Tony McLean's East Yorkshire Wildlife Diary

Wildlife photography in East Yorkshire

The image is King!

Kingfisher, originally uploaded by Tony McLean.

Yet another image of a Kingfisher taken at Tophill Low yesterday. I specifically chose this image because I wanted to talk about post-processing.

For almost ten years (1990-2000), I worked almost every evening and weekend in a community dark-room in my home town of Darlington. To say I was obsessed would be putting it mildly. I explored almost every avenue of black & white printing—but very little colour. I also delved into 19th century printing techniques such as salt, gum-bichromate and platinum printing. This gave me a tremendous appreciation of the potential of an image and how I could extract the most important information and then focus the viewer’s attention on the critical aspects of the photograph. Then along came digital…

I have been using Photoshop since version 4. I still consider myself a rank amateur but I think I have mastered the basics. About eighteen months ago, I became aware that I had real a passion for wildlife photography. Now, its seems that nature photographers have their own set of rules. Manipulation of an image is strictly governed. Some of the zealots amongst them dictate that almost everything should be presented as captured in-camera and what remains (including the amount of cropping) should be declared or excluded. Now, even though I may agree with some of the aspects of this regulatory approach, my goal has always been to create the best possible image from the material available.

I always shoot in Raw format. This gives me most wiggle-room to exploit the potential of my photographs. I regard the ‘raw photograph’ in the same way that an artist would a preliminary sketch. If you compare the original (below) to the final image you will see that I have blurred the background to remove the distractions. I have also ‘opened-up’ the detail in this difficult, back-lit subject and ‘painted-in’ some blown highlight detail in the lower part of the left wing. I have also removed the top part of the perch beyond the upper wing and resolved some of the shadow detail around the eye.

Now this sort of heavy manipulation would exclude it from the majority of nature competitions and would probably draw some sharp intakes of breath from the fundamentalists. Do I care? No, not at all. I strongly believe that the final image is king!

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One thought on “The image is King!

  1. Not exactly a silk purse from a sows ear, cos the original wasn’t a sows ear. You’ve definitely got a silk purse of a Kingfisher photograph though. Thanks for sharing your technique with us on post processing.
    The transformation of your photo has left us with a stunning image to admire.

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