Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

February 24, 2013

To Crop, or Not to Crop

Lesser Nighthawk - full frame

Lesser Nighthawk – full frame

Nikon D70, Nikkor 300/2.8 plus TC14E (1.4x), ISO 200, 1/60th second at f/16, tripod, fill flash from SB-800

First, this is an older image – taken July 12, 2005, with my first digital camera. Checking the EXIF in Photoshop shows this was frame number 6209 with my D70 that I’d bought about 8 months earlier.

I was alerted to a nesting Lesser Nighthawk along a trail at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix and was lucky enough to find it in the same spot the following day; a difficult task because these are among the most cryptic plumaged birds around and sit quietly and motionless.

Once I had found it, I was able to sit about 10 feet away for the next hour while we both enjoyed the 90+ degrees of direct Arizona sun, and I also got to enjoy the cactus spines I was sitting on. The nighthawk was completely indifferent to my presence, occasionally making minor adjustments as the two chicks beneath shifted about. When the sun got too hot the adult stood up and walked about 12 inches to find shade under a shurb, leaving the two chicks exposed. The chicks didn’t take long to follow the adult and climb back under the protective feathers. It was one of the most satisfying hours I’ve spent in spite of the sun, heat, and cactus spines! Honest critiques requested; all comments appreciated. Larger version provided.

I pulled the raw file off an external drive to use for a web critique site’s weekly challenge on camouflage. I went with the full frame uncropped version at the top of this post to show as much of the setting as I could. The rock in the foreground was a bit bright so I burned it down a little to make it less distracting.

I also tried a tighter version, cropping away 25% of the frame to eliminate the bright rock completely as shown here:

Lesser Nighthawk - cropped

Lesser Nighthawk – cropped

I cropped all four sides – taking out just the rock on the bottom edge made it feel somewhat unbalanced.

After looking at both for a while I decided I preferred the uncropped full frame version better as the cropped image seems too tight to me. But both versions work for me and others may prefer the tighter version.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.



  1. I like both images Rich but the one that speaks to me most is the uncropped version because it shows more of the habitat.

    Comment by Mia McPherson — February 24, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

  2. Outstanding images both Rich, and interesting story behind getting the image. I would be happy with either one, but I prefer the uncropped version best. I too think the second image is a bit too tight.

    Comment by Chuck Gangas — February 24, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

  3. I like the more cropped image as the dark area in the upper right rock tends to attract my eye. Either way, both images are wonderful!

    Comment by Bella Remy Photography — February 24, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

  4. I also prefer the uncropped version, being able to view the surroundings. Nice show of detail on the mother and chick!

    Comment by Jackie Allison — February 26, 2013 @ 3:12 am

  5. Rich, I agree that the cropped version is a bit tight, but I might try something in between–removing about half of the bright rock at bottom left and a corresponding amout from the left side.

    Comment by Brian Gatlin — February 27, 2013 @ 9:25 am

  6. I also like the full version as it shows habitat. Sounds like it was one of those wonderful moments that shows why we keep on getting out there and looking. Excellent shot.

    Comment by Jim — February 28, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

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