Its All About The Light

Heron Fishing

Its All About The Light…

I was doing some file surfing looking for images to use in an up coming exhibition and came across this old image taken in Minnesota some five years ago. I’ve always enjoyed the sequence of this Great Blue Heron fishing this small stream. There is 22 images as the heron moved up this stream but tonight the creative light went on when I saw this specific image file so I grasped the moment and came up with this predawn interpretation.

I love early morning light and the mood that it creates, still waters, dark shadows with highlight reflections. I can still hear the sounds of woodland creatures start to awaken, deer are just upstream grazing in the tall grasses, song birds calling in the distance and a slight morning mist hangs over the area. The heron moves ever so slowly not making a ripple, stalking its prey beneath the mirrored waters surface. I sat ever so quiet on this walking bridge and watched him for some time, it was so peaceful and tranquil. Now that’s an incredible way to start a day.

Serendipitously I caught this heron and the two deer in the grass.

Serendipitously I caught this heron and the two deer in the grass.

The Abbreviated Process :

OK, so that’s the essence of the event and this is how I bring it to life. This image was processed in Lightroom 5.6 with just a slight contrast adjustment, a vignette added by using the radial tool, contrast in the grasses using an inverted radial tool, and details added to the Heron by brush. A slight global sharpening was added at the end. The dark glow and frame was added in Perfect Effects 8.

The Step by Step Details:

Here is the RAW image once loaded in LR5. Some global adjustments are made to start creating the darken morning light. This is a base line start to create the mood I was thinking of.

RAW imageI continue to develop the image with a crop and a deepening of the of the contrast and light adjustments. I add a touch of sharpening but use the edge mask to avoid sharpening artifacts in the dark areas set at approximately 60%. The image is cleaned of any unwanted debris in the water and other areas.

Lightroom adjustmentsAt this point its was sent over to OnOne Perfect FX8. Sorry I don’t have any screen shots of this part of the process but here it is. I use a natural HDR but reduced that layer to 30% so it just adds some details. This is a very organic feel for how it looks so judge it for your own taste and eyes. The next adjustment is under Glow and the Darker setting. Here is where you need to do some creative work. On this layer bring up the brush tool and set it to erase, I start by setting the brush opacity to 50% and deselect the perfect brush. Place the brush over your subject and adjust the interior target size to just encompass the subject the feather set to 50% will fade out from there. Make your selections to bring up the details your looking for. Now set the brush opacity for 25% and extend the size out further to feather and feather the selects more. Add a boarder but position it between the two adjustment layers.

Return the image back to Lightroom for the final adjustments. Once back in Lightroom bring up the radial tool. This image I used the following setting seen in the screen capture and these were based on what was required to bring the image up to the next level of detail and clarity.

Radial tool contrast settings.

Radial tool contrast settings.

Make your selections based on your image these are specific to this image. Raidial tool detailing #2Repeat for each area that you define.

Raidial tool detailing #3Continue the detailing refinements with the brush.

Heron contrast detailedDetails added to the heron in this image.

Brushed highlights #2Add any brushed highlights to improve the image here its a lot of small highlights to add some interest and detail.

Edge darkeningRemember you can erase brushed details so this is where I clean up some of the over spill of brush strokes added earlier.

Heron FishingThe image is nearly complete make any global adjustments in light and dark, clean up any spots and your done.

If you have any questions on these or other techniques please let me know via comments or email at

One response to “Its All About The Light

  1. Pingback: Capturing Emotions, The Human Condition. | Joe Kerr Photography

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