Monday, August 4, 2014

Grin and Bear It – Buffing Up a Bruin

The Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas, has an interesting black bear habitat. On the day I visited, there was an enormous number of wild black vultures hanging out with the bears. Apparently the bears don't mind the vultures and pay little attention to them. You can see one of the vultures in this photo.

Black Bear at the Cameron Park Zoo
Original Black Bear Photo

Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
200 mm, f/10, 1/60 sec, ISO 400

I really like the expression on this bear's face, so I chose to process this image into a close-up. 

Step 1 – Cropping

Though I usually save cropping for the last step so that I can have multiple options, in this case I chose to do an initial crop to get rid of most of the distracting and unwanted elements of the picture, leaving enough space to that I could still make variously shaped close-up crops later.

Initial Cropping
Initial Crop

Step 2 – Adjusting Exposure and Contrast

I decided the lighting was fine, so I used Colors > Curves to adjust only the contrast, setting the lower left point to 10, 0 and the upper right point to 244, 255.

Contrast Adjusted
Contrast Adjusted

Step 3 – Creating the Close-Up

At this point I decided that all I really wanted was an extreme close-up, so, to avoid messing with parts of the bear that I wasn't going include, I did the final crop, choosing a non-standard shape (
2179 px x 1727 px) that included the bear's face and as much of the body as I could without too much background or foreground interference.

Final Crop
Final Crop

Step 4 – Removing Foreground Vegetation

Obviously this image would look better without the green vegetation in the foreground. I used the Rectangle Select tool to select a region around the rightmost green leaf and pasted it as a new layer. Then I used the Clone tool to remove the green. I did the same thing for the leftmost green leaf.

Vegetation Removal
Vegetation Removal

Vegetation Removed
Vegetation Removed

Step 5 – Removing the Dirt

This bear needs a bath! I created a new layer from what was visible (right-click in the Layers list and select New from Visible) and used the Clone tool with a small Hardness 050 brush and cloned out most of the bits of grass and other dirty spots.

Tidy Bear
Tidy Bear

Here's what my Layers list looks like:

Step 6 - Converting to Grayscale

I thought I'd play around with converting this image into "black and white" (grayscale, really), so I copied into a new file (to avoid any possibility that I might screw up my original data). I chose Colors > Desaturate and created three versions — one each for Lightness, Luminosity, and Average.

Desaturate - Lightness
Desaturate – Lightness

Desaturate - Luminosity
Desaturate – Luminosity

Desaturate - Average
Desaturate – Average

I didn't think any of them looked all that great. Remembering something I had read on Pat David's blog about black and white conversion (specifically, Getting Around in GIMP - Black and White Conversion (Part 4) ), I decided to play around with the GEGL operation c2g. GEGL stands for Generic Graphics Library. (If you're interested in the nitty gritty programming side of it, you can find detailed information at ) GIMP's GEGL operations can be found via Tools > GEGL Operation. This opens a GEGL Operation dialog where you can choose an operation and fiddle with its settings. There is basically no documentation on any of the GEGL operations, so the best thing to do is experiment. c2g has three controls — Radius, Samples, and Iterations — with defaults 300, 4, and 10. After trying several different combinations, I settled on 800, 8, 10

c2g 800, 8, 10
c2g 800, 8, 10

Then I went back and read Pat's post again and tried the settings 1200, 8, 20. If you flip back and forth between the two c2g images you can see interesting differences in the tone.

c2g 1200, 8, 20
c2g 1200, 8, 20

Which final image you prefer obviously depends on your own taste. I generally prefer color, though I think this bear looks rather cool in grayscale.