Whooper Swans taking off

Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


This was taken on an early morning at a nearby lake. The mist was a bit thick and it was quite dark. I could see the swans swimming at the opposite side of the lake. I was handholding and was in the process of finding the settings when the swans started flapping their wings so I pressed and held the shutter and hoped to get at least one usable photo.

Specific Feedback

Because of a low shutter speed there is some motion blur on the wings. If I can receive critique on the aesthetic qualities, the processing and maybe given some pointers to how I could have handled the situation differently in the field, I would be grateful.

Technical Details

Nikon D750 with Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 handheld
1/200 sec, f/6.3, ISO 1600, 500mm

It’s like a dream. Indistinct and hazy. Colorful and unexpected. I think the motion blur caused by the slow shutter speed helps reinforce that feeling.

If you were setting up for this I’m not sure how fast you could react to changing conditions. One thing I have is a Wildlife custom mode set on my dial. The baseline is shutter priority starting at 1/1600th of a second. It also has Auto ISO and a small pattern of focus points in the shape of a diamond in the middle of the screen. Two function buttons near the grip are assigned to near and far focus, forcing the lens to hunt in one or the other depending on where things are in relation to me. Very useful for getting through intervening branches, or keeping the camera from picking the background if the bird is close to me. That’s my 2 cents in terms of field technique. Hope it helps and I’d love to see more of these guys. We have Whooping cranes here, but not Whooper swans, and Trumpeter swans that I suspect are similar to your Whooper swans. They are big and loud!

This is very lovely, with gorgeous colors. You did a good job to just focus (mentally) on the scene unfolding and keep shooting. In low light it would be hard to get enough SS to stop the motion, but the blur works well with the dreamy appearance.

Thanks for your reply. I like the idea of having function buttons for near and far focus. That would definitely have saved quite a few images that I have had to dismiss in the past. I will absolutely look into that. I have my camera set to manual mode with auto ISO when I’m out walking and that works most of the time. Trumpeter swans I believe are similar to our whooping swans.

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Thank you for your reply. I guess in this instance the low shutter speed was suitable for the story of the image. I held the shutter down until they passed me, but I was not thinking of zooming out as the came closer. That’s a thing to think of next time I get in a similar situation.