The importance of choice of the background – part II

This week I will look at what I did when I had not the choice of the background. One of the option is to blur the background either by using a large aperture or the longest possible focal lenght of your zoom.

In the Kestrel and Owl photos below, I had not the choice of background. I was at a birds of prey demonstration, we formed a circle around the falconer and she was passing the birds in front of us. Wherever I positionned myself, there was always someone in the background, and to top that, many were wearing bright colors.

I had my 70-300 mm f/4.5 lens and to solve the problem I used the longest focal length with the largest aperture possible to blur the background as much as I could. I setted my camera on aperture priority and chose the smallest f/number, extended the zoom. With a blurred background attention will on the subject on my photo, not the background. When I got home I was in for a surprise and a couple of F… words. They do this demonstration once time a year, last year I made a rookie mistake, this year my background was shitty. The photo below show how distracting those bright colors are.

So in order to reduce the effect of the colors, I tried the monochrome. I think monochrome is better at hidding the colors and help bringing the attention of the viewer on the bird and less on the background. First, I went with black and white and then sepia. The latter was better for the finish product.

But you have to be careful in using a long focal lenght on a zoom lens. Most of the zoom lens will not give the clearest image at their maximum, so choose a focal lenght that is less than the maximum. For example my 70-300 mm lens loose some “crispyness” in the details after 250 mm.

Another thing you can do to blur the background is put as much distance between your subject and the background. The greater the distance between the two, the blurrier your background will be, but again this is not always possible. It was in that situation with the photos below.

If you cannot or did not think blurring your background when you took the photo, you can still do it with a software in post-production but the result are never the same as the lens blurring.

Kestrel taken at close range at 270 mm-f/5.6 with my 70-300 mm lens


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Owl taken at close range at 145 mm-f/4.8 with my 70-300 mm lens

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Here I was not able to put enough distance between the background and the owl to blur the background – taken @ 300 mm-f/5.6 with my 70-300 mm lens

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…. and the sepia finish gives poor results

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When HDR is the solution

I am not a big fan of HDR photos. When I started working my photos with post-processing software I though HDR photos were pretty cool but after some time, I realised they are just too funky, too artificial. I have to admit in high contrast situation like sunrise and sunset, it is probably the best option. Below you’ll see the same photo with 4 different post-production settings. I took the photo very early at sunrise. The sun was barely popping from behind the mountain.

No increase in the exposure and trying to keep the sky blue

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With an increase of the exposure to make the grass green but the sky is too bright

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Slight HDR to enhance all the colors and contrast


And the all-out version Play that funky colors (music) white boy



Weekly Photo Challenge : Reward

For we reward is taking a photo expecting some results and when you open it on your computer at home, it’s much better than you expected. I was expecting some nice bokeh effect on this one but the chromatic aberration added something special. Most of the time it’s something that I hate but not this time, the chromatic aberration around the blue circle of light on the right

Downtown view through a hotel room window on a very rainy night (in HDR)