Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

May 12, 2009

I’ll Have Another Cardinal on the Rocks

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinal male

My tastes run to understated images with subtle colors and birds that often blend into the habitat, but I guess I’m as big of a sucker for male cardinals as everybody else. This bird could be the mate of the female I posted yesterday, photographed at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Its the same general spot, but the time was over an hour earlier and the light was much nicer (i.e., warmer color temperature for better warm tones in the image).

Being earlier, I had less light, and so I was shooting at ISO 800. That gave me 1/125th second at f/8 for this shot.

This is full frame (no cropping) with the 300/2.8 and TC2oE (2x) on my Nikon D200. The cardinal is a little high in the frame here, but I was trying to get the form and texture of the rock it is sitting on.

In the raw conversion I needed to increase the color temperature quite a bit to counteract the blue introduced by using Auto White Balance on the D200. I’ve noticed that at times AWB can be fooled by a subject that is strongly colored and it overcompensates as a result. One of the best reasons to shoot in raw is the ability to adjust the white balance. Making this change to white balance pushed the brightest reds past the limit, so it was necessary to pull the exposure down in Adobe Camera Raw to keep the texture in the crown of the cardinal.

In post processing I adjusted the black point on a levels layer a few points, used a color adjustment layer to get out the last bit of extra blue in the cardinal, brought down the brightness of the highlights on the rock slightly, and added a small touch of contrast with a curves layer. I did not add saturation; nor did I apply any noise reduction to any part of the image.

It might not qualify as a traditional Christmas Card image, but I’m not disappointed with it.

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