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Bird Photography In Overcast Conditions
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Feb 2, 2019 08:50:20   #
larryepage (a regular here)
 
Overcast days may not be the best for "set and forget" manual exposure. Even though the light gives the appearance of being constant, it very often is not. As cloud thickness changes, exposure can change, and unlike on a partly cloudy day, eyes will not pick up on the differences. Variation can easily be one full stop, and I have experienced two stop swings. So manual is fine, but keep an eye on what is going on. Many here use Auto ISO to handle exposure swings. I do not (at least not yet ), but I can see that overcast conditions might be the perfect time for it.

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Feb 2, 2019 09:01:32   #
Architect1776 (a regular here)
 
larryepage wrote:
Overcast days are not the best for "set and forget" manual exposure. Even though the light gives the appearance of being constant, it very often is not. As cloud thickness changes, exposure can change, and unlike on a partly cloudy day, eyes will not pick up on the differences. Variation can easily be one full stop, and I have experienced two stop swings. So manual is fine, but keep an eye on what is going on. Many here use Auto ISO to handle exposure swings. I do not (at least not yet ), but I can see that overcast conditions might be the perfect time for it.
Overcast days are not the best for "set and f... (show quote)



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Feb 2, 2019 10:24:42   #
agillot
 
a flash together with the " better beamer " will create sun light like exposed pictures .google this .

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Feb 2, 2019 10:27:21   #
a6k (a regular here)
 
larryepage wrote:
There is a pretty significant difference in color temperature between sunlight and overcast sky. At noon, light on a sunlit subject is somewhere around 5400K-5600K. Before and after noon, it gets lower (and redder). Light from an overcast sky is somewhere around 7000K, or maybe somewhat higher. This light is much bluer and has less red, making many colors, including the colors of many birds, much less intense and more drab looking.

Partly true - see below

larryepage wrote:
If you post process your images, this is easily adjusted. In any case, you can change the white balance on your camera to the appropriate setting so that you can judge immediately. This is one reason that I always try to shoot with the WB set at least approximately correct in the camera.


Larryepage is correct that the color temp of the ambient light changes with conditions. However, the WB does not affect the raw image. It DOES affect the embedded JPG so using an optimal WB is useful. The color of the light does and must affect the raw image itself, of course. So he is correct that to a degree PP can compensate or correct the WB. Including a known neutral target (white or gray) is always helpful if not always easy to do. Most post processors can use that target to get the WB correct.

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Feb 2, 2019 10:41:15   #
Gene51 (a regular here)
 
CHARLESTON 1979 wrote:
I live in northern Oregon. Much of the fall and winter months have overcast/rainy conditions. I use a Nikon 7500 with a 200-500mm lens. Getting the right settings for shooting birds, particularly small ones that flit around, stumps me. Suggestions for settings?

Thanks for your help.


Small nervous birds are a challenge. So is poor lighting. Open overcast is actually preferable, but if you are looking for little guys in the brush and bushes on such days, it can be frustrating.

My advice would be to borrow or rent a camera that is known to be good in high ISO situations, like a D3S, D4, D5, Df, D750 - and if you don't mind downsampling, a D800/810/850. All of these will produce good images at ISO 3200 and higher - up to 12800.

You may want to consider renting a lens with a max aperture of F4 - like a 200-400mm, 500mm, 600mm, or a lens that is faster that works well with a 1.4 TC, like a 300mm F2.8 or a 400mm F2.8.

The D7500 (and the D500 and D7200) is as good as it gets for APS-C cameras in the noise department - but no match for a good full frame camera.

No tripod, monopod, body pod, etc is going to help you if your shutter speed is too slow and your subject is active.

Now the disclaimer:

The first shot below was taken with a D300, 600mmF4, 1.4 TC, and on a tripod. I used 1/10 sec, F8 and ISO 400 - which you can get away with if your subject is static (or mostly static)

The second was taken with a D800 and the same lens, no TC, on a tripod, 1/200, F4 ISO 1600. Twitchier bird, but I got lucky.

Both images were taken on heavily overcast days in NYC.

Using artificial light often provides artificial results, unless you use it for fill. Then you have to watch out for twigs and branches that are in the light of sight of the camera and closer - they will light up like a christmas tree, and will be nearly impossible to remove in post processing.


(Download)


(Download)

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Feb 2, 2019 10:44:33   #
rook2c4 (a regular here)
 
Richie G wrote:
I love a overcast or cloudy day,it makes the colors pop (flowers-Birds).My go to shutter speed for birds is 1000 with the f-stop wide open,if i need more DOF i will stop down one stop .ISO Auto.


Also, the colors are much easier to control than on sunny day, particularly if the subject is in direct sunlight.

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Feb 2, 2019 11:39:49   #
larryepage (a regular here)
 
a6k wrote:
Larryepage is correct that the color temp of the ambient light changes with conditions. However, the WB does not affect the raw image. It DOES affect the embedded JPG so using an optimal WB is useful. The color of the light does and must affect the raw image itself, of course. So he is correct that to a degree PP can compensate or correct the WB. Including a known neutral target (white or gray) is always helpful if not always easy to do. Most post processors can use that target to get the WB correct.
Larryepage is correct that the color temp of the a... (show quote)

Actually, that part of my reply is 100% true. While I do not wish to hijack this discussion, I must insist that this be understood. As background, I have had and used a Sixticolor ambient color meter for many years and have measured the color temperature of numerous variations of both natural and artificial light many times over many years. This meter is not perfect, and it reads only on a blue/yellow axis, but it is very instructive when choosing film or setting white balance in a camera. I have also completed a number of classes in artificial lighting in search of the best solutions for illuminating inside work environments.

The fact is that outdoor illumination on a clear day comes from two sources...the slightly yellow direct light from the sun and the intensely blue, but less bright of the remaining sky. A subject illuminated by the direct sun, but shielded from the majority of the sky will therefore have a distinct yellow cast if exposed or adjusted to the 5600K or 5800K of "daylight." We all know that a subject in "open shade," illuminated only by blue sky, will have a very pronounced blue cast. When the sky is overcast, the situation is like putting a big diffusion dome over your outdoor studio, mixing the two sources uniformly. The final factor is that the lower the sun is in the sky, the more atmosphere it passes through before getting to your photo site, further scattering the blue portion and rendering the direct sunlight increasingly yellow.

The fact that white balance can be corrected to some degree in does not negate the fact that proper photographic technique calls for it to be correct, or near correct, at the time of exposure, just like focus and exposure should be correct at the time of exposure. Experience with my cameras does not support claims that WB adjustment in camera makes no difference when collecting raw images, so I always try to get it right (or at least close), and I'll not pursue that argument at all. Besides, if you do want to check your image on the LCD screen, you need to have the JPEG correct anyway if you hope to get an accurate clue to what your results were.

Here is a link to a discussion of color temperatures and the effects that even small changes in the light can cause.

https://www.gtilite.com/pdf/Various-Light-Sources.pdf

Here's a link to an Olympus article that is pretty rigorous:

https://www.olympus-lifescience.com/en/microscope-resource/primer/photomicrography/colortemperature/

I am not trying to be ugly here, but all the strongly held misunderstandings around white balance really disturb me, and I am convinced that they hold us back in our efforts to be better photographers.

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Feb 2, 2019 11:45:54   #
Fotoartist (a regular here)
 
Auto ISO and fill flash with a Beamer.

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Feb 2, 2019 12:06:51   #
BurghByrd
 
Essentially a back lit subject, high dynamic range problem. I'd start by capturing the shot in RAW format or HDR. Also, it might be instructive to spend a day experimenting using HDR, bracketing various apertures, ISO settings etc and evaluating the results for what produces what you like best. The RAW format with post processing should help in that it can pull detail from a somewhat under exposed subject. Good luck.

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Feb 2, 2019 12:09:05   #
whlsdn
 
a6k wrote:
Well, first, I object in principle to using a flash on any wild creature, birds included. Also, at telephoto distances, the flash may not be useful anyhow.

Keeping the shutter speed "down" is OK if the bird is going to hold still but usually, in my experience, they don't. Their heads and even their bodies are usually moving, stopping, moving. I think 1/500 even with excellent image stabilization is about the limit. I prefer 1/800. Since birds often behave in that jerky way, burst mode may help; it might catch that moment of stillness that your reflexes would have missed and thus allow a lower shutter speed (longer exposure).

The obvious, if unsatisfying, answer, is to use higher ISO than is otherwise ideal. Long lenses are already at small apertures and stopping down at least one more stop is often best for fine detail on eyes, feathers and such. I have also found that the focus distance for the eye is not often where the body and wing feathers are. That call for depth of field AKA smaller apertures.

Even in full sun, 1/400 and F=8 is the correct exposure for ISO 100. If ambient light is lower then the choices are slower shutter, larger aperture if available or higher ISO. In my experience, ISO up to 3200 is useful if not ideal. Often, even in the best light, birds will be in shadow.

I have found that post processing can do more to improve noise from a high ISO more than it can from an out of focus picture or a motion-blurred picture. We do what we can.

Full frame cameras can do better than crop frame cameras with high ISO. Lower pixel density is usually associated with better high ISO performance, too. One-inch sensors are usually not as good as crop frame which are not as good as full frame in this regard. There are some exceptions but the generality is based on physics, not prejudice.

So my advice is to manually set the shutter and the aperture and let the ISO go where it must. YMMV.
Well, first, I object in principle to using a flas... (show quote)


a6k, thanks for your adept reply! You gracefully addressed both the original poster's request for input and my (hopefully) subtle piggybacked plea for direction within my response to him. Nicely done....both in approach and content. I know you've helped me - hopefully him too. I'm even putting a little note in my camera bag for my next trip out - such reminders seem to be the crutch my brain needs these days to test promising suggestions.

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Feb 2, 2019 12:12:15   #
jeep_daddy (a regular here)
 
CHARLESTON 1979 wrote:
I live in northern Oregon. Much of the fall and winter months have overcast/rainy conditions. I use a Nikon 7500 with a 200-500mm lens. Getting the right settings for shooting birds, particularly small ones that flit around, stumps me. Suggestions for settings?

Thanks for your help.


Taking pictures of birds with low lighting conditions is the hardest thing to do and most pics will NOT be keepers. There are a lot of things to try but keeping your ISO as low as possible and improving your steady holding of the camera technique is going to get you a sharp pic once in a while. That lens is a f/5.6 lens so I suggest you shoot with it wide open, and point the camera in the direction of the subject while looking through the viewfinder and pay attention to the shutter speed and your exposure meter. In most cases you'll want to have about a +1 exposure on overcast days or when shooting birds that are in a shady area using Matrix metering. You can try to shoot at some of those lower shutter speeds but if you aren't having any luck at 1/200th then increase the ISO a stop and see if 1/400th will net you a sharp image. Keep increasing the ISO until you can achieve a sharp image. You'll need practice with your technique. I use aperture priority and like I said I usually set the EC (exposure compensation) to +1 or so. Also, use burst mode and take advantage of your 10fps bursts. One in 10 might be sharp or might present a better pose of the animal. They don't always sit still so one position might make a more pleasing photo than another.

Next, you could try using a monopod or tripod and stay at those slower shutter speeds. This will aid in keeping the camera still when using slow shutter speeds and allow you to keep your ISO as low as possible.

Another thing to try is a flash on top of your camera along with a Better Beamer attachment. You can try a host of different settings with flash but I suggest you try to keep your shutter inside of the sync speed of your camera, which is usually 1/200th of a sec, use a mono or tripod, and vary the power. Flash doesn't work on some birds as the light will have a profound affect on the animals eyes. Especially birds like Owls. Other birds with smaller eyes it will be no problem.

One other thing to consider is that when the sky is very grey and overcast, shooting birds up in trees with that grey sky as a background is not going to net you a good image. I never like an image with that kind of BG. If it's a bird you have never seen before, or a rare bird, then get the shot, but if it's a bird you've got many pictures of that are pretty good already, I'd just pass on it and wait for another day with better lighting.

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Feb 2, 2019 12:39:04   #
BebuLamar (a regular here)
 
Fotoartist wrote:
Auto ISO and fill flash with a Beamer.


Now I don't know how to do Auto ISO and flash or fill flash. I don't have a TTL flash. Can you show us how?

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Feb 2, 2019 13:06:51   #
a6k (a regular here)
 
Solely on the point about white balance settings and raw images:

I can only be certain of my two Sony cameras so I suppose it is possible that other brands do it differently. However, the question is not really arguable for Sony. If you take a series of shots with various white balance settings - of the same subject in the same light - and then examine them with RawDigger you will see that there is absolutely no difference. The WB setting affects other things but not the raw file. That said, when you view the raw file with your post processing app that app may use the embedded JPG as a guide for what to show you. In this case, perception is not reality. RawDigger will show you the truth.

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Feb 2, 2019 13:09:00   #
BlueMorel (a regular here)
 
BassmanBruce wrote:
I live in Michigan and we have the same winter conditions....
Have fun!


Michigan and Oregon have about the same amount of overcast hours and I used to live in Oregon so I can relate. Learning the exposure triangle will help. You do need a fast enough shutter for birds, and an appropriate aperture to boot. The ISO here for the same shot in sunny Florida will have to compensate for the lower light available, unfortunately. I often set my ISO to auto to compensate because overcast is so variable in settings, sometimes moment to moment. You do what you have to.

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Feb 2, 2019 13:16:25   #
Bill_de (a regular here)
 
For song birds in overcast I shoot wide or one stop down. If they are perched shutter speed is not the most important thing. Shoot bursts of three and then pick best head position.

From yesterday:

https://www.uglyhedgehog.com/t-576652-1.html

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