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Thread: Would like help with hummingbird shots

  1. #1
    terrib's Avatar
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    Would like help with hummingbird shots

    I'm still trying the hummingbird shots. I am improving, but I'm ready for some help. These shots were set up with the flowers in the shade and the sun was on the background. But the background is forest. I did not use flash as I had nothing readily available to bounce it off.

    I used manual exposure and underexposed to keep the red flower from blowing out. In post (using Aperture), I had difficulty bringing up the brightness without blowing out the red flower.

    My specific questions are:

    1. Do I need to choose flower colors that don't easily blow out or should I be able to manage this somehow? I thought being in the shade would alleviate that problem but it did not.

    2. I'm not trying to freeze the wings, but all during the day I never seem to get enough light to be able to increase the DOF so I quite often miss getting the whole bird in focus. (unless subject is in full sun which causes other problems) Am I really going to have to use artificial light or do I just need to get out of the forest that is my yard?

    3. Can you see from the images and EXIF if I'm doing anything wrong?

    I appreciate your feedback. Thanks so much!

    Would like help with hummingbird shots

    Would like help with hummingbird shots

    Would like help with hummingbird shots

  2. #2
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    Re: Would like help with hummingbird shots

    Hi Teri,

    Firstly, I am no expert at bird photography but have viewed the recent threads on here of the hummingbirds. Your three shots above are excellent and you have managed to get the eyes and beak in perfect focus in all, well done !

    From looking at the Exif data and considering your three questions I'll make the following observations and comments that may help with improvement;

    1. I think the lighting is good but an area of red as in these shots is always a colour that is going to prove difficult. I am not conversant with Aperture but use PSE and my first thought regarding the 'brightening' was just to undertake it selectively on the bird but found an easier solution. I downloaded the pic to PSE, firstly desaturated the red a bit and this then enabled overall brightening (I simply did this using levels) of the whole image.

    The pic 'popped' without the red being saturated. I also undertook some basic noise removal.

    Should you pick another colour flower ? This is a matter of choice but I like the red.

    2. The only way you are going to get more of the bird in focus in these shots is by decreasing the aperture and you seem aware of the options here so I will not elaborate.

    3. Looking at the Exif 1/1000th, f6.3, ISO 1600 I can not see anything wrong. F6.3 is almost wide open on your lens (from the Exif) so it is likely the results will be a bit soft here but I found them acceptable at this size with just normal minor PP sharpening. The speed chosen has given what I consider is good movement but there may be some scope for reducing it slightly, may be worth a try. I found the noise could be removed easily so may be possible scope to increase the ISO slightly.

    Hope the above helps, Grahame

  3. #3
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: Would like help with hummingbird shots

    Hi Terri,

    I'm no bird guy either, Terri, but I have shot a couple of these birds on occasion and I’m afraid I’m going to have to go with Grahame on this one. Pretty much all around.

    Firstly, I think your shots are great. And I know how difficult these little critters can be at times. Especially in flight.

    I had a close look at your red flower (1st photo). I didn’t notice it blown. Then I had a closer look in PS and your red channel is definitely not showing any clipping. In fact, just to my naked eye the violet flower seems more saturated than does the red. But nothing was clipping. In fact, I was able to bring the levels down to around 240, in effect brightening the shot a bit. Gave it some contrast, reduced the BG noise, sharpened the bird and the flowers. I also gave the bird a little local saturation, and wrapped it in a subtle vignette when I played with it a little. Seems like when folks see a great photo they can’t wait to take it into editing to play with it! I guess I’m no exception!

    As regards your shutter speed, I think it is good as it is. If you could squeeze a little faster shutter out that might be good too, but from where I’m sitting, they look great with a little blur in the wings.

    I'm not so sure you have DoF issues as much as these birds are just so fast that it may be a little "bird-blur"! One reason I think this is that, for example, on #2 the tail is slightly blurred. But it seems pretty darn close to the same focal plane as the body, which is sharp.

    The backgrounds are great. If these were mine, I might see if I might like #2 with the flowers removed to show the bird in flight by itself, but I sure wouldn’t be hesitant to leave them in either. If I were you and liked the red flower, I’d leave it and go ahead and not be hesitant to shoot it. I personally like it.

    I don’t think these needed any artificial light to make them sing.

    I guess what I am trying to say, Terri, is that if I had taken these shots I would be extremely pleased. I think you have three beautiful keepers here.

    Very nice job.
    Last edited by Loose Canon; 9th August 2012 at 02:39 PM.

  4. #4
    terrib's Avatar
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    Re: Would like help with hummingbird shots

    Thank you Grahame for your detailed answer. There are some good suggestions that I will give a try.

    After reading my second question again, it does sound rather silly. I guess what I really meant to ask is if a flash is necessary to really get a good hummingbird picture. I can try to set up in a different location, but would it ultimately be a waste of time? Again, I'm not trying to completely stop motion but would like the whole bird in focus. ISO 1600 is the max my camera can do.

  5. #5
    terrib's Avatar
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    Re: Would like help with hummingbird shots

    Terry, I almost missed your reply as it looks like we were posting at the exact same time.

    Anyway, thank you for your encouragement. I guess I'm finding out in this and several of my other recent questions that I really need to spend more time learning how to take better advantage of my PP software. My skills with Aperture are pretty basic and PSE still intimidates me for some reason. I will set out a goal to work a little each day with PSE and see if I can't get more comfortable.

    Your observation that maybe the blur in the tail is not DOF is a good possibility that I never even thought of. Hmmmm. Guess I need to make sure I've identified the issue correctly before trying to solve it!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to help!

  6. #6

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    Re: Would like help with hummingbird shots

    Hi terri, I think you did a very good job with these shots. It looks like you could push your exposure a little more. (you can actually clip the red channel a little bit)

    Perhaps you misread or i didn't explain well enough. When i shot in the shade, it was the shade of a small tree. The sunlight was only a few feet away in the background (it actually bounced off the ground and illuminated the area under the tree, to an extent) What this did for me was back lit the humming bird , a small amount. ( i could still see shadow detail on the bird ) I then set the exposure for the background(slightly overexposed the background) and used fill flash to even out the exposure of the bird and flowers. If your not going to use fill flash, i wouldn't set up this way.

    If your not going to use a flash (and you don't have to, to get good shots), I would front light the subject (have the light behind you and off to one side or the other) with the softer morning sun. Make your background as bright as the subject to keep your shutter speeds up. (you may have to stop your lens down to f/9 or so to keep from blowing your highlights out.) Push your exposures to the right to reduce noise at high iso's. Add some noise reduction and extra sharpening to your workflow.


    You're getting there terri. A couple of tweeks to your set-up and a little more editing and you'll have it down.

  7. #7
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Would like help with hummingbird shots

    Quote Originally Posted by terrib View Post
    My skills with Aperture are pretty basic and PSE still intimidates me for some reason. I will set out a goal to work a little each day with PSE and see if I can't get more comfortable.
    Hi Terri,

    When I started with Elements (coming from Picasa) I worked my way up through the 3 different Editor interface styles and didn't get intimidated.

    Firstly, I only use the "Photoshop Elements Editor", I'm afraid I cannot help much with how you would access this on a Mac, as I gather there isn't a direct equivalent to the Windows (file) Explorer and the mouse doesn't have a right button to click, but in Windows I would navigate to a file on my HDD, right click it and select "Open With ..", if Elements opens with a welcome screen, I think there is an option to skip that in future, which you need to tick. If anyone with a Mac knows how to do this, please jump in and educate both of us

    Anyway, once a picture is open in the Editor, look towards the top right corner, there should be 3 tabs, the left hand (orange coloured) one says "EDIT" followed by a word and a droplist arrow, if you click on the down arrow to reveal the list, in turn, try out the three different options;
    Guided - this gives lots of help text, but you have to go through things one at a time and click OK or Cancel on bottom right before returning to the EDIT Guided menu
    Quick - this gives a selection of sliders (and some Auto buttons) to do basic stuff to a jpg
    Full - this gives the scary interface, not unlike big Photoshop, you have to access features via the much expanded range of buttons on left and menus across the top

    I started with Guided and moved to Quick when I found Guided slowed me down too much, then on to Full when I couldn't do what I wanted in Quick.

    Just ignore the ones you don't understand until either;
    you feel brave, or
    someone tells you 'how to' in a CiC reply

    I hope that helps and good luck,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 9th August 2012 at 06:53 PM.

  8. #8
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: Would like help with hummingbird shots

    Piece of cake, Dave!

    To access the “open as” on a Mac, without a right-click desk rat (and you can get one for a Mac should the desire strike), simply hold the “control” key while clicking the file. That is your right click.

    Elements should be in the choices, or choose “other” and go from there. If it’s on your machine, it should be there. You can also set preferences to auto open photo files with Elements.

    Terri, I think Steve hit the nail on the head. Your Hummers spoke to me and I think you have them in the bag.

    I was hoping to get out to my Hummer Spot. Instead, when I get home I’m going under construction for a kitchen remodel! I have three words for the total excitement I am feeling! “Hoop-ti-do”! It will take up all of my available time and I’ll be lucky to get a quick shot of the nail I just drove through my stupid hand as I slammed my thumb with a hammer! Can’t wait to post that!

    But I’m excited for you, Terri! Go get ‘em!

  9. #9
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Would like help with hummingbird shots

    Quote Originally Posted by Loose Canon View Post
    To access the “open as” on a Mac, without a right-click desk rat (and you can get one for a Mac should the desire strike), simply hold the “control” key while clicking the file. That is your right click.
    In Mac-speak, isn't that called the Cmd (command) key?

    My intention is to update (all) my instructions to be more Mac friendly, so I might as well use the correct vernacular

    Thanks,

  10. #10
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: Would like help with hummingbird shots

    No Dave...

    It is the key that is labeled "control".

    The command key is two keys to your right and is labeled "command".

  11. #11
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Would like help with hummingbird shots

    Quote Originally Posted by Loose Canon View Post
    No Dave...

    It is the key that is labeled "control".

    The command key is two keys to your right and is labeled "command".
    Ooops, Good job I asked

    Thanks again!

  12. #12
    terrib's Avatar
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    Re: Would like help with hummingbird shots

    Steve, your explanations were great. It's me not explaining what I mean very well and not executing what I read. The sun was on the ground behind the subject and also illuminating the trees in the background. I did choose the lightest color tree in the background to aim for which made some difference. It makes sense what you are saying about using that setup for flash and a different one if I don't use flash. I'll give it a try as soon as my flowers bloom again. The deer ate them last night. Oh the trials of a photographer.

    Thanks Dave for the response on Elements. I'm actually pretty proficient with the MAC, just not PSE. I have used the Quick Edit tab with some success but I can actually do more with Aperture than Quick Edit in PSE. But it's the Full Edit tab that I get lost with. I have a pretty good instructional book on PSE. I just need to take the time to sit down with it. It's good to know if I run into road blocks when going through it, I can ask here for help!

    Terry, I feel for you on the remodel. Been there done that a few times!! Thanks again for your kind comments.

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