Study Group 2

Bruce Finocchio

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Title:   Leopard climbs down tree 
Goal:  My goal was to capture was to capture a leopard climbing down a tree. During my January 2015 trip, I captured a leopard going down a tree, but because my 600 mm lens was previously damaged and the connection to the camera didn’t lock. These images weren’t recorded. It’s a long story how my lens connection got damaged, so I won’t go into detail here. Therefore, I was really excited that the first full day in Tarangire National Park (February 2019), I got the image that I missed in 2015.  

Equipment / Source:  Canon D7II Body, 600 mm IS f4.0 lens, at 600 mm, shutter speed of 1/640 at f8, ISO 1600, Evaluative Metering, no Flash.   

Technique:  600 mm lens f4.0 lens rested on a bean bag on the top of a safari vehicle. 

Processing:   Selective Noise Reduction with Nik Define, as well as, selective sharpening also with Nik Raw Sharpening I cropped a bit off the top, so the leopard had more room on the downward side. Some saturation reduction of the bright yellow in the background, and a little brightness and contrast added to the Leopard’s face and body. 

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Title:   Adult Osprey with A Captured Striped Bass in Its Talons 
Goal:   To capture in flight adult osprey bring back fish for their juvenile ospreys in the nest.   

Equipment / Source:   Canon 7D Mark II body, EF600mm f4.0 lens with a 1.4 teleconverter III, 1/4000 sec at f8, ISO 1000, Aperture Priority, Evaluative Metering. Gitzo Tripod with a Wimberely Tripod head 

Technique:   Stake out a nest with Juvenile Osprey waiting for the parents to come back with food. Patience is important because you never know when the parents will come back with the food. Sometimes an hour or two would go by and nothing would happen, and in an instance that would all change. The more time spend in the field the more chances to witness and capture something special. However, at some point you do have to pack it up and go home. It can be difficult to know and/or decide when is the moment to leave.
This image is from an area near the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge on the East side of San Francisco Bay. Proper positioning is important. This was a morning shot, for afternoon images I was on the other side of the nest. Sometimes a little luck comes your way as this fish looks almost alive (and could still be), and fortunate that the parent osprey didn’t take some bites out of it, but bought the fish directly to the nest after capture. 

Processing:  I used Viveza to brighten and lighten the striped bass so you could see its eye better. I also might have added a little light to the Osprey’s eye too. Darken the sky a bit to a more appealing blue, by selecting the blue sky and applying a layer levels adjustment. Other than targeted noise reduction on the sky, and target sharpening on the bird and fish, I didn’t do much else in my processing workflow.   

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

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

Review from commentator Rick C.

A solid story captured well. The open mouth of the fish indicates it is likely still alive. The near (right as we view it) talon of the Osprey is all but off the fish, implying that the fish has been struggling and that the Osprey is now trying to regrip it. The downward tilt to the osprey’s head tends to confirm that. I didn’t enlarge it but there appears to be good sharpness in all key elements. I think the composition is effective. The one nit is the clipping in the white feathers on the Osprey’s head. You may have lost that when opening up the detail under the wings. It is within nature rules for you to double process the source image for highlights and shadows and then blend the two when contrast range is problematic. (HDR is allowed and double processing a single image is a form of HDR.) Check the source image and if you have the detail in the head when pulling back on the Highlights or the Exposure, this could be an option.

N-3, T-3, P-2, E-1 = 9 (P-2 the clipping on the head feathers is a weakness, E-1 The open mouth on the fish, talon all but off the fist and head angle on the Osprey add to the interest value of the image and elevate it above the normal Osprey with fish shot.)

Review by Larry T.
I feel that you have mostly fulfilled your stated goal of capturing an osprey returning to the nest with food for the young. I will note that since you stated “bringing back to the nest” as part of your goal that the nest should be part of the image.

You clearly had and used the proper gear to capture this image. A 600mm lens with a 1.4tc clearly gave you the range and the Wimberly head provided the flexibility to track and capture the bird. For shooting on a bright day you almost perfectly captured the whites, although the osprey’s head appears slightly blown out. I will especially laud your choice of f/stop to render the full wing span in sharp focus and your shutter speed was fast enough to freeze the beating wings as well. I will assume that you shot in a burst mode and selected the best wing position to show off the bird and his catch. You clearly demonstrate the patience required to obtain an image like this one. Your treatment of the fish adequately makes it stand out and the eyes of both bird and fish are sharp enough to be interesting.

I do not know if the bird cooperated or you flipped the image but I feel that you placed the bird properly within the frame. You resisted the temptation to overly saturate the image and preserved more natural tones. Noise is not evident in the image so your noise reduction technique clearly worked even at the stated high ISO.
N-2, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-8

Review by Fran M 
WOW! great shot. I have one almost identical (not as good though), but I accidentally happened upon it instead of having to stake out the nest like you did. Great story, good framing and choice of camera settings for your action shot. Brilliant.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by William S.
The nature story of an osprey in flight is seen but the described destination (juveniles in nest) is not. Still it is a good nature story.

My suggestion would be to reduce the highlights on the head and to use a luminosity layer to darken the background slightly more. This might improve the pictorial view of the image. The focus of the eyes on both animals is sharp with the wings in the foreground and background a little soft which is normal for this focal length and aperture. I admire that you were able to achieve this as I am a work in progress.
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total-8

Review by Hattie S.
Excellent capture of a nature story. Everything is perfect. Would be a plus if with better lighting of the day. 
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Charlie Y.
excellent capture, though light on head, eye, and under wing would fetch better result, but clear image through out
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8

Review by Ken W.
Great story with an osprey bringing a fish back to its nest. Good focus on both the osprey eye and the eye on the fish. The white on the osprey's head is a little blown out. Great shot.l
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Valentin D.
Hands down Bruce. It looks like the stars aligned for you and you pressed that shutter exactly when the fish was asking the Osprey "Hey, buddy I belong in the water... where are you taking me?" This is such a powerful image.
Great composition.
Awesome story.
Great technique overal. 
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total-10

Response to a critique by Bruce F.
Hi Rick,
I checked the color numbers on the Osprey’s head; they were in the low 250’s, not clipped, but rendered pure white. I lowered them to the low 240’s, selectively. I darken the blue sky a bit more too. White is hard at these levels and under this type of direct strong lighting to achieve much feather detail. I could go back to the raw file and look at the histogram, however, I believe that the white was not clipped, just very close to pure white.
I thought the fish might be still alive. Thanks for the confirmation.
Here is my new version with the above changes… I do think it’s an improvement over the original one.

Reponse to Bruce's response:
Bruce, The revised image is cleaner. The head remains an issue. Understand that you do not need to be at 255 to clip detail. You are losing the ability to discern fine detail in white feathers at 247. By 250 even medium fine detail will not show. That does not mean that it isn’t present, just that at that bright a level you lack the contrast to discern fine edges and edges are what tells us that there is detail present. Try an experiment for me. Open the first version you posted in photoshop and create a copy of the background. Open the Camera RAW filter and bring down the exposure by about .75 to 1 stop and pull back a bit on the highlights. You should now see feather detail in that white patch on the head. When Dan and I mention clipping, it doesn’t mean the exposure was wrong or that the detail is permanently lost (although it may be). It means that we cannot see detail structure in an area we would expect to see it in. This is still an excellent image as is. It just has the potential for being even better by double processing the original RAW file and blending that top patch from the darker version back into the lighter version.

I am a wildlife, nature, and scenic photographer. I now live in San Mateo, after spending most of my adult life in Millbrae. I previously worked full-time for Applied Biosystems and Life Technologies as a senior business analyst. I left this position a few years ago to concentrate on my true passion of nature photography. My Dad was a deer hunter and bought some property in Monterey County, so he could have a place of his own to go deer hunting. We have owned this property since 1946. I grew up spending my summers down there, following in my father's footsteps, hunting quail, dove, and black tailed deer--using a b-b gun, graduating up to a powerful hunting rifle. When I was eighteen I had to kill a black-tailed buck up close shooting him in the neck, since my first shot from afar had only wounded him. I saw death up close and personal, deciding from that moment on I didn't not want to be part of death, but to cherish life instead.

My friends and I do a lot of bird photography at my ranch in rural Monterey County, using photo blinds extensively; and recently we have built a few permanent ponds to attract wildlife.

I was a Minolta user, but switched to Canon in 2001. I used to shoot extensively with slide film; now I strictly use digital camera bodies, specifically the Canon 7D and 40D bodies, previously the Canon D1 Mark II and as backup the Canon 20D. I primarily use RAW capture, and process the images in Photoshop. I recently upgraded to CS5, and also have many external hard drives to store my raw files.

Check out Bruce's nature blog at and his website at