Study Group 2


Larry Treadwell (C)

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JULY 2019 ROUND
Title:   Top Predator 
 
   
Goal:    Dawn is the time when the everglades come alive after the long night. During that golden hour there is just enough light for the camera without using crazy high ISO ratings and yet not so bright as to blow out everything with the bright Florida sun.
I launched the kayak during the dark of the blue hour and paddled off to the land of the big gators. Gators often bellow, and pound the waters to arouse the fish and turtles that are their favorite food and I was hoping to get this activity which is common and frequently seen. 


Equipment/Source: Nikon D7200 with 200-400 f4 lens, ISO 400, f5.6, shutter 1/320. Camera rig mounted on tripod which was mounted on the bow of my kayak. Image from Nikon RAW file

Technique: I heard, before I saw this particular gator thrashing through the sawgrass where they most often hide and hunt. Suddenly this 12 foot bull gator launched himself vertically out of the water displaying his catch. When kayaking like this I constantly check exposures (this was shot in manual) and keep the camera focused on the areas where I expect activity. I also have to check for stray gators who hide in the sawgrass where I float with my kayak. When this bull rose I was drifting and had only a couple of seconds to pan the camera (thank goodness for Gimbal heads) and shoot. I have four frames in the burst, 3 of which have lots of water splash drops that shroud the gator. This is the last shot of the burst and the water drops have mostly fallen off (you can see some splash in the background). The sawgrass, which covers the surface of the everglades is quite thick and I was lucky to have a break in the grass where the gator rose. Personally I like the out of focus grass because it adds to the dense feel of the everglades. I also left the shadows in the background dark as that is how they actually look in the early mornings. I feel the grass and shadows enhance the feel of the everglades and help to set off the gator. While I have many more photos which show more “gore” I feel this images tells the story with out the blood which is often present in gator capture images. By the time I backed away from the area (and I DID back away) 4 or 5 other gators were closing in the share the catch.

Processing:  This image was processed in Lightroom where I brought down the highlights, added selective clarity and sharpness to the gator and his catch. I also desaturated the yellow tips of the sawgrass and those green leaves that were catching the early morning sun and were a bit bright. Finally, the Image was cropped. I feel a tighter crop would remove too much of the environment and I also wanted to leave room on the left for the gator to land after erupting from the water.


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

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JUNE 2019 ROUND

Title:   A Long Lunch 
   
Goal:  I’ll be up front with this. This was not a planned shot. I saw this Great Blue Heron thrashing in the water. I ran to as close a position as I dared so as not to scare off the bird, immediately dropped to a prone position on the soggy bank and hand holding the camera began shooting in burst mode. Most of the shots featured either the complete back of the bird, or so much splashing as to render both the snake and the bird nearly invisible. In the end the bird was flipping the snake in the air and grabbing at it as it fell. I selected this shot because it shows an eye of the bird and the snake poised in the open bill of the Great Blue. I felt the position of the snake in the open bill clearly told the story of mealtime

Equipment/Source:   This Nikon RAW file was captured using a D800 with a 200-400mm lens attached. The rig was handheld.
 
Technique:  The ISO was 1000 because the bird was actually in a shaded area. Aperture was set to 5.6 and the shutter was at 1/4000. The shutter was originally at 1/1000 but with the thrashing action of the bird and the fact that I would be hand holding the rig I increased it with my thumb while I was shooting the action. The camera was set to manual mode with auto ISO set to a maximum of 1000. I used back button focus. As I was running to get in position for this shot I unclipped the camera from my monopod and discarded it because I could see that I would have to lay prone on the bank with my head being lower than my waist due to the slope. I wanted to get as close to water level as possible to be equal with the bird’s eye level. I finally ended up with my elbows at water’s edge.

Processing:   
The image was processed in Lightroom. This is about 70% of the original full frame. I try not to crop in post as I prefer to crop with my feet while shooting. I had to straighten the image and brought down the high lights as well and increased contrast and sharpening. I feel having the right exposure helped reduce noise, although the D800 handles noise pretty well up to ISO 1000. I used the adjustment brush to darken the bright branches in the upper left corner and finally added a slight vignette to try to darken these branches. These branches are the only part of the image I do not like and I expect I will lose points for them being too bright. If I darken them any more they become muddy so they are what they are. There is a lot of brush in the everglades and perfect backgrounds are not always where these birds hunt. 

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

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Review by commentator Rick C.

Your Heron seems to have captured a Cottonmouth. Given that it is a poisonous snake, that adds an extra layer of interest on a solid behavioral capture. This easily rates a level 3.

Primary focus looks good to me. I would also say the exposure looks good for the Heron. I feel there is a little room left to lighten (dodge) the snake to make it easier to see what it is. I also feel you could hit the Heron and snake with a bit more localized sharpening, particularly on the Heron’s facial area. Depth of field is good for the shot you were making given the aperture you were working at.

You are correct relative to the potential visual impact of the background. I think your idea of selectively darkening some areas is the proper process, but want you to remember that when you burn something in (darken it) you also need to drop both saturation and contrast in that area as well.  I’ve made a few quick adjustments along those lines so that you can get a better feel for what I am suggesting. I think you will find you have more control than you might have realized. I did not take the time to do the adjustments in a refined or sophisticated way, so they may look a bit overdone, but I do feel if you want to put in the time a reasonably realistic result can be had. All that said, I don’t see anyway within the nature rules to completely correct the situation. You have a strong image, so accept the known negatives, reduce them to the extent that make sense, and proceed from that point. Be careful when using vignettes. They can become obvious and there for unrealistic in appearance very quickly. You will generally be better off doing the burning and dodging freehand or through a selection.

N-3, T-3, P-2 = 8 (P-2 As you suspected the visual disruption in the background is a weakness. Refer to the adjusted version to see where you might be able to go.)


Review by Ken W.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Excellent nature story

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The heron and snake are in good focus, and good exposure, the herons eye is visible, the background was darkened well.

SCORE T (Technical Quality) 3-Excellent exposure color balance and sharpness

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
This is a once in a lifetime photo with a great story.

SCORE P (Pictorial Quality) 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 9

IF APPLICABLE, WHY DESERVING OF EXTRA POINT FOR EXCELLENCE
The story of a heron catching a large snake is outstanding

SCORE E (Exceptional) 1

GRAND TOTAL WITH EXTRA POINT 10


Review by William S.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Grest shot. I think that this shows a nature event that most do not see.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Although the eye looks good it seems that your focus might have been near the wing area. To my eyes, the heron is too bright causing some loss of detail in the feathers. The snake could use a little “light.”

SCORE T (Technical Quality) 2-Average exposure color balance and sharpness

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The composition is good but the brightness of the heron takes away from the impact.

SCORE P (Pictorial Quality) 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 7


Review by Hattie S.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Exceptional strong nature story.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Everything is perfect.

SCORE T (Technical Quality) 3-Excellent exposure color balance and sharpness

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Excellent picture quality.

SCORE P (Pictorial Quality) 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 9

IF APPLICABLE, WHY DESERVING OF EXTRA POINT FOR EXCELLENCE
Great story telling with exceptional quality, lighting.

SCORE E (Exceptional) 1

GRAND TOTAL WITH EXTRA POINT 10


Review by Sylvia W.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Firstly, congratulations in capturing this image without scaring the bird away in your rush to get into position. The picture tells the story well and gives us a feel of the Heron's struggle to eat his lunch.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I would try and adjust the brightness across the bird and the snake making them stand out more in the picture.

SCORE T (Technical Quality) 2-Average exposure color balance and sharpness

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The background is messy and could be softened to make it less obvious. I would consider a square crop to get rid of some distractions on the left hand side of the image.

SCORE P (Pictorial Quality) 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8


Review by Suman B.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
excellent nature story of the heron catching and eating snake.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
only thing bothering me is the saturated highlights of the background branches otherwise an excellent way to shoot and process wildlife is demonstrated in here. thank you for this.

SCORE T (Technical Quality) 2-Average exposure color balance and sharpness

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
could have lightened the shadows so that the cotton mouth snake is visible at first glance.

SCORE P (Pictorial Quality) 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8

IF APPLICABLE, WHY DESERVING OF EXTRA POINT FOR EXCELLENCE
the particular frame in which the heron is catching the snake is lovely timing. Burst mode paid off.

SCORE E (Exceptional) 1

GRAND TOTAL WITH EXTRA POINT 9


Review by MJ Springett
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I like this story, the blue heron eating his snack by flipping it up and catching it, great story

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The blue heron is much sharper than the background to set him off the background

SCORE T (Technical Quality) 3-Excellent exposure color balance and sharpness

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Having the bird in the right third of the image with the eye and beak on the top third line is great composition of rule of thirds

SCORE P (Pictorial Quality) 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 9

IF APPLICABLE, WHY DESERVING OF EXTRA POINT FOR EXCELLENCE
Common bird in uncommon pose and story

SCORE E (Exceptional) 1

GRAND TOTAL WITH EXTRA POINT 10

I am retired and living the good life in south Florida.  I have always had a love affair with the wilderness and the natural world.  This naturally lead to an interest in photography to bring home memories from my adventures in the wilderness.  I have thus been involved in photography for more than 40 years and have worked as a semi-professional including work for the PGA and LPGA as well as shooting sports for various local colleges. 

My favorite photographic locations are Everglades National Park (the hardest place I’ve ever found to photograph), the Great Smoky Mountains and Rocky Mountain National Park.  That said, I will go anywhere to get a good image.  I enjoy shooting the Milky Way and the night sky, a real challenge, and I enjoy using long exposures.  

I have taught photography on the college level, belong to several local camera groups and have served as a photo judge at local clubs and for other local competitions.  Since retiring I have had several photographic exhibits in south Florida.

I am member of the online group called The Nikonians and shoot Nikon cameras currently using a D800 and D810.  While I have a collection of Nikon only lenses my favorites are my 24-70 and my baby, a 200-400 f4 beast that weighs 7.3 pounds.   My hiking buddy is my tripod that goes everywhere I do.