BAA Server Update & Klamath Eagle (with my comments and a Photoshop Lesson)

BAA Server Update

Both the web site and the blog were up and down today–mostly down, as we moved to a completely new dedicated server. Please accept my apologies for any inconveniences that you may have encountered. Right now everything is running smoothly and things should stay that way for a while. The BAA store was down briefly this evening but that was totally coincidental. We are working toward moving the store to the new server as well.

bald-eagle-sitting-on-grass-mound-in-snow-_w3c4085-lower-klamath-nwr-ca

This Bald Eagle image was created from my rental vehicle with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the EF 1.4X III TC, and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/9 in Av mode. With the large dark breast dominating the frame I knew that I would have to subtract a lot of light to avoid burning the eagle’s white head. After checking the histogram just once I settled on -1 stop of EC (exposure compensation).

Klamath Eagle (with my comments)

Lower Klamath NWR has a substantial population of Bald Eagles. But Bald Eagle photography there is poor at best. Unless you get lucky, the birds are far away. At the end of the tour loop, there is a big stand of cottonwoods parallel to the road. Many eagles roost in the trees, but 99.99% of the time they are sitting on cluttered perches. And on sunny afternoons when their numbers tend to increase, they are severely side lit. The crazy thing for me was to see practically all of the photographers on the refuge trying to make images in an impossible situation while ignoring huge flocks of light and dark geese blasting off every five minutes…. (And I am not talking about point and shooters; 90% of the folks had big glass, 500, 600, and 800mm lenses.)

My advice to local and visiting photographers: ease up on the eagle infatuation and concentrate on finding and working the best photographic situations.

For four days I drove around in hopes of finding a cooperative eagle on the ground. On my last afternoon, I got lucky as you can see above. Very lucky. I was really hampered without my BLUBB…. With the window down, I had the lens resting on the door frame. Then I tilted my seat back and moved the lens to the left so that it was supported from below and on one side. Framing the image was difficult and so was creating images that were square to the world. The image above had to be rotated and then I needed to add a bit of canvas to the bottom. Then I imported source material from the image before that had been better framed.

Klamath Eagle Photoshop Lesson

The Klamath eagle image was created in somewhat harsh sidelit conditions. (I was fortunate that the sun was partially obscured by light cloud cover.) To get a decent view of the bird through the grasses I needed to work well off light angle. Check out the before and after images in the animated GIF above. First I used the Patch Tool to eliminate some of the white areas of the bill. But I was not happy that the right side of the bird’s face and bill were very bright so I selected those light areas using Select/Color Range. I placed them on their own layer (Control J) and changed the Blend Mode to Linear Burn. Then I reduced the opacity to 50% (a relatively high percentage). The Linear Burn also darkened the left side of the bird’s face so I added a Layer Mask and blocked the mask by painting with a 50% opacity brush after hitting BDX (Brush/Default/Switch Foreground Color) to paint with Black. I was very happy that I was able to even out the sidelit exposure.

Everything above is covered in detail in Digital Basics except for the Layer Masking stuff that I learned from Robert O’Toole’s APTATS II PDF.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear that I used to create the image above. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon EF 1.4X III TC. This new TC is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. This is the very best professional digital camera body that I have ever used..

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. Fast and dependable.

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7 comments to BAA Server Update & Klamath Eagle (with my comments and a Photoshop Lesson)

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks again Gordon. In my humble opinion, rotation would still be somewhat of a problem. That’s why I missed my BLUBB; with the concave top, rotation problems are eliminated totally

  • Artie, with the foam it has slice and slides down over the window,giving you a stable platform and it can be raised to any height, which allows you to use your arm against the arm rest and door to keep the lens still. I have photographed Moose in New Hampshire with a 500mm, using this method. Gordon

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks for the tip Gordon. A rolled up sweatshirt can do pretty much the same stuff. The problem with either is rotation of the lens which is why I mentioned moving the lens to the left so that it contacts the window/door frame on the left side of the lens….

  • A quick tip for car window shooting and not having your normal support. Foam pipe insulation, 3 pieces, 3 feet long, $3-4, do a good job, you can keep a one foot section in your camera travel bag, so you always have something soft to lay your lens on. You may not be able to buy them in So. FL though.

  • avatar Terry Henderson

    Hi Artie, Did you make it over to Tulelake refuge. I have done much better there with Eagles over there. Like Lower Lake Refuge there are may other opportunities on the Tulelake Refuge.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Terry H, I was at Tulelake for a short visit. My problem with Northern California eagles is that I have been to Homer and will be there again this year for two weeks. Photography there is phenomenal so I am spoiled :) I do understand however that photographing birds in a variety of habitats and situations is always a good thing.

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