VermPhoto | The Cop and The Artist

The Cop and The Artist

March 23, 2013  •  8 Comments

"You are going to roast in the flames of Eternal Damnation for this," The Cop told me.

"Don't sweat it, Dude.  It's chill," said The Artist.

I had captured an unusual meeting - unusual enough that if you Google "Steller's Jay with Peregrine Falcon" you won't even come up with a shot of a falcon with a mouthful of blue feathers.  There they were, a Peregrine Falcon and a Steller's Jay perched on the same branch just feet apart.  The falcon was there first, then the jay landed on the same branch, hung out for under two minutes, thought better of the idea then boogied out of there.  I'm thinking what a great "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" shot.  But, even if the birds were cooperating, the background wasn't.  Horrid tree branches in harsh light dominated the photo.  Of course I shot anyways, but I couldn't shift to the left without trees blocking my view, or to the right without stepping off a cliff and killing not just myself, but my darling 500mm Edie.  So I was stuck with the background.

Where's a cloud when you need one to darken the background?  Steller's Jay giving a Peregrine Falcon the "I'm not afraid of you" look.


I sat on the photo for over a year, before the "magic healing brush" caught me in a vulnerable moment and whispered naughty things in my ear.  Before I knew it the offending branches were gone and I had this crude, yet effective version:

Hand me the short sword and let me disembowel myself.  After a few minutes with the Tragic Healing Brush, the Peregrine is telling the Steller's Jay, "just you wait." 


Now most photographers would be either cool with this or say "no way."  Not much middle ground on this - you're either cheating or not.  For me, I've committed psychological seppuku every day since my mouse hand got the better of me.  Remember those career aptitude tests you take in high school that evaluate your personality, then tell you what kind of career you should excel at?   I took two.  One said I should be an artist.  The other said I should be a cop.  The Artist and The Cop battle constantly for control of my soul.  Usually The Cop tells me to "Bend over the keyboard and spread 'em to 100%."  Then he makes me delete any pics that aren't tack sharp, regardless of emotional impact or aesthetic value.  But sometimes The Artist gets to me first, and whispers "Give it five stars, that's beautiful." 

So what to do when I get a one star capture of a five star moment that will never happen again?  You tell me. 


Sport climber!!!
Mia McPherson(non-registered)
I've seen images where everything was replaced but the bird and although they tried hard with the cloning tool or brush, I could tell it was not natural.

When I have that once in a lifetime moment I hope that every thing is perfect, the background is great and nothing is obstructing the subject or that nothing is distracting. It happens sometimes but when it doesn't I have the image that sparks my memory even if no one else but me ever sees it.

I go light on cloning for dust bunnies, keep the saturation believable and only make minor contrast, tone or white balance adjustments along with sharpening. It feels real that way.

The Cop stopped me before I went even further into the abyss, hence the shoddy Photoshop result around the branch. I couldn't go further, to some extent because the end result would not have matched the thrill of the actual moment. At best it might have become a 3 star picture of a 5 star moment and that ain't raising the bar. I'm sure The Cop and The Artist will do battle again soon. Stay tuned.

When it comes to you and your editing, I never thought of you as a Shepherd, more of a Pinscher ;)
Julie Frederick(non-registered)
Well, the doctored photo looks doctored. Maybe it's the unnatural-looking branch created when you swiped off the twigs. If you're going to clear the brush, do it right, and hire a professional retouch artist to do the dirty work! My thoughts? Even 1-star photos look good when they capture 5-star moments.

I took one of those tests in high school, too. My results? Said I would make a great sheep herd. Maybe that's why I'm such a brilliant editor? ;-)
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