Common Raven – Friday Photos

Common Raven on the causeway to Antelope Island

  Common Raven on the causeway to Antelope Island – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Ravens hold a special place in my heart because they are smart (actually brilliant for birds), collectors of things shiny and/or odd, they let you know about their presence with hoarse croaking sounds and they are very amusing to observe and photograph.

Edgar Allan Poe considered them creepy, Native American’s regard them as tricksters and have marvelous stories about the birds.  Me; I like them a lot.

They are a challenge to photograph and expose properly because of their dark feathers and features. Earlier this week I spotted a Common Raven perched on a rock on the north side of the Antelope Island causeway, it turned out to be a very cooperative subject by staying perched on the rock for a period of about 15 minutes which allowed me to use different EV compensation settings and apertures.

The issues with exposing this bird correctly  were the lightness of the rock it was perched on and the light blue of the Great Salt Lake in the background. I needed to raise my EV compensation by +.07 to expose the blacks of the bird so details could be seen in the plumage but that left some areas of the rock a bit bright. I’ve found it easier to reduce exposure in light areas while post processing rather than trying to make dark tones lighter as that can introduce unnecessary noise in the dark areas. When I processed this file I brought the dark tones up slightly in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw), after that in Adobe Photoshop I selectively masked the perch and then brought the exposure down on just the rock.

What I liked most about this image in particular was the head angle and how the light showed the shiny iridescence of the Raven’s plumage.  I also like the nice clean background.

Earlier in this post I mentioned that Common Ravens are “collectors of things shiny and/or odd” and I wanted to provide an example of that. A few days before I photographed the Common Raven above I was out on Antelope Island and there were about 8 birds floating around in the wind near the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake over a sagebrush covered hill. I had been trying to photograph the ravens in flight when I noticed that one of the birds appeared to be carrying something in its feet. I knew the light angle was not the best but I took some shots anyway so that I could see what it was the raven had in its feet. When I got home and reviewed those images on my screen I was amused and puzzled at the same time. I had guessed from the pinkish color of the object that it might have been a very young vole, I was wrong! Way wrong.

Common Raven with a Paddleball ball?

 Common Raven with a Paddleball ball?

I believe that the object the Common Raven was a ball from the children’s game “Paddleball”, it wasn’t a vole at all. I remember playing with Paddleball when I was a child. The puzzling thing; for me anyway, was where did the Common Raven find a Paddleball ball on Antelope Island or how it found it at all in the abundant grasses and sagebrush.

Pretty amazing “collector”!



  1. bsenske November 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Mia, have you read the discussion of how to use the histogram when photographing light or dark subjects. A large portion of the 30 megs or so of raw data are in the center quarter of the histogram. Therefore there is less resolution on the edges of the histrgram. So they suggest that you modify the exposure value to move the histogram of your subject away from its edge. for instance over expose the dark subject and underexpose the light subject, Then if you want to take a perfect exposure of everything else. CS5 photoshop has a way to combine the shots to get the best of both. One of the dilemmas is that a crow or raven have reflected light that makes them look white on some of their feathers. I dont know how to handle this one because if you overexpose the black then the reflected light is going to be totally burned out. Great discussion of all this in the book “Photoshop cs5 for nature pphotographers”

    • Mia McPherson November 5, 2011 at 7:35 pm

      Bill, if bracketing and then using HDR to merge the images is what you are referring too it doesn’t always work well with birds because they or their feathers move, even if imperceptibly. I try to get the darks exposed well then I can bring down anything that is too bright.

  2. Garen Johnson November 4, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    LOL! CHeckout the beak on that thing!!

    • Mia McPherson November 4, 2011 at 12:56 pm

      Yes, they do have big beaks!

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