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J R learns the D200 - Day 33

Aerial Fish Fight & The Underexposed Blues

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Fish Fight - photograph  2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Fish Fight   1/500 @ f/11 270mm iso 560 FF high HH spot

The upper bird just caught that fish. The other bird seems to wish it had, and does not mind engaging in aerial combat to wrest it away, though he was not successful. The brisk exchange made for an exciting flying fish fight, although I didn't see the fish till I was processing this image. I'd wondered why they were fighting, but it was awfully nice of them to give us such a great show.

Fish Fight 56 - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Fish Fight — Getting The Blue Out   1/500 @ f/11 300mm iso 560 50% FF HH spot

I've got to stop shooting egrets near and past sunset. That late evening blue is sometimes nearly impossible to remove, so the birds sometimes end up looking white, when in the reality of that lighting situation, it actually was primarily illuminated by the open blue sky abovr, because the sun was setting behind the trees.

When I remove the blue from the birds, either the water turns reddish yellow, or I have to carefully mask all those feathery protrusions, which can take obsessive hours, and never does look right. Neither this copy of this image nor ay of the others here have been significantly messed with like that.

Big Fish - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/320 @ f/9.5 300mm iso 560 50% FF HH spot

Swallowing Big Fish - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Here our intrepid fisher shows off its catch before fighting off the interloper. After winning, it slowly swallows it. Note how the once long, slender, elegant neck, thickens, and you can actually see the mass of the fish peristalsing down its long throat.

Egret On Jungle - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egret of the Jungle   1/160 @ f/5.6 300mm iso 900 20% FF HH spot

Though slow, the exposure was better here, but the egret is softer and a smaller portion of the frame. Luscious dream-like color. I almost threw this image away because it's so soft, but the bird's beak and aerodynamic trailing legs are sharp, and we all know exactly what this white thing is, hurtling through jungle-green space.

Early in this shoot, I set the camera to automatically adjust exposure to maintain a minimum shutter speed of 1/160th of a second while adjusting the ISO to up to 1600. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way I also set the exposure compensation at minus one stop, hoping that would render the feathers and other textures on those white blobs of bird hurtling by. Instead, it just made every shot dark.

Dark Rush - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Dark Rush   1/320 @ f/9.5 300mm iso 560 FF HH spot

I am continually amazed at the feather and muscle structure of the back of egret's wing. The brownish plumes are an attraction device. It's spring and mating season, and I'd love to catch some of that action, though it's probably done somewhere more private than the coliseum that is the White Rock Lake Spillway Fishing Ground after Big Rain.


Surface Skimmer - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Skimmer   1/250 @ f/8 300mm iso 560 50% FF HH spot

This may be the most elegant image on this page. It'd be closer to perfection if we could see any details of the background and thus the bird's trailing feet. But it's real. No Photoshop tricks. This egret really did nearly dip its primary feathers in the rippling water as it flew. I'd seen them do that before, hardly expected to catch one at it. But I've been spending hours photographing them with my new, long, cheap Nikon super telephoto 80-300mm f/4.5~5.6 lens.


Flat Bird Rolling Water - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Flat Bird, Shredding Waterfall   1/400 @ f/9.5 300mm iso 560 50% FF HH spot

This shot is about half of the full frame. I cropped off the right and top, so we could concentrate on the birds. Handy to have a white blob of one placed at the right bottom of the frame, but when I'm shooting these guys, the only composition I attempt is to keep them in the frame. They are often flying fast in tight quarters.

And I'm standing on or just under the bridge, with fences blocking my view. Egrets never file a flight plan before takeoff, so I'm left wondering where they'll head next. Thank the Universe for five frames a second, except later when I have to spend long hours weeding out the out of focus and out of frame till I'm nearly out of my mind.

Splatter Flying - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Splatter Flyer   1/400 @ f/9.5 300mm iso 560 50% FF HH spot

This image is remarkable for its sharp focus and flat flying form. Love all those trailing bits of ruffling feathers and plume, and the water lapping up from inches below. Except for the colors on his beak, this is essentially a rich black & white image.


Ruffled Feather Back - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Ruffled Back Feathers   1/500 @ f/11 300mm iso 560 FF HH spot

Pulling back a little — probably more a reaction to the shot just before this than any ability to pull and push zoom while panning a flying egret — although I'm getting better. Initially, I was zooming out when the bird came closer to my perch and zooming in as they flew away, netting me major confusion till I sorted it out to include more, not less, bird as they flew closer, and to magnify them more when they flew farther. The simpler lessons stick quicker.

Eventually, all this minutiae will become nearly intuitive, as I learn the camera and the lens. Maybe.

Green Web - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Green Web   1/250 @ f/8 155mm iso 560 FF HH spot

This long zoom is not a macro lens, and this image is a tad soft. And I always wish there were a spider visible on it.

Jet Stream - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Afterburner   1/250 @ f/8 300mm iso 560 FF HH spot

A jet's afterburner high in a gray blue sky. One of the things a lens with reach can reach out and grab.Can you make out the pilot's jazzy ascot streaming in the breeze?


Blue Skyline - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Blue Skyline   1/160 @ f/4.8 210mm iso 400 FF HH spot

With my old Sony F707 we could see the skyline and the dam and probably the trees. But the people sitting on the damn and the colorful couple on the left, (who I know, because I have seen the full-size image on my monitor, are embracing) would have been rendered as blurry blobs.

Caught! - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Caught!      1/50 @ f/5.6 300mm iso 1600 FF HH spot

I usually like to be sneaky. This gang caught me photographing them almost immediately. I love their collective look of concern and their little white wire-haired terror (I used to own one; I know). Lush, rich, dense colors, in focus, with some slight softness due to camera movement. In the photo forums online, photographers often rhapsodize about bokeh — the softness of out of focus images, usually behind the subject. I put a little blue in the sky to concentrate our attention on the people staring, but the other side of the lake is lovely, soft and lilting.

The old, film rule was you can't hand-hold a telephoto lens and expect to get decent results unless you shoot at at least 1/focal length of lens. In this case, that would be 1/300th of a second. This shutter speed is six times slower than that, and this is no VR (vibration reduction) lens. So this is one of those impossible shots I love.

It helps that I've been practicing with it in all sorts of strange shootings. Shooting sitting and lying people is simple compared with wildly gyring birds. If I let the lens focus somewhere close to the object, then hold the far end of the telescoping lens, holding it steady become more manageable. Although that's the end that spins when it loses focus, so I have to keep a light touch and realize this technique does not always work.

Other photogs complain about light lenses, saying they are more difficult to hand-hold at slow shutter speeds. Which, as you can see, is not necessarily true. I'd much rather carry and hold a light lens than a heavy one.

Perhaps I should note that at this zoom length, f/5.6 is the widest possible aperture, so I was shooting an already iffy lens wide open, which is usually a way to expect poor quality. But this is pretty nice, considering. My affection for this cheapo Nikon lens is growing.


Amber Water - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Amber Water   1/500 @ f/9.5 300mm iso 560 FF HH spot

Sunset turns the water brown, and the open blue sky colors the egret, a competition of hue which makes the small bit of bluish bird stand out wonderfully from evening's amber. Wish I could claim to have done it on purpose. When panning egrets in their wild wide arcs, I'm lucky the bird is in focus, or close thereto.

My camera knows enough to keep something in sharp focus, even when it is not dead center in the composition, but if I don't, I lose track. When I have time, I still follow the age-old dictates of classic composition, which requires more space ahead of a moving object than behind — room to move into. Not operative in this image, perhaps, but a good-enough general rule to break from time to time for effect.

Ripple Wave Sunset - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Ripple Sunset   1/250 @ f/8  70mm iso 560 FF HH spot

A long telephoto is hardly the right lens to capture a sunset, so I tried that, and was richly rewarded. Nice colors on the lake surface and aloft in the next shot.


Misty Sunset - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Mist of Sunset   1/160 @ f/6.7 70mm iso 560 FF HH  spot

Great piece of sky with a bit of sharp tree shapes below to show us where that cloud was. Over there.

Whisk Broom Sunset - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Whisk Broom Sunset      1/200 @ f/8 90mm iso 560 FF HH spot

I usually think of wide angle lenses for sunsets, but pulling this sunset apart, piece by gorgeous piece seemed right.


Red Sunset - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Red Sunset      1/640 @ f/13 300mm iso 560 FF HH spot

A bit of swirly sunset. Just yesterday I was making photographs of my friend Richard Ray's paintings of White Rock Lake. In his paintings, Richard shows an amazing variety of what the sun does at sunset. This is surreal.


If I were counting accurately, this page would have a number higher than 33. This is the 33rd of the pages in this web suite. But I've had my camera a couple months now, and I shoot it every day, without fail.

I keep making mistakes — that's the name of this game. I try things that are stupid or impossible — like shooting egrets in low light on cloudy days — partially because I'm told I can't. This lens, I read repeatedly in the Nikon camera and lens forums online, cannot be used in low light. It does lose focus sometimes and I have to force it to try again, racking back and forth. But it is definitely not imposible.

If I read somewhere that this should never be thus, a thusing I will go. But I am not a meticulous person who plans every step or every shot. When I experiment, I only learn what I did — right or wrong — when I get that batch back to my computer. Most of the stuff that happens in front of my lens, then through it, is in my photographs because that's what happened when I was there, not because I previsualized it.

Fence in the Way - photograph copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Fence in the Way   1/500 @ f/9.5 300mm iso 560 FF HH spot

The overriding concept of my visits to the lake, however, is to walk off some of the too many pounds I carry. Huffing and puffing me long stretches around the lake is my purpose. Sometimes — rarely — I don't even bring my camera. But I like the lake best when it's cool and there's a breeze.

Summer comes early and often brutally to Dallas, Texas, USA. It was over a hundred degrees on Easter last week (The Easter before, it snowed).

I took pictures this Easter, but I didn't walk my two miles. This shooting day, after nearly filling my 8-gig flash card (still unwilling to let go of yesterday's shoots till I edited through that immense mass (nearly 1,200 shots), I walked in the long cool darkness, happy I'd brought one of my lighter lenses, watching the downtown skyline come to bright colorful life on the other side of the lake.

Note I said "watching." Not photographing. I have yet to try a tripod out there. I suppose that will be a later challenge.

I'm not sick of egrets, but I'm going to shoot them in daylight the next few times out.

Post Script: After griping all the way through this page about shooting in low light, I noticed when I posted the Exif (Exposure Information) that the camera keeps for each shot) that most of these were shot in bright enough light. I simply seriously underexposed many of them. Blue blue blue. Next time, I will try leaving the exposure mode on full frame, instead of spot. But I'm still gonna go in daylight, not evening.

On second review, I see that the really low-light pictures are well exposed. The trouble I caused for myself was in my shooting in open shade (illuminated not by the sun but the blue sky above). There my contradictory instructions to my camera confused us all.

Total images, so far = 10,631.