I had several options for shooting this assignment, the Scottish Open Golf pro/am day, a wild life cruise and a day at the International Bird of Prey Centre. I decided to go with the wild life cruise whilst on holiday as I knew I would have ‘many’ images to choose from, many of which would need to be discarded in the early stages. As I was away from home, I didn’t have access to my computer so noted down my workflow to be typed up at a later stage.
For each of the possible sessions, I went through a similar process as I did above, deciding in advance what equipment I would need and what camera settings would be most suitable. The issues about timing and location were quite restricted and in the case of the wild-life cruise, I didn’t know where I would be able to stand, how many other people would be on the boat, or what, if anything we might see. We were told that we would see lots of birds and a slim possibility of whales, dolphins and porpoise, so the decisions I made were:
- largest lens I have – Nikon 70 – 300
- sunny day so white balance set to ‘direct sunlight’
- fastest shutter speed I could manage – at least 2000 to get birds in flight – this would almost certainly require a high ISO even with a shallow depth of field
- exposure – probably need to under-expose but check histogram and make judgement accordingly
Following the shoot:
- upload into Elements 9
- set up album and tags
- initial trawl through and discard obviously faulty shots
- second scan to create ‘long list’ and identify with 3 stars
- review 3 starred images and from those select 5 stars
- process these in Adobe Camera Raw and open in Editor
- Complete edit select final 2
This assignment proved to be a huge learning curve. In the event we saw a couple of porpoise, a submarine and lots of birds; some flying, some in the water and some on rocks. Those on the rocks presented a real problem for me as far as exposure was concerned and even having checked the histogram, many are under exposed. The 300mm end of my lens wasn’t nearly long enough to capture the flocks of birds and my skills when it comes to panning birds in flight need a lot of work. Sometimes I found myself shooting into the sun, so all I got was a silhouette and no detail. For the most part, ISO was set at 800 to get a 1/2ooo sec shutter speed and an aperture of f6.3.
Out of around 200 images, about 30 were deleted immediately I reviewed them. Some because they were out of focus or over exposed, others because I had missed a bird completely or it was only half in shot. Having said that, I did leave one such image in because I liked the composition, albeit accidental, with the splashes of water left behind by its feet. My first sift of 3 starred images got me down to 20 and by allocating an additional star to what I thought were the better images I got it down to 10. This is where it became tricky and I deviated from my plan. I felt that some of the quite dark images of birds on the rocks were worth looking at more closely and the fact that I had shot in RAW meant that I was able to process them at this stage. In the event, 2 of those images went into the final 5, along with the one above:
However, as I have to choose just 2, they are: Young Gulls and Shearwater taking off.
Looking back on the exercise, my workflow wasn’t too far out although I now realise that if I’m going to shoot in RAW, I need to process images with potential before I can really make a decision about them. I also realise that some of my photographic techniques need some practice, such as birds in flight when you have to react quickly and need to be ready. The International Centre for Birds of Prey is situated very close to me and they have daily flying displays so there is a real opportunity there. Other considerations; well, if I’m going to engage in this type of photography, I need to think about my equipment and with specific regard to workflow, I still need to think about how I catalogue and store stuff so that it is easily located in the future. Hopefully my new book will help with that.
Having thought about this and worked my way through the exercise I realise that I need to be more specific when I say ‘process’ the RAW files:
- Having opened them in Elements ACR, the first thing I would look at is the white balance and check whether this gives an accurate reflection of the image or whether one of the other settings is better.
- Next I would look at the histogram and decide whether I need to adjust the exposure. I’m still pretty new to using RAW so I would experiment a bit. Whilst I am happy that I have a clear idea what I need to do as far as highlights and shadows are concerned, I’m not really sure if some of the other areas are clipped, for example the blue in the Shearwater shot is out the top of the frame even though I was checking and adjusting the exposure when I took the shot. This is something I need to work on before the next exercise.
- After that I would work down each of the options in turn checking if I could improve on the original shot; brightness, fill light, blacks, saturation etc.
- Finally I will go into the detail screen and look at any areas that might want sharpening and whether I need to or can reduce noise.