Matt K Fresh Start Course – Week 4

Photo Dates: June 2012 and February 2019
Editing Dates: February 22-17, 2019

The week 4 activity was to frame wildlife. Given that most of the country is cold and/or wet it was fair game to pull some old photos or grab new ones of your pets. I don’t have pets but I do have pictures from our 2012 trip to South Africa when we visited Kruger National Park. The focus (heh-heh) of the activity was editing. The goal was to filter out distractions in order to bring the attention to the photo subject.

Once I started I realized I could improve some of those photo safari photos using this method. I had hoped to use Photoshop to use a selection to mask the subject then create various layers to manipulate the background. After working with a couple of my photos I realized I had a problem. All the animals we saw were tramping around in deep brush so that their feet and lower legs were hidden. Using that technique just made them look like they had amputated legs. Not good. So, I jumped back to Lightroom, re-cropped the photos to better frame the magnificent beasts then use strong vignettes and/or radial and graduated filters to center the attention.

I’ll use some before/after photos to demonstrate. Here is a leopard that was close to our Land Rover. It’s a nice picture but with his/her natural camouflage everything is golden.

Before – Leopard on the Hunt – Arathusa Safari Lodge, South Africa

I simply created an oblong vignette to remove some of the distracting background. Looking back I maybe went too strong on the vignette; nevertheless, it does the job of highlighting the leopard.

After – Leopard on the hunt. Arathusa Safari Lodge, South Africa

This leopard was sitting just next to our vehicle. It was hunting a pack of impalas and used the car to blend in. It didn’t work, the impala herd all looked straight at it and snorted up a storm until the leopard left. I was fascinated thinking their only defense was to run away.

I had to radically crop the right of the photo to get rid of the side of the car. Since the animal wasn’t in the center of the frame I couldn’t use the Lightroom vignette tool. Instead I used a couple of graduated filters from the top and left to highlight the subject.

Arathusa Safari Lodge, South Africa

I think the next photo is a great example of the concept we worked on in week 4. My original picture has a wart hog – maybe? – framed in a news like way. Subject in environment with everything given the same weight or importance.

Before – Some sort of pig or hog in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

I reframed and then applied a vignette. The cropping helped bring out the detail of the animal.

After – some sort of pig or hog in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

On our last morning we saw some white rhinos. They are elusive and frighten easily because of their terrible eyesight. I was afraid we would see any. I was so stoked to see them that I just grabbed a picture of the group.

White Rhinos – Arathusa Safari Lodge, South Africa

The name for these should be wide mouth rhinos – look at those flat mouths. Their name got lost in translation to “white”. So, of course when the other species of rhinos were found they were called black rhinos.

Anyway, for this course I made a couple of attempts. That rhino on the left is of no interest so let’s crop it out and focus on the mother/baby with a vignette.

White Rhinos – Arathusa Safari Lodge, South Africa

Or just focus on the baby?

Young Rhino – Arathusa Safari Lodge, South Africa

This week’s topic was interesting; even though I was a bit heavy handed with the edits, I think it helped me better frame these photos I took seven years ago. Through the Fresh Start Course I’m becoming more attentive to my subjects instead of using what I call a Detective Friday shot: “Just the facts ma’am, Just the facts”. [This is the tag line from the old detective show “Dragnet”]

This week is when our local wood ducks come looking for nesting spots. These pictures would be good candidates for the Photoshop layers treatment.

Male wood duck on our deck railing.
Male wood duck on our deck railing.

Maybe someday; for now we are moving in on the Week 5 which uses natural elements for framing pictures. I’m not sure I’m going to get this done – our week is crazy busy. I don’t see how I’ll find any time to get out to shoot pictures. I’ll watch the videos of course and we get to keep all the videos from the course so I can refer back in the future.

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