Swan Fight!

The day promised to be sunny and it had been a little while since I’ve visited my favorite Tundra swan flock. Lifestyles of a nature photographer, leave the house while it is still dark outside to capture the sunrise.

When arriving at the community park on the Magothy River, not a single swan was in sight. A little worried that they may have found sweeter water elsewhere, I awaited the sun to greet me and watched the mallard ducks fly by.



Even though I’m getting older and the hearing is starting to go, as a birder my ears are tuned into the slight sounds that birds might make in the distance. Whether it be a chirp or a chip, I can usually pick it up in the din of wind and what-not. It is true that sound carries better over the water and I first heard lots of Canada geese making a racket. But in all of that noise, the distinctive honk of a Tundra swan emerged giving me hope that they would come to the point for their breakfast.

Off in the distance I saw something flying lowly over the water.


Joy oh joy, the day will be beautiful with a start with Tundra swans arriving to join me in the rising sun. I’ve learned that when they land they tend to have family disputes and today was no exception. With lots of honks and wings flapping in the water, little spats popped up here and there.


The swans land in a difficult place to photograph first thing at sunrise. It’s on the western side of the point and the sun takes an hour to reach the area to brighten the way. The groupings spend time in the shade and dark and the urge to photograph is hard to keep at bay. I know the images won’t come out well – dark, shaded. Not like some of the ones I can get once the sun reaches them.

It doesn’t stop me from clicking though – just not as many as I would ordinarily. And then a huge fight ensued. One vicious and loud. Their friends watched on, photobombing many of my frames. But in spite of all odds, I managed to get some images that are worth sharing.

Editing these took a bit of creativity and work on my part to arrive to this lovely result. Below is the before and after comparison.


I used Lightroom for editing these images Beginning with a tight crop I then began work on the exposure and white balance. When photographing sunrise, I like using Shade white balance as it saturates the oranges and yellows. Doesn’t work so well if you turn around though. The Auto White Balance adjustment worked out well in this case.

Next was to work on the tones on the birds and the water. Using the HSL panel, I desaturated the blues, aquas, yellows and oranges with the Saturation selection. I then went to the Luminance and slid the same colors to the right to lighten their tones. I then applied a SleekLens strong white vignette in their Landscape collection and adjusted the vignette size and shape.

It took just a few minutes to make the adjustment to one image. I then copied the edits and then pasted them on the other images I wanted to share.

12 replies »

  1. Gorgeous images, Emily. Thanks too for sharing the before/after image comparison and your description of what you did to get the spectacular final result.I feel inspired and I think I may need to look more carefully and creatively at some of my images and think about what they might become.

    • It was a professional flower photographer that taught me to look at images sometimes as how you can crop to get the image you want. I’m thrilled this post encouraged you to see things that are within an image. Good luck Mike.

  2. Wonderful tundra swan images, Emily. Thank you for including the before and after and the details of how you rescued the dark image. You have made amazing strides in your photography since you began. You are inspirational. Now, if I were only a few years younger! BTW, I re-visioned my SmugMug site and have put a lot of hours into it with the inspiration of the work you’ve done on your site. My site,, is still in process, but I’m happy with what I’ve done so far. Thanks for sharing details about how you work as a photographer.

    • Hi Carolyn, Thank you so much for sharing your smugmug link. Love how you designed it. It’s easy to browse and see what you have available. I particularly like the idea of breaking the images into seasons. Super ! I takes hours to get it the way you like it. As a visitor – all of those hours have paid off.

      One never knows how much time we have on the earth so we must enjoy each day in its fullest. Age isn’t anything – it’s the spirit and a somewhat willing body. 🙂

      Congrats! Emily

      • Thanks for your response to my re-visioned smugmug site, Emily. And thanks also for sharing your thought on “age.” I agree with what you said. It’s very important to keep going with what we love to do, not stopping until there is no other choice. It’s good to know you found it easy to browse the site. I am still working on the “improvements” I want to make. The process is ongoing! Thank you again! ~Carolyn

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