How To Create Bird Photography Action Series In One Image

Every now and then I enjoy creating action series from my Bird Photography. In one image, I do a collage of several images which shows the subject at different times through the action. The results can be surprisingly good and make for fantastic panoramas printed on a very large format.

Spoonbill banking serie - Bird Photography

Spoonbill banking in flight serie – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 200 | f/4 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 7D mark II on tripod with gimbal head.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, banking shots are created when the bird is turning. The action serie image above is a nice depiction of the wings position during a turn. The Roseate Spoonbill above was coming from the left and decided to turn right in order to land behind the first set of mangrove trees. I typically like to choose the subject at regular physical intervals from the image burst I took. This implies that you might need up to six or ten images from one action in order to have a nicely spaced out action serie of 4 or five different moments in time.

Osprey taking off - Bird Photography

Osprey taking off – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 500 | f/7.1 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 7D mark II on tripod with gimbal head.

One of the key technical elements is that you must shoot in manual mode. Why? Because, when shooting in Av or Tv mode, your camera recomputes the exposure and white balance at each frame and you might end up having to combine images with different hues of blue for the sky. That would make the collage a lot harder to achieve well. Once in Photoshop, I pick one image from the serie (the earlier in time image of the set) and add enough canvas to be able to bring in a few more images. Simply drag the other images directly on the first one. Then change the layer mode to “Overlay”. From there you can align the background as close as you can, then put a layer mask on the top layer and paint in black to reveal the subject in the layer underneath. Repeat the same process a few times and voila!!

Brown Pelican diving serie

Brown Pelican diving serie – Fort Desoto State Park, Florida
ISO 640 | f/8 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with gimbal head.

Action series can also be vertical!! 🙂

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CANON EOS 5D MARK III => $1,650 in very good condition with battery grip (BG-E11 worth $260 new) included. As you would have noticed, I created some of my very best images with this body!!

CANON EF 300MM F/4 IS USM => $900 in excellent condition. I did a lot of my early bird photography with this undisputed best value for your money in the Canon pro lens lineup.

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