OCTOBER 2019 ROUND
Title: A Lioness Carrying One Of Her Cubs In Her Mouth
Goal: To capture a lioness with one of her cubs in her mouth. I took this image at Ndutu, specifically at the Ndutu Marsh. Where two lionesses were caring for eleven cubs. They hung out in the middle of the marsh during the heat of the day; where there was some dry land, and periodically came out in an effort to join the rest of the pride.
Unfortunately, the Land Rovers would crowd around them, and prevent them from joining the rest of the pride, so they would return to the safety of the marsh. I wrote a blog post about cell phone photographers and their pressuring lions and other predators by getting too close just to snap a cell phone image.
Equipment / Source: Canon 7D Mark II body, 600 mm IS f4.0 lens, plus a 1.4x teleconverter II at 1/2000 of second, f11 aperture, ISO 1600, Aperture Priority, Evaluative Metering
Technique: Resting my 600 mm lens on the top of the Land Rover on a bean bag.
Processing: Some selective darkening of the highlights, medium contrast added to the middle tone values with a RGB channel’s technique I learned. Selective Dfine noise reduction on the background and selective pre-sharpening with Nik’s sharpening tool.
Comments/Scores (N,T,P,E, Total)Critique Image (only members of Study Group Two may critique this image)
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SEPTEMBER 2019 ROUND
Title: Male Von Der Decken's Hornbill with A Captured Insect In Its Beak
Goal: To capture birds in their natural habitats showing behavior especially under diffused light.
Equipment / Source: 7D Mark II Camera Body, with a 600 mm IS f4.0 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter at 1/640 sec, f9.0, ISO 1600, Aperture Priority, Evaluative Metering.
Technique: Photographing from a Land Rover while on a photographic safari in East Africa. Using a bean bag, placed on the top of the Land Rover, with a small foot bracket so the focusing ring is off the bean bag—handheld.
Processing: I very subtly worked on the background with small minor adjustments, darkening light areas and lightening some of the dark areas, with control points in Nik Viveza. Blurred the lower left corner of the background a bit. I also slightly increased the contrast of the entire photo with a Levels adjustment. Noise reduction with a mask using Nik Dfine 2 software.
Comments/Scores (N,T,P,E,Total)Critique Image (only members of Study Group Two may critique this image)
Review by commentator Dan C.
I love the story you captured. The markings of the Hornbill identify the species and the color of the bill identifies the sex since the female’s bill is dark grey. The beetle in its beak completes the story. Unfortunately, one step in your processing comments takes it out of the nature category even though it enhanced the pictorial quality; the selective blurring of the lower corner. The nature definition does allow selective sharpening but it does not allow selective blurring. All of the other adjustments you mentioned you performed are allowed by the nature definition. The deliberate blurring makes it necessary for this otherwise excellent image to receive a 0 for the nature score. If the blurring is on its own layer and you still have the layered version, delete that layer and you will have a legitimate and strong nature image.
Technically the image is well handled, with good sharpness and good exposure.
Pictorially I like the image flipped horizontal. The beetle is the factor that gives this image its story value and flipping horizontal places more emphasis on the beetle. It also has me confronting the hornbill for more dynamic tension.
N0, T3, P3, E0, Total 9
Review by commentator Rick C.
The general technical quality is very good. Based on what I can see, I make primary focus to be on the back, but depth of field holds well. I do think you could add in a bit more sharpening on the eye itself. The noise reduction is effective on this iso 1600 image. There is a little bit remaining in the background, but I do not feel it is at the level of being an issue. I noted that your description indicate you blurred a portion of the image. Keep in mind that under the current Nature rules (both PSA and FIAP) that blurring is not an allowed adjustment. If it was the area just to the left of the tail, your only options would be to desaturate and drop the contrast and / or adjust the tonality in that area. Technical score is a 3. I’m not subtracting for a non-allowed adjustment because I cannot be certain where it was done, so that is just based on your comments, BUT with a blur applied this would not be eligible for a PSA or FIAP recognized nature section or interclub.
The pictorial arrangement is effective. The background is very smooth and non-competing. Your adjustments on the tonality of light and dark areas are very nice. As composed, we go immediately to the Hornbill and then to the insect. I actually do find it slightly stronger flipped to use the branch and Hornbill’s body and tail as blocking elements to bring the eye up and to the left as we always come back to the Hornbill’s eye in that instance. This is not a weakness per se, but more of a …what is more effective… preference of an individual viewer. The pictorial score is a 3 for me despite the relatively low contrast. The latter could be addressed by doing a Shadows/Highlights adjustment with everything nulled other than the Midtone slider set to about +20.
N-3, T-3, P-3 = 9
Review by Larry T
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
>From a nature story point of view I feel you have done as much with this image as possible. However, the mere act of standing there and drying feathers I do not feel is a compelling story line. To me, this almost feels like a portrait with a slight plus factor.
SCORE N (Nature) 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait
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
TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8
IF APPLICABLE, WHY DESERVING OF EXTRA POINT FOR EXCELLENCE
One final note. I am not deducting for this because it may just be my personal bias and it is not fair to deduct my feelings from your score. I mention this because you said to set up a blind which puts you in control. For me the thickness of the branch just makes it feel too heavy. You have such a delicate bird, if the branch was not quite so cumbersome I feel it would give a less bulky feel to the branch. I just think it is a bit too dominate. If you have control of the perch in front of your blind perhaps it is a consideration. Or, I could just be completely nuts! It is your choice.
SCORE E (Exceptional) 1
GRAND TOTAL WITH EXTRA POINT 9
Review by Andy H
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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.