This article shares two image runs of 5 and 6 consecutive photographs, showing egrets landing before sunrise at Hendrie Valley. Ordinarily I wouldn’t even bother to attempt to photograph a bird-in-flight this early in the morning since it was only about 6:30 AM. The primary reason I had arrived early was to do some pre sunrise landscape photography.
As I arrived I noticed that there were a number of egrets already standing and milling about in some shallow water. I thought that since egrets are large, white birds their bodies would help capture the available light. So, I left my birding set-up on my E-M1X and decided to see if I could photograph some egrets landing before sunrise. Whether I’d have any success at all was an open question. I certainly wasn’t expecting much.
Trying to photograph birds-in-flight in low light is subject matter that is far better suited to a full frame camera. There is no intention in this article to suggest otherwise.
After finding a good shooting angle I waited to see if any additional egrets would fly in to join the group. Or, if one of the existing birds would change its position with a short flight.
It didn’t take long before another egret flew in and landed a distance away from my shooting position. I photographed its approach and landing even though it was over 100 metres distant. Here are 5 consecutive images from that image run.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
I chose a shutter speed of 1/1250 as I thought it would be fast enough to freeze wing positions of these large birds. I was using Auto-ISO which not surprisingly ended up being ISO-6400.
Keeping a good eye on the egrets in front of me I noticed one that was looking a bit agitated so I prepared myself for it to take flight. A few seconds later it did made a short flight and I was able to grab a quick burst of images. Here are 6 consecutive images from that run.
The photograph above is my favourite ‘egret landing before sunrise’ image captured that morning.
Working with these types of photographs in post can be an interesting experience. My game plan was to get as much feather detail in the egrets landing before sunrise images as I could, while minimizing noise at ISO-6400. I knew from experience that I did not want to lighten the overall exposure and risk revealing more noise in the darker areas than necessary.
I ran the RAW files through one of my DxO PhotoLab custom pre-sets which includes automatic lens corrections and DeepPRIME set to 15. After exporting a DNG file into PhotoShop CS6 I made some minor adjustments including darkening highlights slightly, darkening shadows, then increasing the white slider as much as possible without creating any highlight clipping. This combination gave me the detail and contrast I was hoping to get from the files.
I made a couple of typical small corrections in Nik… but did reduce shadows again to fine tune the amount of contrast in the photographs. My final adjustment was in Topaz DeNoise AI where I used the severe noise function. I found the results were acceptable for my purposes, but certainly not at the level that one would expect from a full frame camera.
Overall my attempt at photographing egrets landing before sunrise was a worthwhile experiment.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. All images are displayed as full frame captures without any cropping. This is the 1,119 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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