Happy Accident

A couple of months ago, I was on a ridge-top dirt road running through a block of Mark Twain National Forest land. Typical for early May, it was cloudy and the sun kept peeking in and out of view. I’d been driving slowly, windows down, listening for singing birds. I’d already gotten good photos of a Pine Warbler, a Great Crested Flycatcher, a Black-and-white Warbler and a first year Summer Tanager who was singing like the horny teenager he essentially was.

Standing beside the truck, a flicker of movement 75 yards away and directly over the road caught my eye. Focusing my attention, the movement quickly resolved itself into a male Scarlet Tanager, my first of the year. Not knowing if I’d get any closer, I fired off a few frames just to document what I’d seen. This is something I do routinely, and if do manage to get better photos, I usually delete those distant,low quality images that came first.

Later, looking at the photos back at home, this is what those first shots looked like:

I had gotten closer and came away with a couple of decent images, so I was going through, deleting these early, distant images. But when I viewed the next image at actual pixels, I fell in love with the shot.

The eye is in focus, but the rest of the shot is very soft and I normally hate this. Soft images are the bane of my existence. But this looks much more like an oil painting than a photo and I really, really like it. Yes, I could use photoshop to make most any image look like this, but I did very little to this image in post work. I corrected for levels, cropped the image (throwing away 94%, if I did the math correctly) and ran a noise reduction filter. That’s it, nothing more. This is pretty close to what came out of the camera.

So instead of another image to delete, I have an image that I like well enough that I’m planning to print and frame it. A happy accident indeed.

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