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Thread: Photograph composition help

  1. #1
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    Photograph composition help

    I've been looking through many of my bird pictures lately and I'm seeing the same type of challenge over and over again. I wonder if any of you birders/nature photogs have any tips to help me out.

    Many of the birds I see are perched way up in trees, often on bare branches. As a result, I get the bird in the frame, the branch, and then nothing but a completely flat, textureless blue sky. (See attached) Sometimes there is pleasant green and brown bokeh behind and around them, depending on where they are. Much more often than not, I'm holding the camera almost perpendicular to the ground and shooting straight up.

    There isn't much I can do in post. All I did to this shot was sharpen it a little. I think the blue overwhelms the photo, but I don't know what else to do except maybe crop tighter, or underexpose the subject a little and then lighten it in post so I don't have such an obvious, bright background.

    Any hints? Tips?
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Sarah
    Equipment: Canon T2i (550D) with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, 55-250mm f/4-5.6, 50mm f/1.8, and 400mm f/5.6L lenses
    Software: Windows 8, PSE 10 (Editor), PSE 6 (Organizer), and PSCS 4

  2. #2
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    The thing that I find the most distracting is that branch on the left. At least with the blue sky it would be easy to clone out the branch and you're left with the most beautiful distraction-free shot. Then I'd crop a little off the left to comply with the rule of thirds. As for your original question - the blue doesn't bother me. Scott Bourne writes about how he likes a clean, blue background on his bald eagle photo here: http://photofocus.com/2012/04/07/my-...-photographer/. But if you don't like it, the solid blue would be very easy to replace with another sky or background.
    In photoshop you can use the BlendIf mode to do it (Photoshop: Using Blend Modes - down the bottom), but I'm not sure whether you have that in PSE, so you can use the wand to delete the sky (Photoshop Elements Sky Replace - Replace a Dull Sky in Photoshop Elements Video) and replace it with a different sky or maybe you could just replace it with a subtle gradient to achieve the look of Scott's Bald Eagle shot?
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  3. #3
    I think you get amazing bird shots, SArah! I wish I could get them like that! I agree with Esther on the branch, I might even crop it to a smaller vertical photo. Beautiful!!
    Anke







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  4. #4
    I like Anke's idea with the portrait crop! I like the blue sky! But if you don't like how the sky is completely blue, use the brush tool in photoshop and make your ow clouds. Just play with the opacity. Or better yet, try Katie's clouds she came out with the other day!
    Cloudscape Brushes and Stamps No. 01 - Photoshop Brushes DesignerDigitals
     photo BLINKIE_zpsf19a4128.gifDDblinkie! photo DDblinkie_zps0593abf9.gif
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  5. #5
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    Alright, ladies, I took all your suggestions! I like that bald eagle shot but it looks like he added a gradient to the top, and it adds that much-needed contrast. The only drawback is I was about 200 yards away when I took this, so cropping in so tight threatens to lose a lot of resolution.

    I think I need to bite the bullet and buy a 16GB camera card so I can start shooting in RAW again!

    Is this better?
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Sarah
    Equipment: Canon T2i (550D) with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, 55-250mm f/4-5.6, 50mm f/1.8, and 400mm f/5.6L lenses
    Software: Windows 8, PSE 10 (Editor), PSE 6 (Organizer), and PSCS 4

  6. #6
    oh, my, sister. You are SO good with that camera. I loved what you told me to do in the Everglades and it really worked. Here is my fav shot of a bird...thanks to Y.O.U.!!

    Great Egret - Everglades Series - Digital Scrapbooking Ideas - DesignerDigitals
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  7. #7
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    Sarah, in her current Digital Scrapbooking Essentials class, Patti Knox does a class on layer masks. in the video lesson she blends a butterfly from one photo into a a background of flowers from another photo. Maybe something like that would give you the results you seek. Your photo is awesome with just a little cropping though too!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by iUma View Post
    oh, my, sister. You are SO good with that camera. I loved what you told me to do in the Everglades and it really worked. Here is my fav shot of a bird...thanks to Y.O.U.!!

    Great Egret - Everglades Series - Digital Scrapbooking Ideas - DesignerDigitals
    Uma, that is awesome! So lovely. I'm glad that some advice I gave came in handy. Everyone is very different as to what gear they're willing to carry, especially in iffy locations. I still haven't gotten up the courage to take my camera and L-series lens out on the lake in a kayak. I know I could get amazing shots, but knowing my luck, I'd turn that sucker over!
    Sarah
    Equipment: Canon T2i (550D) with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, 55-250mm f/4-5.6, 50mm f/1.8, and 400mm f/5.6L lenses
    Software: Windows 8, PSE 10 (Editor), PSE 6 (Organizer), and PSCS 4

  9. #9
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    Esther, I'm going to bookmark that video and watch it later. I have gobs and gobs of these bird-with-bright-blue-skies photos, so that can be a project I can take on soon!
    Sarah
    Equipment: Canon T2i (550D) with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, 55-250mm f/4-5.6, 50mm f/1.8, and 400mm f/5.6L lenses
    Software: Windows 8, PSE 10 (Editor), PSE 6 (Organizer), and PSCS 4

  10. I know what you mean about the lens in a kayak Sarah! Took me about 9 months to work up the courage to take mine out in a canoe. One evening at about dusk, I could hear the loons calling and I just did it! Some wonderful shots of mum, dad and two chicks which I never would have gotten. Seriously, when was the last time you rolled, on flat water....?
    Susan

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by home in ottawa View Post
    I know what you mean about the lens in a kayak Sarah! Took me about 9 months to work up the courage to take mine out in a canoe. One evening at about dusk, I could hear the loons calling and I just did it! Some wonderful shots of mum, dad and two chicks which I never would have gotten. Seriously, when was the last time you rolled, on flat water....?
    Well, never . . . but I've caught a crab or two in my rowing shell, and that brings back memories. I go out on my mom's kayak every summer on the river, and I don't have trouble. It's just that I have an intimate relationship with Murphy, and he'd sic his law all over me if I tried something like that. Last winter we were in Destin and free kayaking came with the resort. They only had the Gulf side open and I was too scared to try it. I wasn't sure about my capabilities on the open sea, especially with all those huge Pink Meanie and Man-o-War jellyfish rumbling around.

    I may have to try it this summer at my mom's. There are osprey nests and bald eagle nests out along the perimeter of the inlets that you can't see from the shore. It would be fun to get some unusual pictures.
    Sarah
    Equipment: Canon T2i (550D) with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, 55-250mm f/4-5.6, 50mm f/1.8, and 400mm f/5.6L lenses
    Software: Windows 8, PSE 10 (Editor), PSE 6 (Organizer), and PSCS 4

  12. I say go for it! The only time that I have EVER been seasick in a boat was photographing an osprey nest with a long lens and a mild chop....the motion was significantly magnified through my lens....
    Susan

  13. #13
    I know what you mean Sarah as I end up with a lot of photos of bright blue solid colour sky. Am reading all the suggestions here for ideas... Love your cropped image.
    Carolyn

    Blog: House of Amson

    My Camera: Nikon D300
    Lenses Include: Nikon 18-200, Nikon 50 mm 1.8 and 1.4, Tokina Macro 100mm 2.8, Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 (newest indulgence)

  14. #14
    Sarah ... thanks for posting this ... I often get a bird photo and think I have a winner until I see it on the computer and think "dang, not what I wanted". Love the newest version with just the one branch and blue sky.

    Ester ... thanks for the links ... I got a fairly decent hawk full wing spread photo last week but it was against a dull grey sky and when I looked at it on the computer, I just thought "blah" and actually deleted the photo. Next time, I'll trying working on the sky color before hitting delete.
    Gail

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