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PHOTOGRAPHING THE EYE

This is a photo of the eye of the Great Champion "Jesse James" 00 CU ORI 243 bred by Mike van der Jagt of Orillia and flying in the Orillia Club and the Up North Combine in Ontario, Canada.  Jessie James was 4 x 1st UNC and 8 times in the top 7 and now is in the breeding loft where in his first year at stock bred CU 06 ORI 224.  This youngster was entered in the Le Tour Testing Station and was in the first drop 6 straight races and in the first 5 positions five times.

Examples of other eye photos

               

First let me begin by saying that I am not a professional trained photographer and don't pretend to be one.  I have learned how to photograph the eye by a lot of experimentation and a lot of trial and error.  Some would call it guess and test.  In my case it is a lot of guessing, testing and mostly error.  Photographing the eye can be a very frustrating experience but also very rewarding when capture a beautiful eye at its best.  Below I share some of my experiences.

I have experimented with several digital cameras since 1998.  First, I began using a Kodak 290 with no macro mode and had to buy close-up lenses for it.  Shortly after I tried an Olympus 3030 Zoom with a macro mode but the macro mode would only allow photos to be taken from 8" (20 cm) and didn't result in good close-up shots.  Finally I got an Nikon Coolpix 880 to experiment with.  With this camera the macro mode works within 4 cm of the object.  Just recently I was fortunate to obtain a Nikon Coolpix 995 with a macro mode that allows taking photographs from as close as 2 cm.  I have found that this close is not practical in photographing the pigeon eye because the sunlight is blocked out.  A distance of around 5 cm and zooming in slightly is advisable.  The Nikon Coolpix 995 is considered to be one of the best macro mode digital cameras available.  My experience suggests this to be true.  Just recently I have purchased a Coolpix 4500 and basically the only difference is that it is a 4 mega pixel camera. 

In the beginning, all photographs were taken in strong sunlight around 12:00 pm.  I found that under these conditions the pupil constricts the most and allows you to see the circle of correlation in its fullest detail.   

These are not ideal conditions.  Summer photos with a high sun seem to come out better.  There is a problem of taken photos in strong sunlight because the camera picks up the suns reflection in the pupil, circle of correlation and iris.  This is especially true for birds with darker eyes.  The yellow eyes seem to photograph best. 

Waiting for the ideal sunny conditions can be one of the most frustrating aspects of photographing the eye.  Unfortunately I don't live in sunny Alberta.  During the winter of 2003 I experimented with several artificial light sources and found that a 90 watt Halogen spot light worked the best.  It was fixed about 6 to 8 inches away from the eye and at about 45 degrees horizontally and vertically from the eye.  A swivel lamp with a clamp is ideal for this purpose.  The disadvantage of using a Halogen lamp is the heat it gives off.  Be careful not to hold the birds eye too long under the light.  Also by covering the left side of the camera with aluminum foil  it will protect the camera from overheating.  The light should be turned off when not needed.  The advantage of this light is it seems to give the truest eye color and very few adjustments have to be made.  And it is strong enough to constrict the pupil therefore showing the details in the eye much better.  Usually the photos of eye come out a little darker than the normal eye color but this can be adjusted easily.  Another disadvantage is the reflection from the bulb.  By manipulating the lamp the reflection will only appear in the upper left hand corner and not interfere with the most important parts of the eye.  Aesthetically this is not ideal however the lamp allows you to take photos whenever it suits you and quickly and the light source is always consistent.  Recently I have been using a Mag-Lite with a 25 watt halogen bulb with a rechargeable battery.  This flashlight has the advantage of focusing the light beam to a small point, it does no give off a lot of heat, does not require a power source and it very portable.

This is the device that I use to assist me photographing pigeon eyes.  It allows me to hold the bird's head still when the shot is taken.  The original one  was designed for the Nikon 880 and was not suited for the Nikon 995 because it has completely different case.  I made some minor modification to it so that I could use it on the 995.  It is quite a primitive prototype but satisfies a need.  The frame was made from a piece of aluminum siding and I used duct tape to cover the sharp edges.  The slots allow the fastening bolt on the tripod to screw into the camera.  This device was used on 4 different cameras that is why the slot is in an "L" shape.  

 

 

 

 

The following pictures show several views of the camera mounted on a tripod with this device.

  

The photos below show how to hold the bird's head against the device.  It assists by holding the birds head stationary for focusing. Unfortunately this device only allows photographing the left eye.  I am working on some modifications to this prototype that will allow photographing both eyes much more easily.  Before I forget, the sun should come over your left shoulder, otherwise this camera blocks out the sun.  Use the camera monitor to compose the photo.  Also you will need an assistant to do the shooting as whoever holds the bird will have both hands occupied.

   

After the photos are taken they are download to the computer.  Using a graphics program like Adobe Photoshop minor adjustments are made to the color, brightness and sharpness to make the photos as realistic as possible.  For viewing on a computer monitor a size of 5" x  5" to 7" x 7"  is preferable.  I have used photos up to 9" x  9" with success.  The resolution of these photos always must be a 72 pixel/in or 28 pixels/cm for the web.  Also the file size for these photos should not exceed 50 kb in size for quickness in loading on the web or receiving by e-mail.  The latest version of Adobe Photoshop versions 5, 6 & 7 optimize photographic files just for this purpose.  Another program which is considerable less expensive and useful is PaintShop Pro.  The last 2 versions, 6 & 7 also optimize photos for the web.