Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

November 5, 2009

Cactus Wren on the Fence

Filed under: Birds, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, composition, favorite places, light, style — richditch @ 7:24 pm


Cactus Wren on BTA Fence

Cactus Wren on BTA Fence

The Cactus Wren is the official Arizona State Bird, and that tells you that it is common and popular. It is large compared to the other species of wrens found in AZ and elsewhere in the U.S., and it is vocal and can be aggressive. It is a fun bird to watch and have around.

Their numbers went down for a while at Boyce Thompson Arboretum where this image was made, but they are back in force on recent visits. This bird was quite active when I arrived on my visit last week, and I was immediately attracted to it.

I’ve mentioned before that I like directional lighting, and the sidelight on this wren is a good example. I like how such light gives dimension to an image by bringing out the three dimensional form of a subject. The light here was a bit more contrasty than I really wanted, and a bit of low power fill flash might have helped. But I’d just got the camera on the tripod and hadn’t dug out the flash yet so I shot anyway. I based my exposure on the breast, using the spot meter in my Nikon D200: I didn’t want to “burn out” the detail by overexposing the breast. My exposure saved the brights, but it put the rest of the bird in deep shadow. I was able to bring some detail back in Abode Camera Raw when I converted the raw file on the way into Photoshop by adding some exposure, using the Recover slider to protect the bright breast, and also adding some “fill flash” with the ACR slider.

This “pixel torture” took a toll on the noise levels of the green background, so I need to give the background a shot of Noise Reduction with my NoiseWare plugin for Photoshop. I always apply NR selectively to protect detail in the subject, so if you look closely at the darker feathers under the rump you might be able to see some of the noise.

I know there are a lot of nature photographers who would have passed up this shot: some because of the light; others because of the fence. There’s a school of thought that maintains a nature image should never show the “Hand of Man,” but I’m not such a purist when I work. Personally I think the fence adds interesting texture to the image, plus I always like to add strong graphics in my compositions whenever possible.

If I could change anything in this image it would be the overly bright part of the fence at the extreme left below the wren.

D200, 300/2.8 plus TC20E (2x), ISO 400, 1/640th second at f/8.



1 Comment »

  1. In case I hadn’t mentioned it before, I appreciate your description of the photographic process in addition to details of the bird and settings for all your posts.

    In this instance: the sidelight, exposure, post-processing including NR, and your critique were interesting and helpful for those of us who aspire to improve our own photography.

    And, oh yes, lovely photo!

    Comment by Bosque Bill — November 8, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

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