Brenda Fishbaugh, QPSA  

Great Horned Owl Family by Brenda Fishbaugh, QPSA

March 2023 - Great Horned Owl Family

March 2023 - Brenda Fishbaugh, QPSA


March 2023 - Brenda Fishbaugh, QPSA

Original 2

About the Image(s)

Great horned owl and two owlets photographed Feb 14, 2023 (Valentine's Day) in Sebring, Florida at 6:15 pm. The Great Horned Owls stole a man-made osprey perch and took over the nest. They are not usually platform nest birds, so its unusual, but great for photography. They are right along a busy road and so they are used to people and cars and display no concerns.

The adult (dad and mom share equally) had its huge "horn" ears back, and I looked it up, to see if it meant it was threatened. It actually means they don't need their ears to hear anything that they can eat or threatens them...similar to a rabbit. Ears go up when they are worried.

I tried my telextender earlier, and the minimum f/stop doesn't work in the dark with moving birds. They are bobbing and hopping every second. So this is photographed with my 100-500, and you can see in my image how far away I am from them. Lots of cropping.

To get a good exposure on the owls, I had to blow out the background. I used Photoshop >Select Subject (and used Cloud processing, recommended by Matt K) I added exposure and some yellow to brighten the owls. I then darkened the exposure of the "select sky" and added black, which gave me the color you see. You can see by the cell phone shot, that the birds were gold and the sky blue.

I used Topaz DeNoise, Sharpen and fixed the edges around the birds and the sky--dang halos.

Any titles? I'd like to enter this in PSA Nature, and I've cropped the platform out (even though it technically could show in an image,since it shows adaptation). Suggestions to improve it?

Canon R5 Canon RF100-500, tripod,

ISO 5000 500mm f/9.0 1/250 sec (to stop bird movement)

Here's the Matt K video--I agree with him that it works better, especially if you are selecting hair/feathers

This round’s discussion is now closed!
23 comments posted

James Troeger   James Troeger
Wow Brenda ... amazing.

I love how one of the juveniles is looking in the distance, the other juvenile is looking directly at you, and the adult has one eye in the distance with the other on you!

Your adjustments are fantastic and I love the crop just as it is ... as war photographer/photojournalist Robert Capa is often quoted as saying: "If your photographs aren't good enough, you aren't close enough."

Your use of the big lens and a lovely tight crop make for a phenomenal image. I can't offer anything from my side and I wish you well on gaining an acceptance!!   Posted: 03/01/2023 18:35:47
Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
Thanks so much, James! I appreciate it!   Posted: 03/03/2023 13:52:07
Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
James, I've added a new version below, if you'd like to weigh in and see if you like it better. Thanks!   Posted: 03/10/2023 16:09:19

Robert Schleif   Robert Schleif
I like seeing the owls in their semi-natural environment and the adult beside the two owlets. I increased the local contrast, changed the tint of the sky, and made the sky brighter near the horizon.
As for titles, there is the obvious "I've Got my Eye on You", but I prefer the ambiguous "Prey?"   Posted: 03/02/2023 12:38:00
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Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
Robert, thanks so much for your rework! I love "prey?", but no punctuation is allowed in competition titles. Do you think, "Are You Prey" with no question marks might work?   Posted: 03/03/2023 14:00:41
Robert Schleif   Robert Schleif
Yes, "Are You Prey" works for me.   Posted: 03/03/2023 15:41:23
Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
Robert, I made a lighter sky and increased the gold on the birds. See below. Do you like it better or do you think your horizon lighter idea is a good way to go? How did you create that?   Posted: 03/10/2023 16:11:20
Robert Schleif   Robert Schleif
I like lighter sky more than I like your original with the darker sky. To me, it feels more natural for the color of the sky to be less intense near the horizon.
I generated my version in several steps. First I created a new blank image with the same dimensions as your image. Then I tinted it sky blue using a gradient so that the top was sky blue and 2/3 of the way down it was white, and white the rest of the way down. Then, I created a mask of just your sky, and used it to replace your sky with my gradient sky.   Posted: 03/10/2023 19:09:25
Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
Thanks for the method! I wouldn't have thought of that!   Posted: 03/10/2023 19:13:13

Sunil Mehta   Sunil Mehta
This is a good capture, I have seen owls only in zoo never in a natural environment, your post process is good and I have no suggestion. Thanks for sharing Matt K's video, interesting, sure will try.
  Posted: 03/02/2023 20:55:53
Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
Thanks, Sunil. Lots of owls here, we are so fortunate! I appreciate you comments.   Posted: 03/03/2023 14:02:22
Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
I have added a reworked version below on 3/10. Better? Worse? Thanks!   Posted: 03/10/2023 16:11:59
Sunil Mehta   Sunil Mehta
Much improved over original OOC and posted. Files like this are good to improve postprocessing skills.   Posted: 03/10/2023 21:28:32

Marge Barham   Marge Barham
(Groups 38 & 75)
Brenda, just wanted to congratulate you on your photo in the Member's Showcase. Great job capturing your eagle.

Your owls are so darn cute too. Have a nice day.
  Posted: 03/05/2023 22:03:17
Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
Marge, thanks so much for stopping by! I very much appreciate your compliments! It was such an honor of being chosen for the Member's Showcase. Have a picture-perfect month!
  Posted: 03/06/2023 09:25:14

Jim Hagan   Jim Hagan
Very nice image. Very nice capture. But, I think the faces need to be brightened. Also, half of your image is of the nest but since the subject is the owlets they should be more prominent. In my revision I brightened the owlets and especially the faces. Then, I cropped out much of the nest.   Posted: 03/06/2023 20:30:40
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Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
Great ideas, Jim. I'll rework it!
  Posted: 03/08/2023 20:33:30
Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
Jim, I brightened the owls and gave them a lighter sky to appear more natural. Thoughts? See my 3/10 update. Thanks!   Posted: 03/10/2023 16:12:45
Jim Hagan   Jim Hagan
Brenda, I love it. Great rework.   Posted: 03/11/2023 15:18:30

Terry Walters   Terry Walters
Hi Brenda, I agree with Jim that the faces need to be brighter, and ideally some differential in colour/contrast with the nest would help to make them stand out. Maybe in nature they want to blend in, but for competition you need to point the judge at what you want him/her to see.

I also prefer the lighter sky in Robert's version, the dark sky feels depressing and will emphasise any halo's (if they come from brightening the faces).

As for title, I suggest "The eyes have it".

  Posted: 03/08/2023 09:24:16
Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
Good thoughts, Terry! And a great title!! I will rework it!   Posted: 03/08/2023 20:34:56
Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
Terry, take a look at my latest version on 3/10. Better? Worse? I'm worried about changing the nest darker, as that would definitely not be how it was. Thoughts? Thanks!   Posted: 03/10/2023 16:14:13

Brenda Fishbaugh   Brenda Fishbaugh
Thanks to everyone for the ideas to help my owl family. I had just seen the PSA Nature workshop with Rick Cloran (highly recommend to anyone entering PSA Club or international competitions, it will be in PSA workshop library soon, second park is March 30). Rick said to make sure the light matched--that judges hate gold animals and dark blue sky--and so I did go with golden owls, but only added a bit of color to the sky. That way, it made sense that the sun was still out.

I did use the tighter crop, but this takes it out of nature since its a "portrait" and not "environmental". So it would be better entered in PID-color and not Nature.

Reworking it a couple of different ways, I think I just had too much noise ISO 5000 and cropping in so much from the original image-- even with messing with several methods in Topaz Denoise.

Had some great title suggestions--which you like best--"Are You Prey" (punctuation not allowed) OR "The Eyes Have It" OR "I've got my eyes on you". Thanks to Terry and Robert for their title suggestions!   Posted: 03/10/2023 16:08:47
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