Stabilize Wildlife Videos for Free!!!

There have been times when I captured a moment on video without a tripod and well…we all know what happens to such videos…they are too shaky to be useful.

In this video, I will share two methods to stabilize videos using the free version of DaVinci Resolve 18 and also look at one technique to get a clean background.

I will use a recent video of a Laggar Falcon feeding on a Spiny Tailed Lizard. After taking quite a few shots of this scene, I switched to video and leaned my back against a car to make myself as steady as possible.

No prizes for guessing how the video came out. This is the original footage from my Nikon D850 and this is what we will be working on in DaVinci Resolve.

You can get DaVinci Resolve (free version) from their site or download it from the Mac App Store on a Mac. Currently, I am using the free version downloaded from the Mac App Store.

I will not get into any details about using Resolve since there are plenty of tutorials around for it, instead, I will only go through the how-to when using Resolve.

For this example, we will use the default untitled project and then directly drop the video file on the Edit Panel in Resolve and take it from there…

Since audio is not required for this video, I will put the video in the media pool and then put only the video on the timeline for editing.

Basically, what we need is a “Camera Lock” which simulates a tripod so to speak.

Now, the first method to make this video rock solid and no shake.

Make sure the inspector window is open. First, select Stabilization and make sure that Zoom is off and the Camera Lock is checked. The Mode is something you can experiment with for your videos, for now, I will go with the default Perspective. Now if we click on the Stabilize button, Resolved will analyse the footage and select the centre point (generally) as the camera lock point.

We can see that the video is stable, but, the cropped-out edges need to be fixed. In this case, I will zoom into the video and adjust the crop and edges.

To do this, scroll up in the Inspector windows to the Transform option on the top. We will set the zoom to around 2 for this video and adjust the Y position to around -500 and the X position to -250.

This is as steady as a tripod or even better…

Now, in case this method does not work for your video, let us look at an alternate way of achieving the same using the Color Tab instead of the Edit Tab that we have been using for the first method.

The first thing we need to do is to figure out which part of the video we should choose for Resolve to track and stabilize. For this video, I will select this branch using a curve selection from the Window tab.

Right next to the Window, is the Tracker option. I will remove the 3D and Rotation…Maybe Zoom as well in the tracking options and do a Track forward and reverse so we cover the entire clip.

Now, we have the Stabilizer option right next to the Window Tracker. We will check the Camera Lock and remove the Zoom and click on Stabilize.

Now, just like in the first method, we have a rock-solid video and we need to use Sizing (instead of transform) to zoom in and fix the edges. -500 for Tilt and -150 for Pan while keeping the Zoom to 2.

That’s it. We now have a rock-stable video.

What if, like with our still images, we wanted a clean background in this video? Well…I have mentioned in some of the earlier videos that as long as you have the subject in the clear, the rest becomes easy. The same applies here.

Since our subject, the falcon, in this case, is in the clear, we can remove the tree branches from the video. Let’s see how this is done from the Color Tab in Resolve.

Add a serial node, add the alpha output and connect the new node to that. Now, we will make a selection of the branches to remove that area from the video. If there is a need to make multiple selections, then, you can keep adding serial nodes for each selection or use some other similar path.

Ideally, we should let Resolve track the selection, but, since we already have a stable video, this step is not really needed.

Now we go back to the Edit Page and add a select Paper from the Generators in the Effects menu. Expand the Paper to match the video clip and then move the Paper layer down. Now we just need to adjust the Gain for the Paper to match the background in this video.

That’s it. We have a stable video with a clean background!

Painterly and Artistic Effects in Bird Photography

Someone recently asked me online about how to create a painterly and also an artistic effect for bird photographs.

This video is all about these two points…

1. How to simply create a painterly effect

2. How to make it artistic

So, let’s take a look at a quick example of how to achieve both these goals in Photoshop.

I have selected a recent shot from my balcony for this purpose which should be good enough to illustrate the basics of how to achieve this goal.

Okay, so a “Command” or “Control” + “E” would take this image from Lightroom to Photoshop.

Now, as illustrated in earlier videos, we just do a basic cleanup on this image.

First, we duplicate the image which puts it on a layer and we retain a backup in case we need to re-do the process. Command + J is a shortcut for this. Now, we can make the background layer invisible since we do not require it anymore.

A command + 0 fits the image to the window for a better view…

A simple select subject, and mask out the subject. Just use the selection and brush tool to clean up rough edges. Maybe try the colour range selection as well, if needed.

Now, let us see how to simply create the painterly effect.

Select “Stylize” from the “Filters” menu and choose “Oil paint”. Feel free to play around with the settings in this dialog box.

You can always use the help built into Photoshop to find out more about the settings in this dialog and what each option does.

Once you are done with that, just press “Enter” or click “OK” and we have our “painterly” effect.

Now, what about the “artistic” effect?

As it turns out, the person who asked me about this was looking for multiple copies of the same image put together in different sizes.

This is how I went about it…

Just duplicate the layer we already have. Use the “Free Transform” from the “Edit” menu to modify the copied layer. You can make as many copies as you want and pretty much apply any kind of transforms to each.

The art and concept belong totally to you and what you choose to create!

This is just an example that I came up with just to illustrate the concept.

Of course, you can also try to “Oil Paint” one layer at a time to give them all a different artistic look.

That’s it for now…Have fun, till the next one!

Walk-around Birding – How To and Settings…

There are quite a few of us who indulge in walk-around birding. In short, we walk around parks and general birding hotspots and try to get whatever shots we can. For a vast majority, this happens on weekends.

I am just going to discuss one technique that I have learned over the years during my walk-around birding. This is about the settings I use on my camera and how.

Most of us already know that we can find birds just sitting around or ones that just fly past. We mostly miss out on the flypast ones. The shutter speed is the culprit in all these cases that I have seen so far (besides focus, but, that remains otherwise as well).

This is a technique that I have shared with my colleagues and friends which helps in dealing with such scenarios for the most part.

Generally, we would use slower shutter speeds for sitting birds than BIFs which would require a much higher shutter speed.

I will not get into which camera mode you choose to shoot in or if you use full manual or auto-ISO. The kind of metering mode you use will affect any “auto” that you use. That part is all yours.

The only mode in which you cannot use this technique is the Aperture Priority since this is based on shutter speed.

Personally, I use full manual (excepting for Auto-Focus and Auto-White Balance) and you can and use manual mode with Auto-ISO for similar results. I spend a lot of time round-tripping my shots from any new gear to figure out the response to light and distance and prefer to set the ISO manually instead of depending on the metering on the camera.

Now, when you are at the spot you want to start birding, just take a test shot to make sure that you have the camera working as expected.

Then, set the shutter speed to your favourite BIF speed. I generally use 1/1250, although, I have started using 1/1600 with my Nikon D850 and I will explain why in another video.

Now, take a test shot again and just make sure it is not too dark on the histogram of the LCD on the camera. I would not advise looking at the image to figure that out.

This is actually it!

Always walk-around with the camera set for BIFs. You will have enough time to reduce the shutter speed for still targets, but, if any bird flies past, you might not have the time to bump up the shutter speed at that moment.

Whenever you take a sitting bird shot, let us say with a shutter speed of around 1/640, make sure you switch right back to 1/1250 after that.

This process has two advantages…

1. You will generally be able to get birds in flight that pass by since your camera is already set for that.
2. For smaller/tiny birds, you would need a higher shutter speed even for sitting shots and even if you take those shots at 1/1250 or just one rotation of the shutter speed dial lower, you will still get them. Assuming you are working with the camera default settings of 1/3rd stops, a single rotation of the dial will set the shutter speed to 1/1000 which is good enough for most tiny birds.

To summarise, always keep your camera set to shoot BIFs. Change the shutter speed only when needed for sitting targets and switch back to the BIF settings right after that shot.

Last, but not least, is that you should keep your shutter speed to what works best for you for BIFs. The lowest reasonable speed from my experience is 1/1250. Feel free to go higher than that when needed. For example, small birds would be better at 1/1600, the tiny ones would require 1/2000 or even more.

Try out this technique and do drop in your experience with the same in the comments.

My Flickr stream has more images with the complete EXIF at Flickr in case anyone wants to look at the settings and the details related to the same.

Cleaning up Shadows in Wildlife Macros

Where there is light, there will be shadows!

In this short video, we will look at a different technique for cleaning up shadows in macro images using Lightroom range masks.

This technique can be adapted for other images as well. The final image can be seen on Flickr.

Let us look at an example to see how this is done…

Speed up Adobe Lightroom Classic

This is a little known technique that I wanted to share, but, kept forgetting 🙂

Basically, it’s not just Lightroom, this technique works for all disk/file intensive applications on the Mac and since Windows also indexes file, this would work on Windows as well.

Let’s take a brief look at how to speed up such applications on the Mac…

Adobe Lightroom Classic 10 Bug – Masking broken?

I generally use Lightroom for all my raw processing and avoid Photoshop unless I am replacing a sky or a similar composite.

One of the tools I use a lot in Lightroom is the Adjustment Brush and the AutoMask feature in that for edges.

Although I have updated to version 10 and therefore cannot show a side-by-side comparison, but, the change from the earlier version is quite visible even in normal masking.

Let’s take a brief look at this issue…

Photoshop – Remove specular highlights/shine/shadows for wildlife

This is perhaps more relevant for macro photography and flash, but, can also be used in other cases.

To demonstrate this technique, I will use a close-up image of a snail for the highlights and shine removal and a bird image for shadow removal.

Let’s see how we can go about doing this in Photoshop…

#Photoshop #Wildlife #Highlights #Shadows #Post

Lightroom 9.4 – Local Hue Adjustment for Macro Photographers

This feature was introduced in version 9.3 and I have found it very useful for wildlife macros. Of course, we do have similar conditions with birds at times, but, this is more useful for macros.

We often see a major green tint when we photograph insects in the wild on leaves and branches. Adjusting the overall image tint in the white balance does not work in these conditions.

Earlier, one would have to go to Photoshop to fix these issues, but, now it can be done in Lightroom itself.

Let us look at an example to see how this is done…

Lightroom 9.4 Import Bug – EXIF Date-Time Issue!

I ran into this major bug while re-organising my mobile shots and I consider it serious enough to share. In short, if you are using date/time functions in the Lightroom import, you have to be careful and double-check to make sure this bug does not impact your catalog.

Let us see what this bug is and how it can create chaos in our catalog.

Focus Stacking Using Lightroom & Photoshop

One of the ways of overcoming the current technology limitations in photography is called Focus Stacking.

This technique allows us to overcome the area of focus (DoF) in images. We can take multiple shots with different focus points and later combine these to get the entire image in sharp focus.

Let us see how this can be done using Lightroom and Photoshop.