Great Blue Heron in Flight (Three Photographs)
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I took quite a few shots of this bird in flight. I have chosen the most dramatic. One of the reasons the bird stands out as it does against the background is that I was panning (swiveling at the hips) as it flew across my line of sight. One thing I have found to be true is regardless of the focusing system used one has to accept some minor issues. I think the definition of sharp can be revised slightly for birds in flight. I have found that the latest cameras like the Nikon D500 have spectacular auto-focus (even when using lens not designed for the camera like the 200-500mm Nikon lens). Back button focus, where you divorce the focus from the shutter release is optimal because if you use continuous focus it helps keep the bird in focus more easily without wasting a lot of shots. A high frame rate, where you hold down the shutter and the camera just keeps shooting is also handy when shooting things in flight that are very fast. With dynamic focus, or as I believe Canon calls it AI-Servo, the focusing mechanism software will identify the subject and help follow it. However if the focus is off by just a bit you can easily get dozens of out of focus shots and not notice. I use back button focusing, dynamic focusing and a moderate frame rate (but I pause for a few seconds every so often, to let the camera re-acquire the bird.) Takes practice but it’s worth it.