Wildlife Photography – Anhinga

Happy Monday Morning Everyone!

I thought I’d start off this week a little differently after last week’s fanboy review of full frame sensors and the new 5D Mark II camera. I took this shot about nine months ago using an EOS 40D camera. I stalked this anhinga for about thirty minutes as it flew from tree to tree at the Brazos Bend State Park near Needville, Texas. I took almost 100 shots of this beautiful bird as I slowly walked to within fifty feet or so from where it was perched.

The lighting that afternoon was dismal with high clouds blocking most of the sunlight and the smell of rain in the air. The anhinga was lit from the right side and I thought I could get some decent shots if it would just spread those beautiful wings for me. Once it happened I had only milliseconds to react and my 40D’s 6.3 fps frame rate and fast AF system really saved the day as I snapped off sixteen frames in a little under 3 seconds before the anhinga took notice and flew off.

I really don’t think this result would not have been possible with the 5D Mark II’s meager 3 fps frame rate unless I got really lucky. I guess what I’m trying to say to you crop body owners out there is don’t despair. The EOS 40D and 50D cameras are quite possibly the best sports and wildlife cameras currently available for under $3000. Yes, I prefer the 5D Mark II for landscape and commercial work but if sports and wildlife are your passion, then spend your money on one of these and use the savings for a telephoto lens like the EF 300mm f/4 L IS USM.

BTW – Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t get great looking bokeh from a crop body camera. This shot was taken with the 40D and EF 300mm at f/8 and post processed entirely in Lightroom. No Photoshop magic here.

Anhinga

Anhinga
Copyright 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 40D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 300mm f/4 L IS USM + EF 1.4x Extender monopod mounted. The exposure was taken at 420mm, f/8 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 on Sandisk digital film. Post capture processing was done entirely in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Bird Photography, Canon, Canon 40D, Photography, Wildlife Photography

Just a Normal Post on Wildlife Photography

Here’s a shot I took many months ago and decided to redevelop in Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4. Blue-winged Teals generally swim in mating pairs and it’s difficult to get a good shot of a single bird in the water. This little beauty was kind enough to swim very slowly and let me get several shots before the sun completely set.

BTW – If the rumors are correct, Canon should be announcing something big either today or tomorrow. Probably another high pixel density DSLR with more wiz-bangs, golly-gee willikers and do-hickies than any of us really need. How do I know you ask? Because I just bought and new DSLR and being Irish, Murphy follows me around like a bad rash.

Swimming Alone

Swimming Alone
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 50D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 300mm f/4 L IS USM + EF 1.4x Extender monopod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 420mm, f/8 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 on Sandisk digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 using Nik Software’s Viveza plug-in filter. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Canon 50D, Photography, Wildlife Photography

Using Alien Skin’s Bokeh for Wildlife Photography

I realize that this post may offend a certain population of wildlife photographers out there and for that I do apologize. I’m not a wildlife photography “purist” and I will enhance my wildlife images in Lightroom or Photoshop just as I do my commercial, portrait or landscape work. I do this in wildlife images for the very same reason I do it in other types of images, to tell a story and to evoke an emotional response. For me, that’s what photography is all about.

Having said that, I do realize that many well known wildlife photographers (and most wildlife magazines) require that the image be manipulated as little as possible, just as a photojournalist would when covering the war in Iraq for example. I certainly respect that style of wildlife photography but it’s just not my style and that’s why I’ll always let you know when I’ve manipulated a wildlife image during post capture processing as I did in this image below.

Flying Solo Again

Flying Solo
Copyright 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 50D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 300mm f/4 L IS USM + EF 1.4x Extender monopod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 420mm, f/5.6 for 1/500th of a second at ISO 100 on SanDisk digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 using Alien Skin’s “Bokeh” plug-in filter. Click on the image above for a larger version.

My first step in creating this image was to process it as I would normally do in Lightroom. I generally work on the Basic settings like Exposure, Recovery (very important), Blacks (also very important), Brightness and overall Contrast. I almost always crank up the Clarity (adding mid-tone contrast) and Vibrance (adding mid-tone saturation) and may play with these two settings for 20 or 30 minutes until I find a combination I like.

At this point, my work in Lightroom is complete and my next step is to export the image in Photoshop CS4 and use the Quick Selection tool to select the duck as shown here. Although the selection doesn’t have to be pixel perfect, it always pays in realism to spend a little extra time making a thorough selection of all parts of the subject.

Using the Quick Select Tool

Using the Quick Select Tool

Once you’ve got a basic selection done it’s time to use the Refine Edge tool to Smooth, Feather and Expand the selection you’ve just made. For birds in flight these are the settings I normally use to make sure all the bird’s feathers are included in the selection.

Refine, Expand & Feather the Selection

Smooth, Feather & Expand the Selection

Once that’s done your new selection should look something like this.

Selection Refined

Selection Refined

You’ll understand why this step is vital when you begin to play around with the settings in the Alien Skin Bokeh plug-in filter.

Click on the Image Above for a Larger View

Click on the Image Above for a Larger View

Bokeh provides creative controls to enhance images by focusing the viewer’s attention anywhere you want. In the image above, the Bokeh plug-in was used to enhance the background blur. This allows me to shoot the image at f/5.6, which is the fastest my Canon EF 300mm f/4L + 1.4x Extender can go, but make it appear as if I shot it with Canon’s much more expensive EF 400mm f/2.8 lens. Blurring the background in an image like this one makes the subject “pop” and seem that much sharper.

Another trick to enhance an image like this is to apply some sharpening to the subject only, as shown below.

Using Sharpener Pro on the Original Selection

Click on the Image Above for a Larger View

It’s easy to do this by clicking on the layer that your selection is on and using Nik Software’s Sharpener Pro plug-in. I prefer this plug-in because it acts more subtly and with fewer artifacts showing up in the final image. Sharpening only the selection is important since you’d hate to mess up that beautifully blurred background you just created using Bokeh.

Blending Layers in Photoshop

Blending Layers in Photoshop

The final step in Photoshop CS4 is to blend the three layers you’ve just created using Lightroom (background layer), Alien Skin’s Bokeh (bokeh layer) and Nik Software’s Sharpener Pro (sharpener pro layer). Now you could do this simply by flattening the layers but I suggest you take a little time and experiment with the Opacity of each layer until you achieve the desired results. I tend to blend the Bokeh layer at 100% but the Sharpener Pro layer at only 60% – 80% to achieve the most realistic look to my image.

Once you’ve completed this process, you just save the image in Photoshop and it should automatically show up in Lightroom, ready to be exported or printed.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Alien Skin Bokeh, Bird Photography, Canon, Canon 50D, Photography, Wildlife Photography