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cstirlingbartholomew
12-19-2007, 08:51 PM
I took the 70-300 down to the beach for some practice shooting of seagulls just to get familiar with the lens. The light was changing all the time with the sun filtering through thin parts of the storm. The rain let up for a while so I went down by the driftwood found a few trees to brace my shots and started shooting seagulls.

I don't shoot birds very often and I was getting highlight warnings on the birds so I stopped down a bit and I was still getting the warnings but not as big so I just fixed on that setting and started shooting away. Got home and found out that blown white feathers don't recover very well and the transition zone between the feathers which are under the threshold and those which are blown is kind of ugly. No amount of fussing in PP could really solve the problem. There was a zone of subtle color distortion along the line where one or two channels were starting to go leading into the zone where all three channels were out.

So what do you bird stalkers do with white birds? If you keep all those feathers under the threshold in all three channels doesn't that drive the rest of your gray scale into the basement? I am talking about shooting in direct sunlight with the sun low in the sky and the white part of the bird facing the sun.

Clay

jebir
12-20-2007, 11:24 PM
Hi Clay,

I'm planning to try out setting the AEL button to "AEL lock" and program it to use "Highlight Spot" metering on the E-3 for exactly this application when I go to Galapagos soon.

Based on my E-1 experience, I'm using a couple of different strategies.

If the bird is the main subject, I expose almost all the way to the right in the histogram (ignore the highlight clipping warning mode). The Histogram is based on 8 bits colour depth so that is pretty safe for JPEGs but if you shoot RAW, there is a stop of extra latitude to extract the feather detail if you use Silkypix rather than Studio.

If the background/surrounding is an important part of the image, then I definitely shoot RAW under the conditions you mention. I can then over-expose the highlights by ~2/3 stop beyond the right edge of the histogram and still pull off some feather detail in Silkypix which can be further enhanced by post-processing the 16-bit TIFF in any editor. (Remember the Pelican image in the RAW-development challenge thread?)

I still have not faced this problem with any of my N-MOS sensor based cameras since we have had mostly cloudy days since I got them but I'm eager to learn if they work the same way.

Cheers, Jens

cstirlingbartholomew
12-21-2007, 12:06 PM
Hi Clay,

I'm planning to try out setting the AEL button to "AEL lock" and program it to use "Highlight Spot" metering on the E-3 for exactly this application when I go to Galapagos soon.

Based on my E-1 experience, I'm using a couple of different strategies.

If the bird is the main subject, I expose almost all the way to the right in the histogram (ignore the highlight clipping warning mode). The Histogram is based on 8 bits color depth so that is pretty safe for JPEGs but if you shoot RAW, there is a stop of extra latitude to extract the feather detail if you use Silkypix rather than Studio.

If the background/surrounding is an important part of the image, then I definitely shoot RAW under the conditions you mention. I can then over-expose the highlights by ~2/3 stop beyond the right edge of the histogram and still pull off some feather detail in Silkypix which can be further enhanced by post-processing the 16-bit TIFF in any editor. (Remember the Pelican image in the RAW-development challenge thread?)

I still have not faced this problem with any of my N-MOS sensor based cameras since we have had mostly cloudy days since I got them but I'm eager to learn if they work the same way.

Cheers, Jens

Thank you Jens,

I do remember your Pelican image and the white down on the back of the head which was the critical area where the detail was a challenge to recover. In fact it was the discussion surrounding that thread that was leading me to shoot the seagulls with the white breasts indicating on the highlight warning screen. I assumed as you have stated that in raw i would end up with images I could use. However determining just exactly how far out a highlight is by looking at the histogram and highlight warning is not an exact science. I got home with images that were not only out in the SHQ world but also out in the raw file. I could make them look reasonably good in ACR or RawDev, but a critical eye could see the the whites had blocked and the color shift in the transition area. One way to avoid the color shift is to de-saturate the whites which I didn't bother with on these test shots.

EDIT: I went back and did a little more work on these test shots. I found that by using the eyedropper (remove tint) in ACR 4.3.1 it was possible by trial and error to find a sample on the grey back feathers of the bird that would neutralize the whites and make the color distortion disappear. The color distortion in the transition zone problem seemed most pronounced when the white feathers were on the warm side with a slight magenta cast. Neutralizing the magenta cast made the whites look good even after they had been recovered from a blocked state. The detail in the blocked area was still lost but color shift was gone. The eye doesn't object so much to lost detail in small white areas but a color shift is most distracting. Obviously neutralizing the whites had an impact on the entire image. If you want a yellow winter late afternoon sun look then you will need to keep your white bird under the blocking threshold or attempt to isolate the bird and treat it separately from the background. The latter approach isn't likely to succeed since a cold neutral bird on a warm background is going to look weird.

http://three-tree-point.blogspot.com/2007/12/tucked-in.html

Notice the yellow cast, which is just exactly what I wanted to record. The winter sun late in the day. These were taken at 1/640th at f7.1 ISO400 e510 70-300 ZD. There was a small area on the rim of the breast of the left-hand bird that was indicating. This was 2/3rds of a stop below what I had determined was the ideal exposure of 1/400. The in camera histogram for these appeared completely empty on right 1/4-1/3rd. I opened up to 1/400 to shift the histogram to the right and none of the 1/400th exposures were usable. The bird breasts were blown beyond hope of fixing. Several 1/500th exposures were marginal. I should add that the light from the sun was constantly going and coming, making life difficult. But the results even with the light variance did not support the notion that shooting a white bird facing the light source one should move the histogram to the right. In every single case when the e510 histogram was moved toward the right filling up the empty space the white breast feathers were totally out, no PP of any sort was going to fix them. To keep the white breast feathers usable I had to leave a big hole at the right end of the histogram.

second edit:

If the bird as subject was a large portion of the total image, unlike my seagull shots, the histogram would look different because the white portion of the bird would represent enough pixels to show up as a big block on the histogram. In my test shots the white portion of the bird displayed, if at all, as one little dot on the in camera histogram. In several cases where there was only a few birds, the white feathers didn't display at all on the histogram, neither in the luminance histogram nor the color channel histogram.

I agree with you that it would be a good plan to test your N-MOS bodies before risking your Galapagos images on a procedure based on the E-1. Perhaps you will have to do the tests in Galapagos, i assume you are taking a laptop with you.

Thanks again,

Clay

cdreid
02-06-2008, 09:27 PM
I love beach bird photography. I dont know the solution to your problem via processing or camera settings but for me the solution was more in framing and shot selection. The last beach shots i took the shots i strove for because my brain thought theyd be optimal came out awful for the reasons youve stated. But the ones i had to work harder to get the right scene in and thought would turn out more blah came out fantastic.

Btw i also have a jet black chow who is almost impossible to photograph. She usually come out as a black hole in photographs but forcing myself to shoot nonstandard angles/settings with her turned out some of my favorite pictures.

cstirlingbartholomew
02-06-2008, 09:59 PM
Well birding is certainly a challenge and not just the lighting problems but also the stalking. I tried to sneak up on a blue heron last week, it was on a stretch of beach that isn't used much and I was keeping out of sight behind some logs and a breakwater but sure enough before I got with in 50 meters of it, the bird spooked and flew off to a floating log half a mile away. This is typical of Herons. They don't like people getting close to them.

Clay

ptuk
02-07-2008, 04:07 AM
Clay,

Stalking rarely works. Most animals' senses are simply too acute for us to be able to sneak up on them. I find it better to sit still and let the wildlife come to me.

AbeakerZ
02-07-2008, 11:10 AM
What metering mode were using in the camera? Using ESP metering with white birds and their surroundings will almost always blow them beyond salvage. I shoot almost everything with center weighted metering but have found with egrets it's best to go to spot metering. As you've found out, it's easier to bring up the shadows a touch than it is to bring back the blinding white spots.

cstirlingbartholomew
02-07-2008, 01:48 PM
Clay,

Stalking rarely works. Most animals' senses are simply too acute for us to be able to sneak up on them. I find it better to sit still and let the wildlife come to me.

Which is probably the reason I never took up duck hunting. Sold my duck gun to a ferry captain.

Clay

cstirlingbartholomew
02-07-2008, 01:57 PM
What metering mode were using in the camera? Using ESP metering with white birds and their surroundings will almost always blow them beyond salvage. I shoot almost everything with center weighted metering but have found with egrets it's best to go to spot metering. As you've found out, it's easier to bring up the shadows a touch than it is to bring back the blinding white spots.

I don't much trust the spot metering mode. Perhaps if I used the spot mode in the e510 for a while I could get used to it.

Clay

AbeakerZ
02-07-2008, 06:22 PM
I almost never use spot metering myself. But when it comes to white birds I've found that it helps.

Here's an egret shot done with the 510 and the 600 OM Zuiko 6.5 bazooka. Normally spot metering doesn't work well with OM lenses but it really pulled it off here I think.

http://www.pbase.com/abeakerz/image/91244368.jpg


This was done in exactly the scenario you are describing, low sun with the light right on the bird. As you can see, there is a spot on the shoulder where it is still blocked but all in all it did pretty well. This was shot in raw and developed in ACR with some highlight recovery slider used. These egrets are tough boogers to expose well I've found.

cstirlingbartholomew
02-07-2008, 08:23 PM
I almost never use spot metering myself. But when it comes to white birds I've found that it helps.

Here's an egret shot done with the 510 and the 600 OM Zuiko 6.5 bazooka. Normally spot metering doesn't work well with OM lenses but it really pulled it off here I think.


This was done in exactly the scenario you are describing, low sun with the light right on the bird. As you can see, there is a spot on the shoulder where it is still blocked but all in all it did pretty well. This was shot in raw and developed in ACR with some highlight recovery slider used. These egrets are tough boogers to expose well I've found.

This is a very nice photo. I think perhaps (getting very picky now) I can see the ACR recovery where there is a slight pink tint to the white between the blocked shoulder and where it wasn't blocked. This is something I have noticed where one channel is blocked and you used ACR recovery it tends to result in a slight tinting of the white or a color shift if the blocked portion is red, yellow or orange.

After all this discussion of exposure technique, blocked highlights, reading the histogram, using the highlight blinker and so forth I still bring home an occasional photo with blown whites and yellows. The red channel goes out first. My last shoot at Fort Lawton, the white trim on the buildings blew out on several shots. The yellow siding in full sunlight also blocked the red channel on some shots. When the light is changing all the time, sun coming in and out of the clouds, a very typical "partly cloudy" day you can have three stop swing in light level in a matter of seconds.

Clay

jebir
02-07-2008, 09:35 PM
Hi Clay,

nice to see this thread re-activated. I had the AEL-button of my E-3 set to AEL-lock and Highlight Spot metering all the time at the Galapagos and it worked very nicely. The half-press metering was set to ESP (or centerweight) and was perfect fot all situations except white birds but then I just pointed to a sunlit part of its plumage and tapped AEL that gave very nice expoures without blown highlights in 9 out of 10 shots.

Ceers, Jens

cstirlingbartholomew
02-07-2008, 10:53 PM
Hi Clay,

nice to see this thread re-activated. I had the AEL-button of my E-3 set to AEL-lock and Highlight Spot metering all the time at the Galapagos and it worked very nicely. The half-press metering was set to ESP (or centerweight) and was perfect fot all situations except white birds but then I just pointed to a sunlit part of its plumage and tapped AEL that gave very nice expoures without blown highlights in 9 out of 10 shots.

Ceers, Jens

Jens,

Glad to hear things went well at the Galapagos.

I've been looking at the birds on my daily walk and there is hardly a day goes by that I don't see some birds worth shooting but the lighting isn't felicitous. How do you shoot a gray Heron against a gray beach with gray water and gray sky. It doesn't make much of a photo. Sunny days are not much better. You need some interesting background as a setting for the birds and that is what we don't have here. Birds we have plenty of.

When do we get to see some of these exotic Galapagos birds? I suspect that thousands of images take some time to sort out.

edit:

"I had the AEL-button of my E-3 set to AEL-lock and Highlight Spot"

I tried this formula and made it my #2 custom reset. Perhaps the e3 works differently, on the e510 you have to hold the AEL button down to keep the exposure locked. This means to lock both exposure and focus you need to half press the shutter and hold down the AEL button and then compose your shot. That is a lot of button pushing for someone like me who has ten thumbs. Anyway, next time I have a subject with white surfaces I will give it a try.

thanks,

Clay

cdreid
02-08-2008, 01:58 AM
I've found with animal photography you can never really outwit the animals. They SEE what you're doing and keep a constant eye on you. If you're being sneaky they leave.. laughing. Ive found it better to let them get used to you. Just as with dogs if they know you arent a threat they dont mind you. If they do.. bye bye

jebir
02-08-2008, 04:07 AM
When do we get to see some of these exotic Galapagos birds? I suspect that thousands of images take some time to sort out.
Yes, I took 5000 photos there and I'm still sorting out the good ones... There are many reasons whi I haven't finished that yet: Taking long vacations calls for likewise long working hours wen at home (if at home - I'm in Montana USA right now...) and my camera suffered from a focusing error which makes that task much harder and less fun as well.


"I had the AEL-button of my E-3 set to AEL-lock and Highlight Spot"

I tried this formula and made it my #2 custom reset. Perhaps the e3 works differently, on the e510 you have to hold the AEL button down to keep the exposure locked. Setting "AEL/AFL Memo = ON" (Spanner 1 just above "AEL Metering") makes an AEL press lock the metering values until you press it again (or you review an image or the camera goes to sleep mode - there are other actions which cancels the AEL-lock but I don't remember them now).


Cheers, Jens.

cstirlingbartholomew
02-08-2008, 11:52 AM
Setting "AEL/AFL Memo = ON" (Spanner 1 just above "AEL Metering") makes an AEL press lock the metering values until you press it again (or you review an image or the camera goes to sleep mode - there are other actions which cancels the AEL-lock but I don't remember them now).


Cheers, Jens.

Thanks. That works. Toggling back and forth can get confusing but the AEL light in the viewfinder reminds you when it is locked. One thing I don't understand is blinking exposure setting in the view finder and on the LCD. Sometimes it blinks and other times it doesn't blink. I'm sure it is trying to tell me something like the exposure is out of range or what not but I don't know what it is trying to tell me.

Clay

cstirlingbartholomew
02-08-2008, 01:44 PM
(if at home - I'm in Montana USA right now...) and my camera suffered from a focusing error which makes that task much harder and less fun as well.


Montana is a fun place to be in February. A bit of a shock after the tropics. What part of Montana? It is after all a big place. You might get a chance to shoot some "wild" wolves with tags in their ears or with collars.

Clay

E B
02-08-2008, 02:16 PM
One thing I don't understand is blinking exposure setting in the view finder and on the LCD. Sometimes it blinks and other times it doesn't blink. I'm sure it is trying to tell me something like the exposure is out of range or what not but I don't know what it is trying to tell me.

Clay

You are correct. It blinks as an improper exposure warning. See P. 40 and P. 129 of the E-3 manual. The specific part of the exposure information that is blinking tells you what you need to adjust.

cstirlingbartholomew
02-12-2008, 09:59 PM
I've found with animal photography you can never really outwit the animals. They SEE what you're doing and keep a constant eye on you. If you're being sneaky they leave.. laughing. Ive found it better to let them get used to you. Just as with dogs if they know you arent a threat they dont mind you. If they do.. bye bye

Once again I tried to get close to a heron today. He was perched on a rock with fifty feet of water to protect him. I managed to get fairly close and he didn't spook. But when a russian dog named Gorsha arrived he took off flew up and down the shoreline and then landed high up on a limb not far from his rock waiting for the dog do leave before returning to his fishing perch.

I think with a little work I could get close enough for a shot of him but it would need to be early in the day since the light is useless in the afternoon. I am not much for shooting backlighted subjects.

Clay

janwalker47
03-10-2008, 05:13 AM
Stalking a heron? Doesn't work!! From 50 ft you should be able to get a great photo though. The 2x converter is a marvel. I've been using it with the ZD 50-200 on both E-1 and E-510. There is a LOT of learning involved on the 510 with both exposure and focus but herons will fill the frame.

As for "white herons" (more properly known as Egrets) the fun begins, as discussed in this thread. It is a real struggle to expose well if there is any sky in the composition. I use manual exposure mostly or maybe Aperture priority if the light is changing a little.

I have also found that manual focus is almost a necessity because I have no idea really what the automatic focus has decided to focus on when it finally decides that it has a focus to lock onto. This makes focus on white birds a challenge. Far more failure than success with the E-510. I used the E-1 for some major shoots and had far fewer focus failures. In fact, it felt like manual focus with the E-1 was more successful than with the 510. Same lenses.

There seems to be some kind of interaction between focus and metering that I can't quite figure out how to describe. Maybe it is related to contrast in the subject.

Jan