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Challenging eagle jpg fix

Discussion in 'Nikon Cafe Photo Clinic' started by phecksel, Mar 23, 2007.

  1. First things first, thank you for offering this great service. I've learned more in this sub fora then anywhere else!

    Now, I'm an idiot, everybody repeat after me, Phil's an idiot :( 

    I took several eagle pictures last weekend, and originally picked the "best" one, did a quick WB, quick sharpening, quick crop, and saved two jpg, one low res for the web {below} and high res to send to the local rag. Every intention to come back to the nef and really clean it up. Right up until I deleted the files off the card, overwrote, formatted, overwrote, and finally deleted again. Photorescue found all kinds of files, but none of the eagle :( 

    Not sure I like the current crop, the eagle over all is a bit dark, not sure if he can stand anymore sharpening.

    Too much chat, here's the low res pic

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Cropped high res jpg

    thank you again,

  2. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Phil :

    Argh. I didn't know what you'd lost when you posted that message about data recovery. I feel your pain, man, as I've done the same thing (more than once, but not more than twice...).

    I downloaded the high-res version to work with, as the low-res looked a little less than ideal for tinkering purposes.

    First, and this isn't intended cruelly, the focus isn't dead-on for this shot. We can do some work with it, but it's just not going to become crystalline-clear. Maybe more could have been done with the NEF, but in all honesty, most likely not a lot more. In addition, it's a challenging shot with respect to the direction of light, shadowed bird, and the distance.

    Let's get to work, then...

    Open the high res shot up in PS-CS2, and tinker in Image/Adjustments/Shadows&Highlights. Hmmm... If I even use the defaults, the shadow areas of the eagle get a lot of digital noise. We can stretch it (maybe) to Shadow settings of 25/50/30 but there's a bit of noise still present. Hmmm... Well, it does bring up some the lighter colour feather details, so we'll live this (although it will have other consequences down the road). There's some more room to work on the Highlights area where we can change the light balance of this shot with settings of 40/50/30. In an ideal world, we'd adjust the light and colour balance more precisely with WB in a NEF, but that's not an option here.

    Sharpening's going to be another tricky issue. We can run Filters/Sharpen/USM for 100/0.8/5 and get a bit more crispness, but that pesky digital noise isn't going to be helped by this activity.

    The crop isn't going to allow for a lot of increase, again because of the digital noise issue, but we can address this with a slightly longer view, one that leaves out the visually confusing change in water colour over the breaking wave. We'll set the bird back from the centre of the image for "flying room", but we quickly see how the digital noise rises to an unnacceptable level. Back off a bit on the crop...

    Unfortunately, this is not an image that lends itself to digital noise reduction techniques. There's not a straightforward area to sample with a relatively uniform colour, and more to the point, the initial focusing issues are such that applying NR would tend to muddy up the existing eagle details.

    In the end, it's a nice shot, but offhand, I don't see how one can recover a lot more than this... Something different could be done, perhaps, but not with a large change in detail level or light.


    I know this is scant solace after the pain of the card issue, but you landed a neat moment with the eagle, even if we're not going to be blowing it up to 36"X24" today. I'd be pleased to catch the eagle at a moment like this - we don't have a big population of these where I live in the Southwest.

    John P.
  3. It's a moot point now, but would NX have been able to lighten the wings without pulling the rest of the photo out of balance.

    WRT to the focus, etc, I was happy to just capture the picture. Literally running for the door while flipping the camera to auto. In retrospect, should have gone for sports mode, but that big green A was the easiest and fastest to find.

    Thank you for looking and improving the photo
  4. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Phil :

    Well, heck, yes, you could have recovered some of the shadow detail, but perhaps not so much as we'd both like. :wink:

    I know exactly what you mean about the focus. I've landed shots where the subject's slightly OOF, but what-the-hey, I landed the photo ! The joy is in the shooting, not the pixel peeping later, after all. And y'know, I meant what I said about how I'd have been proud to have pulled that one in myself.

    The moment's what matters in this game of photography. :smile:

    And glad to offer some thoughts for you on this one... It was fun.

    John P.
  5. Just FYI, I was able to recover some detail in the wings of the eagle using Shadow/Highlight in PS but it did not look natural as it lost all the color in the process. I suspect, like John, that a RAW image processed in NC or NX would have been better but even that might have been problamatic since that area of the wings was so far underexposed. Your best bet IMO is to just keep shooting and even though you now think this was a once in a lifetime shot it will only be so if you let it.

    Bird photographers like Jim Fenton and others here on the Cafe' have proved that over and over as they continually come up with "once in a lifetime" shots. Good luck.
  6. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005
    not much to add here, sorry,

    Raw would have been a bit better, but I suspect that things would still be less than stellar.

    Keep on chugging away, I have a whole lot of shots just like this as do all birders! We just usually don't show them!

    Any other questions feel free to ask.

    I posted the image large so you can see the problems easier. not much to do with this, sorry.


  7. Thank you for the help... Now for the good news, I found all my nef's of the eagle. Going to take a step back, and see which one has the best opportunity. I can see that I'm going to chase noise and exposure around in circles. I'll be back in a few days.
  8. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Phil :

    That's great news !

    I'll look forward to your results.

    John P.
  9. I need to thank everybody once again for the great help, and patience

    I'm back again, with the original photo
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    View attachment 86694
    Here's what I've worked up so far. big thank you to Kevin Theron and his NX expertise. There's a lot of work to do, and lot more left to do. The biggest area I need help with is cropping. What cropping would work best, and how much {if any} ice should remain in the photo?
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 4, 2007
  10. John's crop above comes closest to the best dimensions for this image. I also like the sharpness he was able to wring out of this shot as well. This was not easy I am sure and John has done an admirable job with his post processing. The eagle in the original image is so small as to make fixing it a very difficult process.
  11. John,

    Did you use any different technique then described to sharpen? My latest post did not have any sharpening, as I'm still messing around with NX brush and U-Point. Used the brush on the head and tail feathers, WB the whole pic to direct sunlight {although it's a bit blue}, used u-point on the wings, and struggled trying to figure out the resize and crop feature in NX. IMO anti intuitive!

    I understand this will not make a good 36" prints, but even a nice 8x10 would be great :)  I have a 4x6 attached to my wall at work, and out of all the great and well focused shots, that is the one getting the most attention.

    Would the crop work better including a bigger view of the ice?
  12. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Phil :

    Nope on the sharpening - I try to take notes as I work on photos and then add those steps to the discussion I post. That was pretty much as I had worked with it. However, sometimes, I've found that progressive USM treatments are better than one large USM. Since you're now working from the NEF, consider saving it as a TIFF, and then applying USM in PS.

    As for the crop, in my opinion, the ice/colour difference with the water was distracting, so i cropped it out.

    John P.
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