Outdoor Photography Tips 49 - Noise and debris -how to use the unusable.


Wow! Time is flying by. It has been a few months since my last visit to the blogging keyboard. In this blog I would like to discuss the usage of many images that at first would seem to be a throwaway item.

With today's cameras capturing mega-giggles and bugoodles of pixels, many people are asking how many megapixels can I afford to pay for the latest large number cameras. In my opinion, most of the photographer wanta-bees should be asking themselves the simple question, "How can I improve upon some of the images I have already taken?". A large amount of their images become hard drive clutter to be deleted at some other time. I have also seen images deleted because they think they are not quite what they wanted. Maybe there is something in the photo that is distracting or the lighting was not quite perfect. Well I hate to disappoint, but that is a major factor in outdoor and wildlife photography. Everything is not going to be "picture perfect" every time. But it isn't to say we are required to toss the images in the digital dustbin either.

Here is a sample image I recently captured. I was sitting along the banks of the American River awaiting my turn at passing critters. This Black phoebe lit on a nearby twig and made the decision to use it for a scouting and targeting location from which to launch out and snatch insects that had the misfortune of flying too close to the surface and were now breakfast material for the hovering insect eater.

This was a wonderful opportunity to witness this aerial acrobat while attempting to photograph the process. An easy decision with a difficult target. I had to shoot at 1/3000 second to have any hope of retaining sharpness in the images. The problem was the bird was flying in the shadow of the river embankment which extended another 20 foot above me. My solution...I had to raise the ISO, which in turn, made the images very noisy. The second issue was that the water, being a back eddie and perfect for small insects to get trapped on the surface, it was also trapping a lot of debris from the river as well.

The first image illustrates to you the original captured image. Although the bird is captured at a stunning moment in time, the rest of the image has a bit to be desired.

Attacking the first image, I gravitated towards removing the bits and pieces of "stuff" floating about. I used a magic eraser tool to take out the larger noticeable floating objects and or any highlight that might be distracting from the mood of the scene. I performed this before using the denoise filter. Once I had the annoying objects removed, the noise filter did a fairly decent job of smoothing out the surface of the water.

Original image with debris and noise.

Utilizing the denoise tool once the spots were got left the surface of the water reasonable smooth. I then applied a glow filter and added some color to the water surface.

Final image.

As you can see, the final image retains all of the original look and feel of the captured moment, but does not want to to toss it because of the distractions posed by the floating debris. So as you are previewing your images, take the time to think about why you wanted to capture that subject. If it no longer looks the way you though it did as you did your composing, ask yourself what is distracting in the image you wanted to capture. You may find it isn't what you did capture, but it could be what you didn't see as you made the capture. This is where the super-detailed-capturing camera bodies sometime deliver too many details.

Remember, the three P's to wildlife photography - Practice, patience, and in this case, processing, come together

to provide you with the results for a pleasing image....And, as always, Happy Shooting.

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