Galapagos Penguins and White Sky Silhouettes « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Galapagos Penguins and White Sky Silhouettes

Day 6 Afternoon Panga Ride: Punta Moreno, Isabela

galapagos-penguin-bird-scape-_09u1648-punta-moreno-isabela-galapagos

This bird-scape line-up of Galapagos Penguins was photographed with the hand held Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens (at 120mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1 stop to keep from burning the white breasts of the penguins: 1/640 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the left hand penguin and re-compose. With the zodiac hard on a rock and the subjects way off center I was fine here re-composing after focusing. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Galapagos Penguin

On most Galapagos Photo-Cruises we usually have 3-4 good chances with the penguins, always from the zodiacs. On this year’s trip we had only one rally good chance at the world’s only tropical penguin species. But it was a very good session. In a blog post when I get back from Africa I will share the obvious close-up image of the three amigos, a better image by Denise Ippolito, and the very important lesson that I learned.

galapagos-penguin-adult-_q8r0753-punta-moreno-isabela-galapagos

This image was created with a vertical crop of a horizontal original that was made with the hand held Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (with the TC in place at 280mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -2/3 stop: 1/640 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode.

One sensor below and five sensors to the left of the central sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF on the right wing of the bird on the left active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The Best Option?

The image above was a crop from a horizontal original that included two penguins, the bird in the image above and a young penguin to our right. The younger bird was several inches closer than the adult. Had I focused on the immature penguin and went to a smaller aperture there is a chance that I could have rendered both sharply. I would have had to raise the ISO to at least 800 to maintain a decent shutter speed . The problem is that I would have brought up unwanted detail in the background.

Study the shooting data and let me know what you think would have been the best option. I will be sure to respond when I get back from Africa.

flightless-cormorant-silhouette-_q8r0841-punta-moreno-isabela-galapagos

This white sky Flightless Cormorant silhouette was created with the hand held Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (with the TC in place at 560mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering -2/3 stop: 1/3200 sec. at f/10 in Av mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF on the bird’s upper breast active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

White Sky Silhouettes

We were in the right place at the right time but there was no color in the sky. As this image was made more than 30 minutes before sunrise the only option was to go white sky silhouette. To line up with the brightest portion of the sky I and several others sat on the floor of the zodiac. Attaining focus in situations like this is often difficult so it is best to go with the central censor as it will always be more responsive than any of the outer sensors. Be sure to place the active sensor on an edge of the bird; if you try to focus on the center of the bird’s breast there simply will not be enough contrast for the AF system to work. I will share a white sky silhouette image processing tip with you in a future blog post.

The Flightless Cormorant here was drying its wings in the soon to be setting sun. A small crop from the right and below yielded a pleasing composition.

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The image above was also created with the hand held Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (with the TC in place at 560mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -2 stops: 1/3200 sec. at f/10 in Av mode.

Two sensors to the right of the central sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF on the center of the sea lion’s upper back active at the moment of exposure. I acquired AF with the active sensor group on the edge of the animal’s back and was lucky that AF held as my position shifted. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The Crop and a White Sky Image Optimization Tip

The subject here is a Galapagos Sea Lion. Again, a small crop from the right and below yielded a pleasing composition.

Here is a great new white sky silhouette image processing tip:

Open a Levels Adjustment layer.
Hold down the Alt key down and move the Shadow slider to the right just until the silhouetted subject turns totally black.
Hold down the Alt key down and move the Highlight slider to the left just until the background turns totally white.

If you follow the above directions explicitly you will avoid the banding and artifacting in the background that usually plagues white sky silhouetted images. The trick is not to pull the sliders past the point where the area you are working on turns totally black or white. You can try the same technique with sunrise and sunset silhouettes.

See the educational screen capture immediately below to heighten your understanding of this technique.

galapagos-fur-seal-silh-histogram

Educational Screen Capture

Strongest Image?

Please take a moment to leave a comment and let us know which of the four images above is your favorite. As always, let us know why.

On The Road Again

Please know that I will be traveling to and from the Africa for the Tanzania Photo Safari with Todd Gustafson leaving today, August 1 and back in the office on August 21. I will have extremely limited and very slow at best internet access so please do not e-mail me until I get back. Jim will be in the office every weekday to help you with your mail order purchases and Jen will be here handling IPT registrations. The blog will continue to be active as I have prepared a dozen interesting, brand new educational posts for you in advance for you to enjoy during my absence.

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If you have a gear, image processing, or other question please e-mail me after July 19th. You can reach Jim here via e-mail. You can reach Jennifer here via e-mail. Please type “JIM” or “JEN” respectively at the front of the Subject Line.

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Bucket List?

If visiting the Galapagos is on your bucket list and you are a happy camper who is serious about joining us on our July 2015 trip, please shoot me an e-mail and ask to be placed on the interested list. There simply is no better Galapagos Photo Tour.

Typos

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4 comments to Galapagos Penguins and White Sky Silhouettes

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks for your kind words Marcus.

    artie

  • avatar Mike from CT

    I rented a canon 500 lens from borrowlens for my last Africa trip. They’re great and easy to work with. I’ve used them several times. Shipped right to your door, with return shipping included.

    Mike from CT

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your endorsement. I am hoping that everyone who enjoys the blog will use our link for future rentals.

  • My favorite image is the Flightless Cormorant. It looks as if it was a giant bird standing on a mountain range.
    The seal looks also great.
    Thanks for regularly posting something worth learning. Your blog is definitely the best when it comes to bird photography.

    Markus