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Another Look with Art Wolfe

Lesson 5 of 5

Wildlife Image Critique

Art Wolfe

Another Look with Art Wolfe

Art Wolfe

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Lesson Info

5. Wildlife Image Critique

Lesson Info

Wildlife Image Critique

Alright, so here's a shot of an elk maybe in Yellowstone at the end of a very long winter. And the elk has a nice rack but boy, the fur on it looks, that's the first thing I notice is the fur on the elk looks a little past it's prime, you know it looks like an old rug so there's not much I would do with this elk I may have shot it if I was in Yellowstone or wherever it was shot as well. But ultimately if I got better looking elk I would use it. And I think that there's probably better looking elk than this one. I'm sorry, you know it's been a long winter but it just looks a little ratty. And the other thing about it is that there's not a lot of room I can do anything with this image, it's like a bullseye, so it's a tight shot of a kind of ratty looking elk. This shot of a frog is a tight shot of a frog, and so yeah, these kind of shots could illustrate a textbook, a biology textbook on what a red-eyed tree frog would look like. It's actually not a bad shot but again it's kind of a bull...

seye image and there's not a lot of emotion for me to look at that and say oh wow, they're such amazing animals. I am adjusting the color, and I'm taking some of that yellow out of there so that the blue becomes bluer and the orange and red, some have orange eyes some have red eyes, this helps this image out a little bit. But still, it's such a tight crop it's like this elk, you know there's not a lot of room to play with space around it. But for a lot of people that's all they want, you know? If it's a book, I did Rainforests of the World book and I photographed a lot of poison arrow frogs and a lot of my shots of poison arrow frogs were fairly tight because they're tiny little creatures. This guy's a little bigger, he's a beautiful frog but I would probably have reframed it with a little more space in front of it than behind it. Even just doing this much could improve the image, just having a little more space, but there's not too much to do with that, okay? Here's a spider that's right in the center, but there's enough space around that that if I close that lock, retain the 35mm I'm going to bring it down, I'm gonna maybe rotate it so that diagonal comes right out of the center. That instantly helps that image, getting it out of the center, maybe I'm going to look at color, perhaps if I pulled it to the left I could neutralize a little bit of the magenta and so there's still red but now there's a little bit of warmth in that image. I may even take this image and flip it horizontally so it's reading left to right, let's see, no, I won't do that. But whether I was successful at doing it or not I'm not tied to the image. If there's no, if this is not a landmark that everybody recognizes, why not flip it if it may help the image, you know. People are too tied up, it's like if you do this, it's like, it's not that way I shot it, who cares as long as the image looks graphic, doesn't change the fact that it's a spider. I often do that with some of my images because in western society we read things from left to right. But in this particular case it reads better the opposite way because the lines that are coming in from the left, so I'll make that point one more time. So these lines are coming in from the left so our eyes follow those lines up to the spider. Okay, pretty nice shot of sheep actually. And oddly enough I photographed grizzly bears and jaguars and mountain gorillas. But I have also photographed sheep in Scotland. And so this is not a bad shot of sheep, New Zealand or otherwise. So I kind of like them because they're goofy looking animals, you know, they've got all this fur, they got tiny little legs, they usually have these funny little faces, which these guys, and this is well shot, so pretty happy with this image. I might change, you know, maybe I pull it down a little bit and change exposure a bit on it but compositionally it works, it's got kind of that human interest of funny sheep. This one looks like he's chewing gum, the other one is just watching you, you know it's just kind of a fun shot of the sheep and I like it. Okay, so first thing I would do with this crab is rotate it because that is my horizon right there, so I like that, I'm going to bring that down a little bit, maybe I could either make it a panoramic because there's nothing up there that really matters. By making it a tighter shot makes the bubbles a little more dominant but let's stick to the 35mm because I don't want to be a one-trick pony. Okay so that's the 35mm right there. I'm going to take the highlights down, shadows come up, neutral density filter comes down. So again by using these filters I'm controlling the light and trying to point your eye to the crab easier. So those are things, now maybe I'll bring one up from the bottom. So suddenly that crab now looks intentional, it looks thought out. I think the photographer is already laying on their belly to get down on their level but this makes it a lot easier to read and suddenly it becomes a little more stately than looking at it that way, right. Shore birds along the coast. That helps that image, no, I grabbed the wrong thing. Highlights, it's actually a very simple, nice shot and so I actually think putting in a neutral density filter helps this image. Very, very simple, I mean it would be better if this bird was gone, you know, simply because there's such a simplicity to those two and that third one that's a little obscure and facing away, you know, that's why I shoot a lot when I'm doing birds or anything else. I'm shooting quite a few exposures and of course taking the best, and I'm sure this photographer did but that one kind of hangs out with these other two for safety reasons, but as a classic shot it would be kind of nice not to have that third one In there. And I also then if that third one wasn't there I would tighten that shot up and have more space the way they're looking and that's the way I would see it. So try to visualize without that there. Alright, so this is kind of interesting, the photographer chose to make it a panoramic, which I think was a very fine choice because it's a very lateral environment. Looks like Lake Manyara in Tanzania, could be. At any rate, so I'm going to do something here. I'm going to use my favorite neutral density filter, but look at what I'm doing, I'm going to bring it right down to that mark, I'm not going to make it very broad, and so everything above that alkali lake I'm going to alter or make a little more graphic by playing with lights and darks and maybe warm it up. But I'm making it sit back a little bit so that again, the eye stays with the wildebeest. I'm not at all changing the lightness of the alkaline lake, and then I'm going to do the other trick which is bringing in a neutral density filter from the bottom and this one becomes a little wider and softer, and I'm just going to slightly darken it to point your eye to there. So this is one of those images where I can toggle back and forth because I haven't change the crop, so that's before and that's after. So it's just a slight darkening at the top, but it makes the wildebeests that much more the subject. And what works, you can see there's distortion here from the heat. And that's not bad, I mean I don't like things intentionally out of focus or by choice out of focus, but if it's the heat that's coming off this lake bed that's just a natural phenomenon and it's not a bad thing. I like the fact that all these wildebeests are running in, and these guys are coming in, and the one in the center. So all those things play out, but I think mostly what works is the choice of a panoramic. You could get rid of these cars if you want, those would be easy to get rid of if you want, but good choice. So the subject, right in the middle, and yet the bird itself is very symmetrical. So I think that's a good choice to have in the middle of the frame on the left and right. But the few things that I would do with this guy, first of all I would first look at the temperature. And I think it's too yellow, so I'm going to pull in a little bit, minimize a little bit of that yellow. Then I'm going to take the highlights down, I'm going to open up the shadows, then I'm going to crop. I'm going to crop not left to right but top to bottom, opening this up. Because all this water takes away from the beautiful ethereal fog and mist. So I'm going to leave enough down here and then I'm going to darken the bottom. So again, the thing that I think really works is the fact that cormorant drying it's wings is perfectly symmetrical and therefore I'm going to keep it in the middle. Not going to put if off to the side. I'm going to look now at whether, I think there is detail in there, but I'm not going to darken this anymore than that so, that's the way I'd see that. I think it's a lovely image, the sense of space, the lifting of the mist off the water, and the cloud above, all of that really looks great to me. I'd be very happy with that image. Here's another choice to make a panoramic. I don't know where this is, could be Yellowstone Lake, could be Mono Lake, could be somewhere else but it looks pretty cool. I'm not going to change very much on that, just a few adjustments on light and dark. Yeah, I could darken the foreground, you've seen that so I don't really need to do that here. But toggling back and forth I haven't changed much, I just added a little bit of warmth to the blue and darkened it to give a little more white to the background but nice image, the three buffalo really work within that landscape and the crop looks really good, so whoever did this did a really good job. Let's look at this image. These are either snares crested penguins or rock hoppers, they're probably rock hopper penguins coming in to the Falkland Islands. This is a classic case of an image that the overall exposure is correct but with a raw image we can actually open up the shadows and bring life back to the faces. Their red eyes which were hardly noticeable in the first image now become a little more obvious. So I'm going to adjust the exposure and suddenly that becomes good. I'm going to open up this lock and bring down this because it's such a classic panoramic image. So anything up here really is unnecessary in that image. And then my last trick is I'm going to bring in a neutral density filter from below and look what I do, I'm going to bring up the lights and the dark and now suddenly the reflections become more contributing to the image. So, wow, that really profoundly affected that image. Just opening up the shadows, taking the highlights down, cropping it into a panoramic, and what was kind of an okay shot becomes a stunning image. That slick, slick wave, they ride the waves in. So all of them came ashore, I think I know where this beach is, it's definitely rock hoppers and definitely in the Falkland Islands, if I'm wrong don't let me know. I'm not that secure. Here's another very interesting image. I love the scale of this. You know, a coyote jumping on to an island, geysers coming up in the distance. There's a couple of things that could help this image. And I love the crop, so I'm not going to change the crop. I would say let's let go of that lens flare down here. And so size matters in this case, and putting in a feather, feather gets broadened and I'm just going to kind of let that happen. Okay, so that's quick and dirty but it's gone. So that highlight's gone, but I think the bigger trick is to mitigate a little bit of this lens flare. I mean it's pretty big and it's overwhelming and I don't want to crop it out. So I'm going to go to this, open it up a little larger, I'm going to pull it to the blue side and start to paint over it. And now I'm going to use blacks and you can see how I'm starting to neutralize that lens flare. And see how it's kind of red in there? Well I'm going to go down to the HSL and play with reds and see if I can, see by pulling it to the left I neutralize that red, let's see. That's overall, I think that helps this image quite a bit. Now it's mostly the lens flare on top and I don't know what I would do if this was mine because I don't want to lose the geysers up there. So that's a judgment call because the geysers tell you instantly it's in Yellowstone. So we've got a problem because if I cropped this like this and got rid of, oops, you have to careful when you grab that. If I cropped it like this and brought that down I'm letting go of the geysers, right? I love the scale of that image, so I really don't want to change it. When you crop, if you just grab it wrong and tilt it you got to get right back so maybe some people could get rid of it, and you can get rid of that lens flare, but not in the time that we have here and not with the skill level that I've got. So what's great about it is the scale, that moment of the coyote jumping, it's great, it's tack sharp, it's a beautiful image, I love it, love it, love it. That thing can be reduced technically through probably more skilled people but compositonaly it really works. Because it's right in the middle it's fine because the scale. It's just a small animal and it's the environment around it that matters more than the subject. Okay, so I'm going to reset that. This is a very classic shot of cheetahs hanging out in the shade of a bush during the noon day hour. And yet, all that bright sun that tells you where they are is overwhelming them. So I'm going to mitigate that, I'm going to crop that out. So I'm going to bring that up to about there, they are very horizontal in their shape so I'm going to bring that down. And then I'm going to take down the highlights. So I think it's imperative to know that they are in the shade, so you know they're in the shade by seeing the highlights around them, and I'm going to open up the shadows a bit. It's probably all I would do with that image. Mitigated a little bit of the overwhelmingness of the bright grass, still it's in the sun but the shadows and the exposure work, and so that works. I love puffins. Okay, so I'm going to look at that and maybe say let's see if pulling it to the blue may work. This whole bright area which is an out of focus, distant edge of an island on a foggy day is bright, and so that's a bit of a challenge. I might say another choice after having shot it this way is just, you know crop it as a vertical. And perhaps even bring in a neutral density filter. One of the tricks I have not shown you, and I don't, is to go into this eye, sorry, now I'm turning this into a lightroom class but this is something I do quite often, especially like I was just in Sulawesi Island in Indonesia photographing celebese macaques and they have really dark eyes and a dark body. And so I was going in to their eyes a little bit and just opening up the eyes. You can turn them in to Damien if you want. So just lightening up the eye a little bit like that. Because when we look, and that was too much, but when we look at humans or animals we're looking at each other's eyes so eyes are critical and so if I want to change that is hit that and then darken it, let's see. I'm going to bring that back down to about there, turn that off. So that works. Oh boy, that's a tough one for me. I don't know much what to do, the animals head is in the bullseye and then you have this big ol' butt and I might just say, and I know, I think the person, it's a 35mm, you have this nice animal form that's out of focus back there, but I want to get the head out of the middle and that may be the way to do it. Just a little bit bigger. This one's a tough one I don't really have an easy answer to this, I think it's a lovely image but I think it's a little too bright and I think mitigating that butt helps this image. And since it's out of focus maybe if it was focused, so I'm taking that down and playing with color. Just seeing what happens here. And this is the process, I'm doing this with my own images. It might be a little better way of seeing that. You could bright up the eye's too, but this is kind of a, this is 1,600 shot at 400 at 5.6, that probably is part of the problem here. Because at 1,600 you could have shot that maybe at 200, I would have bounced the ISO up, depending on which camera this is, if this was me with my Canon I would have gone to 4,000, I would have shot this at F16 and probably at 200. And that way I would gain depth of field and that would have helped this image overall. You know, the cropping on this is pretty good, because this is extraordinarily difficult subject to get in to one of these jumping spiders to this level requires determination, the right equipment, we're seeing these spiders in a way that most of us would never see. And it's quite, the way this person has photographed it makes it look like, you know, the thing, the creature that took over Seattle. So it's got that kind of gut reaction, I love the fact, even though this is way out of focus when you're focusing something that small and that close you have extraordinarily shallow depth of field, even at a small aperture opening. So this is probably the best, what could happen with this image, and maybe just bringing in a little bit, brings your attention to it. I don't know about the red background but it's still a graphic, interesting image. On this guy I would just say let's just emphasize the length of the tail and crop it as a panoramic like this. So you're playing with the fence as a structure and an element in the frame. And then that very long tail of the iguana, I guess it's an iguana of some sort, plays out. So you're taking it off center, you're playing with positive negative space. You could experiment with tint and bring it to the right a little bit which brings out more magenta in the bamboo fencing but the green iguana is still green. Highlights could come down, yeah, I actually like that. That's the way I would try to see that. So you still have the fence, I've brought the color of the bamboo out a little more and the animal is green and I think but I don't know if we can hit the, so that's the way you saw it, well that's got my crop but that's the way I see it. I don't know which is better actually. But I kind of like introducing the magenta into the bamboo rather than this way. Let me just show you quickly I want everybody that really took the time to send in their work, that's the way I'd crop that, vertically. It's already cropped so that's the way I see that. I like this shot of these two elephants but what I would do again is crop it because I think all the energy like those first baboons lies in the connection, so I don't mind doing that, I would do that with mine because it emphasizes the connection between the trunks. On this bear, most of him is cropped anyways so I would crop and create more of the dynamic of a portrait with the fish, so that's the way I would see that. It's already cropped so that's not a matter. You know this is a tough one because they're kind of in the bullseye. It's a nice shot of bubble net whales probably in Southeast Alaska, I would just tighten it up a little bit. That's the way I'd see it. Because all that extra water, I don't know. I love this composition, I think the photographer really thought about that S curve, I think that really works. The cutoff reflection, yeah, that's not the perfect thing to do but what can you do, there's no way around it so I would stick with that, I think that's a very nice composition. With this guy I would just say alright, close the lock and just close it in and just keep it as that, you know, that edge of the island isn't that important I think this booby in the Galapagos becomes really important. On this guy I just bring this down a little bit, get rid of that just hint of white. And yeah, these elephants, some of them can be in Sambura where there's a lot of red clay and these really orange elephants are unique so that's kind of cool. I love this shot of this pileated woodpecker bending down, I think it's a great shot, they're a tough subject. I would just bring it in to the essential and I checked this one out, it's sharp and you can crop it. So that's the way I'd see that, just make it tighter, and they're extraordinary birds. Yeah, these are snow egrets, yeah, I like it. There's nothing I would do with that. This is really nice, the only thing with this I would pull it, take a little bit of the blue in there, soften up, by doing that you're bringing out the magenta in this old flower. So I think just pulling out some of the yellow in that actually brings more of a color pallet in. This I really like this flicker. But I would still crop it, rather than a square I would bring it right to the edge, maybe right there. So I'm looking at the diagonals coming out and I think that actually works. But that is an amazing shot of a flicker and it's so tack sharp, it's really quire handsome. And I don't see any reasons to have it a square but look at the detail in the feathers. Again this is pixelated because it's a smaller file but I know the original is tack sharp. This bluejay again is great, but look where the head is, right in the middle. And so closing the lock and just bringing it down and taking it off center helps that image a lot. Really simple quick fixes. Really nice shot. Again I would just crop this more vertical, just emphasize the verticality of the feathers on this egret. But not, I mean this Is just my opinion, they're great shots one way or the other, so I'm finishing off with really easy photos because there's very little to do. In this case I'm pulling it a little bit to the blue to bring out a little bit of the emerald green but great horned owl. Great subject, great light. Shadows and highlights, yeah there's not much to do with this guy. Really nice shot. By doing that I'm bringing out some of the detail on the lichen covered branch. This is a really nice shot of a humming bird, you know, the flower is contributing to the shape, it's beautiful, very very well done. This, with all the dew drops on the butterfly wing, yeah, so this is the problem with really small files, when I blow them up there's not much payoff but I can tell it's a tack sharp image. And it's nice to see black and white, you know, that's kind of a nice moment for these gorillas in captivity. And not everybody can afford to go to Africa so working with black and white in captivity to see these animals, I like the way you chose to make it a black and white so, that's it.

Class Description

Join legendary wildlife and conservation photographer Art Wolfe, as he critiques a select group of nature photographs. In this curated review, you'll get expert insight into improving your work in the field and through post-processing so you can begin capturing unforgettable images of the world.

Art critiques images in the following categories:

  • Wildlife
  • Landscapes
  • Abstract Nature Photography
  • Portraits and Travel


Sal Ahmed Photography

Nice to have well known and our local world famous Art Wolfe to critiques our works.Glad to have a chance to have him critique my Hummigbird image with a top score. Is like to me winning an award. Thanks Creative live for the opportunity.

Tanya Lillie

What an amazing opportunity to learn from a master. Thank you Art Wolfe for sharing your expertise and teaching us to simply take "Another Look." Thank you Creative Live for yet another great session.

Bob & Lorraine

Outstanding class with Art Wolfe's critique of student's work. Thrilled one of our images (Snowy Egret) was selected, honored Art felt it needed no other cropping and even though it was one of the last images reviewed and short on time, would have loved to hear if the image required any other adjustment. Will try Art's "Highlights down, Shadows up" in Lightroom Classic to see if the image looks any better.