Wildlife photography often brings a series of failures with a little success happening occasionally. The more I keep these words in mind, the less frustrated I seem to be. And I can think of a couple of reasons here.
First, animals can only come near, by flying, striding or crawling over, when they feel like it. Then, they stay with us as long as they feel unthreatened, which is the only moment for us to take a good picture. For this reason, we are often forced to use various camouflage techniques, which allow us to blend into the surroundings and remain indiscernible through deception.
Second, often the weather occurs to be even more capricious than the animals we struggle to photograph. I always check the weather forecasts several times a day, but it does not help as they seem to fail, when I'm in the field. Recently in Poland, every day was similar – usually cloudy, temperature around zero and a continuous sleet. Mild frost, a few centimeters of a snow cover, followed by a thaw together with rain, change easily the landscape from winter-like to late autumn-like.
And third, the most important thing, from the point of view of this article is the photography equipment we use. The obvious thing is, that we should know it thoroughly, as in a fraction of a second, without taking the eye away from the viewfinder, we should be able to correct most of the settings to adjust to the constantly changing scenery we are filming.
You ask why? I gave you the first two reasons already. The wild animals are never just models like those in a photo studio, which can pose long enough and finish whenever the photographer says the work is done. The action captured in the viewfinder can end as quickly as it began. Modern technology is the photographer's only ally in this uneven fight against adversity. It's good to know how to use it.
The new OM-D E-M1X provides a few interesting and well-known features for every nature photographer. Fast-firing and completely silent shutter (60 fps), Pro Capture function, Live Composite function or, what is a novelty in Olympus cameras, a programmable autofocus, object recognition and tracking, and movie recording at 120 fps. All these various camera functions increase the efficiency in the field. We do not lose any second when watching the wildlife. After I had learned the instruction of E-M1X pretty well, I decided to run the first tests on passerine birds and woodpeckers.
First, in order to create a great opportunity to test the camera new functions in practice, I built a bird feeder at the edge of the forest, which I knew it would attract different species of tits. The plan was simple. After I tracked a branch, that birds tended to choose particularly often, I adjusted the working range of the autofocus for two meters before and behind the branch. In this way it focused only within the selected area and did not lose the focus by accidentally catching the background behind. In the second step, I limited the autofocus field to a single horizontal bar, so that it was parallel to the selected branch. Next, I focused it a bit above the branch, which allowed the camera to focus only on the bird's head not detecting other parts of its body, or the branch. In the field, everything happens extremely fast, which you can see in the attached film, showing how really the backstage shooting looks like. In practice, we do not know exactly where the bird chooses to perch and, before we manage to manually adjust the AF point, it will possibly fly away.
Using the all aforementioned shooting functions, I realized I took advantage of every fraction of a second, during which the bird perches on a branch on the way to the feeder. I decided to raise the level of difficulty and take a blurred picture, depicting a bird with spread wings approaching to landing. For this purpose, I turned on the Pro Capture function which, when it’s on and the shutter button is pressed halfway down, allows the camera to take pictures continuously without saving them to the memory card. Pressing the shutter button all the way down saves the last 35 photos. I loved this function already in the summer when photographing the bee-eaters. At that time, I created an illustrative film. I especially highlighted moments, when I pressed the shutter button halfway, and when I pressed it to the end. But also the moment, when I noticed the bird taking a sit on a branch. I divided the film into two parts. The first one shows pictures without using the Pro Capture function and the second part showing all the shots that I was able to take thanks to the Pro Capture function. I cannot imagine the work of a wildlife photographer without using this function. It is simply brilliant!
Author & Photographer: Lukasz Bozycki