Indigo Bunting returns to the Sunflower Field!

The McKee Bershers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville Maryland is a 4,000 acre reserve where corn, buckwheat, and sunflowers are planted for pollinators and wildlife. The birds remain throughout the summer to feed on the developing seeds, but there’s a three to four week window when the fields are in full bloom, drawing numbers of photographers and birdwatchers to enjoy the brilliant colors.

This guy kept diving from one side to the next, and then settled into a prime location where I was able to get a clear shot. They are difficult targets. I was fortunate that he stood still for precisely 1/320"

This was a great photo to practice with color balance RGB as well as the developmental diffuse or sharpen module. Getting his bright blue feather coat to look right without overdoing it was a challenge. Enjoy!

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Don’t know if my colors are accurate, but I like. Some crazy masking going on in your edit. I only used one on the head. On your photo, the head-mask makes a thin bright halo. And I’ve never thought about masking in the NR, since I barely use masks at all. But I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks for sharing your edit.

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Tough one. Thanks for sharing.


Thanks for posting
darktable 3.6

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There’s a not so nice halo around birdie. Try to increase the “feathering radius” of the mask to around 30. Or “mask blur”. Or both.


@apostel338 - I did get a little lazy with the head, which resulted in that halo. The colors are hard on this bird because in real life the feathers are almost iridescent to the point that they dramatically change under different lighting.

The males are a deep consistent blue in the summertime, while the females are light brown. I encounter a problem where Filmic’s design desaturates the brighter part of the bird, which detracts from that consistent hue, so I need to compensate with the shadows/highlights balance.

I frequently mask around birds to avoid losing fine feather detail, and similarly I invert that mask to emphasize contrast on the subject. It seems to work for me, but I’m always up for suggestions.

@Jean-Marc_Digne and @Jade_NL - I like both of your edits. One area I struggle with is getting the greenery right without looking too yellow or blue and to avoid excess chroma (aka "colors from another planet). I think your approaches capture the bird’s hue as I remember it and the foliage seems subdued and natural.

I always learn something from you all, and I appreciate that!

Makes sense. I think, Topaz Denoise AI (and propably others) has modes that work similar, to preserve detail in places where noise is not particularly distracting or noticeable.

Just for kicks blend filmic in lightness you will get less desaturation…

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Using the threshold option now makes this easier to direct the mask at or away from detail…

Nice shot! A more “artistic” approach.

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This is where the channel mixer can shine also the brightness and colorfulness tabs of color calibration…dropping the brightness of green or blue in CC can help and also add contrast…

It may not be often spoken about now either but a nice way to edit is some times with the color lookup table…Just use the picker to select a color or go directly to say the green patches and you can change luma, sat and a and b channel…its quite effective esp with blue skies as well just to tone them down or bump them up…you can likely do it more "appropriately " in color balance rgb but the CLU module works really nicely too…and its easy and you can often get away without masking…

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Yes, and that performs wonders for modules like local contrast and sharpening, but I was reminded that it won’t work for denoise because because the details threshold can’t distinguish between noise and legitimate high frequency detail.

I like that! It really captures the early morning feel.

That’s interesting, but how does that affect the pipeline?

Not the gospel but I think it just minimized any desaturation introduced by filmic…it can show up nicely in a washed out sky. I like the look…EDIT on this photo try just initial DT settings filmic+ lens and then maybe what 1.5-2 ev exposure…now if you set the relative white with the picker or tweak it the flower has some highlights that need addressed…if you crank up white relative to reel them in the picture is quite muted…you can tweak filmic to get a result but instead …settings shown in the screen shot…if you blend in lightness you get nice yellow in the flowers…I usually use no or Euclidean for color preservation…this shot is with no…the saturation on the bird looks better to me also …then you can move on and edit as usual…

normal blend


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My attempt, tried to add some purples, fun shot.

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very pretty bird. the following is a vkdt render, no masks or anything really, but using an input device transform based on spectral sensitivity curves:

here that helps to balance the blue and the green. adjusting white balance would otherwise render the greens in weird cyan tones or the bird not as saturated. interestingly here the difference to an input matrix is more in the greens, not so much in the blue. i white balanced a bit to remove some green and add more blue.

the blue is so saturated though, that i can dial out the saturation a fair bit before it even changes on screen:


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dt 3.6

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