Since American Avocets nest at the Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ, where I do most of my bird photography these days, I’ve got a lot of shots of them in various poses and settings. But almost all of them are of breeding plumage birds with colorful heads, so I was happy to get some good images of winter plumage birds with their pale gray heads. I believe in diversification in a portfolio so I’m always looking for ways to add some variety to collections of birds I already have.
It was about 30 minutes past sunrise on September 17, 2009, and a few avocets came into a shaded part of one of the ponds. Although the avocet was in shade, the water was reflecting the vegetation on the far side of the pond that was already lit by direct sun. Such mixed lighting would be difficult if I was shooting with film, but auto white balance helps a lot in digital. And what helps even more is post processing with Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop where white balance can be easily adjusted.
For this image I ignored the reflections and paid attention to the avocet, making sure I’d compensated for the blue in the shaded light. That made the reflection even warmer.
When I have an interesting opportunity like this I try to get multiple compositions. You seldom know in advance what is going to work out the best, and as I’ve already mentioned I think diversity is a good thing.
Of these two images the traditional side view will please more viewers. But I also like the head-on version for the way it shows the eyes and bill.
When processing multiple images from a single time and place like this it is advisable to keep the adjustments the same on all images – otherwise they will look unusual together. You can do this by using batch processing or grouping images in Adobe Bridge, but I like to work each image separately and take more time with each one. So, I use the “previous conversion” setting with Adobe Camera Raw for sequential shots like this. And in Photoshop I usually just drag adjustment layers from the .psd file of a completed image onto the most recent converted image. That way I apply the same Levels, Saturation, and Curves values to related images. That’s another good argument for doing as much in adjustment layers as possible.