Fun with creative editing….


In times like this, when the weather is hot and the birding is slow, it is time for….drum roll please………..Creative Editing.

Actually, I did get out for a little while Sunday morning.  I didn’t want to spend too much time as I wanted to get home in time to watch Andre Beltre, of the Texas Rangers, get his 3000th base hit.  In the history of baseball, only 30 others had accomplished that in their career.  But, heck, you are not interested in hearing about baseball.

So, back to the original purpose of this post.  While we were out, Ann, a couple of family friends, and I, were birding at San Angelo State Park.  As I said, not too much going on, but we did spot a Northern Bobwhite perched and singing in the distance.  In the distance, is an understatement, as we could barely see him with our naked eyes.  I put my bean bag on the window sill, turned off the engine to prevent anymore vibrations.  I settled my Canon 7D Mark II with my Tamron 150-600 G2 lens, on the beanbag.  With that solid bed, I fired off a few shots at 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, plus 1/3 stop of EV adjustment.  ISO was 800, which promoted a little digital noise.  Here is the original, looking through that long lens.  I was at a distance of approximately 100 yards.  Remember, with the naked eye it looked even much further away.

Northern Bobwhite

Since that was the only usable image from that outing, I loaded it into the computer to see if I could make something out of it in my digital darkroom.  The result follows below.  First, you can see how I first cropped it.  In doing so, it left part of the tree taking up space, too close to the quail for my liking.  Fortunately the sky was an even blue all around, so I just cloned the tree out very easily.  After all, I was after a nice photo of the bird, not the tree.  It was just a distraction in this case.

The first thing I did was get rid of the tiny bit of noise that the higher ISO of 800 created.  There wasn’t much, as the Canon 7D Mk II handles high ISOs very nicely.  But I have a plug-in, Topaz DeNoise, that does a great job of eliminating digital noise.  Very easy to use.

Now, even with taking those precautions described above, the image wasn’t tack sharp.  But that is going to happen when you crop an image so tightly, especially since the original was shot from so far away.  I do all of my cropping and editing in Photoshop CS5.  I do not use their sharpening, though.  I have a great plug-in, called Focus Magic.  Photoshop’s sharpening method with the so-called “Unsharp Mask” just messes with the pixels.  Focus Magic actually corrects the focus very naturally.  But having said that, evev after I use the Focus Magic, I sometimes tweak it a little more by using the Photoshop’s focus tool and paint it a little lightly.  A very neat trick.

After that I tweaked the contrast and color saturation a bit.  And there you have it, my little secret recipe that has been handed down over hundreds of years.  Not bad, if I do say so myself.  I hope you like it. 🙂  (Click on either image to see nice enlargements.)

Northern Bobwhite

And yes, in case you were wondering, Andre Beltre did get his 3,000th  hit,. After that, I took a nap. 🙂

Oh, in case you missed it my beautiful 2018 calendars are here.  Click this link for more information: https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/2018-calendars-on-the-way/

How I edit my images


After publishing my post about how I shoot my bird photos, I thought it would be nice to do a follow-up about how I finish up, or editing my images for final publishing.  Believe it or not, regardless of what you have heard or read, cameras DO lie.  When a RAW image comes from the camera, it often looks flat, without that snap. and with bland colors.

I am going to show you how I obtained a beautiful photo of a Northern Bobwhite.  It began when I was driving through San Angelo State Park, and spotted some of these quail in a fallen tree about 50 yards away.  This is the original photo from my Canon DOS 7D Mark II with a Tamron 150-600mm lens.

Northern Bobwhite on tree branch

Northern Bobwhite on tree branch

It was early morning, there was broken shade and the subject was partially back-lit, the light coming slightly from the left.  Exposure was 1/1000 sec @ f7.1 with an ISO 1000.  I added one stop of EV adjustment to ensure enough light on the subject bird, the one in the center of the frame.  It was too far away to zoom in any closer. I had the lens maxed out at 600mm.

Now I am going to tell about how I do my editing.  First, no, it is not an old family recipe handed down.  It may not be the best method, but it is what works for me.

I have been told that I am pretty unorthodox with my editing.  I just like to keep things simple, and not have to do anything complicated.  The first thing I do is to load my images into a program called FastStone Image Viewer.  I like that little (free) program.  It is, for me, a great place to put my image files.  Great for organizing, and most of all, I can convert my RAW files there.

So after loading the images from my camera, I then convert the RAW file to the JPEG image that you see above.  After conversion, I save that JPEG file to a folder in FastStone Image Viewer.  I told you that I liked that organizer.  Now unlike a lot of photographer that use Lightroom,  I use Photoshop 5, having gotten it at half-price several years ago, when the dropped the price when Photoshop 6 came out.

After opening a file in Photoshop, my first step in my workflow is to check it out using the Shadows and Highlights tool, making any minor lighting adjustments there.  Then I like to use the Curves adjustment tool to tweak the exposure more, for contrast, etc.  I have another plug-in, Topaz DNoise, and excellent tool for removing any visible noise.  After that, it is time to check out the focus, and tweak the sharpness, if necessary.   Personally, I don’t like Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask. I use a plug-in called FocusMagic.  It gives a photo a pleasing natural sharpness.

After doing all of that, which usually takes me only a few minutes, here is my finished product.  Do you like it?  Click the image.

Northern Bobwhite - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +1 EV adjustment, ISO 1000.

Northern Bobwhite – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +1 EV adjustment, ISO 1000.

Now, that looks like the Northern Bobwhite I saw when I drove by that broken down tree.  Click the image, and the one above, to see enlargements that show more detail.

So now you have it.  You know what tools I use.  It will only take you to learn how to use them.  In other words, I teach you all you know.  I don’t teach you all I know.   Now as the photo doctor said, “If you have a problem, take two pictures and call me in the morning”.

Bobwhite, Roadrunners, and other stuff.


It is still pretty warm around here.  Mid 90s and higher.  We may just skip fall and go directly to winter without passing go and collecting our $200. 🙂

We did spot some duck types way off in the middle of O.C. Fisher Lake.  I guess they can keep cooler out there.  We are not seeing them closer to shore yet.  As a matter of fact there are few winter birds having arrived yet.

But there are still of our usual residents around and we have no trouble spotting a few at San Angelo State Park.

Here are a few images from our forays there in the past few days.  Enjoy.

This is probably one of the best photos of a Northern Bobwhite that I have taken to date.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

These American White Pelicans did a brief flyover while were visiting San Angelo State Park.

American White Pelicans

American White Pelicans

Belted Kingfishers always lead me a merry chase.  This one finally stopped for a few minutes near Lake Nasworthy.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Notice the remnants of a grasshopper in this photo of the Northern Mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

A Greater Roadrunner at San Angelo State Park.  They seem to be in great numbers there.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

The Loggerhead Shrike speaks for itself.  It is doing it’s thing, waiting for a snack to impale on one of those thorns.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

The white eye-ring is prominent on this Vesper Sparrow.

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

The next two photos are of the same Greater Roadrunner at San Angelo State Park.  I liked both poses so I decided to post both.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

This Nine-banded Armadillo is a young one.  It was feeding along the road in the state park and did not mind me getting this close-up.

Nine-banded Armadillo

Nine-banded Armadillo

I hope you enjoyed these images.  Check back in a few days for a few more.

Happy Birding!!

Common Yellowthroat and more…….


We’ve been getting out for a couple of hours each day.  Birds are still not plentiful, but it seems that I am able to get at least one good opportunity each day.  Here are a few highlights from the past few outings.

First, of all of them, this is my favorite.  We were at Spring Creek Park, driving along the bank near the reeds when I spotted movement.  With the binoculars, I could only make out that it was one tiny bird, but not a definite ID.  I finally gave up on it, and we drove out the Spillway Road.  After getting another image of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher there, we decided to have another go at seeing that tiny bird again.  This time luck was with us, and the bird hopped out into the open for a few seconds.  I was ready and snapped several images of this juvenile (first fall) male Common Yellowthroat. I would have liked to seen a male adult, but none were to be seen.

Common Yellow-throat - juvenile

Common Yellowthroat – juvenile

Here is the image of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that I captured a few minutes before on Spillway Road.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Loggerhead Shrike photographed somewhere in San Angelo State Park.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Belted Kingfisher on high line over looking that water near Spring Creek Park.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

The Summer Tanager game me fits trying to see it and identify it.  It was in a dense live oak tree and I could only get little glimpses of a head, then a tail, then an eye.  Finally she showed herself and I got this image and a few others.  I nearly goofed on the ID, at first thinking it was an Orange-crowned Warbler.  I failed to look carefully as the size of the bill should have told me I was wrong.

Female Summer Tanager

Female Summer Tanager

This female Northern Bobwhite at San Angelo State Park thought she was hidden from me.

Northern Bobwhite - female

Northern Bobwhite – female

That’s all for this time.  Click on the images to see enlargements.

Happy Birding!!

A Few More Weekend Highlights


Ann and I got out to the local parks this weekend.  With the cooler weather, low 90s for us, it was quite comfortable.  The birds are still a bit sparse but things are looking up.  Here are some highlights.  On Saturday we opted for a visit to San Angelo State Park.  This female Northern Bobwhite had just led her covey across the road, and I guess she hopped to this branch to make sure all was clear.

Northern Bobwhite - female

Northern Bobwhite – female

I am not a fan of the Starlings, but I thought this particular one was very pretty.

European Starling - winter adult

European Starling – winter adult

This morning we decided for a quick trip to the local parks.  There had been some rains during the night and the birds were still quiet.  But luck was with us.  At Middle Concho Park, we had, for the past week or so, observed a Swainson’s Hawk, either in flight or just short glances of him in the distance.  Today, Ann spotted him ahead of us, up in plain sight at the top of a tree.  I quickly pulled to the side of the road where I could get a good view of him.  In the first two shots, he was partially obscured by some branches near his face.  I had to pull the vehicle forward about three feet, and as I did, two huge RV motorhomes passed between me and the bird.  Fortunately, after they had passed the hawk was still there and I was able to get some very nice poses of him before he took flight.  This one of them.  The others I will save for another post.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

That is all for this short post.  Click on the images to see great enlargements.

Photos and a DVD update.


Still pretty warm (hot) here and we are not getting out much.  The birds are laying pretty low, so I am getting caught up, going through old images, and resurrecting some.  Here is one that I came across that I captured in February and never before published to this blog.  Probably one of my favorites of a Northern Bobwhite.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Another February photo of a Black-crested Titmouse.

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

From April, an Osprey.

Osprey

Osprey

Recently, driving in the heat through Mary Lee Park here in San Angelo, I discovered that the Prairie Dogs are expanding there range away from the nature center there.  This little guy was eyeing me carefully as I drove by.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog

Black-tailed Prairie Dog

Click any image to see some great enlargements.

DVD UPDATE:

My new “World of Bob Zeller – Outdoor Photographer” DVDs are here. Outstanding collection with great sound track. 100 of my best images. Better than my book. Produced by DSTappan Productions of Knoxville, Tennessee. Price is 25.00 that includes Texas tax and shipping. Local San Angelo residents only 20.00 if I can deliver it to you. I do business the old-fashioned way, just a handshake. You mail me a check to: Bob Zeller, 4401 White Ash Ln., San Angelo, TX 76904-4528, and I will get one shipped to you. Also, my phone is 325-944-1839 and my e-mail is bobzeller@pobox.com.  I have many references as to my honesty if you are interested.

That’s all for now.  Happy Birding!!

 

The Dog Days of Summer


The temperatures around here in San Angelo have been hovering around the 100 degree mark or a little higher.  That means that it is best to stay in out of the heat.  That is what the birds and wildlife seem to be doing.  Ann and I have not been getting out too much, either.  But a couple of days ago we decided to stop binge-watching the seven seasons of “The Andy Griffith Show” and get out, if only to get some fresh air and stretch our legs.

At San Angelo State Park, this Northern Bobwhite presented a problem when trying to photograph it.  It’s was partially hidden, except when he was calling.  When he called he stretched his head up, and I could focus on his entire head.  So I patiently waited for the right moment, as the head was up for only a few seconds each time.

Northern Bobwhite sing to his mate.

Northern Bobwhite

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

At the ‘mudhole’ near Twin Buttes Reservoir there was a little more activity.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Killdeer

Killdeer

Blue Grosbeak - female

Blue Grosbeak – female

That’s it for now, until we decide to get out again.  By the way, another reason for not getting out is that I am in the act of getting a DVD produced.  It contains 100 of my best photographs, not only birds, but landscapes, flowers, etc.  The images are selected from the past few years, plus a great music tract.  It will be available in about two weeks.  I must say, I have seen the preview, and it is awesome.  I am very proud of it.

Well, time to see what that rascal kid, Opie, is up to now.  Season 2, episode 14. 🙂