Black-Browed Albatross

Written by: | Date:
Week 6

Learn how the pro photographer Peter Eastway uses Capture One Filmstrip Viewer to quickly find the best shot of an albatross passing by the Falkland Islands. See for yourself:

http://www.betterphotography.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=565:albatross-west-point-island&catid=68:capture-one-processing&Itemid=153

I’m not an expert wildlife photographer, but I love photographing wildlife! And they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and I know enough to know I’m just a beginner when it comes to fauna and flora.

As with so many genres of photography, to be a true expert requires thousands of hours in the field and, for wildlife, a good understanding and knowledge of your subject is a great help. I know next to nothing about birds, least of all the majestic Black-Browed Albatross. Its huge wing span is deceptive and it isn’t until you’re up close to these birds that you realise just how large and impressive they really are.

The cliffs of West Point Island, Falkland Islands

As part of my Antarctica circuit with Peregrine Expeditions, we left Ushuaia in Argentina and sailed north east to the Falkland Islands. The Falklands is an amazing group of hundreds of tiny islets, many only a kilometre or so wide. Some are almost completely flat, others have towering cliffs, many are inhabited. One wonders what people do to survive as the nearest town (Stanley, the capital of the Falklands) can be easily a day away by boat!

And the weather is so changeable that you simply can’t predict it. During our few hours on West Point Island, we experienced rain, hail, snow and brilliant sunshine. It was wonderful!

Looking across the bay to the tiny farm on West Point Island

West Point Island has a generous harbour around which the four or so farm dwellings stand, but it is on the other side of the island where the Black-Browed Albatross has its colony. It’s possible to get remarkably close to the birds’ nests, but there are strict rules against approaching too closely.

One thing that’s certain on these expeditions is that you can never get intentionally lost. This is because most of the passengers are wearing bright red suits to keep out the elements. I guess the birds have become used to the strange crimson characters that walk carefully around the outskirts of their colony!

I found a spot on the edge of a cliff looking over the colony and the sea below. Every now and then an albatross would glide effortlessly past and so I set myself the task of tracking the birds with my camera and lens. I used a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III with a 300mm f2.8 telephoto. The combination feels a little heavy towards the end of the day, but the results are spectacularly good.

What I enjoyed the most sitting on the cliff edge was the opportunity from time to time to look down on the albatross. So rarely am I above birds that I found myself intentionally waiting for one of the huge albatross to soar below. It’s not the perfect shot, but I like the way the broken water and cliff edges are slightly blurred. The only element within the frame that is tack sharp is the albatross – the 300mm f2.8 is very good wide-open and the 1/2500 second shutter speed (helped with the lens’s Image Stabilization) ensured there was no motion blur either.

The Film Strip mode in Capture One makes sorting your files very expedient.

Of course, not every photograph I took was a winner. In fact, my success ratio was particularly poor, which is why I like the Filmstrip Viewer in Capture One – it lets me slide through my photos and I press ‘3’ every time I think I have a good one. Once rated, I can have a closer look later on!

To show how I worked on this file in Capture One, I’ve made a little video which you can access here on the Better Photography website.

Peter Eastway is a professional photographer and photography magazine publisher based in Sydney, Australia. To see more of his photography, visit www.petereastway.com. Peter also offers an online Landscape Photography MasterClass. Details can be found at www.betterphotography.com.

Another angle of the amazing black-browed albatross

Peter Eastway

Peter Eastway

Peter Eastway’s passion is undoubtedly for landscape photography, but he is equally comfortable with portraiture, advertising and travel. He is currently an AIPP Grand Master of Photography, one of only a dozen in Australia and earned from a career spanning over 30 years.

5 thoughts on “Black-Browed Albatross

  1. Neil

    Thanks Peter. I envy you your experience at the Falklands, tho your shots here remind me of the Furneau Group in Bass Straight. I lived on Clark Island for half a year – the only (human) resident for a lot of that time! You can always work a bit of magic with your PP (I’ve seen a lot of your work in mags), so I’m looking forward to watching what you do with these images!

    Neil

    Reply
  2. Jensen

    Staying with the technique, I still find the overuse of the Clarity slider most obtrusive. Bad lighting conditions I think. With this halo-effect around the bird in the top image it could as well be a sandwich made from two images. Of course it isn’t. But why wait on location for a rare combination when it can be questioned in this way. In my opinion the Clarity function is most unpredictable. It might seem correctly dosed at first, but if contrast increasing functions are used later, the haloes pop out and say “hello there, the contrast of this image is locked as is – back to the drawing board”.

    Reply
  3. Peter Eastway

    Thanks for the comments – I can agree that the halo looks a little overcooked for the discerning audience that visits this website, but it may still pass for general consumption. On the video (visited by the link), I explain how you can adjust the clarity to taste – I am thinking Jensen’s taste would be less or perhaps none, or perhaps a smaller mask could also work so the clarity effect doesn’t spill over onto the background… All good points – thanks!

    Reply
  4. Jensen

    Yes, using exact masks helps! Exact masks can..! be obtained in Capture One too. For the sake of quality this part of the work should include the time it takes to move a mask from “general” to excellent quality.
    Using the Clarity function, masking may be the core problem, as edges are detected automaticly, and contrast is in- or decreased in bands. This is of course more an issue for the good professor and future quality-experiments.

    Reply

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