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Red Squirrel

By SkySkape
I took 900 pictures at the British Wildlife Centre on a photo day in June. It's taking me an age to sort out the best from the near misses. Many are rejects due to the speed the animals move. I have attempted to tone down the highlights in the background in both Lightroom and PScc but not to my satisfaction. Still learning PS and LR. This is for our club competition so any tips welcome. There is a length of rope behind the squirrel in full sun. It is too close to the tail to crop out so I have done a highlight burn on this version. I did try to clone it out but it didn't look right. I'm not sure about the green behind the tail and the bright orange behind the head.

Tags: Lightroom Photoshop Red squirrel Post production Wildlife and nature

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banehawi Plus
15 2.2k 4093 Canada
17 Oct 2016 6:13PM
Hi John.

I would be more concerned about underexposure than the background, which, apart from the rope you mention is entirely natural.

The mode you used is not identified, so its likely P or Auto mode, which is risky with this type of shot. You were very fortunate to get a reasonable image at this shutter speed. At least twice the shutter speed using ISO 400 would be in a safer zone.

Anyway, addressing the major issue, exposure, the mod had it increased by +1. Highlights are toned down using the shadow/highlight tool; the Red colour is reduces by -18, midtone contrast reduced and shadow detail lifted a little.

Then the next issue is that the head is not sharp. This is likely due to the head moving during the slow shutter opening, so thats been sharpened as much as I could without causing other issues.
Since the exposure was under, and had to be increased, noise in general increases, so noise reduction is also applied to the background areas.

The framing is a bit tight, better to allow more room in front by zooming out a bit.

Hope this helps,



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dudler Plus
16 1.1k 1598 England
17 Oct 2016 7:48PM
Willie's nailed most of it: this is not my sort of photogrpah, so you have my admiration for getting a sharp result, especially at such a low shutter speed.

Higher ISO, and a mode that gives you the control (what DID you use, I wonder?) are all I have to say on the technique. Control is all, whether you're driving a rally car, doing heart surgery, or taking a picture.

One other question, though. Will the competition entry have the title and copyright details on the bottom? I suggest that it shouldn't, and that posts in this Gallery are better without, as well: logos distract from the subject matter.

And, overall, it's an appealing and detailed shot of an animal that's rarer than everybody who doesn't really know (like me!) is aware...
paulbroad 12 131 1288 United Kingdom
17 Oct 2016 7:58PM
At first viewing, nice, but then you do realise it is a touch under exposed and the head is soft. For such a shot the head and eye MUST be crisp and you were going to struggle at such a low shutter speed, even if you used a tripod, due to subject movement.

There wqs no reason not to be at ISO400 with modern gear. I would have been there with some shot at 800 too. Sharp and a bit of noise is going to be better than soft, any time.

pamelajean Plus
14 1.3k 2116 United Kingdom
17 Oct 2016 8:21PM
The visit was undoubtedly a learning curve for you, John.

If you had set your camera with a fast enough shutter speed for any of the animals you encountered, then you would have given yourself time to consider other things, like the background. Sometimes it's simply a case of changing your viewpoint or angle. Eager to get the shot, it's easy to concentrate only upon your subject.

This image isn't too bad, and the background is not too distracting. I'd just like to see a bit more space in front of your squirrel, giving it room to move into.

I'm not sure what those black things are beneath the squirrel's behind, but I would personally clone them out because of what they SEEM to be. I understand that wildlife competitions don't allow such alterations, so wonder if your camera club allows it.

18 Oct 2016 9:11AM
Thank you all, especially Willie for your suggestions and observations re exposure. I can't recall why I had such a slow shutter speed. We had just moved into the squirrel enclosure which was a high walkway in the trees. I was so excited at being up close I forgot to reset my camera. I did want to drink in the moment and not live the expiriance only through the viewfinder. We don't have labels on image displayed in competitions.
mrswoolybill Plus
13 1.9k 2163 United Kingdom
18 Oct 2016 2:40PM

Quote:Many are rejects due to the speed the animals move.

Quote:The mode you used is not identified, so its likely P or Auto mode, which is risky with this type of shot.

A lot does depend on how you set the camera, but it does seem that you relinquished a lot of control to its very efficient but entirely unintuitive brain! It doesn't know that you are photographing a squirrel scurrying around at speed.

You were at your largest available aperture, ISO was set to 200, you were already underexposing a bit; I suspect that however the camera was set to calculate, shutter speed was going to be the problem. To get a faster shutter speed - I would want no slower than 1/250 second - you needed a higher ISO.

Incidentally you make an interesting point.

Quote:I did want to drink in the moment and not live the experience only through the viewfinder.

This is something that I find, when I concentrate on photography I risk missing the 'bigger picture' experience. So in a place like this, where the animals aren't going to go away and you clearly have plenty of time, I suggest that you divide your time clearly. First, spend some time fully enjoying the experience without taking any pictures. It will enable you to get your eye in and have a better idea of what you want to do when you get the camera out later.
Robert51 11 7 95 United Kingdom
18 Oct 2016 3:06PM
Well the good thing is you under exposed the image as in most cases this can be recovered like Willie's great mod. Never overexpose an image as once those highlights are blown that's it. Just like a blurred image there is no coming back.

I really like the picture itself and can understand how excited you got. I saw my first red squirrels in the wild last year and had to go to Brown Sea Island for that coming from Kent. I nearly chased the first one all over the place, by the end of the day we see them everywhere on the island.

24 Oct 2016 11:36PM
Thank you all for your comments. The reworked version achieved top marks at camera club this evening.

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