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Thread: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

  1. #1
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    I'm working on improving my photos of birds in action or in flight. The following were photographed Manual, SS 2000, Aperture 8, iso 1600, Exp Comp +.67, Matrix metering with a Nikon D80 and a Tamron 200-400 mm lens (No vibration reduction, hand held)... Photographed in bright, late afternoon sunlight.

    SS 2000 trying to follow Joe's advice for sharp action photos of birds but any higher for me and the exposure is too, low.

    F8 because anything wider gives me purple/green fringing and also for adequate depth of field.

    ISO 1600 which is way to high for my camera but the only way to up the exposure. The noise and quality is not bad in the small size but not great full size. I usually try to stay with iso 800 but just couldn't manage it with such a high shutter speed.

    Anyway I think this first shot is a pretty good action shot so I'm happy about that. I'm not fond of the green coloured water (lots of algae) so next time I'll look for ducks hanging about in nicer water.

    Ducks in Action - Still Trying


    In this photo I blew the white part of the inside of the wing so that is why the rest of the duck and the water is a bit underexposed. In hindsight I think I should have tried to spot meter but its hard to do with birds moving about.


    Ducks in Action - Still Trying


    And this duck photo is a rather awkward, a bit funny and gibbled, but I like the detail I caught in the feathers of the wings (LOL) so I'm posting it just for fun.


    Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Sharing to show that I am learning from everyone here...

    Comments and feedback, are always appreciated.

  2. #2

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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Hi Christina,

    I like the first one a lot (the green water in that one is ok for me). The only suggestion is to maybe crop the first from the right by taking away half the distance to the tip of the white rock (tail feather?).

    George

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Thank you, George. I like the 1st one, too although I wish the water was prettier. I appreciate the recommendation on cropping and will try it out.

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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    The third mallard certainly looks the worse for wear! Perhaps he's moulting?

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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    LOL! Could be noise and my WB

    Quote Originally Posted by Cantab View Post
    The third mallard certainly looks the worse for wear! Perhaps he's moulting?
    PS He could've been moulting, not sure.
    Last edited by Brownbear; 9th May 2013 at 02:43 PM.

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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    I know you want maximum sharpness but why not open the aperture to 5.6 and ease up on the ISO a little? Is that lens easy to handhold?

    Nice images, I like the wing pattern you've captured.

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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Hi Christina,

    Terrific shots! I like the colors.
    Hey, 200-400mm handheld, talking about steady hands!


  8. #8
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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Thank you Victor. I find using a tripod too cumbersome for action shots and practice a lot. I think it is better to use a tripod but I can't manage it for action shots. One day I hope to get a lens with image stabilization, and I think that will help.

    Quote Originally Posted by nimitzbenedicto View Post
    Hi Christina,

    Terrific shots! I like the colors.
    Hey, 200-400mm handheld, talking about steady hands!


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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Hi John,

    The challenge that I have with my camera/lens for action shots with birds in action/flight is that if I use the largest aperture 5.6 to photograph dark birds like this duck my photos have a lot of chromatic aberration and while I can fix this in LR it takes away from the quality of the photo and I don't like the results.

    If I use a lower shutter speed my photos are usually not sharp enough. When I try to photograph birds in action above a SS of 1600 my photos are too dark and if I open up the aperture it's back to CA challenge. While I sometimes manage to capture sharp shots by panning, tracking and pre-focusing it is always a huge challenge. If I up the iso above 800 the quality of the photo is affected and there is also too, much noise in full size photos.

    When I photographed these birds I was determined to find a way to use a high shutter speed, photographing in bright light on a sunny afternoon but had challenges (see photos below) so I just gave in to using a high ISO to see what would happen. I like that I caught the action and the detail of the duck but that is about it because I like my photos to look pretty and I think the water in my photos is unattractive.

    From the same photo shoot using a wider aperture.. original jpegs cropped 100%

    SS 1/2000 A 5.6 iso 560 Exp. Comp +.7 (too dark, not sharp, noisy, and CA)

    Ducks in Action - Still Trying


    As above but iso 1100 (a little better, sharper but still the same problem)

    Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    SS 1/2500, F7, iso 1100 (as above with focus missed)

    Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    And as above but with ISO 1600 (sharper, but still too dark and some CA)

    Ducks in Action - Still Trying


    I plan on upgrading my camera (faster and better focusing, especially in low light) and my long lens (to include image stabilization) later this year. Right now I just keep practicing to learn and improve my technique.. Every once in a while I manage a great shot but it's challenging.

    The lens is a bit heavy but I'm getting used to it. I prefer to hand hold for birds in action rather than miss opportunities. The lens has a push pull mechanism to change the focal length which I don't like and no image stabilization but I'm hoping that by the time I upgrade these types of shots will feel easy because of my practice. But it is a long lens and I'm happy to have that

    Thank you. I do like the fact that the duck is sharp and the detail in the wings, especially in the first shot.

    Here is a sample of a good BIF shot (just the jpeg cropped 100%) last year... So sometimes I can do it with my camera. (has CA but just a little) .. I'd like to be able to do it more often with greater ease.

    Ducks in Action - Still Trying


    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    I know you want maximum sharpness but why not open the aperture to 5.6 and ease up on the ISO a little? Is that lens easy to handhold?

    Nice images, I like the wing pattern you've captured.
    Last edited by Brownbear; 9th May 2013 at 03:26 PM. Reason: add photo

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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Hi Christina, nice images. I like the first a lot. After reading the thread I have a few comments. I will give up noise for sharpness any day. I can deal with a little noise in post processing, softness in an image cannot be fixed. You mentioned you lens does not have vibration reduction, don't worry about it. VR normally only works at shutter speeds lower than 1/500, for sharpness hand holding our shutter speeds are going to be higher than that or at that limit. The purple and green fringing you see in some images is on edges that are slightly our of focus, that also can be handled in post processing in Lightroom 4.

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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Hi Joe,
    Thank you. As you know I am a huge fan of your bird photos so your comment means a lot.

    I am doing the tutorials in LR that you recommended, (thank you) and I will also have to learn about noise reduction programs. I worry about noise because I am trying to get into stock photography and they reject images with even a hint of noise which for my camera is at iso 400. (full size) Plus the only reason I captured the above ducks is that the light was bright.. If I tried the above in low light my photos would be underexposed. I want to be able to capture special birds in low light...

    I did not know that about VR so that is great to know. Thank you.

    Okay. I will work on learning how to fix it in LR.

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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    A few thoughts:

    - Nice improvements, I can see you are getting better already.

    - To really improve your bird photos (in particular these waterfowl), I suggest you get as low of an angle as possible. I guarantee it will make a gigantic improvement in the shots in a number of ways. If this means laying on the ground, getting dirty, looking like a crazy person, etc, so be it. I will trade getting dirty and putting in the effort for getting a better shot, any day.

    - I would always upgrade a lens before the camera, because IMO the glass makes a bigger difference in image quality than the camera. Of course a better camera, if you are experienced and know your equipment, can help you get better photos (less noise, more fps, better AF, etc)

    - I've been shooting bird photos in the evening lately, and have found that early evening has softer light and makes for better shots, however is still surprisingly bright. In other words, I can still have a fast shutter speed but get better lighting at the same time.

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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Thank you, Matt

    So be it, next time around I will lie down on the ground!

    I hope to do both later this year.

    Thank you for sharing, I will try it out.
    Last edited by Brownbear; 10th May 2013 at 12:45 PM.

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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Whatever you have done Christina, it has improved your shots by miles. Great, keep on doing it!

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Thank you Andre... It is simply persistence and listening to all the advice I receive here

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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Hello Christina, I am still following this thread. I looked at the images you posted in response to John, do not be disappointed in them. Photographing dark colored birds against a bright sky is next to impossible to expose. Either the birds is too dark or the sky is overexposed, no way around it. The dynamic range of our cameras cannot handle those two extremes, no camera can.

    Now on to noise... images are noisy because the noise is stronger than the light signal falling on the sensor. High shutter speeds and high ISO does not lead to noise if the light is bright enough and the shadows not too deep. Think of ISO as the volume control on a radio... the higher it goes the more sensitive the sensor becomes. When the shutter speed increases the period that light hits the sensor is shortened thus the sensor needs to be more sensitive to it. If the light is bright enough and the dynamic range of the sensor has not been exceeded noise will not be a problem. The herons you commented on in my other thread were shot at 1/2500 with the ISO being 1200 and 1600.

    In your response to my other reply you mentioned you wanted to shoot special birds in low light, unfortunately telephoto lenses are not low light lenses. Most are f4 or f5.6 a few are f2.8 but as soon as a tele-converter is added it is back to f4 or f5.6. So in nature/bird photography we are doomed to shooting in good light, also the focus/detail is so much better in good light. You mentioned in my other thread you were amazed at the detail in the dragonfly, that was because the mid-morning light was bright... plenty of contrast thus good focusing for the smallest detail to be sharp.

    Work in good light and do not be afraid of high ISO's.
    Last edited by jprzybyla; 11th May 2013 at 11:54 AM.

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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Quote Originally Posted by jprzybyla View Post
    High shutter speeds and high ISO does not lead to noise if the light is bright enough and the shadows not too deep.
    Joe,
    When I discovered that I came to the conclusion that camera reviewers can actually “cheat” prospective buyers in impressing with high ISO capabilities of the specific camera. If I am not mistaken I came to the conclusion that – the lower the dynamic range in the scène the less noise is created by high ISO. Am I right?

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    I'd like to know more about this, too.

    Joe...

    Photographing dark colored birds against a bright sky is next to impossible to expose. Either the birds is too dark or the sky is overexposed, no way around it. The dynamic range of our cameras cannot handle those two extremes, no camera can.

    Surely it must be possible? ie; someone somewhere, somehow must take photos like this? When I was in Mexico flocks of black-bellied whistling ducks used to fly (high up) at first light and right before it was dark. They are beautiful ducks with pink feet and when I return for a visit I hope to be able to get a good photo of these beauties.

    And Brown Mexican Chachalacas, very shy, dark brown birds that are seen flying only at dawn and dusk... I'm just of the mind that is possible to capture good photos of these types of birds, in flight in low light.

    By any chance do you have any photos of dark birds in flight against a blue sky, taken at dawn or dusk (or near those times) that you have taken that you could share?

    Thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    Joe,
    When I discovered that I came to the conclusion that camera reviewers can actually “cheat” prospective buyers in impressing with high ISO capabilities of the specific camera. If I am not mistaken I came to the conclusion that – the lower the dynamic range in the scène the less noise is created by high ISO. Am I right?
    Last edited by Brownbear; 11th May 2013 at 02:06 PM. Reason: add bird name

  19. #19
    jprzybyla's Avatar
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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    I'd like to know more about this, too.

    Joe...

    Photographing dark colored birds against a bright sky is next to impossible to expose. Either the birds is too dark or the sky is overexposed, no way around it. The dynamic range of our cameras cannot handle those two extremes, no camera can.

    Surely it must be possible? ie; someone somewhere, somehow must take photos like this? When I was in Mexico flocks of black-bellied whistling ducks used to fly (high up) at first light and right before it was dark. They are beautiful ducks with pink feet and when I return for a visit I hope to be able to get a good photo of these beauties.

    By any chance do you have any photos of dark birds in flight against a blue sky, taken at dawn or dusk (or near those times) that you have taken that you could share?



    Thank you.[/QUOTE]

    Hello Christina, yes possible but only if the light is hitting the bird correctly. Below I have posted a Black-belled Whistling Duck photographed early morning with the sun behind me. Look at the shadows on the underside of the wings, that is how the light was falling on the dark birds against the bright sky. Now look at how the light falls on the head, neck and breast of the duck... that is much better. Underside of the wings are in the shadows, head, neck, and breast are not. I pushed the underside of the wings to the limit reducing the noise and opening the shadows using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom working on just those areas. This is why photographing birds that are in front of you with the sun falling on you back is ideal. When I go out on a photo shoot the first thing I do is locate the light then make a mental note... I can shoot there but hot here and hope the the birds encountered will be where I can capture them with the best light.

    Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    The underside of the wings is how the light was falling on the birds you posted against the bright sky.

    Interesting bird, it has web feet with claws for perching in trees.

  20. #20
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Ducks in Action - Still Trying

    Thank you Joe! That is my bird photo (one day!) Will do... Truly appreciated. Thanks a million! etc....

    Yes, they are very interesting birds. They are monogamous for years, and share parenting tasks. And I love those pink feet!
    Last edited by Brownbear; 11th May 2013 at 04:01 PM. Reason: add info on bird

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