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Author Topic: Jungle Photography  (Read 1420 times)


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Jungle Photography
« on: April 14, 2010, 09:20:03 PM »

Just back from an Ecuador Birding expedition, that took me to the Amazon (Napo River), Quito, Western Cloud Forest, and high-altitude, Paramo areas. 400+ bird species in two weeks, is a lot of good birding.

One thing I noticed with my trusty D90 and 70-300mm was the extreme darkness of the forest floor, especially with clouds and rain (they do call it a rain forest!). Also, the filtered light was extremely green, which made me aware of my inexperience with WB settings. While the forests were dark, any view of the sky blew out the highlights, so I had to ride the Exposure compensation A LOT, making frequent use of EV -.7, -1.3 or -2.0.

I felt the Nikon matrix exposure was a lot less dependable than normal, and I had to do a lot of chimping to avoid blowing out the highlights.

Red flowers are a major pain, as any reflection gives excessive highlights. Bright white or yellow bird feathers are also easy to blow out.

I found that a polarizer was essential for dealing with reflections from shiny, wet leaves.

I also feel that my photography technique needs to include more use of manual settings. Maybe all you old film guys are good at guessing the light, but these new digital cameras adjust three ways: ISO, Aperture and Shutter, which means too many degrees of freedom to memorize. I tend to use Aperture Priority for the most part, but I was constantly riding the ISO and Shutter speeds. I made extensive use of ISO 800 and even 1200, trying to balance between blur and sensor noise. My 50mm 1.4 came in handy, but for wildlife I really could have used a BIG-mm f/2.8... not that I wanted to carry one.

I'd appreciate any comments on dealing with forest floor issues.

Technicolor Toucan, Mindo, Ecuador:
« Last Edit: April 14, 2010, 09:25:46 PM by TomStermitz »

Lisa Nikodym

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Jungle Photography
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2010, 11:53:58 AM »

I have quite a bit of experience photographing redwood forests, and here's what I've learned:

Use a tripod so you can use slow shutter speeds, since, as you said, it's pretty dark.  (I don't have the patience to use a tripod under most conditions, but I've learned that in dark forests I pretty much have to.)  Of course, it can be difficult to do that when shooting moving wildlife (something I very rarely do).

Do a great deal of exposure bracketing, as the dynamic range can be very large (dark at ground level, but with bits of bright sky).  You can choose the best one once you get them into the raw converter.  Sometimes, go ahead and let small bits of sky between trees be blown out, to get the rest bright enough, but make sure you have some darker shots too in case the blown-out sky looks bad; wait until the raw converter to make that decision.

Better yet, because of the high dynamic range, take those multiple exposure-bracketed shots and use HDR.

In those high-dynamic-range situations, see if you can eliminate the sky entirely from the shot, by pointing the camera more down than up, if the parts with the sky aren't crucial to the composition.

Like you, I find that ISO 800-1000 is sometimes enough to get a decent exposure, and doesn't produce too much noise if you're using a DSLR, for situations when using a tripod isn't feasible for some reason.

I haven't tried using a polarizer in conditions that dark, just because it cuts yet more of the light and requires yet longer exposures.  Perhaps I should try it to see the difference it makes in reflections.  When I've had reflections off the foliage in the past, I've usually just darkened those bits in post-processing.


P.S.  Forests are also one of the best places, in my experience, for IR photography!  Dark trunks and stems, pale foliage...
« Last Edit: April 15, 2010, 11:54:53 AM by Lisa Nikodym »
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