Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nature photography 104: the beginning

  To make a very long story short, I keep finding myself annoyed with nature photography. I was very worked up a few days ago, when I became quite confident that the winner of a fairly large photo contest must have edited/doctored the photo... I then look at said persons website, and found some very blatant editing along with large amounts of shameless self-promotion as a truly expert photographer. 

This really wasn't anything new, but I learned something from it: People can do whatever the heck they want, and I shouldn't care about it. If it bothers me, I can just focus on how I conduct myself and my photography! And with that said, I had the idea to reveal some of the work done on my own photos on my personal website. 

Are you ready for a look at everything you may or may not already know about nature photography? I'll post the website version first, followed by the totally un-edited original,


Here's part 1:

A look at the American Black Duck photos I currently have posted on my website. Not all versions will be this long, but since it is the first, I decided to do a quick rundown of the whole page:

Up first: 

Boom. One important thing to remember is that I shoot in neutral, with no contrast/saturation applied, so the "original" would actually be a fair bit duller than real life.  With that said, this is a pretty common thing with my nature pics. I love colour, and can't help but add a little saturation to just about everything you see on my website. 

Other than that, there has been very little editing. No cropping/moving/removing of any parts. 

Up next:

Similar to the above image, it is one I slightly under-exposed (too dark) at first, but is easily fixed when shooting in RAW (a photo format style that allows "in-camera processing" to be done after the photo is taken). Add my typical touch of colour, and you have the change shown above. 

Again, very little has been added/removed. There are dust spots (small dark spots) on the original that I removed afterwards. This is a very common practice for me, as it is nothing more than dust on the sensor of the camera, that really makes the pics look terrible (even if you don't really notice them). It is a real pain in the @$$ trying to keep dust off the censor!

Up next: 

Pretty much the same as the above images again. The "original" is duller than real life, and I added my touch of colour. I went through a phase where I seemed quite fond of blue, (as you can see in the top/left of the "final product" compared to the first image. I seem to be slowly coming out of this phase (I have a fondness for "cold"/winter things, and the blue gives it a "cold" look). But my current website collection is littered with photos that are a bit blue-heavy. 

Up next:

Again, no major changes, but this is a bit of a funny one. The original is quite underexposed, the subject/image isn't terribly interesting, yet for some reason I decided to "save it" by brightening up the bird. At the same time, I decided I liked the heavy gray of the background, so really focused on getting the birds colour more correct and tried to keep the background similar.  

But when you really look at it, the image really isn't that great in any way. Why did I do this? 

1.) it is a female ABDU, and I had few pictures of females

2.) I must have been bored, because it is not that great, and I spent too much time, when I could have just gone out and taken a better picture. 

A bit of a funny/strange exmaple.. moving on......

Up next:

More typical colour/contrast adjustment, but it shows the change. I decided to focus this first post heavily on these "minor" changes, to show that just about every single photo I present online has had roughly this level of adjustment, but some are much more dramatic. 


From here on out, I'll focus more on some moderate to major changes I've made, and will dive into some of the various methods I've used in order to get the images I wanted (even the really bad ones that may make you hate me).  But meh!

These posts will be blended in among the typical blog filler that is posted here. I hope you enjoy them, since it will become a regular thing!


  1. I should have mentioned that I would be very curious to hear what you think about the editing I've done. Good/bad/immediate reaction etc!


  2. Hi Brandon!
    I think it's a good idea that you "revealed some of the editing you've done". I doubt most photographers would do that.

    For me I always try to keep the editing to a minimum because I think that photography becomes too easy once you let yourself use all the editing tools. It's much better to be able to get the optimal photo in the field, IMO.
    Getting a 'good' photo (i.e. full frame) of a bird is already 'too easy' with the huge telephoto lenses and AF these days. If someone is simply getting those full frame shots and then editing it I tend to think of it as robotic work and simply adding to the junk on the internet. That's why it's important to try and get some more creative/different shots which you've been mentioning over the last year and I think plenty of your photos fit that criteria. Unfortunately most of mine don't.

    Nevertheless, I've definitely done some major editing of a few of my photos but most photos usually involve a crop, remove any dust spots and that's about it.

    I think the saturation in the third ABDU photo (the one with all the tails and one head) is a bit over the top.

    Maybe I'll copy you and make a similar blog post :p

  3. Hi Brandon

    First off, congratulations on taking this step, there aren't many that would be this open and honest .. it's refreshing. I particularly love the second ABDU images .. it looks like an old time formal portrait. Looking forward to future installments.

    Malcolm Benn

  4. thanks for the comments guys! I have plans to do several dozen of these posts, with a lot more dramatic changes to images shown -- so hopefully I don't totally scare you away! ;)