Study Group 2


Larry Treadwell (C)

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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)

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


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




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MAY 2019 ROUND
Title:   The Thief 
 
   
Goal:    

Spring in Florida is turtle nesting season.  I was searching for a turtle nest hoping to find the young leaving the nest and heading for the water. After locating a series of levees in Big Cypress where red-bellied turtles were in abundance I began the search for a nest.  Strangely, new born turtles don’t always make directly for water so if you can discover a nest you will frequently find babies wandering around lost.  That is, if you arrive before the predators get the confused newborns. 

On this morning I found an adult turtle walking erratically around the levee and simply sat down to wait and watch. After nearly an hour this female finally found a suitable location quite near me and using her hind legs began to did a hole.  The digging process took nearly 40 minutes and as she dug 4 blackbirds began to gather and surround the nest hole to wait for the eggs.  The mother turtle eventually laid 7 eggs.  She would back into the hole and push out an egg and sort of climb out of the hole as she laid it letting the egg fall free. She would then immediately move back into the hole and over the egg shielding the eggs as she laid the rest of the eggs one by one. 

After all the eggs were laid she buried then again using her hind legs.  The egg laying process took just over 90 minutes.  During the entire egg laying ordeal the black birds would try to steal an egg during the brief moment that it was visible. 

While I captured the entire egg laying cycle with hundreds of images I chose this image as it most clearly showed the black bird entering the hole and approaching the egg while the mother kept the egg laying process going. Many of the shots I took yielded the back of the bird, or lacked a clear view of the turtle’s face as the birds kept moving around the nest.  I felt this one image most completely showed the story of the nesting.  The mother took quite a beating as she was pecked by the  blackbirds and showed some open wounds by the time she was finished.

The image was taken using a Nikon D7200 with at 70-200mm lens.  The image was processed in Lightroom from a Nikon Raw file.  I was laying on part of the levee in one position for the entire process.  I was actually in my position before the turtle began to lay the eggs.  She sort of picked her location knowing I was laying close by.  I have often wondered if she thought I would provide some protection while she lay her eggs. 

Settings  included ISO 400, f8 and 1/250 as the day was somewhat overcast.  Needing to get close to the ground I rested the camera on my folded hat to help keep it steady and slightly above the debris on the ground. Most images  were taken in burst mode.  The camera was set in manual mode.

I selected this crop to eliminate as much of the brown dead leaves and twigs that littered the areaas possible.  I adjusted the exposure slightly, and brought down the highlights.  I lightened the blackbird using the adjustment brush to show greater detail in the feathers.  Also, using the adjustment brush I darkened the highlights on the turtle’s shell, and applied some clarity and sharpening to both the turtle and the blackbird.  I finally used the adjustment brush to slightly darken and egg to show the colors as the egg got brighter as the shell dried after being laid.  I couldnot move to another position to eliminate the tree trunk in the upper left corner.  I did darken it a bit to make it less bright. 

Shooting scenes like this in the wild I have found that I often simply have to accept  the scene as nature creates it.  I feel the action is more important than a perfect landscape.  I at least I was as able to pick a position that let the sunlight be in my favor over the several hours that this whole event took place.


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

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

Review by commentator Dan C.

This image has a good nature story.  Your backstory was interesting and I feel most viewers could pick up the actual story without the benefit of your backstory.  This usually happens with an uncommon subject but also happens with small subjects suddenly made large so it shows detail we do not normally see even if the subject itself is common.  This is one such image.

Pictorially the image is well composed and but some of the brighter areas in the background tend to distract the viewer.  These can be selectively darkened to make them less obvious and such an adjustment is allowed by the nature definition.  You can also reduce some of these distractions by additional cropping..

Technically your sharpness is good and the overall exposure is good.  Due to the dynamic range the feather details in the crow tend to be a bit blocked up.  This can be rectified using a selective shadow adjustment; just enough to reveal feather details and make the eye show up better.

N3, T2, P2, E0, Total 7


Review by Robert D.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Very interesting story and nature moment. When it comes to the final analysis there is almost no detail in the dark bird and one cannot see any eye. The shell of the turtle is also lacking detail. The crop is a bit unusual. In these circumstances the use of flash fill-in extender (Better-beamer) will help a lot to keep detail in the dark areas. In general, in nature photography one ought to avoid a long narrative and let the picture tell the story.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE

SCORE T (Technical Quality) 1-Inadequate exposure color balance and sharpness

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE

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

total: 5


Review by Bogdan B.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Unbelievable nature story. Couldn't imagine, that the birds so steal the eggs.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Photo is sharp and good lighted for such hard scene - white egg and black bird. I would darken more some white spots (dry leafes) upper left and lower right.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Good crop and composition.

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

total: 9


Review by Adrian B.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I think the story shown by this image is clear enough and the title certainly is helpful and well chosen in that regard. There is good separation between the three components.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
As taken, the layout of the three components works. It is a pity the ground is so cluttered - you just can't win here! I have supplied a B&W image below, as I think that it may be more striking, with less distractions (I haven't played with the B&W sliders or re-looked at your lightening work on the blackbird. Just a suggestion!

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I think your image falls down a tad here - it is not a striking story or image that says 'wow'. The B&W has more potential I think to make it more striking. Black birds are just not helpful!

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

total: 6


Review by Suman B.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Larry, you nailed it. A perfect nature story captured. I am quite sure that this one would do well in the competetions too. except for the overall highlight which you may not be able to control due to the fact that the black bird details would be lost then. I particularly loved the decent storyline as it represented as if I am in there with you. your picture helped broaden my view as a wildlife & nature enthusiasts. a perfect 10 for your story this month.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE

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

IF APPLICABLE, WHY DESERVING OF EXTRA POINT FOR EXCELLENCE

SCORE E (Exceptional) 1

TOTAL SCORE_____ 10


Review by Bruce F.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I thought I was the king of long written explanations; however, you have me beat with this one. It’s a great story for a blog post on your website.
I like your choice of crop, using a 16 x 9 panoramic one, fits the linear flow of the subjects. The image shows the two antagonists themselves well. Yet, I feel they are a bit stagnant and lacking in action, and the predator and prey dynamic are not as strong as I would like. If the blackbird beak was pointing to the egg or very close to the egg, the viewer would get a stronger visual sense that it’s trying to steal the egg for food. The decisive moment was missed, and this weakens the nature story.
Composition with a slight diagonal is good. It could be better if you were down lower and on their level. Being so close to the subject your angle of view is from above, this isn’t the best angle for it infers superiority of the picture taker.

SCORE N (Nature) 2-basic shot--no nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE

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

total: 7


Review by Prasad D.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
A lovely story telling picture.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
A difficult subject as the Crow and the Turtle are dark and the Egg white. Well maintained balance. However the leaves in the background disturb and could have been reduced using the burning technique. The

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The Image could have been taken from a lower angle to get a better result.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 7

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.