Taking away the noise

It’s been over a month since my last post, but don’t worry, I have still been birding and digiscoping in the interim. I decided to post a series of files created as I edited a flight shot I took this past winter of a Short-eared Owl that was residing close to my house. Since I digiscope, many of the shots I take do not initially show up on the computer screen accurately representing what I saw in the field. Take for an example this first shot below, the original file with no adjustments. The sun was beginning to set when the owls started flying but it was nowhere near this dark. The compensations my camera has to make to freeze motion thru an extra long lens it was not built to use means that it picks up less light than an SLR with a telephoto lens.

Cropping and lightening up the image results in something more like what I remembered, a blue sky with the underside of the owl catching the final reddish-orange rays of the day. Unfortunately, the resulting image (below) comes out looking very noisy, or grainy because of the extreme lighting adjustments I applied to the photo. I recommend clicking on the image to see a larger view and get a better idea of this noise I am talking about.

It is an identifiable image, but I am going for something that is both recognizable and pleasing to look at. Enter NoiseWare to rescue the day. This digital image noise reduction software does wonders to smooth out that noise while not losing any details in the image. Opening up the above image in the program and running it through the default settings resulted in the image below. I think you will agree that it is a much nicer image.

If anyone has more Photoshop techniques or tricks they know for salvage poorly exposed images like these, please leave some comments.

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2 Responses

  1. Drew,

    Love your Nemesis Bird blog. I’m here to stir things up a bit. I’m “tagging” you with the 8-random facts meme.
    You can find out the rules in my latest post here: (http://www.woodcreeper.com/2007/07/30/8-random-facts/)

    It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

    Cheers

    David (woodcreeper)

  2. IMHO, the “shadow/highlight” adjustment in newer editions of PhotoShop is the best thing to hit humanity since cold beer. It isn’t perfect, can screw up your colors and cause big halos while revealing all the noise in shadow areas, but once you learn to tweak it, it can do wonders for backlit or poorly exposed images. Use it before any noise reduction or sharpening.

    John Mikes
    Weekend Shooter

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