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Between you and me.

By OlwenB    
Two artic terns on a beach, Shetlands. UK. Mist rolling in from the sea. I would have liked this to be a much sharper image. Shot hand held.

Tags: Birds Wildlife and nature


terryxc 7 7 England
18 Oct 2014 3:24PM
Hey Petunia theres a man out there in his Dinghy SmileSmile


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banehawi Plus
15 2.2k 4084 Canada
18 Oct 2014 3:37PM
Welcome to EPZ Olwen, and to the critique gallery.

The timing is very good for this image. I also with it was sharper, and will try to understand why its not, and perhaps help along the way.

The camera has image stabilisation; the focal length used is 90mm as indicated here, which in 35mm terms is 540mm (multiply by 6); so without IS, and hand-held you would need a shutter speed about 1/600th. Since you do have IS, 1/400th should fine, and is not likely to be the reason the image is not sharp.

That leaves three alternatives, either separately or together; accurate focus, ISO, and how much the original image has been cropped.

If the original image is a lot larger, and you have cropped close, then the combination of a close crop, with what is a relatively high ISO for your camera, will produce a soft image; this is because you are in fact "zooming in" again on an ISO 400 shot which makes the noise (grain or spots) look larger. If you didnt crop close, then your original would look sharp IF ISO wasnt an issue. It is possible that ISO 400 is the major contributor.

Focus not being spot on will soften the image, but its something you would likely realise at the time you took the shot; if the camera allows you to select a single focus point rather than the default multiple points, its a good idea to select one that in this case would be placed on the terns.

To take the shot at a lower ISO, which would require a slower shutter speed, would likely require a tripod, but Im sure the birds were moving around too much anyway.

One last point, - setting the camera to the highest possible jpeg quality will provide the best images at higher ISO, and especially when cropping; make sure its as high as possible, or shoot in RAW.

The exif data uploaded doesnt tell us which MODE you used, P, Auto, A, S, M, so if you know what it was, let us know.

I hope this is of some assistance.

Enjoy the site!


mrswoolybill Plus
13 1.8k 2145 United Kingdom
18 Oct 2014 5:06PM
Hi Olwen, a warm welcome from me too. I hope you will enjoy it here and find it useful.

First of all I love the way you have timed and composed this. You have the two heads in profile, with one body side-on, one tail-on to the camera, and you have very cleverly placed them off-centre along a clear base-line. That gives a lively, dynamic feel.

I shall be interested to see your answer to Willie's post - I too suspect that this is cropped down from a larger file. That could explain a slight softness.

One other question - do you use the viewfinder or live view? Precise focusing was critical here, as was camera stability - both are liable to suffer with live view when hand-held.
Hermanus 7 4 South Africa
18 Oct 2014 5:41PM
Hi Olwen !! Welcome on site - hope you have a great time here and make some good friends as I have Smile A lovely image with super detail SmileGrinGrin
paulbroad 12 131 1288 United Kingdom
18 Oct 2014 5:55PM
The composition is good but it must be sharp. This is a pictorial natural history image and the birds need to be very clearly defined. You obviously know that. There are two main basic requirements fipor most images, correctly exposed and sharp where it needs to be.

Willie covers everything, so no need to repeat. Be sharp!

pamelajean Plus
14 1.3k 2106 United Kingdom
19 Oct 2014 7:24PM
Hello, Olwen, and a warm welcome from me, too.
I like the way you caught the terns chatting....probably about the weather!

Compositionally, they are nicely placed in the frame, offset rather than being in the middle, but I don't think you need the darker water area at the top, it simply serves to pull the viewer's eye up and away from your subjects.
If you scroll up the page and leave off that top bit, you will see what I mean. Does that look better to you?
Simplicity is the key here, with the added bonus of a little story, the chat between the birds, which lends itself to some amusing captions.

But no matter how good it is, if you capture a blurry shot, the image will lose a lot of impact and you'll be disappointed with the results.
So I hope what Willie has said will help you.

Perhaps the most obvious technique to work on when aiming for sharp pictures is focusing, so use the single focus point, as advised above, set your focus on your subject, then recompose the frame(keeping the shutter half pressed), then completely depress the shutter, and your birds should be focused.
There may be a bewildering number of AF points to choose from, but for the majority of shots you only need one the central one.

OlwenB 5 United Kingdom
20 Oct 2014 6:17PM
Thank you so much everybody. I really appreciate your help. I had cropped in the photo by a small amount and have now played around with it again to try and follow what was said above about leaving off the top bit. The shot was taken hand held and looking at the screen and not using the view finder. Although it's not too obvious in the shot there was a thick mist/fog and I was trying to adjust the camera when I saw this little pair sitting perfectly ready for their portrait shot.Blush So without further ado I clicked. I was in AV f 6 and as you know ISO 400. I think it is as you said .... there is slight movement which has caused the blurry look. I'm so sad as I really loved the composition and the whole scene with the beach sand and the waves. Still I'm learning and I feel I can still enjoy this photo because of the lovely memories it brings back. Thank you again for your help ... I will be following up on your advice for future photos. Smile

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