View Full Version : Caracal- a journey in processing

Gregor Bergquist
07-29-2012, 03:12 PM
Message from Steve Kaluski, BPN Wildlife Moderator:

We often spend time in taking our images in whatever 'discipline' we enjoy, whether it be landscape, macro, wildlife… and therefore they become precious to us, however, although taking the image may be the hardest part, we also need to be aware that the world of Processing is just as key to the image/shot, as we want to showcase our images as best we can.

This thread hopefully illustrated with Gregor's permission, shows how an image progressed from the author being happy, to realising that there was a lot more potential within the original RAW file still to be extracted. It also illustrates how, from the same image we interpret and see things differently. Gregor, by his own admission feels he is still in the early stages of Post Production and therefore we all have taken that into account. The steps taken were not elaborate, however it's the initial basics that can often determine the fate of the image, and Morkel has kindly added some basic steps taken, to achieve his interpretation.

I hope this thread is helpful to those who view it, but please, read through the replies to fully understand how the image evolved and that this is not always the way threads move in the Wildlife Forum.


Original post:

This is from an early morning in Masai Mara last november. This is almost a repost (I hope it is ok) of an earlier picture I posted some time ago. I think the posé of this is better than my other post from this encounter. There is some lilac cast on some earth/mud (i think it is). It´s there and personally I think it adds a painting feeling to it, and like it. I have this on my wall at home. As always I could have traded some ss for DOF...

Cropped, levels adjusted, eyes selective lightened, and quite much noise reduction and sharpness added.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 1/1000s, f/4, iso 3200


holger cremer
07-29-2012, 05:26 PM
Hi Gregor,

for me far to much noise reduction - looks like a painting now!


Andreas Liedmann
07-29-2012, 11:55 PM
Hi Gregor,
nice to see a caracal.composition is working as presented.

I think an issue here is NR, as Holger stated looks like a painting now.Result is not really good IQ, i think you could get better results with that camera.
The colors look like the Kodak Ektachrome 100 VS when sloppy processed. But wait what others say about colors :w3. And colors are many times personal preference.

Cheers Andreas

Ken Watkins
07-30-2012, 02:20 AM

Clearly this has not been processed to achieve a totally accurate representation of what you saw, as such I think it really belongs in Out of the Box, but I may be wrong.

As a finished product I quite like it and as a print with a painterly quality it probably looks very nice.

The question is what does it look like out of the camera, as Caracal are a relatively rare sighting I would like to see it processed "normally" as well

Marc Mol
07-30-2012, 02:56 AM
All nits aside, he looks a superb specimen of a cat I've seen only once in all my visits to Africa, so something to savour indeed Gregor.:w3

Steve Kaluski
07-30-2012, 04:21 AM
Hi Gregor, a lovely and rare animal which is not often posted, so thank you for allowing us another chance to view.

Firstly your point of trading in more DOF is right, although you had a high ISO, you did have some movement in the DOF as the subject was static. So increasing this would have help in detail, definition & clarity, plus when you came to selectively sharpening the subject. Also the application of the % amount of NR is a little too much, portraying what others have called a 'painting look', however in time you will get to know what 'looks right' as each image will require different amounts subject to the noise, or, may not require any, it all depends on the shot. I also think you could apply some more USM to the face, albeit at this size there is a little you can tease out, on the original you should have more. Overall to me the colour looks flat and looking at it, you can move the image in the opposite direction with a bit of warm. In removing the magenta and a bit of red, taking the slight cast out of the whites, adding some more USM to the subject, plus a tad of Shadow/highlight I personally think you start to see a fraction more detail coming through. I appreciate this might well be too far away from your initial vision, but thought it was worth exploring, would welcome your thoughts Gregor. The 'lilac' cast you are referring to is the magenta coming through the image, I think it needs balancing, but respect your views on it. I also like the look back pose & composition, also if IQ allows you could also go portrait too.

Gregor if you need help Morkel & I would be happy to give some pointers in hopefully progressing this further if you would like, as this has good potential, especially when you consider the rarity of the subject.

Steve :5

Morkel Erasmus
07-30-2012, 03:28 PM
Always great to see them, Gregor. Steve's colour looks much better, particularly the Caracal. Smoothness has been noted, I think even with the mood you were going for you needed to be less heavy-handed with the NR...all fine detail in the coat is lost and this robs the image of impact for me. Reworking from scratch and masking out the caracal when doing NR is best IMHO...if you are confined to only LR you can still mask the sharpening function so the Caracal is sharpened, and then just apply very light NR via the sliders, remember that downsizing also takes care of some of the noise.

Gregor Bergquist
07-30-2012, 03:58 PM
Hi everybody, thanks a lot for C & C.
This picture is a problem for me, as was the other post I did last time. That time I focused on colortemperatur, but I think fiddling didn't really get somewhere. This time I didn´t change temperature or colors. This is as the original raw-file was. Only changes I did in that respect is small adjustment in taking down darks and shadows, and selectively added some saturation on the cats lover body. I also lightened the eyes a bit. I have added a lot sharpness (and masking). I do think I did add to much noise reduction, but If i don´t quite a lot noise (more than usual in iso 3200) appears, even down-sized. I can put in all sharpness there is in LR and do the adjustment Steve suggests. Then I come very close to his version. Which I think is a (small) improvement, thanks Steve. So Ken I think this is a "normal" processed version. I can only accept that IQ is not so good (for some reason - note exposure here is not changed at all), and color is for some reason difficult. I don´t know why. For me this works well as a "painting", even if I don't seem abel to make a realistic picture. I do like to show them since I like the pictures painting-like as they are, and from what I understand a rare sighting. First and sofar only safari for me. (In Sweden we have some very rare lynx - never seen one but dream about. In sweden there is seldom pictures of those wild. In fact last year there was a big scandal here, even in national press, where one of our most famous wildlife photographers, Terje Hellesö, was caught cheating publishing false lynx pictures.)

Best regards, Gregor

Gregor Bergquist
07-30-2012, 05:04 PM
Request from Morkel and to everyone who want to have a try, here is a link to raw-file.


(Right click and choose save as..)

Ken Watkins
07-30-2012, 11:10 PM

As it is early in the morning I decided to give your challenge a go.

Looking at the RAW you clearly have a lot of noise, although I know nothing of Nikon cameras or NEF files I would suggest that this arises from the underexposure. When I open the file in PS it shows an EV of -0.67.

Given the relatively poor quality of the RAW I have left my conversion as full frame.

For a person of my limited skill, I have just had a quick go, removing as much noise as possible on a layer and slightly erasing the effect on the Caracal.

Further tweaks to colour balance contrast etc have been performed, but do not trust my calibrated monitor or further still my eyes.:w3

Really it is like trying to make a silk purse from a pigs ear, and I can understand why you processed it in the way you did especially for printing.

Gregor Bergquist
07-30-2012, 11:19 PM
Hi Ken.
Thanks a lot of trying and having a go at the elusive raw-file. Yes I do agree that sadly quality is not good enough, and i guess that could come from underexposure. I think you handle noise somewhat better,and partly that could be going FF. To my taste I think your picture turns out too green (In that respect i like better my OP - painting like as it is.). But that is my taste. (I don't think that is due to your eyes or monitor...) Thanks anyway. But what do you think comp wise going FF? I did the cropping to get a better comp, considering the caracals head turn to his right. But it might work as it is (i think), and the comp I made in-camera? WDYT?

Cheers, Gregor

Ken Watkins
07-30-2012, 11:27 PM

That is probably caused by my inept attempts to reduce the magenta in the Caracal, but then again Africa can be green.

In my humble opinion I like the fuller picture, cropping closer when you have good IQ is always acceptable, but rarely works otherwise, I am sure some of our processing gurus could do a lot better.

Gregor Bergquist
07-30-2012, 11:36 PM
Thanks Ken.

I appreciate your opinion, and I think it is interesting that you think FF might be a better option, even considering composition. I have not yet made up my thoughts about this. It will be interesting to hear what other thinks.

Steve Kaluski
07-31-2012, 03:27 AM
Hi Gregor, well here is my take, have kept it FF so you can compare like for like. Trust all the feedback and hints/tips helps, and that you get to grips with the delights of the Wonderful World of Processing.

Cheers for now.
Steve :wave:

Andreas Liedmann
07-31-2012, 04:08 AM
Hi Gregor my try, funny competition i like to be part of it.I was thinking moving over to Nikon due to noise affects on the images, but i must honestly say , for me i am lucky that i did not.I refused my plans , cause costs of system change were higher than my wallet level.

WDYT? all participants following this thread.

Cheers Andreas

Dumay de Boulle
07-31-2012, 05:19 AM
A bit late to this one. I tried my hand at it too. I think Steve's is a bit over-saturated and Andrea's looks a bit green and yours has a bit too much magenta. NR is a minor issue for me. I sharpened a bit, reduced magenta and cyan in the red channel, added yellow and a bit of saturation, not saying mine is the best but trying to steer what I think is the right direction. Think the RAW may yield better results.

Steve Kaluski
07-31-2012, 06:06 AM
Hi Dumay, did you work from the download RAW file?

Morkel I think this would be useful to copy across into Eager to Learn Forum as well, WDYT? Gregor do you have any objections?

Gregor Bergquist
07-31-2012, 01:35 PM
Hi Steve, absolutely no objections from me. I´m hoping Morkel is going to have a go to. I can see there is ways to improve the picture.

Steve Kaluski
07-31-2012, 01:47 PM
Thanks, will see what happens. I'm sure Morkel will try and do something, but I think he has his hands full at present. :S3:

At least it shows how we see and interpret things differently from the same file, but from your perspective, a good lesson I think.

Morkel Erasmus
07-31-2012, 05:21 PM
How could I not join the fun of posting a rework in this exercise?? :bg3:

Here's my take. Cropped as I would have cropped it. Processed as I would have if it were my own (though I worked rather quickly).

Firstly - it has more noise than my D3s-ISO3200 files, most probably because of the underexposure as noted above.

Notable steps in processing:
1. changed WB in ACR to "daylight" - this gave me the most natural caracal colour
2. adjusted ACR sliders as per my normal workflow, nothing strange, with very low NR adjustment and some sharpening applied via masked adjustment
3. opened in CS5 - created layer of caracal and focal-plane-grass, resized to 1000px (my standard posting size here)
4. one round NR on BG, 2 rounds slight sharpening on FG (caracal), Robert's luminosity multiplied mask on BG (20% opacity)
5. Nik Tonal contrast on caracal alone - 50% opacity, sliders at 13 except saturation (which I left at 5)
6. Color Balance on caracal - +2,+2,-2 for all tonal values
7. Selective colour on caracal - +2 to blacks in red, black and neutral channels
8. last round of slight sharpening on caracal


Morkel Erasmus
07-31-2012, 05:25 PM
Hi Dumay, did you work from the download RAW file?

Morkel I think this would be useful to copy across into Eager to Learn Forum as well, WDYT? Gregor do you have any objections?

None at all - good idea!!

Tom Graham
07-31-2012, 09:56 PM
Morkel's far and away the best for me. Colors look natural to me - even though I've never seen a Caracal :S3:
I did look at original nef and thought it was soft and thus going to cause problems, as we've seen above.

Ken Watkins
07-31-2012, 11:23 PM
Morkel's re-post is in my opinion by far the best as it looks like what I remember a Caracal to look like, it is certainly not as red as the majority of the re-posts. So perhaps it is possible to make a silk purse from a pigs ear:bg3:

Steve Kaluski
08-01-2012, 01:04 AM
Nice one Morkel. :5

Gregor Bergquist
08-01-2012, 01:36 AM
Nice work all of you!
i´m humbled by your skills and thankful that you have taken time to work with my image.
For my taste I really like Steves background. I guess it is pretty close to my own vision, and I like it a bit darker green. Morkels cat is in my eyes the best and most natural one.


Dumay de Boulle
08-01-2012, 05:51 AM
Nice one Morkel...I think you nailed it on the head...Steve, I actually just tried it on the JPEG...I didn't realize the RAW was available after see in Morkels repost I was so far off the mark it frightening.

Andreas Liedmann
08-01-2012, 11:03 AM
Nice work Morkel :cheers:.

Gregor maybe you take all the RP `s mix just one image out them :t3!!


09-17-2013, 05:48 AM
Morkel :- Love your processing. My preference would be towards your Caracal Image.
Just one question - After the processing that you did, would i get the same rendition (same noise free look) at 5-6MP too? As in if if have to enlarge it and submit for Exhibition will your final Image stack up or you processed it for WEB for 1000 Px?

Dvir Barkay
04-09-2014, 12:02 AM
Late to the party, but I always love post processing tries of other shots just to see where I can take it. I never shot a Caracal so I tried my best to get the color right, it really seems like the white balance got really messed up in camera. Anyhow, here is my shot
My workflow is as follows
Camera RAW:
regular sharpening, with a bit of NR, I don't get all the complaints about the noise try shooting with a noisy 24mpx crop sensor haha :)
I always add 10 vibrance, and I played with the profile and white balance to get a good color.
into CS6:
Then I added contrast with an S curve, contrast to the blacks, and contrast to the midtones
Color balance/ saturation/ Selective color trying to come up with a final look that I like
Brightened the eyes as well.
Lastly cleaned up the flowers as they took too much attention (I usually leave things as is, but tried to play around with it)
noise reduction on the background with topaz
one round of smart sharpening and playing with the layers and opacity to make sure it looks like I want it too
and then saved
hope that helps any

I could have probably been a bit less heavy on the black point, and maybe added a tad bit more magenta to the yellows but otherwise I think it works out alright.

Gregor Bergquist
04-23-2014, 02:24 PM
Hi Dvir

Very good I think. Looks to me very close to Morkels version. And yes, white balance on this one is really messed up.