Study Group 2

Andrew Hayes, ARPS, EFIAP/b, CPAGB - (B)

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Title:  European Lynx Pair
Goal:   Travelled to Bavarian Forest National Park in Southern Germany and stayed there for a few days. I went primarily for the Lynx but saw Wolf, Brown Bear and Wildcat.
The animals are contained in large enclosures in the forest, the Lynx enclosure is formed in a rocky hill and has three viewing platforms. The Lynx were relatively active in the mornings, even though it was very cold and in the afternoon. There were four lynx the parents and two mature cubs. 

Equipment / Source:   Olympus EM1 MkII
Olympus M 300 f/4
ISO 6400

Technique:   I moved between the three viewing platforms depending on the lynx activity, and light to get viewing angles.
The enclosure had remains of the big snow fall that Germany had in Jan/Feb. The light was difficult with overcast but changeable light. Constantly changing settings as always shoot in Manual.

Processing:   LR Classic CC. Still using the AUTO tone and adjusting after, Some localised lightening and darkening and a little noise reduction.

Comments/Scores (N, T, P, E, Total)

Critique Image (only members of Study Group Two may critique this image)

Review by commentator Dan C.

You created a pleasing image.  The zoo has done an excellent job in creating a realistic habitat for these animals.  That realistic habitat does give you good story value as well as creating a good setting for the image.

Technically your overall exposure is spot on but you still needed to do a bit more tonal contrast control in Lightroom.

Even though you took the image with the equivalent of a 600mm lens, the Lynx pair is still a bit small.  You did not need as much surrounding area to tell your story.  The 20 MB sensor has good noise performance and does allow you to do cropping without generating objectionable artifacts or loss of sharpness.  The cropping can also help reduce the area of snow in the background.

N2, T3, P2, E0, Total 7

Review by Larry T.
First I would like to note that this is a beautiful image and one of which I am sure you are justifiably proud. What ever expense you had in capturing this was worth it. Well Done!!

The nature requirement calls for a strong story line, which in the case of animals must demonstrate some type of behavior more than just being there. In this case the lynx are doing little other than just sitting on their ledge. I do not feel that this develops a strong story line.

When viewing the image in expanded format everything appears to be a bit soft. I do not find anything in the image that is crisp. I feel this may be the result of the high ISO and the clearly dark environment. If you pushed the ISO to 6400, managed only an f5 and 1/500 the light must have been quite low. Never the less, this has resulted in a posed image in which everything is soft. Some of this may be attributed to the fact that the camera was handheld. You indicate that there was changing light condition and that you shot in manual mode. If the light is changing that fast I would suggest trying to use AUTO ISO. In this mode you can set both the high and low ends of the ISO range that are acceptable to you. Thus the shutter and fstop would not change and the camera would adjust the ISO as necessary. It would be one less thing for you to worry about adjusting.

In Lightroom you note the use of noise reduction (due to the high ISO) and I’m sure this has helped to make the image soft. You mention making local adjustments which effect the brightness of the image. I would suggest perhaps adding some clarity and sharpening especially on the cats themselves. I would also suggest adjusting both the white and black points as this will add some pop to the image. As for composition, I feel that you could crop some off the right side, perhaps to the edge of the large grey rock. This would give the cats more area for look into (especially the one on the right) and perhaps raise the storyline as the would appear to be searching for prey.

I will award 1 point for creating a visually appealing image of lynx in their environment. Basically I like the image.
N-2, T-2, P-2, E-1, Total-7

Review by Robert D.
Attractive shot. I do not see much of a story except “here we are”. They are obviously on a steep slope but it is too steep. The animals look as if they are holding on to avoid slipping down. Therefore I suggest rotating the image until they are horizontal. I would also crop much tighter to make the animals the center of the attraction. The environment is an important background but really should not compete with the main subject. One eye contact is good but both would be even better (wish).
N-1, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-5

Review by Dennis H.
Good capture of lynx pair in natural setting. Nice colour on animals. Lynx appear a little soft.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7

Review by Natalie M.
Nice environmental portrait of beautiful cats. While some might suggest cropping out the sky as it is a lighter area and possible distraction, I like how you have left enough space around the cats to see some of the environment, particularly the trees and those lovely moss-covered rocks.
N-2, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-7

Review by Bogdan B.
Nice to get a lynx pair together. Photo is sharp. I would make tighter crop to exclude too bright sky on the left. 
N-2, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-7

Review by Suman B.
lovely image captured with the eyes staring and but lacking a bit of sharpness. Image is sweet as cats are depicted beautifully. pictorially a perfect 3. the rock on the top and right and the slope in the left makes it feel that the image is heavy on the left psychologically. this can be easily removed if you have chosen to tilt your image tad towards right. also colour is natural and pleasant looking. except the fact that i don't see any characteristic storyline in them but I am inclined to neglect them on the instinct that you've tried to capture a nature portrait amidst the serene backdrop. 
N-2, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total-7


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Fast Five Marking Territory

Goal:  This day in Mara my goal was to follow the Fast Five and hopefully see them in action. They had performed the last two days and I expected another day of action.
The day was overcast and the boys didn't look to be in any hurry so I just followed them and took shots when I could of some natural behaviour. In this case marking, clawing and scenting this tree.
Equipment / Source:   Canon 1DX MkII
EF200-400 f/4 IS USM EXT
ISO 640
 Tracked down the boys, it took a few hours to find them from yesterday. They can cover considerable distances from one day to the next. Followed them in the hope that they would hunt. They must have hunted earlier in the day as they didn't engage with any of the game in their range. All they did was cover a lot of ground and marked their territory.

LR Classic CC
Brightened, sharpened and cropped the image.

Comments/Scores (N, T, P, E, Total)

   Critique Image (only members of Study Group Two may critique this image)

Review by commentator Rick C.

The behavior you captured clearly shows feline territorial marking. I think the exposure for the capture was a little on the under side and that it is possible to adjust for it and shift more emphasis to the Cheetahs by some judicious tonality and contrast adjustments. The basic focus looks good but I feel that we can also boost the degree of sharpness in the group. I feel a panel was a good choice, but think you can take it even further if you want and come over from the left edge a bit to pull it more out of the center. Those adjustments are more a matter of personal taste than something needed. Take a look at my adjusted image and see if you think the tonal, contrast and sharpening adjustment are of value.

N-3, T-2, P-2 = 7 (N-3 Solid nature story in the behavior captured. T-2 Overall sharpness on the Cheetahs can be improved. A little under on capture exposure. P-2 Lack of contrast impairs impact and leaves image feeling dull.)

Review by Janice R.
I think you did a good job "herding cats". You have one looking directly at the camera and the repetition of their tails is interesting. The composition is nice and all of the cats are well exposed while the background is blurred nicely. There is nothing distracting in the image and your eye travels right to the cats and around. Great job with putting in the time to track them down. Although you didn't get the behavior you wanted, you did get typical behavior. If you didn't know they were standing around scratching the tree, the one standing looks like he is peering into the stump. It's interesting and draws you in as you wonder what he's doing. It also a little comical and any image that can give you a chuckle is effective.  
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by MJ Springett
A Natural history moment, great work to find that moment. I love all the tails and only one was peering into the camera. 
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total-10

Review by Martin P.
A delightful image
N = I am enjoying the confusion of all the cheetahs gathering round the tree to mark their territory. I am feeling like the behaviour is clear and well documented
T= I am enjoying the sharp and well exposed cheetah in the front of the image with a delightfully out of focus background delivered by the relatively wide aperture. Given the distance to the background I do wonder if a slightly narrower aperture might have given a little more depth of field to ensure all the cheetahs were pin sharp but that is probably being super critical.
P = I am enjoying the framing of this image and feel that the central composition works well due to the positioning of the cheetahs around the tree. The delightfully out of focus background provides context and I feel supports the image very well.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total-10

Review by Larry T.
With the five cats all together and demonstrating the existence of a family unit and the clearly action of the one on hind legs clawing the tree while the center cat watches you closely I feel you have fulfilled the requirements for a Nature storyline.

It may be due to the reduction of quality when the image was sized for display here but I feel that other than the cat in the center the other the others are a bit on the soft size. With the shutter speed as high as it is I believe the softness is due to depth of field. While I realize the cheetahs are extremely fast and this would generally require high shutter speeds these cats aren’t really moving all that much. Perhaps by lowering the shutter speed and raising the aperture you could have gained some depth of field and thus sharpened the overall subject.

I feel the overall balance of the subjects and with the addition of the tree you really needed a centered subject. The soft light of the overcast day and the fact that you were able to throw the background into an out of focus blur all help to center the viewer on the cats allowing no where for the eye to roam other than the cats.  
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, total-8

Review by Sylvia W.
Most people are lucky to see on leopard, but you have got five in one picture, Awesome! I like that the middle leopard is staring straight down the barrel of your camera as if to say “Don’t come any closer, I’m watching you”. Nice use of aperture giving us a sense of wide open spaces and sparseness. With the grasses at the front just out of focus it allows the eyes to focus where you want them - on the Leopards.
E1 - With no distractions the eyes stay exactly on the subject
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total-10

Review by Charlie Y.
Interesting capture, I have never seen one like that. does it always have a few stand on guard, then others do the marking? The image shows a nature story, picture quality is good and clear. I have nothing to add, except wish it's a good day, cast some soft light on them..exceptional +1 for the rare situation to capture it. 
N-2, T-2, P-2, E-1, Total-7

Review by William S.
In reference to the nature story it seems that only one of the animals is interested in marking the tree as part of his territory though the others may be doing something but unseen in the photo. Everything is centered in the composition but the animal in the middle is looking outward while the others are looking in a different direction, which makes the composition interesting.

Focus on the animals is good with the foreground and background out of focus. The horizon does not appear to be straight and the colors are soft/pastel even for an overcast day. Adding clarity or structure would improve the “pop” factor.
N-2, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-6

Review by Ken W.
Very nice photo, a little weak in nature story, but everything in the photo was done well, focus, exposure, composition.
N-2, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-8

Review by Hattie S.
Great image telling nature story. No suggestion for this. Thanks for sharing.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9



I was born in Prestwick, Scotland and travelled to many parts of the world with my father who was in the Royal Air Force. Now living in historic village of Fettercairn in Kincardineshire, Scotland with my wife Hilary and 'Smokey' the cat. Semi retired construction industry owner and business consultant. Grampian representative of the Royal Photographic Society, member of Brechin Photographic Society. (Est 1888), Dundee Photographic Society, a Scottish Photographic Federation Judge & Speaker and PSA Scottish Liaison Officer and Membership Director. Much of my photography was aviation photography but about 15 years ago I returned to Wildlife photography, mostly in Scotland, but with annual trips to Kenya and India.