We saw lots of interesting birds (see my other posts on the trip here and here) but the photo I like most is actually of very common birds; a coot and a lot of black headed gulls. As soon as we got settled in the hide that I took the photo from I knew the shot I wanted. The coot was slowly making it's way through a large mass of gulls and I knew that if I waited long enough I should be able to get a photo of the coot looking completely out of place. Not quite like an Everton supporter in the Liverpool stand at a derby match (that would be a gazelle in amongst a pride of lions) but still the odd one out. I only had to wait a few minutes before I got the photo. As you can see from the original on the left it needed quite a bit of post processing before I was happy with it.
The first step was to crop the image down. There were a couple of things that I felt spoilt the shot; the reflection of reeds across the top, the flying gull, and the two ducks top left. Fortunately these were all easy to crop out leaving me with just water, coot and gulls. The flying gull was probably the worst distraction and draws the eye more than the coot in the original photo so it had to go. The coloured reflection was also annoying as you couldn't see what it was reflecting. I tend to err on the side of doing as little as possible to a photo on the computer but on this occasion I think the crop was more than necessary. Whilst the crop has improved the photo the fact that it was taken on a cold, damp and grey day shows in the very muted colours that aren't very pleasing.
So in Paint Shop Pro I fixed the white balance (after talking about it last week I forgot to alter the camera setting, doh!) and then added some colour back into the image. All together this makes it look as if the photo was taken on a bright crisp winters day and I think you'll agree is much better than the original. I could easily have stopped at this point and the photo would have been okay, but I decided to experiment a little with another feature that has only recently been added to Paint Shop Pro; depth of field.
When taking close up shots you can often compose a photo with only a very narrow depth of field which means that both the background and near foreground are out of focus with just the subject matter crisp and sharp. This has the advantage of drawing the eye into a section of the photo and possibly hiding details that would have otherwise spoilt the photo. When shooting at such a long distance this isn't as easy to achieve using just the camera but digital techniques can be used to achieve a similar effect. For the final photo I used the depth of field tool to select just the horizontal strip the coot is walking across and I think it enhances the final image quite a bit.