Study Group 2

Robert Davis, QPSA (A)

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Title:   Crested caracara display
Goal:   I went to a ranch in South Texas planning to capture images of the abundant birds in this area. We were set up close to a small pond in a clearing in the middle of the forrest. While sitting quietly, suddenly a group of these amazing raptors arrived. This particular bird was displaying by throwing his head backward. This is a recognized behavior but rarely recorded.

Equipment/Source:    Canon 5DS. 500mm f4, 1/800 sec. f 7.1 ISO 640. Tripod. Wimberly head

Technique:   This was a difficult shot, the birds were moving very quickly and did not sit still for long. One had to predict the critical moment and this is 1 out of about 30 shots that I took. Using the free movement of the gimbal helped a lot. 

Processing:   Photoshop, tweaking white balance and exposure. This was cropped about 50%. Thank goodness for the large file size of the 5DS!

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

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

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Title:   Great White Egret Display

Goal:   I went out to High Island Texas to observe the beautiful great white egrets in the mating season and captured this image of a male displaying his plumage 

Equipment/Source:   Canon 5D. 500mm Canon f4 with 1.4 extender (700mm) 1/800 sec; f10; ISO 400; pattern metering.
Technique:   Setup on side of lagoon with a Wimberly tripod, seeking the rig with the left hand on the lens, visualizing the image on live view and firing with a remote wired release.

Photoshop. Slight increased contrast and saturation. 

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

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

Review by commentator Rick Cloran

Welcome to ND 2! I am certain you will find this to be a great place to share your love of nature while learning more about different subjects and improving your overall skills as a nature photographer.


The posture you captured is classic Great Egret courting display. The green in the lores and fine breeding plumage cement the breeding story. The image has a nicely sharpness overall, but watch out on the upper surface of the bill where I can detect a contrast / sharpening halo. I think your basic composition is good with the exception that you have cut into the feet. If you have that in the original capture, I would add it back in. The other issue is that the whites are clipped in several areas resulting in a loss of detail. The most obvious of the areas is at the shoulder.

N-3, T-2, P-2 = 7 (N-3 A solid behavior story in the posture supplemented by the breeding colors and plumes that are evident. T-2 Clipping of the whites. P-2 Cutting off the feet.)

Review by Larry T.
First let me welcome you to the Nature Study Group. I feel you chose an impressive image for your introduction.

Your stated goal was to capture a male egret displaying breed plumage and I feel you accomplished exactly that. Since this is clearly a specialized behavior it fulfills the nature requirement by going beyond ordinary activity and thus I feel it merits the full three points.

Your choice of camera, lens, including extender, shutter speed, aperture and ISO all seem to have worked adequately to capture the image. The aperture rendered a beautiful bokeh which nicely isolated the bird against the background. You do not mention if the image was cropped but judging from the fine detail I feel it was not cropped much if at all. The remote shutter was a good choice given that the bird was not moving a great deal and thus facilitated framing the image.

At first glance you appear to have done a fine with the composition and processing. I would prefer if you had not gotten the lower part of the bird covered with the branch but given the busy environment in which these birds live I do not greatly object to this minor flaw. I also believe that in wildlife photography that capturing the eye is essential. While you have the eye visible, a slight adjustment to your right may have rendered a better angle of view for the eye. Again, this I feel is minor as you did somewhat capture the eye . I find your composition to be pleasing and really like that you slightly off centered the bird to the right. My major objection to the image is that you seem to have blown the whites both on the bird’s neck and most glaringly on the bird’s shoulder. I feel that the blown shoulder greatly flaws the image. Capturing whites like these is especially difficult, especially in bright light.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8

Review by Janice R.
This is an absolutely exquisite image. The lines in the birds pose are graceful, the feathers are stunning and the whole image is well exposed with beautiful tones. The background is lovely and dark enough to contrast nicely with the feathers to show their detail. The foreground gives a sense of place but dos not distract from the bird.  
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total-10

Review by MJ Springett
You should be applauded for the story that your image tells. These birds are hard to photograph without overexposing the white values, a little less exposure would have kept the details on the top of the wing. Otherwise Bravo!
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-1, Total-9

Review by Martin P.
N= A beautiful display by a lovely bird. This certainly demonstrates the behaviour of the Great White in full display mode
T= The image feels nice and sharp to me where it needs to be with a nicely diffuse background. I am disappointed to notice the lack of feather detail on the neck and where the wing meets the body. Hopefully this detail might be recovered if the author shot in RAW
P = I am really enjoying this image despite the technical challenges. The shape and form of the bird and feathers are delightful to behold.  
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-1, Total-9

Review by Sylvia W.
Well I think you’ve achieved your goal of capturing the displaying male egret. The feathers are wonderfully sharp, nice composition with a soft background to make the white really pop in this image. My only criticism is that it appears you may have cropped off the feet, but that doesn’t detract from the image as a whole.
Congratulations - You should be very happy with this shot.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8

Review by Charlie Y.
beautiful, if the egret will turn a little to you, let the light shine on its eye, would be even better. 
N-2, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-6

Review by William S.
Good nature image, I wish it were mine. You were able to capture good detail and overall balance while removing the background via shallow depth of field. I like the visual appearance and composition.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total-10

Review by Hattie S.
I heard about High Island Texas quite a lot, some people that I know drove from Illinois to there. This is a great photo capturing white egrets' behavior. No suggestion
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Ken W.
Nice nature story with Egret display, very sharp, good exposure, good composition, I would have liked to seen a little more room at top and bottom of photo.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Bob Davis was born in Johannesburg South Africa and educated there and in London, Edinburgh and New York. He has retired from being a surgeon in Houston Texas for many years. After the busy years of hard work, he joined the Houston Photographic Society and is now its President. He is fascinated by all forms of photography especially nature. He mainly utilizes Canon equipment and is trying hard to keep up with recent software advances.