Prairie Falcon

What Your Eyes See and Your Camera Records

What you and your camera see are not the same. 

When taking photos, there have been many times, what I saw with my eyes did not exactly match what my camera recorded. Usually,  the camera records details I never noticed, such as a bird blinking its eye or a distracting element in the background. If I set my camera’s shutter speed to 1/4000 of a second, I can freeze the wing of a hummingbird, where my eyes only see a blur of tiny feathers.

But sometimes the opposite is true. When metering off the bright sun while trying to capture a sunset, the camera often underexposes the foreground and the resulting images looks dark, compared to what I saw with my eyes.

If we were to consider situations where our pupil opens and closes for different brightness regions our eyes far surpass the capabilities of a single camera image (and can have a range exceeding 24 f-stops).

While walking around the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, I saw this Prairie Falcon streaking across the sky. I knew I had less than 5 seconds to capture the bird before it disappeared. Luckily, I had just been shooting a Black-crowned Night Heron in flight, so my shutter speed, aperture and focus point were already set. I wanted to make sure the falcon was not too dark, so I spun the exposure compensation wheel  to +1.

I was able capture a fairly sharp, properly exposed image of the bird and get the nearby mountains in the shot. However, by metering off the falcon the mountains and sky were overexposed and lost most of their color.

In post, I darkened and added saturation to the mountains and sky to bring back what my 24 f -stops eyes saw, but the camera could not record.

Camera Sony A6600

Lens Model: Sony FE 200–600mm F5.6–6.3 G OSS
Exposure Bias Value: 1
Exposure Mode: Auto exposure
Exposure Program: Aperture priority
Exposure Time: 1/2000
FNumber: 7.1
Focal Length: 600
(ISO): 640

Metering Mode: Pattern

Prairie Flacon - unedited
Prairie Flacon

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