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Thread: True Colors

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    Default True Colors

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    Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio).
    Location: Tamar Island wetlands, northern Tasmania, Australia


    I've often felt that the common name of this species is something of a misnomer. When I encountered it, this particular bird was in the middle of a thorough bath which really brought out its colors, including that incredible shade of blue - more commonly obscured when the birds are smeared with mud. The tight framing is mostly original and was necessary to eliminate distracting details in the foreground and background - but perhaps it works as a portrait?
    Equipment: Canon EOS 7D, EF 100-400 L IS II, at 400mm, centre spot servo AF, handheld, shutter priority, 1/500 sec, f10, ISO 400, spot metering
    Processing: Adobe CC Lightroom/Photoshop, slight crop to about 90% of original frame width, some specular highlights on the upper beak surface were removed, and a couple of reeds overlapping onto the bird were cloned out.


    Comments and suggestions welcome,
    Cheers, David

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    Super Moderator arash_hazeghi's Avatar
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    pretty cool color palette David, I wish the BG was less busy and you could see more of this bird, it's tough to crop an mage like this. The reds and blues are oversaturated though , namely the red channel is blown and flat on the upper part of the beak. reducing saturation or toning down the red channel can mitigate this issue.

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    Thanks for the helpful comments Arash. It was difficult even at the time of capture to add much more space around the bird, and even to see much more of it, due to the busy background and obscuring foreground elements. I am self-conscious about the tight framing, a tendency that I'm trying to reduce in my bird photography. I agree that the red in the image suggests the channel is clipped, although the histograms don't seem to show drastic clipping (see below). On site the colors were very saturated because the bird was wet and very clean and the light was good, and I think even the RAW file captured too much saturation. I'll experiment with reducing channel saturation and possibly also color contrast.
    Cheers, David

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    Super Moderator arash_hazeghi's Avatar
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    Hi David,

    The histogram you posted is not for the file that is posted in pane 1, the histogram is shown below with the red channel clearly blown

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    Last edited by arash_hazeghi; 03-17-2017 at 01:15 AM.
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    Thanks Arash, you're quite right about the histograms - the ones I posted are from the 16-bit tiff that I exported the jpeg from. Visually there is only a slight difference in the appearance of the upper beak area on the two files, but looking closely there is maybe a tad more detail there on the tiff - perhaps as you'd expect? In appearance both files really have the same problem, as indeed perhaps the original RAW has, but the jpeg histogram certainly shows up the red channel issue best. Looking back through my files it seems to be a common problem to end up with on these birds, the red in the beak is so intense.

    Thanks for your time and guidance on this one, much appreciated, Cheers, David

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    Hi David, beautiful bird I would love to have a go at someday. I was reading Arash's comments and your responses. In Florida there is a bird that is very similar, the Purple Gallinule. On this bird in bright light (as with the bird that you posted) the bill controls the exposure. When photographing these birds I capture a test image and then check to see if the red channel is blown. The same as checking for blown highlights but switching so that the camera will show the red channel. Red and yellow will oversaturate and blow out very easy in bright light. Many birds have a beak or a patch of feathers that will control the exposure in the field. A Coot with it's white/ivory beak is another bird where the exposure is controlled by the beak. Then careful post processing and local adjustments will bring the image to the correct exposure. Here is a example of the Purple Gallinule with it's red/orange beak.
    Joe Przybyla

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    Thanks Joe, for your wise advice on exposure in the field, particularly in regard to checking individual channels depending on the subject. While I regularly check at least the overall histogram on the camera in the field, I've probably been guilty at times of not going into further detail - mainly because the camera histograms are based on jpeg conversions of the RAW and the latter usually has enough headroom to correct in post-processing. However, as you've noted there can be traps with birds that have prominent primary colors. Something I'll watch out for in future!

    The Purple Gallinule is the same genus (Porphyrio martinicus), and the two species certainly look closely related.

    Cheers, David

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