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Thread: Need some help with Bird shots

  1. #1

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    Need some help with Bird shots

    I finally got a decent bird photo, and would like to know what is the best method for PP in this type of shot. The shots below are right from the camera The first is the original. The second has been cropped and rotated. I have also included a screen snip of the EXIF.

    My main goal would be to try and get the bird sharper when shooting, but to tell you the truth, I probably won't get anything better than this.

    I'd appreciate any comments as to how to approach PP to get the best out of this without messing it up. I'm sure I can make a few improvements with my limited skills, but I'm looking for new processes that might be best for this kind of shot.
    I did not do any sharpening, and it's lost a lot of detail on the resize and format change. I think I can improve on that, but is there anything else.

    Full Frame:
    Need some help with Bird shots

    Cropped and Rotated:
    Need some help with Bird shots

    EXIF
    Need some help with Bird shots

    Thanks in adavance for any tips
    Wendy

  2. #2
    David's Avatar
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    Re: Need some help with Bird shots

    Hi Wendy - As one bird shot tyro to another I probably can't help much. You don't say whether you used a tripod. If not then that might be one way to start to get a sharper image, along with setting the focus point to exactly where the bird is, probably using manual focus. For PP, a sharpening technique other than Unsharp Mask might be useful. In the Gimp (which I use), there is a technique called wavelet sharpening that helps in this type of case. Another possibility is to use refocusing software. There are plug-ins for most software packages available for download. A third possibility is to try a small amount of local contrast enhancement. Finally, in this particular case, I would duplicate the layer and blend with Screen to give extra exposure to the bird itself. You might find that this brings out more detail.

    Cheers

    David

    PS Here's an attempt - hope you don't mind me pinching your shot. Pixel count is low - it would look better working from original.

    Need some help with Bird shots
    Last edited by David; 9th March 2010 at 04:05 PM. Reason: addition of image.

  3. #3

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    Re: Need some help with Bird shots

    Hi Wendy - As one bird shot tyro to another I probably can't help much. You don't say whether you used a tripod. If not then that might be one way to start to get a sharper image, along with setting the focus point to exactly where the bird is, probably using manual focus. For PP, a sharpening technique other than Unsharp Mask might be useful. In the Gimp (which I use), there is a technique called wavelet sharpening that helps in this type of case. Another possibility is to use refocusing software. There are plug-ins for most software packages available for download. A third possibility is to try a small amount of local contrast enhancement. Finally, in this particular case, I would duplicate the layer and blend with Screen to give extra exposure to the bird itself. You might find that this brings out more detail.

    Cheers

    David

    PS Here's an attempt - hope you don't mind me pinching your shot. Pixel count is low - it would look better working from original.
    Thanks David: I don't mind at all, I appreciate you taking the time. What you have done looks much better and considering you are working from the resized jpg it gives me hope that I can improve these. The original looks sharper than what I posted and what you have done really improves the detail I like it.

    I had the tripod along, but didn't use it. I will go back now that I know the spot. There were a lot of birds hanging around, nuthatches, flickers, chickadees, and of course the cardinal. This guy sat still in the tree for me for a long time, so I don't have any excuses.

    I will try manual focus next time and see if that might help. I know the tripod would help, but I tend to flit around more than the birds and I'm not sure I would like the restriction. I really should try though.

    I will check out some of the software packages you mentioned. I know how to do the Local Contrast Enhancement you mentioned. That is what I planned on trying with these, but I will also check out how to do the layer blend you mentioned. I am assuming that is what you did with this one.

    Thanks a lot for the tips. The sun is out again today and I'm off work, so I think I will go back and see if I can improve on the above a bit. I was really happy to get something besides a blur or little speck on the screen, which is all I have had up to yesterday. I deleted more than I kept, but at least there were a few worth saving.

    Wendy

  4. #4

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    Re: Need some help with Bird shots

    As David said, Manual Focus is the only sure way of getting sharp focus on a bird amongst all that foliage. The problem with this, as you mentioned, is that the subject won't stay still long enough for me to achieve a really sharp manual focus. Snails, I can manage; but flighty birds or insects are another matter all together!

    A tripod certainly helps with manual focus because it is one less thing to worry about. I prefer a quick release single handed ball type tripod head. I reversed mine (Manfrotto 322RC2) by unscrewing the camera attachment plate, rotating the handle 180 degrees and reattaching the plate, there are special threaded holes to enable this. The result means that I can control the camera position very accurately with my left hand while looking through the viewfinder, and my right hand index finger is on the shutter button ready for a quick auto focus shot. If I am manually focusing, I just release the handle and the camera remains steady while I focus with my left hand.

    I find that a conventional head with 2 handles that both need to be tightened is just too fiddly and time consuming for wildlife work.

    The problem with auto focus for wildlife in undergrowth is that the camera prefers to focus on a sharp edged branch instead of a soft edged fluffy bird, so you tend to get incorrect focus. When using auto focus, I only use the centre focusing point which does reduce the amount of false focus problems.

    With regard to editing and particularly sharpening. The easiest method, I find, is to do selective sharpening by creating a duplicate layer, adding a hide all mask then gradually revealing just the bird. I expect you are already well versed with this technique.

    Sometimes, however, I cheat by roughly drawing a freehand selection around the subject (you don't have to be exact as long as you draw just outside of the subject) then feather the selection by about 5 pixels. Use Unsharp Mask and preferably a little bit of Threshold (say number 1 or 2).

    This method can sometimes produce a noticeable sharpening line when viewed at high magnification but for normal use and average prints it usually works for me. But the other methods are, strictly speaking, the correct ones to use.

  5. #5
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    Re: Need some help with Bird shots

    I think that sharpening an image (i.e. unsharp mask in photoshop) is the main factor in the sharpness of the image, but good overall contrast and detail brought out in the tone mapping stage makes the unsharp mask much more effective. Here is my go at it, and a description of the steps I took.

    Need some help with Bird shots
    The psd had 3 curves layers, and 2 final applications of USM.
    -Bottom layer: minor vignette. I lowered the right vertex by 20% and added one in the middle for a slight dip.
    -Middle layer: fill. I used color selection and blur to create a mask that covered "shadows" and moved the right vertex to the left as far as it would go without clipping.
    -Top layer: contrast. All I did was throw in a couple vertices to increase contrast. Clip if necessary (I didn't in this image).

    Remember, your darkening curves layers should always be below the exposure clipping ones.

    As for sharpening:
    -Local Contrast: 25px, 15% intensity
    -Normal: 0.7px, 50% intensity (would've done more if it wasn't bringing out so much of the jpeg compression )

    And of course, moving closer or zooming in to fit the composition and avoid major cropping is ideal, but I'm sure the original RAW looks just fine. If you have photoshop, I would suggest that you use Bicubic Sharper as your resizing interpolation.
    Last edited by pwnage101; 9th March 2010 at 11:29 PM.

  6. #6

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    Re: Need some help with Bird shots

    Sorry wendy, i can't help too much with the image, but a couple focusing tips that might help.

    First , get your view finder focused.

    Take the lens off(some where clean and dust free)>point camera at light > adjust so focus dots are sharp and clear(adjuster is next to view finder)>replace lens.

    Now with a focused view finder, you can see if the camera misses focus. If it does, blur out the focus slightly manually, and then hit the auto focus again. Usually in a couple try's it will focus correctly.

    Another thing you can do, is hold down the shutter button half way and manual focus.(or readjust the focus manually) Inside the view finder there should be a focus conformation light. When it lights up , you are in focus.

  7. #7

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    Re: Need some help with Bird shots

    As David said, Manual Focus is the only sure way of getting sharp focus on a bird amongst all that foliage. The problem with this, as you mentioned, is that the subject won't stay still long enough for me to achieve a really sharp manual focus. Snails, I can manage; but flighty birds or insects are another matter all together!
    LOL, yup, I went out again today, and I haven't looked yet, but I think things went downhill from yesterday. These birds just don't sit still. I was actually lucky with the cardinal shot, I was very close, and he sat in the tree for quite some time. I probably won't get a chance like that again.

    A tripod certainly helps with manual focus because it is one less thing to worry about. I prefer a quick release single handed ball type tripod head. I reversed mine (Manfrotto 322RC2) by unscrewing the camera attachment plate, rotating the handle 180 degrees and reattaching the plate, there are special threaded holes to enable this. The result means that I can control the camera position very accurately with my left hand while looking through the viewfinder, and my right hand index finger is on the shutter button ready for a quick auto focus shot. If I am manually focusing, I just release the handle and the camera remains steady while I focus with my left hand.

    I find that a conventional head with 2 handles that both need to be tightened is just too fiddly and time consuming for wildlife work.
    I have the conventional head with the 2 handles, and yes it is a fiddly thing. I set it up today, but it's just not usable for this type of shot. I will look for something different when funds allow.

    With regard to editing and particularly sharpening. The easiest method, I find, is to do selective sharpening by creating a duplicate layer, adding a hide all mask then gradually revealing just the bird. I expect you are already well versed with this technique.
    Well, no I'm not well versed in anything that has a layer (except adding a frame ), but I'm going to hit the books and try a few more things with Elements.

    Sometimes, however, I cheat by roughly drawing a freehand selection around the subject (you don't have to be exact as long as you draw just outside of the subject) then feather the selection by about 5 pixels. Use Unsharp Mask and preferably a little bit of Threshold (say number 1 or 2).
    I can do that Thanks for the details though - every little bit helps.

    Many thanks taking the time

    Wendy

  8. #8

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    Re: Need some help with Bird shots

    I think that sharpening an image (i.e. unsharp mask in photoshop) is the main factor in the sharpness of the image, but good overall contrast and detail brought out in the tone mapping stage makes the unsharp mask much more effective. Here is my go at it, and a description of the steps I took.
    That looks great Troy. Thanks for taking the time. David and you have different approaches and results, but you have both managed to bring out considerably more detail. When I figure out what I'm doing, I should be able to fix up the RAW version.
    I have copied your instructions and when I get up to speed on curves and layers and verticies and all those other crazy things you mentioned, I will use your instructions as an assignment on this shot.

    And of course, moving closer or zooming in to fit the composition and avoid major cropping is ideal, but I'm sure the original RAW looks just fine. If you have photoshop, I would suggest that you use Bicubic Sharper as your resizing interpolation.
    I was as close as I would ever expect to get. I only have a 200mm and have concluded that except for very lucky shots, it's really not cut out for small birds. Canada Geese and Swans maybe, but not chickadees, finches, and cardinals. It's all good practice though.

    I just used the LR resizing on this one. When I take it into Elements I use the Bicubic Sharper when I resize, and Yes, I have found that it does a lot better job than whatever is used in Lightroom.

    Thanks again for taking the time to help out.
    Wendy

  9. #9

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    Re: Need some help with Bird shots

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve S View Post
    Sorry wendy, i can't help too much with the image, but a couple focusing tips that might help.

    First , get your view finder focused.

    Take the lens off(some where clean and dust free)>point camera at light > adjust so focus dots are sharp and clear(adjuster is next to view finder)>replace lens.

    Now with a focused view finder, you can see if the camera misses focus. If it does, blur out the focus slightly manually, and then hit the auto focus again. Usually in a couple try's it will focus correctly.

    Another thing you can do, is hold down the shutter button half way and manual focus.(or readjust the focus manually) Inside the view finder there should be a focus conformation light. When it lights up , you are in focus.
    Thanks Steve, I have been thinking that the viewfinder could be clearer. It's fine in certain types of light, but sometimes it's really hard to see where the lens has focused (manual or auto). I will check out what you said and see if my particular camera can be tuned up the way your described. If it's possible for it to be clearer it would be a huge help.

    Thanks again
    Wendy

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