Orchid Bee and Porter Weed

Orchid Bee on Flower

Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


I was in Costa Rica the Second half of February, flying out the early morning of March 2nd. My last day there, my guide took me to a large farming operation where he’s working with the landowners to develop a birding attraction as a sideline. We were hoping for hummingbirds here as they love this flower and we did get one, but for me the star was this bee. The bee is in the genus Eulaema part of the Orchid bee clan. You can learn more about this group here.

Specific Feedback

I processed these two yesterday and today and used different techniques, so I’d be interested in which you find better, particularly with control of the harsh light.

Technical Details

Both images were taken with my birding setup: Sony A1, FE 200-600 + 1.4 TC @ 840 mm, monopod, f/10, 1/1250, iso 2000. Processed in LR & PS CC. They’re both fairly large crops: #1 3258x4642, #2: 2214x3314.

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1 Like

Dennis, these are amazingly sharp. To get an inflight bee with such detail, even after a large crop, they really look like they were taken with a macro lens full frame to me. And the lighting looks good to me. I can tell it was in harsh like, but you managed it well.

Dennis, I find that Shirley’s comments are very much like mine. The sharpness (at 1/1250) is excellent. I have trouble getting bees sharp at much faster speeds. I do prefer the first image processing over the second, but prefer the position of the bee in the second.

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Wow! You pulled a rabbit out of a hat here! The sharpness and detail of both is wonderful, but I’ll vote for the second. The subject is larger in the frame and the flower shows so nicely. I love the more saturated BG in the first but if I had only seen the second one I never would have wondered about a more colorful BG.

Reading back to what you actually asked… The second one has softer contrast that looks very natural. Maybe that is what caused the less saturated BG but it was worth it, IMHO. I would love to know what the two techniques were. Taking a wild guess at a linear profile in the second?

So excellent! Your bird photography skills definitely transfer to smaller critters. Great backgrounds and crispy details - all well seen as we have come to expect. Lens handling is definitely something you’ve mastered in order to get this, something I seriously need to work on. I often lose small stuff and can’t find what I’m trying to take a picture of. LOL.

The first seems to be in brighter sun and that’s probably due to the contrast between green and pink, but also in general. The second feels softer because the background is more subdued, but overall I think contrast it lower as well and that contributes. The shadows feel more lifted in the second, but not in a way that makes it look flat. A muddled way to say the second appears less harsh.

Thanks, @Kris_Smith, @Shirley_Freeman, @Diane_Miller and @Jim_Gavin. I didn’t use linear profiles for these. I’ve downloaded them, but keep forgetting to use them after I first experimented with them. The first image I tried reducing the harshness with a curves layer in PS with limited success. Part of the background glow was just the plants that happened to be in the background. The second image, I just lowered the highlights in LR on the initial raw file and in PS I used the clone tool to remove a highlight area on the pollen ball (the same highlight you see on the first). The images were taken a few minutes apart, so the light was a little different.

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Reducing contrast is trickier than increasing it, and there is more tonal overhead in a raw file than after it has been rasterized going to PS or any editor. Even with soft light I almost always use the Shadows and Highlights sliders in the raw file, often to the extreme. If it then looks too flat, a tweak of Clarity will restore some midtone contrast. Then Exposure may then need to be tweaked. Its a juggling act of 2-3 iterations.

These are just outstanding shots Dennis. The BG is so nice and smooth. The bee has amazing colors, burnt orange on the top of the back, and the single stem with a small cluster of flowers. This is such a clean, simple and yet very well executed couple of images.

Dennis: Great captures both and while I like the flight shot the second wins for me hands down. My only problem with these is that my lusting for the 200-600 is increasing. Looks like some wallet pain is in the offing :thinking:. Really well done. >=))>

I agree that the harsh light is controlled better in no.2, but I do prefer the first shot. We are in the tropics after all, and so bright light and colors can be shown in their glory - and I don’t think the bee suffers much in clarity. Also I do prefer the composition in the first shot, with the slavering bee poised in front of a more interesting flower head. But - both lovely shots.