A Good Walk in Bad Light

Open shade is the midday photographer's friend. This egret near the channel bank is lit primarily by reflections from the water. As this was the best light I expected to get, I crouched down, adjusted my exposure to compensate for the bright feathers, and waited to capture this moment.

I sometimes walk the Bolsa Chica wetlands on Sunday afternoons after visiting my parents, who live nearby.

This means I visit a scenic wonderland regularly, but not during the photographer’s “magic hour”, when the light gets warmer and less contrasty. I don’t mind. A beautiful walk is a beautiful walk, whether I get beautiful pictures or not.

This illustrates the dynamic range problem with midday light. In softer, warmer, magic hour light, the bird's breast would be less bright and its head less dark.

I feel I should learn how to deal with any kind of light, and I am intrigued by the photographic challenge of bright, contrasty afternoons. Adding to the exposure challenge at Bolsa Chica: white egrets against dark water, dark cormorants against white clouds, and me still fumbling with relatively new equipment (Nikon D7000 camera and TC17 teleconverter).

I showed this to my wife and her only comment was, "It looks fake." I then spent about an hour in Irony Land, trying to figure out how to use Photoshop tools to make a RAW capture look LESS fake. Then I gave up.

I'm still struggling to capture birds-in-flight with the D7000, 70-200, and TC17 teleconverter, but I have complete confidence in the gear. I must practice to frame things right and keep the focus point where it belongs.

Last Sunday, I took many pictures and kept very few, only one of which is a good photograph. The key lesson, while not new, bears repeating: making photographs is a very different activity from taking photographs. The one photo I really like (top of post) is the one I worked for. But I still had fun taking and learning from the others, so I’ve got no complaints.

Once again, I got frustrated with a poorly exposed image and threw Aperture's "toy camera" filter on it. And once again, people like it more than the image I consider a "serious photograph."

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Filed under Camera Gear, Lighting, Nature Photography

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