Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

May 19, 2009

More Birds on the Rocks

Black-headed GrosbeakBlack-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

I’ve spent three mornings so far at the new seep feature at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, observing the variety of birds that visit this alluring source of water in a desert habitat, and learning how to shoot the best photos there. For such a small area I’ve seen and photographed a nice variety of species. and I’ve learned to trust my Nikon D200 at an ISO setting of 800.

I’d had a Black-headed Grosbeak come close to the seep on my second visit, but it wasn’t until the third time (5/15/09) there that one actually landed on the cliff face and stayed long enough for a handful of shots. In this shot I got a very pleasing body position, so it was my pick of the series to present here.

Since the seep is on the west face of the cliff it is completely in shadow in the morning, with light provided by the open blue sky. My auto white balance makes the results way to blue, but it is quite easy to adjust white balance when working with the raw NEF file in Adobe Camera Raw. To make the WB adjustment as painless as possible I start by using the WB eyedropper on a neutral color in the image – here I picked the white eyeline. That gets me close quickly (with both the temperature and tint sliders), and then I can fine tune either or both for a natural look.

In addition to the body position, I like the color harmony between the grosbeak and the rocks.

D200, 300/2.8 & 2x TC20E, ISO 800, 1/320th at f/5.6.

House Finch

House Finch

For comparison, this male House Finch was photographed at the same seep on 5/1/09. It was later in the morning and I was shooting at ISO 400. There’s a lot more color contrast between the finch and the background compared to the grosbeak image, so it probably appeals to different viewers. I was happy to get the bright red head positioned against the dark flowing watr for maximum separation.

D200, 300/2.8 & 2x TC20E, ISO 400, 1/125th at f/5.6.

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