Smoke on the Water

This is the time of year when you can catch birds blowing “smoke rings” as they call out. Kathrin Swoboda made the effect somewhat famous when her photo of a Red-winged Blackbird took the Grand Prize in the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards. My weak attempt was taken at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia, which is the same location where Ms. Swoboda took her photo

The challenge was to bring out the fog from the bird’s throat without over-doing it, and contending with the noise that I felt detracted from the image. Otherwise, I was really happy to finally get some shots of this scene.

619A3569.CR3 (13.7 MB)
619A3569_01.CR3.xmp (13.8 KB)

This file is licensed Creative Commons, By-Attribution, Share-Alike.


Great shot!


Nice! What was the temperature at the time?

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Mine is a lighter rendition, but lots of contrast to bring out the ‘smoke’. I also cheated and used the retouch module to remove a branch and cobweb to simplify the composition.

619A3569.CR3.xmp (15.0 KB)

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My edit - tried to give a hint of structure and color…

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Wonderful photograph! My play in GIMP - probably much overdone.


My version…

619A3569.CR3.xmp (19.4 KB)


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@dqpcoxeas your image looks too much cooked to my eyes, but nevertheless congratulations because you managed to extract such a wide range of details from the dark tones area that I wouldn’t even thought it could be possible in a shot like this. You are a master chef. I like the original take more than yours, but I learnt to know your edits since I joined for their quality.

I tried to edit this photo, but what I achieved was trash.

Nice one! Thanks for posting!

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These are all terrific edits. It’s impressive in the way that people were able to pull the features out of the blackbird. I hadn’t realized at the time how tricky this shot would be, with high dynamic range with almost all the details almost all in the shadows.

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It was in the low 40s, with dew point temperature just a bit higher

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619A3569-1.jpg.out.pp3 (13.8 KB)
RT-5.9, raised Black and Contrast, 2/3 stop anti-vignette, tint adjustment to neutralize background, noise removal curve.


Thank you very much for your comment.
It makes me happy, to be on a site like this where I learn a little bit everyday and where you get this feedback.

Excuse my English :pray:

Following the advice of @LukeDrake I have made another version…less cooked :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

619A3569_01.CR3.xmp (28.3 KB)


@dqpcoxeas It’s way better. Almost perfect I would say (just a little bit of halo in the left wing and leg). :smile:


Grey balance patch picked right above the head including a bit of the center of the bright ridge there.

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Retinex (large radius) providing this nice backlighting effect, chroma dropped and thermalized in CIE:

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My fun with GIMP


@HIRAM Those are really nice. I never got the hang of retinex… I’ll have to give it a second look

@Zbyma72age - I like the sky in this one