Snowy Tiger Evolution of a shot - Session Stories with Rikk Flohr

No photograph exists in a vacuum. There is a certain amount of planning that is requisite in any successful image capture. The Amur Tiger in the Snow is an example of planning, fortuitous circumstances, and post production paths taken, all resulting in the finished image.

I had been waiting for two things - well three things actually. First, I needed snow cover. Waiting for a good blanket of snow in Minnesota this year has been a little like waiting for Christmas. In fact, it arrived on Christmas evening. Second, I needed good light. In the days following the Christmas snow, the clouds hung tenaciously over the Twin Cities. Yesterday good light finally arrived. Lastly, I needed the brother Tigers to have their turn in the Tiger Enclosure at the Minnesota Zoo. Watching the forecast, I realized with a little luck, I would have my shot at the Snowy Tiger shot I sought.

Original camera capture - backlit shade

Luck was with me, the brother tigers (raised together as cubs) were having their turn in the Tiger Enclosure. It was also Member Monday at the Minnesota Zoo. That meant a quiet day as large groups are not allowed. Member Mondays are my favorite. Now if we could just get a stroller-free day… I like the brother tigers because they move around the pen and interact with each other. The zoo's five other tigers often lay and sleep when on display. Today, they were pacing and moving about the enclosure as expected. When I arrived, one of them walked up to a nice shaded open area, lay down and stared at me. I was ready having prepared my camera before I arrived at the exhibit. I fired off a few exposures being careful to hold the highlights. The original capture above is submitted for your approval.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom edits...

When I returned to the studio, I loaded the images into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and performed the first cull. During the cull, this image caught my eye and I marked it for later editing with a pick flag. When I came back to it after the cull, I processed it to create the version you see above.

Cropped for Facebook

I was excited by the results. I had a good pose, a good background, good color and a nice expression on the big cat. In fact, I was so excited I wanted to make it my Facebook cover image and post it right away. I realized immediately, it would have to be flipped horizontally in order to keep the tiger from being eclipsed by my profile photo. I did a quick flip in Lightroom and a crop to the very panoramic aspect Facebook requires before sending it to Photoshop for some final processing. I actually liked the right-weighted composition better. Some think right-heavy images have a little extra tension to them. I agree!

Final image going to print: An Amur Tiger resting in Winter's embrace

I am one of those photographers who believe that an image is only half finished when the shutter is clicked. It was time to create a finished image. With the image in Photoshop, I proceeded to process it according to my style and taste. As the image developed at my fingertips, I grew more excited. This image had 500px written all over it. As I finished the image, I posted it to Facebook and then created a larger version for 500px. Then, because I couldn't resist, I printed a 19 inch version to put up in my office. The print came out stunning!

500px is the photography community for which I have the most respect. Its six million plus members post some of the finest photographs in the world. I was anxious to see how this Snowy Tiger would fare against the best animal photographs of the day. I submitted it to the Animals category.

# 8 worldwide in the 500px Animal category!

Fast forward 24 hours and I was very satisfied with my results. Above is a screen capture of the final position of my tiger image in the Animals category. I scored a 98.1 out of 100 which is very respectable. In fact, I reached the 8th most popular image in Animals. Considering that roughly a million images are posted daily on 500px from Photographer's all over the world, to reach top 10 in a popular category is nothing to sneeze at.

An initial vision, a little patience and planning, a little more execution and some judicious finishing and I have an image that makes me remember why I am a photographer.

I enjoy showing you the before and after of an image and discussing how and why I took it where I did. From modest capture to wall hanger is only a few short steps if you are willing to take them. By all means, I admonish you. Take them!

Note: This is my first Adobe Slate project executed on the new iPad Pro. It worked quite well as a Slate platform
Created By
Rikk Flohr
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All images Copyright © Rikk Flohr 2016

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