If you have ever watched small birds like Warblers feed there is one word that can be used to describe it. Chaos... Other words would be high energy or maybe even seeming perpetual motion. With that said rather than follow a single bird I would watch them for a few moments then try and guess where several birds might land . I saw several birds landing on the branch that is featured below. Thankfully this was an easier location for the auto focus and allowed me to turn the lens and focus quickly. The next three frames are taken in a fairly rapid succession.
One thing I learned at least for this flock is that the birds would flatten their bodies like below.
Look towards where they were going next. In the case of the next image down. Then the bird would fly in that direction.
I was able to follow this bird to an even better perch.
These next two shots I did crop to a 4x5 ratio just to cut out some of the distracting elements in the right side of the frames. I love being able to get a catch light in the eyes and thanfully the cloud cover this day helped me get them in most of these shots.
Right after this frame the bird left the perch. Notice how it has flattened out .
Well the first part of the flock had fed through and there were several other birds making their way towards me. I had a thought wouldn't it be awesome if at least one of them landed on this stick which is closer to me....So I focused on it and checked the depth of field with back of the camera and zoomed into the preview to see . I think it could work. So I decided to wait patiently.
I was rewarded. The image below I just missed the focus on the bird but I do like the pose.
The next shot I was able to refocus and get good focus on it.
The bird decided to turn and give me a profile shot before it flew away.
I am thrilled with these shots. While I know I can get even better this is worlds better than anything I have taken of the Yellow-Rumped Warblers. For the next time I think I will adjust the aperture to F8 so I get a little bit more depth of field.
The bushes and branches that this flock were feeding in were about 4 maybe 5 meters from me so these were nice and close. I think one thing that helped me get these images outside of the tripod was listening to the small voice that said stop and wait.
So I was able to be set up and semi prepared before the birds got to me. I upped the shutter speed to 1/1000 because these guys are fast and did a quick look around through the lens to see the iso range. I mention this because I will usually use Auto ISO when I am walking around(I just have to pay attention to the exposure meter in the viewfinder to make sure I do not have too high a shutter speed). I do this because well when I am walking around the light will change quickly and small birds are quick so I do not have time to adjust things before they tend to be gone. So I set the aperture where I want it and then the shutter speed as high as I feel it needs to be for what I might see. The iso range from this series of images range from iso-1000 to iso-3200 so a little over a stop of exposure change and honestly if I had to change the iso or shutter speed in this case I would have missed a number of shots.
Now if I am in a single location for a time and there is not much lighting variation I will set the iso to a speed that allows me to get the shutter speed and aperture that I feel I need for that subject. I start with a higher shutter speed in a scenario like this and then work my way down if I can. So I might start off at f8 1/2000 second with say iso-3200 and then I take a shot or a few shots. Then I will cut the shutter speed in 1/2 and drop the iso by a stop or in the case of this example iso-1600. I will go down as slow (in shutter speed) as I can and then I pick the one/s that I like the best when I get home.
This is my current thought process when it comes to shooting. I know over the last year I have tried many different techniques and this is the one that I personally have the best results with.