Low light juvenile Prairie Falcon

The cooler weather we are having in Utah has me thinking of frosty mornings, snow, crystal clear skies, low light and the foggy mornings that the Great Salt Lake can create. After having lived in Florida for five years I don’t take those weather conditions for granted, I revel in them.

Portrait of a juvenile Prairie Falcon in low lightPortrait of a juvenile Prairie Falcon in low light – Nikon D300, f5.6, 1/1600, ISO 800, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or set up

One foggy morning last December I spotted this juvenile Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) perched on a frost-covered rock on the causeway to Antelope Island SP with the Great Salt Lake in the background. There was some fog and the light was low but with the right settings I was able to get a sharp image without noise.  My exposure compensation for this image was very important, I increased the exposure so that I would not have to brighten the image in post processing which can often introduce unwanted noise. I also used f5.6 knowing I wouldn’t get the grasses in the foreground sharp but I felt I needed to make a compromise to keep my shutter speed up in case the young falcon decided to lift off.

I know that I could have increased the saturation and contrast while I was processing this image in Photoshop to give it what some people call more “pop” but I would much rather process my images to appear natural rather than oversaturated, over-processed and artificial. This image is what it is, a photo of this bird taken in low light.

Immature Prairie Falcon in low lightImmature Prairie Falcon in low light – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/500, ISO 500, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 271mm, natural light, not baited or set up

This is the same immature bird a little later after it had flown to the other side of the road. Because the Prairie Falcon seemed “stickier” I wanted some images where the foreground boulder was in focus so I selected f7.1 which gave me sufficient depth of field to bring the boulder into focus as well as the bird. I decreased my ISO to bring out more fine details in the plumage and the perch and while that slowed down my shutter speed but at the time I felt that the falcon was comfortable with my presence and wouldn’t fly off right away. I could see on my histogram that I didn’t need to increase or decrease my exposure compensation to acquire a well exposed image so I set it at 0.0.

For myself; I feel it is important to process and present my images to represent the lighting conditions, colors and contrast as close as possible to what I saw through my viewfinder, other wise it simply does not look or feel natural to me.

Neither of these images “pop” off the screen but given that they were created in low light I don’t expect them to.

Mia

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