season, but a couple of LED light panels would be very useful on cloudy days.

Published by Greg Peterson

Professor Emeritus, Kyoto Notre Dame University. I have retired from full-time service (1977-2014) and now offer weekly lectures in interpersonal and intercultural communication. Since 1980 I have lived in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, where I enjoy outdoor activities, especially photography, hiking, and cycling.

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