A Touch of the Dark Side

Don’t worry, there’s nothing too sinister about this post. The title is a reference to camera settings.

There was some fairly bright sunshine early this morning and while taking yet more pictures of the heron, I spotted a cormorant fly over. When photographing a dark bird against a bright sky I tend to slightly under-expose by setting the exposure compensation to a slight positive number. Anyway, the cormorant swept down to the water, where everything is much darker. To retain a usable shutter speed I scrolled the compensation setting into the negative zone. I was aiming at around -1, but doing it on the fly I overshot so these were taken with a setting of -2. This had the effect of keeping a respectable shutter speed (around 1/1600s, keeping things nice and sharp), but leaving everything rather dark. A little bit of adjustment in Lightroom was needed to even things up a bit and bring out the green reflections in the water.

Cormorant

Cormorant

Cormorant

Cormorant

Cormorant at Falmer

I do like deep colours and dark backgrounds, and by lunchtime the clouds had rolled in and there was even a touch of rain. Everything was grey apart from one shaded corner of the pond where some ducks had congregated. The overhanging trees provided deep shade, but that of course kills the shutter. To get anything usable I started at 800 (first shot which had a shutter speed of 1/250s) but then ramped the ISO to 1600 and – against the usual advice – under-exposed by -1. Normally under-exposing at a high ISO is risky as it can increase the noise in the darker areas, but only if the intention is to lighten the photo later on. I wanted to keep the dark areas dark, and just have enough light on the ducks. I have made some minor adjustments (and cropped), but these are very close to how they came out of the camera. If I hadn’t under-exposed the shots would have lost impact and contrast, and frankly the shutter would have crawled. This way I have something sharp. And there really isn’t too much in the way of noise (even in the second shot which is the high ISO one).

Mallard duck at Falmer

Mallard duck at Falmer

Mallard duck at Falmer

[I]Camera note: all shots taken with the Canon 7D Mark II and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L USM IS Mark II lens.[/I]

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2 Comments

  1. Darko August 8, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

    I thought I’ve heard Pink Floyd somewhere in the background 😛

    You did excellent job on that mallard. Really nice!!!

    • Words August 9, 2015 at 8:50 pm #

      Darko, thanks. I saw Pink Floyd do ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ way back in November 1973 (benefit for Robert Wyatt). It was like listening to the album. Perfect but not exciting.