Heron (Egret actually)

sHeronHeron
Click title for larger view.

This image has immediate impact. The white bird on the black background might be stark, but because of the vivid yellow of the bill and the feather texture of the white body, the effect is much softer, and it maintains an inviting atmosphere.

Composition is good, with the weight of the body placed at one of the strong verticals of the suggestion of thirds. Egrets, and this is a Great Egret, are always elegant in an awkward kind of way…with the long neck taking a wide variety of interesting lines. This pose is typically elegant, and the reflection only emphasizes that elegance.

The height of the image and vertical placement of the subject is pretty much dictated by giving the bird headroom and fitting the full reflection into the frame. I’m not sure if this is a crop or the full frame. Regardless, actually, I might be tempted to crop a bit from the top to make the bird and reflection symmetrical in the frame.

The main problem the image has is the lack of sharpness around the head and eye of the bird. The only rule in wildlife photography is “get the eye sharp”. If the eye is sharp we will forgive some unsharpness in any other part of the body…but if the eye is vague, our impression of the whole image suffers.

And it does, to my eye, suffer here…spoiling what otherwise might have been a really great image. I say spoiling, but of course, it is a relative term. This is still a satisfying image. With better focus, or perhaps had the bird not moved his head just as the shutter was released, it might have been great.

I wonder too, if the black is natural? It might have been an artifact of low light and spot metering on the white bird…a kind of unintentional consequence of exposure that led to a striking image…or…the photographer may have spent time in post processing producing that effect by removing the blue or gray tone of the water.

Either way, some attention to the head area of the reflection might have helped to make a stronger image. The reflection sort of fades out toward the head, so you lose some of the effect of the symmetry, and certainly you lose the flash of yellow in the bill that might have really pulled the eye.

Careful post processing might bring up the local contrast around the head to increase the effectiveness…and it might not. It would be interesting to compare images after the attempt.

HeronGIMP  Heron

A quick edit in GIMP compared to the original. Click to enlarge.

In GIMP I sharpened the eye area selectively, and then played with curves in the bottom half of the image, sectioning off the whole bottom and then just the lower left corner. I used a big fuzzy paintbrush loaded with black to restore some of the background, and the doge and burn tool to bring up the yellow in the reflected bill. I had to remove some yellow in the  reflected body (by adjusting the blue curve for a selected area). Finally I cropped for symmetry. Better???? I don’t honestly know.

Again…the main issue…the soft eye, can’t really be corrected in post processing…that is a matter of timing and focus in the field. I can’t tell you how many thousands of bird shots languish on my hard drives because another shot in the same sequence has the sharper eye! And I say with genuine regret that I have whole sequences, of birds I may never see again, where I never did get the eye sharp. Those are on my hard drives too, waiting a day when I will try local sharpening on the otherwise best of them.

One Response to Heron (Egret actually)

  1. Byrle says:

    Sorry it took this long to reply to your critique. Actually I wasn’t sure if I should if I should say anything except thank you for your time. I fully understand your critique and learned much from it. Like most things in our foto world the eye is the most important thing either seeing with it or capturing with it. The Egret was pretty much a grab shot, I was at the lake and he just sort of wandered in to my frame. Hand held shot and very little manipulation back at the computer. I always forget how much time I used spend in the darkroom and then remembered what Ansel used to do after going to the mountain. I like what you did with your work up. I appreciate your time and look forward to other exchanges. Sorry about the delay in responding.

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