Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

November 11, 2012

White-crowned Sparrow

Filed under: Birds, Desert Botanical Gardens, digital benefits, favorite places — richditch @ 2:11 pm


White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

My apologies for not posting in a while on my blog. You’ve heard most of my excuses before – lingering heat in AZ; parting with my RAV4 and getting the Cruiser up to spec for replacement duties; a lack of water at the Gilbert Water Ranch where I do the majority of my photography. Add to those excuses my focus on the presidential elections earlier this week and my joy and relief at the outcome (even Arizona moved bluer this year but still has a long way to go).

I did get out to shoot a little a week ago, on November 4, when I visited the Gilbert Water Ranch to look for a vagrant Chestnut-sided Warbler that had been around for about a week. I’d already looked once for it but departed a bit too early in the day to see it. On this visit I decided to leave the big rig on the car and go with just the Nikkor 70-300 zoom on a D300 body without a tripod. Since I’d not found any good subjects at the Water Ranch for the big rig I thought it would be easier to look around with less gear to deal with.

I was able to see the Chestnut-sided Warbler – my third in AZ. I even managed a few record shots with the short zoom. But the shot I liked best from this visit was this simple adult White-crowned Sparrow that was feeding on mesquite pods in the shadows along the main path. Regular visitors to this blog already know that I have a fondness for this species as I have posted a lot of shots of them before this. What makes this shot a bit different is that it was taken hand held with just the 70-300 zoom, and even more of a surprise it was taken at just 240mm. I was able to squat down along the trail very close to the sparrow – so close that I had to pull back on the zoom from 300mm to get it all in the frame.

Since it was a bit dark in this location and since I was hand holding the lens I pushed the sensitivity up to ISO 1600 instead of the ISO 400 I usually work at. I’ve come to trust the Nikon D300 at this setting when I know I risk blurring the image from camera or subject motion at a lower value. This is a capability that still seems miraculous compared to my history of shooting on film for 30+ years before going digital.

Note that this image is full frame, and that I have not applied any noise reduction to it in processing. To get a better idea of the results here is a section of the original image at full size (1:1 from the image viewed at 100% in Photoshop, what many people confusingly call “100% crop”).

White-crowned Sparrow detail

White-crowned Sparrow detail

Yes, there is a small amount of noise visible in the detail view, especially in the out-of-focus background area near the beak. Some photographers would immediately apply noise reduction to knock that down even if it meant reducing fine detail elsewhere in the process. But that isn’t really necessary as the resampling that occurs when the image size is reduced takes out most of the noise along the way.

It is also interesting to note the blue fringing that becomes obvious in the detail view on the crown where the black and white stripes meet each other. This tells me that the 70-300 isn’t corrected for chromatic aberrations as it could be,



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