Photographing vultures or birds in flight in general is one of the most difficult branches of the photography. Today I will get a little more specific, I will write about photographing vultures. Why vultures? In contrary to many people I believe that these big birds are a beautiful and hygienic specie. Why hygienic? Well these birds are basically our natural bin, they clean natures own waste.
Something about vultures itself
The vultures that I am talking about are the Griffon Vulture and the Moin Vulture. These birds can get a wide span of 2,7m and live amongst others in the Gorges du Verdon (Provence). They make their nests in the cliffs of the mountains and fly by the thermic of the wind, this means that if the wind changes direction that the flying pattern of the vulture changes also.
First of all you need to know where they are and where it is possible for you to sit or stand without being in danger. Then it is intelligent to first observe, what are they doing? How is the wind standing? Which way are they flying and the most important one, what is their flying pattern? If you know their flying pattern you can anticipate on which places you need to look to get that photo that is already printed in your head.
Next to that you also need to have your camera ready, that means setting your settings right before the vulture comes,
otherwise you will not be in time to photograph it. What I do, always Continuous Autofocus (AF-C) and high speed shooting (11 frames per second for my camera), I set the aperture of my lens of approximately f/4 and I look together with the weather for the ISO, when I have that all ready I look through my viewfinder to see if my shutter speed is high enough or if it is that high that I could bring my ISO a bit down.
The first vultures are observing, especially if it is your first time, after a few you can recognise their flying pattern and you know where to look. I look far into the canyon trying to find them from the start, that helps me to follow their flying pattern and to get them right on the photo when they come into my direction.