Hi everyone. I just returned from my Costa Rica Workshop. I had a wonderful group of people. Several returning workshop attendees which is always nice to see, and some fantastic new people I got to meet as well. And we had the best abundance of wildlife I’ve seen there yet, which was icing on the cake. It definitely made up for having to cancel the 2020 workshop.
Getting back on topic, I wanted to share a Scarlet Macaw photo I took the day before the workshop started. I’ve been going to Costa Rica for over 5 years now and I’ve found these birds to be really difficult to photograph in the wild. They typically bury themselves deep in the tree as they pick at fruits. You’ll see them fly in to the tree and you’ll hear them, but every time I go to take a photo, there are 100 branches in front of it. So you only see their head or wing, but it’s hard to get a nice full body shot with a clean and soft/blurry background behind it.
I really like the way the composition worked out in this. I can’t take credit for it because the bird was where it was – I just took the photo 🙂 But I like how the foreground frames it and then leads to a nice upper third of soft background behind the macaw. I also like the fact that it’s back it facing me so you see all of the great colors.
Finally, my favorite is the way the body and tail angles in a V shape across the photo. If the bird was sitting upright with the tail down, it forces a looser crop (to avoid cropping the tail) which means you don’t really get the up close feeling you do here.
This was taken with the Sony Alpha 1 + 200-600mm lens. Exposure was f/6.3, 1/1250th, and ISO 320. I had Auto ISO on for this, with Continuous shooting mode, a Zone AF area (top center zone) and eye autofocus worked wonderfully on this one.
The photo was processed with Lightroom for basic exposure changes, Photoshop to remove a few distractions in the background and Topaz Sharpen to crisp it up a bit. At ISO 320 the noise wasn’t bad, so Topaz Sharpen got rid of it easily.
As always you can find links to all of my gear, computers, hard drives, etc… over on the Gear page which can be clicked on in the top menu (or just click here). And it’s always appreciated if you use the links on that page (even if you’re not purchasing that specific item) when buying anything. It doesn’t cost you a penny and it’ll help me out a bit 🙂
What About the Leaf on the Head?
What do you think about the leaf on the back? As you can see, there’s a leaf on the back of the neck / head area. I spent about 5-10 minutes in Photoshop on it and I have mixed feelings. Maybe because I know what it looked like before, but I just wasn’t sure. So what do you think? Did it bother you in the first photo?
Also, the question IS NOT whether you can spot the editing I did. I’m not looking for an open critique on my distraction removal. It’s simple… if you didn’t see the original there is no way you’d know what I did in this photo, in spite of any inconsistencies you may see as a photographer. Remember… as a Photoshop user, you’re not the audience and I rarely ever try to please other photographers with my photos and edits. The question is whether or not it was worth it?
It’s not perfect, and I suppose if I spent some more time on it I could get closer. But, even though I know Photoshop pretty well, I’m very impatient and don’t like to spend 15 minutes editing a wildlife photo 🙂
I like the leaf removed. It is a distraction and raises questions. Without the leaf it is a picture to be enjoyed without a lot of questions. Your editing is terrific. I don’t believe extra editing to satisfy pixel-peeping perfectionists is worth the effort. If you didn’t tell someone about the edit, there is no way they would ever suspect it.
I love the quirkiness of the leaf, and the photo with the leaf edited out is great as well. For me, the leaf adds a bit of humor to the photo, and I like the light shining on it which actually provides more separation from the background for me.
Love it more without the leaf. Great edit! Great shot! But I wouldn’t expect anything less from you. 😁 What a great trip it was!
First, I agree with Mike – the leaf does make a story. The macaw is an intelligent and curious bird. It may have placed the leaf intentionally. As you commented, typically, this bird would keep itself hidden within the branches. So maybe it was going for a ‘camo’ effect.
Second, and of great note, is how well your colour, contrast, and tone is balanced from the bright subject to the surrounding greens. Any tips? Or is it all due to your well-honed eye and instinct. 🙂
I would like to learn more about your Costa Rica trips. Do you use a service that helps you book a B&B type place in the countryside? what area do you start in? how many days when you are traveling on your own? Do you ever go on your own as I hope to do once I have taken a workshop? stuff like that. Add me to an e-mail notification list?
Hi ReNae – we stay at Crocodile Bay resort in Puerto Jimenez. They take care of everything for us and we use the guides there. Right now, I have no plans for another workshop. If that changes, I will definitely post about it though. Thanks!
Perfect, this information will get me started.
Now if that leaf was a butterfly … OMG wow. That leaf just looks so out of place to me; so I disagree with the previous majority, great photo BTW …
Thanks Leon. I disagree with them too. After looking at it, the leaf does not help in any way. It’s an out of place distraction and if it’s possible to remove, it should be removed 🙂
I was thinking, leave the leaf, but when you look at the leaf closely, it doesn’t seem to make any sense. The shape of it and the positioning of it is out of ‘whack’ and also draws your eye away from the bird.
In this case, I would try like hell to remove the leaf and leave a natural looking fix as you have done. . .
Thanks Bruce. I agree.
Love the leaf on it.
Keep the leaf. The bird probably paid a lot for the camouflage on Amazon+shipping.
Leave the leaf! Great photo either way.
I would keep the leave. Makes this picture unique. The edited picture is just another bird picture.
Leave the leaf; it’s part of the story being told. 🙂
Thanks Mike. Just curious… What story do you see here? To me, it’s a cool looking bird in a tree. I wasn’t trying, and don’t really ever try, to tell stories with my wildlife photos. I just want to make an impact and have some one say “wow that’s beautiful”. But I am curious what story you see in it? Thanks!
Looks much better without the leaf. If you’re making a portrait make it as best as you can. This is not photo journalism and the leaf is definitely distracting.