Bird photography can be a time consuming process but rewards can pay of at the least expected times. a few days a go I got a call from my mum to say she had spotted a small owl in her back garden. As an avid owl lover mum has owl ornaments and images all around her house & garden so maybe this little guy just felt at home in her garden …
Anyway, we headed off to mum’s to check out this visitor of hers hoping that he would still be there … and he was. We found him nestled in the foliage of a small tree in the garden. Luckily for us the tree’s foliage was dense enough to keep him protected but with enough gaps that we could get a good view of him, it’s not often you get so lucky 🙂 Ironically the only reason mum spotted him was because the local birds were going crazy about his presence, fluttering around the tree and and making a rawkus noise. But then it is spring and no doubt they were a little concerned about their nests becoming potential dinner plates!
Maggie began looking into what type of owl he was while I started snapping away with my 70-200mm. The late afternoon sun was behind him making the light interesting and challenging. I knew the bright blue glimpses of sky would be blown out but the important thing was getting the owl exposed perfectly and retaining the brilliant green of the backlit foliage. The little guy was barely moving so shutter speed wasn’t so important but I still needed to keep it up high enough to prevent any camera shake. It was pretty dark inside that tree and after a bit of experimentation I compromised at manually setting my exposure to 1/160th, f7.1 & ISO 1000 and I was very happy with how that worked out. Noise levels were very low even with the shadows brightened up in Lightroom and the level of detail around his eyes was astounding as you can see from the exploded view below.
Although the owl was not moving all that much it was a windy day and the leaves were blowing around all over the place making it tricky to frame the owl and causing the sunlight to randomly blow out parts of the owls body.
All up we were there for around 40 mins, I took 213 photos and got some crackers. Turns out he was a Southern Boobook Owl, quite common around here though not so much in backyards! One good tip for photographing animals is to always focus on the eyes. At 200mm in low light depth of field is often sacrificed for shutter speed and if the eyes are not pin sharp then the whole image can be ruined.
As usual my initial processing was done in Lightroom followed by adding effects in the new ON1 Photo Raw 2018 with some final tweaking in Photoshop, the Master File is then imported back into Lightroom from where I can export it in any format as required. All 3 tools have their benefits and work well together to produce a final image that is extremely high quality and suitable for any purpose.
I haven’t really looked at the new version of ON1 Photo RAW 2018 short of using the effects module to create & apply presets. Keep an eye out for my upcoming review of this very interesting photo processing software package that is becoming serious competition for Lightroom.
Location: Mindarie Backyard, Western Australia Date: 26th December 2017 Time: 3pm – 3:40pm Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mk11 Lens: EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Camera Mode: Manual Exposure: 1/160 sec, f7.1 at ISO 1000
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- Southern Boobook Owl 1 (WAO1.1-V1)
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