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Old Jan 28, 2005, 9:53 PM   #1
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I was out shooting short eared owls for a bit today. I haven't gone though them all yet, but this caught my eye. I just love their plumage and I like the body/wing shape. Not as sharp as I'd like... wish I'd used 200ISO instead. Oh well, I can't have everything... and I'm happy with this either way.

What do you think of the crop? I struggled with it. My partner wanted it tighter but I think she was wrong. A different one had slightly more above, but I felt it threw off the balance with the right side.

I had to work this a lot in PS. I needed to preserve the pattern on the wing (any contrast adjustments destroyed it) but I also wanted to add some contrast. And saving the light on the underside of the wing was crucial along with the facial pattern. Basically I needed to enhance different parts in different ways and it took awhile.

Camera: 20D 600mm f4 +1.4TC 1/500 f5.6 ISO 100
PhotoShop: dual-raw conversion and blending, curves and levels + masks, touch of neat image, crop, reduce, sharpening carefully.

Eric
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Old Jan 28, 2005, 10:30 PM   #2
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Hi, Eric. I think the crop is just right. Any tighter and I'd parrot back at you exactly what people say to me when I crop too much... "it's too tight!". Besides, if you had intentions of printing and framing this, cropping too tightly would present problems with matting - you have to leave some room.

I'm surprised you're not shooting at ISO 200 or 400 as a matter of course. The amount of noise difference between 100 and 200 on the 20D is almost nil in my experiments.

In any case, a great shot, and sharp enough for me. The wing positions are just right to make for a very dramatic composition. I like the way you got the light brightening up the owl's facial disc.

Good PS work!
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Old Jan 28, 2005, 10:48 PM   #3
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Nice one Eric, I really like the bird, crop, and the background is great.
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Old Jan 29, 2005, 12:09 AM   #4
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I'm glad you two liked it. This was one of those days when you think you know what the best shot was, and then when looking over the pictures you find this one.... and know you got two winners. I was so damn cold, I'm happy I got some good results.

I worked hard to preserve that amount of light on the facial disk. No matter what I did, I always had to use a mask with a layer and undo it somewhere. That was one of the harder spots.

About the only thing I wish for would be that the owl was larger, before reducing it the bird isn't more than 1/4 or so of the picture. I'm showing some work next weekend and this will definitely be one of them.

Earlier in the day I was getting over 1/3000 of a second at ISO200, so I reduced it (my fear from the 10D was maxing the shutter to 1/4000... I gotta unlearn that fear as it's 1/8000 on the 20D.) I can actually see the noise at 200ISO depending on the sharpening I do so I thought I'd try 100. Now I regret that. I've learned my lesson.

Eric
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Old Jan 29, 2005, 12:50 AM   #5
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beautiful shot, beautiful looking bird, do these just fly around in your area? You seem lucky to get a lot of different breed of bird to photograph, lucky you.
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Old Jan 29, 2005, 1:37 AM   #6
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Glad you liked it.

Actually, I spend a lot of time finding out where the birds will be and then going there. I have book on finding birds in Eastern Mass. I feel that I don't use it often enough, actually. I know some good places (much closer to home) that have a wide variety of terrain so that helps a lot. From short mountain to wet land to pond to cultivated field. All in one (large) spot.

I drove about 1 hour each way to find these two (there are two resident Short Eared Owls there.) They are fairly well known. Short Eared Owls come down from further north (from Canada, but not sure how far) and winter here. Last year I never found one (although they were there) this year I've seen them every time I went but once. They are nice because they hunt during the day and night (diurnal is the term I think.) So you get there around 2pm and shoot until the sun sets (if you don't go dumb in the feet and hands, like today! Next time I wear 3 socks! I gave up watching one in a tree after 45 minutes. It never took off. And I had the setting sun with beautiful light behind me. Oh well.) Usually you find northern harriers there too… and if you are really lucky a snowy owl.

Find a local birding club or nature group and go on walks with them. Best way to find good places to photograph birds. The other is public land. Local, state, federal, doesn't matter. Someone takes care of it and knows what is there. And often they love to talk about it too.

Eric
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Old Jan 29, 2005, 8:43 AM   #7
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Hi Eric. To me thats a super shot. I dream of getting one like that. Haven't even found an owl in a tree yet let alone flying. I can't say anything that the others haven't said better.I've just read your information above it was very interesting to me and I know that it will help me in the future. As of the present its work,work,work and no time to go out looking for birds. But someday..................

Keep up the good work and keep posting this great information.

Houston

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Old Jan 29, 2005, 7:19 PM   #8
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Eric......

It seems you should crop a bird/flight photo like that with sky showing above the owl. It would give your eyes a chance to see what the up swing of the wings would be.



Maybe?




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Old Jan 29, 2005, 7:44 PM   #9
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So Eric, do you work weekdays or is this something you do full time?:-)

I dream of getting a shot of a couple of wedge-tail eagles that I see during my courier run out into the wheatbelt, I guess as far as time goes, if I saw them I would have maybe 10 minutes to photograph them before I have to keep driving or I would not make the times for each town pickup and drop off of freight. I only see these birds every now and again and often I probably would not get close enough to get a decent photo anywayONE DAY I will get that photo.
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Old Jan 29, 2005, 9:37 PM   #10
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Houston,
Glad to help. I like looking at good bird shots almost as much as taking them. I look forward to what you can produce.

pacman1951,
Yes, I agree that the space above is necessary. But did I put too much or too little on either side? That is what had me scratching my head.

aladyforty,
I work weekdays writing software. Actually, I'm working now to make up for the fact that I stopped working early (1pm) on Friday. Some things you just gotta do. What I didn't plan on is that I'm stage managing a concert this weekend and it isn't as well planned as I'd have liked. Costing me time... so I'm going to be up late tonight. Sigh.

What you should do is record when and where you see the eagles. Then as you start to see patterns (it will probably be partially time based 'cause they eat hares and lizards) go back there on the weekend at that time. Birds are nice that way, they don't care about weekday/weekend.

You'll have to learn how scared of humans they are. You might have to shoot from your car, which can be limiting. Also, they will take advantage of the sun angle and the wind. So use that to your advantage. Even if you don't get a picture, you'll learn something by watching them. Do they scan left/right with their head for food? Do they fly low or high? This can give you tips if they are about to dive.

As someone once said in an article. Some of the best bird photographers are also the best birders. They learn so much about the birds because that helps them get the best pictures. I'm no where near a "good" birder, but I have fun at it.

While searching for these birds (never heard of them) I bumped into this link you might like.
http://www.bigvolcano.com.au/stories/feature.htm

Good luck, I hope you get a shot and post it here. Any shot, this looks like an interesing bird. (and if I miss it, send me a private message. I'll want to see it!)

And "decent" photo is in the eyes of the beholder. It might not be huge in the frame, but that is ok. Catch it in interesting light and that is often good enough.

Eric
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