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

Bird Photography – Odd Man Out

So here’s a quick post from an image taken last December. I stood and watched these whistling ducks for over an hour before this White Ibis decided to crash the party. I never grow tired of watching nature tell a story. It’s very important to slow down while you’re out shooting and wait for the story to unfold. Trust me on this folks. You won’t be disappointed.

Odd Man Out

Odd Man Out
Copyright 2009 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/6.7 for 1/350th 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 Color Efex Pro plug-in filter. Click on the image above for a larger version.

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

Bird Photography – Flying Solo

Here’s a shot I took last December at the Brazos Bend State Park near Needville, Texas. It’s unusual to see a Black-Bellied Whistling Duck flying alone. There are usually hundreds of them on this pond and when one takes off, they all take off.

I have a small confession to make about this image. I cheated a little in post by using Alien Skin’s “Bokeh” plug-in filter in Photoshop CS4 to blur the background. This has the intended effect to make the bird appear much sharper than it really is.

It’s a great little trick you can use on any image with a diffuse background but many wildlife photographers and most nature photography magazines frown on this practice since it’s not “natural”. Well, I’m no photojournalist and for me it beats having to spend $5000 on a fast super-telephoto lens.

Flying Solo

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.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Bird Photography, Canon, Canon 50D, 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

Bird Photographers Always Watch Where They Walk!

I spent most of this beautiful Labor Day weekend out photographing birds at the Brazos Bend State Park near Needville, TX. This state park boasts over 300 different species of birds sighted. There are so many different birds to watch in the park that the state has even published a bird watching checklist showing the most likely location to see each species.

Texas Parks and Wildlife – Birds of the Brazos Bend State Park

Last week I watched a new series of bird photography videos from Moose Peterson on the Kelby Training web site. Who better to learn the tricks of trade from than the master himself, Moose Peterson. In this latest set of videos, Moose was on the Florida coast explaining the best way to approach birds with his trusty Gitzo tripod and Wimberly head. Moose was positioning his rig in about 6 – 8 of water and slowly approaching the birds he wanted to capture.

Now, I think the world of Moose Peterson and have read just about all of his wildlife photography books, but here in East Texas we almost never step foot in the water to get those great shots. And here’s the reason why. (Just kidding Moose)

A Little Snack

A Little Snack
Copyright 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon 40D , 70-200mm f/4L with a 1.4x extender at 280mm, f/9.0, 1/160th sec at ISO 800 on SanDisk Digital Film.

I was right in the middle of getting the shot shown in my Dinner Time post when I heard some thrashing sounds coming from the bank of this small lake about 20 feet away. I turned my lens toward the commotion and caught this young gator (he’s about 2 feet long, so less than 6 months old) just finishing his lunch. I never did spot his momma but they’re the reason my tripod legs always stay high and dry!

Stretch Those Wings

Just a quick post from one of my recent visits to the Brazos Bend State Park. You’ve really got to keep your eye on the subject to catch the amazing behavior of birds just before they take off.

Stretch Those Wings

Take Off
Copyright 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon 40D , 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM at 180mm, f/4.0, 1/350th sec at ISO 100 on SanDisk digital film. Click on the image above for a larger version.

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

Bird Photography – Odd Man Out

It’s always interesting to watch different species interact. This White Ibis ran into a group of ducks while hunting for food and looks a little out of place.

Odd Man Out

Odd Man Out
Copyright 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon 40D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM with a 1.4X extender (monopod mounted) at 420mm, f/5.6 for 1/500th of a second at ISO 100 on SanDisk digital film. All post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

White Ibis

White Ibis
Copyright 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon 40D hand-held, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM with a 1.4X extender (monopod mounted) at 420mm, f/5.6 for 1/350th of a second at ISO 100 on SanDisk digital film. All post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

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