Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday's Fab Photographer: Michael Rosenbaum

Each Friday, I try to run a post here: Friday's Fab Photographer. This week's fab photographer is Michael Rosenbaum.

Take it away Michael.

Thank you, Rick, for the opportunity to present some ideas from my recent PSA article. It was a huge honor to get your email and a privilege to prepare this. 

Photographing birds in motion (most often in flight) is both a challenge and a pleasure. For some it is as much sport as skeet shooting, though with memorable images as the reward.  

There is an adrenaline rush that accompanies quickly firing off frame after frame, trying to get a definitive action capture. But, like any other skill, action photography requires some practice and, for some, modification of shooting techniques. Following are some essentials and some suggestions for capturing birds in motion and producing memorable images.

Whether you shoot in shutter speed priority, aperture priority, or manual, here are some observations that have worked for me:  A shutter speed of at least 1/1000 is usually necessary for a sharp flight shot, often 1/2000; feel free to shoot at an ISO which maximizes your camera's shutter speed so long as it doesn't create noise you don't want to deal with when processing; feel free to photograph with a wide open aperture, especially in low light.  

A word about the aperture: Because the bird is usually flying at some distance from you, it is perceived by the camera as being on one focal plane as opposed to a bird which is perched close to you. Because the camera perceives the bird as being on one focal plane, the whole bird should be in focus.  go to higher apertures when I want to photograph more than one bird or when I want to limit the amount of light reaching my sensor.

Two final points: 1) I turn off my image stabilization for action photography. Because I am shooting over 1/1000th of a second shutter speed,  IS becomes redundant and costs a bit of time to engage, a bit of time I am losing; 2) don't be GREEDY--trying to get a bird in flight full-frame is almost a guarantee for going home with amputated wings or beaks. I generally use a zoom and back off from full frame so the bird is only filling 25% of the frame (if that). I do go home with some keepers.

As with anything else, practice, practice, practice. And learn to predict behavior. Knowing when a bird is about to take off is valuable information, learned by frequent observation.  However, once you begin to get some keepers I hope you will experience the joy that comes of capturing and sharing nature's beauty.

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Michael Rosenbaum is 2nd Vice-Chairman of the Nature Division of the Photographic Society of America. He also belongs to NANPA and the Everglades Photographic Society. He has lived in Florida for 20 years.
More of Michael’s images may be viewed on his web-page at:

He can be contacted at

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Thank you Michael for a wonderful article.

If you are interested in photographing birds in flight, I have two workshops coming up:

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

We will also be photographing birds in Merritt Island during my January Florida Photo Caravan.

Explore the light,

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