Birder's Guide

DEC 2014

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 33 of 43

32 Birder's Guide to Gear | December 2014 Getting the Most out of Your Camera your results. I'd much rather look at birds than at a computer, but it's worth spending a minute to edit a photo. It might make all the difference. Always edit only copies; keep unaltered archives and backup(s) of your originals that you can access if you need them. Scads of software choices exist, from free to very pricey; whichever you choose, you should be comfortable cropping, adjusting exposure levels, and resizing your image. For example, I'll often center a bird in the original frame to keep it focused and well- metered, particularly if it is being diffcult to stay with as it fies or bounces around. Cropping the image to compose the frame can look really nice, and newer-generation cameras offer greater cropping fexibility you like, ask yourself why it works for you. Conversely, brainstorming ways to improve a shot (yours or others') can be a worth- while exercise. Seeking constructive cri- tiques from other photographers can also give you ideas to try the next time photo- graphic opportunities present themselves. Editing The picture you want isn't done when you push the trigger. Editing a bit can re- ally bring out what you saw in the feld. I'm not talking about signifcant content- changing manipulation, such as adding or subtracting elements (though what you do with your pics is up to you), but rather about quick and easy tweaks to improve can vastly improve your fnal image, so don't be shy to experiment with this, too. In other words, work the shot as long as the bird will let you. If you are hoping for a one-in-a-thousand shot, the best way to get it is to shoot 1,000 frames! As with the fundamentals of exposure and camera settings, there are many re- sources available in print and online with ideas for improving composition. One resource I've used in photo workshops is Cub Kahn's Beginner's Guide To Nature Photography. A nice excerpt on composi- tion from the book is online here: Cub_Kahn. My fnal piece of advice on composition is to look critically at bird photos, both yours and others'. If you see something Getting the lighting right on this backlit juvenile Curlew Sandpiper required positive exposure compensation and fll fash. A few composition elements to note include the low perspective, a sense of motion, and a bit of room in the frame in front of the bird. Gray's Harbor County, Washington, Sep- tember 2005. Photo © Bill Schmoker Here we have an American Woodcock caught mid-peent. In addition to a behavioral element, the bird is placed roughly along the right third divider in the frame and appears at eye-level. An imaginative viewer might interpret the unopened dandelion bud as a stand-in microphone for the performing woodcock. Lucas County, Ohio, May 2014. Photo © Bill Schmoker In situations where a bird such as this juvenile Rough-legged Hawk is a bit more distant than ideal and/or if there are undesirable elements in the frame, a hard crop can often successfully rescue the shot. The remaining pixel count may be too low for a large print or magazine cover, but for use in emails, blog posts, presentations, and articles, the resulting image may have plenty of resolution. Note also the lighting level adjustment between the original (left) and fnal (right) versions that helped to restore some blueness to the sky. Boulder County, Colorado, February 2011. Photo © Bill Schmoker

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