Northern Harrier Fly By

Critique Style Requested: Initial Reaction

Please share your immediate response to the image before reading the photographer’s intent (obscured text below) or other comments. The photographer seeks a genuinely unbiased first impression.

Questions to guide your feedback

Do you have an emotional response to this photo?

Other Information

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Image Description

This northern harrier popped out of the marsh and flew past me. This is the shot I had been looking for! Usually, the harriers are too far away and against a complicated background. I captured more detailed shots but fell in love with this one with the eye contact.

Technical Details

Canon R5 and RF 100 to 500 @ 500 mm
f10 1/2000 ISO 800

Specific Feedback

Does the eye contact from the bird override the mediocre sharpness? Does it matter that there is only light captured in one eye?

First Reaction: Great flight angle, but a bit soft.

I do love the eye contact and the one eye lit, works just fine for me. If I view it from a reasonable distance the softness isn’t disturbing.

My first thought was this is a great shot because the harrier is not only coming towards the viewer, but looking at the viewer. Also, I like the setting-the colors work well with the harrier. It is a bit soft, but not too bad, and there may be some tricks in PS to help improve the sharpness. Overall, great capture.

Very nice capture. As others have mentioned, the bird coming at you (the most difficult to execute of all bird photographs) is really what caught my attention. I suspect that accounts for the bit of softness as the AF tried to lock on. Still, it’s a fine capture.

Hi Robena,

Awesome in-flight image, especially with the eye contact.
Love the BG too!!

@Dennis_Plank, @Allen_Brooks, @terryb, Let me know what you think of the below edit for added clarity.
Too much?
Not enough?
Not OK?

@Merv and @Robena.Sirett

Merv’s edit for added clarity does provide a bit of an illusion of sharpness and works well at the preview size, but when I click to the larger image, it becomes pretty obvious to my eye. It’s one of those tricky things where you almost have to know how far away the viewer is going to have to be. I don’t know if you’ve tried one of the AI sharpen packages to see if that will help. When I have this problem, I’ll often go with a looser composition to keep the bird smaller in the frame and cross my fingers that it will work.

Hi Dennis,

This was the reason I didn’t go ahead with providing information on how it was done, and, I’m waiting on my new 2K resolution monitors so I’m a bit handicapped there.
That makes me curious, what resolution is your monitor, is it 2K or 4K or higher?

I do see this edit as “AI plasticizing” it to a degree to create the illusion of sharp but it may not be an acceptable method to a critical eye.
And as you say, viewing distance plays a huge role in IQ.

Robena, I love this image, partially because I have a few similar and they’re similarly soft. :slightly_smiling_face:

This is one of those emotional images, it speaks to you. You got the shot. And that’s enough to keep it.

I will say that I have started to use DXO PhotoLab to preprocess my bird images. They also have an app called PureRaw that essentially takes your raw image, runs it through their noise reduction and sharpening processes. I am sure your camera and lens are included in their system. They provide a free trial and you might be surprised at the level of detail and sharpness they can pull out. They have a huge amount of data on tons of lenses and cameras and are able to specifically target the limitations. PureRaw will take your raw file, process it and create a .dng file (still raw) that you can then process in Lightroom or whatever your favorite raw processor is.

I love this image, so it might be worth taking a stab at PureRaw.


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As an example, this image was totally lost until I ran it through DXO’s software. It’s ISO 6400, the image was soft probably because I am still not too steady with my bird-in-flight technique. I can’t show the before, because I deleted it. But here’s the after. Pretty happy.

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Robena, just wanting to say that I’m not trying to hijack your thread, I’m just exploring ways to help you with alternate IQ methods (which may or may not be a valid way).
What software do you use for processing RAW files? Lr, ACR, other?
And Topaz or other for noise reduction and sharpening?

Thank you!

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Thank you all @Dennis_Plank @Allen_Brooks @terryb @Merv and @David_Bostock for taking the time for your very useful responses. I like the edits you did Merv and I think might work well if I was printing and hanging it on a wall…which gives the distance that Dennis suggests.

I don’t at all feel hijacked by the discussion of sharpening/NR software…I have been researching what to do. I have been using LR (the “mobile” version not Classic) as have been interested in the storage offered by Adobe and not PS. I have been playing with the Topaz AI free trial and will now look at DXO PureRaw. The workflow appears to be complicated with Lightroom Mobile not having plugins…so I might have to upgrade my plan.

I like your harrier shot David, it is amazing what the software can do to image quality. As far as I can tell it seems to be standard now to use NR/sharpening software. (So seems valid to me.)

I’m glad that you like the results and Dennis has a very good point concerning viewing distance and to be honest, it’s a point that sometimes falls to the wayside for me so I’m glad he mentioned it.

If you do upgrade to the classic version (as you mentioned you might), that will get you Ps in the same package and Ps also comes with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) which is almost identical to Lr but with less fine tuning controls.
I find ACR useful for color editing on jpeg or tiff files that I don’t want to run through my Lr filing system (Lr catalog) (mostly edits I do for NPN members).
But don’t let me influence your decision making process, I’m only sharing what I use, I haven’t tried any others so I can’t be informative there.

The edit I did on your image was done with the “High Pass Filter” in Ps (Filter>Other>High Pass Filter is the steps to find it if or when you get PS) then just use Overlay as the blend mode.
There are a few videos on YouTube on using the High Pass Filter if and when you want to explore that tool.

As for Topaz, I take it you are testing the Topaz Photo AI all in one version? (as opposed to the individual Denoise AI and Sharpen AI plug-ins?) If so, you may not want that all in one version, I tried that one for a while and it didn’t do well at all, not many ways to control the strengths or quality and the outcome didn’t seem consistent IMHO.
Topaz traded with me no questions asked, which tells me they know that the pro type people aren’t too happy with that version, it’s probably fine for snap shot style photography though, so, there is a market for that I suppose.
I traded with Topaz for the individual plug-ins (Denoise AI and Sharpen AI) and I like those MUCH better, there is a lot more control over the process and the transfer back to Lr.
BIG difference between them.
You could also try the 30 day trial on their individual plug-in versions as well.

And since you don’t have the paid version of Topaz yet, consider giving DXO PhotoLab’s trial version a run before you make the final decision.

Anyway, I hope I was able to help in some small way (rather than muddy the water so to speak).

Again, Awesome image of the Harrier! I’d be very proud of it! :slight_smile:

Thanks very much for the added info…very interesting about the Topaz AI combo…I will definitely try the free trials suggested.

I’m late to the game here but I’ll just add another vote for DXO Pure Raw 3 as @David_Bostock mentions for Raw conversion.


Typical Harrier pose, well done! As to the overall quality, I think you biggest challenge is the light, that seems quite harsh to me. If you have the chance, I would try again with less light. Lovely setting for the bird! Cheers. Hans

Good point Hans! You are right it was a bright morning and the sun was getting high…will have to start setting my alarm for spring!