Hummingbird Tricks « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Hummingbird Tricks

Hummingbird Tricks

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This White-necked Jacobin image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, a 25mm Extension Tube,and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/125 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. Fill flash with the Better Beamer at -1 stop.

Lens/TC/camera body Micro-adjustment: +2.

In the Field

You are in the field at Tandayapa Bird Lodge, Ecuador. It is in the cloud forest. It is cloudy dark. Very dark. You are creating images of perched hummingbirds at ISO 1600 at 1/100 sec. A male White-necked Jacobin–uncommon at this location–keeps coming to the feeders but never perches. Inspired by the efforts of Peter Kes, my co-leader for our Perched Hummingbird Day Trip, I decide to try to create an image of the bird hovering with the head and face sharp and the wings blurred. What to do?

As this species has brighter WHITEs than any of the others we were photographing, I raised my shutter speed 1/3 stop from 1/100 to 1/125 sec. Making an image with the face sharp at such a relatively slow shutter speed is difficult but possible. To increase sharpness a bit and help freeze the bird’s head, I increase my fill flash from -2 stops to -1 stop. Lastly since it is so hard to keep the AF system from searching for the background when the central sensor momentarily falls off the bird, I turn AF search off. See the details for C.Fn III-5 in the Mark IV User’s Guide. You can also turn AF search off with the 7D via C.Fn III-4; see the details in our 7D User’s Guide. I use this same trick in certain flight photography situations–again, you will find the complete details in the User’s Guides. )

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This is the original capture for the image above.

At the Computer

There are several major problems with the original image above. The RAW capture is a bit underexposed. Despite the former, there is one area of bright white on the flanks. The eye is a mess from the flash and needs some Eye Doctor work. And, there is a big dust spot above the bird.

First I convert the image in ACR increasing the exposure a bit and then using the Recovery Slider to ensure that there are no WHITES above 236. Then I use the techniques described in detail in RObert O’Toole’s APTATS II to quickly move the bird forward in the frame. The dust spot is eliminated with the Spot Healing Brush (J). Next I paint a Quick Mask of the brightest WHITEs, run a Linear Burn, and use a Layer Mask to erase the areas where I have painted over blue and gray feathers (using my brush at 50% opacity for the latter chore.) Then I blow up the eye with the Zoom Tool (Z) and use a series of Quick Masks as well as the Clone Stamp Tool and some Patch Tool Work to clean up the mess. I finish that off by reducing noise on the layer with the whole eye. Then I paint a Quick Mask of the face and blue body feathers and selectively sharpen that layer with a contrast mask. I make my final adjustments to the overall tonality and save my master files as a flattened 8-bit TIFF. All of course as described in detail in our Digital Basics File, a PDF that is sent via e-mail. This amazing how-to cookbook contains dozens of great Photoshop tips and techniques as well as my complete workflow. And, it includes free updates for as long as I am pushing the shutter button. It has been updated seven times since its introduction.

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