Back to the Basics and More #3/Galapagos « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Back to the Basics and More #3/Galapagos

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This frigatebird image was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens (handheld at 200mm) with the Canon EOS-50D. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/4000 sec. at f/5.6.

Deciding to keep the image above was a no-brainer.  The bird was perfectly juxtaposed to the imaging sensor.  It is diagonally oriented in the in the frame.  And the sand had acted as a huge reflector, lighting the undersides of this female frigatebird perfectly.  This is just another image that shows that you can make great images in bright sun on blue sky days even during the midday hours.  It was photographed at 1:33 pm.  (Click on each image to see a larger version.) 

The Basics

Having created almost a thousand images on each of several landings, and possibly as many as 10,000 images on the trip, editing my work (selecting the keepers) is an important task.  In fact, I never allow myself to fall behind more than a single day, and that only when I am too exhauasted to stay awake at the laptop.   Whether you are photographing in your backyard or on a great international trip, if you do not edit your work on a daily basis you will exacerbate your storage problems and face a huge task when you do get around to it. 

For years I have been known to be the fastest gun in the west when it comes to editing a day’s take.  On the Galapagos trip, I pared 987 images down to 87 in less than ten minutes.   How do I do it?  #1 of course is experience.  I have been picking and keeping my best images for almost 26 years now.  #2 is that I use Breezebrowser to do my editing.  Nothing is faster.  Breezebrowser is one of the few programs that lets you view the JPEGs that are created along with the RAW files at the instant of capture (even when you think that you are using RAW capture only).  While going through the images in slideshow mode, I can view each almost instantly when I press the right arrow key to advance (or the left arrow key to go back).  I press the up arrow key when I want to keep an image; this places a blue check mark next to the file name.  If I wish to remove the checkmark, I simply hit the down arrow key to deselect.  Breezebrowser allows me to view each image as sharpened; this gives me an accurate idea of how the image will look when it is eventually sharpened.  (This sharpening is only temporary and does not affect the RAW file at all, but is sure is convenient.)   If you would like to learn more about Breezebrowser the product (along with Downloader Pro), click here:  Complete details on how I use Breezebrowser for editing are covered in our Digital Basics File here:   Digital Basics also covers the complete BIRDS AS ART digital workflow and contains dozens of great Photoshop tips and techniques.

When doing my first edit and deciding whether or not to keep a given image, I simply ask, “Is this a good image?”  If the answer is yes, I keep it.  (See “And More” below for exceptions.)   At some point I do a second edit, choosing the best one or two images from several or many.  And before I transfer the folder to the home computer, I do a final ruthless edit keeping only the very best images.   My rule for doing the initial edit is “If in doubt, keep it.”  For the final edit the rule is, “If in doubt, delete it.”   For the entire Galapagos trip I kept only 454 images.  This represented a keeper rate of about 5%.  (My standards, however, are very high; many folks would dearly love to have a good percentage of my rejects in their files <smile>)

And More…

It has taken me more than five years to learn to think digitally while editing.  I now keep some terrible images.  Why?  So that I have them to serve as source material for similar images that need to be repaired.  You can scavenge wing-tips, tops of heads, lizard toes, areas of rock and sand and sections of all sorts of backgrounds  to be Quick Masked into images that have family jewel potential.  Two of my very favorite images from the trip needed to borrow parts of another image in the series in order to succeed.  Had I deleted the inferior images without realizing their value, I would have been plumb out of luck. 

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This image (with the end of the adult's bill cut off by the frame edge) was created with the handheld Canon 400mmm f/4 IS DO lens and the EOS-50D. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/800 sec. at f/6.3.

Above is the optimized image.  Below is the original capture.  Had I not saved another image in the series with a lot less merit than the one above, the image with the yawning chick would have wound up in the trash bin….

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This is the original capture.

To complete this learning experience, click here to read the great BPN thread on this image:

And for a similar tale involving the toes of a Marine Iguana, click here:

7 comments to Back to the Basics and More #3/Galapagos

  • Thanks for your help with BPN. Everything is working again.

    You are of course right with JI = JO. I think LR2 or PS can fix certain problems but if the image is garbage, no software can change this.

    I remember meeting a guy in Spain who did a lot of flight shots of vultures like I did. We both got a lot of unsharp pictures (probably because I was using wrong technique, still learning here).
    The other guy sad it doesn’t matter, he can always sharpen the images with PS. I told him that he will be in for a really bad surprise. He didn’t believe it.
    Too many people today think that proper technique is no longer important and believe that software can cure even the worst images.

    I prefer your way and try to get the best possible image in camera.
    And then do only some fine tuning with software. Shooting is more fun than PS, anyway.

  • Very interesting article. I too have started to keep images I think are not perfect. The possibilities with Lightroom and Photoshop are almost endless.
    I’ve been using Lightroom 2 for a year now and after some learning and trying I am pretty fast with it when it comes to sorting out images, keywording them, etc.
    I don’t know BreezeBrowser but what you write sounds very good.

    I think LR2 is definitely worth a look and I couldn’t live without it. The new features in LR2 like the local adjustment brush allow me to do a lot of stuff in LR2 without the need to use the complicated beast that’s called Photoshop. That said, I like Photoshop but the things that can be done in LR2 can be done a lot faster there than in Photoshop.

    If someone really wants to master LR2, get the book by Marting Evening. This is BY FAR the most detailed and best book on LR2.

    • Thanks markus. Don’t get me wrong. JI = JO. Junk in equals junk out. You cannot make a bad image into a good image. I’ve been trying to get a free copy of Lightroom for some time now…. As far as I can tell, my images do not look half bad and it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

      BTW, I have spoken to James about the BPN membership problem; you should hear from him very soon. Thanks for your patience.

  • Leo Berzins

    Thanks again for all the great advice, Artie.
    With editing in Breezebrowser, surely you meant right arrow key to advance and left to go back.

    Regards, Leo.

  • Dasha

    Thanks for your tips on editing. When you say that nothing is faster than Breezebrowser do you mean downloading part as well?

    And what do you think of Lightroom?

    • Hi Dasha, You are most welcome. No, I mean that Breezebrowser is lightning fast when viewing the images in slide show mode. Downloader Pro is very fast but I cannot compare it to other programs as it is the only one I have ever used. It does a half full 16 gb card in maybe eight minutes.

      I have never used Lightroom but have heard good things about it. What do you think about Lightroom?