How can you photograph a crow in the snow?

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by BobF, Dec 15, 2005.

  1. BobF

    BobF Guest

    Sounds like a Dr Suse book!

    But seriously, I have a few crows that come to my front yard, quite tame, and
    I'd like to take their picture... but all I get are black holes in the snow!!
    Gamma adjustments don't do much good...

    I'm using a D70 with zoom...

    Any ideas?
    BobF, Dec 15, 2005
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  2. BobF

    Kelly B Guest

    I'm not sure of the complete answer, but I suspect a good flash for fill
    lighting is a big portion of it...a cloudy day wouldn't hurt either.

    Kelly B, Dec 15, 2005
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  3. BobF

    JPS Guest

    In message <>,
    You have to decide how well you want to capture the detail in the snow.
    Blowing out the snow will get you better crow, but blow it too much, and
    the light will be leaking around the edges of the crow. If you shoot
    RAW, then you can expose higher than if you shoot JPEG, and many of the
    RAW converters will get the snow detail from the red channel and render
    it white (the red channel is the least likely to clip in the snow).

    I would put the snow at about +2 to +4 EC, depending on the file mode
    (RAW vs JPEG, with its contrast variations). Put a black fabric similar
    to a crow on the snow and try it out. A fill flash will work as well,
    and will light the crow more than the snow (the light on the snow may be
    more likely to bounce away from you than from the camera side of the
    JPS, Dec 15, 2005
  4. BobF

    Pete D Guest

    Zooming in as far as you can will also help. How big was the zoom?
    Pete D, Dec 15, 2005
  5. BobF

    DD Guest

    Set up a tripod with your camera on it and put it near where the birds
    are feeding (you may want to leave them something to entice them to the
    point you are photographing). Use the infra-red remote to fire the
    DD, Dec 15, 2005
  6. BobF

    Diamond Dave Guest

    Is this something that could be done in PS? Image like this, expose for the
    crow, next frame(s) expose for the best detail in the snow then merge one of
    each in PS??? I'm guessing.
    Diamond Dave, Dec 15, 2005
  7. BobF

    Stacey Guest

    You have the contrast set too high if shooting jpegs, it's clipping the
    black end. You have a really wide range of light and need to probably shoot
    RAW and will probably need to blow some of the snow detail highlights to
    get the birds very good. I have a jet black dog and run into the same
    problem trying to photograph him.
    Stacey, Dec 15, 2005
  8. BobF

    G.T. Guest

    Yes, people do it all the time for other scenarios. It would help if
    the crow doesn't move. Taking photos of planets in conjunction with the
    moon pretty much dictates two images. One short exposure for the moon,
    and another to fully expose the planet and stars.

    G.T., Dec 15, 2005
  9. The best method may be to use an incident light meter, and set the
    exposure manually to match. This will ensure the objects are recorded as
    they should be. However, in the absence of one of those then yes, a +2
    or so exposure compensation would be a good start. My daughter is off
    skiing on Friday and I have just been going over this with her!

    Whilst I agree with most of the above, I am not convinced fill-in flash
    would be ideal. I think more of the light would be reflected back from
    the snow than JPS suggests (rather like reflective paint on road signs).
    However, until it snows here it may be hard to test that hypothesis...

    David Littlewood, Dec 15, 2005
  10. BobF

    Royce Guest

    I have a few crows that come to my front yard, quite tame, and
    This is a classic "Zone-system" question, where one still needs to
    apply exposure compensation -- Changing the gamma will not help much if
    the shadow detail (of the crow's feathers) is not there in the first

    You can use the Ansel Adams Zone-System (10-step), but the Glen
    Fishback system (7-step) is more simplified. I'll try to make this
    even more simplified for this discussion:

    All exposure meters are set to evaluate the scene based on 18% gray (or
    "grey" if you're from the UK) --midway between pure black (or "0" in
    today's digital world), and pure white (or "255" in today's digital
    world -- that places middle gray at "128" on the Photoshop histogram

    In every scene that your exposure meter evaluates, it interprets it at
    middle gray -- which works quite well, since most scenes have a wide
    range of tones, with the average objects falling close to middle gray
    in tonal value.

    The problem comes when you try to photograph a "white cat on a snow
    bank" or a "black cat in a coal bin," or in this case, a black crow on
    a snow bank. In all three cases, the exposure setting your meter will
    give you (if left uncompensated) will give you a middle gray picture.
    That means that the snow will be mostly middle gray, not white; and the
    crow which did have some dark gray details in real life, will have none
    now -- and will only be a jet-black form sitting on the gray snow!

    For these situation, you'll need to set your "exposure compensation"
    dial to a "+2" (even a +1.5 would be very helpful). This will fool
    your meter and "over expose" your scene by two exposure values (2
    larger f-stops or 2 slow shutter speeds, or a combination of the two).
    This will make the snow white and put shadow detail back into your
    crow's feathers.

    Be sure to reset your exposure compensation dial back to "0" after
    shooting the crow. In the case of a "black cat in a coal bin", you'd
    do just the opposite -- you'd set your exposure compensation dial to a
    "-2", which would fool the meter into under exposing the scene by two
    exposure values.

    For more info on Glen Fishback's Simplified Zone System, go to:
    ....or just search on "Glen Fishback"

    Royce Bair
    Stock Photographer and Writer/Consultant for
    Epson P-2000 Storage Viewer - How to Upgrade to P-4000 specs
    Royce, Dec 15, 2005
  11. BobF

    PeterD Guest

    Shoot two pics and composit them? You'd have to work on the crow's
    exposure perhaps, but that would give you good detail in the snow as
    PeterD, Dec 15, 2005
  12. BobF

    Cynicor Guest

    Depending on how you do it, you may be able to shoot once in RAW, then
    adjust in PS. That's what I did with this pic:

    I was either getting the sky blown out or the buildings too dark, and
    because of the shapes I couldn't use an ND grad. I created two images
    from the RAW at different exposure values, stacked the brighter one atop
    the darker one, then removed all the blown-out sky to get back to what
    the eye actually saw. You MAY be able to push the RAW far enough if you
    expose for the crows.
    Cynicor, Dec 15, 2005
  13. BobF

    C Wright Guest

    You have already been given a number of very workable ideas, I'll give you
    one more.
    Make an exposure reading on an 18% grey card that completely fills the
    frame. Then manually set you camera for that exposure and shoot your crow
    in the snow.
    C Wright, Dec 15, 2005
  14. BobF

    BobF Guest

    I tried everything from 3 crows and lots of space to one crow and just a bit of
    snow, but I'd like to have it all!!
    BobF, Dec 16, 2005
  15. BobF

    BobF Guest

    Crows move around too much! It's hard to even focus or get a good pose... I
    usually just click away and hope I get something...
    BobF, Dec 16, 2005
  16. BobF

    BobF Guest

    I know about the problem cameras have with figuring out snow, but I don't have
    an 18% gray card... maybe I can watch the histogram and fake it...

    one thing is the light in that area is variable because of the trees, and I get
    mottled sunlight sometimes - which I'd like to get as well because of the
    sparkly snow it makes...

    Maybe I'll just shoot the empty yard and then expose for the crows that come
    later and paste them in!
    BobF, Dec 16, 2005
  17. BobF

    BobF Guest

    Thanks for the data. I read about the zone system years and years ago but I
    guess I've forgotten it...
    BobF, Dec 16, 2005
  18. BobF

    Rich Guest

    Make sure your camera has a tight spot meter mode?
    Rich, Dec 16, 2005
  19. BobF

    eawckyegcy Guest

    Digital cameras have utterly obviated the classical Adams "Zone System"
    and its variants: they were nothing more than the chemical equivalents
    of the "levels" or "contrast" controls in PhotoSlop. You don't even
    need a spotmeter anymore, since you already have N million of them in
    your camera -- and much smaller spots at that.

    For the problem at hand (black objects on a white background): push
    the white stuff up against the right edge of the histogram -- google up
    "expose to the right" -- set the camera's contrast to its lowest
    setting and click away. A camera with a raw output facility is
    eawckyegcy, Dec 16, 2005
  20. BobF

    cjcampbell Guest

    Tough to get the crow to sit still for that.
    cjcampbell, Dec 16, 2005
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