Back Modifications (2)
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Swan Lake

By nac
swan just about to leave the lake in st james's park

Tags: Jubilee Wildlife and nature

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This photo is here for critique. Please only comment constructively and with suggestions on how to improve it.


pamelajean Plus
12 1.1k 2023 United Kingdom
8 Aug 2012 3:16PM
Hello, Noel, and welcome to EPZ.
Swans are popular photographic subjects, and you have captured a good bit of action here as the swan starts to take off. Your fast shutter speed has enabled you to get a clear image which has frozen the action nicely. You have handled the exposure well, having good feather detail, when it is often the case that the white plumage gets burnt out, leaving little detail. I feel it must have been a dull day, which has obviously aided a good exposure, but because you have used a very high ISO speed, there is a lot of noise/grain evident mainly in the water.

Compositionally, there is too much space behind your subject. The swan is moving to the left and top, and those are the areas where you need extra space, not behind. This makes the shot more compositionally pleasing and it also helps guide the viewer’s eye through the image, in the direction your subject is looking. With moving objects, the eye will naturally follow the path the subject is on and having no space for them to move into can leave the shot unbalanced. The space also gives the viewer a chance to wonder what is outside of the frame and where the subject will be headed next. You should always consider the path of moving subjects and, generally, leave space in front of them into which they can move.
You probably felt the image looked good with all of the water circles included, but sometimes you have to make compromises in order to achieve a pleasing composition.
Although your original image may be sharp, your upload is not, and it is wise to sharpen after resizing for the site because the resizing causes loss of detail.
Wildlife do not always perform in the way we would like, and in this case it would obviously be ideal if the swan were moving in YOUR direction so that the eyes and beak could be seen clearly. I have personally spent hours waiting for the right shot, and sometimes have even had to give up and go home with nothing, especially if the light was not right.
But I do like your shot, the open wings and also the way you have a good clean water background with no distractions within it, and it's also quite dark, which helps outline the shape of the swan against it.
In my modification, I cropped to remove the space on the right, and also removed some from the bottom. I then added canvas to the top, as suggested above. I adjusted levels in order to deepen the background water, ran noise removal over the image, and then sharpened, which has especially given good detail to the water movement beneath the swan. I also upped the saturation to bring out what little colour there was available. This would probably work well in black and white, too.

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