Category Archives: Kingbirds

Photo of Western Kingbird

A New Photography Adventure and an Unexpected Accident

Finding New Birds to Photograph

February is a great time to get out of Southwest Michigan. We decided to head to southern California for some sun and warmth – and possibly new birds to photograph. I packed my Canon 7D Mark II DSLR, 300mm 2.8 L 2 lens, 1.4 extender, 2.0 extender, and 135mm lens. I was careful and bought a padded super telephoto lens back pack case long enough to carry my DSLR camera attached to a 2x extender and long lens. The 135 mm lens and 1.4 extender were placed in a smaller padded camera case.

Fragile Camera Equipment

I carried my backpack onto the plane like it was a baby and gingerly placed it in the overhead bin. All went well until we retrieved the backpack to transfer planes. When we deplaned, my husband let the backpack slide off his back a little too fast and it hit the ground with a sickening thud.

I thought the back pack’s padding would absorb the hit; but no. When it comes to camera equipment, gravity is not your friend. My heart sank when I unzipped the pack and saw the damage.

Damage Assessment

  • The DSLR camera’s female lens mount was twisted, barely holding on to the connected male mount on the 2x extender.
  • The male 2x extender mount, connected to the twisted DSLR mount, was itself skewed.
  • The other end of the 2x extender had 3 screws yanked out and could no longer hold tightly to the 300mm lens.
  • The 300 mm lens mount had been torn away.

A bayonet lens mount does more than physically attached a DSLR camera to a matching lens and or connector. A tight fitting is required for all mechanical and electrical systems to properly communicate. The slightest damage within these connectors and malfunctions will almost certainly happen.

Canon Authorized Repair Center to the Rescue

The closest authorized Canon Repair Center was only 8 miles away. The service man inspected the damage and concluded that all mounts had to be replaced. In addition, the autofocus mechanism on the 300mm lens was damaged, so it had to be taken apart, repaired and reassembled.

Two weeks and $700.00 later, all of my damaged equipment was again operational. NOTE:  I carry full insurance on all of my photo equipment. See this post regarding protecting your investment.

Photographing Southern California Birds

In the time I was without my camera equipment, I no doubt missed out on some excellent photo adventures. But in sunny California, the opportunities to photograph birds are endless. I am very happy with the west coast birds I was able to photograph after my camera was repaired.

My next 6-8 blog postings will spotlight my photographic experiences with birds I almost never encounter at home. I hope you enjoy this break away from photographing southwest Michigan birds. I sure did. 😎

Photo of Cassin's Kingbird
The Cassin’s Kingbird wintering in Southern California.
Not so different from the Eastern Kingbird commonly Found in Southwest Michigan.
ISO250; f/6; 1/2000 Second

To see photos of the Eastern Kingbird, see this post.



Photo of Eastern Kingbird

Photographing the Eastern Kingbird and Playing with Focusing Range

The Magic of Autofocus

Imagine bird photography using only manual focus. How is it even possible to nail the focus of a bird zig-zagging in flight without the magic of autofocus?  My rate of achieving sharp photos would be minuscule if I had to manually focus a heavy lens while tracking a bird and then pressing the shutter just right.

Photo of Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird Moving About From Branch to Branch.
ISO 1250; f/8; 1/1600 Second

Continuous Autofocus

When the birds are relatively still, I use one-shot auto focus. (I usually keep my camera set on one-shot auto focus.)  However, in windy conditions, it’s fun to experiment with the speed and precision of continuous autofocus – especially when photographing erratic bird movement.

With continuous focus, as long as I can keep at least one of the AF points on my target bird, I know that the photos will be in-focus. The camera’s processor works overtime to constantly predict and calculate what might happen next, not once, but hundreds of times. All I have to do is make sure the shutter is set fast enough to capture the action.

Photograph of Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
ISO1250; f/8; 1/1600 Second

Hunting for a Focus Lock in Windy Conditions

It’s easier to use continuous autofocus on a large bird, but I decided to try it on a windy day when I came across the relatively small and active Eastern Kingbird. This individual was on the move in and out of the thorny branches while a 10-15 mph wind blew branches, grass, and my long lens about. The focusing mechanism was noisily hunting in and out, trying to achieve focus.

Focusing Range

The Canon 500 mm 4.0L II IS USM telephoto lens has 3 specific options from which to choose a working distance or focusing range. A focus limiter switch on the lens barrel allows you to choose from 3 distance ranges: 4.5m to 10m, 10m to infinity, or 4.5m to infinity. If the bird is within range and you set the lens to the shorter focusing distance, you cut back on the distance (and thus the time) that the lens has to search to achieve a focus lock on the target.

I must admit that I always keep both my 300mm and my 500mm lenses set to the largest available focusing distance: distance to infinity. This is because most of the time, bird sightings are unpredictable – I want to be ready for any distance eventuality. If there is time to adjust the distance settings on the lens, all the better.

This time I took my chances and set the 500 mm lens to  4.5m to 10m. The shorter hunt distance would allow a faster fix on focus and hopefully a clear shot of the Eastern Kingbird as he bobbed about.

It worked. Looking at the photos, you might assume it was a calm bird on a calm day. The Kingbird’s feathers look a little blown back, but the continuous focus, shorter distance range and relatively high shutter speed came together to achieve these 2 sharp images.

I’m going to use the shorter focusing range option more often.

For more information on the trials and tribulations of focusing…..

See this post on manual focusing.

See this post on Fast Focusing Technology.