Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dark-eyed Junco and a tip for photographing white snow

This is one species that I’ve been gunning after for a long time. Dark-eyed Juncos are not uncommon, in fact they can be downright plentiful. The challenge is getting close enough to the to get the shot. They are a winter bird here in Massachusetts, which means that I have the challenge of taking an image of a black bird in white snow. Adding insult to injury, we get the “Slate-colored” race.

But it’s all good. After a stormy day I had the time get into an area where they were feeding and after a while, they just went about their business. The male Slate-colored males are darker than the females. The first two photos are of a male, the rest are female.

©2013 Steve Borichevsky

©2013 Steve Borichevsky

©2013 Steve Borichevsky

©2013 Steve Borichevsky

©2013 Steve Borichevsky

I’m rather happy with these images. I hope you like them too. What’s the tech to get a black bird in white snow? Juncos are twitchy birds. I increased the ISO to 320, which is on the edge of how far I’ll push this camera. I increased the exposure for the whole shoot to +1.3 EV. Why?

©2013 Steve BorichevskyTake a look at the American Tree Sparrow to the left. I took this in the exact same conditions as the Juncos above, except I had the EV compensation set to 0.0EV. (Okay, I was shooting off the snow at a more neutral scene when this Tree Sparrow jumped out and rather than get nothing, I took a shot and then set my compensation. Since I shoot in RAW, I could pull this image out of the dirt.)

My camera tried to make all that snow look like 18%, which made the birds look like black blob. Since snow is not 18% gray, the answer is to increase the exposure. If it seems wonky to increase your exposure when shooting snow, think of it this way. Your camera is looking at a lot of white and it is programmed to make a perfect exposure of an 18% gray card. If you take a picture of an 18% gray card with your camera on auto pilot, it will look 18% gray. If you take a picture of an snow bank, it will look 18% gray. If you lengthen the exposure the snow bank will come out white. Give it a go.

Now about shooting RAW. If the above was a JPG, I’d be tossing it onto the cutting room floor. Below is the same photo increased by 1.3 stops. Bada-boom bada-bing. I got my photo. RAW gives me a little more exposure forgiveness. Yes, I could fix the photo, but getting it right in the camera is important to me. It saves me work in the darkroom when I can see a image downloaded that is closer to the finished product.

©2013 Steve Borichevsky


John @ Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

Wow, big difference all done within the camera. Good that I never have to contend with all white snow backgrounds.

The Furry Gnome said...

Good pictures of the juncos. And good explanation of shooting on snow. I've decided not to shoot in RAW yet, but still focus on learning my camera. But I do overexposewhen shooting snow, how much depending on clouds vs sun, and time of day. Good work.

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