Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Just what colour is the Hume's/Yellow-browed warbler?

A couple of people have commented that my pictures of the Hume's/YB warbler show the bird to be brighter and more coloured than they have seen in other pictures and perhaps than they remembered it. I must admit that my initial impression was of a bird that was noticeably  duller than the other YBs I have seen (though there have not been many) so the colour/brightness of my shots were a bit of a surprise. I did have a lot of dull shots (un-published) but these were when the bird was in a sub-optimal position with respect to pose and light direction and possibly exposure.

I shoot (Canon 7D) using auto-white balance and more often than not I adjust the white balance to try and better match the colours in the image with those I remember (or to be closer to the colours depicted in my field guides). This can be done by selecting "daylight", "cloud", "shade",or choosing a temperature. (For the record  Canon daylight corresponds to something around 5200K whereas with my Sony daylight seems to be around 5600K).
When I processed these shots originally I chose to use 5200K as the reference temperature.
In the following images I have kept everything identical except the temperature so you can see the impact it has on the appearance of the critter.

As Shot

As originally posted (5200K)
At 4000K
At 4400K
At 4800K
At 5200K again
At 5600K

The picture was taken at 9.30 am on a bright sunny morning and the bird was in a near perfect position - about 10 feet up with the light directly behind me. The low level of the sun at this time of year will impart a yellow cast to the picture so the final representation is down to taste as much as anything.

To me the 4000 and 4400K shots are too cold given the conditions irrespective of what I thought the bird looked like - though I have to admit I like the look of the 4400K picture! To me the  4800K, "as shot" and  and 5200K all look acceptable though the "as shot" looks a little brown on the mantle for my taste. 5600K doesn't look that bad either but it's getting a little too warm.

I'm sitting on the fence wrt just what the bird is because I just don't have the knowledge /experience to do otherwise. I only post these shots to show that the "colour" of a bird can be pretty subjective. It will change depending on the lighting conditions and on how you choose to process it.

Who said the camera never lies!!!


  1. Steve, obviously the sunlight will make the images warmer giving a more colourful look just as in drab dull conditions it will give you a cold and colourless image. I find Canon's auto white balance normally gets it right but if it’s a little out then it’s easily corrected in RAW. Also I find the temperature settings in DPP (Canon raw) to be a lot different than when using the same in Adobe RAW and if you processed the same image at 5200K in each programme I find the DPP gives a slight green tinge to the finished result and then has to be corrected with the colour tone setting. I personally prefer to change the temperature in Adobe if it is required. One thing is for sure, it’s a dull drab boring little ball of feathers and it did not take me long before I was attracted to the more brightly coloured Parrots. I love Parrots.

    1. Steve,

      Thanks for the comments.

      I don't use Adobe for the raw conversion or I should say I haven't tried it to compare colour rendition though I have used it to see what it does to the 7D's noise problem.
      When I first started shooting in raw I was using my Sony and on some shots Adobe was truly dreadful and I just couldn't get it right whereas Sony raw converter handled it it should. Since then I've used the manufacturers own raw conversion software for colours and adjust exposure and sharpness etc in Photoshop..
      Using DPP (Canon's software for those who don;t know Canon) I occasionally adjust the red/green/blue to get what I think the colours should look like but that's to deliver what I prefer. In these cases I would normally either decrease the green or increase the blue - the results appear (to me) to be similar. But I stress this is to get an image I like the look of; just how real it is is another issue.