Tim Boyer Photography

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Bald Eagle

My 5 Things to Make an Image Successful

Photography TipsTim Boyer2 Comments

Here's a short list of the five things I think have to be right for an image to be successful.

SHARPNESS

 The image has to be sharp.  If the subject is sharp and the background is blurred, that's okay, but sharpness really can't be fixed in post-processing, so it needs to be right in-camera when the image is created.  There are several ways to ensure you get a sharp image; check the shutter speed, use fill flash, use the professional newspaper photographer grip, use a tripod, with a big lens press down on the lens with your left hand to dampen vibrations, etc.  For bird photographers, if the eye is sharp, then the rest of the bird can be out of focus.  People connect with the eye!  On the flip side, if the image is supposed to be blurry, it needs to be blurry enough, so the blur is obviously intentional.

The eye is sharp and so ar ethe facial feathers on this immature Bald Eagle on the Washington Coast.
The eye is sharp and so ar ethe facial feathers on this immature Bald Eagle on the Washington Coast.
The near Sandhill Crnaes eye is sharp enough so the rest of the blurred bird doesn't matter.
The near Sandhill Crnaes eye is sharp enough so the rest of the blurred bird doesn't matter.

LIGHT

The quality of light and the direction of light make a huge difference between a successful image and one that's just so-so.  The quality of light means shoot at dawn or sunset when the sun angle in the sky is low.  This enhances the yellow or golden tones in the light and thus makes the image warmer.  For the angle of light ask yourself, where is the light coming from.  Is it in front of you, sideways to you or behind you.  The basic formula for bird photography is the light should come from behind you.  Front -lighting works best for bird photography, but Backlighting makes great silhouettes, and Side-lighting which works great for human portraits doesn't seem to works as well for birds but can work if the light isn't too harsh.  If you shoot before the sun is on the subject, like the Peregrine Falcon below, you might need to adjust the White Balance of the image, shooting in Auto White Balance will work most of the time, though.

Front-lighting on a Black Phoebe.
Front-lighting on a Black Phoebe.
Difused-lighting - before the sun is fully up.
Difused-lighting - before the sun is fully up.
Back-lighting on a Bald Eagle getting mobbed by a Red-einged Blackbird.
Back-lighting on a Bald Eagle getting mobbed by a Red-einged Blackbird.
Side-lighting that does work with this Peregrine Falcon.
Side-lighting that does work with this Peregrine Falcon.
Harsh side-lighting that doens't work.
Harsh side-lighting that doens't work.

BORDERS, EDGES & BACKGROUNDS

 When you're looking in the viewfinder, look at the background.  Is there a branch, light pole, building, Eiffel Tower or anything else coming out of the subjects head?  Does the horizon cut the subject into two pieces or is it at the neck and make it look like the head is getting cut off?  Then as you look through the viewfinder, take a quick glance around the edges of the viewfinder to see if there is something protruding into the frame that shouldn't.  A branch, building, another bird etc.

Nice blurred background, no distracting bright sticks etc.
Nice blurred background, no distracting bright sticks etc.
Cluttered background, bright stick coming out of the Gree-tailed Towhees head.
Cluttered background, bright stick coming out of the Gree-tailed Towhees head.
A Western Sandpoper sneeking into the frame of the Sanderling on the beach.
A Western Sandpoper sneeking into the frame of the Sanderling on the beach.

EXPOSURE

Why is Exposure fourth?  Well, to a degree (within a few stops of light) you can fix Exposure in post processing. But, start by reviewing your Histogram and exposing the image to the right when you're shooting.  If you can get even some data into the far right sections of the Histogram the image will be close to an accurate exposure.  The Histograms in the Canon cameras I use had five sections to the Histogram.  I always try to expose the image so some data reaches halfway into the fifth section.  It's very easy then to make any adjustments with the Blacks, Whites, Shadow and Highlights Sliders in LightRoom to finish the image and get an accurate exposure.

LightRoom Histogram showing expsoue to the right, and get data in the last section or box of the camera or LightRoom Histogram.
LightRoom Histogram showing expsoue to the right, and get data in the last section or box of the camera or LightRoom Histogram.

COMPOSITION

Try to create the composition of the image in-camera while you're shooting.  Yes, you can always crop to fine-tune the composition later in post-processing but the closer the image is to the final composition in-camera the more pixels you'll save for later use (like printing), or the less time you'll need to process the image.  The biggest thing to avoid is the DSLR classic image of a centered subject.  By using the Rule of Thirds, or placing small subjects in one of the corners the image will be better.  That said, sometimes dead center is where you want or need the subject and the horizon or the bird can be centered horizontally or vertically and the image still works. The Rule of Thirds is really, "The Suggested Default of Thirds" encase you can't decide what else to do with the composition.  It doesn't hurt to explore compositional ideas in-camera while you're in the field!

Centered Western Sandpiper. Avoid this by putting the bird in the corner or cropping to the Rule of Thirds.
Centered Western Sandpiper. Avoid this by putting the bird in the corner or cropping to the Rule of Thirds.
The Western Sandpiper is at the intersection of the left top crossing point of the Rule of Thirds.
The Western Sandpiper is at the intersection of the left top crossing point of the Rule of Thirds.

I hope this helps you create better images.

Enjoy!   Thanks   Tim

Bad Hair Day! on 500PX

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment
Bad Hair Day!  Bald Eagle during a snow storm in Homer Alaska.  Canon Eos 20D, ISO 200, 1/250 of a second, at f/4.5 with a 500 mm f/4.5 lens, Auto Focus but no IS.
Bad Hair Day! Bald Eagle during a snow storm in Homer Alaska. Canon Eos 20D, ISO 200, 1/250 of a second, at f/4.5 with a 500 mm f/4.5 lens, Auto Focus but no IS.

Trending as today's number one Animal image on 500PX!  Here's the story and the lessons behind this image.

In the winter of  2006 Alan Kearney and I went to Homer Alaska to photograph Bald Eagles.  When we got there it was snowing, actually most of the drive down from Anchorage I was wondering if we'd make it to Homer.  But, we got there and were hanging around the hotel complaining about the weather.  Can't take photos in the middle of a snow storm right?  But, we decided to go down and  see where the eagles were, so when or if the weather got better we'd be ready.  We drove down to the spit, parked next to Jean's house by the picnic tables and had a great view of the driftwood perches that everyone has seen from the Homer Spit.  Except there were no eagles on the perches.  After awhile though a few eagles flew in and this one flew in pretty close.  Most of the time it kept it's head sideways , but then after about 20 minutes it looked straight at me.  The wind and snow was coming off Kachemak Bay flowing snow into the lens hood and straight into the car.  It was 18 degrees, so we were inside the car with the heater going full blast, and had down jackets, hats, gloves everything on.  When the eagle looked at me, I started taking images, later when we got back to the hotel, I looked over the images and knew that no matter what happened the rest of the trip, I had a great shot. Excitement, satisfaction, relief, and  joy all flooded over me.  This image still makes me laugh, and I'm grateful that I was able to be there, see this and photograph it.

Lessons I learned that day:

Always go out no matter the weather (if it's safe enough.)

There's no good weather or bad weather, there's just weather.  We need to increase our skills so we can photograph in all weather conditions.

Always be ready to take the image of your life. Batteries charged, lens and camera ready etc.

If a bird looks directly at you -- don't think, squeeze the shutter button.  Anticipate the action, be ready for it.

This isn't my best image, but it's the one I'm known for.  Because it makes people laugh, and they remember the joy of that laughter.

We're blessed to be able to photograph nature, to be outside to explore and discover.

(Of course images can be purchased from my Galley Page or T-shirts can be purchase on the Shop Page of my website.)

Enjoy!    --    Thanks    --    Tim

Bird Quest 2014 #8

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment
A Song Sparrow perched in cattails.
A Song Sparrow perched in cattails.

Keystone Ferry and Crockett Lake offered a few birds yesterday morning on my way to Fort Flagler State Park.  I didn't get the Brant and  Harlequin Ducks I was after, but did manage to lock my keys in my car... and get a few good images.

Spring is starting!  There were plenty of birds out in the morning hours singing, marking territory, and trying to attract mates.

Golden-crowned Sparrow foraging for grass seeds.
Golden-crowned Sparrow foraging for grass seeds.

I didn't expcet to see Golden-crowned Sparrows still here, I thought they'd be moving northward already, but getting to spend a few minutes with them was fun.

The Bald Eagle seems to  be breaking the rules, using the  no hunting sign as an perch as he scans the  lake for a breakfast.
The Bald Eagle seems to be breaking the rules, using the no hunting sign as an perch as he scans the lake for a breakfast.

This was actually the first shot of the day, low light, still foggy, but I love the hunter sitting on the no hunting sign.

Enjoy!

Good Birding

Tim

Bird Quest 2014 #7

Bird PhotographyTim Boyer1 Comment
Sub Adult Bald eagle and seal carcass.
Sub Adult Bald eagle and seal carcass.

Out on the Washington Coast last weekend there were flocks of Dunlin and  Sanderlings as well as a few birds of prey.  On Friday when it was sunny we watched a group of sub-adult Bald Eagles take turns feeding on a seal carcass.

On Saturday morning from sunrise until about 9:00 AM there weren't too many clouds threatening to rain on us.  We drove the beaches looking for more eagles and hopefully a peregrine.  I  spotted this Merlin, the first one I've seen and photographed on the coast since March 2010.  It was exciting to be able to watch it for awhile.  They are so in-tune with their environment, constantly scanning the sky around them.  When I was watching it, I was glad not to be a small bird.

Merlin perched on driftwood, watching for the next meal to flyby.
Merlin perched on driftwood, watching for the next meal to flyby.

Continuing norhtward we finally found a Peregrine Falcon.  This is a first year female, and has the band "Z2" on it. The peregrine was banded by Coastal Raptors a research, education and conservation non-profit banding birds on the Washignton Coast.

Peregrine Falcon watching the Dunlin as well as humans on the Washington Coast.
Peregrine Falcon watching the Dunlin as well as humans on the Washington Coast.

It was a fun weekend on the coast, and I was happy to  see peregrines and  Merlins again!

Enjoy!

Good birding!

Tim

Birding/Photo Project 2013

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

Peregrines eat carrion and cough up pellets! Until this weekend I thought of Peregrines as these fast, powerful and deadly hunters of the sky.  Well they are all that and more. Monday I watched as a peregrine banded WZ cough up two pellets, and Tuesday and Wednesday I watch peregrine K6 feed on the remains of a washed up Great Blue Heron.  

Peregrine Falcon banded K6 feeding on a Great Blue Heron carcass.  K6 filled up his crop twice on Tuesday.
Peregrine Falcon banded K6 feeding on a Great Blue Heron carcass. K6 filled up his crop twice on Tuesday.

In this image you can actually see the bulging crop of K6, while it stands on the Great Blue Heron remains.

Peregrine Falcon K6 shaking off the rain and the Great Blue Heron it was feeding on.
Peregrine Falcon K6 shaking off the rain and the Great Blue Heron it was feeding on.

The falcons I photographed were banded, and are part of the research of  Coastal Raptors a non-profit group doing research, education and  conservation on Washington State's coastal raptor population.  The organization is run by Dan Varland, and  their website is:  http://www.coastalraptors.org.  

Peregrine Falcon banded WZ in the process of a wing stretch.
Peregrine Falcon banded WZ in the process of a wing stretch.

Another view of WZ, which is also the peregrine featured in the Coastal Raptors logo.

Peregrine Falcon WZ alert to any movement in our car as we watched and photographed it.
Peregrine Falcon WZ alert to any movement in our car as we watched and photographed it.
Adult Bald Eagle flying up the beach.
Adult Bald Eagle flying up the beach.
Northern Shoveler at The Old Fishing Hole Park, Kent WA.
Northern Shoveler at The Old Fishing Hole Park, Kent WA.

Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle and  Norther Shoveler brings my total photographed bird species to 79 so far this year.  While my goal of 500 is starting to seem a little overly ambitious, in reality I'm reaching my goal of learning more about birds and getting out more to photograph them.