Photographing a White Bird

Discussion in 'Nature' started by Sandy Vongries, Nov 25, 2017.

  1. I suspect that most of people that take those smartphone shots don't "live with them" like we do. I often wonder aloud when I see someone making a movie of every last thing in their day, with their smartphone. How much time do the invest to condense the raw footage into some short, concise and watchable? I suspect that most of those videos only serve to clog up their hard drives and "The Cloud."

    Tim, for me, the most critical thing to my success, at least in good light, is how smart and quick my autofocus is. I can make up for a week sensor, but getting focus consistently and keeping it is the biggest challenge. To that end, the barrier to entry is falling. Sony now has a "superzoom" all-in-one camera what actually shoots birds in flight. At $1700, most won't consider the Sony R10IV to be a bargain, but when you start comparing it to a DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens body, then it doesn't seem so dear. I have a buddy shooting this, with great results for BIF. Sony's AF system is what's moved me from die-hard Canon DSLR user to Sony newbie.
  2. Maybe BIF's should be the ultimate test of a camera's metering and auto exposure/focus performance. Sony should make videos of a photographer test subject out in nature and time his reaction from framing to shutter release by letting loose a bunch of white birds in flight out of nowhere and see how fast, good and sharp a shot can be had.
  3. Like this?

    Not white, but it flew up a few feet in front of me and I put the camera to my eye and started shooting 20-fps. Everything was preset for the gorgeous light and I wasn't expecting a white bird to pop up out of the grass. I was hoping for a pheasant, a harrier or this, a Cooper's hawk and exposed accordingly:

    [​IMG]Cooper's Hawk - In Flight by David Stephens, on Flickr

    If you click on the image, it'll take you to Flickr, where I show the best of the 40 or 80-shots that I took in a few seconds.

    You've got the idea, Tim. You have to have everything preset and the camera in a ready position to react.

    BTW, given the background, some sort of auto metering would likely have worked for this images, but I was set for it to fly on either side of me, since I was in Manual Mode.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
    andy_szeto likes this.
  4. My Pentax K100D auto exposure underexposes for 18% gray by 1 stop and it still tends to over expose similar mid-range luminance scenes similar to your hawk image.

    The quick on the draw behavior of camera's I find more valuable capturing moving objects in low light over wildlife captures. For instance gathering evidence of someone breaking into a house by getting a quick shot as the perp runs from the scene I find impossible to get right with my Pentax. It's metering just isn't fast enough and neither am I.
  5. Here's the link to the "exposure quiz" I mentioned in a previous post: Think Fast: Exposure Quiz!!

    As David mentioned above - pre-planning is the key. And, as usual, practice makes perfect; predicting the correct EV adjust needs experience and, of course, knowledge of what the camera would do (wrong) under the circumstances. And sometimes even the best pre-planning still leaves one SOL.
  6. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    Gentlemen, thanks for all your feedback. I will be going thru it and making some hard copy notes. Heaven alone knows when next I'll have a similar encounter. Fails are frustrating, but can be valuable in advancing technique.
  7. Dieter, thanks for the link to the "Think Fast Exposure Quiz" discussion. It was very informative. It really made me aware different cameras require different settings as well as different ways of quickly applying Exposure Comp with a button. It also tells me my Pentax K100D with its EV button press while turning a rotodial is not going to allow me to be quick about it and just shoot manual.

    I was shooting white ducks in shallow clear water where they kept going in and out of shade and direct sun where I had to just shoot manual and adjust shutter speed shooting Raw while chimping the histogram so the max peak white highlight didn't extend into the fourth zone section on the right of the incamera histogram. Fortunately I nailed the exposure on about 4 keepers where the highlight peak maxed to the right histogram in ACR.

    Below is the default Raw (top), dark as usual and (bottom) the edited version. The histogram shows I fit the dynamic range smack in the
    middle just going by the incamera histogram representing the jpeg.

  8. A paddling duck is pretty slow, so I'd switch over to Av mode (aperture priority mode), set ISO at 800, then spin my Canon's EV wheel, to +1EV for shade and -1EV for sun. Down in the water, I don't really need to worry about the BG being that different from the bird.
  9. I don't think switching to ISO 800 with my 2006 K100D's hot (meaning noisy even at ISO 200) Sony CCD sensor would improve things. And the EV comp rotodial is a two finger affair requiring I press down on one button and role the dial with the other. Adjusting shutter speed was easier and faster. The ducks pictured were bathing and pruning them self frenetically and quickly moving in and out between shade and direct sunlight. The shadows on the water were from trees and made it difficult to prevent blowout on the dappled bright spots on the feathers.

    Here's one I almost threw away because I couldn't see by chimping if the bright areas had enough detail to recover in Raw since the image was quite dark.

    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
  10. Sorry my friend, but not all cameras are suited to shooting white birds. Given the limitations that you describe, I'd decide whether I wanted the bird in light or in shade and go after an optimized exposure for one or the other.
  11. Just extracted the jpeg from the first white duck image
    Don't know what that means. Are you saying my camera or Sandy's camera is not suited to shooting white birds?

    Anyway I extracted the jpeg from the first default Raw white duck half in shade and edited it to see if by exposing for the highlights which would render a rather dark image if there's enough good image data to work with to brighten it and I'm surprised to say there is. Edited in ACR 6.7.

  12. I generally prefer to move the histogram as far right as possible - without blowing highlights of course (which takes some guesstimates as no camera provides a RAW-based histogram). Lifting shadows brings up the noise; this is not an issue when pulling an image down. When the image at the back LCD looks a bit washed out with a reasonable amount of blinkies only, then I know I got the optimum image for later post-processing.
    dcstep likes this.
  13. Well, yes, for your camera, given the circumstances that you cited, with a bird going in out of direct sunlight. To properly expose in shade and in the open, you need a quick an easy way to adjust EV without taking your eye away from the VF. I don't know about Sandy's camera.
  14. I look for a "few" blinkies, but no whole areas of the bird blinking. I know that I can recover way more than the in-camera, preview JPEG would indicate.
    Dieter Schaefer likes this.
  15. What do you think the camera's internals are going to do when you adjust EV up or down with one rotodial? It's going to pick for you shutter, aperture or ISO depending on the auto exposure setting of either Program, Av, Tv or ISO range set by the user to let more or less light in or amplify the sensor's electronics with high ISO.

    Shooting in bright noon-ish daylight at f10, ISO 200, as I did with the white ducks, my K100D chooses outrageous and unnecessary fast shutter speeds over 1/1000's meaning too much light even under partial shade. I just don't trust leaving it to my camera's metering with everything set to auto.

    Now in low light like Sandy's morning scenes ISO 800 is just way too noisy for exposures that preserve highlights with my camera. Sandy's first image is at ISO 2500, 1/4000's, f/14. Why would Nikon's internals choose that odd combination of exposure settings for that amount of light?
  16. OK, I'm totally perplexed by camera and sensor technology.

    Dieter's mentioning lifting shadows from highlight preserved exposures shows too much noise. It got me wondering about the extracted jpeg from Raw edit of the white duck above and whether that dark murky shadow area just underneath the duck produced a bunch of noise after I brightened it. Surprisingly it didn't and I even have noise reduction turned off for jpeg rendering in my camera's menu system. It's as if they seem to be moving the goal post on what really affects image quality with regard to noise. See the 100% view crop...

  17. That's how it works on Nikons too - press the button and rotate a dial. Either press and hold the button or press and release the button, then rotate the dial (behavior can be customized in the menu). Also the option to not have to use the button at all and do it with the dial alone - takes a bit getting used to and after some mishaps I went away from that option. The Sony A7 series has a direct dial for exposure compensation and does not require a button press.

    Sandy apparently had the camera in P(rogram) mode - something I never use on any of my cameras. I have trouble understanding how the camera could choose 1/4000s, f/14 and ISO 2500 at the same time. Certainly not my choice of parameters given the circumstances. I'd been at around 1/1600s, f/8, and ISO 400.

    Not what I said; never said too much. But if you compare a shot that has the highlights all the way to the edge of the histogram with one that has the highlights at the boundary to the fourth section then and you had the scenario where either of them would require lifting the shadows, then the first mentioned would have less noise than the second on account that the second needs one stop more of lifting. Similarly, if the first allowed you to actually pull the shadows whereas the second would still require lifting them, the first would again win in the noise department (albeit, we would be talking about less than a stop in that particular scenario). Depending on where you are on the ISO scale, the differences may be small and almost invisible or rather significant when towards the higher end of the ISO range.

    Given how well your images turned out given the variation in lighting condition, I'd say you did very well and there's no reason to think that the camera isn't up to the task.
    dcstep likes this.
  18. That's the main point I was addressing in the 100% view. How do you explain the lack of noise even I didn't expect since I turned off noise reduction for jpeg rendering?

    The goal post is the ISO and how much noise it produces between different cameras which seems to keep moving according to one's understanding of what's going on. My K100D is notorious for noise even at base ISO 200 and yet I'm scratching my head on the above crop. Maybe the noon day sun even in shade I shot those white ducks under produces plenty of light that can withstand underexposing to preserve white highlight detail.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
  19. In Av mode, I know that the camera will change the SS to adjust for my changes in EV. I've chosen my aperture and ISO and the camera changes SS, in this case. I see the SS in my VF, so, if it starts to drop too low, I either open my aperture more or raise ISO. I can do those fast on my Canons, but not as fast as turning the EV wheel.

    I'm not sure about your camera, but I'd be shooting at higher than ISO 200 for ducks, even dappling ducks. I'd suggest ISO 400 in bright sun for dappling ducks.

    I have no idea why Sandy's camera would make such poor choices.
  20. The noise that I'm seeing at 100% is not that unpleasant. Also, I don't find luminescence noise bothersome and will leave it in my super-high ISO shots, taken at ISO 20000 and 25600.

    It was so dark when I took the following shot that I could hardly see the buck in the viewfinder. The BG bokeh is loaded with luminescence that only reduced slightly, in order to preserve as much fur detail as I could. It wouldn't be great as a large print, but it's fine full-screen on the internet:

    [​IMG]Big Buck After Sundown by David Stephens, on Flickr
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017

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