Experimenting with harsh light

Yes, in the early morning and late evening the light is magical and can give unique, subtle colour gradations to your photos; but I've discovered that, operating properly, even harsh, mid-day light in a sunny day on white birds may work, thanks to the game of shadows and lights that emphasize details in plumage.

Here are two samples: both D100 + AF-S 300 f/4 + TC20E II, ISO 200, beanbag from my car. Exposure was pretty much by trial and error (the really important thing is to avoid burning highlights, and for this kind of job a digital camera with histogram preview is a big advantage): the former is 1/640 @ f/11 (matrix metering -1.7EV), the latter 1/160 @ f/20 (matrix metering with no adjustment). The latter took advantage of fill flash (SB80DX + Better Beamer). If you're guessing why that f/20, it's simple: the D100 can sync the flash only up to 1/180 sec. and 1/160 is the value rounded to 1/3 EV; the aperture is consequential. Such a small aperture broadens the DOF, which could be a problem if you want to blur a background. In this case, since the background is pretty uniform, was not a problem.

In the former photo I did extensive curve adjustment to reduce contrast and brighten shadows; in the latter only a bit of curve adjustment in mid tones. Moreover, the fill flash created a set of water reflections on the bird body that add a further "touch" to the picture.

On the whole I like these photos. It has to be pointed out that they prove to be hard to print - I haven't been able to reproduce on paper the look they show on the computer screen.

Garzetta.

Nikon D100 + AF-S 300 f/4 + TC 20E II + 300.0 mm f/4.0 @ 600 mm, 1/640 sec @ ƒ/11, -1.67 EV, ISO 200, fill-in flash, beanbag from the car.

Garzetta.

Nikon D100 + AF-S 300 f/4 + TC 20E II + 300.0 mm f/4.0 @ 600 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/20, ISO 200, fill-in flash, beanbag from the car.

On the other hand, with harsh light it's very easy to get ugly photos, if the contrast between highlights and shadows is too strong. For instance, in the following photo I didn't use fill flash and the shadows ruined the image. Brightening shadows in post processing would not substantially improve the photo since the eye is in a deep shadow. The fill flash should have been used here.

Garzetta.

Nikon D100 + AF-S 300 f/4 + TC 20E II + 300.0 mm f/4.0 @ 600 mm, 1/640 sec @ ƒ/11, -1.67 EV, ISO 200, beanbag from the car.