Robert Henderson's picture

Southern Ground Hornbill - After

We encountered this female Southern Ground Hornbill on a trip to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania in 2018. Hornbills are large, aggressive hunters that feed on lizards, snakes, insects, and when they can get them, baby birds. You can tell it’s a female hornbill by the blue patch under her bill. She was being aggressively dive-bombed by a smaller Wattled Lapwing. Wattled Lapwings nest on the ground, and the young birds are extremely vulnerable to attack. The lapwing was doing her absolute best to pester the hornbill into giving up. Which in fact, she did.

I liked the original image of the hornbill, but there was not as much separation from the background as I would have liked. Rather than masking and blurring the background in Photoshop, I decided to overpaint the bird, and put her on an entirely created background.

After watching countless hours of You Tube instruction, I invested $1.99 in a set of custom tree and grass brushes marketed by Aaron Blaise, (an extraordinary digital artist and video instructor). Best $1.99 I have ever spent! There were 58 brushes in the set, and eventually, I think I used nearly all of them.

I wanted to be close to realistic, but clearly a created image. Something you might find as an illustration in a bird watching guide.

I took the original image with a Canon EOS 7D Mark II with a Canon 100 - 400mm EF f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM lens. The exposure settings were 1/500 sec at f/6.3, ISO 500, 400 mm.

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Awesome picture. The color of the bird is fantastic
and the capture of the medium where it is is great.
From his gallery I see that you are a true expert nature photographer.
Congratulations and my like.

Hi Mariano,

Many thanks! My head is spinning! :-)

I have to admit, I'm pretty happy with the way the composited image turned out. But I'm particularly grateful to Aaron Blaise, and his detailed "how to" videos for creating realistic backgrounds.

Thanks again for your very kind comments.

Bob Henderson