Tundra Swan Pair on the Ice
Nature,  Photo Stories,  Wildlife

Photo Story: Tundra Swan Pair Dancing on the Ice

The weather forecast had changed over night.  It was now going to be mostly cloudy with snow flurries, and a chilly 19 degrees.  I had already woken up at 4:30 am to make the 2 hour drive to Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, so I decide to head out despite the weather.

Tundra Swan Pair Dancing on the Ice

I had heard that there was a large flock of Tundra Swans at Killdeer Plains that could provide good photo opportunities.  I found the flock of swans within 5 minutes of arriving at Killdeer Plains.  The flock was gathered around a small opening on in an otherwise froze pond.

I photographed the swans for about a ½ hour before the flock starting flying off.  Unfortunately, it was too cloudy and dark to get any good in flight photos of the Tundra Swans.

The pair of swans in the above photo almost look like they are dancing.  Sometimes it pays off going out when the light isn’t perfect and it’s always fun to watch and photograph the behavior of animals regardless of the light.

Tundra Swan Photo Details

Camera:  Canon 5d Mark III
Lens:   Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 2x Teleconverter III
Focal Length: 1000mm
ISO:  800
Aperture:   f/8.0
Shutter Speed: 1/640 of a second
Exposure Compensation: +0
Lighting: Cloudy Morning with Snow Flurries

Bird Photo Processing

  • Cropped the photo in Lightroom 5 and warmed up the photo using the Temp Slider
  • Selectively lightened and darkened the image using Viveza 2 from Google.
  • Added detail to the swans using the Detail Extractor Filter in Color Efex Pro 4. Brightened the swans and darkened the background using the Darken/Lighten Center filter.
  • Added Contrast and Pop to the photo using the Fur and Feathers I filter in Topaz Clarity.
  • Selectively removed noise from the photo using Topaz DeNoise
    and a layer mask in Photoshop CC 2014.
  • Selectively sharpened the image using the Unsharp Mask filter and copying the layer mask from the prior step and inverting it.

Color Efex Pro 4 – Darken / Lighten Center Filter Tip

I wanted to brighten the Tundra Swans in this photo and darken the background to bring attention to the birds.  The problem is that the swans were in separate locations in the composition.  I accomplished this using the Darken / Lighten Center filter by stacking two copies of the filter.

  • In the first filter, I placed the center on the left swan and placed a minus control point on the right swan so it would not be darkened with the background
  • In the second filter, I placed the center and added a plus control point on the right swan.  This ensured that the second filter would only affect the right swan.

Written by Martin Belan

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