Taking Flight Critical Evaluation

barlow46barlow46 Posts: 312 Deckhand
Will be posting a few shots I have taken over the last few months. Looking for critique as I am just starting to understand some of the basics of photography. This shot was taken on St. George Island with a D200 and Nikon 70-300 AF-S 4.5-5.6 G. I am using P mode most of the time with auto white balance and auto ISO. I do venture into manual settings at times basically selecting Aperture Mode to try and get better depth of field at times. I realize that I have a tremendous amount of information to learn and need to get out and shoot as much as possible but I would really appreciate some input on my shots in a constructive critical manner. If this is not the proper forum to do this, please let me know. Thanks.
East Coast Florida

Replies

  • barlow46barlow46 Posts: 312 Deckhand
    Strong background lighting causes subject to be darker. Need more detail on subject. I was about 45' away.
    East Coast Florida
  • barlow46barlow46 Posts: 312 Deckhand
    Setting was auto. Looks fuzzy to me, depth of field poor, too dark.
    East Coast Florida
  • barlow46barlow46 Posts: 312 Deckhand
    This was cropped and taken from 75' with 300 lens. Sky was not that deep blue.
    East Coast Florida
  • GuidenetGuidenet Posts: 239 Officer
    Hey, welcome aboard. We need more people interested. This is a happy family group of people here.

    For starters, nothing wrong with using P for Professional mode now or forever. I am almost always in Manual mode but only because I find it easier, not because I'm any good at it. I get frustrated with the choice the camera makes too often and just turn it to manual and set it the way I want so the camera can't frustrate me. My gal trusts the camera's choice and therefore uses P for Perfect and gets as good or better than I do. The only thing I'd suggest is whatever you use, learn why you chose it and what the camera did to choose what it did. We'll worry about that later though.

    I like the first shot a lot. The only downside is that it is what bird shooters call a Butt Shot. We'd rather have a front shot or at least a side on shot. Other than that, It's great.

    The second shot is way underexposed. It's also a Butt Shot as well. We'll get into how to shoot that so you can't miss in a moment. The Cardinal is about perfect to me other than having a little blur to it. I'm not sure if it's overcropped, motion blur or slightly out of focus. You've stripped the EXIF data. Never use Save for the Web. Always use Save As and choose Jpeg so you retain EXIF metadate. Also download and EXIF reader and learn how to use it. I use Opanda.

    To me, the last one about perfect. I love it a lot. Really nice. I don't mind a pushed blue sky. That's your sky. Remember, you don't take a picture. You make a picture. You made a good one.

    Now about the exposure on the hawk. Here's where I'd suggest manual mode. You want the exposure of the hawk, not the sky, so you set manual then set the exposure for the bird. Since the bird is a little high up, you meter on something close to you in the same light as the bird and use that exposure. Green grass or leaves are perfect 18% grey cards your camera loves. So the hawk here is in the shade. Meter some green grass in the shade by taking a picture of it. I'd use Shutter Priority on a Nikon or TV on a Canon with the shutter speed as fast as you think you can use. Let's say 1000th of a second. Let's say the grass chose f/5.6. So you manually set the camera for 1000th and f/5.6. Shoot the hawk. It will be perfect like the grass was.

    I do all this before I get to where I'm birding. I shoot some grass and figure out what manual setting I'll be using that hour. I look at the histogram and make sure everything is in bounds on those grass shots. Once the camera is set manually, I look for something white and snap a picture. I have one of my views set for highlight clipping where that blinks at me. If the white is blinking, I cut the exposure until it doesn't. I shoot another grass shot and see if the underexposure is too much. I finally settle on some compromise and Ive got my manual exposure for most of the time. I do the same thing on sunny grass and a sunny white object. I just about always do the above in shutter priority so I can fix the shutter speed at 1000th or better. Birds twitch and what not. I want to freeze them. I'll manually bump ISO until I have that fast shutter speed.

    Finally, I'd rather underexpose than over. I shoot exclusively in RAW and can always recover underexposure. Over exposure and clipped highlights are very hard to bring back after the fact. If your hawk is shot in RAW, I could totally bring him out. He'd be just fine. It's a stunning shot except the butt part ;) . Even in Jpeg, I think I could rescue him, but you should learn how.
    Nikon D800, D3S, D700, D300, Canon G1X, Sigma 15 f/2.8 Fisheye, Sigma 10-20 f/4-5.6, Nikon 16-35 f/4 VR, Nikon 28 f/1.8G AFS, Tamron 17-50 f/2.8, Nikon 35-70 f/2.8 AFD, Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 AFD, Nikon 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 VR, Nikon 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 AFS VR, Nikon 35 f/2, Nikon 50 f/1.8 G, Nikon 60 f/2.8 G Micro, Nikon 85 f/1.4 AFS G, Nikon 105 f/2.5 AI, Sigma 150 f/2.8 APO Macro, Nikon 300 f/2.8 AFS VR, Nikon 500 f/4 -P, Interfit Stellar X complete six light studio
  • GuidenetGuidenet Posts: 239 Officer
    Oh and you're just down the road from me. Let's go bird shooting sometime. We can teach each other some tricks.
    Nikon D800, D3S, D700, D300, Canon G1X, Sigma 15 f/2.8 Fisheye, Sigma 10-20 f/4-5.6, Nikon 16-35 f/4 VR, Nikon 28 f/1.8G AFS, Tamron 17-50 f/2.8, Nikon 35-70 f/2.8 AFD, Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 AFD, Nikon 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 VR, Nikon 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 AFS VR, Nikon 35 f/2, Nikon 50 f/1.8 G, Nikon 60 f/2.8 G Micro, Nikon 85 f/1.4 AFS G, Nikon 105 f/2.5 AI, Sigma 150 f/2.8 APO Macro, Nikon 300 f/2.8 AFS VR, Nikon 500 f/4 -P, Interfit Stellar X complete six light studio
  • barlow46barlow46 Posts: 312 Deckhand
    A couple of more and I quit for now.
    East Coast Florida
  • barlow46barlow46 Posts: 312 Deckhand
    Guidenet, Thanks for the input. That is exactly what I am looking for. I just happen to be on the intercoastal here with a marsh between my deck and the water. That is where I get most of my wildlife shots. Never thought about the "butt" shots but makes perfectly good sense. (just posted another one before I read your reply). I have a close friend who has been into photography for a number of years. He will be down the first of next month from Michigan and we try to get down to Black Point Wildlife Drive in Feb. Will shoot you a pm and let you know when we are heading out and maybe you can meet up with us.He does a trip or two each year to Yellowstone and the Tetons to get some shots and is my main soundboard for topics I know nothing about. I also get first choice on all of his equipment when he upgrades. (bonus for me) My weak spots are definitely exposure in different settings and depth of field. (as you can tell). Thanks for that tip about the grass while using shutter priority. That makes a lot of sense now that I think about it. My deck faces east so most of my shots have a bright background when looking skyward if I am shooting in the morning. The afternoon gives me shade for about 75 yards and then the water and far bank are in full sunlight. Some good colors this time of year. Will try that shutter priority in the morning and see what I can come up with.
    East Coast Florida
  • WaterEngineerWaterEngineer Posts: 24,415 AG
    Wow. 50 lookers and not one reply. You seem sincere in wanting some input. OK, here we go.

    1. There is ONLY one manual setting it is "M". All the others you discuss above are some form of auto mode because they give the camera some control over the basic functions that YOU would be in control of in "M." I suggest you learn about the interrelationships of ISO/exposure/aperture. The easiest and IMHO best way to do this is to put the camera on M and vary one of the parameters at a time to see what it does, how it changes the exposure.

    2. Bottomline, "Auto" is an unfortunate experience for all photographers. It averages every parameter for the exposure of a given image and is rarely satisfactory.

    3. To stop blurriness I suggest using a shutter duration that is 1/2 the inverse of the focal length. Yes, that might be a touch confusing so I will offer an example: if the focal length is 50mm then the shutter speed should be faster than 1/100 second. If the fucal length is 300mm then the shutter speed should be faster than 1/600 sec. This is sort of an old timers rule (I guess because I am an old timer). The new(ish) image stabilization lenses can reduce this time to a much slower shutter duration. This rule is for hand held of course.

    4. Lets talk about the image of the Red Shoulder Hawk on the branch. The camera's light meter was reading the correct exposure for the sky. Thus, the beast is underexposed, creating the virtual silhouette you show above. There are several ways to outsmart the camera into changing the exposure: M, spot meter, fill light are the common ways. Perhaps the easiest way is to change what the camera light meter is reading by changing it to a spot meter function. After you learn to shoot in M you can dial in a longer exposure to brighten the beast. And of course there is flash as fill light. Something else to consider, but not a perfect solution is shooting in *.RAW format and brightening the beast in photoshop camera raw or lightroom.

    5. Not lets talk about the Cardinal. Yes, it is blurry because of the Auto function. Chances are the camera chose too low an ISO and too slow a shutter speed.

    6. Learn to "chimp" the screen on the back of your camera. The faster you learn about histograms and how to read them the happier you will be because the historgram can tell you what to change to fix the exposure - that is if you know how to read it. Bottomline, you are looking for, in a perfect world, and it is rarely perfect, a bell curve centered on the screen. If you can read the histogram then you will know if you neen higher ISO, different shutter speed, Blah, Blah.....

    7. One thing to note on the Cardinal image is the exposure is close to right - as chosen by the camera - but to get the exposure,the camera chose too slow a shutter speed.

    8. One last point. While all rules are meant to be broken, and wildlife (bird) photography creates its own challenges, I try to remember one thing. A successful image has a subject and a background. Try to simplify your backgrounds to make the subject(s) pop out of the photo. Example: in the first image there are a lot of things to like but the image looks more cluttered than it otherwise might be. If you would have waited half a second for the Caspian Terns to be out of the wave line and have a solid background of the flat dark ocean, it would have made a better image. The wave line clutters the image. (Also, the image might be a 1/3 of a stop over exposed.)

    9. Lear to shoot in M, A and S you will be much happier with your images. Also, learn to command the ISO. Many times I shoot Auto WB, but I shoot in RAW so I can change the WB later if I don't like it. About the only time I don't shoot in Auto WB is at Dawn/Dusk when I dial in Daylight. Or on a day when the light will be flat all day due to hard core cloudiness. I am no expert but I can say that when I view others images, and mine too for that matter, WB is the number one issue after sharpness. I chalk this up to the fact that in film days, the WB was designed into the film so we never learned to deal with it until digital came to prominence.

    10. Photography can be a life long pursuit. There is a lot to learn. Keep shooting and learning. Don't be too hard on yourself. You are doing some things right as shown in the last photo. If you can find your way to Martin or Palm Beach Counties - I would be more than happy to spend a couple of hours with you to help you climb the learning curve faster.
  • WaterEngineerWaterEngineer Posts: 24,415 AG
    :rotflmao :rotflmao :rotflmao

    Craig T says: "P for Professional mode". Craig every time you write that I laugh my **** off!
  • barlow46barlow46 Posts: 312 Deckhand
    WaterEngineer,
    Great input. I understand about 80% of what you are saying and I will do some reading and experimenting to understand the other 20%. Regarding ISO, am I looking to shoot the lowest ISO that I can get away with and still use the shutter speed that at least fits the "1/2 the inverse of the focal length"I need given the conditions? Or should I just use auto ISO and work with shutter speed that fits "1/2 inverse rule" for the lens I am using? (example: 300 lens, at least 1/600 shutter speed and let the camera set the ISO) I will set up on the deck in the morning and try using a set ISO of 200 and use the S setting and see what I get. I can then change to A setting and M setting. I guess it would be a good idea to start shooting in "raw" also. I use a Mac and Iphoto to import my shots. I then upload to picasa to store and edit also. I need to find Opanda for the Mac if possible. Thanks again for sharing your information, really appreciate it.
    East Coast Florida
  • WaterEngineerWaterEngineer Posts: 24,415 AG
    How do you know the shutter speed with work in the 1/2 the inverse of the focal length rule if the camera picks the ISO? You should start picking the ISO - not the camera.

    Remember you are the photographer, not the camera.

    Something my Grandpa taught me long, long, long ago, "It's a poor carpenter who blames his tools."

    Read, learn and shoot.
  • DustinDustin Posts: 99 Greenhorn
    On the second hawk shot, I'd say your exposure is pretty darn good. Still a butt shot, but you take what you can get! The only thing I would offer on the second hawk shot is that it appears to be over-sharpened (the edges appear to be "glowing" on my calibrated monitor).
  • barlow46barlow46 Posts: 312 Deckhand
    WaterEngineer: Got it, went out this morning and picked the ISO (100) to start with, set the shutter speed at 1000 and played around with different stops and speeds. Moved the ISO to 200 and then to 400 and played around some more with speeds and stops. Have not loaded to my iphoto yet but could definitely see some "newer to me" looking shots. Thanks for the info.

    Dustin, I did a lot of editing on those hawk shots to try to get to where I could acutally see some detail. That is where the over-sharpness came from. Now that I have some new information to work with, I will be trying that shot again as the hawk makes a visit to that tree about three times a week. Thanksagain for the input.
    East Coast Florida
  • barlow46barlow46 Posts: 312 Deckhand
    Ok...had a Pileated visit this morning. Overcast day. Went to RAW. The first shot has not been tweaked at all. I will follow it up with the same shot which has been "enhanced" by my iphoto program. Looks like camera is still picking ISO for me. I need to get back to the book to make sure I can hold the ISO where I want it. Also to get these frames uploaded, I had to use Picasa for the first one andwhen i saved it, it went to Jpeg. The next one was resized after dragging from Iphoto to desktop and using preview. I need some help with uploading here on FS forum in RAW if possible. I am guessing that you all can get the particulars from each shot to give me more feedback. Thanks again.
    East Coast Florida
  • WaterEngineerWaterEngineer Posts: 24,415 AG
    All the exposure metadata is stripped from the image file.
  • barlow46barlow46 Posts: 312 Deckhand
    Yes. That is what I thought. I tried to upload from original shot but file was too large. When I moved it to picasa and to preview from Iphoto, it was changed to Jpeg. I guess I need to look at picasa settings and iphoto settings to see what I am missing. Thanks
    East Coast Florida
  • bugdocbugdoc Posts: 421 Officer
    I like the armadillo shot. A lot of the issues with exposure can be corrected if you get good with photo editing software. The bright grass behind the armadillo can be darkened and blurred more, the armadillo brightened up with a little more contrast and things like that. Early morning, late afternoon and cloudy days avoid a lot of the high contrast issues and dark shadows. Horizontal light also works much better when shooting up at birds, as during the middle of the day you just get profiles. I try to underexpose white birds and flowers since the contrasts (i.e. feathers) are very subtle and get washed out with standard exposures. Your camera should let you bracket exposures so you can take the shot 3 different ways at once. Us "cheaters" will sometimes take a picture like your first one of the hawk and paste a lighter image of the hawk on the same picture underexposed so the sky comes out a nice blue.
    bugdoc

    Southeast Florida kayak launch sites at http://www.floridakayaksites.info
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