What’s in a pic: Common redshank

In my first What’s in a pic article (two years already, check it out here!), I described how I used noise reduction to enhance an image. I also presented other tools and techniques, and now that I read the article again, I find my old self quite… naive. A lot has changed in how I approach photography and post-processing, that’s for sure!

In today’s article, I explain the thought process behind the picture of a Common redshank (Tringa totanus) I took on Kylmäpihlaja. Please see my last piece here for more pictures of this beautiful place and its inhabitants.

It started with this shot. I liked the light, warm and soft, and the foreground elements coming from bushes positioned between me and the bird. I liked the background too, but I wanted it more blurred, less distinct.

As I explained before, a lot of my inspiration nowadays comes from the guys at Wildlife Inspired, Ray Hennessy and Scott Keys. Nothing of what I present here is novelty in itself, it’s just advice I heard, liked and tried to apply, with variable success.

But back to our wader. As often (always?), I wanted to go closer, and luckily, the redshank allowed me to approach it, a bit later. I then made the following shot.

The sun was going down, and shadow from the trees crept towards my subject. What I didn’t like here was that the tip of the bill was dark on a dark background, hence not very discernible. Therefore, I moved around a bit to place the bill against a lighter background.

Better, isn’t it? Hmmm, this line bisecting the redshank’s head bothered me. That’s a problem I often face – background shapes “hitting” a bird’s face are not desirable. The ideal situation in that regards would be a completely clean background, but that’s rarely possible, and not necessary anyway.

I have found that noticing this kind of problem in the field, looking at the back of my camera, was difficult. Often, I looked at the general quality of the background without checking precisely how it interacted with my bird. It was only on my computer that I realized it – I’m glad that, this time, I saw it and acted upon it to improve the shot.

I ended up with this image. There was still one point I wanted to improve. I remembered Ray talking about how including the horizon on a bird picture improved it – and I wanted to try it!

I didn’t really got the horizon in the shot, but I managed to include the sea in the top-right corner. See how the line of vegetation got lower inside the shot? I really lowered my line of sight, getting much closer to eye-level than in the previous photographs.

There’s another great improvement that I didn’t notice instantly. In the previous picture, the redshank is looking a tad away from the camera, while in the last one, there’s a much stronger contact between the viewer and the bird.

Eye-level and eye contact – that’s the name of the game!

That was the final image. What do you think?
Again, nothing of this is innovative, but I found the process interesting, and I wanted to share it.

See you soon for more content about my trip in New Zealand :p


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