Strong Wings Plus Clouds and Drizzle = Great Images

When I used film-yuck, yuck, and more yuck–I refused to photograph unless it was a clear sunny day.  Now I pray for clouds and overcast.  Digital outperforms film by light years in gloomy or cloudy bright conditions.   It is important to remember that if you are exposing to the right (as you should be) that the images on your camera’s LCD will look washed out and flat.  That is exactly what you are aiming for.  Two minutes in Photoshop and voila! 

On the mornings of April 2 and April 3, I photographed at Fort DeSoto Park south of St. Petersburg, FL.  On the first morning, conditions ranged from cloudy dark to cloudy bright with intermittent fog.  The wind was from the south at 20+ mph.  The next morning started out a bit brighter, again with strong south winds, but by 9:30am black thunderstorm clouds dominated, it began to rain heavily in short bursts, and the wind switched from south to southwest to west.  Then I left :).  I did have two large plastic trash bags that I used to cover my equipment when it rained heavily. 

When working on light colored sand on cloudy days, every decent digital camera will require that light be added to the suggested meter reading to prevent underexposure.  When the sun is not out, the meters are pretty dumb.  How much + compensation that you will need depends on the brand, the model, and often on your individual camera.  The trick is to create images with data in the fifth histogram box, the farther to the right without having any flashing (pegged) highlights, the better.   

long-billed-curlew-bill-dripping-_d4i2438-fort-desoto-park-tierra-verde-fl
Long-billed Curlew is uncommon at most Florida locations but can be seen reliably at Fort DeSoto. This image was created while I lay flat on the ground with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark II. ISO 800 (I told you it was dark): Evaluative metering +1 /2/3 stops: 1/200 sec. at f/5.6. Most of the images in this series were deleted as a result of unsharpness due to subject movement, the relatively slow shutter speeds, and the inability of the camera to hold accurate focus in a situation that was virtually without contrast.
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The Laughing Gulls and the Royal and Sanwich Terns that are breeding on Egmont Key often perform various courtship behaviors on the beaches at DeSoto in April and May. These copulating Laughing Gulls were photographed with the Canon 800mm f/5.6 L lens and the EOS-1D MIII. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/1000 sec. at f/6.3. Fill flash with the Better Beamer at -1 1/3 stops. When working in overcast conditions you do not have to worry much about using the proper sun angle, that is, having your shadow pointed at your subject. I was working a group of terns right in front of me when I noticed the male gull's telltale copulatory flapping off to my right. I did not have to move much to get the image that I wanted.
sandwich-tern-with-pink-blush-on-breast-_d4i2550-fort-desoto-park-tierra-verde-fl
Some tern species, most notably Roseate Tern, often show a pinkish blush on their breasts just prior to the breeding season. The Sandwich Tern in this image is about as bright as it gets. Canon 800mm f/5/6L IS lens with the 1.4X II teleconverter and the EOS-1D MIII. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/500 sec. at f/8. FIll flash at -1 1/3 stops with the Better Beamer. The trick to using fill flash is to get the right ambient exposure and then reduce the flash output so that the effects of the flash are barely noticeable.
d4i2550-fort-desoto-park-tierra-verde-fl
This is the original capture for the image above. When creating it, I positioned myself so that there would not be any merges of the two background birds with the subject. That accomplished, eliminating the o-o-f head and tail was easy work with a series of Quick Masks and some Patch Tool and Clone Stamp work. All of the above techniques (plus my complete digital workflow) are described in detail in the Digital Basics File: http://www.birdsasart.com/digitalbasics.htm. Advanced Quick Masking Techniques are detailed in APTATS: http://www.birdsasart.com/aptats.htm.
royal-tern-breeding-plumage-head-portrait-_d4i2700-fort-desoto-park-tierra-verde-fl
Though this image was created with the 800 f/5.6 L with the 1.4X II TC, most of the terns and gulls at DeSoto are so tame that making images like this with a 300 or 400 lens and a 1.6X camera body is routinely possible provided that you get down on the ground and move slowly. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/9. Fill flash at -1 1/3 stops with the Better Beamer. To learn more about a Better Beamer or to order one, visit: http://www.birdsasart.com/accs.html#BEAMER.

The images above were all created on Thursday morning.  I will share some Friday morning images in my next post.  I have to get ready for my upcoming Warbler Chase SUV trip wtih Chris Dodds.  See here for the details on this new adventure: www.birdsasart.com/bn287htm.

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