Study Group 2


Larry Treadwell (C)

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FEBRUARY 2020 ROUND

Title:    Sweet Tooth
   
Goal:   The initial goals was to photograph what ever popped out of the brush. However the story line is to document a bear's sweet tooth and love for eating wild berries

Equipment/Source:    Nikon D7200, Nikkor 200x400 f4 lens, TC1.4, ISO 400, F7.1 Shutter speed 1/400, rig hand held while kneeling on one knee with left elbow resting on the raised knee. I was shooting in manual mode, with auto ISO. Use of a wider aperture, say 5.6 would not have provided any separation between the bear and the foliage because the bear was walking IN the foliage and not in open space. Image is from Nikon RAW file.
 
Technique:   On a July morning in the Smoky Mountains I had gone to a meadow to photograph deer in the early morning mist and now that the sun had risen I was heading back to my car walking along the side of a raspberry patch when I notice the raspberry bushes were moving. On a hunch I veered some 50 feet away from the berry patch and moved further out on to the meadow. I noted that the wind was blowing from me toward the berry patch and that the bush movement was parallel to my path. I due to the wind direction, I knew that what ever was moving the brush knew I was there and was more or less moving away. I paused for a moment and as I stood there a black bear emerged from the berry patch, gave me a sideways glance as it continued its walk. I dropped to one to get a more eye level view and started shooting. It was while looking through the lens and shooting that I realized the bear was carrying a raspberry in it mouth. In my burst sequence, this is the second shot, in the third shot the berry was swallowed. The bear vanished into the brush about 3 steps later.

Processing:   
This is about 80% of the full frame. Other than some sharpening, the slight crop to straighten and to bring down the highlights nothing else was done. I chose not to remove the shadows on the bear.

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

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JANUARY 2020 ROUND
Title:    On the Run!
 
   
Goal:    The American Pika is the smallest member of the rabbit family. Fully grown a large male may be 6-7 inches in length as measured from nose tip to the extended toes of his hind legs. He weights about 4 ounces. When sitting, the pika will easily fit in the palm of your hand. Due to the fact that the Pika cannot keep cool he lives only at the highest altitudes and with global warming is an endangered species because he is running out of altitude to survive in the summer heat. Years ago he could be found at about 8,000 feet of elevation, now he lives only above 11,000 feet due to global warming. My goal was to capture this little speed demon running at full speed.   


Equipment/Source:   Nikon D7200, Nikkor 200-400 f4 lens with tc1.4. ISO 400, f7.1, 1/800, Handheld
Taken on the high tundra of the Rocky Mountains at over 11,000 feet on a slightly cloudy day. Image processed from Nikon RAW file in Lightroom. I positioned myself laying flat on the ground to get as close to eye level with my subject as possible. My camera rig was supported by mounting my ballhead with Wimberly Sidekick onto a Frisbee with a washer and a ¼ inch screw. This set up allows me to get the rig close to the ground and still be able to slide it rapidly across the ground to track this subject. 

Technique:  The Pika is a farmer who spends his summer months harvesting alpine grasses and storing them on rock shelves in his under ground barn to eat during the winter. He is a favorite meal of various raptors and weasels who inhabit the tundra. Thus, the pika first peaks out of his barn, and when he thinks it is safe he makes a mad dash out onto the tundra, grabs a mouthful of grass and races back to his barn, hopefully without becoming lunch. As he runs he zigs and zags to be as unpredictable as possible while seeking any cover such as rocks that may be on his route. Tracking an erratic target the size of a tennis ball and traveling at high speed is a challenge as I struggled first find and begin tracking the pika, obtain and then focus keep as the pika raced to his barn. The average running time per dash was about 8 seconds. I spent 6 hours and fired off nearly 1000 images trying to catch a sharp image of a pika facing the camera, with food in his mouth and running at top speed.

Processing:  In post I seriously cropped this image, something I rarely do. This is about 50% of the frame. Due to the soft light when this shot was captured I only sharpened, increased contrast and slightly increased saturation. The fact that the pika in this shot had just crested a hill, along with the long lens, allowed me to get better separation between the pika and the background. Additionally, my position at ground level so that I was not shooting down on this animal also allowed for separation.

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

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

Review by commentator Rick C.
I feel you captured the nature story effectively in this shot. The food is readily discernable and we see enough of the back feet to understand that it is running. I feel the behavior is sufficient to warrant a rating of 3 for the story value.

You were shooting under some difficult conditions and did well to make this capture. My first recommendation would be to bias toward a shutter speed of at least 1/1000th and, given the speed of these guys, maybe even 1/2000th if the iso was reasonable. I believe your D 7200 should handle iso 800 to 1000 cleanly. There is a slight amount of motion blur to his face. If you have the Topaz Sharpen AI app, try doing Stabilize. Otherwise try Photoshop’s Filter > Sharpen > Shake Reduction. You aren’t interested in what it will do to the entire image, only the facial area. Drop a black mask on the result and just paint it in on the face and food. While the lighting was overcast, I feel the image as it shows on my monitor is about 1 stop under exposed. Since we don’t have any large glaring patches of bright color, we can correct this easily by just doing a curve adjustment and clicking on the brightest part of his rump fur with the white eye dropper and the lower portion of his eye with the black eye dropper. That should fix the tonal range in the image effectively. I am rating technical quality as a 2.

I feel your composition is very good. One might quibble over trimming out the dark strand on the right edge or the lighter rock at the top left, but neither is critical from my perspective. In fact, the lighter rock at the top is easily burned in. The tonal correction mentioned above does show the saturation added to be a little too strong. If you do make the tonal adjustment, I would back off on the saturation in the grasses and block that on a mask to keep it from touching the pika. Those grasses and the pika both have a lot of yellow in them. Don’t forget to drop the contrast on the grass is you do that, just clip the brightness-contrast adjustment to the HSL layer used for desaturating the grass to make use of that mask. Pictorial quality is rated as a 2.

N-3, T-2, P-2 = 7 – See the adjusted version I am sending.


Review by Rich F

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
This is a good image of a pika (I thought I was the only one to photograph these tiny animals) with a mouth full of grass. The image freezes the pika running and provides a moment in its life.

BTW - I appreciate the detail biology lesson.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The image is well exposed and pika is placed to the right. I would have like to seen the pika slightly higher in the frame with more room for him to run into the bottom. Since you did a large crop this should be possible.

The pika is sharp and the background is well blurred (though a wide opened lens would have let the background be even softer).

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
See comment about placement of the pika and background blur above.

darkening and desaturating the background might have helped make it less noticable.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 7


Review by Andy H

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
A very clear story well explain in the notes. I do like it the we are given not only the info but a natural history lesson and some insight into how global warming is affecting everything.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Technically all seems fine to me. Good settings, low angle, patience. persistence and perseverance and lots of time and images. Result one or two good images. Sharpness? Im not sure. Could the face be lighter?

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The image has impact for a small creature. I would like to have seen some of the dashing about transmitted into the image. Slower shutter speed?
Good composition.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 7


Review by Todd G

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
The story tells it all. Very nice capture of the Pika in full sprint with a full mouth of grass. Definitely natural behavior the normal person would not see if they just saw it running. Besides, no better place that the Rockies to capture some good Wildlife shots! I appreciate the story even more as you mention due to global warming the impacts on the Pika having to move to higher elevations to survive is key to the story.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Some serious patience for 6 hrs. of shooting and watching. Being low to the ground and at eye level for this little one clearly makes the image so much better. You have captured significant detail and the motion blur along the back and background is very nice. The catch light in the eyes is spot on and the face is clearly in focus allowing everything else to blend in or fade away even with the amount of cropping, I don’t feel you lost much in exposure quality or sharpness. Color and tones are rich and dark based on cloudy skies. Limiting the amount of post process is key, when as photographers; we can do this with the camera.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Very nice composition. You definitely allowed for room in front of the Pika to lead the mind into how the animal was running and where it was going. Definitely utilizing the rule of thirds, you have the Pika in 1/3 and the space in front at 2/3 giving a balanced feel and I can see it running towards me.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 9


Review by Bruce F

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Great story of a Pika collecting food for storage and for the winter, showing it on the run, convey that they scamper about and move quickly so as to avoid being eaten by predators, really adds to the nature story. I love your explanation and that you spend time educating us on this wonderful little creature. I didn’t realize or know that Pikas are related to rabbits and hares.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
In my view, this is were this image falls short of excellence, in the technical aspects. The cropping has left some noise elements in the upper grass section of the image. Try some targeted noise reduction only for this area, it might help. Secondly, the image isn’t sharp enough, in my opinion, to rate as excellent. It’s just not crisp and sharp for a digital capture. There is no real sharp area of focus. Seems like it’s the cropping that’s the issue, for most the pika and the grass have the same lack of sharpness. Technically, as far as technique goes, I think your use of the frisbee platform and a sidekick tripod head for this shooting situation is excellent. Personally, I would have increased my ISO to 1000 or 1250, so I could have a shutter speed of over 1/1000 of a second, and perhaps have a depth of field of f8. These setting would have increased the chances of capturing a tact sharp subject and adequate depth of field. Noise at these higher ISO are more easily control now, especially under diffused light conditions.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
My suggestion on composition and cropping would be to move the little pika more up towards the top right corner. Right now, he is down on the bottom have of the frame and is running out the bottom. That’s the feeling viewers have when not placing the subject on the top half of the frame.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 7


Review by Dennis H

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Good nature depiction of pika harvesting its winter larder whilst avoiding predators.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
You certainly set yourself a task to capture this small mammal. Good colour on pika with clear eyes. Maybe a faster shutter speed would have sharpened the pika. Nice blurred background.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Good composition with pika running into frame. Good effort.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8


Review by Tom K

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I think he's a cute guy. I appreciate the introduction to this animal that I was unaware of. I'm not getting a sense of how fast he is. I get more the idea that he eats grass. There is no sense of location, so this could have been shot anywhere. A frame of refernce in the background would have helped me.

SCORE N (Nature) 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I see you are shooting rather fast, but not super fast 1/800th. He looks soft which might be due to the excessive crop or due to the slow shutter speed. It would have been great to show speed and the only way to do that would have been to shoot him going left to right and panning at 1/30th which would have given you some blur and keeping his body in focus. The bokeh is a bit bright and could be toned down.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
His head seems a bit too centered and his eyes are midpoint in the image. Using thirds, I'd put his eyes on the thirds. The bigger issue is that there is no frame of reference, so it looks like a grassy hill. He could have been smaller, much smaller, if you had more of an interesting frame to place him in.

SCORE P (Pictorial Quality) 1-Inadequate composition and impact

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 5


Review by Malena K

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Enjoy the story and info on the image and pika. You can see he's running fast in the image. I understand the difficulty as I've tried to take pics of them in Yellowstone.

SCORE N (Nature) 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Dedication to get the image you wanted. Improvising with the frisbee to get down to the pika's level.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Sharpness is off some however understandable with as fast as the pika can be.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 6

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.