Day 77 – Owl Studio, Paper and Free Software

Monday night was camera club – and after a busy couple of days I have got round to looking at the photos that I have taken and jotted down a few notes about the wonderful experience that the club offered.

There was an opportunity on Monday to look and feel different paper types – beginners who print an home often start out on Permajet Oyster paper, I have been printing on that for a while, but it was suggested tonight that if I want to improve the quality of my prints further I should start playing it safe and have a look at some of the fibre based papers in their range, the photo art pearl looked particularly nice with landscapes printed on it – so maybe it is time to experiment … I have got myself a test pack – but the papers are not cheap (£30 for 25 sheets of A4, £60 for A3).

There was also an opportunity to find out how to cut mount and learn more about photoshop – I didn’t visit those areas, but they seemed really popular.

There was one member there talking about free and open source alternatives to lightroom and photoshop and giving a demonstration of several different programs on his Lynx operating system, and to be honest if you don’t want to buy into photoshop/lightroom now it is on subscription, I thought the alternatives were great and even had some advantages once you had discovered your way round.  He told us about:

  • Hugin – a cross platform open source panorama photo stitching and HDR merging program.
  • Darktable – photography workflow application and raw developer – we you could use instead of Lightroom to develop the raw files.
  • GIMP – GNU image manipulation program, which could be used instead of photoshop -for image retouching, resizing, montages etc.
  • Digikam – a bit like Bridge, so you can arrange and manage your photos.

I was impressed … and it is definitely something I would suggest people look into if they do not have any editing software.

We also got to photograph “Hedwig”, he is a real live barn owl –  the speed he could eat a dead chick was impressive – that one of the camera club members brought along, he had set up some flashes and continuous lighting so that we could see if we could capture him ourselves.  He was against a dark cloth, back lit by 2 flashes, then had a continuous white light in front to help light his white feathers and a front flash all turned down to quite low power. It was totally set up – but you were able to slide the flash trigger onto your camera and take your own composition. I was using my sigma 17-70mm lens, and I was initially worried I would not get close enough, as lots of people had huge lens but I was proved wrong.

ISO400, 54mm zoom, F6.3, 1/13sec - front lit - no flash
ISO400, 54mm zoom, F6.3, 1/13sec – front lit – no flash

This image does not have any flash, it is just front lit by a white light (similar to this), you can see the cloth backdrop which was black velvet and of course the amazing and very patient Hedwig.

ISO 400, 63mm zoom, F5, 1/13 sec - no flash
ISO 400, 63mm zoom, F5, 1/13 sec – no flash

The owl was occasionally fed treats – dead chicks, and he ate them really quickly – my settings were totally wrong for this, my shutter speed was not fast enough for the sudden movement of the owl, and my camera angle was wrong – as you see  the walls of the hall, one of the lighting stands etc – but there was not time to move amongst the other photographers, but I am including it as then it gives you an idea of what the surroundings were.

The next two images were taken with the flash trigger on my camera – where the flashes are behind the owl, you can see the background really is black, and the owl has a really pleasing rim light – I wish I could master this in my home studio… there was slightly more space – so I am going keep trying! You can also see how the front flash has added a reflection into the owls eye adding extra life, where as the continuous light lightens the feathers and stops the owl from suffering from too much flash glare! I aimed for 2 different shots – a full length owl and a close up of his face.

I felt really privileged to take these and now am even more looking forward to the owl workshop I am doing mid April, when I get to photograph them in that natural environment – it will be interesting to see if I can get catch lights then, and it has made me think about not capturing the surroundings more – if I want to edit and recompose the final image in photoshop.

ISO 200, 38mm, F8, 1/200 sec - Flash trigger,
ISO 200, 38mm, F8, 1/200 sec – Flash trigger,
ISO 200, 38mm, F8, 1/200 sec - Flash trigger,
ISO 200, 38mm, F8, 1/200 sec – Flash trigger,

Finally – camera club was Monday… and I only getting round to posting the images today… I have had a little tweak in photoshop and edited the image to include the moon that I photographed on day 64, added some random speckles as stars to give the impression that the owl is being lit by the moon on a frosty evening …  I just wish I included more of the log in the original shot – but I kinda like it! What do you think?

Photoshop composition image
Photoshop composition image
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