Silhouette Choice (and Lesson) I « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Silhouette Choice (and Lesson) I

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I created this image before dawn yesterday at Nickerson Beach while standing behind my tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X III TC and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/60 sec. at f/9 in Av mode.

Lens/TC/camera body Micro-adjustment: 0.

Laughing Gull Sunrise Silhouette/Version I. The optimized original image is above.

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Silhouette Choice

Laughing Gull Sunrise Silhouette/Version II. Here I cropped to a pano and cleaned up some of the lumpiness along the top of the image. Note: the lumpiness was likely caused by moving the sliders in the HSL–(Hue-Saturation-Luminance) panel excessively…

Which version do you prefer, and why?

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Silhouette Lesson

The image above is a JPEG the represents the properly exposed RAW file. The actual scene looked more like either of the first two images than it did the third image. I converted the image in ACR by pulling in the highlight and shadow sliders while holding down the ALT key as described in detail in Digital Basics. Once I brought the image into Photoshop I blackened the bird by holding down the ALT key and then moving the shadow slider to the right until nearly all of the bird was rendered black. Then I moved the middle tone slider to the left to lighten the image. Then color work to taste. In the screen capture below note that the shadow slider is pulled far to the right of where it would be ordinarily.

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Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of he gear used to make the three mages in this post. 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. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Support both the Bulletins and the Blog by making all your B & H purchases here.

Remember: you can earn free contest entries with your B & H purchases. Eleven great categories, 34 winning and honored images, and prize pools valued in excess of $20,000. Click here for details.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon 1.4X III Teleconverter. The new 1.4X TC is designed to work best with the newer Series II super-telephoto lenses but it works just fine with the current lenses.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. My two Mark IVs are my workhorse digital camera bodies.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sale value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders 🙂
Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head. (Note: Denise prefers the Wimberley head to the Mongoose.
CR-80 Replacement Foot for Canon 800. When using the 800 on a Mongoose as I do, replacing the lens foot with this accessory lets the lens sit like a dog whether pointed up or down and prevents wind-blown spinning of your lens on breezy days by centering the lens directly over the tripod.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
Be sure to check out our camera body User’s Guides here.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
BIRDS AS ART Camera Body User’s Guides. Why spend $2-5 grand on a camera and not learn to use it properly and efficiently?

12 comments to Silhouette Choice (and Lesson) I

  • cheapo

    Talk about ironic. I actually prefer the screen capture, out of all four images here. The No2 is a super silhouette and I do like it. But my preference for a touch of natural history gets the better of me. So there.

  • Deirdre Sheerr-Gross

    Why stop now…

    I was also wondering about the dichotomy of simplicity and detail…

    Artie, in your wonderous photos, most often, your subject is depicted in intriguing intricate detail …set off by a simple, non-distracting background…

    Here you may have just the opposite…. The subject is simplicity itself… perhaps, some interesting detail would set it off.

    Enough!! Nite, Nite…

  • Deirdre Sheerr-Gross

    For me, this photo was the incredible interplay of color: the dark vs the “fire”…
    The color was reminiscent of phenomenal intensity & impact of your extraordinary photo at Bosque del Apache… (Which arguably is so much more…)
    After seeing #1, I felt a loss of the intensity between the intricacy of light and dark in #2…
    The simplicity & impact of the silhouette in the panorama of brilliance in #2 is wonderful… But something is missing for me…

    The gull’s silhouette is so strong… I felt, the complexity of the repeating colors could stand up to the gull…. & perhaps, enhance the photo…

    So I was wondering about the effect of cropping to the right, siting the bird off center (horrors!!), to the left… Creating a squarer image including the deep underlit top border …amplifying the subtle spill of the deeper hue (in the orange band) over the birds head… The colors would echo throughout…

  • I am a sucker for shilouettes. I like the clean one.

  • Ron Sprunger

    I like the former, with the “fire” at the top. IQ on the bird and immediate background seems comparable, but the ragged line of saturation adds drama to the scene.

  • The cleaned up image does it for me – a superb silhouette well composed. This version has far more impact and less distractions. What’s more I personally think it is very saleable for a variety of reasons.

  • Mary Stamper

    Personally, I like the original file best. I like the subtle detail in the bird, and it seems to have a greater overall feeling of depth than the others. I don’t even mind the darker area at the top, as it gives a sort of boundary to the image. I also like the less saturated water color. It would be interesting to see what you would do with this if your intent was NOT to fully silhouette the bird.

  • Artie I liked #2 best. I thought the dark band at top was distracting.

  • Stan Cunningham

    # 2, for reasons outlined above but I have a question. Did you get the stronger orange color with just the SH tool, or did you use the temp slider as you’ve also outlined in the past.

    I boosted the color in part with the HSL panel during conversion but overdoing things resulted in the ugly lumpy stuff at the top of the first frame…. I did raise the CT a bit. BTW, when you do move the SH slider to the right to make the BLACKs blacker, it does make the whole image darker so you usually need to move the middle tone slider to the left to compensate. Thanks for the excellent question. artie

  • Ron C

    I think I prefer V1. It is easier on my eye (not as bright) and seems to fit better with a pre-dawn feeling.

  • Artie, I like the second one without dark band at the top. Removal of the band helps in focussing viewer’s attention on the bird. very nice shot.

  • Charles Scheffold

    I like both, but I prefer the 100% black silhouette slightly more because it is dramatic and colorful. The non-silhouette version is perfectly acceptable though and does give a more realistic depiction of the scene.