Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography, Picfair

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

This Spring I was working on a series of bird photos.  I wanted to do birds of prey.  My favorite place to photograph birds is World Bird Sanctuary which is just outside St. Louis Missouri.

If you have never seen a Barn Owl in flight, it is almost silent.  It is almost like you can feel a slight disturbance in the air rather than hear it flying.  Talk about fleeting, it you didn’t know the bird was in the air, you might miss it.  I was at the Sanctuary, and they were flying this owl:

ISO 400 70mm 0ev f/5.6 1/500

ISO 400 70mm 0ev f/5.6 1/500

For all these images in this post I was using a 70-300mm IS lens.  For the photo above and below I was using a fast shutter speed because I really wanted to stop the motion of the bird.  For these images I was not using a tripod.  Here is the owl at rest with a treat:

ISO 400 300mm 0ev f/5.6 1/500

ISO 400 300mm 0ev f/5.6 1/500

Here is the final photo I used for my project:

ISO 400 150mm 0ev f/5.6 1/125

ISO 400 150mm 0ev f/5.6 1/125

This is actually an HDR image.  I merged three photos that were exactly the same, except for their exposure, in Photomatix, which is a software that specifically helps the user create HDR images.  As for the photo itself, because the bird was still, I lowered my shutter speed.  It had been at 1/500th for the other two shots in the post but here it is 1/125.  That is still a pretty fast speed and the reason for that is that I know that if any of the feathers are moving at all, it creates a blurred look in HDR.  For this shot I was also using a tripod.  A lens like the 70-300 IS I was using is fairly heavy, so the tripod was to help with any camera shake I might have introduced by just holding the camera.

I was happy with the way my birds of prey turned out.  The final photo is available in my Picfair portfolio.  One of the other birds in the series was a Eurasian Eagle-Owl that I blogged about here.

This post was written in part as response to the Weekly Photo Challenge hosted by WordPress, this week’s theme is fleeting. I appreciate your thoughts and comments so feel free to leave them below.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photography

Travel Theme: Light

I didn’t travel too far this week’s theme, light, I just went to a local elementary school.  A friend of mine teaches there and they are doing a life cycles unit, which includes monitoring some chickens as they go from eggs to chicks.  At day seven I went in to take some pictures of candling.  Here is one of those from the series I took:

ISO 2500 50mm 0ev f/6.3 1/10

ISO 2500 50mm 0ev f/6.3 1/10

If you look at the lightest part of the image, you can see the head of the developing chicken.  How cool is that?

The challenge to getting this image is, as you can see, that I was  shooting in the dark.  I used my tripod and asked my friend to stand very still.  You will notice that the ISO is really high here.  I could have tried a lower f-stop to let in more light, but I really did want to preserve a good amount of depth in the photo, so that is why it is set to f/6.3.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Canon Powershot ELPH 320 HS, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: (The Set-)Up

The weather here has been pretty crummy this past week.  During that time a robin has been busy building a nest outside my kitchen window.  I’m pretty excited about this development.  I got some great pictures last spring when we were lucky to have four baby robins grow up in a nest in that same spot.  This morning the weather had cleared so I set up my camera, and then went back inside to take some photos using my remote shutter. I couldn’t resist taking this photo of my set-up with my point and shoot when I saw it outside my window this morning:

The robin is off the nest and framed in-between the tripod legs.

The robin is off the nest and framed in-between the tripod legs.

With the camera I have set up outside, I got this shot:

ISO 400 50mm 0ev f/7.1 1/50

ISO 400 50mm 0ev f/7.1 1/50

I’m hoping to have some robin babies appear in the next few weeks.  My camera set-up is my response to this week’s photo challenge, up, at WordPress.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photography

At the Bird Feeder

I spend a fair amount of time taking pictures of birds.  Today’s photos are of a Tufted Titmouse:

ISO 640 50mm 0ev f/4.5 1/500

ISO 640 50mm 0ev f/4.5 1/500

ISO640 50mm 0ev f/4.5 1/500

ISO640 50mm 0ev f/4.5 1/500

Kind of a funny name, but they are a cute little bird.

There were a few challenges to deal with here.  Because a bird like this is almost always in motion, I did use my tripod.  I am also using a fast shutter speed.  Really what I am doing with a fast shutter speed and tripod is attempting to freeze the action and every little bit helps.  I also raised the ISO to 640 to help with the light.  The f-stop you really have to think about in a photo like this.  The number has to be small enough to let in enough light.  However, if it is too low, you might not get the whole bird in focus.  On the flip side of that, if the number is too high, too much of the background will be in focus.  For this shot, I really wanted the background to be blurred enough so that you still know what it is, but aren’t  really spending a lot of time looking at it.

As far as post editing, for these shots I only cropped them and then left it at that.

So, do you have any bird photo tips you like to share? other comments? please leave them below.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photography

I go to the zoo, encounter a few problems

For this trip to the St. Louis Zoo I went to the bird house. The problems there for photographers include:

  1. Low light
  2. Cage wires
  3. Distance from the birds

For me you can add:

  1. Forgetting to take down the names of the birds.

I’ll come back to the problems is a minute, but for now the birds:

ISO 500 50mm 0ev f/13 0.6s

ISO 500 50mm 0ev f/13 0.6s

This was probably my most successful image.  I actually got two exposures of this white winged wood duck, which I merged in HDR to bring out some of the really interesting detail this duck has. Notice I actually know the name of the duck as well.

Here are some other images, notice how many don’t have names:

So, of the seven birds featured in this post, I know the names of three.  Pretty bad when you consider I had a strategy for remembering the names.  The thought was to take a picture of the display sign whenever I took a picture of a bird.  Not a bad idea, but I guess I didn’t follow through because I came home with a bunch of birds but not a bunch of names.

As for the more generic problems I listed, here is what I did.  First I bumped my ISO to 500, usually I stick to as close to 100 as possible.  I was using my 50mm lens, because I can get my f-stop to 1.8, allowing as much light in as possible.  Where possible, I tried to have a fast shutter speed.  What I was trying to do with that was blur the cage wires as much as possible.  Because a fast shutter speed cuts down on the light, my shutter speed varies a lot in these images.  The shutter speed range is 1/30 to 1/320 depending on the shot.  I also used my tripod.  The birds were already moving, I didn’t want to add in camera shake.  As far as the distance from the cages, I did the best I could.  There were certain birds that I could not get close enough to to get a decent shot.  Either the bird was too far away for a 50mm lens, or the cage wires were to prominent in the images.

So, when you are taking photos of subjects and want to remember proper names later how do you do it?  I guess I could use some tips!

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Canon 50D, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

HDR at Night

For an assignment I had in my Digital Photography class we had to shoot HDR images at night.  Of the four that I turned in, this got the most response in the class critique:

ISO 200 50mm 0ev f/7.1 multiple exposures

ISO 200 50mm 0ev f/7.1 multiple exposures

The assignment required us to wait till sunset to start shooting.  As you can see I was shooting at the first allowable moment.  I really thought the colors in the sky would compliment the globe.  The other work around I used was to drag a lamp outside and place it behind me for additional light. Because I was dealing with longer exposures, I used my tripod.

This is five exposures merged in Photomatix to create the HDR image.  Because we were to make the photo look as “natural” as possible, I used the default setting.  I did some further work in Photoshop.  I darkened a few of the hot spots and cropped the image.

Cheers!

 

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50mm Lens, Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Editing, Photography

I get a lucky shot

It does happen sometimes.  I just happened to get this photo while I was photographing butterflies at the St. Louis Zoo:

ISO 100 50mm 0 ev f/5 1/30

ISO 100 50mm 0 ev f/5 1/30

This is a female Red-Legged Honeycreeper.  If you click on the link you will see that the male is blue.  They are very beautiful birds.  I had been taking a photograph of a nearby butterfly and I had my camera on a tripod when I got this shot.  Luckily she held still for just a moment.  All my other shots are blurry, but I got this one!  I cropped this photo in Aperture but I didn’t do any other post-editing.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Canon 50D, Nature, Photography

A Quiet Moment for your Monday

I took this shot a few weeks ago for my digital photography class.  The assignment was to show a fore-, middle-, and background:

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/7.1 1/30

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/7.1 1/30

Even though it was pretty cold when I shot this photo, I found it very soothing.  I hope you do as well.

The only “technical” thing I did with this shot was use a tripod.  In this case the tripod not only made it possible to have a lower shutter speed but also made it easier to compose the shot in camera.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details

Lost in the Details.  Any photographer will tell you that is easy to do when it comes to photography.  So interesting that it would be a challenge from WordPress.  There are all kinds of details to think about when it comes to photography.  I chose to focus on the details that you can get in a photograph when using HDR.  Here is one of the exposures that I used in my final image:

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/9 0.5s

ISO 100 50mm 0ev f/9 0.5s

Here is the image in HDR:

3 exposures together in Photomatix

3 exposures together in Photomatix

The difference is subtle but can be seen most in the lower part of the butterfly wings.  There is just more detail there.  I took three separate images that had different exposures and merged them together in Photomatix.

Just for fun, I then made a black and white version:

HDR in Black and White

HDR in Black and White

If you are interested, these HDR images are available for sale in this gallery on my website.

What I’d like to know is which version is your favorite?  If you have a moment and an opinion, please leave a comment below.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Canon 50D, Photo Editing, Photography

Taking on HDR

In my photography class we are doing some work with HDR images.  HDR, high dynamic range, involves taking several photos of the same scene and them merging them together in software.  In this case, I combined five images of this scene.  By changing the shutter speed of each image, different parts of the scene are shown in detail.  Combining the images gives you the ability to see everything at once.  The other challenge to this assignment was to shoot at night, making lighting that much more of a issue.  Here is one of my images:

ISO 160 50mm 0ev f/6.3 shutter speed varied

ISO 160 50mm 0ev f/6.3 shutter speed varied

Getting the candle to turn out in the photo was a bit tough.  One of the combined images was one where every thing turn out black except for a little bit of the flame.  I used that image to make the candle less bright in this final image.

So, what do you think? Can you even tell that it was taken at night?  HDR images are sometimes very otherworldly looking.  This time I was going for a more natural look.  Leave your thoughts in the comments section if you like.

Cheers!

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