Blackbird Takeoff

Earlier on this website I wrote that my idea of the holy grail for photography of red-winged blackbirds was to get them with both of their flashy epaulets showing at once.  I’d only managed that once or twice, and by sheer luck.  Now a new camera technology has made that almost easy, and I have a growing collection of two-shoulder shots to prove it.  The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS-60 (as well as its pricier cousin the ZS-100) has a feature called “4K-Pre.”  The Pre refers to the camera’s ability to take a one-second burst of 30 images, 8 megapixels each, before you press the shutter button.  That’s right, it takes pictures before you click the shutter.  It continues and takes 30 more frames in the one second after you press the shutter.  So, now when I see a blackbird nicely outlined against the sky, I set up my tripod and get the bird in focus, and I wait with my finger on the shutter button for the bird to fly away.  As soon as the bird takes off, I click the shutter.  Assuming that my reflexes were faster than one second, what I get is a set of frames showing the bird before I pressed the shutter: sitting, stretching, leaping, extending and flapping its wings, and getting airborne.  Birds do amazing things with their wings to get flying.  Taking pictures before clicking the shutter sounds crazy, but it works!

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