Lilac breasted roller take-off  

7V2C7867asmall web

Taken with EOS 5D Mark III, EF 300mm f2.8L IS lens, 1/6400 second at f2.8, 800 ISO. Image © Brian Hall


The lilac breasted roller is one of the most colourful birds in Africa. However it is quite a small bird so capturing it in flight is not easy.

On our annual safari trip we often find one of these birds sitting on a bush or twig. We ask our driver to get close to the bush, moving in slowly, and then turn the engine off. We then get the other photographers in the vehicle to set up their cameras to Tv mode with a fast shutter speed of at least 1/2000th second and usually about 400 or 800 ISO, depending on the light levels.

Tv mode allows you to choose the shutter speed – this is critical for bird in flight shots, as we're aiming to freeze the movement. You've alos got to take into account the vibrations from the vehicle, which could cause blur if the shutter speed is too slow, and that there's definitely no room for a tripod!

Cameras are then set to the fastest continuous drive mode and AI Servo focusing – this is the best mode for moving subjects. If there is nothing between the photographer and the bird, which is usually the case, then all the focus points are activated on their cameras.

Here's the real trick to the shot. The countdown starts, three... two... one... and on zero the driver starts the engine and the resulting sudden noise will make the bird take off.

So when to press the shutter button? On zero? In fact, we get everyone to fire the shutter and keep their finger on the shutter button on one in the countdown. If the group waits until the bird actually moves (when the engine starts) they will not get the best shot as this bird moves very swiftly. Taking a burst of 8-10 images means that everyone gets some great images.

This image was taken on safari with Jonathan Scott – experience the wildlife photography trip-of-a-lifetime