Cropping and Enlarging – The Creative Process

I was discussing cropping with a friend the other day.  Mainly it was about creativity and composition.  How much should you or can you crop.

For me, there are no limitations at all.  99.9% of all my photos are cropped to some degree.  I mean that it is very rare that I use the complete image in it’s original form.  Sometimes it is just so I can print specific sizes, i.e. 8×10, 11×16, 16×20 etc.  But many times, especially in my wildlife photos, I love to crop close to get more facial shots.

Great Blue Heron - before crop

Great Blue Heron - after crop

But also it is very important to consider the composition.  With my wildlife images, it is sometimes hard to put the bird or animal where you want it in the viewfinder, because of the unpredictable movement of the subjects.  So I generally don’t zoom in tight with the camera.  Rather, I back off a little to give that extra space in the image for cropping consideration.  It’s better to err on the wide side rather than get in too close and not have any options to work with.

On enlarging, I have a plug-in software that I use.  It is published by Alien Skin Software, called “Blowup”.  It is very user friendly and does an outstanding job.  Just enter your dimension that you want, it will crop and enlarge to any size without losing any detail.  Contact  They have a free trial.

Back in my pre-digital days, I once had a man from Phoenix, AZ order a 30×40 print of a Texas Longhorn.  I first had to scan my negative and get a decent 11×14 that I could get the customary way.  Then I used Blowup software to get the 30×40.  The result was outstanding.

On another note, any image can be enlarged to super size with the right equipment.  The McDonald’s Restaurant near me wanted to use one of my photos to enlarge and crop for an 8 foot by 17 foot mural.  Quite honestly, I don’t believe it was one of my best images.  The composition was beautiful, but the original image quality wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked it.  Anyway, they purchased the rights to use it.  They took my scanned filed and sent it to a company in Toronto, Canada, I believe.  They in turn made it into a wall covering, and shipped it in six rolls, each about 3 feet wide.  Here is the original photograph, and an image of the mural in the restaurant.

Whitefaces and Bluebonnets

Mural in McDonald's Restaurant

One strange thing about the mural.  The restaurant owners picked the photograph because of the Texas Bluebonnets in it.  Then, as you can see, the flowers are hidden behind the furniture.

I hope you enjoy this little post.  Click on the images to see enlargements.

Sunday Bluebird and a Hawk

A fairly short post again today.  Recently on one of our forays into the parks near Lake Nasworthy, we came across this Eastern Bluebird, (Sialia sialis), sitting on a small tree branch.  He was part of a group of bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings, and American Robins.  It was obviously a popular spot for birds, with the water nearby.

Eastern Bluebird

EXIF data:  Canon 7D with Canon 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter, 1/1000 sec. @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 160.  Center weighted metering with apertur priority.  Hand-held.

Later, on the outskirts of the park, in an area where there is a disc golf course set up in the trees, we spotted this Red-tailed Hawk  (Buteo jamaicensis), on a tree branch.  We observed it for awhile and I got several photos of it.  After a bit, he decided to fly off, and I was able to capture an in-flight photo.

Red-tailed Hawk in tree

EXIF data:  Canon 7D with Canon 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  1/1000 sec. @ f8, ISO 125.  Center weighted metering with aperture priority.  Hand-held.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

EXIF data:  Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm zoom lens.  1/2000 sec. @ f8, ISO 200.  Center weightd metering and aperture priority.  Hand-held.

I hope you enjoyed the images.  Click on either of them to see an enlargement.

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers

The two dominant woodpeckers of this area around San Angelo, are the Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes auriforns) and Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris).  Other woodpeckers are pretty much rarities here.  However, the Flickers and Sapsuckers are around in pretty good numbers.  But, today I just wanted to show some of my latest photos of the Ladder-backed.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Have a fun NFL weekend. 🙂

Winter in San Angelo, Texas

Well, winter fell on a Tuesday, here in San Angelo.  We woke up with three inches of the stuff on the ground.  Knowing it would be around for a very short while, I rushed out to San Angelo State Park for some wintry shots.  I wasn’t feeling 100% because of a medical problem that prompted me to go to the ER the previous evening.  I was much better, but I just drove through the park and got a few grab shots from the window of the car.  These are not esthetically my best, but they will serve to show you that we do have some pretty wintry scenes occasionally.

Snowy Creek

Cactus and snow

White-crowned Sparrow

Snowy Creek

Chilly finch on back patio

There you have it.  That may be the only chance I get any winter pictures from here.  But never say never.  January and February are historically the two coldest months of the year here, so there is always a chance of more.

Okay, Okay, I Accept the Award

For the fourth time in as many weeks I have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award.  I already had been awarded this pseudo prestigeous award for achievements in the profession of blogging.  I was going to ignore them this time, but it would be unkind to do so, as I don’t want to appear un-appreciative to those who nominated me.

These people who nominated me are, in no particular order are, H.J. Ruiz who writes Avian 101, a blog about birding in general;   Bruce Stambaugh of Roadkill Crossing, stories from the Amish country of Millersburg in northwestern Ohio;  Katie Johnson’s Camera Blog, writing and photographing about the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico;  and the lovely Nandini Dhiman of Life Just Is, writing from the lap of the Himalayas in India.

If I remember correctly from my first time receiving this award, I must list 10 interesting facts about myself, the following that task, to list 10 more deserving recipients of the award.

First, my 10 interesting facts about myself.  This isn’t going to be pretty. 🙂

  1. I met my wife, Ann, for the first time in person, only 2 hours before the wedding rehearsal.  Click (here) for details of that adventure. 🙂
  2. I was a professional musician, saxophonist, for a large portion of my life.  During about 45 years I appeared at clubs, arenas, convention halls in U.S. and abroad.  Big bands, jazz, country music.  You name it, I did it. 🙂
  3. Also during my life, at various times I sold furniture, tires, used cars and encyclopedias.
  4. For three years, I owned a lawn and landscape business.
  5. I was the city bowling champion of Las Cruces, New Mexico during the season of 1971-72.  My average was 198 and I beat a bowling pro by the name of Rocky Thompson, by one pin.
  6. I have Marfans Syndrome.  A genetic disease with no cure.
  7. My photography has been published in four magazines, on the cover of one.  My work is also featured in a book, “See No Evil, Speak No Evil”, written by local author, Ross McSwain.  A photograph of mine is also on the cover.
  8. I have a great, but sometimes, weird sense of humor.
  9. I am a dog lover.  However, the older I get the smaller my dogs get.  I once owned a large Collie, named Trooper.  Now I have a little 15 lb. Shih Tzu named Suzie.
  10. I love crossword puzzles.  I work the daily challenge from the local newspaper every morning.  No one will play Scrabble with me

Next is the nominating of some other deserving individuals to also receive this award.  But I will go a bit astray on this.  Many or most of my blogger friends already have received the award, and of course, some have not.  So I am not going to demand that any of them do these lists unless they really want to.  But I am going to honor the following individuals, whether they want me to or not.  Click on their names to visit their blog.

  1. Mia McPherson.  This blog should be must reading for anyone who aspires to be a wildlife photographer.  The photographs are awesome and breath-taking.  I was reluctant to name her, because I am afraid I might lose some of my followers to her blog. So after checking her out, please come back.  Please.
  2. Melissa Koski.   One of my favorite people.  She has great wildlife photos and stories from around her home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  She sometimes makes me homesick, (but only sometimes)  because I was born and raised only 40 miles from her in Muskegon.
  3. Holly Stanley.    Another Michigander from Lansing, the state capitol.  I have watched her grow from a rank beginner in photography, to an accomplished artist in that genre.  All in the past two years or so.  Way to go, Holly. 🙂
  4. Jeff Lynch.   A man after my own heart.  He, like me, is in love with west Texas, particularly the Big Bend National Park area.  His photography and articles about that part of the state, urges me to go back again and again.
  5. Linda Rockwell.  Great wildlife photos and articles from the Land of Enchantment, particularly I like her photos from the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
  6. Cindy Kilpatrick.   I am certain that she already has been nominated for this award, but doggone it, she certainly deserves to be one of my honorees.  Her beautiful, awesome photographs, and accompanying beautifully written articles are something to behold.
  7. Denise Richter.    If you are ever planning a trip to the Alamo City, (Texas talk for San Antonio, Texas), you need to first visit her blog.  San Antonio’s Chamber of Commerce should be paying her.  She can answer all of your questions as where to stay, where to eat, things to do, and tell you how to get on the boat to tour the downtown Riverwalk.
  8. Teresa Silverthorn.  Her blog is one of the most interesting, mysterious, eerie, things you can ever read.  For me, she is a must read, and I check out her latest happening every day.
  9. Jim Miller.   Jim is a personal friend who is in the U. S. Air Force, now stationed in San Antonio, Texas.  I met him when he was stationed here in San Angelo and our interests are the same.  Wildlife photography.
  10. Martina Landolt.   Martina photographs what she sees.  My favorites are her beautiful landscapes.  But you can expect photos of wildlife and interesting places, too.

So those are my nominees/honorees for this time.  I know I have left out some other people, but that comes with having so many loyal and loving followers.  So if you are not on the list, I still think highly and appreciate each and every one of you.

The Day of Many Photographs

I try to be a bit witty sometimes with titles of my posts, but this past Saturday was a day that was memorable.  All kinds of photo ops.  I won’t say to much more, but just show you some of the results.

Photos mostly taken at Spring Creek or Middle Concho Parks here in San Angelo.  The exceptions are the second and third photos which were taken at a small downtown lake.  We were just driving around through the parks, and the birds seemed to be exceptionally cooperative.  Click on the images to see great enlargements.

Black-crested Titmouse

I got lucky, as I often do, as the Black-crested Titmouse was only about 20 feet from the car window.  He was completely oblivious of me.

Lesser Scaup - juvenile

Ring-necked Duck - female

Golden-fronted Woodpecker - female

Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk gave me an exposure problem.  On the good side, he was perched only about 20 feet from the road-side.  The bad part, there was a limb that was casting a shadow over his head.

Great Blue Heron on log

Great Egret on the hunt

Both the Great Blue Heron and the Great Egret were about 150 yards away on the opposite side of the river.

Belted Kingfisher

Singing Eastern Bluebird

I decided not to include EXIF information in this post.  I just didn’t want to add the clutter.  If any of you want to know how I shot any particular image, just mention it in your comment.  And I do hope that you will comment.

Northern Mockingbird Editing

I have decided that I want to frame the photo of the Northern Mockingbird that I featured in a previous post.

Northern Mockingbird before editing

But as I looked at it, I thought the composition looked a bit weighted too much to the left side.  I decided to remove the branch in the left corner, trim off a bit of the branch that leaves the frame at the left, and eliminate a shadow in the lower right corner.  Like this:

Northern Mockingbird - future edits

Below is the finished product.  I think it looks better.  What do you think.

Northern Mockingbird - final product

I then cropped to a 12×16 that I will put in a 16×20 frame with a  2  1/4 inch double-mat all around.  Voila!!

(Click any image to see an enlargement.)

Photography – Sense of Scale – plus Wilson’s Snipe

I just recently read Jeff Lynch’s post (his blog) about showing sense of scale to your photographs.  Give it a read.  It is excellent and has great photographs.  I was impressed with it and decided to show you here, what sense of scale can accomplish.

Santa Elena Canyon - Big Bend National Park

These walls of the canyon reach a height of 1,500 feet.  The photo looks somewhat nondescript until you notice that speck at the bottom left.  That is a hiker making his way into the entrance of the canyon.  You can also see another person showing as a white speck in the center of the green growth.  Click on the photo and you see what I am talking about.

This photo was taken about ten years ago.  I was on a narrow trail up on the wall of the canyon, about 100 feet above the Rio Grande River(I am sure that Jeff has been there.) The wall was near my right side looming high above me.  I wanted a vertical shot, but I needed something to show the scale of it all.  I looked down and saw the hiker meandering along.  I waited until I could fit him into the image.  I was using a slightly wide angle lens so I could include a sliver of sky at the top.  I was using film and all my EXIF data has been lost.

So you can see how important it is to show something in your photos to show sense of scale.  For example, if you are photographing a lizard, an object, or anything that your viewer has no idea the size, include a pencil, ruler, or something that is familiar.

Now onto birding news.  The Common Goldeneyes have left the water ponds at Eldorado.  As you remember I saw them back on, I believe Dec. 29.  They were a lifer for me and I showed you the photograph.  Ann and I drove back down there today, as I was hoping to see them to add them to my 2012 species viewed list, but alas, not to happen.  We did add 11 more to my 2012 species list, bringing it up to 44 towards my goal of 225 for the year.

But the wind was blowing quite hard and most of the water birds were hunkered down under the banks of the ponds.  I did come up with another photo of a Wilson’s Snipe which I will share with you here.

Wilson's Snipe

Exposure data:  Canon EOS 7D, Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/400 sec. @ f8, +0.3EV, ISO 640.  Spot metering with aperture priority.

For more photos click on my Flickr link in the right side-bar of this page.

Birding in the New Year

Well, like a lot of other bloggers have said in their posts, 2011 is over and we are all making plans for 2012.

My birding goal of species seen for 2011 had been 200.  The number of species that I had hoped to see in the year.  My actual total turned out to be 194.  I should have been paying closer attention and maybe I might have reached 200.  But I got slow in keeping up with my count, and if I had realized I was so close, I may have made a big push at the end.  So we start all over again, and my goal now for 2012 is 225,and the first one I saw Monday morning on our back patio, was a White-crowned Sparrow.

White-crowned Sparrow

Later in the day, I decided I didn’t want to sit and watch football games.  I got restless, thinking about my new goals, so I thought I better get off my butt and get started.  We drove to Middle Concho and Spring Creek Parks.  It was very quiet, as in no people around.  They’re all home watching football games.  We had the place practically to ourselves and we managed to pick up 32 more species, to give us a start of 33 on our goal.

Red-tailed Hawk

One of those 33 was this Red-tailed Hawk.  As we were leaving the park, he was sitting in the grass on the other side of a little slough that branched off of the river.  We were about 75 yards away, and I managed a few grab-shots.  Nothing to write home about, but then he took off and landed in a tree back on the other side back in the boundaries of the park.

I turned around, drove back 100 yards or so, and pulled off the road.  I picked up my Canon 7D with a Canon 100-400mm lens, got out of the car and started hiking.  I could see the tree that he was in but I needed to circle around so I had better light, as the the sun was starting to get lower in the sky.  As I circled I kept a distance of about 60 yards between me and the tree, so as not to startle the bird.  When I was in a good position, and I had a good line of sight through the tree branches, I started creeping closer.  I would take a shot or two, then advance another 10 yards or so.  This image was one of my final shots, taken from about 20 yards.

So with a nice hawk photo and some other good species seen, I felt we were off to a good start.  I got photos of a Cinnamon Teal and a Blue-winged Teal,  both of which I failed to get a good image of last year.  And how about this, they were swimming next to each other.  That in itself wouldn’t be unusual, but it was the only Blue-winged Teal on the river, and there was only one other Cinnamon as well.  This is one of the images that I captured of the two.  I don’t usually post photos of such poor quality, but I just wanted to show you the pair.  The sun was low and I was shooting almost into it making for exposure difficulty.

Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teals

Here is the list of our 33 species to start the year.

  1. White-crowned Sparrow  5
  2. Northern Mockingbird  4
  3. American Coots  50+
  4. Golden-fronted Woodpecker  4
  5. Great Egret  2
  6. Yellow-rumped Warbler  6
  7. Black-crested Titmouse  2
  8. House Finch  16
  9. Western Meadowlark  27
  10. Great Blue Heron  4
  11. Northern Shovelers  9
  12. White-winged Dove  11
  13. European Starling  12
  14. Pied-billed Grebe  2
  15. Double-crested Cormorants 10
  16. Cinnamon Teal  2
  17. Great-tailed Grackle  18
  18. Common Grackle  12
  19. Eastern Bluebird  15
  20. Red-tailed Hawk  1
  21. Black Vulture  2
  22. Ring-billed Gull  20+
  23. American Robin  7
  24. Cedar Waswing  18
  25. Northern Flicker  1
  26. Killdeer  1
  27. Curved-bill Thrasher  1
  28. Red-winged Blackbird  12
  29. Gadwall  4
  30. Belted Kingfisher  1
  31. Eared Grebe  1
  32. Song Sparrow 15
  33. Blue-winged Teal  1

So the year is off an running.  So stay tuned for new posts about photography, wildlife, birding, and of course more photographs

A salute to the American Coot

One of the most ignored ducks, at least around here, is the American Coot (Fulica americana).  They are everywhere, in nearly every body of water around.  So today, I thought I would give them a little press time.  I guess I ignore them, mostly because there are so many.  I would be out driving looking for photo ops.  I would see the ducks, and I would say to Ann, “Aw, them ‘er just some more coots.”, and we would just drive on, failing to appreciate them.

So on Saturday, New Years Eve day, we took a little drive thru the parks.  Since the temps here reached the 80 degree mark, there were a lot of people in attendance.   Pic-nickers, hikers, bikers, and disc golfers.  The activity was keeping most of the birds away.  But guess what?  The coots were there, not bothered at all.  They just done their thing of calmly swiming along, and occasionally diving for some morsel of some kind.  So I am ashamed to admit, I only photographed them as a last resort.

American Coot swiming

American Coot diving

American Coot swiming again

Photographed with my Canon EOS 7D.  Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  Exposure:  1/2500 sec. @ f8, -0.3EV, aperture priority.  Handheld from window of my car, with Puffin’ Pad window support.