Study Group 2

William C. Smiley (C)

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Title:    Nest Building
Goal:  I visited a wildlife preserve in search of birds engaged in some natural action.    

Equipment/Source:   Nikon D4 on a mono pod with a gimbal head, Nikkor 200-500mm, ISO 1000, f6.3, 1/1000. 
Technique:   I discovered this ibis collecting sticks to build a nest and began tracking him. The area of the nest was blocked by limbs and did not provide a clear view. The image submitted was selected because it showed a clearer view of the ibis taking material to the nest area.

Processing:   The RAW file was processed in Photoshop adjusting contrast and luminosity levels and slightly cropped.

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

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


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Title:  Preening Lesson
Goal:   My goal was to find some nature action that might improve my scores on this forum.

Equipment/Source:   Nikon D4 on a mono pod with a gimbal head, Nikkor 200-500mm, ISO 560, f6.3, 1/1250. 
Technique:  While walking through an area with many water fowl I discovered a group of Stilts around a pond. The three in this photograph seemed to form a class learning the correct method to preen. The two stilts that are sitting seem to be watching closely how the standing bird was preening.  

Processing:   The RAW file was processed in Photoshop adjusting contrast and luminosity levels. Cropping was very close, just short of chopping of the stilt’s feet to remove some of the distracting elements. The edges were darkened to focus more on the subjects. 

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 think your basic idea has merit. The preening action does add a behavioral aspect to the image. The fact that the resting bird’s eyes are closed negates the idea of a lesson, but it does speak to a relaxed environment in which they were comfortable. Primary focus seems to be on the resting pair. While your shutter speed was good, there looks to some motion blur as well as a slight DOF fall off on the preening Stilt. Black and white subjects are difficult at best and this is no exception. We have a clipping in the lower neck / shoulder area white feather of our preening subject. The environment in which you found them was always going to be difficult to control because it is so cluttered. I feel your depth of field selection was reasonable, but we would need an even lower angle of view to be effective in minimizing the influence of the environmental clutter. You wouldn’t be able to hold all three at that point, so it would be focus solely on the preening subject and let the other two be softer elements, or leave them out entirely. That bird in the lower right would hopefully have moved on.

Watch out for the extent to which you try to burn in the edges. I know we are always stressing doing such things to help control the viewer’s eye, but it is very easy to have it get to the point of no longer looking natural, which is the case here. Also, whenever you darken something by burning in, be sure to also drop both the saturation and contrast in that area. Thee three components are linked and play off each other.

N-2, T-2, P-2 = 6 (N-2 The behavioral element is present but there are enough distracting aspects in the environment to weaken the effectiveness of the story. T-2 Lack of sharpness on primary element – preening Stilt, clipping of detail in main subject’s feathers. P-2 Distracting environment weakens visual effectiveness. Burning in of corners and edges excessive resulting in unnatural look.)

Review by Ken W.
Nice story of the 2 chicks watching parent preen, Sharpness good, exposure is a little bright on parent on the white feathers to the right of the beak, The stilt to the right lower part of the frame is distracting.
N-2, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-6

Review by Martin P.
A nice study of the 3 birds overall. Exposure looks well handled with the whites and blacks both showing detail. I am struggling to identify anything that has critical sharpness within the image which is a shame. The background bokeh is looking very strange I wonder if it was a windy day and the background foliage was moving? The distraction of the 4th bird in the bottom of the image is a shame.
I do like the position of the 3 birds compositionally I think that works quite well though.
N-2, T-1, P-2, E-0, Total-5

Review by MJ Springett
N= a story is present
T=The bird head in the lower right corner and the background debris are very distracting.
P=colors are drab, and selective focus is not adequate. 
N-3, T-1, P-1, E-0, Total-5

Review by Charlie Y.
nice capture, looks far enough, but not enough separation of background for f6.3, thus show clutters around subject. 
N-2, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-6

Review by Sylvia W.
At first glance this appears to be a nice shot. Uncluttered, symmetry in selecting just 3 birds for the picture and a nice uncluttered background. Then I clicked on the image for a larger version. Overall the image is not sharp and that background, the large leaves in the foreground and the partial bird are very distracting. Was it possible to shoot from another angle, a step left or right, lower or higher? These are questions you need to ask yourself before taking the shot. 
N-2, T-1, P-2, E-0, Total-5

Review by Janice R.
An interesting photo of a Stilt family. The DOF seemed appropriate but on my monitor, the birds are not sharp. Your shutter speed seemed to be adequate so I don't know if this was due to camera shake or? This seems like a difficult image to capture due to the distracting background. Perhaps darkening the background to take down some of the brights would help with this. I think you did a good job of coping though the bird in the lower right corner is distracting. Perhaps darkening this bird would decrease the distraction.  
N-3, T-1, P-2, E-0, Total-6

Review by Larry T.
While I feel your frustration in your stated goal I’m not sure that is what PSA is looking for in a goal. Thus I am going to take your goal to be what the title expresses. While the title states what could be a nature “goal” I feel the stiles on the left are a bit old to be learning basic skills from a similarly aged bird on the right. I do not feel this is a strong nature goal with a valid story line.

On the surface you seem to have covered all the basis regarding shutter (it is fast enough) aperture (appears to be enough to acquire the necessary DOF) and the ISO is not exceptionally high. These are all good things. All that said, the image is still extremely soft. With the settings you state and the presence of such blur in the image I feel that you either have extreme camera movement or that you simply missed the focus.

In general the processing seems to be OK. No highlights appear to be blown and shadow detail is clear. The format shows off the subjects to best advantage. The problem I have with this composition is all the extra body parts that show along the bottom edge of the image. These should either be cropped out or the composition changed in camera before the shot is taken.
N-2, T-1, P-2, E-0, Total-5

Review by Prasad D.

Preening of Stilt seems a common subject, the angle, should have been lower for this shot. The Image is cluttered I feel. The Image of the Preening Stilt is cut by another stilt in the fore ground.
N-1, T-1, P-2, E-0 Total 4

Retired university professor aspiring to become a fine art photographer.  I enjoy a variety of photography styles but tend to photograph birds, landscapes and wildlife.  All critiques that may provide insights for producing better photographs are welcomed.

Equipment used:  CAMERAS-Nikon D4 and Nikon D810

LENS –Nikon 28-300mm, 200-500mm, 50 mm

              Tamron 24-70mm

Tokina  17-35mm, 100mm macro

Rokinon  14mm 

Software:  Photoshop CS6, Topaz Studio, Nil Collection