Monday, August 29, 2016

A Pygmy Swiftlet forages in the rain

During prolonged monsoon rains in our islands, golden light - the main ingredient of pleasing wild bird photographs - becomes a scarce commodity. However, raindrops and flat lighting during times when the skies continuously weep can provide a unique opportunity to get moody, seldomly captured avian images. Wild birds still need to forage and nourish themselves, rain or shine. 

I recently noticed these tiny endemic swiftlets hawking small insects in mid-air at the banks of Bued River. Light was quite low for conventional BIF shooting, so I mounted my EF 70 - 200 f/2.8 IS II on my trusty 7D M II, hoping the AF system can function a little faster with the 1-stop brighter aperture compared to my EF 400 DO f/4 IS II. Target acquisition with the wider field of view than customary was also easier.

I experimented with various shutter speeds - I needed to balance the Tv such that it would be fast enough to freeze the subject, yet slow enough to let the raindrops travel a bit in space and present photogenic longish streaks. A Tv of 1/500 sec appeared to be the sweet spot, and I engaged Mode 2 IS to help tame camera shake during panning.

The AF of the combo worked surprisingly well, considering the tiny and dark subject in front of a featured background, all under low uncontrasty illumination and with raindrops getting in the line of fire. I deliberately underexposed during capture and just pushed +1 stop during RAW conversion to avoid blowing the white rump.


__________

Pygmy Swiftlet (Collocalia troglodytes, a Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Fairly common, smallest swiftlet in groups flying low over forest, clearings and logging roads (total length = 3.5 inches) 


Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, August 29, 2016, 7D MII + EF 70-200 2.8 IS II,
200 mm, f/4, ISO 640 (pushed +1 stop in RAW conversion), 1/500 sec, IS mode 2, hand held, major crop.

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