David Kepley  

Blue Heron by David Kepley

September 2021 - Blue Heron

September 2021 - David Kepley


About the Image(s)

I took a boat trip on the James River near Richmond to see water birds. This GBH followed the boat for quite a way. When you see them from the side they are a very big bird with quite a wing span, but when viewed head on like in this shot they seem wafer thin. I loved how the light fell softly on the bird while the background was fairly dark. I darkened the background more and upped the exposure on the bird. Love how the feathers were lit up by the sun.

Settings: Canon 7D, Mark II, 150-500mm lens, sot at 213mm. The camera settings were 1/2500 sec, f9.0, ISO 2500. I processed the image in LRC, Topaz Denoise and Topaz Sharpen.

10 comments posted

Jason Stewart   Jason Stewart
The feather pattern has an almost whimsical feel to it. Like you said, the GBH's are very thin when standing and you made a simple pose into a nice dynamic wildlife portrait. I'm just wondering if the topaz denoise was a little much as i'm not seeing much texture to the feathers on the neck   Posted: 09/07/2021 18:23:09

Richard Matheny   Richard Matheny
Living in the south I see these guys all the time, even in my back yard. I say to myself stop taking pictures of these birds, I have enough pictures of GBH's for several life times but I keep taking their pictures. David the composition is good, nicely cropped to get heron out of the center of the image. I may have flipped the image horizontally so the bird was facing left to right, but that is just a personal thing I usually do. The reason is that we read left to right and someone once told me that subconsciously that view is more pleasing to the viewer of the image. I don't know if that is true or not. I think I agree with Jason on the post
processing. There is not much detail in the feathers and it looks a little over sharpened. I use topaz a lot but I have never been able to use both deNoise and Sharpen on the same image with any success. I think I would have left the background untouched. This is a great portrait but I think you have done what I do very often is over process when the original looks pretty darn good.   Posted: 09/09/2021 13:18:14

Michael Weatherford   Michael Weatherford
Hi David, after reading the comments of others I agree that the bird is a little over-processed. I like the way you darkened the background and the way you cropped the image. Yes, it's amazing that a bird that looks so large while in flight is so delicate. I'll bet they weigh almost nothing!   Posted: 09/11/2021 08:04:19

Cindy Bilinsky   Cindy Bilinsky
This image is pleasing to look at. Perhaps you could denoise the background and not the bird to retain the detail. I like the dark background and the warm colors of the bird. There is nice separation of the bird and background. The log the bird is standing on leads the eye up the bird and to his head.   Posted: 09/11/2021 15:15:57
David Kepley   David Kepley
Yah, Cindy, I think I will try that.   Posted: 09/16/2021 16:22:09

Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
If you are going to use really High ISO levels your exposure has to be dead on or you will generate softness. In this instance you were likely a bit under exposed and opened the shadows in post work. I would suggest that reducing the aperture to f5.6 would have helped with exposure and since the bird is quite still, mounting the camera to a tripod and reducing the shutter to 1600 would have also helped to get better sharpness. Also, when you reduce noise globally in an image all you really do is soften it. Richard is right here--Using Topaz de noise and sharpen is simply using the programs to fight each other- and you just get mush.

Here again I would suggest placing the image in Photoshop, using Subjection Selection and then place the selected subject on a separate layer. Then use denoise on the rest of the image. Use Sharpen on the bird and then just place the bird back onthe original image. Really simple and it will help give you what you are looking for.   Posted: 09/16/2021 13:05:03
David Kepley   David Kepley
Larry, thanks for the tips on bird shooting, whcih I can see is one of your specialties. I could not mount my camera on a tripod, because I was on a boat. I agree that an f stop of f5.6 would have been better, but I have been burned too often by lack of shaprness, so I went with the higher f stop.

I'll try what you suggested in PS.   Posted: 09/16/2021 15:29:11
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
If your focus was spot on, then at that distance you could have shot the lens wide open. If you wanted to stop down then even f8 would have been more than enough. From a boat even using a monopod would help to steady the camera. You are fighting three issues. One is the fact that you cannot possibly hold that camera rig still so you have camera shake to contend with. Second, you have boat movement which will be in different directions from you holding your camera.
Third, you have bird movement. Even if that movement is only breathing, it will impact the image. The only real solution is extremely fast shutter speeds---I will push 1/2000. Last spring I shot an eagle in flight fighting another bird whhile in a moving boat, hand held at 1/3200 and got it tack sharp. So the trick is get that shutter speed jacked up!!   Posted: 09/16/2021 16:13:19

Bud Ralston   Bud Ralston
I have shot hundreds of GBH's and find they are better subjects in the golden hour. This darkened image makes me squint to look for faults and lack of focus. I would rather just enjoy the subject....   Posted: 09/19/2021 19:24:35

David Kepley   David Kepley
Thanks so much for everyone's very thoughtful critiques. Here is a better version of the image taking into account what I learned from you. Look better?   Posted: 09/20/2021 16:28:13
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