Colorblindness in Wildlife Photography
I like vibrant Reds!
|Black and White Warbler
one of the few birds I see just like you
I'd call it a Blue Gallinule if I were naming it
- Finding Wildlife: I can see bright, saturated colors pretty well, but muted reds and greens often blend together. I can usually find male Northern Cardinals very quickly, but the females often become lost in green leaves.
- Identifying Wildlife: I'm horrible at identifying species of birds by color. The first time I saw a Wilson's Plover I was in an area where Piping Plovers can be found. One of the clues to look for to distinguish between the two is the color of the legs: Piping Plovers have bright yellow to orange legs, while Wilson's Plovers have pink to gray legs. I'd be hopeless in telling them apart if I had to use leg color alone.
- White Balance: If my white balance is set improperly, it is sometimes impossible for me to correct the problem manually in Lightroom, since I don't see warmer reds as well as the cooler blues. When shooting JPEG files, Lightroom lets me modify the white balance, but only relative to the white balance I chose in the camera. That's not very helpful to me.
- Saturation: My eyes do not distinguish colors very well, but I'll often find that if I increase the vibrancy or saturation in Lightroom, all the sudden I can see what I couldn't see before. It's wonderful! But sometimes I end up posting photos that look too saturated to those with normal vision.
Don't ask me the color of the legs
- Two's Company and so is Three: Birding and wildlife photography is almost always better in small groups. Four eyes can see more than two, and if the person I bring with me is not color blind, he may see what I don't. And I can always ask, are those legs pink or orange?
- Structure and Shape over Color: I was a geology major in college, and I failed my first freshman rock-identification test because I couldn't tell pink feldspar from green feldspar. Since I was a geology major, I realized this was a problem I had to solve, so I found a tutor that gave me other ways to identify rocks. The same is true for identifying birds and other wildlife. I try to use the shape, structure, behavior, habitat to help me identify birds more than color. Wilson's Plovers have a larger, black bill than Piping Plovers, so I use this marker over leg color. In reality these markers are often more reliable anyway, since color appearances change with lighting conditions.
- RAW: I try to set my white-balance for the weather conditions (cloudy, sunny, etc), but these conditions can change, especially on partly cloudy days. With RAW files, though, I can choose these same settings in Lightroom. I don't have to trust my eyes as much to correct white balance issues if I can get in the ball park by simply selecting the lighting conditions in my software.
- Saturation: I prefer vibrant colors because they help me see. But since my eyes aren't normal, I move my Vibrance slider in Lightroom to where I like it and then back off a little. I use the Saturation sparingly. I also try to look at my photos on a couple different monitors. I know on occasion I over-saturate, and I won't take offense if you tell me.
|Patapsco State Park
Alberton Rd Area