Benefits of Pulse Shooting

This article discusses the benefits of pulse shooting and shares a selection of osprey images captured on Middletown Road in the Flamborough Ontario area, using this technique.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/3200, ISO-1250, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3740 pixels on the width, subject distance 75.9 metres

Rather than taking long, uninterrupted continuous auto-focus image runs of birds-in-flight, I’ve been using multiple series of short bursts (i.e. pulse shooting)  instead.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4147 pixels on the width, subject distance 62.6 metres

One of the benefits of pulse shooting is buffer management. When photographing birds-in-flight it can be difficult to predict what a bird will decide to do next on its flight path. Committing too many frames of our available buffer early in a bird’s flight can sometimes result in missed images if we use up our available buffer.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3147 pixels on the height, subject distance 59.5 metres

Pulse shooting enables us to capture photographs of critical movements during a bird’s flight, while avoiding unnecessary repetition. Due to the impact of rhythmic motion we can often get repeating body positions every 4-6 frames during an image run.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3813 pixels on the width, subject distance 60.5 metres

Limiting the number of repetitive photographs we capture directly reduces our editing time spent in post processing, and can save hard drive space on our computer systems.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 381 mm, efov 762 mm, f/8.7, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3499 pixels on the width, subject distance 54.4 metres

Using pulse shooting technique also encourages us to be more discerning about what specific actions and body positions we are planning to photograph with birds-in-flight. This helps develop our critical thinking as photographers, and can also contribute to improved shot planning.

During my short visit to Middletown Road I had the opportunity to capture a short series of consecutive images of an osprey landing in a tree,  as you can see below.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3696 pixels on the width, subject distance 74.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3696 pixels on the width, subject distance 75.2 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3355 pixels on the width, subject distance 75.1 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3103 pixels on the width, subject distance 75.2 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3344 pixels on the width, subject distance 75.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3425 pixels on the width, subject distance 74.7 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3395 pixels on the width, subject distance 73.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3311 pixels on the width, subject distance 72.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3475 pixels on the width, subject distance 71.5 metres

The 9 photographs above are from the third pulse shooting series I captured after the osprey flew from its nesting box. If I would have fired off one long run and used up my buffer I would have missed these images of the osprey landing in a tree.

Pulse shooting can be used with a wide range of subject matter regardless of the camera format, brand and model that you happen to use.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted. This is the 1,034th article published on this website since its original inception.

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4 thoughts on “Benefits of Pulse Shooting”

  1. Thanks, in particular the tip to press down as bird leaves the frame. I keep jumping the gun at the slightest forward movement and end up with 70-80 % images with no subject sitting on the branch!

    1. Hi Mark,

      I’ve found that changing the timing of my shutter release was one of the habits most difficult to adjust. It feels counter intuitive to depress my shutter release after the bird has done the anticipated action. It took a bit of practice… now it feels quite natural to use Pro Capture.

      Folks need to adjust their pre and post shutter frames to determine the best settings for themselves. If the Pro Capture run ends with a bird halfway through the frame the photographer has likely depressed the shutter release too early. If there are no images of the bird leaving its perch, then the photographer was a bit later in their shutter release timing.

      One of the reasons that I never use Pro Capture L for birds taking flight, especially small birds, is that I found there are an insufficient number of frames being shot quickly enough to capture small changes in body and wing position. Pro Capture H at 60 fps gives me the results I want. The challenge is working with the first frame locking auto-focus… so the flight angle of the bird becomes more critical.

      Tom

  2. Useful article, especially since I recently got an E-M1.2. With your ProCap L what balance of pre-post image counts are you using? I have been wading through batches of 20 plus images without a bird in them but this is mainly for take off scenarios.

    1. Hi Mark,

      With Pro Capture L I have my Pre-Shutter frames set to 10. I do not set any Frame Limiter so I can shoot longer bursts if needed.. although I seldom do so. I usually take short Pre-Shutter bursts of 10 images when photographing birds-in-flight when using Pro Capture L. I track with the subject bird half depressing my shutter release until the bird exhibits the desired behaviour(s). I never use Pro Capture L for birds taking flight… I only use Pro Capture H for this photographic scenario.

      When using Pro Capture H I use a frame rate of 60 fps. My Pre-Shutter Frames are set at 15, and my Frame Limiter is also set to 15. These settings give me a 1/4 second to respond to a bird taking flight. When I fully depress my shutter my camera captures only the 15 Pre-Shutter frames. As far as shutter release timing goes I wait until the subject bird is leaving my frame before I fully depress my shutter.

      Tom

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