The Digital Photo Guy

Big Birds at Wild Animal Park

by on Jul.26, 2011, under Articles, Lightroom, Meetup, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop CS2/4, Photoshop Elements, Webcast

Back to Wild Animal Park with a Plan

I went back to Wild Animal Park this past Sunday prepared to photograph large birds. Before I went, I had three large birds in mind. As always, Fred the Shoebill Stork was at the top of my list of favorites. Next, I wanted a good photo of the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and, of course, the Secretary Bird.

The hornbill has such black eyes that I wanted a photo using fill flash to add a catchlight. As luck would have it, the hornbill was not in a mood to pose. Most times, he perches on a log in the middle of the enclosure but, this time, he kept pacing directly in front of me, behind a set of barrier cables. I had to wait patiently for him to make several runs through the tall grass before I finally managed to fire three frames. This was the best.

I used a Canon 7D with a 300/2.8 at f/2.8 and 1/80 second. My Canon 550EX was set to Manual at 1/4 power. The camera was on a Gitzo 3530LS with a Markins ballhead and a Wimberly Sidekick gimbal mount.

Secretary Bird

The Secretary Birds weren’t much better. Their interesting running behavior of the previous week was gone and one sat on the ground, just out of sight, while the other paced in front of a chain link fence, a distracting background. On a few occasions, it ran past us and I was able to make this photo.

For this, my Canon 7D with the 300/2.8 was set to f/2.8 at 1/250 second and the Canon 550EX was in Manual Mode at 1/4 power.



The White Egyptian Vulture was a treat. I had’t noticed him before so it was fun to make a photo. Again, his eyes were so black, it was difficult to get a catchlight unless he was looking in just the right direction. Shortly after I made this photo, he was chased off by a brown vulture. Here, I used f/8.0 because I wanted to dial back the light off the white bird. A 300mm at 30 feet has less than 12 inches DoF from f/2.8 to about f/8.0 so I wasn’t too concerned about the background. My main concern was not to blow out the white feathers.

Fred, the shoebill stork, as usual, didn’t disappoint. Here, I caught Fred in a contemplative mood as he studied the flowers in front of him. As fearsome as he looks, I would love to get up close to Fred.

All the photos were processed in Lightroom 3 based on techniques I learned from George Jardine’s LR training videos. If you’re serious about your photography, you should be using Lightroom and, if you’re using Lightroom, you need George’s videos. You can get all three (Library, Develop, Adobe Camera Raw) for about $50. That’s 16 hours of training for less than a dinner for two.

Unsharp Mask Video Available

The USM webinar video is now available for $5. This is a part of my 30-Minute Webinar Series. Use the registration form below. A link and password will be sent to you shortly after you register and pay via PayPal.

Understanding Layers and How To Use Them

Explaining Layers is like blind men describing an elephant. Depending on where on the elephant a blind man touched, it was variously described as python-like, wall-like or built like a tree trunk. Be as that may, I’m presenting a 30-Minute Webinar to demonstrate the different ways Layers can be used in PS/PSE. I’ll demonstrate Adjustment Layers, Layer Masks, Fill Layers and other useful Layers.

This webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, August 10 at 7PM Pacific Time. As always, the webinar is $3. Register HERE.


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