I wrote in a previous blog (When is a tussock moth not a tussock moth?) that I would go out and find a real tussock moth to photograph. Well, I haven’t succeeded yet, but I did find a nice specimen of silver spotted tussock moth caterpillar (Lophocampa argentata). Below is a standard ID photo of the little beast. Note that the hairs on its back form little tufts or “tussocks”—hence the name tussock moth.
I photographed this caterpillar as it crawled around on the branches of a dead tree. For the most part it didn’t do anything particularly interesting or photogenic. But whenever it came to the end of a branch it would rear-up and wave around (looking to find another branch to climb on I assume). This was a great pose, but it was tricky to catch considering how it was moving and the shallow depth of field I had to work with. But eventually everything came together and I managed to get the photo below. As soon as I hit the shutter I knew I’d like it.
All-in-all I think this is a nice little photo. Now I’d like to share with you the steps I took to make it even better using Photoshop Elements 8.0. Before I do I want to be clear that I am no expert with Photoshop! But that is Ok because I typically don’t usually do much more than tweak the contrast and/ or crop the photo. For this photo, however, I did just a little more…
The first step was to adjust the contrast. Normally I start by clicking “Auto contrast” (under the “Enhance” tab) and usually I am happy with the result. If necessary I will tweak it manually as needed (Enhance/Adjust lighting/Brightness/Contrast). In this case the contrast was already good. Next I needed to crop the photo in order to get a little more up close and personal (when in doubt, always get closer). If you haven’t used Photoshop Elements before, this couldn’t be easier. You just use the Crop tool to draw a box around the portion of the photo that you want to keep, adjust the edges as desired and hit enter. Voila!
The photo is looking good now, but there were a couple of reflections on the head that I really wasn’t happy about. This is where the Clone Stamp Tool is so incredibly handy. I zoomed in close on the head, selected the Clone Stamp Tool and set the size to 25 px. Then it was just a matter of selecting (alt-click) areas of the caterpillar’s skin and stamping (click) over the reflections. I find that the best way to do this is to select an area of an image right next to the area you want to stamp over. This allows for the best most seamless match of colour and tone. It only took a minute to remove the reflections.
Plus, by exposing for the black underside correctly I felt that the beautiful orange hairs lost a little saturation. So I went back to the “Enhance” tab and selected Adjust lighting/Shadows/Highlights and darkened the highlights just a little to bring out the colour. I also lightened the shadows to provide a bit more detail in the dark underside.
Here is the final result:
I hope you like it…