Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Saving Mr. Bird



This image of a  kingfisher was in serious need of help. The light was harsh and contrasty on this sunny day. The trees were too light and the bird was too dark. Generally the main subject should be lighter than the background so that it stands out. When photographing birds, the feathers should have good detail and not be too dark as they are on the Before image.

So once again, Lightroom proved to be a lifesaver. Compare the Before and After images. Notice how much nicer the tree trunks in the background look after reducing their brightness with the Highlights slider. And see how much richer the bird looks after bringing up its tones with the Shadows slider. The bird now stands out much more clearly, and yet the entire image still looks natural with a normal range of tones from foreground to background.

A few other finishing touches were needed with the Brush tool to darken the tree branch, and with the Gradient tool to darken the bottom and slides.

As you have read many times in this blog, Lightroom has been a miracle worker and can bring an image from loser to lovely quickly and easily. The Before image, while properly exposed, has no punch and does not show off the kingfisher to its best advantage. The After image is much more successful because the background is not washed out, and the main subject stands out with good detail.  

When you spot a kingfisher, be prepared to stay put for a long time. They are fast-moving little birds and flit frequently from their perch to the water and back again. They will make their forays to catch a meal over and over again, and will often return to the same perch between flights. So get set up on your tripod, or use your car as a blind if you are along a road as I was here. This little guy stayed in the immediate area for 10 to 15 minutes, giving us plenty of time to shoot many images with various head positions.

Be sure to be as quiet and still as possible. Kingfishers have keen eyesight and the slightest movement will catch their attention. The less you draw attention to yourself, the better your chances of getting some good shots.

NOTE: If you are looking for the easiest and most foolproof way to learn Lightroom properly, the Lightroom Unleashed workshop in March in Richmond, Virginia is the class to take. In-depth and hands-on, this is the best Lightroom class out there. For details, click here    For more information or questions email  

Shutter Speed 1/500 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS set at 400mm with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm.  Camera: Canon 40D. Handheld, resting on hood of car.

TODAY’S QUOTE: ”In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”  --John Muir   

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