If you could ask 100 photographers about cropping, you will probably get 20 answers. Most will say get it right in the camera. I agree with that but in nature, especially birds, you are lucky if they stay still along enough to get a sharp image let alone an interesting pose. Well, I'm in the camp of cropping when you need to for the composition or to take an OK photo and make it more interesting.
This week's featured subject is the very common Brewers Blackbird. A young birder got my attention by asking me what kind of bird it was so I told her and gave her a little background about it. As I watched the bird I notice how cooperative she was so I started taking a few photos. It was nice to be so close to the bird but I was too close and I had to back up to get the focus. I thought I had captured some good images but when I got home they just didn't do anything for me.
This was taken just before noon and with the fog breaking the light turned from soft to high contrast. Although I did get a few photos, there were long shadows from the bill and something was missing. The original did follow the rule of thirds with the bird's head in the upper left third. But so what, it still was flat. So I did a heavy crop to draw attention to the eye and tone down the distracting long shadow. Although this was shot at ISO1600 the image has very little noise and with the f/10 I have most of the bird in focus with a little fall off around the neck. You can really see the details and with the expression I think this is a much better composition.
Another example of cropping, is this image of an Osprey landing on a perch. Now if I had shot this without cropping I would probably have needed an 800mm and at 10+ lbs, without the body, I don't know how long I could have held it steady let alone do much hiking with it. Also, with that tight of an in camera crop it would have been very difficult to capture a moving object. This was taken at ISO450 with image stabilization and I was able to stop the motion using a relatively low 1/500s for the 500mm equivalent lens I was using. There was only some blur in the wing tips from the final wing beat, which adds to the sense of motion.
The original doesn't do anything for the image pertaining to the power of flight of this magnificent bird. So from my point of view, try to get it right in camera but don't be afraid to use cropping creatively.
Your comments are welcomed and if you have any questions about the photo or any other questions leave me a message.