Gray Partridges in Snow and Low Light – Frustrations in Bird Photography

/, Box Elder County, Gray Partridges, Utah/Gray Partridges in Snow and Low Light – Frustrations in Bird Photography

Low light Gray Partridge in snowLow light Gray Partridge in snow – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 1000, +2.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I mentioned in my Rough-legged Hawk post yesterday that I saw plenty of birds when I was up north and that the light wasn’t all that great at times. I saw Bald and Golden Eagles, Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Harriers, Prairie Falcons, American Kestrels, Horned Larks, Western Meadowlarks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Turkeys, Chukars, Ring-necked Pheasants and Gray Partridges. I may have forgotten a species or two.

The surprise birds of the day were Gray Partridges in an area where I hadn’t seen them before and they were feeding close to the edge of the road.

I tried a few test shots to get my exposure set because the light was low and I was surprised that I had to bump my exposure up as high as I did to get the birds exposed well in the snowy setting. Not one of the images that I took showed that the whites were blown out on the histogram on my LCD screen so I started to photograph the partridges as they moved around on top of the snow and down snow banks. The exposure of the birds looked good on my camera’s LCD screen and when I zoomed in on a few of the images I could tell they were sharp, the colors in the feathers were vibrant and I could see nice details in the plumages of the partridges.

Gray Partridge walking down a bank of snowGray Partridge walking down a bank of snow – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 1000, +2.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

When I got home and uploaded the files to my computer and viewed them on my screen I was so disappointed because even though not one of the images was overexposed I couldn’t see much detail at all in the snow, it was as if I had taken these images on a sheet of white paper in a studio.

I do as little post processing in Photoshop as possible on almost all of my images because in the field I do my best to get the images I am striving for. I love taking images, I don’t love sitting in front of my computer editing.

I felt like these partridge images were worth a little more time spent post processing them to see if I could tease a small amount of details out of the snow. I played around with the dehaze slider in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) and then adjusted some of the mid-tones of the snow in a levels layer, brought down the exposure of the snow and I was able to bring out a few of those details. Not much, but they are there.

Gray Partridge walking in snowGray Partridge walking in snow – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 1000, +2.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I’m not sure why the original files lacked detail in the snow, they weren’t over exposed, the details should have been visible right out of the camera.

I wish the light had been as bright when I photographed these partridges as it had been when I photographed the Rough-legged Hawk then I wouldn’t have needed to spend time teasing out the details in the snow in these images.

But light varies and bird photography isn’t always easy, it isn’t a cake walk. I think these Gray Partridge photos turned out okay.

Life is good.



  1. Pepe Forte February 15, 2017 at 12:22 am

    Really terrific. What a study in contrasts! Detail is extraordinary. Thanks.

  2. Humming bird lover February 8, 2017 at 8:34 am

    HI! You are superb in every way! The color on the birds are so bright! and nothing wrong With the snow background! I love all your photo’s! I envy you in the snow!

    Love you much Mom

  3. Ed MacKerrow February 8, 2017 at 7:07 am

    Beautiful photos Mia. I was not really aware of Gray Partridges, your great images of them perked my interest. I read they can have clutches of up to 22 young, averaging around 18. That would be a site to see! It sounds like you were on the cusp of just blowing out the snow background, versus getting detail in the snow. Personally I think your photos look great as they are.

  4. Mia McPherson February 8, 2017 at 6:24 am

    Thank you all for your kind comments and for the birthday wishes too.

  5. Utahbooklover February 7, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Great work and wonderful results. I really like the first one. Patty says it’s your birthday. If so, happy birthday!

  6. KJ February 7, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    They look spectacular to me! What gorgeous birds!

  7. Bill Richmond February 7, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Excellent Mia

  8. Rosemary Harris February 7, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Great images and I like the last one the best.

  9. Patty Chadwick February 7, 2017 at 10:06 am

    Just looking at these beautiful images again…can’t see how they could possibly be better….

  10. Azstu February 7, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Your hallmark for me has always been attention to detail. And these show just how amazing that detail can get. Superlative

    • Azstu February 7, 2017 at 9:44 am

      …and,, Happy Birthday !

  11. Patty Chadwick February 7, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Beautiful, beautiful images!!!! Love the colors against the snowy background!!! Love the various postures and poses, too,especially the skiing and the strut…BUT, MOST OF ALL–HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!! I wish you good health, happiness, good light, clean air, lots of cooperative subjects, cooperative gear, and political correction!!!!

  12. Jane Chesebrough February 7, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Great detail on the Partridge and feather colour appears vibrant.Love this bird’s markings.

  13. S. Hansen February 7, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Best shots of the species I’ve seen. Thanks for taking the time to process them to this great result.

  14. Liz Cormack February 7, 2017 at 7:22 am

    What beautiful birds.

  15. Glen Fox February 7, 2017 at 7:20 am

    Gorgeous photos Mia. Very tricky exposure. What happens if you pull the Highlights slider way over to the left and then open up the shadows, if necessary, with the Shadows slider. Your exposure in camera was dead perfect. This is stretching the dynamic range of any camera!

  16. Steven Kessel February 7, 2017 at 6:59 am

    Better than ok! Also, if you’d shot these birds in direct sunlight you would have almost certainly had images that completely blew out the snow, if you’d exposed correctly for the birds. These are terrific images and the balance between the snow and the birds is just right in my opinion. I love how the neutral background accentuates the color in the partridges’ plumage. Great job.

  17. Kim February 7, 2017 at 6:55 am

    What a pretty little bird! I love seeing images of birds and wildlife that I don’t normally see here in FL. Thanks, always, for sharing!

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