This is the kind of shot that breaks a bird photographer’s heart…
1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 640, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light, not baited, set up or called in
This Red-tailed Hawk image from last week in Montana is an example of what I’m nearly always hoping to get when I’m on a perched raptor while it’s facing away from me and about to take off. 99+% of the time all you’ll get is a butt shot but if you’re extremely (and I do mean extremely) lucky you’ll get a nice look back from the bird as it banks, a widely flared and beautiful tail, good light on the entire dorsal surface, light in the eye and maybe even something interesting in the background other than featureless sky. And this time there was the bonus of a small falling feather below the left foot (something I like but others may find distracting).
The only problem is, this image isn’t real. Or at least significant parts of it aren’t real.
This version of the same image is true reality – including a damned wire going completely through the axis of the hawk and the top of an ugly power pole that had been the bird’s perch lurking in the frame corner.
Typically when something like this happens I delete the image to get rid of the reminder of what “could have been” but occasionally I simply cannot resist playing around with it a little first. In the first version I’ve cloned out both the wire and the top of the pole. It would be easy to add canvas up top and if I wanted to take the required time to clone in the feather tips I clipped I think I’d have a striking (though fake) image.
I’ll keep the original RAW file of this shot as a reminder of the potential of situations like this but other than that the image will remain dormant.
I thought this shot illustrated well the temptations for cloning faced so often by bird photographers. I’m of the opinion that in many ways birds in flight are the most difficult of all nature photography subjects because of their speed and unpredictable flight patterns and many things have to go right to get a truly spectacular shot. That makes it all the more tempting to “fudge” a little when one of those requisite elements eludes the photographer but everything else comes together.
Adobe’s relatively new “content aware” cloning tool which has been available since the release of Photoshop CS6 makes it much easier for even the novice at processing to clone elements into and out of an image. Perhaps some of these new and powerful tools are double-edged swords for the photography world…
Ok, back to “real” photography – starting tomorrow.