Female lion at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

I’m gettin’ good

How I Did It

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For some reason I have this infatuation with wildlife that is either yawning, eating, grooming, or just letting that lazy tongue have a little look-see. At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park this past weekend, the three lions were up close and personal, about two inches away (or whatever the thickness of the glass is). I got what I thought was a great photo of one of the female lions:

Female lion at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There is not too much that is right with that picture — the lion gets lost in the background; there are flies at the corner of its mouth, on its tongue and on the top of its nose; there’s no contrast between the lion and the background…. Aaack!

Remembering what my wise old grandmother always said as she put together her photo albums and scrapbooks — “What comes out of the camera is just the basics to start with!” — I first went to Lightroom because I know it better than Photoshop. I didn’t really get anything much better.

Female lion at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In trying to get some contrast between the lion and the background, the color cast got shifted. On to Photoshop.

After first working in Adobe Camera Raw, I got a little better contrast and color cast. At that point I took the resulting picture into Photoshop. After duplicating the picture, I applied a layer mask and then highlighted everything around the lion. Then I simply converted the background to black & white. Once that was done, I used a combination of the healing brush, the patch brush, and the clone tool to get rid of the flies.

Photoshop has an excellent feature called Content-Aware. After highlighting the flies, I simply hit the delete key. Photoshop doesn’t actually delete the flies. Instead it fills the area where the flies are, so up pops a Fill window with some options. The option I wanted was Contents, Content-Aware:

Content Aware

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

All of that gave me the result that I was looking for, and which the LCD screen in the bright sunshine at the Park indicated I had, but didn’t:

Female lion at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Whaddaya think?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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29 thoughts on “I’m gettin’ good

  1. greatgreths

    hi, russel. i think your original shot is really good… i like it. the color compliments the mood of the subject – the lion being dead to the world, and the stuck out tongue is so cute… lovely. have you tried using the HDR adjustment in photoshop?

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I have but I wasn’t happy with the results. I’m not a big fan of HDR but I would like to learn its intricacies because I think it can be used well in certain instances. Using HDR for the sake of using HDR, though, doesn’t appeal to me.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Interesting, because the first one is not natural at all. It’s not what my eyes saw at the Safari Park. That’s because the camera settings were not correct for the lighting conditions I was in. The last one is more what my eyes saw through the glass.

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  2. firstandfabulous

    I scrolled back and forth because I wasn’t sure. At first I thought the first better, but the scrolling was like being at the eye doctor (if you’ve ever had the experience) “This, or this? This, or this? Number one, or number two? ” you get me? Anyway. Number three! Except (of course and duh) I would have liked just a smidge more color on the queen of the jungle. Just a smidge. But then, if I scroll a little more…

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  3. paulaacton

    I love it more because of the flies it shows you captured the moment rather than a staged shot, I use photoscape which a photographer friend of mine recommended a) because its free and i am tight lol and b) because photography for me is only a hobby it does what I need it to lol 😀

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  4. sherijkennedyriverside

    I’m glad the flies are gone, though all shots have some merit of interest to me. Definitely I’m focused on the lion and it’s unique textures and beauty in the last shot rather than the color or mood as in the first two shots.

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  5. Gina's Professions for PEACE

    Incredible! I love it. Thanks so much for always offering things you’ve learned. Your generosity is appreciated 🙂

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