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Fine Art Series - Mute Swan

When the rules changed earlier this year, not allowing us to travel very far from home, it became a little testing in terms of photography. But being at home for most of the weekend has enabled me to do one thing - to go back through old photos, something that I love doing, and which can be extremely rewarding in many ways.


For this blog, I didn’t look too far back. Only back to the end of last year. A few days after Christmas Day, I went for a walk with my family around Coxwold, a walk that didn’t yield too many photography opportunities - a few ice shots, but that was it, well it was until the end of the walk…





Near to where we parked lay a small body of water (Newburgh Priory Lake) that appeared to harbour an array of different bird species. Although most of the species kept their distance from me, there was a pair of rather inquisitive mute swans, who fortunately remained close, despite the fact I didn’t have any food.


I only had my 100mm macro lens with me that day and with it being a prime lens I had no room for increasing magnification, so it was time to get creative. I tried to get detailed shots of their faces whilst also capturing some behavioural shots. Swans can often be seen preening their pearly white feathers, something that I just had to capture, they also ‘dabble’, up-ending themselves to graze below the surface, offering many other photographic opportunities.


Whilst looking through these photos, I fell back in love with swans. With the mute swan being one of the most familiar bird species in the UK, they are frequently overlooked, no flamboyant colours, so some may say rather boring as a result, but I wholeheartedly disagree (with the being boring bit, I don’t think there is any disputing the fact they aren’t the most colourful, but boring?! Most definitely not!).


This view that they are boring is what I wanted to challenge with this set of photos, I wanted to create a series of photographs in which the beauty of mute swans was captured, and with their simple, yet bold and contrasting coloration, I decided to turn to fine art.


I love fine art photography, and those of you who know me and follow my work will know that this is ultimately where I want to take my photography. I think there is confusion around what fine art photography really is and there are many definitions of what makes a photo ‘fine art’. ‘Fine art is about an idea, a message, or an emotion’, ‘Fine art photos are images that are created solely for their imaginative or aesthetic quality’ or possibly my favourite definition that stuck with me the moment I first stumbled across it was…Fine art photography, on the other hand, is first and foremost about the artist. It is not about capturing what the camera sees; it is about capturing what the artist sees.’.


Taking my camera out and hitting that shutter button is often the second step in the process (the first is seeing the image in my head), this is then followed by some editing, using both Lightroom and Photoshop (I will include the before and after in this blog).


First up is this shot. The location in which these photos were taken had a small brick wall at the edge of the water and with the setting sun just at the right level, it cast this beautiful light on the swan, leaving the top of the head exposed and the rest in complete darkness (well… not really). There was a shadow cast on this swan, but the severity of it was increased in the edit. By underexposing the shot in the field, I knew I would be able to further darken the shadows to complete darkness whilst keeping the details in the highlights (especially the water droplets) and not giving the final image too much of an unnatural look.



This image is considerably under exposed, but with reason!


Look at those water droplets!



It was a similar journey for this next image too, seeing the patch of light on the swan’s head and neck gave me the idea, creating an image different to the one I captured. The water droplet I feel adds another dimension to the image. Using the content-aware tool in Photoshop allowed me to get rid of any distractions the background may have created.



That little speck of sunshine inspired me with this shot





Like I said before, the preening of feathers is a behaviour often observed and a behaviour I just had to capture. I photographed this twice, used one to create an image with a stark contrast and I used the other in a very different way, losing the shape of the swan’s body in a sea of white, leaving only the top of the neck and head.




For the final image, there was a lot less editing involved, the lens I was using is my ultimate favourite lens that I own and is an incredible piece of glass, able to capture the finest of details with extreme sharpness.





Whilst going through these images, it reminded me of a shot I got at Christmas in 2019, in Bowness-on-Windermere. I spent time wondering where I could take this image and after A LOT of editing, going back and forth, I created this, I hope you like it.







Thank you very much for reading, I do plan getting back into the swing of things with my blogs and I am hoping to order myself a new camera and monitor soon, so I should have LOTS more to bring you in the near future.


Thanks again,

Sam

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