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For many aspiring wildlife photographers, capturing beautiful portraits of their favorite birds or animals in the wild is often their primary goal. This is certainly an understandable and a worthwhile endeavor. When I began photographing wildlife over thirty years ago, I was inspired by the striking wildlife photos of Leonard Lee Rue III and Erwin Bauer. I carefully studied how they used the light, controlled backgrounds, and placed their subjects in the frame to create pleasing wildlife portraits. I pursued the perfect wildlife portrait relentlessly and over time accumulated a large collection of. As time passed I became less and less satisfied with my wildlife photography. I desired more evocative images with impact. I felt as though I really needed to elevate my images to a higher level. I will discuss some of the methods I've used to achieve that goal and continue in my evolution as a wildlife photographer.
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When I began shooting RAW files, the processing tools available were somewhat rudimentary. I labored with the early Adobe Camera RAW converter to process my files (Lightroom didn't exist then), but often felt I could not get the final images to look exactly the way I envisioned them. Part of that can be attributed to my own learning curve. However, the subsequent evolution of Adobe Camera RAW showed me that the software itself was also lacking. Nowadays, I can process most of my RAW files in 2–5 minutes to get them to look the way I want. My proficiency has improved after processing thousands of digital images, but the tools are more sophisticated and the RAW file quality gets better with each generation.
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“Good composition is like a suspension bridge - each line adds strength and takes none away.” –Robert Henri
This is part two of a two-parts essay. In part one, we looked at how the image was created, from field work to studio work, including shooting, converting, stitching, processing and image optimization. Here, in part two, we are going to look at the composition of the image, not only in terms of how the image was composed in the field, but also in terms of what we can learn from comparing the different compositions that I considered when creating this image. In that regards a few words may be useful in order to explain how I approach composition. Let's start with that.
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