A Rare Side-lit Image...

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This optimized image of a group of adult King Penguins about to enter the ocean was created on an early morning (6:04am) landing at St. Andrews Bay with the hand held Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens (at 70mm) and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital Camera (Body Only) w/FREE Bonus Items – $160.75 Value! [expires 11/24]!. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/800 sec. at f/11 in Av mode. Lowest Central sensor/AI Servo/Rear Focus AI Servo Suround AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version.

A Rare Side-lit Image…

“Point your shadow at the birds.” If I have said it once, I have said it 1,000 times. Or 10,000. In my 28+ years of bird photography I have created only a handful of side-lit images that I am happy with. Above is one more to add to that small collection. As you can see by the shadows on the beach, I was working about 80 degrees off of sun angle. For two reasons. First, I did not want to get in the ocean and get swept away by a big wave never to be seen again. (A good reason, no?). Second, with the sun just up, the light was not too, too harsh even though we were pretty close to the bottom of the world.

I was lucky in that I somewhat mis-judged the exposure. I went with the metered exposure because the bright WHITEs on the penguins breasts were near the middle of the frame and the snow on the mountains would also influence the meter towards under-exposure. But I had to do some fancy work during the DPP conversion to recover the blown highlights on the birds’ breasts. Minus 1/3 stop or even -2/3 stop would have been better and brought the WHITEs into Photoshop with RGB values at about 230 (as I prefer).

Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris is the only tour company I know of that offers serious photographers (as well as just plain folks) the option of landing before breakfast at selected spectacular sites in the Southern Ocean. The photographers can take advantage of the best light. Those who prefer to sleep in join the landing later in the morning.

See the original capture below.

Do You?

Take a moment to let us know if you like or don’t like the side-lit image above. And either way, let us know why.

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This is the original image. When comparing it to the optimized image that opened this blog post, note the really messy beach, the crop from our right, the expanded (actually stretched) canvas to our left, and the two birds that were removed. You will likely need to click on the image to see the larger version to find the second bird.

As usual I used the Patch Tool, the Spot Healing Brush, and a few Quick Masks and Layer Masks to execute the clean-up. All as described in detail in Digital Basics, an e-mailable PDF that is sent via e-mail and includes my complete digital workflow, dozens of great Photoshop tips and techniques, and info on the great keyboard shortcuts that I use. See below for our newest educational offering.

MP4 Photoshop Tutorial Videos

Today we offer the first of what will become many MP4 screen-capture Photoshop Tutorial videos, King Penguin Image Clean-up. Many folks have expressed a desire to see me at work in Photoshop doing all the great stuff described in detail in Digital Basics and to hear my voice as I explain each step along the way. The topics covered in this first video include the use of the Patch Tool, the Spot Healing Brush, Content Aware Fill, and the basics of both creating and using Quick Masks and Layer Masks.

This 16 minute, 50 second MP4 video will be sent to your e-mail address via YouSendIt. Save it to your computer and then simply click and play. We have long thought about creating Apps but they are quite costly and you need something special to play them on.

King Penguin Image Clean-up MP4 Photoshop Tutorial Video

The King Penguin Image Clean-up MP4 Photoshop Tutorial Video is available right now for the ridiculously low introductory price of $3.00. If we sell a zillion of them we just price all of them at $3.00. No guarantees though. To order yours through the BAA store, click here. Or call Jim weekdays between 9am and 5pm (3pm on Fridays) at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand. Or send us a Paypal for $3.00 to birdsasart@verizon.net with the words King Penguin Image Clean-up in the e-mail.

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NYC Seminar Door Prizes!

Good news: the Hilton Garden Inn in Staten Island survived Hurricane Sandy with bells on; the seminar will be presented as scheduled.

Better yet, we have put together a killer collection of door prizes for the NYC Seminar. If you live in the northeast and are not yet registered click here to join us and have a chance at winning some of the great and valuable loot below.

From ThinkTank: an Airport AirStream™ Rolling Camera Bag; meets all International carry- on regulations. A $324.75 value.
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Manfrotto/Gitzo will be contributing one or more items.
From Delkin: a 32 gb 700X Compact Flash Card plus give-aways. The card is a $134.99 value.
NIK has sent a gift certificate for one copy of NIK Color Efex Pro, the Photoshop filter plug-in that has changed my digital workflow. Enter the code BAA at checkout to save 15%.
Topaz is sending a gift certificate for their black and white effects filter program.
Micheal Tapes at RAW Workflow has chipped in with a Lens Align Mark II. A $79.95 value.
You might also win a copy of The Art of Bird Photography II by Arthur Morris or a copy of A Guide to Pleasing Blurs by Arthur Morris and Denise Ipplito.

Thanks a stack to all of our generous sponsors.

EOS-5D Mark III User’s Guide

With the wreck of my EOS-1D X (see “Wrecked. And Loving It” for complete details), I went to my 5D Mark III as my workhorse camera body. It performed flawlessly surviving some heavy drizzle, sand, grit, and extensive use. I used it almost exclusively for seabird flight photography from the ship. As I have said from the get-go, the 5D Mark III’s new AF system is superb.

You can learn everything about it your D Mark III including my custom Case for flight photography, my favorite AF Area Selection Modes, how I use the great HDR and Multiple Exposure Features, and pretty much everything that I know about this great lightweight camera iin the 5D Mark III User’s Guide. I will be updating it in January. All updates are free.

Learn more or purchase the 5D III UG here.

To thank us for all the free info that we provide on the blog, in Bulletins, and via e-mail, or if your decision to purchase a 5D III was influenced by what you learned here, please use one of our B&H affiliate links immediately below to order and e-mail me a copy of your receipt. The upper logo-link is for the body alone (along with ($154.83 of free items), the lower link for a kit with the body and my B-roll lens, the 24-105mm zoom. (I never leave home without it.)



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LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sales value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
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19 comments to A Rare Side-lit Image…

  • avatar Don Gucker

    Art – King Penguin Tutorial is a very useful product, I learned, and please make more. Also I want to thank you for sharing extreme amounts of info over the years. Thanks – Don

  • love your job Artie
    what you did with great photo ? you made it even better :)

  • Absolutely love it, especially the little detail of the shadow of the front birds beaks on the chest of the rear birds on the right.

  • avatar Jay

    Love the image. Starting with the composition of the birds, the back of the front group curving around and leading the eye to the distant group. Second, the different layers of earth: the sand on which the birds are standing, the distant sand, the snow covered mountains, and then followed by the sky all present a pleasing composition. Also, on the right, the wet sand along the edge showing where the birds are headed. All tell a nice story.

    Interesting that you describe the beach in the original image as messy. The image works well even if you didn’t clean up the sand.

  • I feel this side lit image gives much more modelling to the birds than pointing shadow at them.
    I really like the curved sweep of the birds and the little group off to the left makes for a super balance. The snowy mountain backdrop is spot on and the almost invisible seals works for me. Altogether a great shot. If I were to look for a nit; I like the surf bottom left and would have liked to have seen just a smidgen more but now I am splitting split hairs.

  • That is a rather spectacular image. The one element that has not been mentioned that I find so strong in the composition is the receding water at lower left edge. Man, that adds lots of movement to the image, along with the stretching shadows towards the opposite side, not to mention the curving shape of the flock. One of my new favorites of yours Artie!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Dan. It was a killer trip. I was wishing that I had grabbed the 24-105 lens instead of the 70-200 as the birds kept walking towards a large group of folks. I was of course, closest to the water to get as close to sun angle as possible.

  • avatar Charles Scheffold

    Beach cleanup made a big difference here – I think the side light works because the shadows make for nice lines in the image. I bet it’s heard to take a bad picture with scenery like that :)

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Charles. I am looking forward to seeing you on the Bosque IPT in a few days. Actually, it was very easy to make a bad picture in that situation. Lots of folks were more than ten yards to my right and I am betting that most blew the exposure…. But it is a beautiful place.

      • avatar Charles Scheffold

        I just finished packing – flying out tomorrow afternoon. Looking forward to it as well since I haven’t been able to get out and take pictures in many months. I’ve wanted to go to Bosque for years, so I’m hoping this year is a good one! See you soon.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Charles, A bunch of us are heading out on Tuesday am. Try calling my room at 5am. We will likely leave at about 5:30. See you soonly! a

  • Artie, I love this as a side-lit image. The side lighting here tells us so much about the time of day, etc. The presence of their shadows does not detract from the image, in fact it adds another dimension to the birds. While I usually find your “rule” of pointing my shadow at the bird, when I can, a safe way to get a pleasing image I am willing to try off angle shots more often than you would probably like. So for me, this is a very pleasing and beautiful image. Wish I had been with you.

    Ken

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Ken. I agree on all counts. At least I have two side-lit images that I like now :). Hey, I wish that you had been there too!

  • Lovely. Landscapes, unlike birds, are not at their best front-lit, and this is really a landscape shot. The added texture in the birds’ breast feathers benefits, too. I wonder, was that low-angled light really as white as it shows here (at least on my computer)? Was there any additional mood hiding in the lighting?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Bill, I think that the early morning light is so white down there because the air is so thin; not much atmosphere to filter out the blue light and leave the warmer colored light–the reds and yellows.

  • Artie, I’m not a fan of side-lit images but you did a very nice job with this one. The beach clean-up looks great!

  • avatar Ellen Goff

    Actually, Joe Van Os Photosafaris often lands before breakfast at spectacular spots. We landed at St Andrew’s Bay at 5:30 AM and the last zodiac was at 7 PM. I think the merging of all the kings is a but bothersome to me. The mountains are spectacular.

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