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!! 🙂

Used Gear for Sale

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.

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds photography workshop – $990

Feb 20th-21st 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Mar 19th-20th 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Apr 16th-17th 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com to be put on the waiting list for possible cancellations or for 2017. Cancellations do happen, so it is not excluded you might still get to join me in 2016.

Florida Spoonbill photography tour

Alaska Bald Eagle photography tour – $3900

January 16th-20th 2017 / limit 5 people – 3 open

The very best Bald Eagle tour hands down! Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com for questions and reservations. $1,950 non refundable deposit to book your spot.

Alaska Bald Eagles photography tour

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Canon 300mm f/4 IS versus Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II comparison

When choosing a medium telephoto lens, one of the most common comparison is the Canon 300mm f/4 IS versus the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II with 1.4x extender. Few people realize that the Canon 300mm f/4 IS is about the best bang for your dollar in the whole Canon lens lineup. Why?

The Canon 300mm f/4 IS is a very versatile lens: sharp images, very light, fast AF lock, 2nd shortest Minimum Distance Focusing (MDF) and a good Image Stabilization mechanism. This makes it an ideal lens to capture action from a short distance, or from a moving boat.

White-necked Jacobin Hummingbird - Canon 300mm f/4 IS

Female White-necked Jacobin in flight – Mindo, Ecuador
ISO 1000 | f/9 | 1/250 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens (Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM review), the Canon EOS 7D handheld with flash. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The female White-necked Jacobin Hummingbird image above is a good demonstration of action stopping the Canon 300mm f/4 IS is capable of. Keep in mind, this image was not created with a fake background at a feeder, as most other Hummingbird images are made. Knowing that Hummers are actually the fastest birds in the World, it leaves one thinking… The AF is very fast and accurate. The biggest strength of this lens is the weight: only 2.63lbs!!

Laughing Gull taking off - Canon 300mm f/4 IS

Laughing Gull taking off – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 1600 | f/9 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens (Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM review), the Canon EOS 7D handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

Another stunning action photography example with the Canon 300mm f/4 IS USM. Sold new, the lens is worth $1300 and remains the best value for the money. It was the very first lens I started with. I created numerous professional quality images with it while keeping my gear expenses very reasonable. Especially when coupled with a crop factor camera body such as the 7d mark II, you will have the cheapest pro starter gear possible with a reach of 480mm (1.6 x 300mm).

Bald Eagle - Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II

Bald Eagle portrait
ISO 1000 | f/6.3 | 1/500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens with 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 7D handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

What to think of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II then? This lens is widely recognized as the best portrait lens out there. It makes also for a very versatile lens, especially if you are a wildlife photographer who enjoys taking family pictures! Coupled with the 1.4x extender, the focal length is 280mm, very comparable to the Canon 300mm f/4 IS.

Wood Stork in flight - Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II

Wood Stork in flight – Dit Dot Dash rookery, Florida
ISO 100 | f/8 | 1/30 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens with 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 7D handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

It can be quite challenging to create a pleasing blur with the head of the subject sharp. Try to pan at the same speed of the bird!!

Advantages of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II:
– Zoom lens
– One of the very best portrait lens

Advantages of the Canon 300mm f/4 IS:
– Lighter (2.63lbs versus 4.04lbs for the 70-200mm with extender)
– Cheaper ($700 less)
– Faster AF
– Good macro lens with a MDF of 3.94ft

Image quality being very comparable, I will let you decide on which one to choose!! 🙂

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds photography workshop – $990

Feb 20th-21st 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Mar 19th-20th 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Apr 16th-17th 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com to be put on the waiting list for possible cancellations or for 2017. Cancellations do happen, so it is not excluded you might still get to join me in 2016.

Florida Spoonbill photography tour

Alaska Bald Eagle photography tour – $3900

January 16th-20th 2017 / limit 5 people – 3 open

The very best Bald Eagle tour hands down! Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com for questions and reservations. $1,950 non refundable deposit to book your spot.

Alaska Bald Eagles photography tour

Support our blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this photography blog lively!

Steven