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Thread: Bald Eagle Portraits

  1. #1
    Cantab's Avatar
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    Bald Eagle Portraits

    I took these head and shoulder photos at a raptor centre (not in the wild). I also took some of this eagle in flight but none ended up being worth posting here.

    Bald Eagle Portraits

    This first one was taken at 100mm, 1/1250, f7.1, ISO 200.

    The second one shows what it's like to have an eagle staring directly at you:
    Bald Eagle Portraits

    The last photo is of an eagle ignoring the photographer or, more likely, keeping an eye on his environment. The range of motion for rotating the head is very impressive.
    Bald Eagle Portraits

    Any comments, etc., are most welcome.

  2. #2

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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Excellent detail captured here. I'm not on a calibrated monitor but the whites look to be well handled on the first two shots, maybe a bit hot on the third? What exposure mode were you using? On the first two, my own preference would be for a vertical crop that includes a bit more of the brown at the bottom of the neck.

    I can't believe you shot these at 100mm. I hope the bird was restrained or sitting on the arm of a handler. If not you are WAY braver than I

  3. #3
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    #'s 1 & 2 are especially nice images!

    I love bald eagles and think that they are regal birds! I wonder how much my judgement is influenced by the fact that the bald eagle is America's national bird?

    By the way, do you know what is the national bird of China?

    The Construction CRANE
    Bald Eagle Portraits
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 9th August 2013 at 05:25 AM.

  4. #4
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Beautiful detail, lovely colour, great focus and exposure... Very nice.

    I like #1 the best, #2 would be my favourite but I think the eagle should've been a little lower or yourself a little higher.. Easy to say after the fact.

    Yes, the whites on the top of the eagle look a bit bright to me but overall I think you did a wonderful job on the exposure.

    You know I always share my less than stellar photos because I learn so much about what I did wrong and how to improve... If you look back in my threads you will see some pretty sad looking bird photos, especially BIF and no doubt I will still post some as I try new things.

  5. #5
    Cantab's Avatar
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Dan, Richard and Christina, thank you for your comments.

    Christina, I'll post one of my "less than stellar" BIF's but I won't post the very worst (there's no bird in the photo--my excuse is I was shooting in a high speed burst and tried to start before the bird arrived).

    Dan, yes, the first photo really was shot at 100mm (plus a 1.6 crop factor). The eagle was perched on his handler's arm (gauntlet) and was perhaps 5 or 6 feet from me. The second photo was shot at 170mm and the third at 40mm. All were shot with centre weighted metering and manual adjustments to the exposure. The end result was that I had a variety of exposures. The first photo was somewhat underexposed but not so much that I wasn't able to adjust it in LR.

    I've followed the RAW and SOOC thread with interest. My shooting is all in RAW+JPEG, not that I ever seem to do anything with the JPEG's. Thankfully these eagle shots were available in RAW.

    Dan, your suggestion of doing a vertical crop on the first photo makes some sense; however, I can't add more brown to the bottom of this photo as it's an uncropped version of the entire image. But most of the photos were in vertical orientation of the entire bird so I'll work on one of those to see what I can come up with. The first and second photos were part of a small group where I decided to zoom in on the head and upper neck.

    I'm going to have a go in LR to see if I can use the adjustment brush to reduce the exposure of the white feathers in the third photo. If nothing else, it'll be a good learning experience. I've already played around with the highlights and white sliders.

    I always knew eagles were large birds but seeing one up close really emphasized just how magnificent a creature they are.

  6. #6
    Cantab's Avatar
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Here are some new images. The original pictures included the entire eagle so I had some room to adjust the cropping on these images.

    #4
    Bald Eagle Portraits

    #5
    Bald Eagle Portraits

    The following is a typical full length shot of the eagle. Any thoughts on the cropping (or anything else) in the previous two photos would be appreciated.

    #6
    Bald Eagle Portraits

    I tried cooling off the head of the eagle when he was looking away from me. I used the adjustment brush in LR. It resulted in a little more visibility of feather detail but the top of his head is still very white although not clipped if LR is to be believed. I'm not sure how much feather detail I saw there in real life -- or is that just an excuse?

    #7
    Bald Eagle Portraits
    Last edited by Cantab; 11th August 2013 at 12:28 AM. Reason: added numbers to each image

  7. #7
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Very nice images.

  8. #8
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Terrific photos, Bruce. #7 is my favourite...

    PS I have yet to post a photo with no bird in it ... just blurry birds

  9. #9
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    Terrific photos, Bruce. #7 is my favourite...

    PS I have yet to post a photo with no bird in it ... just blurry birds
    I've realized I should go back and number the photos in the second set and see if I correctly identify #7.

    Later edit: Christina, I'm not sure if my numbering is the same as yours (I did not include Richard's Construction Cranes).

  10. #10
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    My apologies... It is number 6, the eagle on the trainers hand because the eagle is perfect.


    Quote Originally Posted by Cantab View Post
    I've realized I should go back and number the photos in the second set and see if I correctly identify #7.

    Later edit: Christina, I'm not sure if my numbering is the same as yours (I did not include Richard's Construction Cranes).

  11. #11
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    I have been looking at these images for a couple of days and finally decided to comment because one purpose of the forum is to learn and grow as a photographer. When photographing a bird that is white or has white, white controls the exposure. In the heads on these eagles there are areas where the white had clipped/blown out. I tried to lower the exposure to recover the feather detail but those areas changed from white to grey, an indication of no detail and the white being blown out. I was working with these JPEGs maybe the RAW has more data and it can be recovered. If your camera has a LCD display to show clipped highlights turn it on. After taking an image check it to see if there are areas of the subject that are blinking indicating that those areas are blown out. Lower the exposure until the blinking stops. In post processing expose for the background with the global adjustments then use the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to correctly expose the bird. Work on the white, then work on the brown. Two different exposures for the bird. White in bright light is so difficult, also red such as on a Northern Cardinal will clip easily in bright light.

  12. #12
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    Very nice images.
    John, thank you for viewing and commenting.

  13. #13
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Quote Originally Posted by jprzybyla View Post
    When photographing a bird that is white or has white, white controls the exposure. In the heads on these eagles there are areas where the white had clipped/blown out. I tried to lower the exposure to recover the feather detail but those areas changed from white to grey, an indication of no detail and the white being blown out. I was working with these JPEGs maybe the RAW has more data and it can be recovered.
    Joe, thank you for your comments. What you described about the adjustment brush turning clipped white areas to grey is exactly what happened when I tried to cool the eagle's head in image #7. In some areas I got improved feather definition but in other areas a dirty grey. LR was not showing the area as clipped just before I used the adjustment brush but this was perhaps because I'd several days previously cooled the white by using the highlight and white sliders.

    So, when shooting white birds, I need to be disciplined to check for blinkies on the camera's LCD. It's a very fine balancing act not clipping bright whites but not underexposing dark feathers so noise is created. More practice....

  14. #14
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Hi Bruce, all Lightroom does when showing an area as not being clipped is to show that it is not color 255 (pure white). I has no relationship to whether there is detail to recover in post processing. Regarding underexposing the dark feathers do not worry about it unless they are terribly underexposed. There is about a +/- 2 stop exposure correction on a RAW image in post processing. If you underexpose by 1 stop to protect the feather detail in the white highlight areas you can recover the underexposure of the dark feathers in post processing using the Adjustment Brush on those dark areas.
    Last edited by jprzybyla; 11th August 2013 at 08:33 PM.

  15. #15
    Cantab's Avatar
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Joe, what you write about LR fits perfectly with something I noted when I put the white balance dropper on the shiny white areas of the feathers: it gave percentage figures for R, G and B each just a tad under 100. I'll be braver next time in underexposing dark areas in order to avoid clipping white feathers.

  16. #16
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Bruce, I would like to ask if I can post one of my wild eagles here for Joe to see as the white head is nicely exposed but the underside of the wings is dark and I tried to lighten them in LR but it creates a lot of noise... May I?

  17. #17
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Christina, yes, I'd like to see it and will look forward to hopefully reading Joe's comments.

    Was this an eagle that you had to crop a lot in order to zoom in on? That presumably would magnify any noise lurking in the dark areas.

  18. #18
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Thank you Bruce... Now that I look at it again I see that I underexposed severely so I don't think Joe can do anything, and I actually think I did a pretty good job processing this as I was determined to try and save it, but alas I will have to wait until I can find another eagle and they seem to be out of season right now.

    I was photographing herons and this eagle came out of nowhere and all I managed was to click the shutter but it's head is sharp and the eye is in focus, just underexposed too, much (:

    Manual SS 2000 Exp comp +1 iso 1000 A 6.7 (Set for herons) Not cropped... I'm great at clipping things!

    Raw file unprocessed

    Bald Eagle Portraits


    My processing... The underside of the top left wing is too dark


    Bald Eagle Portraits

  19. #19
    Cantab's Avatar
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Wow! -- despite being underexposed. A really great grab shot.

    I definitely will not post my grab shot from last summer of an eagle carrying off a duckling.

    I don't know what the light was like when you took this picture but wonder whether the white balance may be a little on the browny yellow side? Or maybe the white neck is simply reflecting the brown from the underside of the wing. (Unlike for many of my comments, this time I'm looking at the photo on a profiled IPS monitor -- not an iPad.)

  20. #20
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    Re: Bald Eagle Portraits

    Thank you. I've been searching for eagles ever since and will continue to do so.

    It was early morning side lighting I think... Yes, it may be a bit yellow but I'm just saving this for future reference, ie to do better.

    Now that I look at it again, next time around (if I have time) I will expose to the right... And because so much of the dark eagle fills the frame I think that maybe exposure compensation of -1 might of worked better for exposure but this seems to contraindicate exposing to the right, so I have confused myself...

    An eagle carrying off a duckling... That's a shot to strive for!

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