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Textures & Wildlife Images - Adding Feeling & Depth to Images
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Adding Feeling & Depth with Textures

I’m always looking for new ways to add unique characteristics to images. One of my favorite wildlife subjects is the Black-Crowned Night Heron. I find they have an oddly expressive face and are often posing in unique positions. I recently captured this image at a local county park.

Black-Crowned Night Heron without textures

Overall, I love this image. The pose reminds me of a person looking over their shoulder. It is even vaguely reminiscent of Girl with a Pearl Earring, an oil painting by 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. I find the emotion in the eye is very striking. It is almost like the subject is in deep thought about a long lost friend.

I decided to see if I could make the image more interesting by blending a couple textures to add more feeling and some depth to the image, but I also really wanted to maintain as much realism as I could. I used this technique of blending textures in layers quite a bit in the past for still life and landscape, but I never considered it for wildlife until seeing a YouTube video on the This Week in Photo channel, Texture blending in Photoshop with Alan Shapiro,  where Alan demonstrates his technique for texture blending with bird images.

With Textures

So after doing basic adjustments in Lightroom, I moved to Photoshop to try some textures and experiment with blending modes to get an interesting look. In fifteen minutes of trying a variety of textures and settings this is where I settled.

Black-Crowned Night Heron with textures blended

I think I accomplished my goal with this image, but I want am sure I will continue to play with it for a while. I might remove the concrete texture and try a few different canvas textures.

An interesting outcome of this experience is that I realized I like the idea of capturing some wildlife images with the subject posed similar to classic paintings. Depending on how successful I am at getting a good selection of images with properly posed animals, I may do a series on the concept.

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