OK, so this might be the best bird picture I've ever taken.

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Went out on the California Delta to photograph shore birds this morning. Quickly learned that even with my motor off, I could not use a bean bag or other device because between the wind, the waves, and the boat movement, my only hope was shutter speed and hand holding. I was surprised that my exposure compensation on my Canon was backwards from Steve's instructions in his Nikon Exposure Ebook. For my white birds instead of moving exposure comp to the right (Plus), I had to move it to the left (minus)....but I did get the Blinkies under control eventually, and got my exposure correctly. I personally think this is an amazing shot, in the wind, waves present, on a moving boat, while shooting and operating a trolling motor, hand held. Canon 5D MK IV, 200-400 F5.6 lens plus 1,4 TC at F8.0 1/2000 sec ISO800. Yes I would have preferred F4.0, but I cannot at this time purchase this lens anywhere, so have to work with the equipment I presently own.
GreatBlueHeron F8-0 1-2000 ISO 800.JPG
 

Whiskeyman

Well-known member
Birds in flight from the deck of a boat is a big challenge, and you're correct, hand holding the camera and lens is necessary to isolate the boat movement as much as possible. Nice sharp photo!
 

DRwyoming

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Nice shot
I was surprised that my exposure compensation on my Canon was backwards from Steve's instructions in his Nikon Exposure Ebook. For my white birds instead of moving exposure comp to the right (Plus), I had to move it to the left (minus)....but I did get the Blinkies under control eventually
That depends a lot on the size of the bird in the frame, the background and the lighting. If a white bird takes up a large percentage of the frame then yes, positive exposure compensation will help keep the white bird bright and not underexposed and gray. But if a white bird takes up a smaller percentage of the frame and especially if the background filling most of the frame is dark you'll need negative exposure compensation to keep the whites from blowing out which is even more important if the background is dark and shaded but the bird is lit with direct sunlight.

Basically if whatever fills most of the frame is dark then you'll need to dial down the exposure to keep bright tones from blowing out but if what fills most of the frame is bright you'll want positive exposure compensation to keep the bright tones bright. IOW, you need to expose based on what the meter is reading off which is what fills most of the frame in Matrix (Evaluative in Canon terms) metering mode.
 

NorthernFocus

Well-known member
Supporting Member
I'd say you did well. The exposure compensation was already explained in a post above. Basically you have to use some judgement based on the overall scene that the meter is reading not just what you consider to be the subject. The camera's meter doesn't know what you consider important in the scene. It just reads the light that it's programmed to read. That's what spot metering is for is to eliminate everything from the scene other than the subject. But good luck holding the spot where you want it on a flying bird.

By way of critique you did will with the lighting and the bird is tack sharp. I have two suggestions. First, if you'd shot at f5.6 it may have smoothed out that BG a bit and produced a better bokeh. I've shot a lot of large birds and regardless of focal length the geometry works such that if they're at decent full frame range both wing tips will fall within the DOF. If you're a numbers kind of guy don't take my word for it. You can play around with a DOF calculator and prove it to yourself.

Second, is a composition thing. You didn't mention whether this is the original FF image or if it's been cropped. If so you may try re-cropping to put the bird farther to left in the frame so that he's flying into the frame. I'd crop it up close to his toes. The head doesn't need to be centered in the frame. Just more room in front than behind.

Overall a nice job.
 

marklangner

Member
Thread starter
Thanks for all the good info everyone. Concerning shooting at F8, I didn't have a choice. With the extender attached so I'd have the reach I need to get as close to full frame as possible I'm stuck at F8. If Canon will ever get my 600 F4 in stock, then I'll be set. Regarding composition I'm in a bit of a quandary. This bird was almost full frame. I was able to have just enough room to remove a small amount of background and adjust the bird position without sacraficing quality from cropping. My delema is that using the golden mean rule, I have the birds eye at that perfect spot in the picture. I've had friends comment in the past about having room in the picture showing where the animal/bird is going to help tell a story more and not get hung up on compositional rules we use for landscape work. I've noticed Steve's animal pictures in his Ebooks seem to position the subject more like I did here most of the time. So I'm kinda fighting with myself the best way to compose birds and animals.
 

DRwyoming

Well-known member
Supporting Member
...I've had friends comment in the past about having room in the picture showing where the animal/bird is going to help tell a story more and not get hung up on compositional rules we use for landscape work...
For flying birds, running animals or even wildlife staring across the frame I'd tend to agree with your friends and not try to position the eyes right on a rule of thirds intersection but rather leave room for the implied motion lines or sight lines. There's no hard and fast rules and there's nothing wrong with the frame filling shot but personally I'd leave more room when possible so wildlife subjects aren't looking or moving out of the frame most of the time. IOW, I'd agree with your friends that there are a lot of considerations and in a shot like this the room for your subject to move into the frame may be more important than holding to rule of thirds ideas for the eye.

That said, sometimes we have too much lens and a great wildlife subject like your Heron flies closer and we can't leave all that much room for motion or sight lines. That's fine too and your image works nicely as a closeup flight shot but if there's a choice of allowing room for motion lines then that would be my go-to.
 

Woodyg3

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Congrats on the shot. You will get more great shots as you gain experience. Birds in flight are tough.
 
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