How did you make that bluebird shot?

December 07, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Someone asked me “How did you make the bluebird photo?” Do you really want to know?  It was pretty complicated.  Last spring while a bluebird papa flew frantically from cherry tree to nest house collecting food for his noisy brood, I set up my DSLR with a remote switch on a tripod under a tree a few feet away from nest house in my backyard.  The tree shaded my 300mm zoom aimed at the nest house in full sun. Since I was going to be there a while, I dragged over a lawn chair and watched my Live View screen for the Papa landing on the house top. Often he would pose there for some minutes before darting into the house with his catch and soon zipping out again. With some practice I could anticipate where he would land, how he would pose, and how long he would stay. I set my camera to take multiple shots at a time, manually focused on his usual pose, and zapped my remote when he landed.  After several of these practice shots I set up automatic bracketed exposures. I took around a hundred shots altogether. Although I was using a lot less energy than he was, I tired before Papa did so I took everything inside and hopped on my computer. First I had to convert the Raw files to TIFs in Digital Photo Professional. I reviewed everything and deleted about 90%. Eventually I chose a trio of exposures that caught Papa looking directly at me perfectly focused on his eye with no shadows on his neck and only slight blown highlights on the cricket. Then I loaded these trios into Photomatix, chose the tonemapped preset, adjusted it as best I could, composited the shots as a High Dynamic Range image (This brought out that great detail in the feathers.), saved the composite and then loaded it into Photoshop. I made more adjustments to levels, contrast, brightness, hue, saturation, vibrance, color balance and, sharpening. As a last adjustment, I cropped the full length image to a bust shot close-up. I saved the TIF as a JPG and it was ready to upload to the website. Estimated time to create this photo: about six hours. Not a snap shot.


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