The first step to any good edit is to critique the original image. In this case, there were a few things I really liked about the image – the backlit flying grass for one – and a few things that needed to be fixed, such as the too bright highlights and lack in detail in the soccer player’s jersey, as well as the bright reddish spot in the upper left corner. Obviously the goal of post processing is to make the image look the best it can, so when possible correcting the image’s flaws is the way to go. In this case, I brought down the highlights and whites, selectively darkened the red spot just a touch, and added a slight vignette to the entire image. I also enhanced the part I liked – the backlit grass – by adjusting the curves, clarity, and saturation of this part of the image.
One of my favorite tricks/tools is to use the Darken/Lighten Center filter available through the DXO Nik Collection Color Efex plug-in. I really like this tool because it gives you quite a bit of control over the vignetting effect and tends to make the transition between dark and light areas really smooth. One of the biggest perks of the tool is the ability to set where the center is; I find this invaluable when working with a subject that is slightly off center, as I often want the subject in the brightest area of the photo. Since composition rules often dictate that the subject is not dead center, having the ability to adjust the placement of the brightest part of the image, even just a tiny bit, often makes a big difference in how the final image is perceived.
Blades of grass glow in the evening sun after being kicked up by a player on Landmark College’s soccer team.
Sometimes shots that aren’t perfect end up being my favorite.
Yesterday, I was shooting a soccer game at the college where I work. When you photograph ball sports, one of the rules its to make sure the ball is in the frame. Generally, you also try to include the whole player in your shot as well. Turns out, one of my favorite shots does neither.
In this shot, a player had just kicked the ball clear out of the frame. The athlete was too close for my camera and lens combo (Canon 1D Mark IV plus 300mm 2.8), so the player happens to be headless too. Normally, one would delete this shot without giving it a second look, but I love it! In the absence of a ball, blades of grass fluttering through the air convey action, dislodged from their roots and made temporarily airborne by a strong kick. Warm sunlight, coming from the side, illuminates the grass against a shadowed background, literally highlighting its presence. The light also shows texture and movement in the players’ jersey, further emphasizing action. Together these two components – grass and light – make the image. Without either, it wouldn’t work at all.
I realize that this might not meet some tastes. The unusual composition, absence of the soccer ball, and dissection of the players’ body just won’t work for some. But I like this unusual shot. I like that its different. I like that its ambiguous – the player could be just about anybody from any team. It is interesting, and I want to keep looking at it.