Hope, sausage and making photos

Hope, sausage and photos have a few things in common. You never know exactly how they are going to turn out and the process is a little messy and unpredictable. At least for me.

Today I’d like to pull back the curtain and show how sausage … err one photo … came to be.

It started with the hope of finding wildlife one hot summer day. After three hours of driving in prime territory, I hadn’t found a hawk or anything of consequence.

Fortunately I had a snack to provide some distract for my searching eyes. I decided to take the long way home and casually looked at the abandoned barns in case a great horned owl was sitting in a loft window. And there it was! Wow.

I drove up the grid road beside the barn and stopped in an opening between trees. The owl was quite far off even for my long lens but this was going to have to do. I stuck my camera out the window, located the owl and fired off a few shots before it flew off.

In addition to being far away, the owl was in the shade with a bright sun shining behind it. Later that evening both challenges were evident in the RAW image below. (For my philosophy on digital manipulation, check out Are My Photos Real?)


Unfortunately the best-looking part of the photo was the cedar-shingled roof! It was time to get to work to see if this photo could be saved. I started by doing all the normal adjustments such as levels, saturation and colour temperature. This helped the owl look better but I was still left with that ugly white sky, a distracting roof and a tiny owl.

_B5A4887 (5)

I was going to have to do some serious cropping but first I needed to darken the roof so I could balance things off.

_B5A4887 (1)

As you can see above, I darkened just enough to cover the area I would be using in the final image. Here it looks like an oil spill.

But now I had a levelling problem. Since I was taking the photo at an angle, either the window or boards could be level but not both. After trying various options I settled on making the window frame right beside the owl level and let all the other angles fall where they may. This seemed to work since the owl appeared to be leaning into it.

So I cropped it and added some contrast from another program.

_B5A4887 (3)

The photo above seemed close but there were two problems. First, the contrast was too much, especially on the shingles but also a little on the boards. It looked too crunchy for my taste. Second, the board in the top left corner was a little distracting for me.

After making those changes, I ended up with the photo below.

_B5A4887 (4)

I’m still not sure about the somewhat-distracting point where the facia boards connect on the far right side of the photo in the middle. However, it helps to balance the dark window.

What do I like about the image:

  • the focus on the owl
  • the moody, subdued colours that help the owl’s eyes stand out
  • the weathered look of the wood
  • the lines in the photo – especially the triangle formed by the right side of the window and the roof edge right beside the rectangular window
  • did I mention the owl?

There’s a little background on my thots and the process of making this photo. It’s entirely possible I bored everyone left reading at this point.

But then I never promised finding hope or making sausage and photos was exciting!

For the more technically minded:

  • Taken with all Canon equipment – 5DMIII, 500 f4 II, 1.4 extender III
  • Aperture priority, f10, 1/320, ISO 800
  • Original 19 megapixels, cropped 4.3 megapixels
  • Adjusted in Aperture 3.0 with a plugin for PhotoSuite 8

Latest Comments

  1. hannele says:

    Thanks for the walk-through! It’s always a pleasure both seeing and reading your posts, and this one is oddly inspiring. You did a great job with the photo – I love the texture and as you say, the way the eyes stand out in the otherwise subdued colour landscape.

    Well done, both you and the owl, for being there!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Well more credit goes to the owl for being there since I have returned numerous times and found nothing. I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting though.

      I love the way you describe the post as oddly inspiring. Without trying to put it into words that is what I was striving for. I really enjoy when other photographers have laid out their process so I thot I’d try it once, particularly since I struggled mightily with the crop.


      • hannele says:

        On the other hand, a lot of credit goes to you for going there several times, so… 🙂

        Glad to hear that that’s what you were trying to do. I guess discovering other photographers’ methods is something one can really learn from and it might help in situations where it’s hard to finalize a photo.

        Fortunately, your mighty struggle was worth it (to me).


        • Lyle Krahn says:

          It was worth it to me too though I usually don’t want to take too much credit. Every once in a while a photo gets hard for me and then it’s nice to draw on others’ experiences and expertise.


  2. David says:

    I enjoyed reading your explanation of how this picture came about. I also enjoyed reading “Are My Photos Real?” especially because it appears we have a similar approach: okay to take away but don’t add.


  3. Scott Marshall says:

    Intriguing – the shot is a cracker but as there is no sky to play with – I would also crop in – however I think the owl would be stronger in a rule of thirds position (because it is all about the eyes and the location of the bird. Alternatively a long horizontal crop with the left edge of the window and the right of the picture extending in to the roof which – it is pleasing to witness your thought process and comforting to know I am not the only one who thinks quiet so much about such things 🙂 ps I have only seen an owl once or twice at great distance 😦


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Thanks for sharing your ideas on cropping. Now I will have to go back and play around with it some more. I too am glad to hear I have company in playing around with crops and thinking through various options. Then again, I can overthink things with little effort.

      Those owls are special and my encounters are treasured. I have one more “best” shot that I’m saving for a later post.


  4. The other Phil says:

    The Owl leaning against the side of the window frame reminded me of the old Westerns where the cowboy is leaning
    against the veranda post of the saloon looking totally bored. The only thing missing is the drooping cigarette and hat.
    Could you photo-shop those in, please.
    Seriously, it is one of my favourites so far. Great work!


  5. niasunset says:

    This is the most beautiful owl phoptographs I have ever seen…Fascinated me. Great shots. Thank you dear Lyle, love, nia


  6. Mandy says:

    P.S I hope I’m really not anonymous (see below) – this computer is testing my patience. But more stories behind the photos please!!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Computers will test the patience of anyone!

      It’s funny because I say the anonymous comment and thot the phraseology sounded familiar but couldn’t quite place it. I was going to go back and check other comments to see if I could figure it out and then you clarified it. Glad you enjoyed that. I wasn’t entirely sure that people would like it since it is quite different from the usual from me – if there is a usual.


  7. Anonymous says:

    I really enjoyed this post on the story behind the photo. More please!


  8. Gunta says:

    With those two intense yellow eyes staring at you who could possibly notice the board in the top left corner? UNTIL you pointed it out, of course. Very nice shot!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Isn’t if funny how a person can’t stop looking at something that has been pointed out? And then there are those beautiful owl eyes that don’t need any help. What a creature!


  9. Dalo 2013 says:

    Thanks for opening up your whole work flow for this shot ~ it is a beautiful shot, and made better with the subtle (at least I think they are quite subtle) changes that make it pop. For me, the shading on the roof is something I would not have considered yet is an important part of the final photo. Cheers ~


  10. Tim Timmis says:

    Great Owl shot Lyle. The crop works very well, along with your post processing. Good job.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Thanks. I was pleased that I was able to make something I enjoyed out of that distant shot in challenging circumstances (at least for me). I still the recall the absolute excitement of recognizing the owl shape in the window.


  11. krikitarts says:

    Great digital darkroom work–your final image is just terrific.


  12. anotherday2paradise says:

    Fabulous shot of the owl. I love the final cropped closeup. 🙂


  13. My Heartsong says:

    It is nice to know that other people crop too. I use Lightroom and Paint Shop Photo Pro although I prefer to use less and less.I like the the window and owl a little to the left.Thanks for sharing the process. Now I may have sausages for brunch.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      It’s not often my blog posts make a person hungry so I guess that’s a bonus!

      I’m a huge fan of cropping. Not only do I enjoy playing around with all the different options, but I think it fundamentally changes the photo. I may have to switch to Lightroom.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Brian Main says:

    Loved the journey from beginning to end. You said you were quite a ways away, but I’d swear that owl is looking right at you.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Thanks for that. I was a long ways away but I agree with you – that owl was looking at me. Of course that made me nervous that it would fly off. Glad you enjoyed the journey.


  15. Sue says:

    Lyle, thanks for the blow by blow accounting of photo editing. As I am learning more about how to do it properly, I am particularly appreciative of essays like this one. By the way, did I mention I like the owl 🙂


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading about the process. I am, by no means, an expert in this area. However, I have it fascinating when others explained what they did and why so I thot I’d give it a whirl. Ah yes, the owl is worth mentioning!!


  16. Garden Walk Garden Talk says:

    I use Photoshop when I do all of the editing. It would allow you to isolate the owl by itself to make all or any of the adjustments. I think your image came out beautifully with all the adjustments you made.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’ve always been a bit scared of PhotoShop – kudos to you for figuring it out. Maybe someday I will tackle it. I actually have the option in Aperture to isolate the owl to make adjustments though it’s probably better in PhotoShop. Alas Aperture is becoming extinct so I will have to use something else eventually.


  17. janemwoodman says:

    I love the way he’s against the side of the window as if he needs the support. Me in early morning, which for him is late night.


  18. sheketechad says:

    Owls fascinate me, and this composition and capture simply add to the fascination! Great click, and the post-production work makes for an arresting photo, as usual 🙂


  19. Lavinia Ross says:

    That owl photo is perfect, Lyle! He looks like he owns the barn. I like the golden eyes – they do draw one in.


  20. Adelina says:

    The owl is so cute, there o the window. Great picture…


  21. Seenorway says:

    And that’s probably why the rest of us never get to publish such pictures? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      When I first started taking photos, I just liked to pull out my camera and snap away. But I wasn’t happy with the results. So that began the process of trying to get better and add tweaks along the way. Of course others do a lot more than me.


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