While flight photography tends to be considered challenging by many, creating photographs of birds banking in flight raises the bar one more heavy notch. By banking, I mean when the bird is turning during flight, displaying the full length of its wings whether from under or above. How should one go about capturing this very specific position? It is not as simple as predicting a straight trajectory in the air…

Brown Pelican banking in flight

Brown Pelican in flight – Fort Desoto, Florida.
ISO 800 | f/7.1 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a gimbal head over tripod.

The Brown Pelican banking in flight photograph above was created at my very favorite spot in Florida: Fort Desoto. Pelicans often join other members already floating on the water. In this case, this pelican was flying a bit towards me while another one was swimming in the water. I knew that there would be some chance that the flying one would join for a swim. So, I was pleased when it started descending towards the water, shifting direction to land and hence banking in flight! If you know of a spot where your subject is more likely to land, position yourself for it and wait for a flying subject to turn around to position itself for a landing. Those maneuvers often provide fantastic banking shot opportunities.

Red-billed Tropicbird banking in flight

Red-billed Tropicbird banking in flight – South Plaza, Galapagos Islands.
ISO 400 | f/7.1 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld.

This Red-billed Tropicbird photograph received a Merritt at the 2013 Florida Professional Photographers Association competition. Another good strategy to maximize your chances for banking positions is to be located above your subject… Above?? That is right, in this case the photograph was created from a cliff overseeing the ocean. Reaching a higher altitude perspective goes a long way into getting a full view of the wings span from above! 🙂

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Steven

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