Processing An Impossible Image

So my husband and I started walking the redwood plank path through Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, California, USA, our goal to capture images of the giant redwood trees. Of course, I was ready with my Nikon D810, Nikkor 24-120mm lens, and Gitzo tripod. I knew that I would have plenty of time to set up each image since I was working with a landscape filled with trees and lush forest scenes.

Then one of the forest rangers walked toward me. She said, “I see you’re a photographer. I thought you might want to know that just ahead are two deer grazing in the forest. Occasionally they visit this area and they happen to be there right now. You might want to quickly go to that area and catch some images of them before they leave.” Those words were music to my ears. Capturing images of deer in the wild is so exciting for me and I have been known to wait for hours just to get one photo of a deer.

I made my way down the path and was immediately rewarded with a deer walking among the trees. I slowly approached and set up my camera and tripod. Because it was so dark under the redwood canopy, and because this deer was moving along steadily, I knew I would need to increase the ISO to get as clear an image as possible. I put the camera in continuous high mode and began taking countless photos of this deer. I kept checking the LCD monitor to see if I was actually getting any good shots of the deer. At times, I just stood and watched the deer, drinking in the beauty of the moment. Time seems to stop when I am watching wildlife in their natural environment. And to be able to get images of these animals is really icing on the cake.

When I got back to the hotel, I imported all the day’s images and I was especially excited to see what I got with the deer photos. Well, once I saw them all, I realized that there was a lot of noise because of the high ISO, and there was a lot of distracting brush that I wasn’t thrilled about for composition.

One photo stood out to me. It was the one where the deer turned and looked right into the lens of my camera. I loved the photo but there were so many things wrong with it, at least in my opinion, that I thought there was no way to make it work. There was an ugly dead bush on the left side of the photo that pulled the eye away from the deer. The whole image had so much noise that it became blurry when I cleaned it up. So I kind of gave up on the photo and did nothing with it for months.

As I was scrolling through my Muir Woods photos many months later, I came upon the image of that deer again. I decided to see how creative I could get and just play with the image using different photo filters. I processed the raw file in Adobe Camera Raw, then brought it into Adobe Photoshop. The first thing I did was crop the image to get rid of as much of the dead bush as possible. In doing so, I had to sacrifice some of the beautiful greenery on the right side of the image. Then I cloned out the rest of the dead bush with the lasso tool and content aware fill. I created new layers with each change.

Now it was time to jump into some of my different Photoshop filters. I went to the Nik High Key Filter to focus in on bringing out detail in the deer. Then I created a Layer Mask and painted the effect on the deer only, leaving the rest of the image intact.

As I focused in on the deer I realized there was just a huge amount of noise. So I used Topaz DeNoise and got rid of as much of it as possible. The result was a lot of blur in the image. Impossible. Now what could I do?

I decided to go in a whole new direction with the image and add a painterly effect to it. I went to Topaz Impression and selected the Color Pencil 1 filter and set it to 50% strength. The result was exactly what I was hoping for. The blur melted into more of an artistic look with the colored pencil effect and gave me the feeling of surprise and excitement when that deer turned and gazed directly into my camera lens. I finished up the photo using the Darken/Lighten filter in Nik Color Efex and the OnOne Perfect Effects Big Softy vignette set at 50%.

Of course, post-processing photo filters are no substitute for capturing a high quality image in the first place. But if you love an image, there is hope.

Just when you think your situation is hopeless, the impossible becomes possible, and doors open and your life goes in a new and unexpected direction. And so it is in life as well.

And sometimes in post-processing photography, the impossible becomes possible just by experimenting with filters and getting creative.

So the next time you have an impossible image, don’t give up on it. Instead, experiment and try something new. You just might be amazed at the artistic results.

♥ Blessings and Grace to You!


myPhotoWalk Devotional

… He has given us great and precious promises
2 Peter 1:4

myPhotoWalk Technical

  • Title: A Surprise In The Woods
  •   Request This Image > SmugMug Image Request
  • Description: Surprised by a deer along the path in Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, California, USA.
  • Creator: Catherine Martin
  • Date Created: 08/09/15
  • Camera: Nikon D810, Nikkor 24-120mm, FL 120mm, ISO 4000, f/16, 1/15sec.
  • Photoshoot: myPhotoWalk PhotoShoot in Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, California, USA.
  • Post-Processing: Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Photoshop, Nik Software, OnOne Software, Topaz Software.
  • Copyright ©2017 Catherine Martin — myPhotoWalk™ — Quiet Time Ministries. All Rights Reserved.
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