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Thread: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

  1. #1
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    This morning I was practicing spot metering with BIF, and pleased to capture this goose coming in for a landing.

    I think that the spot metering works well to expose the bird, but at the sacrifice of nailing the focus on the eye (because I can only manage to hold the button on the belly of the bird, so even though the bird is in focus the center point is not on the eye - is it possible to do this?)

    Manual SS 2500, A 8 iso 900 No exposure comp.

    Anyway even though I like my goose in action, something about the water looks funny.

    A couple of uncropped shots showing the water in the area

    Photographing birds over water and spot metering


    Photographing birds over water and spot metering


    Cropped Versions of the goose I liked best

    Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    In an attempt to fix the water I used LR and decreased the highlights in the photo below, but for some reason I think that decreasing the highlights is not a good thing to do to a photo?

    Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    In summary I'm hoping for recommendations on how to spot meter birds over water (and keep focus on the eye if possible), or perhaps matrix metering is the better choice...?

    And how to edit water in LR... When editing the photo I increased the WB temp by 200, moved the white and black points in LR, a gentle reverse S curve and an unsharp mask to sharpen the photo.

    Thank you.

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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Even if not perfect, the pictures are very nice.

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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    ... because I can only manage to hold the button on the belly of the bird, so even though the bird is in focus the center point is not on the eye....
    But is that not okay, given the aperture settings you're using? Unless you were going with a remarkably wide aperture, you're still going to have enough depth-of-field to ensure the eye will be in focus. I think we see this in the first and second. The water in front of and behind the bird seems to be in focus, indicating a very deep depth-of-field.

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Thank you Splashy... I like to capture funny positions, etc.

    Donald, I'm not sure. I would like to think so because I managed to keep the entire bird in the focus area but everyone says that the focal point should be on the eye so this is what I'm trying for... And I think the spot metering makes the water look a bit odd.

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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Hi Christina,

    Gosh, how I wish I was as energetic/patient as you. Getting up early to nail those shots.

    Btw, I guess you were shooting against the light causing reflection in the water towards your camera?

    Otherwise, your mastery of your editing and new cam is getting better.

    Cheers...........

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Hi Victor,

    I suspect that you are, as I see you working hard on your portraits. I'm an early bird.

    Actually the light was behind me so they should be front lit but of course I may have changed position so the light could have changed but not by a large amount.

    Thank you for your comments. Cheers.

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    jprzybyla's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Hello Christina, I used to play a lot of golf. In golf there were many axioms such as... keep your head down, turn away from the ball, keep a stiff left arm etc. etc.. If anyone did all of these things they would never hit a golf ball effectively. The same is true in bird photography about focusing on the eye. Forget about it, keep your active focus point on the bird and enjoy making images. Donald is correct that the depth of field in almost all instances will give sharp focus on the eye. In the herons I just posted I focused on the mass of the bird and let the depth of field for f8 do the rest. Stationary birds that are close enough to clearly see the eye, then I would and when doing that it is easy to cut the legs off by concentrating too much on the eye. If the bird is close enough I would lock focus on the eye and then recompose the image guarding against too tight a crop and cutting off legs or a wonderful reflection.

    Regarding spot metering I rarely use it. I prefer the balanced exposure that matrix metering provides. In post processing I have different exposures for different parts of an image. The background may be one exposure while the bird is another. The Adjustment Brush in Lightroom is wonderful for doing this. Normally in post processing I first get the exposure of the background to my liking using the global editing tools in the Develop Module. Then my attention goes to the bird using the Adjustment Brush for exposure, clarity, noise reduction etc. The beauty of digital photography and the computer as a darkroom opens the door to a whole world of editing. I want three things from images in the field... a sharply focused image of the subject, a balanced exposure of the image, and control of the highlights on the subject to preserve detail. In film and slides the camera work was more important, in digital photography the work with computer and software are more important. Shooting RAW all one is doing is capturing data to be developed into an image later on the computer.
    Last edited by jprzybyla; 29th July 2013 at 01:36 AM.

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Thank you Joe... Good to know.

    I will experiment with matrix metering, too.

    Can you tell what is wrong about the water in my photos. If yes, I will give it a try in LR... I know something is not right but I can't pin point what it is...

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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    It just dawned on me... why your are cutting the wings off some of your birds in flight. You were trying to concentrate on the eye for focusing instead of paying attention to what was happening in the viewfinder. Put the center focusing point on the bird in flight, pay attention to what you see in the viewfinder and zoom out if you need to for a full image of the bird.

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    jprzybyla's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    Thank you Joe... Good to know.

    I will experiment with matrix metering, too.

    Can you tell what is wrong about the water in my photos. If yes, I will give it a try in LR... I know something is not right but I can't pin point what it is...
    Spot metering, the camera exposed for the bird so the water over exposed.

    I had a go at your image, difficult because of it being a JPEG and small.

    Photographing birds over water and spot metering
    Last edited by jprzybyla; 29th July 2013 at 01:53 AM.

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Thank you Joe... If it is just that water that is overexposed it seems like a simple fix... I will be away tomorrow but I will work on this the following day and post my result.

    I like what you did to the water

    Sometimes the wings are cut off because it takes me that long to grab focus, ie; too close... but also likely because of trying to focus on the eye.. Thank you.

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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Shooting around water can sometimes be very tricky because of reflections that can affect your camera's metering. I use a hand-held meter and take an incident light reading. I shoot in Manual mode using the meter's setting. It's an old habit left over from my film days. My Pentax did not have a buit-in meter (1965) so I invested in a Gossen Lunasix. It was one of the best ones available back then. I still have it (and it still works) although I now use a Sekonic L-758DR. I still use in-camera metering for many subjects but if the lighting is very contrasty or tricky, an incident reading is a good starting point. You can "flavor to taste" from there.

    This technique works well for me. Specular highlights off the water will blow out but that's normal.

    Paul S

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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    H Paul

    Thank you for your reply. I've read about the use of hand held meters and have yet to try one. Perhaps I will have to invest in one. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge.

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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Hi Christina,

    Seems the new gear is helping a lot. Great improvement.

    Giving advice on BIF I am thumb sucking as you very well know.

    With BIF you need to plan ahead and have lots of patience. You should not have any fear of getting dirty either. Planning the shot ahead as to where you want the sun to be and anticipating how the bird will follow a flight path. Getting down to the level of the water avoiding unwanted reflections and predicting carefully what the anticipated dynamic range will be when your subject appears in your viewfinder.

    BIF is not a “catch them in the spur of the moment” exercise, it takes lots of planning and patience.

    Look at what you have done with this capture. You shot down on a goose with spread out wings busy landing – Wrong! GET DOWN to the water level! Try to get your background far away from your subject so it can be OOF even at F8. With a landing goose you need not use such a high shutter speed.

    How many focal points do you have on that D7100. 52? Use them.

    I would like to see the shot where the goose hits the water.

    You are getting better and better. Keep practising and explore the D7100 and what it can do for you.

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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    Thank you Joe... If it is just that water that is overexposed it seems like a simple fix... I will be away tomorrow but I will work on this the following day and post my result.

    I like what you did to the water

    Sometimes the wings are cut off because it takes me that long to grab focus, ie; too close... but also likely because of trying to focus on the eye.. Thank you.
    One of the tricks I use with birds in general and specifically in flight is to pre-focus on a distance or the bird as I approach. I shoot a lot of dragonflies and butterflies really close ( 5 feet) and then turn my attention back to birds. My lens has either autofocus or manual focus without changing settings on the camera, just turn a ring. So after I shoot a close dragon fly and then look for a bird in flight I will manually set the lens to infinity to be ready. Anything beyond 40 feet with my lens is infinity, most times the birds are beyond forty feet. Plan ahead and be ready makes the grab shots easier.

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Hi Andre,

    Thank you. I don't understand what you are saying in this phrase "I am thumb sucking as you very well know"

    Thank you for some great advice which I will heed and also for pointing out to me that I was not at the same level of the goose... Truly appreciated.

    On this particular morning I was looking for my eagle who I had planned to photograph. My eagle never appeared and then I spotted the goose coming in out of the corner of my eye... I was pretty excited to see a goose coming in and forgot to get down low... I will work on that until it becomes instinctive. And a BIG thank you for advising on a way for me to avoid all those funny reflections

    What do you mean by OOF even at F8?

    Right now I'm finding that a single point of focus is working best... When I try using the autofocus 51 points the focus goes where the camera wants rather than where I want, but I will be experimenting with that some more too.

    Thank you Andre... That you have taken the time to provide me with some great advice is truly appreciated.





    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    Hi Christina,

    Seems the new gear is helping a lot. Great improvement.

    Giving advice on BIF I am thumb sucking as you very well know.

    With BIF you need to plan ahead and have lots of patience. You should not have any fear of getting dirty either. Planning the shot ahead as to where you want the sun to be and anticipating how the bird will follow a flight path. Getting down to the level of the water avoiding unwanted reflections and predicting carefully what the anticipated dynamic range will be when your subject appears in your viewfinder.

    BIF is not a “catch them in the spur of the moment” exercise, it takes lots of planning and patience.

    Look at what you have done with this capture. You shot down on a goose with spread out wings busy landing – Wrong! GET DOWN to the water level! Try to get your background far away from your subject so it can be OOF even at F8. With a landing goose you need not use such a high shutter speed.

    How many focal points do you have on that D7100. 52? Use them.

    I would like to see the shot where the goose hits the water.

    You are getting better and better. Keep practising and explore the D7100 and what it can do for you.

  17. #17
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Hi Joe,

    This is something new to me and makes sense so I will try it. Thank you so much for sharing. Truly appreciated.

    PS Tomorrow I will work on the water in the photo so we can see how my editing skills are coming along.



    Quote Originally Posted by jprzybyla View Post
    One of the tricks I use with birds in general and specifically in flight is to pre-focus on a distance or the bird as I approach. I shoot a lot of dragonflies and butterflies really close ( 5 feet) and then turn my attention back to birds. My lens has either autofocus or manual focus without changing settings on the camera, just turn a ring. So after I shoot a close dragon fly and then look for a bird in flight I will manually set the lens to infinity to be ready. Anything beyond 40 feet with my lens is infinity, most times the birds are beyond forty feet. Plan ahead and be ready makes the grab shots easier.

  18. #18
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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Christina,

    Regarding the water, was the problem area right behind the right wing? Is so, it's so subtle and can be adjusted with just a tweak that it won't affect the entire image. However, being such a subtle difference might not be worth tweaking, but this is really a personal choice that you should make. I like it as it is. Nice capture.

  19. #19
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Hi John,

    Yes, the problem area is mostly behind the right wing but also in other areas of the water.. It is the reflections of the red and blue machinery (cranes, buildings) in the water that is overexposed.

    I just tried editing the water and it is excruciatingly hard to do well (and slow going) once you get to the water around the bird. I am thinking that buying a polarizing filter might be easier. I will save these shots and see what I think of them in a months time.

    Thank you.

  20. #20
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    Hi Joe,

    Here are my edits... Although I understand the concept of selectively reducing the exposure in the water it is hard to do well once you get to the water around the bird. Perhaps with practice I will get better at it but I'm thinking that when photographing birds over water, matrix metering or a polarizing filter would be easier and faster.

    But while editing I did see that the red and blue reflections in the water were exposed too far to the right, as I was exposing for the bird, so as well as decreasing the exposure in the water I used the curves tool to pull the reds and blues down a bit.


    Water exposure decreased by -1.98 Highlights -26

    Photographing birds over water and spot metering


    Water exposure decreased by -1

    Photographing birds over water and spot metering


    Water exposure decreased by -.30 just in the red portions above the wing on the right side... And the red and blue toned down by using the curves tool


    Photographing birds over water and spot metering

    It was a good lesson in editing, but I think it will be easier for me to go back and try again, and get the water right. (it still looks funny and perhaps the original shots are better than my edits)

    Thank you to all for your help and advice.

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