Egret Breeding Plumage Series 9

I think it is time to get a model release from this guy

Type of Critique Requested

  • Conceptual: Feedback on the message and story conveyed by the image.
  • Emotional: Feedback on the emotional impact and artistic value of the image.

Specific Feedback and Self-Critique

Ideas on how to work with the white birds

Technical Details

Lumix S5

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Wow. Nothing else to say. This truly is “Birds as Art.”

Simply stunning. Maybe add a little to the left of the frame to get the subject out of dead center?

This is an amazing pose! I am sorry I don’t know anything about treating white birds (I assume in post processing?) It lacks a bit of texture in the white but I am not sure that matters in this style. I don’t mind the bird in the centre because of the aspect ratio you are using.

Great pose with all that feather detail. The background elements work well here. The composition works for me; I’d guess the eye is close to a 1/3 point, and there’s more room on the right for the bird to look into.

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Hi Steve
You need to get this Egret to sign a contract before it get an agent. The framing, background and coloring are great. It would be nice to know the camera setting and would software you are using. It looks like a faster shutter speed would help with the motion blur and the white on the Egret’s upper back is blown out. Over this is a great shot.

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This is a beautiful capture, Steve. The pose is fantastic, the whirling circle of thin feathers is very interesting, and the bird is nicely isolated visually from the background. Very nice!
One trick I’ve used on white birds with good success is using a “linear profile” as described by Tony Kuyper here ( The concept is that most camera and Adobe standard curve profiles are not actually linear, even though they look “straight” from the lower left corner to upper right corner in the curve adjustment tools. But if you start with a truly linear profile for your camera, either downloaded for free from Kuyper’s site or you make them yourself, then you can better tune blown-out whites.
His instructions on how to install and use them are pretty clear. But if you want to try it and run into an issue, let me know and I’ll try to work through it with you.
I’d be interested in hearing how this works out for you.

Reduce the highlights to bring up more details in the feathers. I wish the back plumes were in focus more which would improve the overall artistic quality of the photo. The dark BG and FG work perfectly here. The square comp is also fine as well. It emphasizes the radial symmetry in the comp…Jim

Hi Steve,

As others have mentioned, the composition works very well, the pose is awesome and the overall artistic appeal is great!

However, there seems to be a consistent theme with the details in the feathers in many of your white bird images.
There are details in the feathers at the bottom and everywhere in front of the plumes but the back is blurred out, no details, I can’t help but feel that the digital noise is what you’re trying to get rid of, so you used a blurring tool to or similar to smooth over the feathers just to get rid of the noise but that caused the details to be lost in the process (maybe I’m wrong but it sure looks that way).
A much better option would be to use a good “De-noise” program (Like Topaz Denoise or similar).

Also, I am one of those people that looks at the fine details, the legs are cut-off from the feet and the feet don’t lineup with the legs. The bottom of the legs are just… gone!
And there are fairly large repeating clone stamp patterns as well, especially in front of the left leg.

This was shot at 1/160s shutter speed, that’s pretty slow for an action shot like this IMHO.
This was also shot at f18 at 800mm (400mm with 2x TC), you might have benefitted from something closer to f11 but not knowing the distance from you to the bird makes it hard to tell if f11 would worked, the point being, a larger aperture would have lowered the ISO value but then, you were using shutter priority which means the camera decides the aperture and ISO.
Maybe try using manual mode with auto ISO and use the exposure compensation knob or wheel to further adjust the exposure you want and maybe consider getting a de-noise program to rectify noise issues.

I’ve seen this kind of editing in some of your other images as well, sorry, but I had to finally say something about it.

If you’re having issues with noise or anything else, just let us know and we can help you out with it, that is what the critique theme is for.

I love the overall composition and the presentation, just not the edits and lost details.

All the best intentions,

unedited image

I appreciate the time you spent on this. When I printed this image I could not see the feet or cloning cleanup, So I assume you downloaded the file and opened it up as I did here.
What I was taught by several masters is what’s on paper is the test of the image and the story it tells, what can not be seen is of little importance.

Hi Steve,

First of all, I am not searching for faults in your images in any way and I am not trying to be offensive, I am only trying to help.

Steve wrote:
When I printed this image I could not see the feet or cloning cleanup, So I assume you downloaded the file and opened it up as I did here.

Actually, I didn’t have to download this or do anything special to it to see the issues I pointed out in my previous comment.
I could see those issues even in the small version before expanding it to full screen, full screen was not needed.

I was concerned that my monitor was out of calibration even though I recently calibrated both of my monitors so I opened this image up on both of my iPads, my cell phone, my wife’s cell phone, my laptop and my wife’s laptop and the image looks very much the same across all of those devices.

Could it be that your monitor or maybe your printer needs to be calibrated? Maybe?
Again, just trying to help!

Steve wrote:
What I was taught by several masters is what’s on paper is the test of the image and the story it tells, what can not be seen is of little importance.

I totally agree that what cannot be seen is of little importance. But what about what can be seen?
If I could not see the issues, I never would have brought them up because I am not looking for faults in anyone’s images, including yours.

Steve wrote:
what can not be seen is of little importance.

This part has me wondering, you have said in other posts that you like your images dark, is this why you prefer your images to be dark? Just curious, it is absolutely fine that you like them dark, but I do wonder if this is the philosophy behind it.

Well, it appears that motion blur was pretty minor but the softness may be the result of the 1/160s shutter speed used here. A faster shutter speed would likely produce sharper details.
The color fringing and color ghosting adds to the sense of motion blur, I don’t know what your processing involved but there are some colors in the plume in the edited version that are not there in the unedited version.

Edit: Perhaps the color fringing and color ghosting was added intentionally for artistic purposes and that is great if you did but please state what you did in that regard so new photographers can differentiate between what is photographed and what is added for artistic purposes, this is a learning site and we should know what was done.
The guidelines for posting state that any alterations such as this should be stated in the topic at the time of posting.

As Peter pointed out, the exposure is blown out on the upper back of the egret as shown below in the “Threshold” analysis along with the histogram where it shows a spike at level 232, there shouldn’t be any spikes at all on the right side if the image isn’t over exposed.

As I mentioned before, maybe use the manual mode with auto ISO and adjust the exposure levels with the exposure compensation knob or wheel (which adjusts the ISO values accordingly). Letting the camera choose the ISO and aperture can cause issues like this, although, I’m not sure why it’s over exposed since your camera was set to center weighted average metering (unless maybe the exposure compensation was set too high? Maybe?) The Exif Data for this image doesn’t show anything on exposure compensation though. Just trying to help!

Threshold analysis (below):
Threshold at 232 - Completely clips at 233
The whites in the analysis below are the overexposed parts.

Your edited version showing the color fringing and color ghosting below:

Here’s a version I just edited showing the lower portion of the legs and the feet (below):
Please let me know if you can see the lower portion of the legs and the feet in this version.
Also, notice that there’s no color fringing or color ghosting in the version below.
If you don’t see the differences, maybe your monitor really is too dark? Maybe?

The other reason for pointing out these issues is because this is a learning site for nature photographers, both seasoned and new photographers.
I was out of the loop of new trend changes in photography for many years, I was still shooting a fair amount but my style was formed in the early days of the internet and the early days of NPN, I was a member of NPN 1.0 back in 2000, 2001 and 2002 but my construction business grew rapidly to the point where there was no time for online sharing or learning.
Things have changed for sure and mostly in the way of editing and artificial intelligence software (AI ) for example. Styles have changed too.
I am picturing someone new… or just catching up like myself… stumbling across this image and I see the color fringing, color ghosting, cut-off legs with detached feet and think wow, this is the way it’s supposed to be done? I guess so because there are several comments saying that it’s great, it’s awesome, it’s art, etc., etc.
I just can’t imagine that it’s OK to indirectly teach new photographers that this is acceptable or even preferred practices for editing.
Don’t get me wrong, the concept and visual appeal of this image is outstanding, but the technical aspects of the editing are less than what they should be IMHO.

Again, I am not attacking your image or you in any conceivable way, I am only trying to point out things that would help you in some way,
I would certainly be willing to help out in a private fashion through email or PM if you are interested.

With all the best intentions!

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As noted above, one of NPN’s attributes is that it is a learning site. In the response above there is technical information provided that is not correct. This post addresses those topics to make sure that future readers who may not be familiar with the information provided are not receiving information that isn’t accurate. My apologies to @Steve_Rosendahl for adding yet more technical stuff to his posting, despite him not requesting technical feedback. This information is not about his image, rather the technical information that needs addressed.

The Threshold analysis: First, what is this filter for:

The Threshold filter converts grayscale or color images into high-contrast, black-and-white images. You can specify a certain level as a threshold. All pixels lighter than the threshold are converted to white; and all pixels darker are converted to black. The Threshold command is useful for determining the lightest and darkest areas of an image.

The statement made above says "The whites in the analysis below are the overexposed parts.” That is not correct. The threshold simply says that any part of the image shown in white have a luminance value that is greater than the luminance value selected via the slider. It has nothing to do with overexposure. Easy enough to prove to yourself. Move the slider to 150 (or any smaller number) and you’ll see far more of the image in the Threshold window in white. It has nothing to do with determining overexposure.

“the exposure is blown out on the upper back of the egret as shown below in the “Threshold” analysis along with the histogram where it shows a spike at level 232, there shouldn’t be any spikes at all on the right side if the image isn’t over exposed.”

Spikes at the far right edge of a histogram could indicate blown values, and that means the very far right edge representing luminance values of 255.

The spike a 232 just says there are more pixels at that luminance level than the vertical scale can show on the Threshold window. And… 232 is not blown, 255 is the luminance value where pixels are that are blown.

To further demonstrate the issue, here is an example image with a threshold filter set at 210. There is a “spike” of pixels on the right side of the histogram, nothing blown and the resulting white areas simply show pixel values which are brighter than 210. The areas shown in white on the threshold window are not overexposed or blown.


“you were using shutter priority which means the camera decides the aperture and ISO.”

Not quite accurate. That would only be true if the camera was set in Auto ISO.


“Could it be that your monitor or maybe your printer needs to be calibrated?” “maybe your monitor really is too dark? “

If images are shared or printed that are viewed as dark, and that isn’t accurate, the monitor is too bright, not too dark. Monitors that are too bright cause us to make adjustments to darken an image and hence it shows as too dark on monitors, or causes prints to be too dark compared to what is shown on the monitor.

Hi @Keith_Bauer,

I appreciate you pointing out my mistakes! :slight_smile:

It is very important that everyone reads the “Correct” technical information! :slight_smile:

Thanks again :slight_smile: