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This week I went to the city Zoo which does not have the widest selection of animals but it is pretty good considering its size. I always find photographing in a zoo a challenge and that is part of the reason I like to go. The glass and the fences between me and nature are a photographic obstacle. Although I have found shooting at f1.8 can blur away the fence.
This week’s picture is of a Bearded Dragon also known as a Pogona. For my Australian readers his face may not seem as rare as it is to me in Europe.
Most of the adjustments I made in my editing were due to mistakes I made and the conditions I was shooting in. First I didn’t switch my white balance to auto when I entered the reptile house meaning my colours were completely out. Secondly the humidity and shooting through glass as well as the positions of the light in the Pogona’s tank helped to create a soft and hard mix of contrast.
First thing I did was change the white balance to get some normalcy in the colours.
I then made a many changes with the basic adjustments I brightened the whole image by increasing the exposure. I also increased the contrast and clarity to spread my tones out more and create more definition between the tones. To stretch my tones some more I increased highlights and decreased shadows. I only wanted the strongest colours so I reduced the vibrance and then increased saturation.
Using curves I increased the midtones to brighten the image some more, but added an anchor to reign in the shadows to help protect them.
I was shooting at quite a high ISO due to the lighting in the reptile house. I removed most of the noise with noise reduction and also sharpened the image.
I made some tweaks to camera calibration to make sure I could get the best out of the colours.
The colours were still feeling a bit wonky, so I added a split tone to balance the highlight and the shadow tones.
I wanted to softly darken the area around the head of the Pogona. I reduced the shadows and increased the midtone contrast and also reduced the noise here. Since there are no sharp details in this area, I can reduce the noise more without worrying that I will flatten details.
I made a few tweaks to the curves and increased the overall contrast some more.
What I like about the final picture is that the head is obviously the focus with everything else softening into the background including the contrast. I think I have balanced the colours well but the lighting in the retile house is a mix bag. The reason I think I have got two areas of contrast was due to his head was directly under the hot lamp and the rest of his body was being lit by normal lights. Whatever the situation I feel I got a good image out of the day.
Let me know in the comments below what you think of the final image.
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