Study Group 2


Larry Treadwell (C)

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AUGUST 2019 ROUND

Title:   Sound the Retreat
   
Goal:  Cumberland Falls is the second largest falls (next to Niagara) in the eastern USA. The sheer volume of water pouring over this falls causes the sandstone edge to erodes approximately 3 inches per year. To put this in perspective the falls has retreated up river a total of more than 60 feet since the USA was created in 1776. My goal was to portray the overwhelming power of the falls as it grinds its way over the stone. I wanted to show two major features of this eroding action. First, the power of the rushing water falling over the falls. The second feature was to emphasize the muddy nature of the river as the water below the falls is colored brown by the sandy debris being striped from the rock of the falls.

Equipment/Source:   Nikon D800, 24-70mm lens ISO 400, Aperture f8, 1/1000 Image from Nikon RAW File
 
Technique:  Since I wanted to show the muddy runoff and the violence of the water in way that the viewer could really see it closely I selected a mid range telephoto lens to compress the over all scene. I selected a late afternoon time for the shoot as the angle of the sun provided the most dramatic view of the 40 foot high cloud of mist caused by the crashing force of the water. I experimented with shutter speeds so as to find the one that showed the most texture and spray in the falls and finally settled on 1/1000. This allowed the image to show the amount and the power of the water breaking over the falls and retain some violent churning of the water running down river. Since I was shooting at an infinity focal length the fstop mattered little and was set to f8 which has proven to be the sharpest setting on the lens. This also allowed me to keep a relatively low ISO of 400 to ensure image quality. The camera rig was mounted on a tripod and I used a cable release to provide exactly the framing I wanted. I used a polarizer to reduce glare on both the water and the rocks.

Processing:   
The image was processed in Lightroom. I reduced highlights and added clarity, sharpness and contrast to raise visibility of the violence of the water. I added a GND filter to darken the trees so as to focus attention on the whites and browns of the river. I also added a vertical GND filter onto the rocks on the left side of the image to keep them slightly dark to help focus attention on the falls and the river.

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

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JULY 2019 ROUND
Title:   Top Predator 
 
   
Goal:    Dawn is the time when the everglades come alive after the long night. During that golden hour there is just enough light for the camera without using crazy high ISO ratings and yet not so bright as to blow out everything with the bright Florida sun.
I launched the kayak during the dark of the blue hour and paddled off to the land of the big gators. Gators often bellow, and pound the waters to arouse the fish and turtles that are their favorite food and I was hoping to get this activity which is common and frequently seen. 


Equipment/Source: Nikon D7200 with 200-400 f4 lens, ISO 400, f5.6, shutter 1/320. Camera rig mounted on tripod which was mounted on the bow of my kayak. Image from Nikon RAW file

Technique: I heard, before I saw this particular gator thrashing through the sawgrass where they most often hide and hunt. Suddenly this 12 foot bull gator launched himself vertically out of the water displaying his catch. When kayaking like this I constantly check exposures (this was shot in manual) and keep the camera focused on the areas where I expect activity. I also have to check for stray gators who hide in the sawgrass where I float with my kayak. When this bull rose I was drifting and had only a couple of seconds to pan the camera (thank goodness for Gimbal heads) and shoot. I have four frames in the burst, 3 of which have lots of water splash drops that shroud the gator. This is the last shot of the burst and the water drops have mostly fallen off (you can see some splash in the background). The sawgrass, which covers the surface of the everglades is quite thick and I was lucky to have a break in the grass where the gator rose. Personally I like the out of focus grass because it adds to the dense feel of the everglades. I also left the shadows in the background dark as that is how they actually look in the early mornings. I feel the grass and shadows enhance the feel of the everglades and help to set off the gator. While I have many more photos which show more “gore” I feel this images tells the story with out the blood which is often present in gator capture images. By the time I backed away from the area (and I DID back away) 4 or 5 other gators were closing in the share the catch.

Processing:  This image was processed in Lightroom where I brought down the highlights, added selective clarity and sharpness to the gator and his catch. I also desaturated the yellow tips of the sawgrass and those green leaves that were catching the early morning sun and were a bit bright. Finally, the Image was cropped. I feel a tighter crop would remove too much of the environment and I also wanted to leave room on the left for the gator to land after erupting from the water.


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

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

Review by commentator Rick C.

From a nature perspective the story is clear and compelling. It easily rises to the level of the 3.

Technically, key focus and sharpness look good to me. I do feel that you can actually push the sharpness of the facial area a bit more with a little Texture (the new slider just added to Camera Raw and Lightroom’s Develop module – right above Clarity and some deconvolution sharpening.) It isn’t critical, but does add. Time of day is very early morning and so we would expect a slight warm cast to the lighting, but we see a slight bluish / cyan cast in the feathers and even in the skin on the gator. I don’t feel it is a significant issue, but neutralizing it or even shifting to a slightly warm cast does help impact.

Pictorially, I think your composition largely does what you want. That said, the out of focus grasses and the leaf in the BG above the gator’s head do constitute visual distractions. The BG leaf and yellows on the frame edges have the greatest effect. As they are, I feel they are strong enough to weaken the image. I would recommend dropping the saturation and contrast in those areas even further (greens and yellows). I did try a much more severe crop and felt that, for me, eliminating the habitat containing the more disruptive elements did strengthen the image enough to be worthwhile. I understand your preference and the reasons for it, but that background leaf is a killer for me.

N-3, T-3, P-2, E-1 = 9 (P-2 Peripheral elements are visually distracting. E-1 Story strength and clarity warrant the optional exceptional point.)


Review by Louis P.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
perfectly fits the ND image criteria

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
alligator is very well contrasted and its skin shows great detail & texture, as well the eye's catch-light.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
cropping and color combination is excellent; alligator has room to "land"

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 Janice R.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
This does tell a dramatic story of the hunt.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Nice focus on the gator with good DoF to get both his snout and eye sharp. The highlights on the grass are distracting and though the grass does give a sense of place, the brightness completes with the subject. I would like to have seen this level of brightness on the bird.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The composition is good, especially in consideration of the grasses which could easily get in the way. Good capture of some of the truth of nature.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8


Review by Andy H.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Love the image. The image explodes with the story. Very dramatic. Will work well in some salons but strangely not in others.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Great capture. You appear to have worked out your formula and the early start before the strong light and contrast loss has helped you achieve your goal. Glad you explained how you keep an eye out, this type of photography is not for the faint hearted.
The image is sharp in the right places and the gator stands out beautifully.
There was little you could do regarding the grasses and like you they don't bother me.
The yellow leaf in the background is a little distracting, crop, but saying that my eye is continuously drawn to the gator.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
This image is well composed, given the timings, and has impact in bucketfuls!

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 9

IF APPLICABLE, WHY DESERVING OF EXTRA POINT FOR EXCELLENCE
The image is hard worked for and other than a possibly crop of the top is a great image. I rarely give a 10 but this, in my view, deserves it.

SCORE E (Exceptional) 1

GRAND TOTAL WITH EXTRA POINT 10


Review by Natalie M.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Amazing capture, no doubt about the nature story here.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Eye is pin sharp, I'm a little surprised that 1/320th was fast enough, but clearly it was. I'm seeing a bluish hue over the gator and the feathers.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
While I understand that the out of focus grass is part of the environment, I do find it to be a bit of a distraction. But hey, that's nature photography.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 7


Review by William S.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
This photograph definitely displays a nature story. You captured a lot of action in this shot.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The over all exposure is good, however I would suggest reducing the highlights and the cyan cast in the white feathers to improve the color balance. The subjects are sharp and the depth of field is very good.
I was unable to upload a copy that I used the suggestions above to correct.


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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Although the image has good appeal I think that a closer crop would improve the impact. Cropping from the top would eliminate the distracting “leaf” that hangs just above their heads. I think that this image has the potential for a much higher rating.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 7


Review by Isabella Z.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I think this picture clearly told the story of a gator hunting. the image is vivid.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The picture is sharp and the exposure is good. However, I feel the color of the picture looks too blue. it might be because he reduced the highlight too much while post processing, or the white balance is a little bit off

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE


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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8


Review by Dennis H.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
You've certainly captured a good nature image showing the gator catching its prey.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-positive nature story

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Your camera settings and having that equipment mounted on a tripod have certainly captured the moment.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I think the image could be improved by cropping the top.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8


Review by Martin P.
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Wow, this image really does hit you hard.. A very strong story of nature red in tooth and claw…

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The main subject looks well exposed and sharp. I am feeling a little uncomfortable at the blue tone of the bird and croc as it doesn’t feel natural to me, but I could be completely wrong of course.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I am enjoying the croc against the dark background but feel that the image might be improved with a little bit of a crop off the top and a darkening down of the bright green elements that overlap the croc. I am also wondering if the images with more splash might have had more impact overall.

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.