Lens-Artists Challenge #96 – Cropping the Shot

bald eagle


“There is no better time to crop a bad composition than just before you press the shutter release.”

Bryan Peterson

This week Patti invites us to share images which have been cropped along with some thoughts about their before and after. As promised in my previous post, I’ve included a number of images from my photography outing on the island last week. I was on my way home from a beach shoot mid-week when I spotted the eagle in my opening image. Fortunately, since I had my camera with me I was able to pull over and capture the shot. The bird was quite high up in a very tall tree, so cropping helped to show its magnificent details.  I also cropped it a bit tighter than I might otherwise have to fit it within the width of my post.

red-tailed hawk


“Pictures can be cropped so long as their meaning remains intact.”

Yann Arthus Bertrand

For the image above I was actually on the golf course and had only my iPhone 8+ for photography. The gorgeous red-tailed hawk was being bombarded by crows as he soared through the trees and landed nearby. As we approached, it spread it’s beautiful wings to protect its treasure (probably stolen from the crows). It never once moved until we’d gone past, at which point it proceeded to eat its bounty. I cropped the shot to show the detail of the bird and to remove the cart path from the image. Removing the path put the bird within a more natural environment and cropping brought some of its beautiful plumage into better focus.

Black skimmer skimming


“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

Robert Capa

Mr. Capa is right in his quote above, but there are times when one simply cannot get closer – when shooting across water for example. Birders and photographers are fascinated by black skimmers. Their unique vertical pupils cut the water’s glare and their bills are shaped longer on the bottom to skim while their shorter top bill locks down on their prey. Most of us have captured them in flight or standing on the water’s edge, but one has to be VERY lucky to catch them actually skimming. First, it doesn’t happen often or for long. Second, if lucky enough to see it, one has to have camera in hand pre-set to capture the action. I was at the beach shooting with a friend when several skimmers came soaring in, skimming the water behind us. We were so excited I’m surprised we were able to capture the birds at all, but capture we did.  The image above clearly shows the bird skimming and as a bonus catches its reflection as well.  I could have cropped the shot more closely but I wanted to keep the symmetry of the bird’s reflection.

“When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.”

Alfred Eisenstaedt

I’m closing this week’s post with a comment about a tragedy on Kiawah this past week. A local woman was killed by a 10′ alligator in front of several witnesses who tried to save her. Unfortunately, she’d ignored the most basic rules of safety. First, in an effort to photograph the gator she ran toward it- to a distance of only 4 ft (1.2 meters).  She then got down to its level, and lastly she reached out to touch it. Many of you have commented in the past about it being dangerous for me to be so close to our alligators. Contrary to Mr Eisenstaedt’s quote above, I have a very healthy fear of our alligators and would NEVER get close to one. I use a zoom lens, and most often I crop the shot (as I did in the image above) to show their fierceness. Signs are posted throughout the island warning that alligators are dangerous. Those who knew the woman that was killed were stunned by her behavior. It was a tragic reminder of how important it is to be safe and to avoid dangerous situations at all times. 

Sincere thanks to those who responded to our All Wet challenge last week.  Patti, Amy, Ann-Christine and I enjoyed the wide variety of your as-always creative responses. We hope to see you next week when our challenge will be Guest-hosted by Sue (Mac’s Girl) of The Nature of Things. Be sure to link to her site and to use the Lens-Artists Tag so that we can all enjoy your responses. Until then, whether locked-down or let loose, be safe and stay healthy!







106 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Challenge #96 – Cropping the Shot

  1. Hi Tina, I love this challenge because you also focus on skills! I will definitely be adding it to my photo challenge page. I also want to do a feature on your group and do a group interview about the focus of your challenge, how you got started, and a ton more questions to satisfy my curiosity and my readers’ too. Here is a post you might enjoy about alligators. I was looking for the picture of me wrestling one, but couldn’t find it. https://tchistorygal.net/2018/04/15/what-you-should-know-about-alligators-instructions-at-gatorland/ Here’s one of me and the closest I got to an alligator. https://tchistorygal.net/2018/04/08/why-you-dont-want-to-overlook-the-boggy-creek-airboat-ride/ Email me at tchistorygal@gmail.com if you’d like me to feature your photo challenge on Always Write. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Lens-Artist-PC-96-Cropping – WoollyMuses

  3. These images are really impressive – catching those birds so clearly! The cropping really directs your eye right where it needs to go. What an awful story about the woman being killed. But a safety lesson all the same.

  4. Exquisite, as always. IMO, a further closeup crop of the bird would make a good photo. I’d say the same for the gator’s head, except that is not one I’d want to frame and hang.

  5. Pingback: Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #96-Crop the Shot – Calling-all-RushBabes

  6. It’s sad to know about the lady who was killed by the alligators. One must always obey the safety rules without exception.

    Beautiful captures though, Madam. It’s quite strange to find a hawk on the ground. You have beautifully captured it.. ☺️☺️

    Thank you for sharing.. ☺️

  7. Wonderful examples of cropping the shot, Tina! The bird images are beautiful and you definitely wouldn’t want to get too close to those wicked alligator teeth. Thank goodness for the zoom lens and cropping tool!

  8. This was an interesting read of your thought process when cropping. I do always love to read about what other photographers are thinking when they are working.
    As to safety, you bring up the very important point of always being aware of your surroundings, it can be easy to lose focus of that, sometimes with disastrous results.
    I unfollowed a photographer on IG because he was routinely getting too close to bears (my opinion) and then had an “I know that I am doing” attitude when confronted with his lack of distance. I guess I thought that by viewing his work, I was contributing to the problem, as bears who become use to people then go on to be “problem” bears who are then put down.

  9. Great to read your take on cropping, Tina. I’m quite taken with the uncropped version of your eagle. Nice to see the detail of the eagle and the bigger picture side by side. How good is a zoom lens? I’ve often thought you must have eyes in the back of your head to avoid those alligators. 🙂

    • Thanks very much Tracy. My zoom is only 200mm but the pixel count in my Fuji leaves lots of room for cropping. Interestingly my 200mm Nikon Zoom was much better (and more expensive) but that was because of the extra optics glass which alas made it too heavy for me to use without shake. It was great on a tripod but I don’t often use one so sadly I had to let it go 😢😢

      • You have to go with what works for you, Tina. For the same reason, I love my little mirrorless camera. Not as much heavy glass in my lenses. I have two but I only use one. My husband has a large lens with his Nikon, but I can’t even lift his camera! Also, people find it intimidating. I’m more discrete at taking the random person shot. Plus, being a woman really helps.

  10. Hard to imagine what the poor woman was thinking! I would have been going into reverse, Tina. 😦 It’s not possible to ‘uncrop’ a photo, is it? To add in more background. The flying bird is beautifully done. 🙂 🙂

  11. Hi Tina, I can’t but help to think of the Bryan Peterson workshop we attended together when he said, “Crop is crap!” which of course, I don’t completely agree with. Your birds are beautiful, especially the Skimmer.

  12. Beautiful images Tina and so sorry to hear about what happened to that local lady. May she rest in peace 💜

  13. Wonderful examples of before and after the crop, Tina. Wow on seeing, and capturing, the hawk protect his lunch. And I love the skimmer—they are just fascinating to watch.

    I was happy the news finally reported more of the details of the Alligator incident; I hope they’ll follow up with the autopsy results regarding any influencing substances in her system. I really feel for the folks who tried to save her.

    • Thanks Ellen, I was really excited that he didn’t fly away as we approached but it killed me not to have a camera in hand! And yes it must be awful for those who were there when the alligator incident happened. It’s been announced that no further details of the autopsy will be reported.

  14. I’ve taken a liking to your side-by-side presentation. It’s very nice to see a context shot accompanied by a detail shot. Especially great for a visitor like me living in NZ, very distant from your wildlife and environment.

    • Thanks Liz – that was a bit of extra work but I thought the comparisons would be easier so thanks for noticing. Glad you were able to enjoy our wildlife; we certainly enjoyed yours!

  15. A very nice series, especially of Mr. Eagle, Mr. Hawk and Mr. Gator.

    When it comes to photographing wildlife, there’s nothing wrong with using a zoom. I know what she was trying to do by getting on the eye-to-eye level with the gator – it makes for a very compelling shot; it’s a money shot too. Those who’ve gotten hurt with elk, bear, coyotes, among other wildlife, here in the west, they often lost their awareness. A most unfortunate mistake.

    • Thanks David, yes I think as someone commented earlier, people think their cameras act as a shield. I do find it hard to believe one could feel that way about a gator. Just sayin’

  16. What a thrill to catch the skimmer, Tina. I know how hard it is to get those long desired shots. Well done.
    No photograph is worth risking your safety. Keep zooming.

  17. I am sorry to read about the poor lady. It is important to respect wild animals, particularly dangerous ones. Your images are wonderful as always.

  18. Great croppings, Tina – and I love that first tree too! It’s like my magnolia – at least two possibilities. Terrible about that woman getting needlessly killed. Being a local -how could she not know the danger?

    • Thanks Ann-Christine. We recently did a “one photo two ways” challenge in our photography club. This one would have fit the challenge nicely 🙂 as would your magnolia image. Yes, it was awful about the alligator incident. I’m sure she DID know the dangers, we cannot imagine what she was thinking. >

  19. Lovely photos Tina though I have to say I like the first one better in the original version – that tree is such a great shape. Such a horrible thing to happen to that woman and as a local she should have surely known better? But some people do like to chance their luck and maybe think they are safe behind a camera. Happens with baboons in the Cape too. Me, I stay well away from animal life unless I know it is safe! You have some amazing wildlife in your neighbourhood.

    • Thanks Jude, I know what you mean about that tree, it really is beautiful. A good example of “one photo two ways”, an exercise our photo club just completed. And yes, it was horrible. You may be right

  20. Great shots, all the gators look the same. I see folks all the time getting too close, sometimes I think because they lay so still folks don’t realize they are just waiting for the right moment, and they are quick. Sad about that lady

  21. Great selection of cropped shots! The woman who lost her life may have fallen into the “camera as a shield” syndrome. Many years ago I was in Argentina and in the company of a group of journalists and they had all worked in war zones. One had seen her photographer husband blown up in front of her. They all acknowledged that you have to be close to the action as a photographer but they also felt that most of the photographers felt they were “safe” behind the “shield” of the camera!

  22. I thought the eagle shot was brilliant but the alligator was sheer perfection. Cropping indeed added so much detail to it . Also the accompanying alligator story was a sobering thought, a healthy reminder of the dangers of getting close to the wild . I can’t imagine how traumatic it must have been. Zoom is the way to go !

  23. With a good camera, cropping works so well, Tina! I agree that getting too close to the alligator would not be a good idea, but your lens captured him just fine. I am never surprised anymore when I hear about these selfie-induced tragedies. Who reaches out to touch a gator?? I was beyond irritated two years ago as we watched people get close to bother the basking sea turtle in Hawaii. I stayed away and managed some great close-up shots and had to crop people out of the pic! Gorgeous eagle and red-tailed hawk!

  24. Great example, Tina. I love your eagle shot, majestic indeed. And the third one is priceless.
    The tragedy could be avoid it…. So sad.

  25. Sad to hear about the woman getting too close to the alligator. I can’t imagine what she was thinking. Wondering if she was a visitor to the island and was not familiar with the speed at which an alligator can strike.

  26. Sometimes I see a scene and the lens I have with me just isn’t long enough. I know in advance that I’m going to have to crop. I call it a crop shoot. I would maintain a very healthy distance from alligators. I’m very sorry to hear of this woman’s death, but I believe she was bucking for a Darwin Award.

  27. Love that Brian Peterson quote — and it’s one to remember! Your cropping really does enhance your already lovely photos. There’s nothing like seeing a gator close up, but photographed at a distance!

  28. So sorry about the alligator incident on Kiawah. I love seeing all the challenges. You are one hell of a photographer. Who knew????

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