Wildlife and Nature Photography Tips 16 - Fast and Furious

Fast and furious. That is how I would describe the latest shooting session. About a month ago I visited my nephew to celebrate his son's second birthday. The two hour drive routes me through some of the beautiful foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. On the way, I passed by a creek. As a matter-of-fact, the road passed over the creek in multiple locations. One of which I noticed this year's migration of Cliff Swallows busily working about the culvert which emerged from beneath the road.

I pulled the car over for a quick peek, and immediately felt like I was on the set of an Alfred Hitchcock movie - The Birds. The swarm of exiting birds was amazing. It didn't take me long to mentally schedule a future visit in an attempt to capture these avian darts.

So this past weekend I packed two camera bodies with tripods - a Nikon D610 and D810, home-made flash bracket, two flash heads, my infrared trigger and cables, and I was off to see what I could do with these amazingly fast birds.

My first exploration of the site revealed the small creek I would have to work around as the nests were above the flowing water. As seen below.

The Cognisys RangeIR sensor was placed to the left of the nests and the beam targeted parallel to the wall. A double ended RCA cable served as the connection to the camera shutter release.

The camera with the home-made lighting bracket and accompanied flash heads were positioned directly across the creek and aimed at the nests on the opposite back.

Two flash heads were used to override the available light and offer some reasonable crispness to the images. The other camera was located inside a blind approximately twenty foot right of the camera in the photo. This was the Nikon D810 and accompanying 200-500 lens.

I had set the shorter focal length lens and camera on the triggering device. The long lens was for me to have something to do while the birds activated the trigger to photograph themselves. By the end of a four hour visit, each camera had collected a bit over 100 images and this is what I came up with. There were many throwaway shots as the swallows were very fast and I had to make several adjustments for shutter lag on the triggering device.

As you can see below, I did manage to capture a couple of decent images and will return hopefully later this week for the second shoot.

This species of swallow presented some challenges due to the speed at which they arrived and emerged from the nests, but with some patience and careful observations, I had worked out the timing and was able to capture some real action and activity.

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