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Yoga Pose – Cave Swallows

For the past week or so a few Cave Swallows have been seen in the Oakville, Ontario area. My first observation of this species occurred on November 14. At the time, sunset was minutes away and lighting conditions were extremely poor. I managed to snap a handful of photos but the quality was poor both in terms of sharpness (or lack thereof) and high noise levels.

On Saturday November 21 I got another opportunity to photograph Cave Swallows when a couple of them were seen in Bronte Bluffs Park area, less than a minute’s walk from where I photographed the Red Phalarope I highlighted in my previous blog post. I wish finding and photographing locally uncommon birds were always this easy!

For anyone that has ever attempted to photograph Cave Swallows (or any swallows) in-flight, you’ll probably agree with me that keeping your focus locked on the subject is virtually next to impossible. The best one can hope for, at least in my experience with photographing swallows, is to capture the odd photo in reasonable focus. Swallows don’t believe in flying in a straight line, to put it mildly, which makes them much harder photograph than, say, Formula I racing cars in a Grand Prix race. The latter subject is a piece of cake relative to swallows. Fortunately, it only takes one quality photo to make you look good, so after rattling off hundreds of shots, I came up with a couple that I felt were good enough to share here.

1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 5000, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

In order to limit motion blur, I set my shutter speed to 1/1600 sec. This pushed my ISO to 5000, which is asking a lot from the Canon 7D Mark II camera body; however, noise reduction in post processing helped somewhat. I may have been better off to have used my Canon EOS-1D X body, which would have handled the noise better even though I would have had to crop the image more (Canon 7D Mark II has a 1.6x crop factor vs full frame sensor for Canon EOS-1D X).

1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 3200, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

This capture, which shows the Cave Swallow banking as it makes a turn reminded me of yoga stretching the way the wing reaches out to touch the water surface. However, when I bend over and stretch my arms to reach my toes, the result is not nearly as graceful.

Both of the above images are less than perfect, but they are a significant improvement, in my opinion, over my first effort the prior week. The photo below represents my best capture during my brief opportunity photographing Cave Swallows last week. It's nothing more than a record ID shot, but since it was a lifer for me at the time, I was happy to at least have a photograph of the species. The Cave Swallow was further away and sunset was fast approaching. This image is cropped significantly more than the two photos above, hence the image noise was much more difficult to control.

1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 6400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

I knew I wanted to improve on my first effort; little did I know that an opportunity to do so would arrive so soon, just a week later.

For those interested in reading more about Cave Swallows in Ontario, Brandon Holden wrote a detailed blog post here back in August.

 

New Gallery Photos Added                Gallery

Cave Swallows                                            Swallows

 

Happy Birding,

Claude

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