Young Herring Gull, St Ives, Cornwall; 10 Oct 2013.

This is an immature bird, as shown by its very speckled plumage.  It was hatched last summer.

Its a simple shot of a bird overhead, but it has four conscious design elements.  First, use of black and white removes any distractions due to colour, rendering the image “basic and without frills”.  Then second, this simplicity has been enhanced by rendering the sky completely featureless and white – its the bird and nothing but the bird.

But while it may be the bird and nothing but the bird,  its not the whole bird.  Because as it shot overhead, I failed to perfectly track it and my shot cuts right through its left wing tip.  But, just by pure chance, the amputated end of the wing fits right into the frame’s lower left corner.  So, thirdly, there is a strong design element – the image’s strongest graphic element –  emanating from that lower left corner, and cutting diagonally right up across the frame.  There are two possibilities here – either this diagonal is headed from lower left to upper right, or vice versa.  Feeling my eyes entering this image – as they do most images (see earlier posts on this blog) – from the left towards the right, I’m happier with the left to right movement.

And there is also the argument that this diagonal is not moving at all.

And the fourth element is its torso, which cuts at a right angle, right through that diagonal.  This torso reminds me of a dart, with a sharp point at the front and feathered flights at the rear.  This being so, this second diagonal is moving from upper left towards lower right.

A further simplification of this image could be achieved by making it a silhouette, but I’m retaining its intricate plumage patterns.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2’s Film Noir 3 preset.

About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. You see so much. Thank goodness for narration. 😉
    Fascinating! Horizontally speaking 🙂


  2. Meanderer says:

    A beautiful image – matched wonderfully by a detailed analysis and description.


  3. krikitarts says:

    I’m very pleased that you didn’t make this a silhouette, and for me that brings up the 5th great part of it, though it’s not exactly a design element per se, and that’s the full range of zones or density values, from the full black of the bird’s right wing tip to the full white in its right tailfeathers–in other words, it’d be sort of a shame not to take full advantage of a perfect exposure. I like this one very much! BTW, I’ve kept my promise and am now enjoying my first ever glass of Highland Park, thanks to your recommendation. (I jumped for the 15-year!)


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Yes, Gary, I agree – I think that making it a silhouette would have been “wasting” it – losing all that wonderful patterning – aren’t birds something else???

      And thanks for mentioning the full range of tones – I didn’t consciously aim for that – sometimes I do but other times I’m way, way out! – but you’re right about that here. Thank you!

      And you’ve gone straight for the 15 year old Highland Park – I hope it fulfils your expectations! Way to go, and especially so at New Year!!! Have a very good 2014, my friend, and I hope very much that your eyes continue to recover! Adrian 🙂


  4. Malin H says:

    “the amputated end of the wing fits right into the frame’s lower left corner.”

    One don’t have to have the whole bird in the image. We all know how a “whole” bird looks like. It gets more exciting like this! I have many images of birds where I’ve amputated the wings (consciously of course, to increase the tension). And this image is a good one!


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      With “We all know how a “whole” bird looks like”, you are absolutely right! I may have known this already – but its very good having you say it, it reinforces it! You are inspiring me once more! Glad you enjoy the shot! 🙂


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