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 birdís 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 donít think spectral highlights are much of a problem unless they seriously detract from the subject.




My Outdoor Eyes Photography Blog

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The skies were magnificent as we hiked the Salt Pond Trail, also known as Nauset Marsh Trail, the other day. †I took a horizontal photograph and thought that it looked pretty. The sky and clouds were spectacular. †And then I took a vertical one. Wow! What do you think?

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The Great Blue Heron is my very favorite bird! I love its features and the majestic way it moves. We were walking the Salt Pond Trail and saw this Great Blue looking for his next meal. Beautiful bird, don’t you think?

Gorgeous Sunset Over Cape Cod Bay At Boat Meadow

Last night’s sunset was just beautiful! I was heading out to the post office when I saw the colorful hues on the horizon and made a detour to Boat Meadow Beach. The sun was just setting on the horizon. Maybe this is the beginning of those spectacular winter sunsets! So pretty, don’t you think?


 
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