Study Group 2


Larry Treadwell (C)

Click image to enlarge

Upload Next Round's Image and Description
DECEMBER 2019 ROUND

Title:    Sulking in the Shadows
   
Goal:   Alligators possess a miniscule brain wired for two things, sex and food. While the everglades is huge gators jealously guard their water hole from all comers, an intruder does so at his own risk. I found this gator hiding in the reeds near the edge of a water hole. He is an extremely skittish specimen due to his injury and was trying to get away from me when he heard me walking along the bank. A healthy gator of this size would stand his ground. Note the lower jaw and how it is twisted and deformed. Several years earlier this unfortunate fellow lost a battle during which another gator quite literally snapped his lower jaw and twisted it out of place. With his jaw so deformed he does not have a true bite since he cannot close his jaws to hold prey. This will mean he cannot capture large prey and thus has to survive primarily on turtles and fish he can gulp. Still he is lucky as most gators with damaged jaws simply starve to death.

Equipment/Source:    Nikon D810, Nikkor 200-400mm f4 lens + tc1.4
ISO 1600, f5.6, 1/350
Processed from a Nikon RAW file
 
Technique:   This photo was taken near dusk and in a extremely heavy rain storm. My goal on this day was to capture a gator stalking prey in the storm when he is better camouflaged. I feel the slight amount on light on the gators head is enough to help his stand out. Gators are well camouflaged and I wanted to show this coloration as well, the rippled water helps this effect as well. The image shown here was not what I set out to capture. It was just a chance opportunity that allowed me to capture this unusual jaw configuration. The markings you see on the water are the raindrops striking the surface of the water. The shot was taken while kneeling and hand holding the camera rig. 

Processing:   
The image was processed in Lightroom from a Nikon RAW file. There was a slight crop to straighten the image (this is almost full frame). I reduced highlights and adjusted both white and black points. I used the adjustment brush to brighten the gator’s dental work. I added some contrast but I tried to keep the gator hidden since that is what the scene looked like. There is, in reality little contrast between the gator and the water but I feel the slight light on his head is enough to make hi visible to the viewer. 

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

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





Upload Next Round's Image and Description
NOVEMBER 2019 ROUND
Title:   Mating Owls
 
   
Goal:    The nature story I set out to capture was the interaction of a pair of Burrowing Owls as they prepared to produce and raise their family. I was lucky enough to capture the mating process on 2 occasions.


Equipment/Source:  The gear I used was a Nikon D7200 fitted with a Nikon f4 200-400mm lens with a tc1.4 attached. I attached my ballhead to a Frisbee using the mounting screw and added my Wimberly Sidekick (creating a gimbal head) and then attached the camera and lens. I placed a beanbag under the Frisbee so that the Frisbee would slide easily. This allowed me to easily move the view angle both left and right as well as get an elevated angle to capture incoming flight shots. The image is from a Nikon RAW file

Technique:  I located a colony of Burrowing Owls (5 nests) on a berm in the Florida Everglades. I first found this site when the owls were digging their burrows and noted that one of the burrows was a bit more isolated from the others. I also noted the angle of the opening actually more or less faced the east. I knew from research that these owls are most active early in the morning so I determined that this would be the best burrow to try photographing. I brought a camouflage tarp to the site and staked it out one night just after sunset. For the next several months I journeyed to this site several times each week before daybreak, crawled under the tarp and set up my camera. I had a near ring-side seat to watch as this pair of owls dug their burrow, mated, raised and feed their young and taught them to fly. As they became accustomed to the tarp they were as ease with my presence and largely ignored me. They often landed on the tarp even while I was under it as long as I stayed still. Thus I was able to capture thousands of images of this family.

I spent my shooting time laying on the ground to keep me at nearly eye level to these 9 inch owls. I would only arrive before light and stayed until they were either in their burrow or not on the site. I was there in sun and rain. For this shot my settings were ISO 400, f8 and 1/1000. This shot shows the male mounting the female and pinning her in place with his beak. While this almost looks like an after the act kiss, I assure you the process was quite aggressive.

Processing:  In post I did a slight crop to off set the subjects as this is nearly a full frame shot . I’m using this shot because even thought their eyes are closed (they were closed throughout the entire process in every shot) they are still visible. I also like the diagonal line created by the wing on the left, and the bodies of the owls. I adjusted both the white and black points. And brought down the highlights. I made some adjustment using curves and sharpened the subjects.  

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

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

Review by commentator Dan C.
Your planning paid off nicely. You captured a strong nature story. It was good reading you backstory and that story definitely shows the advantage of learning about your subjects instead of just coming across them. The knowledge lets you predict your photographic opportunities and that paid off here. While I hesitate to apply human emotions to wildlife subjects, it definitely looks like the female is enjoying the act.

Pictorially the image is well composed but I wonder if it is optimally composed. Your slight cropping to position the pair maintained a lot of the habitat but is that much habitat necessary to tell the story of mating. Cropping tighter like in the adjustment I have included does put more emphasis on the mating action and lets closed eyes be less of an issue. Both approaches are valid so you need to make the decision on which one tells the story you are trying to present. Since both crops work, I did not reduce the pictorial score but might have given the extra point for exceptional with the tighter crop.

Technically your overall exposure is good. The sharpness is also good.

N3, T3, P3, E0, Total 9


Review by Adrian B

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Definitely a story. It is clear what they are doing which is good. Well captured

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Can't fault anything on the technical side. You don't provide speed or F stop stats. I find the two bodies very sharp: the male wings are less so: I'm not sure if this is motion blur or DOF issue. Bot I don't find it ruins the shot. The mound they are on is all sharp, but the background nicely burred, helping to make the birds stand out well.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The image deserves looking for a while at it to appreciate the beautiful owls. A 3 for this element, but its not quite in the perfect 10 zone for me - but a very nice image. I enjoyed looking at it.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 9


Review by Linda C

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
After reading a summary of the picture, I felt the story was strong, however, I think most picture, including me, would find it difficult to determine what is going on and the type of birds.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Although the color and exposure was good, I would have liked to see this photo taken from an angle where I could understand the photo.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Average impact.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 7


Review by Robert D

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Well done shot of a true nature event

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Good exposure with as wide aperture making this event stand out

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Good event but it is hard to decipher what is going on without the written comment which was very good.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8


Review by Dennis A.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Nice pic of the owls. Strong nature image.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The image looks sharp with no blown out or clipped areas.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Excellent DOF with owls being the focal point. For me the image would have been stronger if your angle was more from the side such that we could see more of the male’s face

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8


Review by Bruce F

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I think all your perseverance, planning, and days out there in your little hide really paid off. This is nature photography at its exciting elementary level. The story is very powerful. I think the expression of the female with her eyes closed and the position of the male’s beak and head giving her some affection is really what make this image very impactful. The male’s wings out and especially the diagonal one adds visual appeal, as you stated in your narrative.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Here is where the image could be improved. I think the whole image would be improved with a 1/3 or ½ stop of increased exposure. The overcast light either before sunrise or under dark grey clouds is a bit flat, and the image could use a little bit more contrast. The light on the owls is fine, the surrounding background and sand of the mound are where I think the increased exposure and contrast would help. I do see noise in the background, surprising at ISO 400, and would use a targeted adjustment to reduce the noticeable noise in the background. The dark shadows under the bodies don’t match the diffused light. I would also lighten the shadows under their bodies, your black point adjustment might have gone too far.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I think the crop is good and pictorial elements are fine, with the diagonal wing adding visual appeal.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8


Review by Bogdan B

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Perfect nature story.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Excelent sharpness, DOF and lightening.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Good composition, front sight.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 9

IF APPLICABLE, WHY DESERVING OF EXTRA POINT FOR EXCELLENCE


SCORE E (Exceptional) 1

GRAND TOTAL WITH EXTRA POINT 10


Review by Prasad D

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Lovely intimate shot of the Burrowing Owls mating.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Sharp image

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Nice composition. Could have been tightly cropped to show the intimacy.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8


Review by Suman B.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
excellent story line to add with the thrilling photo. one could just glimpse the entirety of the scene as you shoot. these are everlasting moments one shoots for. A very strong nature story.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
perfect techniques applied. only if I can see the set up you used for the sliding Frisbee.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
the way the owls cuddle shows the intimacy and your diagonals are paying off.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 9

IF APPLICABLE, WHY DESERVING OF EXTRA POINT FOR EXCELLENCE
overall sharpness, good exposure, balance everything is just right. Great shooting.

SCORE E (Exceptional) 1

GRAND TOTAL WITH EXTRA POINT 10

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.