Suggestions to improve - Great Blue Heron (Ohio USA)


My edit (DT4.4.2)
When I started editing, I didn’t peek at the camera JPEG. Reading this post while I write it, it’s not far off :rofl:. Many modules just to get close.

When I opened the raw, I wanted more separation between the bird and the background. And enhancing the “blue” of the blue heron.

I took the shot wide, thinking I’d get a decent reflection of the bird on the water, but the reflection didn’t work out? The crop is better?

I’d appreciate comments on my edit and suggestions to improve.

DSC09818_01.ARW.xmp (21.7 KB)
DSC09818.ARW (24.1 MB)

Screenshot 2023-09-10 133442

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

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Hi @akgt94, and thanks for the play.

I am presently trying to “master” (a.k.a trying to learn) vkdt,
so this is a swift attempt using your beautiful bird:

There are umpteen additional modules I could have invoked,
but honestly: I do not yet know how to handle them :slight_smile:

Have fun!
Claes in Lund, Sweden


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ART 1.20.1

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I couldn’t really brighten nor emphasize the heron too much without having issues, so I went with a more naturally looking darker surroundings instead. It’s all about relative difference, anyway.



Here’s my proposal, I tried to create a luminous atmosphere and I added some local contrast in the water.

DSC09818_02.ARW.xmp (19.6 KB)
Darktable 4.5

Greetings from Brussels,

My approach using DT 4.5 is to spotlight the bird using an extra instance of exposure to darken the background. I have been heavy handed in this image and maybe a softer transition would be preferable. I also used a heavy handed approach with color zones to lift the blues since the OP wanted to enhance the blue of the heron.

DSC09818.ARW.xmp (17.1 KB)


With RT 5.9

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Have been playing around until I liked it…

better not look into this mess
DSC09818.ARW.xmp (39.1 KB)


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My version…

DSC09818.ARW.xmp (18.6 KB)


Thanks for the image. My attempt DT 4.4.2.

Attempt was to keep the Great Blue Heron sharp while blurring the rest a little. I noticed that some folks above have done similar with vignette. This is a new install of DT so still getting to grips with it.

DSC09818.ARW.xmp (28.2 KB)

Subdued the background, added some soft glow to the bird, and then added some fur texture to some of the white areas on the feather to fake feather texture. :slight_smile:

My attempt - dt 4.4.2

DSC09818.ARW.xmp (7.8 KB)

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If you want “more separation between the bird and the background”, the most important aspect in this picture is in my opinion to do something with those elements that either
a) compete with it for attention, or
b) interferes with its main visual characteristics.

Light objects/areas in general tend to draw attention to them. In this case there are some fairly light branches contrasting with a darker background around the legs of the bird, as well as that strongly lit upper face of the rock at the legs that “shines” in competition with the main subject, the heron. Furthermore we have some strongly lit twigs/straw around the heron’s head/neck that messes with its main contour. In addition, that boulder just behind the heron’s body is also so light as to diminish the perception of the heron’s form.

I’ve used the version provided by @Terry, which I think improved a lot on making the heron stand out, and added several new masked instances of exposure module to address those issues mentioned above.

One may furthermore eliminate (dampen) some of the light foliage on the right hand side, as well as light rock on the left hand side by further adding masked exposure instances or, as OP did in the square version, crop some of it away. (Although I would have cropped slightly more at the left hand side to avoid that sharp contrast between rock and shadow at the water level. Moving more towards a portrait format is quite OK given the form of the heron.)

Edit: For some reason in the exported version the heron itself came out darker than what it seemed to me to be in Terry’s version. I don’t know what happened.

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Revised version of my earlier submission, taking care of a couple of things I should’ve done then. I (very) slightly brightened the heron but mostly I darkened a few of the larger bright background rocks to drop them to the same level as the rest (especially the one directly behind the bird). End result is better separation but to my eyes it’s about as far as we can go. Too much more and it’ll start looking fake IMO.

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DSC09818.ARW.xmp (28.3 KB)

Masked D&S works surprisingly well, even with a shoddy mask as the one I used to save time.


On rereading the post I notice that my first proposal was not successful, I tried to create a green-yellow vs blue color contrast while remaining bright, a mistake.
Here’s a second proposal with more contrast, for the colors I used the white balance module (legacy) in combination with the new RGB Primaries module and the “look up table” module.

DSC09818_02.ARW.xmp (17.5 KB)
Dartable 4.5 Master

Greetings from Brussels

I would vote for this. Well done, qmpel (imo).

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