Owl at dusk

I have been photographing this owl for the past couple of months. It’s fast and wary of people but occasionally it will sit on a post like this one for a few seconds.
I am using a micro-four thirds camera, the owl is about 40 yards away and it’s late afternoon on the cusp of getting dark, so I’m right up against it in terms of shutter speed, ISO and sensor noise…even before the drastic crop!
I have managed to get it to look like the jpeg, which given the circumstances I am quite pleased with (using Lightroom and Topaz de-noise). But I’m interested to see if anyone knows any other tricks for pulling a little more quality from the RAW file.
Lumix G9
Pansonic 100-400 @ 400mm
ISO 1600

Raw File

P1062636.RW2 (23.1 MB)

You may only download this file to demonstrate how you would process the image. The file is Copyright of the photographer, and you must delete the raw file when you are done. Please post a jpg of what you created, along with an explanation of what you did and why you did it.

My Edit (click to see)


Here’s a version. I too shoot with a 4/3 system. I shoot with Olympus / OM Systems, but still the same sensor size. Don’t think for a second that your system isn’t capable of pulling these kinds of shots off.

For this version here is what I did:

1). Took your RAW file to DXO Pure Raw 2, produced a DNG as output.
2) Opened that DNG in ACR, Hit Auto on the exposure (just to make it quick and easy - not my normal processing), set Vibrance and Saturation back to zero. Changed the profile to Camera Scenery (one of the Camera Matching Profiles for Panasonic).
3) Created a Subject mask on the owl, added a touch of Texture and Clarity.
4) Opened that in PS, Cropped as shown.
5) Output the Jpeg.

If you have not used DXO Pure RAW 2, you should give a free trial.

I would have gone in and cloned out a couple of sticks, but I wanted you to see the same owl processed with this method without other changes in front of the owl.

Thanks Keith, this is impressive, it has a richness to it that I didn’t get. I will look at DXO Pure RAW 2.
A quick questions if you don’t mind.
1 Was your first step in DXO just to produce a DNG?

Yes I agree about the cloning, I will do that when I get it looking as good as yours.

Yes. DXO Pure RAW 2 has no processing options. You just choose which NR method (DeepPrime is the only way to go) and process. It creates a DNG and by default saves it in a DXO subfolder under the original RAW file.

1 Like

A really nice image, Ryan and @Keith_Bauer processing took it to the next level. I’ve lived in my current location more than 20 years with lots of owls around, and have never captured a photo of one! I could only hope to get a photo as good as this. Nicely seen and captured.

So thanks again Keith, you have improved it, I will now get the free trial and do some comparisons with the Topaz that I currently have.
Thanks for the comment Terry, I’m lucky that this owl is quite obliging and very reliable, pretty much every day at 3.30pm!
As the days draw out I am hoping that it will keep to it’s early flying so I get a bit more light.

Hey Ryan, So glad you dropped this image as a challenge. I know I can’t do better than @Keith_Bauer but here’s my try:

I use Capture One and I:

  • Did basic adjustments - exposure, highlights/shadows, color balance…and added a bit of contrast
  • Added some softness to the background using a reverse clarity brush
  • Added a touch of detail on the bird
  • Dodged the eyes to bring them out a bit more
  • Added a layer to further reduce the highlights
  • Cropped

Great image to work with, thanks for playing Ryan.

Thanks David, I’m impressed, the white balance looks spot-on and the detail in the mouse is great.
So how do you deal with noise in your workflow? I use Topaz but Keith has flagged up DXO
Thanks for the work on this, it’s good learning.

I just want to give my personal testimonial around DXO Pure RAW. David Kingham turned me onto it about a year ago. I use the Fuji X system and up until then DXO wasn’t able to convert within that system. But they finally did catch up and , boy, what a treat. There are rare occasions when I don’t use it - if I want the image to be soft or abstracted. But 99% of the time that’s how I convert my RAW files. It is strange. It feels like unless you blow the image up to 100% and view it against the original side by side, you can’t see the difference. And yet the micro sharpening really makes a difference in terms of the final output. I heartily recommend it, especially if you print large.

Hi Ryan
I just wanted to comment on DXO Pure Raw 2. I use DXO PhotLab 6 for my photo processing and DXO De-noising Technologies is part of the processing software. You can set the level of de-noise from High Quality to DeepPrime XD. For ISO above 5,000 I use the DeepPrime XD setting.

Thanks Kerry, I’m going to start my trial of DXO this week. Ryan

Thanks Peter