Sweet Simplicity

Sweet Simplicity

At the end of a long hike coming out from the woods into a meadow I was greeted by the singing of this sweet little song sparrow. I was able to get quite close , sit on the cold ground and watch him for quite awhile. It was very peaceful.

Specific Feedback Requested

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
100 ISO
I just cropped it slightly


Hi Vanessa:

I like the general darkness of of the image with the highlight on the bird, but I think you went a bit far with it. I took the liberty of downloading the image and making a few simple modifications. You software should have burning and dodging capabilities, so I increased the overall brightness a bit then used the dodging brush at about 13% and brushed over the more shadowed areas of the bird until it was where I thought it looked reasonable. I also recropped. As you did with your image in the weekly challenge, having the bird more toward one corner tends to make a more powerful image and give the bird “room to move into”. Just a couple of suggestions.


It looks really nice. I don’t really like post processing. So, do you think the same affect could have been achieved if my camera settings were a bit different? Like higher iso, slower shutter? This is an image that I love but I did take it when I was just starting a couple years ago and I was always doing 100 iso so I wouldn’t get grain. And 1/1000 to capture and be ready for any possible movement!

Hi Vanessa:

You could certainly get better exposure with different in-camera settings. I don’t think you need to be at iso 100. Any half-way modern digital slr will handle iso 800 or more quite well. With noise reduction software, I’m commonly at iso 2000 or more because I live in a cloudy, dark area and often have minimal light. Your f-stop was fine for that bird. Most bird photographers start out shooting in aperture priority mode and keep their f-stop around the maximum their lens will allow or maybe a touch higher (some lenses aren’t quite as good wide open). That automates your exposure, but it means you need to learn to use the exposure compensation function in your camera well because your background can affect the exposure of the subject. I used to use it and situations like this it worked without compensation. However in other situations, such as photographing Goldfinches against a darker background I’d have to dial in nearly a stop of negative compensation to avoid overexposing the yellows.

In addition to this forum, if you have a local camera club, I recommend joining. There are almost certainly going to be bird photographers in it who can help you hands-on (after this Covid stuff is under control). An alternative is a workshop. However, you want to be careful that it’s really a workshop and not a tour. Just keep posting and reading the critiques of other people’s posts and thinking about why you like particular images and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you improve.

1 Like

This is a very nice image, and excellent advice from Dennis. This place is an ongoing workshop.

I’ll add that processing is as important as shooting. Ansel Adams said the negative is the score and the print is the performance. These days, the raw file is the score and the final processed image is the performance. (I do hope you are shooting raw, or at least raw + JPEG, to give you the best leeway for adjusting tonalities and much more.) There is excellent software that is easy to use, and some that isn’t, so that’s a learning curve, too.

It sounds like you are well on the way with the nature part of the journey. I look forward to you making a further journey here!

1 Like

Nice photo. It looks like Song Sparrow was taking a little break as well.
I really like the idea behind the shot. A little bird in a dark setting. Dennis’s repost makes some nice changes. The crop removes some of the bg branches that may distract and take away from the photo. And his highlighting of the sparrow i think brings a bit more interest to the little bird, a little spark.
The camera cannot include for two exposures in one moment of capturing light. So it can expose for the highlights on the sparrow which will also lighten up the bg shadows. Or you can expose to have dark shadows and then the bird is also underexposed. There is no setting that you can have in your camera to capture two exposures in one exposure.
I wish there was.
I really like that nice simple look of the sparrow in a dark bg. Good idea.

1 Like

Thank you so much for your interest and time!

BTW, how do you only bring out the light in the bird? Would I need to use the curve section in process? I have Pixelmator photo, not sure if you know that one.

Thank you, for your encouraging words and insight. So there’s no way for some situations to only get your results out of the camera. You have to also be able to post process. That’s good for me to know. Thank you for your help!

Thank you, Diane! Yes I do shoot Raw. So I guess that’s a start?!

I’m not familiar with Pixelmator photo. Most processing software has the ability to use a resizable brush of some kind to make alterations to selected areas of the image. Some are significantly more sophisticated than others. I even do some things in LightRoom rather than Photoshop, even though they’re made by the same company because I like the local adjustment brush in LightRoom.

Pixelmator should have some kind of adjustment brushes and burning and dodging are two of the most basic operations, so I would think they’d be included.

More sophisticate processing software allows you to use what are called layers and masks where you can cause any operation to be performed on only one area of the image. Though I know you’re not interested in the processing end at this time, I think you’ll find as you progress that you’ll want to start using it more, though many photographers do try to minimize it.

There’s a ton of photo processing software out there, but you’ll notice that most people on this site are still using the old standby Photoshop and Lightroom. Other, more recent programs that are getting a lot of attention these days are DxO and ON1. A lot of people in my local camera club really like the latter of those.

Pixelmator is an alternative to Photoshop that is said to be quite good. But does it come with its own raw conversion module? What is your camera and how are you doing the initial raw conversion before going into Pixelmator? That is where great power resides. For Photoshop users, the raw conversion is generally done in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw (which comes with PS – same engine, different interface).

Yes, I can convert to raw in Pixelmator, all in one app. That’s why I chose it after trying Lightroom and Photoshop several times and being frustrated with the clumsiness of having to use 2 different apps in order to do very basic things, I don’t need all the bells and whistles. I should add that I don’t have a computer to work from. I do everything on an iPad. My camera is very amateur I know but what I can afford right now. Nikon d3400. It came in a set with 2 lenses but I usually always use the 70-300mm.

You have a great opportunity to show us what can be done with basic equipment. You are not limited in artistic vision, and that can make up for technical limitations. I hope we’ll see lots more of your work!

It might help focus critique (and appreciation!) if you include the equipment and software used, including the iPad.

Thank you, you’re so kind! I really appreciate the feedback and encouragement to do better!

@Diane_Miller and @Vanessa_Hill Just a comment on this topic. When I first joined this group 13 years ago there was a woman in Michigan posting on the Avian forum who used a 200 mm lens for songbirds and her images were brilliant! She just knew how to get close and win their confidence. The equipment doesn’t really matter that much.

1 Like

It’s true, as long as it’s a bird or animal you can get close to, it’s very thrilling to be able to have their trust. But I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had the best camera and longest lens possible! :slight_smile: Whether it’s a Turkey Vulture flying in the sky, a fox watching me in the woods or one time I saw tiny spiders taking flight on their little silk balloons from the top of a very tall tree, there are so many things you miss without the right equipment. I take photos of all these things but you can only crop so much without it looking bad… I’m happy that I have what I have but one day I’ll get something better.