Fun with creative editing….

In times like this, when the weather is hot and the birding is slow, it is time for….drum roll please………..Creative Editing.

Actually, I did get out for a little while Sunday morning.  I didn’t want to spend too much time as I wanted to get home in time to watch Andre Beltre, of the Texas Rangers, get his 3000th base hit.  In the history of baseball, only 30 others had accomplished that in their career.  But, heck, you are not interested in hearing about baseball.

So, back to the original purpose of this post.  While we were out, Ann, a couple of family friends, and I, were birding at San Angelo State Park.  As I said, not too much going on, but we did spot a Northern Bobwhite perched and singing in the distance.  In the distance, is an understatement, as we could barely see him with our naked eyes.  I put my bean bag on the window sill, turned off the engine to prevent anymore vibrations.  I settled my Canon 7D Mark II with my Tamron 150-600 G2 lens, on the beanbag.  With that solid bed, I fired off a few shots at 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, plus 1/3 stop of EV adjustment.  ISO was 800, which promoted a little digital noise.  Here is the original, looking through that long lens.  I was at a distance of approximately 100 yards.  Remember, with the naked eye it looked even much further away.

Northern Bobwhite

Since that was the only usable image from that outing, I loaded it into the computer to see if I could make something out of it in my digital darkroom.  The result follows below.  First, you can see how I first cropped it.  In doing so, it left part of the tree taking up space, too close to the quail for my liking.  Fortunately the sky was an even blue all around, so I just cloned the tree out very easily.  After all, I was after a nice photo of the bird, not the tree.  It was just a distraction in this case.

The first thing I did was get rid of the tiny bit of noise that the higher ISO of 800 created.  There wasn’t much, as the Canon 7D Mk II handles high ISOs very nicely.  But I have a plug-in, Topaz DeNoise, that does a great job of eliminating digital noise.  Very easy to use.

Now, even with taking those precautions described above, the image wasn’t tack sharp.  But that is going to happen when you crop an image so tightly, especially since the original was shot from so far away.  I do all of my cropping and editing in Photoshop CS5.  I do not use their sharpening, though.  I have a great plug-in, called Focus Magic.  Photoshop’s sharpening method with the so-called “Unsharp Mask” just messes with the pixels.  Focus Magic actually corrects the focus very naturally.  But having said that, evev after I use the Focus Magic, I sometimes tweak it a little more by using the Photoshop’s focus tool and paint it a little lightly.  A very neat trick.

After that I tweaked the contrast and color saturation a bit.  And there you have it, my little secret recipe that has been handed down over hundreds of years.  Not bad, if I do say so myself.  I hope you like it. 🙂  (Click on either image to see nice enlargements.)

Northern Bobwhite

And yes, in case you were wondering, Andre Beltre did get his 3,000th  hit,. After that, I took a nap. 🙂

Oh, in case you missed it my beautiful 2018 calendars are here.  Click this link for more information:

How I edit my images

After publishing my post about how I shoot my bird photos, I thought it would be nice to do a follow-up about how I finish up, or editing my images for final publishing.  Believe it or not, regardless of what you have heard or read, cameras DO lie.  When a RAW image comes from the camera, it often looks flat, without that snap. and with bland colors.

I am going to show you how I obtained a beautiful photo of a Northern Bobwhite.  It began when I was driving through San Angelo State Park, and spotted some of these quail in a fallen tree about 50 yards away.  This is the original photo from my Canon DOS 7D Mark II with a Tamron 150-600mm lens.

Northern Bobwhite on tree branch

Northern Bobwhite on tree branch

It was early morning, there was broken shade and the subject was partially back-lit, the light coming slightly from the left.  Exposure was 1/1000 sec @ f7.1 with an ISO 1000.  I added one stop of EV adjustment to ensure enough light on the subject bird, the one in the center of the frame.  It was too far away to zoom in any closer. I had the lens maxed out at 600mm.

Now I am going to tell about how I do my editing.  First, no, it is not an old family recipe handed down.  It may not be the best method, but it is what works for me.

I have been told that I am pretty unorthodox with my editing.  I just like to keep things simple, and not have to do anything complicated.  The first thing I do is to load my images into a program called FastStone Image Viewer.  I like that little (free) program.  It is, for me, a great place to put my image files.  Great for organizing, and most of all, I can convert my RAW files there.

So after loading the images from my camera, I then convert the RAW file to the JPEG image that you see above.  After conversion, I save that JPEG file to a folder in FastStone Image Viewer.  I told you that I liked that organizer.  Now unlike a lot of photographer that use Lightroom,  I use Photoshop 5, having gotten it at half-price several years ago, when the dropped the price when Photoshop 6 came out.

After opening a file in Photoshop, my first step in my workflow is to check it out using the Shadows and Highlights tool, making any minor lighting adjustments there.  Then I like to use the Curves adjustment tool to tweak the exposure more, for contrast, etc.  I have another plug-in, Topaz DNoise, and excellent tool for removing any visible noise.  After that, it is time to check out the focus, and tweak the sharpness, if necessary.   Personally, I don’t like Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask. I use a plug-in called FocusMagic.  It gives a photo a pleasing natural sharpness.

After doing all of that, which usually takes me only a few minutes, here is my finished product.  Do you like it?  Click the image.

Northern Bobwhite - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +1 EV adjustment, ISO 1000.

Northern Bobwhite – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +1 EV adjustment, ISO 1000.

Now, that looks like the Northern Bobwhite I saw when I drove by that broken down tree.  Click the image, and the one above, to see enlargements that show more detail.

So now you have it.  You know what tools I use.  It will only take you to learn how to use them.  In other words, I teach you all you know.  I don’t teach you all I know.   Now as the photo doctor said, “If you have a problem, take two pictures and call me in the morning”.

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.)