Every now and then, someone asks if I manipulate my photographs. Although it's rare for me to go this route, when I do, the tweaks are typically minor and inconspicuous. In some cases, more substantial changes can strengthen an image but I'm torn because doing so seems contrary to the spirit of what I'm usually trying to show -- how we, miraculously, make our way in the world, safely and sanely.
That said, this week's photo is one of those cases. Last winter, I took some OK pictures of a guy feeding seagulls, but they were nothing special -- just a guy feeding birds. I almost deleted the series but noticed an interesting pattern in one shot with seven seagulls stacked above a man's outstretched arm. However, because I felt that the guy's head was distracting and the blue sky didn't add anything, after a bunch of fiddling, I ended up making three changes:
1. Crop out the guy's head to focus on the seagulls and the arm.
2. Convert the image to black & white.
3. Darken the sky to highlight the bird's shapes, details and spacing.
I like this image a lot. The birds are now the "stars" and the man's arm adds a bit of mystery (what is he doing and why are the birds hovering over his empty hand?).
Here's the original image for comparison. Sometimes a little manipulation goes a long way!