flight of the heron

Critique Style Requested: In-depth

The photographer has shared comprehensive information about their intent and creative vision for this image. Please examine the details and offer feedback on how they can most effectively realize their vision.

Self Critique

I like the position of the heron in this image and the sharpness of the bird. Not sure of the position in the frame, is it too far to the left?

Creative direction

Trying for a different view of a popular subject.

Specific Feedback

Should the subject be more centered? overall appeal.

Technical Details

Canon R5, RF 100-500mm @ 472mm
1/2000 @ F-7.1 ISO 500 Hand held


Was shooting at the Hood Canal in Washington state. I was trying for a good in flight image of the herons as they fished or dealt with the bald eagles.

Tough call, John. GBHs are a staple of bird photography because they are so accessible, large and striking, so they’ve been captured in about as many poses and aspects as they will ever present. Having the idea of trying for different is a good one, but there are compositional conventions that exist for a reason and I’m not sure this works for me as much as if it were positioned to the right. Others will differ as we always do and say the tension of the bird about to leave the frame is engaging, and it is, but it also says “barely got it” to me, which may or may not be the case. I think the viewer has to be intimately familiar with the photographer’s body of work to know when this kind of shot isn’t an accident. It’s brave to present when we don’t know the body of work because it creates that question in our minds. I hope that makes sense. It really is a lovely bird with a nice aspect - especially the head and beak framed by the dark wing.

I really like the pose of the bird, John. The angle is striking as is the wing position. I tend to agree with Kris about the position in the frame. My take on it is that if there were some evident reason for it to be leaving the frame (another heron or an eagle on the right side or something similar) the position would make a lot of sense, but with nothing but blank space over there’s no incentive for it to have that “I’m outta here!” position in the frame. So I think I would have positioned it in the right half of the frame with plenty of room to fly into regardless of the conventionality of that composition.

Hi John,

The position of the heron is great in my view, I’m referring to the bank angle, wing position, head position, legs and feet, etc., but it sounds like you’re not happy with the heron on the left side of the frame.
Is it that you prefer not to add canvas with content aware fill or maybe you’re concerned that content aware fill won’t be effective enough?
In my view, things available in Ps like the content aware fill feature is just a tool.

I’ve provided an example edit which added some canvas on the left and a bit at the top, then removed some canvas on the right using the crop tool in Ps, I checked the “Content Aware Fill” box at the top of the crop window so it would add the canvas and fill that space using content aware fill in the same operation.
While I was at it, I ran it through Topaz Sharpen AI using the “Too Soft - Normal” mode with minimum strength settings and it seemed to sharpen the heron a bit more, I selected just the heron for sharpening and left the water as it was.
Finally, I done some minor dodging and burning on the heron, mostly brightened the eye and white parts with an exposure mask, then burned some of the brighter spots, also using an exposure mask.

The only reason for the edit was to demonstrate the results of adding canvas using content aware fill while using the crop tool.
Note : I did need to use the clone tool to do some refining because the software sometimes isn’t ideal, it’s close, but not 100% IMHO.

Please disregard the edit if it doesn’t align with what you had in mind or if you feel that adding canvas like this is unethical. I could easily be misunderstanding what you’re after.

In the end, I’m just hoping that this helps you in some way. :slight_smile:

I think @_Kris and @Dennis_Plank expressed concerns well about positioning in the canvas and @Merv did a good job of showing possibilities. It would be nice to have the head a bit more separated from the wing but even with todays highest burst rates, getting that and an equally nice wing position would be low percentage. So all things considered, I’d say this is a very nice image but also one with possibilities to be considered.

Hi John
You have had some great input on this photograph. I like the Blue flight angle and would suggest bumping up the EV setting to plus 1 on a cloudy day and if your software that does not allow for adding to the frame, change the frame to a 7/5 format. This will reduce the empty space on the right side of the frame. Keep shooting.

Thank you for your thought full comments.

Thank you for your helpful comments. I have adjusted the image as best as I can following your comments.

Thank you Peter. I will remember to up the EV +1 next time I am in a similar situation.