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Duck portrait!

By Jas2
HI

Just wanted your comments on overall composition, exposure and the fact that is the duck losing itself in the dark surroundings? What could have been done better?

Tags: Wildlife and nature Eurasian coot

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Comments


banehawi Plus
16 2.4k 4227 Canada
21 Feb 2021 3:45AM
Its an attractive shot.

Theres a few suggestions, mainly regarding post processing.
The beak has no detail, and this can be improved by reducing the highlight intensity is post processing; there are two lighter areas behind, same idea, they can be darkened,

The bigger issue I see is the refection; it look somewhat like a manufactured reflection due to the vertical colour lines, white and red running downwards from water drops and the eye, and neither are rippled as I would expect them to be, - they appear too perfect.

What I did in the mod, apart from the darkening and highlight reduction, is to insert a vertically flipped copy below the original, and distort, fave and desaturate it to try to be more convincing. Its not perfect, but you get the idea, I had to add a little space at the bottom to allow this to happen.

Take a look and let me know if it looks better. The basic shot is sharp, focused and apart from the beak, is exposed nicely.


Regards


Willie
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1832 England
21 Feb 2021 6:32AM
The duck is losing itself because it is a similar tone to the background - though there is some separation, and Willie's brought it out even better. To stand out, a subject needs to be set against a contrasting background...

You used Manual exposure and spot metering - that's a dangerous combination unless you know precisely what you're doing, and have taken the reading from the right area, and adjusted to put that area on the exposure zone you want it on. Please tell us more.
starckimages 3 10 1 United Kingdom
21 Feb 2021 8:32AM
Think that duck is a moorhen?
Jas2 3
21 Feb 2021 10:45AM

Quote:Its an attractive shot.

Theres a few suggestions, mainly regarding post processing.
The beak has no detail, and this can be improved by reducing the highlight intensity is post processing; there are two lighter areas behind, same idea, they can be darkened,

The bigger issue I see is the refection; it look somewhat like a manufactured reflection due to the vertical colour lines, white and red running downwards from water drops and the eye, and neither are rippled as I would expect them to be, - they appear too perfect.

What I did in the mod, apart from the darkening and highlight reduction, is to insert a vertically flipped copy below the original, and distort, fave and desaturate it to try to be more convincing. Its not perfect, but you get the idea, I had to add a little space at the bottom to allow this to happen.

Take a look and let me know if it looks better. The basic shot is sharp, focused and apart from the beak, is exposed nicely.


Regards


Willie



Many thanks Willie for the suggestions and the mod.Yes the mod looks better especially the beak and reflections does make sense.I do not however understood what you did after flipping ( dont know what fave means here).
I will be grateful if you can explain in a bit more depth.

Another question-
is it better to burn the beak ( as in burning and dodging) rather than reduce highlights as reducing highlights tends to reduce overall contrast throughout the picture as well?

Regards
Jas
Jas2 3
21 Feb 2021 11:00AM

Quote:The duck is losing itself because it is a similar tone to the background - though there is some separation, and Willie's brought it out even better. To stand out, a subject needs to be set against a contrasting background...

You used Manual exposure and spot metering - that's a dangerous combination unless you know precisely what you're doing, and have taken the reading from the right area, and adjusted to put that area on the exposure zone you want it on. Please tell us more.



Hi John,

I understand what you are saying, hence put this through critique section to see what the experts feel! I somehow found this picture very appealing! Maybe I do not have the 'eye' for art ( and photography) yet being a doctor ( hence a science student)!!LOL

This is what the background was like ( i.e. less reflective when I was lying on the ground to get the duck at eye level). This is as I took the picture so no modifications except maybe increasing contrast slightly. In hind sight maybe I should not have increased contrast as it might have reduced the difference between the duck and its surroundings- I hope what I am saying makes sense.

Spot metering-
I tend to use spot metering with birds as I want to expose for the bird. I usually expose for a relatively neutral colour ( neither too bright nor too dark) on the bird - so as not to blow the highlights as I can then fine tune the exposure in post. In this case exposed for the breast area as that is neither completely black nor completely white. This is possibly the reason that the beak was blown out , but at least it hasnt lost all details on the RAW file ( which as you know is a forgiving format)

Usual settings -

Manual exposure with Auto ISO and spot metering-
Manual exposure decided through experience ( still early stages in my experience though) - based on DOF and Shutter speed set based on factors as how much the subject is mocing and focal length I am using and always prefer to support my lenses eg tripod or resting on a bag in this case as I was lying flat on the ground.

Please shed light if the concepts need correcting!

Regards
jas
Jas2 3
21 Feb 2021 11:04AM

Quote:Think that duck is a moorhen?


I still think this is a Eurasian Coot,
Also just looked at this video . THought I should share-

https://www.bto.org/develop-your-skills/bird-identification/videos/identifying-coot-and-moorhen

Regards
Jas
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1832 England
21 Feb 2021 11:36AM
Hi again, Jas -

If you can really zoom in for spot readings, you can take readings from the beak and the dark feathers, and choose the exposure to put them at opposite ends of the histogram: I don't think I can do better than recommend Michael Freeman's book Perfect Exposure.

If you can get readings from highlights and shadows as well as midtones, you can set the exposure in between: you can choose (if you need to sacrifice one or the other because of contrast range) which you let go of. Here, you might also have taken readings from the duck and the background and made sure that the duck was just above the full black position on the histogram.

The most precise exposures are the result of the application of Ansel Adams' Zone System - the idea is that in every picture, you decide just how light or dark each area of the image will be, and expose accordingly. Adams also altered development for his glass plates to control contrast - something that is easier with digital, by a margin!

You may find Levels adjustments help you differentiate tones that are close together - or even Curves...
chase Plus
15 2.1k 562 England
21 Feb 2021 12:43PM
Yes, it's that overexposed beak that spoils this, and the reflections of it in the water look quite odd.
I did do a mod....
I went the other way from Willie and lightened the bg, just with a simple levels layer and a selective mask.
I too copied and flipped the bird to give a more realistic reflection, set the copy where I needed it to be and reduced the opacity to suit.
Reduced the blues on the water.
Cropped a little tighter.

Detail is good but I suspect that you are always going to struggle at that time of day in bright sunlight.
One suggestion would be 2 exposures, a couple of stops apart to help with the beak issue, then combine them in your editing program.I am sure you can set the camera to do that on burst mode....sorry, I am not a Canon user so I don't know the settings available to you as far as that goes.
Spot metering is perhaps not the way forward but shooting Raw is, perhaps that gives you some leeway with the highlights on the beak.
banehawi Plus
16 2.4k 4227 Canada
21 Feb 2021 1:57PM
Sorry Jas, fave should mean fade, as in reduce opacity.


So I selected the coot with the lasso tool, copied and pasted it (Control C and Control V), then with the layer selected that contains the copy, I edit, transform, flip vertical which turns it upside down. The using the move too, move it below the coot into a positron that would be a reflection. I faded it, applied a gaussian blur, and a wave distortion to try emulated the water.

All using Photoshop


W
pamelajean Plus
15 1.5k 2211 United Kingdom
21 Feb 2021 3:11PM
I'm glad you got the description sorted out. This is a coot. I used to see them every day on the lake where I used to live. Having taken several pictures of them myself, I know how that beak can easily become overexposed. Also, the eye tends to disappear into the bird's dark plumage. Here you have a very clear red eye with a nice catchlight, and good detail in the feathers as well as some nice water droplets.

You haven't answered Willie's question about the manipulated reflection, but it does look "manufactured", as he says. I first saw this picture when you uploaded it to the Photo Gallery recently, and my impression was that the image was fine, but the reflection spoilt it. A black coot against a dark background doesn't look bad to me, and I quite like it this way. I appreciate that it blends into the background a bit, but you do have good focus on the bird, and the background is blurred nicely. As to composition, you have offset the coot in your frame and you have it facing into the space on the left - all good.

Pamela.
Jas2 3
21 Feb 2021 8:12PM

Quote:Hi again, Jas -

If you can really zoom in for spot readings, you can take readings from the beak and the dark feathers, and choose the exposure to put them at opposite ends of the histogram: I don't think I can do better than recommend Michael Freeman's book Perfect Exposure.

If you can get readings from highlights and shadows as well as midtones, you can set the exposure in between: you can choose (if you need to sacrifice one or the other because of contrast range) which you let go of. Here, you might also have taken readings from the duck and the background and made sure that the duck was just above the full black position on the histogram.

The most precise exposures are the result of the application of Ansel Adams' Zone System - the idea is that in every picture, you decide just how light or dark each area of the image will be, and expose accordingly. Adams also altered development for his glass plates to control contrast - something that is easier with digital, by a margin!

You may find Levels adjustments help you differentiate tones that are close together - or even Curves...

dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 761 England
22 Feb 2021 11:01PM
Yes it's a coot.

Spot metering is fine if you know what tone you're measuring and how you want that tone to appear. The breast of the bird is darker than the standard mid grey used for exposure calibration, so you'd have to adjust. In fact there are various shades of grey there so it's tricky. It's best to pick some foliage in the same light as the bird and use that, as a starting point at least.

However, while setting aperture and shutter manually is ok, using Auto ISO means you are using automatic exposure as the camera is choosing the third parameter of the exposure triangle. So if for example you close the aperture thinking it'll reduce exposure and retain highlight detail the camera will just increase ISO to compensate.

The RAW file is likely to contain so much more information that you may, be able to retrieve detail in the white areas. You may need to do a second conversion to give some separation between the bird and background. There's not enough in a jpg here to try that effectively.

In some situations the bird may blend into the background full stop but that can produce an interesting shot, rather like a low key portraot than pure record.

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