Photo Tweak – Rio Grande Monster Brown

0 Posted by - 05/08/2012 - Photography, Post Processing

I recently received this photo from David Reverdito of a 19lb sea-run brown trout he nailed on the Rio Grande in Tierra Del Fuego. A fish of a lifetime that made the trip all the more special but, unfortunately, the photo doesn’t quite do the memory justice.

Tierra Del Fuego Fishing

The original untouched photo


We have a few issues going on here, most noticeably the uneven polarization of the sky. The shot is not super wide-angle but at an effective focal length of 32mm (20mm focal length combined with the 7D’s 1.6 crop factor) the sky is still affected by uneven polarization. Polarization is strongest at 90 degrees to the sun and this could have been addressed in camera by taking the shot perpendicular to the sun and backing off the polarization slightly by  rotating the filter. Yes I know, easier said than done in the heat of the moment…

The shot is also underexposed, lacking detail in the shadows, particularly in the background, David’s face and the trout’s head.

So why is it underexposed? Perhaps the exposure was metered on the shiny flank of the fish or the central region of the image and therefore underexposed the background and shadows? The bright scale reflections suggest that the flash fired and as a result we have a comparatively overexposed trophy fish with disco ball scales combined with underexposed shadow areas. The flash has also sucked away a bit of color from the trout which needs to be recovered.

The other noticeable issue is the color shift on the water which may partly be due to the polarization as well as shadows.

The fix

The uneven sky and water was a serious challenge and while I managed to even out the water I just couldn’t get it right. The sky was fixed by creating a new sky layer with a gradient taken from the original image to maintain the color and then lowering the opacity slightly to blend her in. I pulled back some detail in the background and Dave’s face with localized adjustments and sweetened up the water (on the left hand side at least) with a bit of extra color. Several local adjustments were made to the fish to bring back some color, light those dark areas and give those tell tale spots on the trout’s side a bit of extra contrast and presence.

A tickle of distortion gave the fish a little more presence and while some may say it is cheating, once applied it was hard to go back. A few different crops were tried in an attempt to remove the LHS but it didnt quite look right so in the end I just straightened the horizon and left it at that. Sharpening was applied (and perhaps overdone) to Dave and his fish using a mask combined with unsharp mask (USM), minimal noise reduction was needed.

Tierra Del Fuego Fishing  Rio Grande Fishing

Before (left) and After (right)

I think a little more could be squeezed out of this pic but with so many competing issues it was hard to get the balance right. Considering that however I think it turned out quite nice, mostly thanks to a cracking fish in the foreground which detracts from some other issues (no offence Dave).

Rio Grande Fishing

David Reverdito with a cracking 19lb sea-run brown trout he nailed on the Rio Grande in Tierra Del Fuego

I forgot to mention, I calibrated my display mid way through this tweak which resulted in a huge color shift and lots of rework. Im still not convinced it is correctly calibrated so either this photo is going to look strange or all the ones to date already do!

Welcome your comments on the pic!