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04-29-2012, 05:03 PM   #1
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Does anyone have an tips for taking pics of Dark Birds?

I am having trouble taking pics of some birds if there is a bright sky behind them if I have a if I lower my Shutter speed I get more details on the bird but everything else is brownout and if I do the other I cant see the bird?

thanks for the help.

04-29-2012, 05:22 PM   #2
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I usually crank up the EV a bit, say 0.3 to 0.7 under those circumstances. It will cause some whitening of the sky but you will get more details of the bird which, otherwise, will be backlit too much.
Slowing down your shutter speed is relative to the lens you use.
For me, most of my bird shots are with the DA*300/4, so I keep the shutter at 1/500s or faster, depending of the available light.

(I shoot TAv, most of the time AF.)

JP
EDIT: And I agree with twitch down below, regarding shooting RAW and using PP to "play" with shadows/highlights.

Last edited by jpzk; 04-29-2012 at 05:34 PM.
04-29-2012, 05:24 PM   #3
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Ok I will give that a go.
04-29-2012, 05:32 PM   #4
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Don't underestimate the value of shooting in RAW, with a good sensor (ie K-5) and raising shadows and recovering highlights in post.

04-29-2012, 05:33 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by coreyhkh Quote
I am having trouble taking pics of some birds if there is a bright sky behind them if I have a if I lower my Shutter speed I get more details on the bird but everything else is brownout and if I do the other I cant see the bird?

thanks for the help.
Shoot RAW and pull up your shadows.
Couldn't be simpler.
04-29-2012, 05:47 PM   #6
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Get a K-5 (or better) and shoot in RAW. A correct exposure should get you all the detail you need

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04-29-2012, 05:49 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
Get a K-5 (or better)
or better?
04-29-2012, 05:53 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
or better?
There's more than just Pentax out there, after all A 5D Mk3 would also work wonders, for instance.


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04-29-2012, 07:08 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
There's more than just Pentax out there
Gosh, and I thought we were trying to convert this to a FF thread.........
04-29-2012, 07:23 PM   #10
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Sometimes it just takes a little flash and if at distance, a Better Beamer attachement. It can really bring out the muted color, like purple in the feathers, as well as add some highlights. If I can find my sample blackbird shots I will post one here.

Found a sample. I was lazy and just used a flash on the camera instead of mounted on a stand at an angle but you can see how the color appears and highlights so you can play with both in post.
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Last edited by imtheguy; 04-29-2012 at 08:32 PM.
04-30-2012, 02:11 PM   #11
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I am using a K5 and I also only shoot Raw, just thought there may be another trick.
04-30-2012, 03:31 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by coreyhkh Quote
I am using a K5 and I also only shoot Raw, just thought there may be another trick.
My advice is simply, "Don't photograph birds against a bright sky." Unless you can get light on 'em, it's pretty much an exercise in futility in my experience.
04-30-2012, 06:32 PM   #13
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Dadipentak is so right!

With a bright background, expose for the bird. Easy to say, "get closer"...birds comfort zone is often way out there where you can't get closer.

First example--expose for the bird and get close as possible. This is uncropped (too soft to handle cropping). Horrid white snow background or bright white sky may be unavoidable.

Second example is "move to where the sky is blue." If you have the option to place the bird against a fluffy white cloud or the blue sky, take the blue sky--unless you can get a bit of both--even better.

Third example is to move back and keep the bird small in the frame (yeah right, like we have the choice!) I shot this Saw Whet Owl a couple weeks ago and had to step back away from it a bit to keep the nearby hillside as background. Any closer and the background was bright white high haze sky. Saw Whets are basically tame and don't care how close you get. With the bird small in the frame, expose for the background and the bird will come out fine.

Remember, with bird photography, your kill rate for perfect frames is very low. If I get a publishable pic or two from any given bird I'm pretty happy...and that's just the birds that let me "play" with them. The vast majority won't even stop to give you a reasoned frame.
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04-30-2012, 06:52 PM   #14
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That owl shot is awesome! All that detail and the smooth background make it very true-to-life.
05-01-2012, 05:47 AM   #15
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Overcast day, black cormorants on a dead tree (zoomed 300mm with 55-300). This was just a quick exposure adjustment on the jpg, I hope to have time to work on the RAW files this week:
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