This Isn’t a Painting. It’s An Unedited Photograph.
This is not a painting of a heron in a river, it’s a photograph, and it hasn’t been digitally edited. No filters have been applied to it. No Photoshop tool has been run over it. This is the photo exactly as I took it last March. But at first glance, you’d swear it was painted on canvas. It came out that way entirely by accident, when a combination of environmental and technical factors conspired to create one of the most intriguing pictures that I’ve taken.
Some of the “painting” effect is likely due to the less-than-ideal shooting conditions when I took this photo. I shot it from a second-story window, after spotting the heron and zooming in as much as possible on my Pixel 4a smartphone. The movement of the rushing water, the natural tremble of a handheld shot, and the pane of glass between me and the subject would all tend to make the image blurry. Perhaps the auto-processing in the camera app tried to correct for the blur, and wound up giving it a painted look.
Oddly, though, I haven’t been able to recreate this phenomenon, even using the same phone and location. This image was taken from the same window, again zoomed in all the way. But this one is clearly a photograph, and it doesn’t have any of that “painted” look.
So, my best guess is that the lighting and the colors of late winter in the photo of the heron must have contributed to me getting that exact aesthetic.
My father was a writer and nature photographer, and he told me once that photography wasn’t always about having the right camera. Sometimes it was about having any camera at just the right time and place. I love this photo because it’s a perfect example of this idea. It’s not a great photo because I had high-quality equipment or planned the shot, but because the moment was right, and all the circumstances together produced something special.
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