Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Post #77 - An apology, photo edits

First, I must apologize. I am sorry, I have been TERRIBLE about responding to comments that you readers have been kind enough to contribute to this blog. In reviewing some of my older posts, I can see exactly how bad I have been, so bad, in fact, that one comment politely and appropriately pointed this out to me. It really means a lot to me when people leave me notes as those words reassure me that the content is actually resonating with people. I should take the time to acknowledge these comments as I am sure that those people that post them would like to know that I read what they took the time to write. So, moving forward, I am going to be much better about responding to your kind (and even your nasty!) blog comments. Hopefully that will spur a bit more dialog between us moving forward.

OK, now that we've dispensed with that, let's get to some bird stuff. Migration is in full swing here in SoCal, and it is the best birding of the year right now what with eastern vagrants and whatnot. For reasons that will become clear in coming months, I have actually been doing a bit more birding in Los Angeles County in recent weeks. I have in the past month visited, beyond my new local patch, other sites in LA County including Legg Lake, Peck Water Conservation Area, Whitter Dam, Santa Fe Recreation Area, Frank Bonelli County Park. If hit early enough on the weekends, these areas can be quite pleasant and productive (sadly, I can't bird during the week). After 11am , most of them turn into unbirdable nightmares complete with blow-up bounce houses and loud music. I am really looking forward to exploring beyond the heavily populated coastal areas of the county, specifically in the San Gabriel Mountains and the desert north of that range. So, do please stay tuned as I do a bit more exploring of my home county.

LA county - I live at the little yellow star (south and central)
4,750 sq miles, 10,000,000 people, 534 recorded bird species

Lastly, I though it might be fun to show exactly what can be done with decent photo editing software. I use Lightoom for the vast majority of alternations, but I will occasionally use Photoshop as an extension should I need to do something beyond the usual minor tweaks. This is a photo that I took last weekend. It is interesting as all of the illumination was provided by an external flash (the trunk/bird were in full shade). Flash is best when used to highlight detail on subjects rather than as the sole lighting source. I normally avoid flash altogether, but I figured I could use some practice with the technique. Since I suck at flash, the photo needed some serious work in order to be serviceable. I think I got it to a decent place, but I had to do quite a bit to get it there.

Acorn Woodpecker - Melanerpes formicivorus
Canon 400mm /4 IS DO II on EOS 7D2
1/500 at f/7.1, ISO 1600
Original of left, edited on right

OK, that's it for now. SD pelagic this weekend - stay tuned!


  1. The editing seemed to slightly wash out the yellow under the chin and reduced a bit of the detail on the bird's back, but the result is really impressive. I think this is a great image, Dorian. However, it also points out the vagaries of relying on a photographic image of a bird for an ID. My wife and I are advanced amateur birdwatchers. My wife swears by the Audubon field guide that includes photographic images of the birds. Peterson's is my "bible" because, somehow, a drawing or a painting by a talented expert can capture the essence and variability of a subject--the gestalt--in a way that a single photographic representation cannot. We have endless discussions about this, with no resolution in sight. Your post simply gives me more ammunition!

  2. Thanks, Scott. Yes, the yellow on the chin was a bit of a casualty as you point out. In "warming" the entire image, I picked up the yellow tones elsewhere and I think that helped to mute the bird's yellow a bit in comparison to the colder, bluer, unprocessed version. Getting the blacks right was also a bit of a challenge. Much of that sort of thing is personal preference. I was struggling a bit to make the image looked like it wasn't flashed but also avoid looking over processed. It is really interesting to see the original image alongside. Usually I don't present it, so there isn't any way for people to say "you lost X in the process" since they never knew it was there to start with! My post-processing skills are decent, but there is still a ton of room for improvement.

    As for field guides, I, like you, prefer paintings/drawings like those in Sibley or NatGeo. You correctly point out that is is difficult to find an equivalently lit, positioned, and prototypical photography for each plumage variation of each species. NatGeo is my go-to as it has good inclusion of the uber-rarities for which I am often searching at this rather advanced stage of my listing career!