Spectral Highlights In Wildlife Photography
Photography By Philip Tulin and Text By Ron Green (subscriber contributor) © All rights reserved.

Dunlin Photography © Outdoor Eyes

Spectral highlights have been a problem since the beginning of photography. They occur in water, chrome and just about any wet or shiny object. In a controlled studio environment they can be minimized by advanced (soft, or carefully placed) lighting techniques. In controlled outdoor scenic photography (landscapes, architecture etc.) they can be sometimes addressed with polarized filtration.
 
However, in the action-filled world of the wildlife photographer they can cause problems. Using auto-exposure can result in underexposed frames as the camera often misinterprets the highlights for overall brightness rather then point light sources. Digital exposures (particularly at higher ISO ratings) can make the reflections appear worse because the highlights seem to burn out faster (and bigger) than (they would) on film.
 
Add to all of this some "image sharpening" and the highlights begin looking like white spots within black rings. Ultimately there is nothing wrong (or too distracting) with (sun caused) spectral highlights in any outdoor photograph as long as no other white appearing in the frame is of the same (blown out) value. One approach when using Photoshop RGB curves is to keep non-spectral whites below about 240 and let the reflective highlights go to 255. Often you can mask the spectral highlights before sharpening to minimize the black circles.
 
To improve the above photograph, I would leave the highlights on the bird’s beak and reduce the brightness of the distracting and unimportant bright spots on the rocks (particularly that big rock under the bird) using Photoshop tools. After saying all of that, I don’t think spectral highlights are much of a problem unless they seriously detract from the subject.




My Outdoor Eyes Photography Blog

Pretty White Watercress At Fort Hill On Cape Cod

There is a lot of Watercress wildflowers starting to bloom along the trails at Fort Hill, especially down by the water.  Watercress have tiny white flowers with 4 petals. They are so delicate and pretty. Have you ever seen a Watercress wildflower?

Red-Winged Blackbird At Fort Hill On Cape Cod

You can always hear the distinct “Cu-ca-ree” call of the Red-Winged Blackbird as you hike around Fort Hill. They are everywhere and so pretty. This guy was high in the Eastern Cedar tree along Nauset Marsh just singing away. Love his coloring… so bright and vibrant!

Pretty Purple Ground Ivy Along The Trails At Fort Hill On Cape Cod

Ground Ivy is part of the mint family and grows to about 6″ tall with 3/4″ blue-violet flowers which are tubular. They grow from April to June and you can see them all along the trails at Fort Hill in Eastham.


 
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