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Swan balancing on one leg

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Swan balancing on one leg at Thorpeness, Suffolk.

Camera:Canon EOS 30D
Lens:Sigma 18-200 mm OS
Recording media:JPEG (digital)
Title:Swan balancing on one leg
Username:wilbyn3237 wilbyn3237
Uploaded:18 Oct 2009 - 11:52 PM
Tags:Wildlife / nature
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This photo is here for critique. Please only comment constructively and with suggestions on how to improve it.
DRicherby
DRicherby  5269 forum posts United Kingdom725 Constructive Critique Points
19 Oct 2009 - 12:46 PM

Hello and welcome to ePhotozine!

You've managed to get a great pose from your `model', here, and you've composed well, with him leaning into the generous space to the right. I might have given a little more space at the bottom for him to move forward into, but that's not a big thing.

I think there are two areas in which the photo could be improved. The first is that it's somewhat dark and underexposed the histogram peaks out at about 85% brightness, so there aren't any highlights in the image. The first thing I did was to use a levels adjustment to make use of the full dynamic range, and then a curves adjustment to lighten the shadows on the swan's front. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to recover the swan's eye, which is still lost in the shadows being able to see an animal's eyes can bring a lot of life into a photo. Also, I'm a little confused that, despite the under-exposure, there's no detail present in the swan's extended wing. Even a less-aggressive adjustment doesn't show anything there, so I'm not quite sure what's going on. Usually, loss of detail in the bright areas of an image is either due to over-exposure or being out of focus but neither of those applies here.

Which leads to my other suggestion for improvement: the focus. Everything in the photograph is in sharp focus, which gives equal visual prominence to the swan as it does to the rather distracting background. Obviously, you had no choice of what was in the background because the swan's just doing his own thing. You don't say what camera settings you used, but it looks like you used a very narrow aperture (high f-number). A wider aperture, giving less depth of field and putting the background slightly out of focus would help to emphasize the swan and de-emphasize that cluttered background.

My second mod tries to give a feel for what the photo would look like with less depth of field. It's kinda fiddly in software but much easier in the camera. First, I took a copy of the image and masked it to leave just the swan, which needs to stay sharp. Then, I returned to the background and selected the top part of the image and gave the selection a big ol' feather to spread it downwards on a gradient. I then applied a Gaussian blur to the selected region, and the feathering means that the blur kicks in gradually. The result is a bit rough and ready but it at least gives an impression of the effect.

Last Modified By DRicherby at 19 Oct 2009 - 12:48 PM

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