Steve Sampliner  

The Showdown by Steve Sampliner

February 2021 - The Showdown

February 2021 - Steve Sampliner


About the Image(s)

Black-winged Stilts. Location: Khor Dahariz, Salalah, Oman. Gear: Pentax K-1 w/ 150-450mm glass. Setting: shutter priority. ISO 800, 1/3,200 f/7.1 380mm. Tripod used.
My plan for submissions this year is to not venture into the past. The thinking behind this is based on my development as a shooter and editor. Don't know if every month is going to be a gem. Second half of Jan. was all about birds. If you have happened to try to read up on suggestions for photographing wildlife, especially birds, you get a ton of advice, dos and don'ts, and many blogs that seem to contradict all other photographers out there. Anyways, somewhere through all the noise I picked up on a few things. This submission comes from my experiments with shutter priority. A typical day here is full of bright sun and no clouds, so this is ideal for cranking up the shutter speed without having to also do the same with ISO. So far, I have been quite pleased with how my gear is performing. In this image, I probably should have gone with f/9 - f/11 to give me just a bit more focal depth. Editing (Lightroom) was pretty straight forward. I'm trying to work with tone curves far more than I have in the past. In this image, I reduced blacks, shadows and highlights (very bright sun). I like contrast, so I didn't go too far. Thoughts and suggestions regarding tone are much appreciated, as is any other advice.

9 comments posted

Jim Horn   Jim Horn
Steve, You did what you set out to do. I would stay with the f/7.1 to keep the focus on the two stilts. The camera at eye level is the right thing to do. I like the soft foreground and the water out of range. I think an f/9 or f/11 would distract from the subjects. Jim   Posted: 02/03/2021 14:01:41
Steve Sampliner   Steve Sampliner
Thanks for the feedback Jim. I'm trying to work on multi-tasking while shooting; paying a bit more attention to moving through settings while going from different subjects, different distances and varying numbers of subjects. There are usually 8-12 different bird species at this location so it is a good place to practice.   Posted: 02/07/2021 22:45:23

Thorro Jones   Thorro Jones
Steve this definitely looks like a showdown with the birds eyeing each other. I think your depth of field was exactly right. The birds and the ground around them is in focus while the foreground and background are blurred. I think your tone curve adjustment was exactly right to bring out the colors. Did you use a classic "S" shape tone curve to accomplish these changes?
My only suggestion would be to create a less balanced scene, that suggests that the bird on the right is invading the territory of the left-hand bird. This creates the drama for the Showdown. See my attached phot edits.   Posted: 02/03/2021 14:24:23
Comment Image
Steve Sampliner   Steve Sampliner
Hi Thorro, I need to ask Google what a classic "S" curve would be hahaha. For this one I toned down blacks and shadows because there was more than sufficient light, and the Stilts are very white and very black (some have a lovely brown instead of black), so there was already enough contrast in that department. I then manipulate highlights to take a bit of the white and try to bring out some texture. In doing so, it brought a overall brightness to the image that I thought was well balanced. Again, you have a great eye for narrative. As you can see from the original, I wasn't trying to get both birds. I was actually just focused on the one on the left. Did you do a 16:9 crop ratio on your edit? Honestly, if I was try to sell the image, I would try to both edits. The encroachment on territory is a relatable and familiar image that would resonate with an audience. The same with a showdown.   Posted: 02/07/2021 22:57:58
Thorro Jones   Thorro Jones
Steve, I used a custom crop on the photo in Lightroom. I wanted to emphasis that the crop you made on the review photo better conveys the "Showdown" feel of the two birds that you were going for.   Posted: 02/08/2021 08:44:11

Albert Zabin   Albert Zabin
I think this is a fantastic nature photo. The almost courtly postures of the birds made me smile. The exposure is right on, There is detai in both the white and black feathers. I would give the bird on the left a tad more room. This a photo I wish I had made.   Posted: 02/11/2021 15:02:38
Steve Sampliner   Steve Sampliner
Hi Albert, thanks for the remarks. Taking another look at it, I realize that I also cut off a sliver of the shadow of the bird on the right. I agree, opening the frame up a bit would better balance the image. Kind of a compromise between Thorro's suggestion and your might be the ideal.   Posted: 02/12/2021 08:35:44

John Tabaczynski   John Tabaczynski
Steve, Nice capture!!! For a nature shot PSA judges are always looking for a story telling aspect to the image, and I think you have that here. I agree with you, do not amputate the shadow of the RH bird. Giving more space on the left is a good idea as well. From a compositional PoV I would crop some, probably from the bottom to take the separation line between sand & water away from the middle. I like reducing the sand area some because it is bright and visually detracts from the birds. 1/3 sand 2/3 water or something like that. Once you have a balance that pleases you visually, set the LH crop so the bird lies on a diagonal bisector from either the upper or lower corner. You have handled the dynamic range quite well for such an extreme setting of B & W birds in the bright sunlight. Tab   Posted: 02/12/2021 12:00:23

Sam Fernando   Sam Fernando
Steve, Your photo gives the impression of a possible
'showdown'. The blurring of the surrounding is good bringing the emphasis on birds. Good 'story-telling' image. I would like to see bit more details of birds.   Posted: 02/14/2021 19:15:22


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