Hummingbirds 2022 — Part 2

Warning; this post has photos but also talks about photography stuff. If you just like the photos, just ignore the words.

As I mentioned in the first post (HERE), this year the hummers were late in coming to our yard. Since then, we’ve had a bit of a puzzler . . . we had a few rushes where the feeders were going empty fast enough that I added more feeders (up to 11 now), and then we had lulls where I had to throw away old sugar water and replace it with fresh because they weren’t drinking it fast enough.

That cycle has repeated through most of June. It could be because they are nesting and raising broods, but I don’t recall previous years being like this.

So, this post has photos from a gloomy and dark day . . . perfect opportunity for me to play with the latest version of Lightroom’s masking feature. For them not familiar with the parlance, masking refers to selectively working on specific portions of a photo. Using masking, you could brighten (dodging) one area of a photo while darkening (burning) a different area of the same photo.

I seldom engage in dodging and burning. I usually do global adjustments to bring out details from underexposed and overexposed areas, and to balance tones and colors. However, having been reminded real photographers (Ansel Adams, oneowner) make extensive use of masking, dodging, and burning, I decided to play with these photos as a way to learn the new tools.

Here’s what the original of the above photo looks like (Shutter speed 1/2000 at f/9.0, and ISO 1100 with a zoom of 300mm or 450mm equivalent).

Now, there are challenges in masking and dodging and burning photos with high-contrast areas because — as you can see in the next photo — you can get a halo effect at the transition boundary between dark and light. Usually, this is due to the mask ‘spilling’ past the subject in question.

You can see the ‘halo’ around the beak and the underside of the bird.

The above is a “select subject” mask, where Lightroom decides what the subject is and masks it for you. It does a remarkably good and quick job of it, but not perfect.

In this next photo, I also let Lightroom select the subject, but then I ‘subtracted’ from its mask using a brush to clean up the boundaries of any spillover and to modify difficult areas around the feet and tail.

This particular photo has three masks.

The first mask is the subject as selected by Lightroom. The second mask subtracts from the first mask based on a color sampling of the background (the gray siding). The third mask subtracts from the first mask manually (me using a brush tool).

This is a lot of jargon that won’t interest most readers but is here for them who might be interested in the tools.

These next photos go back to having a bit of a halo and that’s because I also added a luminance mask to try and bring out details of the throat feathers and I forgot to pay attention to the other masks.

The boundaries of the wings in motion are difficult to clean up because the feathers are not clearly defined due to the motion.

While the automatic selection algorithms are pretty good, cleaning the spill-over is a bit tedious. I ended up working at 400X magnification and had to resort to using my Wacom tablet and pen for accurate detail editing of the mask boundaries. This next photo is a little better but the boundary between the bird and the background is still a bit too sharp. It makes it look like a pasted a bird from another photo into this photo.

You would think I would get better with each subsequent photo, but seeing as I was learning the tools and working out how to edit masks, mask settings, and modify existing masks, I wasn’t concentrating as much on the results. I mean, I was looking at the results, but not as a primary concern.

That said, the photos aren’t too bad, and better than I could do using global adjustments (which I also tried).

This shot has less aggressive processing

Anyway, let me show you two different versions of the same photo . . .

Version 1
Version 2

You can better compare them in the slideshow, but for now, onward to my favorite shot of this series and one that — as far as processing — turned out better than most, in no small part because the wing is perfectly frozen and the body is turned. Again, two versions of the same photo.

Version 1
Version 2

One more photo from this series before offering the slideshow of the above.

Version 2

Here’s the slideshow of the above photos: LINK.

This next series goes back to global adjustments. The original are run through DxO PureRAW to clean up the noise, then through Luminar AI, then some touchups in Lightroom if needed. Again, all global sliders instead of masking and targeted adjustments.

A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird eyeing a usurper.
. . . cautiously approaching the landing . . .
. . . NOPE!

There are six more shots of her thinking about landing . . . before she flew off. They’re not all that interesting (but still decent shots), but the above and the extra shots are all included in the slideshow for this series: LINK.

Lastly, I finish with one of my favorite activities. A relatively easy one, this time. Yup! . . . it’s ‘find the hummingbird’ time!

If you can’t see it above, click the photo for a larger version. If you still can’t see it, the original size is at the end of THIS SmugMug Gallery.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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