It is amazing to me that this papery swirl of a home is made from wood pulp and hornet spit. How do hornets incorporate the leaves into it? How many trips does it take to go from a tree to get a bit of wood, chew it while mixing it with saliva, and fly back to transform it into a nest? I don’t know the answers to these questions but it is a work of art to be admired from afar.
I worked entirely in manual mode with my camera today. I purposely sought out white birds in the sun in hopes of conquering the overexposure problem. I set the ISO at 200. All of the shots I am sharing today are taken at 600 mm. I set the aperture at various openings. Shutter speed was adjusted until the arrow on the exposure level scale in the viewfinder was at zero. After taking a shot, I pressed the “info” button on the back of the camera and looked at the histogram. I tried to keep the color that was farthest to the right on the graph just to the left of the right margin of the histogram. I adjusted the shutter speed as needed to achieve this. I was much happier with the results of the shots of white birds that I took today compared to shots taken previously. There is more light and shadow and more detail is preserved in the feathers.
Tweaking needed to be done depending on how much of the white bird filled the frame and whether there were dark birds nearby. As long as the photo data stayed just to the left of the right margin (for JPEG), detail was preserved and I could adjust shadows in Photoshop Elements during post processing. If data climbed up the right margin of the histogram, detail was lost. It could not be recovered in post processing. I’m guessing the swans were loosening aquatic plants and the ducks were benefiting from the swan’s efforts.
Manual mode isn’t quite so intimidating now. I’m excited to continue to play with and to learn how to improve my exposures even more.
This ruggedly handsome Great Egret is adorned with his white breeding plumes cascading over his tail. The plumes are present only in spring and early summer. Both male and female egrets have them. Once valued for use on hats, egrets were almost hunted to extinction. Great Egrets are aptly named since they are the largest egret.
It was a highlight to see this beautiful bird roosting in a tree today, but, as you can see, I blew the highlights. Some of the white feathers are overexposed. Once that happens, there is no getting the detail back in post processing. What can I do to improve this photo? Here are 6 strategies to deal with overexposure on white birds.
I am excited to try these strategies and stop overexposing the abundant white feathered birds at the Horicon Marsh. I will let you know how the strategies work in a future post.
If you would like to read an excellent article about the manual exposure mode written by John and Barbara Gerlach you can find it here. You might also like their book Digital Wildlife Photography. Their chapter on exposure strategies will give you more details and examples.
What strategies do you use to keep from overexposing your shots? Join the discussion in the comments section.
 John Eastman, Birds of Lake, Pond and Marsh: Water and Wetland Birds of Eastern North America (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999), 200.