The Unpredictability of Doves

Today was the Procession in Honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel from St Peter’s Italian Church in Clerkenwell, London, an event which was first celebrated in 1883 and there is nothing else like it in London. For some reason it took place a week earlier than usual this year, and perhaps for this reason the numbers attending were a few less than in previous years.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

I’ve been fairly lucky in previous years photographing what is perhaps the key event in the procession, the release of the doves.  This year I was a little further away from the three priests as they stood holding the doves than I would like – at events like this you have to cooperate with the other photographers present, and usually they like to stand quite a lot further back than I would choose (what, after all are wide-angle lenses for?)

Because of this, I was using the Sigma 24-70 lens rather than the 12-24 that I had fixed on the other camera. I’d decided to leave it on the 24mm setting, although this was a little on the wide side for the men holding the birds, I knew I wouldn’t have time to zoom once they were released, agnd given the entirely unpredictable nature of their flight, the wide angle gave me a better chance of actually getting them in frame.

The sun had been coming in and out, and I was shooting with fill-flash, set to -1 stop on the Nissin Di622 which I’ve been trying as a cheap alternative to my SB800 – currently in for repair.  The Nissin works more or less like the built-in flash, using the camera controls. I’ve had some problems with it providing too much light, particularly with close subjects, and I don’t think it can cope with sync speeds faster than 1/250s which the SB800 can, but generally it seems a decent alternative to the Nikon at around a quarter of the price of the SB900 which has now replace the SB800.

Unfortunately I’d forgotten to switch to the high frame rate mode on the camera, so when the doves were actually let go and I held the button down I was only getting 3 fps, while the camera can give 5fps (more with extra batteries.)

Although it isn’t really possible to guarantee results in situations like this, if you stand in an appropriate place with the right camera settings you stand a much greater chance than if you don’t.  So yes, I was lucky to get the picture I did, but I was reasonably prepared for it.

I don’t know what the wingspan of a dove is, but not huge.  Although I’ve cropped all the pictures of  the release this one retains the full width of the 24mm focal length – used in portrait format. At a guess I’d say that the dove was about 2 feet from my lens when I took the picture.

The other amazing thing is that all three doves are in the picture.  Below is the sequence of frames that led up to this image. I think from the second image the pictures are at 3 fps. As  you can see, none are of particular interest.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

More pictures from this event shortly on My London Diary.

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