Head Shot

A couple of weeks ago, Dayna and I were at Otter Slough Conservation Area, working our way along the east edge (during waterfowl season, most of the area is closed to everyone except hunters and only the perimeter is accessible to everyone else, something that burns my ass, but is not really relevant today). Red-tailed Hawks are plentiful and we found this juvenile perched on top of a tangle of vines and brush. I shot several photos before he moved and this was typical of the series.

Shot right at noon, the light is rather harsh, and then there are all of those sticks and vines poking out everywhere, generally making a mess of things. Let’s see what we can do to salvage the image.

If I have the entire bird in the frame, I usually don’t crop any of it away, but in this case, I think it’s a good idea. Using the rule of thirds and keeping his eye near the upper-left intersection, I pulled in tight on his head and shoulders and cropped away much of the distractions.

The Clone Tool and Healing Brush made quick work of several more sticks that I didn’t appreciate. I left the vines across his wing because I kinda like them there and they would have been a real pain to remove. I did use the Burn Tool to de-emphasize them a bit.

I shifted the color balance to the yellow side a bit to give the image more of an early morning feel and desaturated the sky a little—it was just too blue.

Using the Eyedropper, I selected the yellow of the eye, went just a bit brighter and, on a new layer, painted over the iris and the yellow part of the beak. I changed the blending mode for this layer to Overlay and reduced the opacity to around 40% (I don’t remember the exact number now.) This brightened those areas and made the catch light in his eye stand out a touch.

Then it was resize, sharpen a tad, run Topaz Denoise to clean up the sky and shadows and we’re done. So what do you think? Not bad lemonade for the lemon we started with, eh?

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