Tuesday Tips - Backlight

Pointing your camera into the sun is usually something that we all tend to avoid, and rightly so, as no no one wants you to fry your precious retinal walls by staring at the sun directly! However, while photographing any subject, if you can find an angle where they are lit from behind, then you have the opportunity to use this beautiful back-light to outline your subject in a crisp and dramatic manner. I am a lover of monotone backgrounds, be it light colored (snow) or dark colored (heavy shadow). In the following images, I went after a dark background.
So this is normally how I got about with it; I find an angle where the back-light outlines the bird or animal I am photographing and then I process the image by applying a concave parabolic tone curve over the image in Photoshop (after my initial round of processing in capture one pro). This way, the background really goes dark revealing the bird in a subtle yet beautiful manner.

These images of a Caspian Tern flying over Juanita Bay, in the beautiful evening light were photographed and processed using this technique.

 Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 C | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/1600 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 2200

Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 C | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/1600 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 2200

Caspian Terns love to shake off water after a dive and I was my lucky day as this dude shook off all that water against the beautiful back-light from the evening sun.

 Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 C | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/1600 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 2200

Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 C | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/1600 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 2200

PROCESSING TECHNIQUE

This is the image as photographed, with an initial round of white balance and color adjustments in Capture One Pro, imported in Photoshop.

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Next, I added a tone curve adjustment layer to just pull up the bright spots of water droplets and make them brighter as I wanted to accentuate them a bit more. I made sure to mask out the bird so that the adjustment doesn’t affect it.

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Now here comes the parabolic tone curve, where I plotted a point on the tone curve near the shadow information on the histogram, and just pulled it down till I liked the results.

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And lastly I added a sharpening layer to sharpen the details a little bit, I noticed some artifacts on the bird after I did this, so I again used masking to mask out the areas on the bird where the artifacting was obvious.

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Have a nice week everyone and go out and chase some back light now!

Nikon D850 - Latest addition to my arsenal

Most of my wildlife photography up until now was done using a Nikon D500 and a Sigma 150-600 Contemporary lens. Although they are far from being a perfect pair, I was able to work around most of the quirks of this camera and lens combo to great effect. But every now and then I would lose focus just a tad bit during that critical moment, something that infuriates every photographer, no matter what genre they are into. Also, I was not able to print my work any larger than 13x19 (yes I want to print BIG) with a reasonable dpi that adheres to the standards that I have set for myself. 

Yesterday evening, all that changed! The love of my life, my dearest wife Mary Dee surprised me with a Nikon D850 that has a 45.7 Megapixel full frame sensor and comes equipped with state of the art autofocus technology! Here are the first couple of shots from it, paired with an SB 910 flash unit. I used the sun as a rim light and the flash for fill light.

For this portrait of a Rufous Hummingbird, I used a very slow shutter speed of 1/25th of a second and a very tiny aperture of f/29 and paired it with the flash set at full power. I have been wanting to capture a portrait of a Hummingbird, using slow shutter speed technique and rear sync flash for a while now. I wanted to get the body and head still while the wings blend into a symphony of blur. Got to execute it this weekend and i am quite happy with the way this turned out! I didn't think that I would ever use a shutter speed of 1/25 sec on a hummingbird!  The result was definitely pleasing artistically, to my eyes atleast!

 Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 c | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/25 sec | Aperture : f/29 | ISO : 500 | Flash Make : SB 910 AF Speedlight | Flash mode : Manual | Flash Power : 1/1

Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 c | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/25 sec | Aperture : f/29 | ISO : 500 | Flash Make : SB 910 AF Speedlight | Flash mode : Manual | Flash Power : 1/1

For this shot the flash really helped with bringing out the various tones on the feathers of this young Rufous male. The result seemed more documentary than artistic; I would have liked to have had a bit more shadow to suit my taste honestly.

 Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 c | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/2000 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 500 | Flash Make : SB 910 AF Speedlight | Flash mode : Manual | Flash Power : 1/16

Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 c | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/2000 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 500 | Flash Make : SB 910 AF Speedlight | Flash mode : Manual | Flash Power : 1/16

These last two shots were shot with the SB910 flash at full power, again beamed through a snoot so that it traveled all the way to 600mm. Really enjoyed the way the iridescence on the feathers shows off from the direct light off the flash.

 Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 c | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/2000 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 500 | Flash Make : SB 910 AF Speedlight | Flash mode : Manual | Flash Power : 1/1

Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 c | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/2000 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 500 | Flash Make : SB 910 AF Speedlight | Flash mode : Manual | Flash Power : 1/1

 Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 c | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/2000 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 500 | Flash Make : SB 910 AF Speedlight | Flash mode : Manual | Flash Power : 1/1

Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 c | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/2000 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 500 | Flash Make : SB 910 AF Speedlight | Flash mode : Manual | Flash Power : 1/1

So far, the D850, paired with my Sigma 150-600 Contemporary lens is giving me way more shots in focus, than the same lens with the D500. Once I get a bit more experience using this setup, I hope to make a blog post comparing my experiences with both these bodies.
Hope you all have a great week ahead!                    

Special thanks goes to my buddy Kelly Young for showing me her private hummingbird paradise nestled deep in the Pacific Northwest!

Tuesday Tips!

I am trying out a new blog entry for every first Tuesday of the month , called Tuesday Tips :) The idea is to post useful tid-bits of information about how I go about with my photography. Hopefully this will benefit at least some of you who like to think differently and go after results that stand out from the mundane. Let me know in the comments if you like the idea!

Alright, so here is this Tuesday's photography Tip : All light is good light when used well.

There's a lot of talk about photographing in the golden hour, which is ok, since the light that hits your subjects sideways is going to give more form and contrast. There is also the warmth of the evening light light which looks pleasing to most eyes. But shooting only in that one kind of light will create a monotony among your images. I am a big believer in breaking monotony in every aspect of my life, it keeps things fresh and interesting and it has translated into my photography too. I firmly believe that light, no matter what time of the day it is, can produce great results if used well, depending on the subject that you are shooting and the mood that you are after.
 

 Pair of juvenile Great Egrets.  Camera : Nikon D500 | Focal Length : 600mm | Exposure : 1/2000 | Aperture : f/8 | ISO : 400

Pair of juvenile Great Egrets.

Camera : Nikon D500 | Focal Length : 600mm | Exposure : 1/2000 | Aperture : f/8 | ISO : 400

 Great Egret in flight.  Camera : Nikon D500 | Focal Length : 600mm | Exposure : 1/2000 | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 400

Great Egret in flight.

Camera : Nikon D500 | Focal Length : 600mm | Exposure : 1/2000 | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 400

 Great Egret mom and chicks.  Camera : Nikon D500 | Focal Length : 600mm | Exposure : 1/2000 | Aperture : f/9 | ISO : 400

Great Egret mom and chicks.

Camera : Nikon D500 | Focal Length : 600mm | Exposure : 1/2000 | Aperture : f/9 | ISO : 400

These photographs of Great egrets were shot at around 1 PM, traditionally a time that we avoid while going out to take photos, since noon light is usually dismissed off as harsh light that gives strong unpleasant shadows and blown out highlights. What we tend to forget though is that, because noon light is so strong, they bounce more off surfaces, especially when these surfaces are light colored (just like the egret's feathers!), filling light into the shadowed areas.    Any how, the point is, photographing these birds in "boring" light gave me some decent photographs that ended up as keepers! So before you judge any light and dismiss it off as unusable, take a chance and experiment with your camera and surprise yourself! 


To new beginnings!

So there it is. I have finally disciplined myself to stop procrastinating and get on with starting my wildlife photography blog.  Over the past many months, I have had so many people ask me about my approach to wildlife photography, the equipment that I use, and about various post-processing techniques that I apply to produce my work. That's when I realized that if I am to one day live my dream of doing wildlife photography full time, then I must work with the people who follow my work and interact with them on a regular basis, sharing knowledge and inspiring conservation of wildlife and their habitats. 

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have greatly enabled me to interact, share and learn from the community, but I think that I really should have a place where I can keep all my thoughts nicely organized and archived, so that not only myself but also other photography lovers can use it as a valuable resource. This might just be the place to do that. I will try my best and be disciplined about keeping this blog active and interesting :)

Here's to new beginnings!

 An Anna's hummingbird stretching out its wings. Camera : Nikon D500 Lens : Sigma 150-600 c Focal Length : 600 mm Aperture : f/6.3 Exposure : 1/1250 sec ISO : 640

An Anna's hummingbird stretching out its wings.
Camera : Nikon D500
Lens : Sigma 150-600 c
Focal Length : 600 mm
Aperture : f/6.3
Exposure : 1/1250 sec
ISO : 640