What is the ideal wings position for Birds In Flight (BIF) photography? My answer to this question often comes with three tips. Birds in flight tend to look their best either with their wings up fully extended or their wings down. The in-between is usually less than ideal as one does not see the wings very well. So, nine times out of ten those photographs go straight in my bin to be deleted.
The wings up position gives a very clear view on the under wing of the bird, or the upper wing for the wing the furthest from you. Note that the key here is to go after the full extension with feather tips clearly visible. In the span of a wing beat, you will often see the wing “broken” as the wing is folding and unfolding up and down. I really strive not to settle for the folding / unfolding motion as the feather detail is not as great and the “lines” are not as pure.
The photograph above was created during the 2015 Spoonbill photo tour. The alternative to wings up for Bird in flight photography is wings down of course. For some reason I tend to create better results with the wings up position, but wings down with a full extension is also a very good way to go. Note that the bigger the bird, the harder it is to capture the full extension. Great Blue Herons for instance do not always fully extend their wings up or down, and rarely with wide amplitude. The same goes with Brown Pelicans.
Also created during the 2015 Spoonbill photography workshop. As there is always the exception, some in-between positions in bird in flight photography can be very attractive given the situation. In this case, the beautiful symmetry really gives a strong touch. Plus, some detail from the upper-wings as well as the under-wings are visible. The spots of red from the upper-wings only visible during breeding season are very easily admired.
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