Robin on the Ground

A little Robin standing on wet autumn leaves on the ground

A few weeks ago, I visited Blarney Castle to take some photos of the Autumn colours. Unfortunately the light was dull, and the ground was wet, but I had my tripod with me, so I set it up for some long exposure shots.

After a few minutes of that, I noticed a flicker out of the corner of my eye. I spotted a robin almost right in front of me! He was literally standing on the large log next to the mushrooms I was photographing. And of course, my camera settings were completely wrong to photograph him. In the 10 seconds it took me to swivel the camera around, fiddle with the settings and look up again, he was flying off to a nearby tree. This time I got a couple of shots of him, and then his friend approached and landed on the ground right by my feet! This time I was ready!

Why do settings change so much? In low light, you have to amplify the light hitting the camera sensor. Sort of like turning up the volume. You know how if you turn the volume up really high you’ll get distortion and crackling (and a headache and sore ears), the same thing happens with cameras. The best quality photo comes when the volume (called ISO for cameras) is turned down to a “normal value” but then it takes longer for the camera to “hear” an image. Damn, I’m straining an analogy here. For most cameras, that’s 100. This photo was taken at ISO 12800 and the only reason you don’t see lots of crackling (noise) is because of the magic of software called Topaz Photo AI. A previous ISO 100 image took a whole 1 second to make a photo. This robin photo was 1/160 of a second. He wasn’t going to hang around long!

Focal length240mm
Shutter speed1/160s

By Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Twitter.

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