2017-01-29: Leopard Before and After

I know today is supposed to be my what I’ve seen this week day, but I’ve seen absolutely nothing at all, so I had to come up with something a little different.

When I was in Queen Elizabeth Park in Uganda, we were lucky enough to come across a leopard, once in the morning for a fleeting glimpse, and then for a longer period just before nightfall.  Four of the six people that were also on the tour had never seen a leopard in the wild before.  It was drizzly, near dark, and I was shooting from a vehicle where people were moving around a fair bit, so I had to deal with both movement of my subject and where I was located.  Some of the photos I took were at 1/100sec, f5.6, ISO 25,640.  No, the ISO isn’t a typo.  I believe on my Nikon it was called Hi2.0.

I have been extremely blessed with leopard sightings over the years (check out Lions vs A Leopard or 2016-10-17: Monochrome Monday for just a couple examples), but I continued to photograph this one because I thought it would be interesting to see how the images turned out, and what I could do with them.  While everyone else was heading on to other safari destinations after our Uganda tour, there is no guarantee they would get another leopard sighting… what if an image like this was the best that you could get?

Tons of noise and a strange colour cast = not the best image.  But the position of the leopard is nice.

Below is the process I used to work through this particular image, and the end result.

I loaded the image into Photoshop and used Topaz Denoise 6 for noise reduction.  This is the image on import.
I used the preset Raw – Stronger for my noise reduction.  While the noise reduction softens the image, it is still a step in the right direction.
I then loaded the denoised image into Nik Color Efex Pro.  I use lots of different plug ins, but I really like the Lighten/Darken centre option in Color Efex for images like this.  I used the presets remove colour cast at 25%, lighten/darken centre, sunlight (to add some warmth back to the image) and brilliance/warmth to add some colour saturation.
After I saved the image in Photoshop, I returned to Lightroom and did a final crop, as the edges were still very noisy, and did not add anything to the image.
And here is the final result!  While not my best leopard image, if this was the only image I had and wanted to use it in a blog post, photo slideshow or book about my trip, I would be happy to do so.  And it turned out, this leopard was the only one I saw on this particular trip.

So there you have a before and after – let me know if posts like this are something you would like to see more of in the future.

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