The making of my hawk photo-paintings


We keep a bird bath low in bushes in our front yard. It attracts visitors large and small. Our chipmunks and squirrels join all kinds of birds. When the weather is dry even deer come around for a drink and a nibble on the liriope. As can be expected predators are attracted too. Our neighborhood hawks usually sit high in the trees and are hard to photograph, especially in the warm part of the year when the leaves make a dense canopy.

So when my wife noticed a hawk low and close to the house I saw a chance. My first shot was through a dirty window – better to get a poor photo than none at all. Then I gingerly stepped out the front door. The hawk was cautious but tolerant. I moved closer and around for better light. In all I got 15 exposures.



One of the shots seemed quite suitable for a close, “portrait”, crop.


A nice enough bird photo, and the one that got the most “plusses” on Google+. Folks are just drawn to close-ups.

I wanted more out of this photo and it became the basis for my first manipulation. PaintShop Pro is my preferred tool since it offers a vast array of utilities, layers and layers of selected portions. This allows using plug-ins in a very customizable ways. Topaz plug-ins, especially the recent Impression and Glow are amazing tools. Here are a couple of intermediates leading to my final version that primarily uses Topaz Glow.

Hawk Hawk

You can see the evolution of the image. The PaintShop Pro cloning tool came in handy for removing some extraneous elements and for the final vignetting. This version made it to my  Fine Art America portfolio.


The photos of the upright hawk appealed to me. The “good” ones are flawed by small twigs in front of the bird. The clearest shot was the first one through the dirty window. The problem with screens and dirty windows in front of your camera lens has been the topic here a long time ago. Much of the effect is a haze that results in no deep blacks in the photo. This can be quite effectively eliminated with the histogram sliders and the other exposure adjustments available in editing tools. I like to use Photo Gallery as my primary management and quick-edit tool. Here are views of the original frame and the first enhancements.



So next a tight crop and a journey through the effects tools.



The final version is here, this too made it to my for-sale print collection.

Hawk 2 

The original “sitting” of the hawk was just four minutes, first to last exposure. The photo editing, manipulations, and “photopainting” was more like four days.


© 2014 Ludwig Keck

4 comments on “Hawk

  1. Awesome photographs, especially the play on detail and colour.


  2. Jane Moore says:

    Thank you for the beautiful and interesting photos. I learn so much from you!


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