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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Bird Talk
Thread started 13 Apr 2016 (Wednesday) 19:39
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How do I prevent blowouts

 
IAbowhntr
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Apr 13, 2016 19:39 |  #1

I take pictures of a nesting pair of eagles at a local park here in Des Moines and the eagles seem to fly down to the river for a drink on the river bank or in the river ... I'm shooting a 6D with a Tamron 150-600 lens I shoot Evaluative metering SS 1600-2000, F8-F11, Auto ISO, I shoot AWB and picture style is Standard.
The last few times Ive had these eagles drop down I have had to quite a bit of post work to make them work ... am I missing something obvious? I do not have any problems except when they have their white heads against the dark background or water.
Ive attached a picture that shows pretty much what I am talking about.

I hope Ive given enough info to help you folks help me.

Thanks for helping!

Steve

These pictures are after Post work but I think you can get the idea of what my issue is.

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Snydremark
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Apr 13, 2016 20:06 |  #2

Don't shoot auto ISO in these situations. You're shooting, overall, dark scenes here but with any Auto setting in the mix the camera is raising the exposure to get the image to an average/middle gray tone; so, you're getting overexposure. That is a killer with dual-tone birds like the Bald Eagle and several of the water birds that like to be black/white (buffleheads, surf scoters, golden eyes, etc).

You ought to be fine at SS 1/800 - 1/1600 for these types of shots, which would also allow you to work with a lower ISO. I don't recall whether the 6D allows for Exposure Compensation while using Auto ISO; if it *does*, and you have a scene like this, you could always dial in some negative EC (about 1 1/3 to 1 2/3 in these examples) and likely get a better result. If it doesn't, just meter your exposure to -1 1/3 to -1 2/3 in M with your ISO set to 400-800. There is WAY too much light in these scenes to need to have ISO jacked into the high triple digits.

Also, do some more reading on in-camera metering and what your camera is actually doing when it sets the exposure in any of the auto/semi-auto exposure modes.

Dark/Light birds are some of the hardest to get correct; so don't feel bad if it takes a bit of time to get things dialed in, either.


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Duane ­ N
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Apr 14, 2016 03:39 |  #3

^^^Great advice^^^

I was having similar issues using AV mode on my camera and a photographer on a photography website I was a member of read my complaints about exposure issues with the eagle's I was photographing at the time and how the exposure would change as the eagle's flew from blue skies to a dark background (nesting tree).

He challenged me to switch to manual mode and said once I figured it out I would never switch back from manual mode. He was even kind enough to give me a starting point on camera settings. So I did and the next weekend I went out and screwed up a lot of shots because my settings were obviously wrong. I switched back to AV mode because that's what made me comfortable. I posted my results in manual mode and stated I had switched back to AV mode.

He challenged me again and told me to stick with it. Expose for the white heads of the eagles and worry about the darker parts of the image in post processing. So I switched back to manual mode the following weekend but this time I tried different camera settings. Over the weekend something "clicked" and I finally caught on.

I haven't switched any of my cameras back to a program mode since then....that was 6 years ago.

As long as the light is constant on your subject you shouldn't have to change any of your camera settings whether the eagle is flying in clear blue skies, sitting in a tree or sitting in water as long as your exposure is set for the whites. The only time I adjust my camera settings in manual mode is when the light changes as it rises over the horizon (or as it gets harsher) or if I'm adding an extender to the lens.

The later in the morning or earlier in the evening the more difficult it is to get the exposure correct on the whites because the light is more harsh and white is a natural light reflector. This is why I limit my time photographing Bald Eagles. I usually get out to my local nest right at first light and I'm leaving about 1 1/2 hours after sunrise this time of year. During the winter months I stay longer because the angle of the sun is lower during the winter months and the light is less harsh.

The image I'm posting as an example was taken right around the time I'm usually leaving my local nest because the light was starting to get harsh. The background is a bit dark in the image but what I was concerned about was the exposure on the white head and tail feathers. There are still some hot spots on the white head feathers and I should have adjusted my camera settings but I learned from this image and will remember my camera settings on this one if I have another opportunity like this in the future.


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Larry ­ Johnson
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May 19, 2016 21:23 |  #4

Yep, what the two previous photographers said, shoot in manual everything and expose for the highlights. Spot meter the highlights.
Also, turn on your camera's "blown highlights" blinkies option AND calibrate it. I'd share the calibration article with you, but can't seem to find it.


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PhotosGuy
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May 19, 2016 22:54 |  #5

Forget Auto ISO & AWB, & if you aren't shooting in RAW, I would recommend that you start because it allows more exposure corrections in conversion: Why Shoot RAW? (external link)

And it doesn't look to me as if the light in that location was cloudy sunlight, so see if this would work for you:
Need an exposure crutch?


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ardeekay
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May 24, 2016 20:54 |  #6

If I may interject -I admit, am low on the expertise level here, but that being said, seems to me that often the suggestions here assume constant or slowly changing conditions. I moved to ASO and AWB 'cause with birds, environs are often drastically changed quickly. A Warbler in a bush followed by an Harrier flying by over the reeds. Etc. Not criticizing per se, just saying there are no cure alls for everything. That is where practice and experience come into play. And I have so far to go!:-)
OP, tips here are all good and worth noting, but , imo, are not necessarily gospel. Nothing beats going out and trying this and that and everything else! When you learn it yourself, it stays with you more. Again, my 2 cents worth.
Best of luck!!


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MalVeauX
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May 24, 2016 21:13 |  #7

IAbowhntr wrote in post #17971007 (external link)
I take pictures of a nesting pair of eagles at a local park here in Des Moines and the eagles seem to fly down to the river for a drink on the river bank or in the river ... I'm shooting a 6D with a Tamron 150-600 lens I shoot Evaluative metering SS 1600-2000, F8-F11, Auto ISO, I shoot AWB and picture style is Standard.
The last few times Ive had these eagles drop down I have had to quite a bit of post work to make them work ... am I missing something obvious? I do not have any problems except when they have their white heads against the dark background or water.
Ive attached a picture that shows pretty much what I am talking about.

I hope Ive given enough info to help you folks help me.

Thanks for helping!

Heya,

Multi-color birds can be hard, white birds in general are very hard to expose correctly without also greatly under-exposing the ambient around them. One thing you cannot do is use auto-exposure methods. It will not do it right. You have to understand how your meter works, what it meters to, and how to control that. Ideally you shoot a difficult scene like this in full manual. Evaluative metering looks at the whole frame pretty much, and it will basically under-expose a scene with a really bright source of light in it, or over-expose a scene with a lot of dark area (like in your photos). You can tighten up the meter with partial, center weight and/or spot meter. Spot meter will let you meter the bird's head specifically and expose for that white. Center & partial will simply tighten up the average in the middle of your frame. I actually prefer partial metering when I'm shooting in an auto-exposure mode like AV, and I always use +2/3rds EC and shoot RAW so that I have best odds of recovery later when I want to just shoot and not be careful. But manual is ideal for complex exposures.

For critical exposures, I would turn to manual, throw on spot meter, and meter the eagle's head to get that under control within a tolerance of 1/3rd top or so, shooting in RAW. I'd take an exposure, and quickly review it and pull up the histogram to ensure I didn't over-expose (you'll get blinkies on most cameras). I'd rather slightly under-expose white than over-expose, because if you clip exposure, that data is gone (as you saw when you processed yours).

Otherwise, I do often shoot in AV when I bird. And I use +2/3rds EC very often on most of my Canons with it. I leave aperture what I want it. And I push ISO up or down based on the shutter I want for stopping motion. I use partial meter 99% of the time with this when I bird so that it's paying attention to what's in the center AF points arranged in a circle.

Very best,


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ejenner
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May 24, 2016 23:19 |  #8

Having just come from the joke thread, I looked at the title and thought 'put the diapers on a bit tighter'.

But, yes, lot's of experience. Obviously you can under expose by 2-stops, but that might not get the shot you want. I think it is important to figure how how much, if any, blown highlights are acceptable. I usually shoot these subjects in M even if I have to check exposure a lot.


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TeamSpeed
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Post has been last edited over 1 year ago by TeamSpeed. 2 edits done in total.
May 25, 2016 05:37 |  #9

Larry Johnson wrote in post #18012624 (external link)
Yep, what the two previous photographers said, shoot in manual everything and expose for the highlights. Spot meter the highlights.
Also, turn on your camera's "blown highlights" blinkies option AND calibrate it. I'd share the calibration article with you, but can't seem to find it.

O set neutral picture style
O shoot a frame with lens cap on, set that as your custom wb
O process the raw and reset your wb
O use your histogram during the shoot to validate whether you are bouncing off the right side or not


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S.Horton
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May 25, 2016 06:21 |  #10

If you don't want to shoot M -- one way is to set up for metering in the center of the frame, AV, you should be fine, and if you are worried try -1/3rd exposure bias and absolutely shoot raw. I could be wrong, but it looks like you may be using a filter on #1; lose it unless it is of excellent quality and keep it very clean. And why F/8? Try wide-open unless the lens just makes you close it for IQ or you really do want a background (some of it) in focus when shooting birds.


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fourfa
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May 25, 2016 10:56 |  #11
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RAW should be able to remedy minor cases of blown highlights such as this. However, to play it safe, why not shoot with -1/3 or -2/3 stops in exposure compensation? If you are shooting at ISO 100, there is much more lattitude for under-exposure than for over-exposure.


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TeamSpeed
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May 25, 2016 11:03 as a reply to fourfa's post |  #12

Exposure compensation settings is not a replacement for watching the histogram. I can run an EC of -1 and still have blown out highlights. Watching the histogram is a better method, but you have to zero out your picture style (ie. neutral) and get a WB that is very nearly leveled across the color channels.

Barring that, shooting raw to get that extra headroom, and watching your metering method vs EC will work in many cases, but isn't going to be as traceable as the histogram.


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Mr_ipsum
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Jul 05, 2016 09:43 |  #13

Had this same problem, but found a quick and easy fix was to go centered weight average on the metering, and try to keep the bird centered in the frame when tracking. This kept the exposure close enough that I could make minor fixes in post.


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