Vulture Dines on Racoon

Turkey Vultures vs Racoon

Turkey vulture versus a Racoon? Really, I think Rocky bit it long before these diners showed up.

I love coincidences… when they occur, it kinda makes you think something bigger is looking over our shoulders and everything is just gonna be alright. What was it that had me thinking these big thoughts? First, I wanted to take some pictures of animals doing something cool. Second, I was hungry and was looking for a quick snack dreaming of a big dinner of ribs and sauerkraut. Then, that big watcher-overer in the sky served me up a tempting dish of birds, ribs, and photography coolness.  I turned the corner in my car and … whao…. tasty.

Dark birds are hard to Photograph

Dark subjects are tricky for two reasons: 1) The darker parts of a dark subject can easily get blacked out; and, 2) Your camera metering can get fooled and exposures can vary wildly shot to shot.

To overcome the dark subject being blacked out, you need to overexpose a bit by bumping exposure compensation up a click or two. The way to do this is just review a few test shots on your camera’s view screen. Turn on highlight alert or whatever your camera calls the “blinkies”. This feature will blink on overexposed areas in your photograph. Bump your exposure compensation up until you see blinkies (overexposure) and then back off. If the picture is not quite right, adjust brightness in software later. You get better results in software when you darken a bright photo and not so good results brightening a dark one.

There is not much you can do about the second issue except just practice and learn what your camera will do for tricky lighting. Actually, a pro would go full manual and control everything, but us mortals have to rely on some automation. Why is shooting a dark animal a problem? Well if you put the bugger in the center of the screen, the camera will think the scene is dark and lighten it. If you move the dark animal off center just a bit, the camera thinks it is a bright scene and it darkens the picture but then the dark animal gets blacked out. To deal with this, I forget about composition and shoot very wide with the dark animal always in dead center, then adjust exposure compensation to get the dark animal just right. Later in software I zoom and crop to “recompose” the shot.

The Equipment:

  • Canon 5D MkII
  • Canon 500mm L f/4.0 IS
  • LightRoom 5.7

Location Types: Nature Reserve. Galleries: Birds, Racoon, and Vultures. Tags: 500mm and 5D Mk II.

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