Salvaging a Silhouette

beetle on a twig in silhouette

Our silhouetted beetle friend here was sitting out in the late, Texas afternoon.

When I visited north Texas a few years ago, I found a decent number of bugs even though it was early November. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time and was rushing about; not a lot of good shots came of it. I found the smallest butterfly I have ever seen — my memory is fuzzy, but it couldn’t have been bigger than a US dime. They were numerous but flitted away at the first sign of approach. I didn’t fire a single shot on them, and I will probably rue it until the day I do photograph one.

The butterflies were the best find, but there was also a huge orbweaver I couldn’t fit into my reverse lens and a perfectly situated, if only for a moment, crab spider that I botched. It was one of those days, which leads me to the beetle shot above. I was excited to find anything, and even though it wasn’t a particularly standout subject, it was a welcome one. And I botched this one, too. Except this botch worked in my favor, or at least I hope you agree with me.

The beetle had taken up a very convenient pose with the vegetation nicely situated around it, but I accidentally and severely underexposed the shot. My opportunity was gone, but my result left something salvageable. The twigs and beetle were largely dark with the background showing faint color. Adjusting the exposure, contrast, and saturation in post-processing retained the silhouette and brought out the orange of the background. Because of the dark solid areas inherent to the silhouette, I could also do more denoising than typical which helped out the background a lot. I wish the antenna was more distinguished  from the background twigs, but I really like how the shot came out overall. This photo was one of those where I could see the potential, and it ended up being very rewarding to realize some of that through post-processing.


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