Barred Owl Again

This is another of the same owl I posted yesterday. The bird moved to a different tree making the leaves and branches even more challenging. I shot from my car and had to keep repositioning the vehicle to get better shots. He/she was closer than the previous photo and I did not want the owl to spook.

Specific Feedback Requested

I go back and forth liking the out of focus leaves thinking they add to the photo and then think they are a distraction. I like the pose and sometimes thing the leaves tend to frame the bird.
The light was quickly changing so I had to go to a high ISO.
I used the Neat Image software to clean up the noise and then applied sharpening to the owl itself. I still think the owl face is a bit soft but I did not want to introduce noise. Please let me know what you think. Thank you for looking and for your help.

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
Canon 90D
ISO 4000, yep it is up there. Then Neat image applied.
1/200, F6.3,
Sigma 150-600C @ 562mm.
Used my car as a blind, with a bean bag for support on the door.
Originally a horizontal and cropped to vertical.

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Another fine job threading the needle, Brian. The out of focus leaves don’t bother me. The horizontal out of focus branch near the bottom is more of an issue to my eye. I think you can crop just above it or maybe even part way through it since it would make kind of a border along the bottom. The face it a tad soft, but viewed at a respectful distance instead of pixel peeping as we’re wont to do on this site, I think it looks fine. Given that this is an owl and we’re used to thinking of them as nocturnal birds, you might be able to reduce the exposure on the whole image a bit without it looking odd and that would mellow out the brighter green areas.

You mentioned the OOF leaves and thinking they add, then thinking they are a distraction. Ask yourself this question… If you were painting this on a blank canvas with a oil paintbrush, would you paint in the OOF leaves? I wouldn’t so I find them distracting. Not that we have control like that as photographers, but I also think we tend to talk ourselves into things because we are photographers. Sometimes you can’t remove the distraction in camera, and sometimes you can’t even remove them in post.

I’m with Dennis on the OOF branch and the overall brightness. Even if this weren’t an owl, the image looks over exposed to me. The histogram from the image validates my impression. It isn’t blown in any area, just over exposed. Here’s a quick adjustment to tame the greens and get them at least back to a mid tone.

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Dennis thank you, I followed your suggestion to reduce the exposure a bit and I cropped in to eliminate the OOF branch. Shame on me for leaving that. I was just excited to see something interesting for a change.

Thank you Keith. I took your advice and do like the image much better. I appreciate the help and patience I have a lot to learn.

Shooting into the trees can be extremely difficult because of out of focus distractions as which occur in this image. There are times when the out of focus branches homogeneously frame the image and that is okay provided the subject is tack sharp. The pose in this image is excellent. As both Dennis and Keith have noted, the distractions outweigh the positives. But keep trying because you are definitely on the right track.

Thank you David. I appreciate your encouragement.

I like Keith’s exposure adjustment, and I have to plead guilty to having a split personality as both a pixel peeper and an artist, so as an artist I love the OOF leaves, especially when considering that you were hemmed in. I expect an owl to be back in the bushes as much as it can. The bottom branch I do find distracting, and it might be fixable with the Healing Brush in PS.

The pixel peeper in me is a bit distracted by the appearance of the feathers and wonders if there is a better way to deal with the noise. I don’t know your workflow but I have found Topaz DeNoise to be amazing, when used first thing out of a raw conversion that hasn’t attempted and noise reduction or sharpening beyond the defaults in LR/ACR. Then occasionally some sharpening can then be done on the clean file but all sharpening is done by artifacts and it is often not an improvement.

Hi Diane, thank you for the feedback. I used Neat Image and do not have Topaz. I may invest in that later. I shot at 1/200 using the Sigma and a crop sensor camera. So I am wondering if the softness isn’t a bit of motion blur. Every time I look at the photo now, the OOF horizontal branch jumps out at me. Lesson learned.

The branch was unavoidable and I would have shot it in a heartbeat! Then would have attempted to mitigate its appearance.

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