For several years I have been practicing and trying to perfect BIF photography. I'm still way low in the learning curve but if you shoot enough you are bound to get a few keepers. I thought it might be nice to start a thread that would save a beginner from having to go through all the learning curve. I know Jim is very good at this, sure he will have some additional helpful hints. First and probably most important is shooting at a high enough speed to freeze the bird (or at least part of it). Generally I find 1/1000 second the minimum speed, preferably faster if light allows. This shot is at that speed, note though the eagle is "cruising" slowly.
Shutter priority 1/1000 F6.3
Exposure is not quite as easy as letting your camera decide what it should be. The reason is, if the bird has white on it, your camera will often decide to expose for the sky blowing out the white feather detail which is critical if you really want to print a shot. Probably the easiest way to correct for this is to shoot the sky, then check your histogram and drop back your EV control a third or half from what it reads. Seagulls are great to experiment using this method since they have a lot of white. As far as metering I use center weighted but you have to experiment with your camera to see what works best.
This image is at 1/1250 second at F 7.1 Once again I am using shutter priority and letting the camera choose F stop...metering is center weighted and of course I forgot to mention you lens is on "continuous" auto focus. Today's newer lens use ultrasonic motors in the lens to give very fast and accurate auto focus, unfortunately I have old glass (this lens is 23 years old) from my film years.....I get a lot of out of focus shots. The type of auto focus on Nikon DSLR's here is "dynamic" which in theory is used for erratically moving objects.
The absolutely hardest part of BIF photography is developing a smooth panning motion, speed setting alone will not get the "killer" detail you are seeking, you must smoothly follow a bird moving at 15 to 30 mph. This takes practice and it certainly took me more than a year to start to see results. One helpful hint is to keep both eyes open as you follow the bird this will lessen camera shake but can be a bit hard to get used to. "Stabbing" the shoot button is another thing that you have to avoid, this is best accomplished by shooting at the fastest frames per second that you camera will allow and considering your buffer size while doing this, you don't want to loose "the moment" because your buffer is full. I'll post some more stuff later.
One of my best shots here. Speed 1/1600 F8. Lighting of course is everything, here it's perfect, as is the depth of field and focus, a one in a thousand shot......did I mention luck is important?