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Photo Compilations Part 1 of 2

posted by Tim Avery at
on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 

One of my favorite things about bird photography is photographing birds in flight. For me it's the awe of  these creatures so effortlessly moving about while we are weighted to the Earth.  It's a fluid thing to watch as a hawk soars and circles above constantly moving.  When I snap a photograph and freeze a bird for a fraction of a fraction of a second, it's a moment frozen in time for ever.  It takes that fluid moment and turns it into something static, and forever I can have that memory to look back at.

Cooper's Hawk in Salt Lake City.

Personally when I photograph birds in flight, I turn into a bit of a machine gunner.  Finger down on the release, click click click click click click click.  Often times shooting 20 or 30 shots of a bird as it makes a pass.  The end result is a stream of images, that are almost identical.  Only the slightest change from frame to frame as the bird moves.  Usually the hope for me is that one image has the right angle, lighting, EVERYTHING, so that I got what I wanted out of the stream.  An afterthought is hurriedly going through the frames and creating almost a storybook movie as the angles slightly shift form frame to frame--bringing the pictures to life.

Sometimes if I find the pictures compelling, I will go back through and choose a series to create a compilation shot.  This is as simple as it sounds, a compilation of multiple images into one.  The end result shows the path of the bird, over a series of frames--the halfway between an actual animation and single static image.

My latest composite of a Bald Eagle at Eagle Mountain this week.

As someone who photographs birds, this is where I think I create some of my most compelling photographs.  Bringing that action of the multiple frames into one shot.  Being able to share multiple moments in one image with others who weren't there.  In part one of this 2 part series I am going to share with you some of my favorite composites and the story behind them.  In the 2nd part, I will share a brief tutorial on how to easily do this using Photoshop.

One of the first composites I put together was of this Long-tailed Duck.  None of the 3 images alone were all that great, but together they were somewhat more interesting.

Rough-legged Hawks are gorgeous birds.  This one was photographed in Salt Lake County, and the head movement of the bird is why I put the three images together.

When a falcon zips by most of the time if you were to blink you would miss it.  So when I caught this Prairie Falcon passing, I knew it would make a great composite.

At first glance Zone-tailed Hawk are often mistaken for Turkey Vultures.  In this series you can see the subtle details from each angle that can help ID'ing this bird.  The banded tail and checked underwings are much easier to see with the bird frozen in place.

With Red-tailed Hawks being so common and in many cases less weary of humans it's no surprise I have a few composites of this species.  This bird was in Lehi in the winter of 2011-2012 and appeared to be a Halran's or Harlans integrade. Although the underside of Harlan's Hawks are very impressive, this top side view shows the parts of the bird we usually don't see!

This is perhaps one of my favorite composites, and was taken on Bountiful Peak in 2007.  Jerry Liguori told me to be on the lookout for this Red-tailed Hawk.  When I did eventually see it I took as many pictures as I could.  Mostly leucistic with a completely red-tail and some dark flight feathers--this is an epic hawk.

This adult Harlan's Hawk was one of numerous that wintered around Lehi in 2011-2012 and was one of the most stunning individuals.  In this composite the bird is actually eating a meal in mid flight.

There isn't anything too special about this shot.  But this Northern Harrier flew parallel to me and I caught it in glide, flap, glide which looked real nice together.

When this Long-tailed Jaeger was reported at Quail Creek in 2007 I rushed down the following day.  Despite distant initial views the bird eventually took flight, and circled its way towards shore making a pass directly overhead.  It's not often you can get a shot of a jaeger like this in Utah, so the composite was a great way to show it in motion to those who didn't get to chase it.

Pale winged gulls are some of my favorite and last winter this "great white ghost" made a perfect pass for photos.  Glaucous Gulls in any light really stand out, especially when they are almost solid white!

I found this Little Gull at Antelope Island a few years ago but couldn't get any decent shots when I first saw it.  A couple days later I snuck away from the office and spent a few hours sitting in the rocks.  The bird would fly in and land near shore, before floating a couple hundred yards out into the lake.  It would then take flight and come almost back to where it started repeating the whole process.  That made the setup for catching the landing and this composite of my favorite gull.

This was my lifer Little Gull.  I was sitting in the parking lot at Miller Beach on the south shore of Lake Michigan in Indiana when I saw this bird flopping through the air.  It was several hundred yards off shore as it passed, so I just kept snapping shots till it was out of sight. I love this photo because it showed the contrast  between the pale top side and black underwings.

Check back in the next week for part 2 with a  quick how to on making these composites out of your own series of pictures.  In the mean time get out and photograph some birds in flight to give it a try!

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Blogger Bryce said...

Awesome composites Tim. I especially love the Red-tailed Hawks. I am so jealous of the leucistic RT. And then the adult Harlan's. Love those birds!

January 16, 2013 at 12:12 AM  
Blogger Kenny Frisch said...

Nice shots! Looks like we have the next Richard Crossley on our hands!

January 16, 2013 at 6:18 AM  
Anonymous Susan said...

Oh these are just wonderful. The eagle and the glaucous gull are my favorites.

January 16, 2013 at 11:06 AM  

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