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Thread: bird photography

  1. #1

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    bird photography

    I have been learning bird photography for the past two months. The areas of concern are (1)The subject (in this case the bird) against the bright blue sky is always dark and no details are visible. (2) In some cases, the main subject is not sharp even though the bird is against the green or brown back ground.
    I am using Canon 550D and 7D with either 70-300mm IS lens or 100-400mm L IS lens for bird photography. I shoot with aperture priority settings, spot metering, center auto focus point. The shutter speeds are in the range of 100-500 with f/5.6 depending on the available light.

    I have attached two images with the above problems.

    Would like know (a) are the camera settings correct or need to change? (b) do I need to use polarised filter to darken the sky ? (c) Is it possible to correct in post processing?

    flickr-upload105.jpg

    flickr-upload132ibis.jpg
    Thanks,
    Nitin
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 10th January 2011 at 12:34 PM. Reason: add images inline

  2. #2
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: bird photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Nitin View Post
    I am using Canon 550D and 7D with either 70-300mm IS lens or 100-400mm L IS lens for bird photography. I shoot with aperture priority settings, spot metering, center auto focus point. The shutter speeds are in the range of 100-500 with f/5.6 depending on the available light.

    I have attached two images with the above problems.

    Would like know
    (a) are the camera settings correct or need to change?
    (b) do I need to use polarised filter to darken the sky ?
    (c) Is it possible to correct in post processing?
    Hi Nitin,

    I do this kind of shooting ...

    (a) I would advise a higher iso, to obtain a higher shutter speed; e.g. 1/500 should be the minimum for 300mm lens. I tend to shoot over 1/1000 if I can.
    (b) No - that will just lose two more stops of light and force even lower shutter speeds (or higher iso) - a polariser will only darken a blue sky (not white) and even then not when the sun is either in front or behind you.
    (c) Possibly - if you shoot RAW and have Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) on Elements 6 and above or Photoshop CS 3 or later, or LightRoom - if you do, use the Fill light control (after sorting Exposure)

    The best way is to get it more correct in camera; some things that may help (if your camera can);
    Meter in spot mode
    If the result is still too dark and you using Aperture Priority, Program or Shutter Priority, use some +EC (Exposure Compensation)

    With a white sky, the result still may be unacceptable, as it will be so over exposed, it'll destroy the edges.
    The shadow side of a basically black bird against a white cloud is asking a lot.

    here's a link to my Comorant album, as you'll see, the ones I shot in 2009 against the sky have similar problems to yours - my PP skills were not as good then
    The last two are better for feather detail, but they're not against the sky.
    In fact the very last one now looks a bit too light to me

    I might go back and find the RAW files and see if I can do any better with the 'against the sky' shots.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 10th January 2011 at 12:59 PM.

  3. #3
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    Re: bird photography

    Spot metering helps but if the spot is pointing at the sky when you press the shutter you will be underexposed. If your camera has a separate button to lock the exposure independent of the shutter button that would help. If the light is not changing much you can determine a correct exposure (check the histogram) and then set the camera to manual exposure.

    I like your first photo for its artistic quality.

  4. #4
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: bird photography

    Quote Originally Posted by benm View Post
    Spot metering helps but if the spot is pointing at the sky when you press the shutter you will be underexposed. If your camera has a separate button to lock the exposure independent of the shutter button that would help. If the light is not changing much you can determine a correct exposure (check the histogram) and then set the camera to manual exposure.
    True, but it won't be focused unless the point is on the bird either - at least, that's what I find (all too often )

  5. #5
    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: bird photography

    I am surprised how many people use spot metering. This is something I find hard to control over such distances and if the bird flinches then your metering is out. Look at the big picture.

    Try looking at the main tones in an image. Here the sky is nearly 95% of the image in # 2 and possible 70% in image 2 (allowing that you can see through the tree).

    The bright sky is going to throw the exposure out by around 1.3 stops which you can fix with Exposure Compensation and it does not matter if the bird moves. I use matrix metering almost 100% of the time.

    Alternatively, take a matrix meter measurement off something that approximated mid-tones like the ground about 15 feet in front you or a grey card, press exposure lock, focus and shoot. Another simple way is to take a reading off your camera bag and find out if you need to add or subtract EC to get a mid-tone reading. At any time if in doubt take a reading off your back, adjust for the known EC press Exposure Lock and shoot.

    I see so many photographers struggle with exposure trying to use spot metering and generally not understanding or actually knowing what they are metering off. Spot metering doesn’t make you a good photographer but well exposed image do. Make it easy on yourselves. Use matrix metering and look at the major tones in the image and learn what EC you need to adjust for the major tones.

  6. #6

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    Re: bird photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Ryan View Post
    Alternatively, take a matrix meter measurement off something that approximated mid-tones like the ground about 15 feet in front you or a grey card, press exposure lock, focus and shoot.
    When taking birds, I meter using the grass a short distance in front of me, set the camera to manual, dial in the metering info just obtained and add about "3" + EC for the fact I am shooting an object with a large sky background. With my Canon 50D set in A1 and high speed continuous I squeeze of about three frames whilst panning if the bird is flying.

    If I am using high speed continuous, will Exposure Lock still "work"????

    David

  7. #7
    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: bird photography

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidGee View Post
    When taking birds, I meter using the grass a short distance in front of me, set the camera to manual, dial in the metering info just obtained and add about "3" + EC for the fact I am shooting an object with a large sky background. With my Canon 50D set in A1 and high speed continuous I squeeze of about three frames whilst panning if the bird is flying.

    If I am using high speed continuous, will Exposure Lock still "work"????

    David
    Hi Dave,

    Same concept but as for exposure lock I am not sure - good question. I must try it out next time I am behind the camera.

  8. #8
    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: bird photography

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidGee View Post
    When taking birds, I meter using the grass a short distance in front of me, set the camera to manual, dial in the metering info just obtained and add about "3" + EC for the fact I am shooting an object with a large sky background. With my Canon 50D set in A1 and high speed continuous I squeeze of about three frames whilst panning if the bird is flying.

    If I am using high speed continuous, will Exposure Lock still "work"????

    David
    Hi Dave,

    In answer to your question. My camera (Nikon D300 and my former D70) has the ability to set the exposure lock and have it remain until I press it again OR for the exposure lock to automatically release after I press the shutter. I use exposure lock with automatic release after the shutter is fired.

    Having said that, I just tried locking the exposure with my setting and shooting in continuous mode. While I held the shutter down for three shots the exposure lock remained for all 3 shots. If I had released the shutter during a bracketing exercise then I would need to use the other exposure lock mode to retain the exposure lock until I completed all shots and then press the exposure lock button to release it.

    I hope this makes sense.
    Last edited by Peter Ryan; 12th January 2011 at 02:05 AM. Reason: Update to change the work focus to exposure.

  9. #9

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    Re: bird photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Ryan View Post
    Hi Dave,

    In answer to your question. My camera (Nikon D300 and my former D70) has the ability to set the focus lock and have it remain until I press it again OR for the focus lock to automatically release after I press the shutter. I use focus lock with automatic release after the shutter is fired.

    Having said that, I just tried locking the focus with my setting and shooting in continuous mode. While I held the shutter down for three shots the focus lock remained for all 3 shots. If I had released the shutter during a bracketing exercise then I would need to use the other focus lock mode to retain the focus lock until I completed all shots and then press the focus lock button to release it.

    I hope this makes sense.
    Hi Peter,

    Yes it does make sense and thanks for testing.

    I think locking the Focus Lock until pressing it again to release it would cause me all sorts of hastles as I am sure I would forget to release it and start taking shots which would be absolute "binners".

    Will give it a try with the focus lock until the shutter is released and see how I go. But...the weather here is absolute crap, typical English weather, and not worth taking the camera out of the rucksack.

    David

  10. #10
    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: bird photography

    My apologies for all those reading this - meant Exposure Lock NOT focus lock.

  11. #11
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    Re: bird photography

    David, don't know if this is useful information or not, but if you don't know about it, you might want to read up on the back-button autofocus custom function settings. I find that having the shutter half-press for AE lock, and the * button on the back set up as AF-start on press, and AF-lock on release works great for me while birding. YMMV, but it's always good to know you can monkey about with those settings to get things set up the way you like.

    Nitin, I'm with Dave way up above--sometimes, there's really not a lot you can do except look for a bird that's not backlit.

  12. #12

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    Re: bird photography

    Hi Kathy,
    Thanks for the comment about back buton. I have been using this for some time now and it seems strange when I switch back to the shuttr release button.

    David

  13. #13
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    Re: bird photography

    One of the bells and whistles available on Canon DSLR cameras (I don't know about Nikon cameras) is AEB or Auto Exposure Bracketing. Photographers often don't use this feature either because they don't know about it or because they think that it is a crutch for less experienced photographers. However, many professional film photographers shot using AEB (or manually adjusted their exposures for over-on-under shooting) especially when using slide film which had a very narrow latitude of exposure. It was usually only used by people who were making money with their camera since each frame that was shot cost money. Now shooting is totally free after the equipment is purchased.

    By selecting the AEB function through the camera menus, you can elect to shoot three exposures with one above, one below and one at what the camera is metering. If you combine this with burst mode, the camera will shoot a three shot burst (with the exposures bracketed) and then stop. On my x0D cameras, I can select in what order the frames will be exposed but, I don't know if the xx0D cameras have that feature. I usually shoot the three shots in under - right on - over sequencing. My rationale is that the middle of three shots will often be sharper when shooting at borderline shutter speeds and I like the right-on shot to be sharpest.

    I can see no drawback to shooting with 3-shop AEB bursts except that you are using more memory. I carry lots of memory which has become relatively inexpensive. BTW: I don't use AEB when shooting action, especially when needing longer bursts.

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