This image is significant because a good image catches your attention in a big way and if it’s really good it gives you pause, or in other words it makes you think. I won’t argue if this is a good image or not, but I will tell you it’s caught my attention in a big way and provided hours of thought. Perhaps it’s best if I tell you what I saw before I made the capture, and how the technical and post processing helped me illustrate this vision.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM  @F8 1/250th  ISO 250

 

Sometimes I really like an image and I want to use it for the Feature Photograph, yet I can’t find the words.  It’s more difficult than it seems trying to explain why you like something, and often when the words do come, they come out disjointed and perhaps cautious.  And so this story starts with me looking at this image for weeks trying to find the words.   Yes, weeks.. 

This image is significant because a good image catches your attention in a big way and if it’s really good it gives you pause, or in other words it makes you think.  I won’t argue if this is a good image or not, but I will tell you it’s caught my attention in a big way and provided hours of thought.  Perhaps it’s best if I tell you what I saw before I made the capture, and how the technical and post processing helped me illustrate this vision. 

It was a terribly hot and sunny morning at Safari World.   No color, no clarity, the air was so dirty you could cut it with a knife.  The sky was hot white, and the air so still the mozzies could control their flight.  What a rotten day I was thinking.  And then I noticed these three pelicans.  They didn’t seem to notice the bad day as they went about preening themselves and socializing while sitting on their log.  It struck me that these three pelicans were in a world of their own, separate from, but part of, the bigger world around them.  How nice it would be to control our own isolation.  Better to photograph it! 

Technically it was a bit challenging as their natural setting was bland and the light terrible.  So I narrowed it down to the essentials: three pelicans, a great amount of detail, and engagement in their activities.  With this in mind I selected F8 to achieve sufficient depth of field (DOF) to include all three birds and in this I was mostly successful.   

F11 would have given me more DOF, but diffraction at F11 would have robbed me of detail.  Having selected an aperture I then underexposed the metered scene by 2 stops using my shutter speed and ISO controls.  I wanted enough shutter speed for a high degree of critical sharpness, but not go too high in ISO where I’d lose noticeable detail.  Their bright white feathers angled towards the sun were at least 2 stops brighter than the green background.  A handheld spot meter confirmed this.  Capture made. 

Processing was simple.  I cropped to tighten up the frame and show only the essentials, adjusted the levels for the proper contrast, and used the gradient method to make my B&W conversion, and then once more tweaked the levels.  Notice the high degree of detail and definition among the layers of feathers?  The natural angle of the log lent itself nicely to the composition.

Sounds like a lot of thought for just a single capture of three birds?  It was.  But this is the difference between ‘shooting a snap shot’ in automatic mode, and ‘making a photograph’ by choosing and controlling all the available variables presented to you.  The more I look at this image, the more I enjoy it.  I suspect it will be timeless.