It has been a while. To get every one caught up, I have been working as a photographer the last few years but not in any capacity that allowed me to travel or shoot wildlife. It was sort of like a commercial CSI role, lots of documentary photos and technical writing. That gig has ended for now.
I am now pleased to announce that I have moved to the Pacific Northwest and I am back on the hunt in a wildlife rich environment. While I am out photographing birds and other wildlife regularly the nature of this blog is going to be different than in years gone by. I don’t plan to publish new instructional posts but will repost older relevant tutorials. I will not post on weekly basis either, in all honesty that is just too demanding and does not have enough payback to make it worthwhile.
Some of you may remember that in addition to photography I am also a software developer. I am pleased to announce that over the past couple of years I have created a number of nature or photography related applications and the Diary of a Birdshooter blog will be home to those applications with content and tutorials to help the users of the applications.
Last week we did the most basic editing by separating the subject from the back ground, balancing the exposures and making contrast, saturation, and shadow/highlight adjustments independent of each other. Today we are going to finish off the photo with some cloning. There are plenty of different ways to do cloning and none of them are wrong, so don’t think you need to do it the same as I do. Any way that accomplishes the result is just fine. Lets go back to that background layer that we just adjusted and duplicate it. We see an ugly black waterline from the river going right through the bird. This is going to be a lot easier to fix with the layer mask in place, we won’t have to worry about our bird at all. Select a soft brush with medium opacity in your clone brush tool and be sure that you are sampling only the current layer and the “aligned” box is checked. Here you have your choice, you could clone with the river bed rock, the foliage, or a combination of both. In this case I did both trying to make the water line slightly meandering so it is not a straight arrow shooting straight through our eagle. The log under the eagle could also be cloned out at this point but I think I will leave it in. The only big distraction it creates is the huge black spot behind the subject in the trunk. I am going to sample the area just below it and at a very low opacity tap the brush repeatedly until it looks ok.
Yeah, that’s the ticket. Now lets look at the bird. Not much to do here, the beak has a white highlight on the tip, it is not a blown out highlight just a white area that is overexposed. All we need to do is put some color in it and that is easy to do. I could clone from the area around it but since the area is round and irregular shaped it is much easier to simply sample a nearby color and paint over it on new blank layer. At this point you could try different blending modes and the “color” mode is often a good choice but since the underlying layer is white just lowering the opacity until everything blends in works just fine. By the way, there is a lot of blood and dirt in this eagles head area, usually eagles clean up after eating but this guy must have forgotten. I could have cleaned that up but for me it is just part of nature so I left it in. On the strip of the tail that was too bright I did a little cloning lowered the opacity and changed the blend mode to multiply (I think!) to darken it up a bit. After that Shift<Option<Command<E to make a complete layer, flatten the image if you need the performance. I now just need to clone out that branch in the lower left corner, healing brush will get it too, and send the image over to Lightroom for some final adjustment. I like to use Lightroom for sharpening, noise reduction, saturation, and selective exposure or gradient masking. There is no need to do it in Lightroom but for me it seems easier, probably because it is one step closer to a final output.
I am sure you will agree that the final image is a vast improvement and I hope one or two of these methods finds its way into your workflow. Until next time Thank You for stopping by and Happy Shooting.
You can catch me on Twitter: @RonBoyd
This week the Diary of a Birdshooter blog starts its 5th year. If it were a Bald Eagle it would become an adult. Four complete years of writing every week about my adventures and sharing the things I have learned along the way. I am looking forward to continuing through out 2014 and into the foreseeable future however things are going to change some too. As things continue to grow time becomes more limited and I am rapidly seeing the need to make more money to help pay the bills. At some point in 2014 the site is going to get an overhaul, there may be some advertising or donation buttons but I plan to make everything available for free. It is hard to believe that there has been 4 years worth of material devoted to bird photography but I still have plans for much, much more.
For every one who stopped inane commented the last 4 years I extend a big thank you and hope to see you again in the future. I look forward to bringing you more photos, more videos, news, reviews, and related applications so please come by again next week and see what is new. For today please enjoy this image of 2 immature Bald Eagles fighting for the last of the salmon scraps.
I know there are a great many of you out there that use the Apple iPhone or iPad. Starting next week things are going to change dramatically for everyone using said devices with the release of the new operating system iOS7. In a nutshell iOS7 should be the pathway on which phones and tablets become full on computers with power and sophistication equal to most traditional desktop and laptop computers. One thing that is a for sure is that iOS7 is completely different. It is all about structure, a structure that visually pulls the user in and gives the feeling of being part of what is happening. The parallax effect you may have heard about is one example. The simple floating icons demonstrated in the previews only scratches the surface of what can be done with the effect. Transitions between applications and screens is all about scaling, either pulling you in or pushing you out of the view. Simply said, you are immersed in the operating system. There has been criticism levied toward iOS7 also, and it is not without warrant. There is a lot of white throughout the system and a lot of photography, in particular wildlife, looks much better against a dark back ground. This is in part due to extensive use of transparency and background blurring that gives kind of frosty effect. While those things are set in the Apple apps, developers have a lot of latitude for presenting colors and intensity of this look to create a more pleasing UI for photography. Some say the use of color is over the top. For some that is true but bright vibrant colors are the norm for almost everything short of cemeteries and funeral homes. It is not just for kids. Probably the most important feature of the new OS is that the essence of its structure is to be out-of-the-way. The content being displayed consumes your attention. There are no parlor tricks, you get what you get and it is really important the developers present the very best work possible because they are going to get undivided attention from the viewer.
To date about 1,300 of you have downloaded my iPad application and I am pleased to say that it has been tested and works fine with iOS7 as is but I am also doing a complete redesign to take advantage of and fit in better with, the new operating system. The photo today shows a snapshot of one of the working pages as a sneak peek into the new look. In the meantime, if you don’t already have your copy of Wildlife HD you can buy it for just 99 cents before the new version hits the market. WildlifeHD will have more photos, more original content, better camera functions, filters and lots, lots more. It is going to take a little more than a week to push this one out but hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.
For centuries man has watched the flight of birds with amazement. Whether it is the majestic soaring of Birds of Prey for endless periods of time, the turn on a dime aeronautics of Terns and other such medium birds, or the seemingly effortless hovering of the humming-bird, man has watched gravity defying antics with great envy. Galileo made wings but couldn’t fly, the Wright Brothers got off the ground ever so briefly, now a century later we are shooting winged craft into space billions of dollars a time. With the shuttle Discovery final launch and the impending end of the American Space Shuttle Program I can’t help but think about the last hundred or so years. The untolled expense and loss of human treasure all in the name of overcoming the laws of gravity and achieving flight. The one thing that our avian counterparts take for granted and do so naturally.
As an Avian photographer I usually try to capture the beauty and grace of birds in flight. Sometimes it is caught, sometimes it is an awkward or comical moment, sometimes it is just plain boring. Even though the unusual has it’s charms the blame fore missing the grace and beauty flight is always on the chowderhead behind the camera. The centuries march on but the beauty of flight will always be the same.
You can see more of my photos at www.ronboyddesign.com
Lately I have been dealing with a person who only does things because he can. Never could I imagine that this person would give a second thought as to why something needs to be done or even if it should be done. “I can do it, I want to do it, so it has to be done” is the attitude. After too many times of asking myself “why do such things” I have now become indifferent to anything produced by that individual. Working without purpose is at best a hit and miss affair, rarely addressing the issues of the day and I find it rather uninspiring in most cases. Reality is that the “because I can” mindset simply boils down to a “look what I can do” grab for attention. Kind of immature I think.
Seeing this day in and day out has led me to look at my own purpose in Avian photography. One of the things I have been doing is review my intentions before every shoot. When I get in the truck I always run my mental check list. “What is my purpose-why am I going out today? What am I trying to accomplish, what can I reasonably expect to achieve, and what are my wildest expectations? I answer all those questions before I start the engine. Coincidentally, that little exercise always puts me in a very good mood and helps me stay focused on the task of the day. I have a number of long term projects that make it a lot easier to shoot with purpose and there is always a need somewhere for a really good image. As I get a little older and wiser I also at times take a moment to ponder the purpose of each image I make. No small task because it is easy to get caught up in the moment but taking the time to think about the reason why and the place each shot will hold is invaluable.
My advice to anyone wanting to examine their purpose for making photographs is to drill down beyond the usual reasons. It is all very nice to think purpose is because of the love of the game or because I really really like Bald Eagles but try to hone in on those things that are meaningfull to you. It could be something like wanting to do a picture book about Raptors of the West Coast or maybe just birds in flight carrying prey. What ever that is get down to the nitty gritty and make that your purpose.
The moral of the story is have a reason to shoot. Having purpose leads to better vision and drive. In the coming weeks I will share with you my take on vision and drive too.
Follow me on twitter @RonBoyd
Here are a few more images from a recent trip to La Jolla Cove in San Diego CA. During Winter the Brown Pelicans are the big attraction. These big colorful creatures like to hang out on the cliffs preening and carrying on.
There were plenty of Western Gulls hanging around all day long. Without a doubt the most approachable bird I ran across. I like the pure white front with yellow bill although it can be a challenge to get a good exposure.
Late in the morning I was able to see dozens of Browns flying across the cove often in groups of up to 10 birds. As the morning moves on the light becomes harsh and images tend to look washed out but let the Sun hide behind a cloud for a minute or two and some nice shots can be made.
…And now for something completely different.
About midday I was out playing around when I decided to photograph some Sea Lions and I noticed this poor guy. You can see that it has a rather large wound on its neck what you maybe can not see is that the animal has fishing line wrapped around its entire neck. I was shooting next to a photographer from Alaska who said that he specialized in large mammals. He said the Lion was in great agony, I on the other hand felt as though it did not really appear to be bothered by the wound very much. I defer to the expert. I did not post this photo to tell a story about pain and agony though. Rather, the story I want to tell is one of being touched by man. I doubt that anyone intentionally left line out in the waters so this poor Sea Lion could get wrapped up in it, yet it still happened. so many times the tiniest little thing that we do as humans can have a great impact on the ecosystem and all the other creatures that share our world.
See more of my nature photos at www.ronboyddesign.com
Those of you with newer cameras might find this post a little silly but I am betting that there are more than one or two people out there that still shoot with gear that is older than a few years. Many of us with older DSLR’s just cringe at the subject of sensitivity also known as iso. In its simpliest terms, the iso setting is an adjustment to your camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. Good stuff except that the higher the sensitivity the higher the instance of digital noise. Noise is the presence of grain or color speckles where there should not be any and is easiest to see in sky or dark shadow areas of an image. Newer digital cameras deal with the noise issue much better than older ones and in some cases it is really not an issue at all anymore.
For me personally, I use primarily a Nikon D2x which is about a 6-year-old design. I love that camera and I doubt I would trade it for anything other than a new Nikon D3s for many reasons but the iso performance is not one of them. In a low light situation I really don’t like to go beyond an iso setting of 400, it is that bad to me. I try to overcome that limitation by investing in fast lenses and a good tripod. Avian photography is kind of a different animal. In that realm low light is not nearly an issue as is shutter speed. We normally shoot during daylight so making a proper exposure it not the problem, the biggest problem is maintaining a fast shutter speed to make sharp images at long focal lengths or capturing birds in flight. When you already have a good daylight exposure using the iso setting to simply bump up shutter speed will yield different results. Shooting beyond iso 800 is possible as long as you are not capturing a lot of shadows in the image. I understand that this may not make much sense but just try it and you might see that those high iso images become perfectly useable and you will have enough shutter speed to overcome those slight twitches and movements that can cause blurring.
There are also ways to deal with any noise you do have in your image. The newest version of Adobe Lightroom (3) has a really good noise reduction tool built-in, but my prefered method of removing noise is to use the Photoshop plug-in “Noise Ninja”. With that utility I can selectively de-noise the areas that I think need it and still leave my main subject nice and sharp. I guess I should point out that all noise reduction software will hurt the sharpness of the image and over doing it can and will ruin a photo. In the image above of the Sparrow, I set an iso of 800 and used the Noise Ninja to clean up the sky and the dark area below its feet only. Even at this heavy crop (about 70%) you can see that the image looks pretty clean. So if you are in a situation where you need to get a little extra shutter speed to really freeze the action don’t be afraid to give that iso setting a bump up, you just might be really pleased with the results.
You can view more of my photos at www.ronboyddesign.com
About a month ago I wrote about my failed attempt to shoot at La Jolla Cove near San Diego California in “f8 and BE THERE!“. Soon after I published that post the good folks over at Birds as Art pointed me to their San Diego Site Guide which is a really great document that spells out in detail where to photograph in the San Diego area and what kinds of Avian wildlife you can expect to see. Anyone considering a trip to the San Diego area should get a hold of that guide, it is well worth the money.
As it turns out, on my first trip to La Jolla I really was exactly where I needed to be but I just was not familiar with the ins and outs of getting around the area. This time I headed out for a Sunrise shoot hoping to get one of those coveted few front row parking spaces. The drive went well and this time I got to the Cove without any problems and happy to see that there was only one other vehicle parked in the waterfront parking spaces. So far so good. I think the best spot to be is the “Cave Store Cliffs” which is an outcrop of rocky bluffs and an observation deck. The best places to photograph however are beyond a fenced area and on this day the gate was locked and signs posted saying that the earth beyond was unstable. I hopped the barrier anyway but stayed really close the fence line for fear of making a fatal mistake. At that point it was still before dawn and the only birds that were close enough to photograph were a bunch of Western Gulls. I took some shots and retreated to the observation deck. Right before Sunrise a couple of local photographers showed up and we began to chat. They informed me that the fence and signs were really intended to keep cliff divers away and that photographers were allowed to cross the fence and go out on the bluffs as far as they felt comfortable. As soon as the light came up a little we crossed over and staked out our spots.
I made the trip primarily to photograph Brown Pelicans. Further North in my neck of the woods, the Los Angeles area, Brown Pelicans are very sparse this year and I was hoping to get some nice shots of them before the season was over. As the dawn began to break it was clear that all the Pelicans were staying on the lower level of the cliffs and that was going to be a challenge for me working with a 300mm lens. My fear was that they would not come any closer. I thought about running back to the truck and setting up the 500mm, but decided to stick with the 300 2.8. As soon as the sunshine hit the upper level of the cliffs plenty of pelicans flew in and it was on in earnest. Shooting “Big Brown” is just plain fun and I got a bunch of shots I wanted except the one I really came for, the coveted head throw close up. I did record all manners of behavior even head throws from a distance and that made the day a complete success. In addition the Brown Pelicans there were also plenty of Gulls, Brandt’s Cormorants, Osprey, Seals, and Sea Lions to photograph.
I have to say the La Jolla Cove is one of the most beautiful coastlines I have seen in California and just for that it is well worth the trip. I really suggest one find the time to stow their gear and walk around just to enjoy the surroundings. I will say also however, that I can not whole heart-idly recommend the area for avian photography. La Jolla Cove is a tourist destination and there is just too much human interference going on for my taste. Be there early and you can get some spectacular shots but as the morning moves on and more people arrive you will miss a bunch of shots because people are scaring the wildlife away, and that is just not cool.
A couple of fun facts about the Cove- If you go on a Sunday the parking is unlimited. The rest of the week the coast line parking spaces are limited to 2 or 3 hours. In the winter you can shoot with the sun at your back all day.
I am not much for marking birthdays and anniversaries for things other than people but I happened to notice that I started writing this blog one year ago on January 8. With the exception of a few glitches we have been able to keep a schedule of posting once a week and plan to continue doing that through out 2011. Hopefully I will be able to bring some interesting photos and info from many new places along the West Coast too.
Thanks to everyone who read and commented on the blog the past year. Your interest is greatly appreciated.