In Pursuit of a Woodpecker

cfreeman

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Hello everyone. I just wanted to post a few pictures from one of my more successful shots of a woodpecker running through our orchard. I feel like the photographs are generally good. I would love feedback upon both my photographic technique as well as my post-processing. I shot these were a Nikon D7000 and Nikon 70-300 VR IF-ED. I'm really liking the results I'm getting from this lens, and hope you do too.
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WesternGuy

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Welcome to the forum. These images show some of the problems of shooting small birds in big trees. - background branch clutter. Not to much you can do about it, except to watch for a few things that I like to call "sprouts" (others may have their own name for them). By these I mean branches sticking out of the top of the bird's head or its side, or coming into one part and exiting out another part of the body. Your first two show this type of a problem. There are probably only two ways that I know of to deal with them - 1) learn to use your cloning tools to your advantage, particularly things like content aware fill, or 2) wait patiently until the subject is not a victim of "sprouts".

The other thing that jumps out to me is that in each of your images, your subject is more or less in the centre of the image. This always produces a very static image. If possible, you can use the "rule of thirds" to place your subject, or just move it off centre. For example, in the first one, I might have moved the subject a bit to the left of centre, for the second one, I would have moved the subject, tree and all more to the right of centre, and for the third one, I might have, again, moved the subject a bit to the right of centre - this gives it more room to "hop" along the branch. This sort of positioning can give the viewer a sense of a more dynamic subject. Also, for the third one, I would have, somehow removed that curved bit of twig above its body as I find it very distracting.

The other thing that is important when photographing wildlife, is to make sure the eye, or eyes, are in focus and visible. You have managed to do this in the first and third image, but not so much in the second one.

I can't really comment on your post-processing, as I do not know what software you are using. Also, just out of curiosity, are you shooting raw?

Hope this helps.

WesternGuy
 

Didereaux

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Here's what I would do with #1. This is a quick down and dirty minimal LR5 post. When you have those llitle birds in the heavy growth and foliage you are going to have to accept that you will need to crop, sometimes severely. In fact with little birds you rarely get away from the cropping. btw the IQ of that pic is excellent.
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byegad

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From Low Barns reserve yesterday.
GSW
 
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cfreeman

cfreeman

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WesternGuy,
It sure is difficult to cut out the branches in an elm tree. I'm going to aim for a small cottonwood this guy likes to hang out I'm next time. And I always shoot in Raw with a JPEG backup with a Micro SD for smaller backup and quick tablet access. I am also using lightroom 5. I do have Photoshop Cc. This afternoon I will play with it and see what I can do with some of those branches and post that work (I'm not good with PS yet).

Didereaux, I believe I cropped both of those images, but I will try some closer crops with my next set of birds. I had no idea it would look so good until you posted it cropped as such. And I'm glad the IQ is good! It's something I'm trying to work towards as I've only been into photography for about 6 months now.

Thank you for your words everybody. Any additional critiques or comments are welcome too (of course). I hope to be posting some more shots soon.
 
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cfreeman

cfreeman

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While I did not get around to working on those images from earlier, I took a few stabs at some of the suggestions in my newest couple of bird shots. I'm going to post one of a Junco and Meadowlark here. I hope everyone enjoys them, and if y'all have any more comments I would love to hear them. Thanks!
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Didereaux

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While I did not get around to working on those images from earlier, I took a few stabs at some of the suggestions in my newest couple of bird shots. I'm going to post one of a Junco and Meadowlark here. I hope everyone enjoys them, and if y'all have any more comments I would love to hear them. Thanks!View attachment 93787

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Here's what I got on that bird. Your ISO at 1600 has noise, but acceptable in these conditions. Notice that I cropped out the bright orangish branch. The eye goes to the brightest things, so that branch had to go. All in all a respectable small bird shot. The work in LR5 was more intensive than the woodpecker shot because of the noise factor. I left the saturation low in order to show the more subtle shadow reductions made. As I said @1600 your IQ goes down...BUT you get the shot!
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Didereaux

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While I did not get around to working on those images from earlier, I took a few stabs at some of the suggestions in my newest couple of bird shots. I'm going to post one of a Junco and Meadowlark here. I hope everyone enjoys them, and if y'all have any more comments I would love to hear them. Thanks!View attachment 93787

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Pretty much the same as the Junco, but with the ISO being 100 there was much less noise to contend with. From the looks of the original it appears that you had already heavily cropped this. This was mostly tweaking. Since the cropping was heavy already I think what I would have done is simply lightened those shadows, and some minor sharpening. There is a point where you have to say that's the best its going to get and move on. Remember with small birds close is never close enough. Sometimes (especially on the more common types) it is far better to keep trying to get closer and risk spooking them than getting just an ID shot. On those commoner birds try to get a better shot than the last one you took of them. That approach has helped me immensely.
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pdq5oh

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WesternGuy gives very good advice. The problem I see with the last 2 is they're underexposed. Probably a stop to a stop & a half . That's why all the noise. Both are backlit. For backlit subjects you need to overexpose. Also, for backlit subjects, use the spot meter. I had a D7000, and it was pretty good at high ISO. When raising ISO much past 1250 I always expose to the right. I start at 1/3 stop, at least.
 

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