Sony Alpha 1 AF settings for bird photography

The Sony Alpha 1 AF settings for bird photography are very similar to the settings for the Sony A-9 MK II. I am going to share what works for me without getting into too much fluff. Straight to the point! The Canon equivalent for AI servo mode (with focus moving along with the subject) is the AF-C mode.

Sanderling - Sony Alpha 1 Settings for Bird Photography
Sanderling running along the sea shore – Sarasota Bay
ISO 800 | f/6.3 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AF-C Zone Focus Area
Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 at 600mm with the Sony Alpha 1

The running Sanderling above is a good example of a top notch Auto Focus performance from the Sony Alpha 1. Small shorebirds running along the beach are always very challenging to track (especially when laying down on your belly). In a nut shell, it comes down to this:

  • AF-C mode
  • Focus Area on Zone mode (not automatically tracking)
  • Bird Eye tracking activated
  • Using Zebras to assess exposure in manual mode
  • ISO custom set on rear dial
Rudy Turnstone in flight - Sony settings bird photography
Rudy Turnstone banking in flight above the foam – Sarasota Bay
ISO 800 | f/6.3 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AF-C Zone Focus Area
Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 at 600mm with the Sony Alpha 1

Another example of the superior autofocus achievements from the Sony Alpha 1 with the Rudy Turnstone banking in flight above. It is my only photo of this maneuver with this species, and hopefully there will be many more to come. When it comes to bird photography, especially when capturing birds in flight, I do my best to keep the shutter speed at or faster than 1/2500. The smaller the bird and the faster your shutter speed needs to be to completely freeze the movement.

Black-bellied Plover landing - Sony Alpha 1 AF settings
Black-bellied Plover landing – Sarasota Bay
ISO 800 | f/6.3 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AF-C Zone Focus Area
Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 at 600mm with the Sony Alpha 1

While I have the Focus Area set on Zone (instead of central point surround on Canon), I do not have the automatic tracker on: the camera still acquires focus atomically and tracks within the zone, but if the subject comes out of the zone box for too long, the camera will not attempt to track it. The fully automated tracking mode performs well, but I prefer this for now. Also, I moved away from the Canon equivalent of the central point surround as I find the area to be a bit too small. The Zone is essentially a bigger box area.

Ospreys / Spoonbills mix Photography Tour – $1,390

March 26th-27th 2022 / limit 5 people – Full

April 23rd-24th 2022 / limit 5 people – 1 open

Florida Osprey-Spoonbill Photography Tour - 2022

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 2 boat-based Osprey shoots at the Vero Beach Cypress Lake + 1 land-based Spoonbills shoot at a local rookery. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

Tampa Bay Spoonbills Rookery Photography Tour – $1,490

January 29th-30th 2022 / limit 5 people – Full

February 26th-27th 2022 / limit 5 people – 1 open

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 3 shoots at the Tampa Bay Spoonbills rookery. We typically shoot while wading in the water in the mornings and from the boat in the afternoon. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

Black Skimmers Colony Photography Workshop – $1,090

June 25th-26th 2022 / limit 5 people – 3 open

Black Skimmers colony photography tour teaser

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 3 shoots at the Sarasota Bay Black Skimmers colony. We shoot along the beach, where the nesting colony is easily accessible. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

Do you like Black Skimmers?

The Black Skimmers colony tour date for 2022 is June 25th-26th! Would you like a predictable location to photograph Skimmers skimming along the water edge? Or capture fluffy chicks running on the sand? This tour is timed to maximize your chances for both 🙂

Skimmers banking in flight
Black Skimmer banking in flight – Sarasota Bay
ISO 1600 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II coupled and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

While most of us tend to focus on creating images of birds banking in flight with their upper wings in display, capturing a front bank can also be very pleasing. The tricky part with Skimmers and many other shorebirds is that their belly is mostly white, not leaving much leeway for proper exposure. In the image above, I was very happy with having an unfocused bird in the right lower corner. It gives a sense of space and helps anchor the image nicely.

Black Skimmer flying over the colony
Black Skimmer flying above the colony – Sarasota Bay
ISO 1600 | f/8 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II coupled with the 2.0x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

Another interesting flight shot is when the birds fly just above the rest of the colony with a fish to bring back to their chick. The difficulty here is to have a clear separation between the flying subject and the background. By shooting at a low angle, I achieved the separation by having some of the greenery covering the flying bird. Shooting from too high would have resulted in a very cluttered image with the main bird mixing body parts with the crowd below.

Black Skimmer skimming
Black Skimmer skimming – Sarasota Bay
ISO 100 | f/7.1 | 1/25 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

Pre-sunrise blurs require good timing and steady panning in cadence with the bird. When properly done, you will end up with blurry wings and a somewhat sharp head. At that time of the day, the background colors can have some nice pastel tones such as the purple above. Join me in 2022 to learn more! 🙂

Ospreys / Spoonbills mix Photography Tour – $1,390

March 26th-27th 2022 / limit 5 people – Full

April 23rd-24th 2022 / limit 5 people – 1 open

Florida Osprey-Spoonbill Photography Tour - 2022

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 2 boat-based Osprey shoots at the Vero Beach Cypress Lake + 1 land-based Spoonbills shoot at a local rookery. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

Tampa Bay Spoonbills Rookery Photography Tour – $1,490

January 29th-30th 2022 / limit 5 people – Full

February 26th-27th 2022 / limit 5 people – 1 open

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 3 shoots at the Tampa Bay Spoonbills rookery. We typically shoot while wading in the water in the mornings and from the boat in the afternoon. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

Black Skimmers Colony Photography Workshop – $1,090

June 25th-26th 2022 / limit 5 people – 3 open

Black Skimmers colony photography tour teaser

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 3 shoots at the Sarasota Bay Black Skimmers colony. We shoot along the beach, where the nesting colony is easily accessible. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

More images from the Ospreys/Spoonbills mix tour

There are still two open spots for the March 26-27 & April 23-24 Ospreys/Spoonbills mix tours! It is the perfect opportunity to combine nesting Ospreys among eye-level natural habitat Cypress trees and the best land-based Spoonbills rookery.

Osprey landing - Florida Tour
Osprey landing on a branch – Vero Beach Cypress Lake
ISO 1250 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 400mm f/4 DO IS II with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The Vero Beach Cypress Lake has the highest concentration of Osprey nests that one can find! Around 250+ nests in a natural habitat. Not only the birds are nesting among Cypress trees, making for very authentic photography, but many of those nests are at eye-level allowing for stunning photography. There will be many opportunities for birds landing on branches as in the image above.

Osprey banking with fish
Osprey banking with fish in front – Vero Beach Cypress Lake
ISO 2000 | f/8 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 400mm f/4 DO IS II with the 2x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

As the birds are flying back and forth among the trees, many of them will come back to their nest with fish in their talents or abruptly change direction and offering some stunning banking shots as above. The blurred green backdrop from the Cypress Trees will definitely improve your image over a bland blue sky.

Spoonbill in flight - Spoonbill Rookery
Spoonbill in flight – Vero Beach Spoonbill Rookery
ISO 640 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

Very nearby the Cypress lake, one can find the very best land-based Spoonbills rookery. One can easily shoot from the shore at that location, while the birds go back and forth to their nests with nesting material. There will also be many Spoonbills landing nearby to dig out new branches for their nests. Email me soon to book your spot! 🙂

Ospreys / Spoonbills mix Photography Tour – $1,390

March 26th-27th 2022 / limit 5 people – 1 open

April 23rd-24th 2022 / limit 5 people – 1 open

Florida Osprey-Spoonbill Photography Tour - 2022

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 2 boat-based Osprey shoots at the Vero Beach Cypress Lake + 1 land-based Spoonbills shoot at a local rookery. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

Tampa Bay Spoonbills Rookery Photography Tour – $1,490

January 29th-30th 2022 / limit 5 people – Full

February 26th-27th 2022 / limit 5 people – 1 open

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 3 shoots at the Tampa Bay Spoonbills rookery. We typically shoot while wading in the water in the mornings and from the boat in the afternoon. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

Black Skimmers Colony Photography Workshop – $1,090

June 25th-26th 2022 / limit 5 people – 4 open

Black Skimmers colony photography tour teaser

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 3 shoots at the Sarasota Bay Black Skimmers colony. We shoot along the beach, where the nesting colony is easily accessible. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

Images from the Black Skimmers Colony tour & dates for 2022

Check out the images from this year’s Black Skimmers colony photography tour! The 2022 date will be June 25th-26th. Send me an email to book your spot.

Black Skimmers - Photography Tour
Adult Black Skimmer handing the fish over – Sarasota Bay Colony
ISO 1600 | f/8 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II with the 2.0x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

There were many feeding interactions between adults and youngs! Typically, adult bring back fish freshly caught from the nearby ocean, then will tenderize it and finally pass it over to the chick doing its own little dance to receive the meal. The dance consist in moving around with the wings half open and pointing down.

Black Skimmers banking over the ocean
Adult Black Skimmers banking over the ocean – Sarasota Bay Colony
ISO 1000 | f/5.6 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

As the adult Black Skimmers will frequently fish nearby, you will have the best chances for banking shots above the water or skimming action. While the birds fly by, some of them have the fish in their beaks! The image above is a good depiction of the overall scene.

Black Skimmer with fish
Black Skimmer with fish portrait – Sarasota Bay Colony
ISO 1600 | f/8 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II with the 2.0x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The image above was created while the adult was working on softening the fish before passing it down. If you would like to have a chance to create similar or better images, join me in 2022!

Ospreys / Spoonbills mix Photography Tour – $1,390

March 26th-27th 2022 / limit 5 people – 1 open

April 23rd-24th 2022 / limit 5 people – 1 open

Florida Osprey-Spoonbill Photography Tour - 2022

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 2 boat-based Osprey shoots at the Vero Beach Cypress Lake + 1 land-based Spoonbills shoot at a local rookery. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

Tampa Bay Spoonbills Rookery Photography Tour – $1,490

January 29th-30th 2022 / limit 5 people – Full

February 26th-27th 2022 / limit 5 people – 2 open

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 3 shoots at the Tampa Bay Spoonbills rookery. We typically shoot while wading in the water in the mornings and from the boat in the afternoon. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

Black Skimmers Colony Photography Workshop – $1,090

June 25th-26th 2022 / limit 5 people – 4 open

Black Skimmers colony photography tour teaser

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 3 shoots at the Sarasota Bay Black Skimmers colony. We shoot along the beach, where the nesting colony is easily accessible. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

Images from the Tampa Bay Spoonbills tour & dates for 2022

The last Tampa Bay Spoonbills rookery tour was amazing with lots of young and adults interactions. The 2022 dates for this tour are set for January 29th-30th and February 26th-27th 2022. People from the early contact list already snatched 8 spots out of 10! Hurry to send me an email if you are interested 🙂

Spoonbills Photography Tours
Young Spoonbills chasing their mom for food – Tampa Bay Rookery
ISO 500 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The image above is the classic behavior of newly fledged Spoonbills chasing one of their parent for food. Late in the season, the youngs come out while some of the adults start leaving the rookery. That type of action is only enjoyed by the end of May or early June. However, by then the adults tend to look a bit less colorful.

Young Spoonbill banking in flight
Young Spoonbill banking in flight – Tampa Bay Rookery
ISO 1000 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

As the young Spoonbills learn to fly well, one can appreciate some impressive aerial stunts that are the result of the birds trying out their skills. There are thus many opportunities for banking shots as depicted in the image above.

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop
Young Spoonbills in the mangrove – Tampa Bay Rookery
ISO 640 | f/5.6 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

If you are looking for the peak of breeding colors with the adults, then I invite you to participate in the January or February tours!!

Ospreys / Spoonbills mix Photography Tour – $1,390

March 26th-27th 2022 / limit 5 people – 1 open

April 23rd-24th 2022 / limit 5 people – 1 open

Florida Osprey-Spoonbill Photography Tour - 2022

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 2 boat-based Osprey shoots at the Vero Beach Cypress Lake + 1 land-based Spoonbills shoot at a local rookery. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

Tampa Bay Spoonbills Rookery Photography Tour – $1,490

January 29th-30th 2022 / limit 5 people – Full

February 26th-27th 2022 / limit 5 people – 2 open

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

3 shoots and 1 over-the-shoulder Photoshop tutoring => 3 shoots at the Tampa Bay Spoonbills rookery. We typically shoot while wading in the water in the mornings and from the boat in the afternoon. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com .

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