Blue into blue (+1 re-work)

With suggestions from Guy on the crop and emphasizing the graphic quality and graceful lines of the bird, I had another go and here it is -

It was also looking kind of muddy to me, so I played with some whites and highlights and the midtones. Also brushed darkened the shadow of the wing on the neck. Brushed clarity & texture on the face. Radial filter around the eye to brighten it. Added some exposure and took down the noise under the wing that got sharpened by Topaz. Dammit I want them to fix the masking so I don’t have to put up with this. Anyway…

The birding boat outing with Ted & Diane offered many looks at herons - this one takes off from a cliff on the shore of Lake Pleasant. It is one of the darkest GBHs I’ve ever seen and unfortunately I underexposed it kind of badly, but hopefully my rescue job is effective. I’m a hopeless…well, hopeful noob when it comes to bird photography so I think this is one of my better efforts.

Specific Feedback Requested

Anything useful is welcome

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
Handheld in the boat driven by Ted - animal detection & continuous auto focus


Lr for a little crop (not much) and a whole lot of exposure, texture & clarity, a little dodging under the wing. Plus some sharpening in Topaz (before the new update which just constantly crashes and won’t work at all…grrr).


You are a bird photographer – you just didn’t know it. The pose and action are excellent and sharpness looks perfect. The tonal rescue work looks great to me. (For the record, I completely missed this one. )

What Diane said, Kris. You’re sandbagging us with your “not a bird photographer” statement. :slight_smile: This is a perfectly timed shot. Right at the peak of lifting off. Excellent image.

Too bad I already deleted my hundreds of craptacular shots!!! Then you’d know the real deal. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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That may be quite a stretch but your timing was perfect.

Aw, thanks @David_Schoen - I caught sight of the bird standing on the cliff and as we approached it walked to the edge and took off. I started photographing it as soon as we got still enough - this is barely cropped we were so close.


I just spent the morning at a local wildlife refuge. I took 140 images (and it was a slow day)…I targeted 7 for processing and none for sharing or posting. Will delete the rest. That’s how it goes for me anyway.

Anyway, I am usually comforted by a quote from Scott Adams (Dilbert creator):

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

I think it applies to us photographers.


I hear you, @David_Bostock - keeper rates are low and get lower the more experienced and discerning we become. Picky, picky, picky. But that’s how we mark improvement.

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I don’t think you could have gotten anything better regarding the action on this shot. Perfect timing. As for the technical, you did just fine recovering exposure.

Birds have such expressive lines at times, especially the larger ones. I think it is always an opportunity to look at enhancing the lines and forms through cropping when you can. If it were mine,I would crop close to highlight the graphic qualities available in the image. It doesn’t hurt to lose the sky, we have all seen it before. But we haven’t all seen the lines and form. I would do something like the crop below. I creates a much more interesting group of spaces.

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I hadn’t thought cropping so far down, @Guy_Manning, but it works. Thanks for the alternative and enlightening idea. A new picture in the OP.

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I definitely like the cropped re-work, Kris. The closer-in view really highlights the lines and shades of blue-gray on the undersides of the wings. This almost looks like an oil painting. Super shot!

I am glad I could help.

For my two cents worth and while I do shoot a boatload of birds, I think what bothers viewers the most is not the tonal contrast, nor the crop but that the Heron is jumping off a cliff; it’s more like a suicide than a launch. It was my first impression and hasn’t changed much and that’s on me, not on Kris.

I did do a crop and some tonal enhancements to celebrate both the Heron and the Sky and to some degree, because I left all the cliff face (or rock) in (as originally shown), it gives more presence to place, thus it bothers me far less.

I love the crop! When you’ve got the IQ and a great pose, flaunt it!

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I love the crop too - have been furiously dusting my monitor as I thought I spotted some dust spots in your crop!

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