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1st place in the Young Mensa North 2016 photo contest.

A grey heron - most of the time due to their colour they tend to blend into the background, or be darker than the background; this is an effort to emulate a more egret-like appearance of glowing white against dark, by catching a slightly backlit heron against a backdrop of dark trees, and making the most of the contrast.

Shot after some careful stalking and positioning in the wetland area of a local nature park, with the 100-400L IS and the 1D mark IV.  The bird was almost backlit by the sun, adding a lot of definition to its feathers, and underlit by reflections from the grass giving it a fill light effect.  Manual exposure, wide open aperture to get maximum background separation and 1/500th of a second to allow me to pan and get the eye sharp with the help of the image stabiliser, but still keep some blur in the wingtips.

Editing is a combination of a number of classic black and white processes.  After initial contrast adjustment, the image was desaturated after being filtered through a custom blue/magenta filter composed of 80% blue and 20% red transmission, 0% green, to maximise the brightness of the heron's plumage and play down the trees behind even more.  Crop, clone out a distracting blade of grass stuck to its beak, dodge and burn.  Finally the image was converted to duotone using a custom curve of Pantone Process Black CV for the shadows and Pantone Cool Gray 7 CV for the midtones.  This gives it a subtle silky feel that makes the tonality that bit richer, and closer to the complex sheen of silver halide.  Then converted back to RGB for upload, resized and sharpened.

High quality prints are available from
Image size
1200x800px 440.02 KB
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
Shutter Speed
1/512 second
Focal Length
400 mm
ISO Speed
Date Taken
May 8, 2016, 4:42:29 PM
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM
Sensor Size
© 2016 - 2023 slowriot
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FatalBunnyStarSailor's avatar
Gorgeous bird. Reading your description of how you took and edited the shot was very satisfying and interesting. I think it came out wonderfully, and I love how the bird almost seems to flow against the dark background. Great job!