“Back focus on birds” resartus.

Here are a few more shots rescued from the trash can of yesterday’s outing. First up and by popular demand (Mr. G), more of the avocets:


Sadly the new format, whilst eminently easier to read, does not do these shots justice, the images being smaller and against a white background rather than black.

This is the very elegant Black-winged stilt, Himantopus himantopus, so good they named it twice.


Next, another shot of the Spotted redshank, Tringa erythropus. Here the tones look greyer than on yesterday’s bird.


And finally another shot of the Little egret, Egretta garzetta. It is really quite tough to get a decent exposure of this bird against a dark background. If I try to brighten it the whites start to lose detail and look hot.


And finally a tip / confession. I was doing a lot of birds in flight yesterday but few made it to the keepers list and I realised very quickly why. On the slipway at Nam Sang Wai the birds fly either left to right or right to left. Few fly towards you or at a decent angle. I was lazy yesterday and concentrating on pressing my back button rather than the shutter. I used the “ring of fire” as my chosen AF mode rather than single spot or even expanded spot mode. Now this generally works pretty well against a clean background but it does tend to pick up whatever is closest to the camera. And with Black-faced spoonbills that means the wings. So I have a lovely selection of images where the shot looks great on the camera’s LCD but when I blow it up to 1:1 in Lightroom I can see that the eye is soft and the wings are sharp. The critical focus is wrong. Bummer. I also have some where the DoF is so shallow that where I took two birds flying in synch (example below) one is sharp and t’other isn’t. Bummer squared.


At least I think so. The moral of the story being that to get really sharp shots you have to think a little and I’m afraid that isn’t my strong point. All these images are shot with manual exposures – that is I set the ISO, aperture and shutter speed manually. I have stopped using exposure compensation. Partly that is because I read that if you expose for the bird correctly it shouldn’t matter what the background is. So against sea or sky the bird is ok even if the background is over or underexposed. That of course does not help when you have spoonies and egrets flying followed by cormorants and crows, or indeed birds that are both black and white such as the stilts and avocets. I just find it easier to move the main dial one stop either way (or more) than to fiddle around with EV plusses and minuses.

So there we are, thoughts for the day concluded in today’s gripping instalment of a duffer’s guide to photography on the fly.

13 thoughts on ““Back focus on birds” resartus.

  1. I really like the avocets, they are such pretty and delicate birds. And of course the ‘bobble head’ stilts are always a treat. πŸ™‚
    Excellent bird photos!

  2. As a non-birder these all look good to me, Andrew. But I do see the focus problems and bummer indeed. But even the less than perfects far outclass my best effort. And the Avocets still capture my heart. πŸ™‚
    I wonder if a black border would help the images pop a bit more. There must be a happy medium between the two presentation options.

    • I have not Stephen. I am not sure how easy it would be but I do have a handheld light meter that would do this so I guess if I can position myself in such a way that I am confident that the light striking the meter is the same as that striking the birds then I see no reason why it would not work. Interesting suggestion – thank you!

  3. I like the birds- all are good but I suppose that the little egret is the best. That again is my humble opinion. It is best that you get plenty of practice prior to the trip that you and Mrs Ha will be taking in the not too distant future. I have not a clue of what you are talking about with all the camera info.
    I have to shoot/take all photos on auto since my eyes are so bad. I could get new glasses but I just like to grumble and have an excuse to use auto almost all of the time. Of course I am not taking bird photos but I did back in the late 70’s and middle 80’s.

    I don’t use PSE except for black and white and sepia. I think i have forgotten how since I have not been in there in quite a while.

    It is good to be young Andrew. Appreciate your young years while you can. Things get awful once you go over the hill.

    • Yvonne you don’t sound over the hill to me – quite the contrary but I will try to appreciate what time I have left. WHo knows how long it will last. Today I received a notification of your recent posts. I see the alert is set to weekly so I need to change it to daily πŸ™‚

      • Thanks Andrew for the reply. I am over the hill- (Past 50) but most people don’t realize unless I tell them- so that is something I decided not to reveal on my blog- I believe age affects the way some people relate to an older person. I don’t see myself as old and I am trying to hang onto my cognition- writing through this blog, driving, photographing, etc. helps keep my brain going. Working with my animals also helps. I remain passionate about my pets.

        Glad you “fixed” the notification problem.

      • Yvonne, I think you have ALL your faculties very much intact and you should keep your age a secret. Over the hill is only in the mind. I suspect you feel younger than I do!

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