This, as I'm told by Rocco Sette on Google+, is a saddle-billed stork. I snapped this picture while visiting the Memphis Zoo last year.
Well, that's not entirely true. This is the picture I actually took:
I still have a hard time capturing what I see "in the moment" in my camera. I wanted the ripples and the reflections and I guess I got them, but not how I had pictured it in my mind's eye. So this image just sat in storage for months with an occasional dusting off for me tinker with in Lightroom and Photoshop. I never came up with anything particularly satisfying.
Then one night of tinkering actually paid off and everything came together.
Using Lightroom 3, I reduced the noise, increased the sharpness and made some other minor adjustments to contrast and brightness. The goal was to create a little more balance and depth without straying to far from the original levels.
Once I had what I considered to be a decent staring point, that image became my baseline. Four virtual copies were created and the exposure levels for each were set to -4ev, -2ev, +2ev and +4ev.
I will admit that it is overkill, though. There probably are not 4 exposure levels worth of information in a single RAW file let alone the 8 levels I have created here. It cost me nothing to create the additional copies and since this was just an experiment anyway, I figured what the heck.
Into Photomatix Pro 4 and here is where I landed:
Now we're cookin' and into Photoshop it goes!
This is where I am going to get a little vague. Not because I have any secrets. On the contrary. It's largely because what happens next would likely make a professional either cry or laugh (or both). These are the highlights:
- The image was cropped to improve the composition.
- Noise reduction. A lot of it.
- A lens blur was used to create some depth of field. More blur in the background than in the foreground.
- The background and foreground were darkened using exposure adjustment layers. Again, more (darker) in the background than in the foreground. (The background just isn't all that interesting.)
- Did some targeted sharpening on the feather edges, the bill and the legs.
- Brightened the epicenter of the ripple.
- Increased the contrast on the bill and created a very slight highlight along the top and a slight shadow along the underside.
Much of the work in area of the ripple center and bill were done to help separate one from the other. I'm red-green colorblind which means that everything just kind of blends together. I have come to suspect that this might give many of my photographs an an ... oddness ... as I try to compensate.
That, as they say, is that. I am happy with the results. For now.
To get an idea of how long the journey from point A to point B was, here is the original and final shown side by side.