“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.

As you Reap….. (now with bonus image added)

About 14 months ago we had a short break in Siem Reap in Cambodia, temple bashing. At one stage I did know the order in which we visited the temples but now they are just a blur and a lot of DNGs in my Lightroom catalogue. Occasionally I go back, review, delete a few and wonder, hmmm, I wonder what the would like if I processed it. Perhaps my PP skills have moved on in the last 14 months. Maybe not. And of course, Reap may not be pronounced Reep but Ray-app, which is what I heard at the airport. It could be one of those cunning foreign names designed to trip up unsuspecting aliens. Like Phuket, which before you get agitated is Poo-kett. So there.

To get to the point, as they used to say on Blue Peter, here’s one I made earlier.

Golden light

You can tell that the builders almost certainly didn’t have proper qualifications, no City & Guilds in brick-laying or window installation. Aha! But did they have C&G in 1200? I suspect not. But even so, fancy building a temple next to a tree like that. Any fool knows that the roots will play havoc with your foundations, madam. It is a bit like building Cologne Cathedral next to the main railway station. Bonkers. Fire the architect.

What I wanted to capture here was a sense of the scale, hence allowing an intruder to feature in the image, the wonderful way the natural and the man-made have intertwined over the centuries and of course the sensual light that bathes the site. Look at the rich chestnut glow of the tree boles left and right. I think this is the Ta Phrom temple, but I am not 100% sure.

Yet I also have a sense that the stone and timber should be well-suited to black and white. So I processed another shot in both colour and monochrome.

I have a marginal preference for the B&W frame but frankly I am  relaxed – both please me.

I would appreciate thoughts on the colour versus B&W debate and indeed any critique you wish to offer. We are here to learn, even at my age and I am happy to sow differently if I reap a better harvest.

As a bonus, here is another B&W frame, processed in LR / CS4 rather than in Silver Efex Pro. Can you tell the difference between Stork and butter?

Ta Phrom