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Thread: Eagle in Flight - Help please

  1. #1
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Yesterday I was out trying to photograph those nesting herons in that high tree, and lucky me, an eagle flew overhead and I had my camera set for birds in flight. It was quite the sight to see and hear with the eagle amidst the herons. Happy to report the eagle didn't get away with any baby herons.



    Nikon D80 with a Tamron 200-400 AF 5.6 lens

    Please note that I'm trying not to use an iso above 800 to minimize noise, and photographing wide open with as fast a shutter speed as I can manage for the lighting conditions (8am side lit I think because it was back lit the other way) which were not great but I had to try because of course it is an eagle...

    My focus is not quite sharp enough, that I can work on... but I'm wondering about how to avoid/overcome those shadows under the wings.


    Raw Photo 100% crop

    Manual Matrix iso 640 SS 1600 F 5.6

    Eagle in Flight - Help please


    My edit using LR 100% crop... If I try to lighten up the dark wing the noise is too much.


    Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Are there different settings I could try to capture a better photo in the same conditions? with respect to focus I had it centered, continuous but the number of shots I could manage were limited. If I had a higher quality long lens would that make a big difference under these conditions?

    How is my edit?

    PS yes, I'm still on my break from C&C but I'd like to go back to see if the eagle returns and try again so I need help sooner rather than later. Maybe I should try panning with a slower shutter speed for more light... Is it possible to do that and still achieve sharp focus... Or is the fact of the matter that I just have to get closer and at eye level for a good shot of an eagle?

    Thank you.
    Last edited by Brownbear; 30th June 2013 at 05:01 PM.

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    splashy's Avatar
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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    I like the picture, what you could do is make picture in Raw.
    Doing so you can make a darker picture (about 2 shutter stops)
    Or try to find a place with a light colored soil.
    PP in lightroom 5

    Eagle in Flight - Help please

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Thank you Splashy.

    If you mean edit the photo in raw, I did edit the raw photo in LR. I thought the photo needed to be lightened to bring out the detail? I'm not sure I understand your recommendation but your edit does look better than mine.

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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    You have all the good birds.

    First off, no you do not need a better lens.

    You were shooting herons, so your settings were for brighter birds. Then you had to suddenly turn away and shoot a much darker bird that is backlit.

    So this sort of result is to be expected.

    Next time take a reading of dark foliage against bright sky and adjust that until you get to the point where the foliage shows up without blowing the sky. That would be your dark underside against sky setting. Either assign that to a custom button or to shutter priority. Go back to your regular mode for anything not backlit and once you see your target switch to that custom function or TV button, track and fire away.

    That is the simple way. What I have been experimenting with lately is running the shutter button in real time. ie faster for bright undersides and slower for dark ones. Seems to work but still need to fine tune the technique. The important thing is to remember the setting that will blow the sky and as long as you keep under that it should be fine.

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    This is the first eagle I've spotted that wasn't up a 500 meter tree. But now I know where he hangs out.

    How exactly do you know that it is back lit as opposed to side lit... There was back lighting but I was doing my best not to shoot into the sun, photographed on an angle so I think this is side lit.

    Good to know. Thank you.. Very helpful... I am definitely going to go back with the hopes that the eagle returns and try that, exactly. Even if the eagle doesn't return I will try it out on a dark bird. And I'm fine with blowing the sky.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bobobird View Post
    You have all the good birds.

    First off, no you do not need a better lens.

    You were shooting herons, so your settings were for brighter birds. Then you had to suddenly turn away and shoot a much darker bird that is backlit.

    So this sort of result is to be expected.

    Next time take a reading of dark foliage against bright sky and adjust that until you get to the point where the foliage shows up without blowing the sky. That would be your dark underside against sky setting. Either assign that to a custom button or to shutter priority. Go back to your regular mode for anything not backlit and once you see your target switch to that custom function or TV button, track and fire away.

    That is the simple way. What I have been experimenting with lately is running the shutter button in real time. ie faster for bright undersides and slower for dark ones. Seems to work but still need to fine tune the technique. The important thing is to remember the setting that will blow the sky and as long as you keep under that it should be fine.

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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Side light, back light basically is the same. Instead of 2 black undersides, it is one or the other. Whichever scenario requires looking for an optimum exposure, preferably without blowing anything.

    An eagle is not a fast mover. Try ducks coming in.

  7. #7
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Thank you... I noted that duck photo, simply incredible! It should have my name on it and I intend to capture one of my own one day!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobobird View Post
    Side light, back light basically is the same. Instead of 2 black undersides, it is one or the other. Whichever scenario requires looking for an optimum exposure, preferably without blowing anything.

    An eagle is not a fast mover. Try ducks coming in.

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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    Thank you Splashy.

    If you mean edit the photo in raw, I did edit the raw photo in LR. I thought the photo needed to be lightened to bring out the detail? I'm not sure I understand your recommendation but your edit does look better than mine.

    If you take the picture in raw most of the time you can underexpose by about 2 stops, so that's to stops shutter more than the normal picture, this gives you a darker picture but sharper because of the higher speed.
    In LR you can adjust the shutter = lightning up the final result.

    The PP I did on you eagle was with 1 brush on the dark parts, lightning, shadows, sharper, noise reduction and I changed the overall picture color.

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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Quote Originally Posted by splashy View Post
    If you take the picture in raw most of the time you can underexpose by about 2 stops, so that's to stops shutter more than the normal picture, this gives you a darker picture but sharper because of the higher speed.
    In LR you can adjust the shutter = lightning up the final result.
    While it is true that higher shutter speed always helps with sharpness, noise hides in the shadows and noise kills detail. Particularly with a camera like the D80 which has a CCD sensor, noise shows up badly if you underexpose and try to recover detail in PP. If one wants to push exposure and recover in post, better off pushing the right side of the histogram. There is more data in the raw file with more light and less noise. You can typically recover at least one stop of "blown" highlights in raw.

    With ss of 1/1600 in this image, that wasn't likely the source of blurriness. Not on a BE in straight line flight. Also the far side wing looks sharper than the head and near side which suggests the focal plane was beyond the bird's body.

    This is a tough situation, Christina. You were all set up to shoot one subject and had to take a quick shot at something completely different. Pretty cool that the bird was looking down at you. Either that or you were real close to something edible that he was looking at But sounds like now you know where he hangs out and opportunity is a big part of the game.

    By the way, I was confused by the original post. When you say 100% crop, do you mean that the image you posted was cropped down to full resolution?

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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobobird View Post
    ...An eagle is not a fast mover....
    Surely you jest. Check out this guy
    Last edited by NorthernFocus; 1st July 2013 at 12:30 AM.

  11. #11
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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Thank you so much Dan... I want my eagles to look just like your eagles, so truly appreciated.

    Yes, I've noticed that using a higher iso and also noise kills detail... I was set up to try and catch a heron so the photo is a tad exposed to the right (All the herons have over exposed heads and white patches, plus underexposed dark wings from the side/back lighting so it did not work either.)

    A CCD sensor? What does this mean?

    With respect to the focal plane, perhaps my focus was on one of the herons flying around the eagle and that I just could not manage to refocus quick enough on the eagle to make it sharp?

    The eagle was trying to get away from the herons, so perhaps I looked like good alternative to a baby heron.

    Yes, hopefully the eagle will return and I will try a lower shutter speed and my best panning skills.

    Cropped 100% means I cropped the photo to show it at its worst, or at its best (depending on the photographer) ie; as in the case of the eye of your gull.


    Thank you.


    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernFocus View Post
    While it is true that higher shutter speed always helps with sharpness, noise hides in the shadows and noise kills detail. Particularly with a camera like the D80 which has a CCD sensor, noise shows up badly if you underexpose and try to recover detail in PP. If one wants to push exposure and recover in post, better off pushing the right side of the histogram. There is more data in the raw file with more light and less noise. You can typically recover at least one stop of "blown" highlights in raw.

    With ss of 1/1600 in this image, that wasn't likely the source of blurriness. Not on a BE in straight line flight. Also the far side wing looks sharper than the head and near side which suggests the focal plane was beyond the bird's body.

    This is a tough situation, Christina. You were all set up to shoot one subject and had to take a quick shot at something completely different. Pretty cool that the bird was looking down at you. Either that or you were real close to something edible that he was looking at But sounds like now you know where he hangs out and opportunity is a big part of the game.

    By the way, I was confused by the original post. When you say 100% crop, do you mean that the image you posted was cropped down to full resolution?

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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    ...A CCD sensor? What does this mean?....
    CCD was the type of sensor used in the older DSLRs by Nikon. The D80/D200 sensor was the last one to use CCD. They made a big deal out of switching to CMOS and better noise performance with the D90/D300 but I think it was more due to the level of technology than to sensor type. Back in the day, CCD was thought to produce better images but when they switched to CMOS they touted better noise performance. So who knows how much was due to better technology and how much was just marketing hype?

  13. #13
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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Backlit, dark subject...pretty much impossible to shoot this properly exposed. Even with high end gear.
    To properly expose the bird the sky would be totally blown out.

    I think the only way you can recover the shadows would to to use LightRoom or equivalent to raise the shadows only. Might save the image.

    I had a D80 and birds in flight are not really it's best feature. I think for the equipment you are using you did a good job with this. With that set up you need good light.
    I am not trying to be negative towards your gear, but there are a couple of areas of photography that you just cannot get away from the necessity of fast prime telephoto lenses and cameras that can take advantage of them. Birds in flight is one of these, sports is another.

    I am not saying you cannot get some beautiful images with your set up, just that you will need good light.

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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernFocus View Post
    Surely you jest. Check out this guy
    We are speaking in relative terms here. When he is soaring he is not all that fast. At least he is trackable.

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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Hi Christina,

    As you probably know, I am not a birder. The simple reason is I do not have the gear to shoot BIF. With a Sigma 70-300mm lens I will miss all the shots that really matter.

    Common sense tells me I will set my camera to:

    1. Continuous AF
    2. Spot metering.
    3. ISO Auto to a max of 1600.
    4. Choose an appropriate Shutter Speed. I see most birders shoot at very high shutter speeds.
    5. Aperture wide open to compensate for Shutter Speed.

    The Tamron lens with a maximum aperture of 5.6 is probably not the best of birding lenses around. At wide open Apertures sharpness on the Tamron falls away drastically towards the edges – according to tests. Shooting wide open with that lens you need to keep the subject as close to the centre of the lens as possible.

    Do not be disheartened, you are doing just fine with the equipment you are using. I would like to see you shoot BIF with a Nikon D600 fitted with a 400mm F2.8 lens.

    It is not you lacking the ability to get the shot, it is your equipment not being up to scratch to do the job. I might be barking up the wrong tree here but what I found with my D200 and a Nikkor 18-135mm lens is that it does have problems with focus tracking, in continuous AF, when zoomed in. At this stage I cannot confirm it to be a problem, (it could be an IBM fault – Idiot Behind Machine) I need to do more testing. You might be interested in doing some testing yourself.

    You got a very pleasing shot here and the light was beautiful. The matrix metering made you miss out on getting the correct exposure on the bird. Is your camera set up to only release the shutter once your subject is in focus?

    It is good practice for you taking shots like this and the more you practice the less shots you will miss.

    Well done.

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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    Hi Christina,

    As you probably know, I am not a birder....
    Andre, you normally provide sound, logical advice. Not being a birder is evidenced as follows:

    1. Continuous AF
    Agreed

    2. Spot metering.
    If one is going to shoot auto exposure AND can hold the spot on the bird in flight, OK. Shooting a dark brown eagle against a bright sky and letting the spot slip off the bird will result in badly underexposed bird.

    3. ISO Auto to a max of 1600.
    Totally dependent on camera body and only if you're content with shooting AE. I'd not shoot that high on a D80 if I could help it.

    4. Choose an appropriate Shutter Speed. I see most birders shoot at very high shutter speeds.
    Logical but varies by species. For example 1/1250 is my min. for eagles but 1/2000 for terns and ducks.

    5. Aperture wide open to compensate for Shutter Speed.
    Totally equipment and subject dependent. When shooting species like eagles, GBH, geese, etc, one needs to have awareness of DOF at likely target range so as not to have blurry wing tips on crossing shots. It took me a couple of years and a lot of blurry wingtips to figure this one out using ever higher ss before it finally occurred to me. For example with a 400mm lens, f5.6, DOF is just over 6 ft at a focal range of 120 ft.

    The Tamron lens with a maximum aperture of 5.6 is probably not the best of birding lenses around. At wide open Apertures sharpness on the Tamron falls away drastically towards the edges according to tests...
    Not relevant on a cropped sensor camera body which only uses the center of the image. This is on advantage of cropped sensor cameras is that one can use less expensive glass and get good sharpness. Plus distortion effects aren't typically noticeable shooting wildlife which rarely has straight lines where the distortion can be noticed.

    Do not be disheartened, you are doing just fine with the equipment you are using...
    On this one we are in complete agreement

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Thank you to all for your very helpful replies.

    Monte,thank you for sharing.

    Yes, I have captured some nice shots in good light.. It is in low light conditions that I struggle and of course if the bird is an eagle or a dancing duck it's frustrating...

    I am going to upgrade my camera and long lens sometime this year. It will be the first time I buy a brand new camera and expensive so I will have to live with my decision for a few years so I'm waiting until I'm 100% sure of my decision. It will very likely be a Nikon 7100 but I am also leaning toward the Sony A77 because of the image stabilization. I rarely use a tripod and my first used dslr was a Sony 200 and my BIF photos were pretty sharp, but I used this particular camera in Mexico and the light was better there than in Vancouver. Part of me is leaning toward the Nikon D600 for less noise in low light which is when the birds are out and about... and although slower then the above two cameras it is still faster than my D80...

    With respect to lightening the shadows it is just too noisy so this photo will be trashed as soon as I manage a better shot of an eagle.

    Bobo.. yes indeed when ducks are coming in for a landing and flapping their wings they are like little rockets.

    Andre... Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed and informative reference, and for your encouragement. I keep playing with different metering to see which works best and will try spot metering again. With respect to faster shutter speeds if I go above 1600 in low light my photos are often jet black, so I'm trying to see if I can manage a sharp shot with a slower shutter speed. I've tried auto iso but I'm not fond of it because when I go above iso 800 the detail is poor and the noise is just too much for a full size photo even with good exposure.

    Here are my best shots using iso auto 1100, F6, Exp comp +.3 shutter speed 2000 photographed in bright sunlight, original jpegs cropped 100%... At a shutter speed of 2500 the birds would be jet black

    Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Eagle in Flight - Help please


    Eagle in Flight - Help please


    Andre... what do you mean by the following statement?

    Is your camera set up to only release the shutter once your subject is in focus?

    Dan... Thank you so much for filling in all the additional details

    Thank you to all.
    Last edited by Brownbear; 1st July 2013 at 03:58 PM. Reason: thank Dan

  18. #18

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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Christina,

    In the menu under A1 and A2 you have options to control shutter release. It can be set either to release only when focus is achieved or whenever you press the shutter button.
    It is called AF-S Mode priority and AF-C Mode priority.
    Set both to FOCUS.

    PS: How much did you crop this image?
    Last edited by AB26; 1st July 2013 at 03:25 PM.

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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernFocus View Post
    Not relevant on a cropped sensor camera body which only uses the center of the image. This is on advantage of cropped sensor cameras is that one can use less expensive glass and get good sharpness. Plus distortion effects aren't typically noticeable shooting wildlife which rarely has straight lines where the distortion can be noticed.
    Dan you are confusing me.

    Shooting with an FX lens on a DX format body makes the outer edges of the image to ” fall off” the sensor. Shooting a DX lens on an FX body you have a DX crop on a FF sensor. Why?

    Why do I get so much vignetting on my DX camera when shooting with a DX lens, wide open? Will I get the same vignetting shooting an equal quality FX lens on a DX body?

    Is Christina’s lens an FX lens or a DX lens?

    Thanks for the helpful hints.

  20. #20
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Eagle in Flight - Help please

    Thank you Andre... I can't find either A1 or A2 or AF-S or AF- C mode priority in my camera menu. I am pretty sure that I do not have this set because I can click the shutter button even if I haven't achieved focus... Perhaps I'm missing something obvious?

    100% crop


    I think it is a DX lens, not sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    Christina,

    In the menu under A1 and A2 you have options to control shutter release. It can be set either to release only when focus is achieved or whenever you press the shutter button.
    It is called AF-S Mode priority and AF-C Mode priority.
    Set both to FOCUS.
    Last edited by Brownbear; 1st July 2013 at 04:11 PM.

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