March 28th Sunday “Monday” Sampler + Q&A’s

Sorry for being a day late with this week’s Sunday Sampler! Got busy with Easter festivities yesterday!

On Saturday Dave & I took a trip to Vermont (3 hrs. away) to “VINS”, the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. They take care of many injured birds and raptors, with those that cannot be released back into the wild now residents of the institute. Bald eagles, golden eagles, owls, kestrels, hawks and more now call VINS home.

This week’s textures all come from VINS! Barn wood, a birch tree, and owl feathers make up our selection.

Here is one of the VINS residents – a beautiful red tail hawk. She has been with them for many years. One of her wings does not fully extend so she can’t fly long distances any more.

Red Tail Hawk - web

10 Tips for Photographing Birds in Flight

By Hazel Meredith, APSA, MNEC, Meredith Images

 Birds and wildlife are probably the most challenging subjects we can photograph. They move in various directions – especially wildlife when they are running – however there are some things you can do to improve your chances of in-focus bird photos.

  1. Choose your camera settings wisely. You will most definitely want to use continuous focus (AI Servo on a Canon; AF-C on a Nikon), select a center focus point, and use a fast shutter speed of at least 1/1000th of a second.
  2. This means you will be using Shutter Priority mode, so you will need to be sure that when using a fast shutter speed, your f-stop will be in the range of the lens you are using. If not, you will need to increase your ISO setting. Ideally, you want at least an f-stop of f-8 or f-11 to get enough depth-of-field on your bird.
  3. ISO should be at least 400, and possibly higher if lighting conditions are not bright. Most cameras today can easily handle 1600 ISO without a lot of “grain” or digital noise.
  4. Tripod or no tripod. Most times a tripod is useless when photographing birds in flight! Their erratic movements can make it nearly impossible to get a good shot on a tripod. The exception would be if you have a Wimberly or similar type ballhead that allows movement in all directions.
  5. When hand holding a long lens be sure to keep your supporting hand as far out towards the end of the lens barrel as possible. This will reduce camera shake. Also, keep your elbows tucked in and spread your legs should-width apart for stability and ease of panning.
  6. Ideally you will be shooting when you can get front lighting (sun behind your back) with the bird coming at you. Of course, perfect positioning is not always possible!
  7. As with any type of photography, composition is important. When photographing birds keep a large amount of negative space in front of the bird so he has somewhere to travel into the frame of your image. If you focus your center point on the eye of the bird, his body will be behind that point leaving more space in front of the bird.
  8. It is also ideal to be on the same level as the bird. This can be difficult. However, if you can capture the bird when it is swooping low or position yourself on a hill or an elevated bird stand, you can get better images.
  9. Learn the signals to what a bird will do or when they will take off. I learned with the sandhill cranes in New Mexico that they lean forward prior to take off – sometimes for a minute or more! The bird that is leaning the farthest forward will be the one that takes off first. Other birds (as Roman K. says), “lighten the load” before takeoff! Learn the signals of the birds you are trying to photograph. Birds pretty much always take off and land into whatever wind or breeze that there is. Put yourself in the right position with the wind at your back so the bird will be coming towards you when landing or taking off.
  10. Panning technique. It is easier to focus on a bird that is a little farther away than one that is “in your face”. Get an approaching bird aligned in your viewfinder and track it as it moves closer. Once it is in a position you like, fire away. Shooting in short bursts of two or three shots will give you a better chance of getting the wings in a good position. When you are panning with a bird in flight, be sure to continue the panning motion even after you take the shots. Follow through will keep the last shot in focus better than abruptly stopping your movement.


Q & A

During my Topaz webinar earlier this month, attendees asked many questions. While I cannot see that part of the screen while I’m teaching, other attendees can and my hubby, Dave, did some screen shots of questions asked. We did have time to answer a few at the end of the webinar, but there are many more than we can get to in 15 or 20 minutes, and not all of you were on the webinar. So here are a couple of them – I’ll include more in future posts. And feel free to email me YOUR questions too on textures or photography in general.

Q. What format should the files be for adding your own textures (pixels, resolution, etc.)?

A. The textures included in Topaz Texture Effects are 5000×5000 pixels. I usually save my own files at 4500 pixels on the longest side, and always at 300 dpi. Most purchased textures are 3000 pixels minimum – most are more. I also size my images to 15 inches (4500 pixels) on the longest side, so my textures will be pretty closed to my image size. You can stretch or shrink to fit exactly, but you don’t want to have to stretch it too much or it will get very pixelated. Most textures are jpeg files. You can bring these in to your active Photoshop file. I always save first as a PSD file with layers, then as my jpeg file.

Q. Does she print most on canvas, watercolor paper or other paper?

A. I do a lot of canvas prints lately! I don’t do my own paper prints any more, so if I need prints I use one of the pro labs. For canvas I love Canvas on Demand. Great quality and pricing – check Groupon for discounts and sign up for their emails. They have a special today and tomorrow till midnight – $28.29 for a 16 x 20 gallery wrap canvas! Use the code 16X20DEAL. I have to go order one for a gift!

Have a good week everyone!!

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