Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

January 6, 2009

Common Moorhen

Filed under: Birds, digital benefits, Kearny Lake, style — Tags: — richditch @ 8:54 am
Common Moorhen at Kearny Lake

Common Moorhen at Kearny Lake

We don’t get a lot of rainy weather in central AZ, so I haven’t had much chance to see how digital handles it. I recall my days of shooting film in New Jersey, and how lousy the results were on rainy days. But digital gives so much more flexibility:

  • increase the ISO whenever necessary to deal with lower light levels
  • take lots more shots of a subject in “catch and release” mode in the hopes that at least one of them will be good enough to keep
  • make adjustments to white balance, saturation, and contrast in post processing

I used an ISO setting of 400 to deal with the lower levels of light under the day’s rainy skies, and that allowed me to shoot at 1/80th second at f/8. I know that doesn’t seem like a fast enough shutter speed, but moorhens can be stationary and a solid tripod takes care of the issues of camera stability.

I took shots in short bursts knowing that I’d get many near duplicates, but that some of them would be sharper than the rest or would catch slightly different head positions (its important to get a natural catchlight in the eye to give an image “life”).

The unprocessed raw files show a blue-magenta color cast from the gloomy conditions, so I adjusted color by using the white point eyedropper in Adobe Camera Raw on the white feathers of the rump to neutralize the color cast. Then I backed off a bit on the changes that had made to the white balance and magenta/green sliders to restore a little of the feel for the conditions. Here’s the unprocessed image, shown full frame:

Unprocessed moorhen image

Unprocessed moorhen image

A couple of the personal “style” characteristics shown in this image are:

  • low” color on the subject – this is not a brightly colored cardinal or other colorful subject often selected by avian photographers
  • use of natural light instead of adding flash fill, to retain the natural shadows to add contours to the subject and keep it looking three dimensional

I enjoyed this visit to Kearny Lake enough to think about making the 160+ mile round trip again soon. There’s a lot more potential for photos there than I had time to exploit on this rainy day visit.

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