NEW COURSE: Wildlife Photo Editing Secrets Now On Sale

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.

Sony Alpha 1 + 200-600mm

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.

Settings

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 🙂

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