Study Group 2


LC Boros (A)

Click image to enlarge


Upload Next Round's Image and Description
FEBRUARY 2021 ROUND
Title:     Murder

Goal:   To document the murder of our beloved fig tree.

The same tree featured in last month's image was a 50+ year old fig that was slowly dying because the stupid people who owned our small ranch before us poured concrete down cavities in its trunk. For the last few years we've been trying to save it, but two weeks ago we had a storm with 4 hours of sustained winds surpassing 75mph and gusts over 85mph. Needless to say our poor tree (along with two Coulter pines in the north pasture) didn't make it.

Now the corpse is laying in the north garden where it will be allowed to rot in peace as the wild birds adore it still.

I really only shoot birds and such with my big glass, but I decided to test out some of my other lenses that haven''t seen action in ages. This was perhaps the best story telling shot I ended up with.

More info, including pictures of the destruction here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CKjqPg5Fi4X/?
Weather station data from here at the ranch here: https://www.wunderground.com/dashboard/pws/KCASANJO363/graph/2021-01-26/2021-01-26/daily

And yes the hand of man is very evident.

Next month I'll return to more normal, non-personal images, but I plan on experimenting more over the coming months with this corpse.
 

Equipment/Source:     Canon Mark IV 5D with an EF 20-35 lens at f/3.5-3.5 USM.

@1/1600s f/5.6 ISO 320 35mm
  
Technique:  handheld and bent a bit over the corpse.

Processing:   Adjustments in CaptureOne: cropped and then twiddled with the exposure and highlights a bit.

Was tempted to remove the green crocuses in the upper right, but decided against it to preserver the cavities. Sure I could clone them out if I really wanted to, but now I'm thinking when they bloom next week I'll see about composing an image to include them.

Score this image: NO

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

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

Nature Story (N) Regretfully, when the hand of man is showing, it is irrelevant when “the hand of man” is seen. This photograph in a PSA recognized event would have to be disqualified. On the other hand, entering the photograph in Photojournalism would be acceptable. 

Technical Quality (T): This photograph would have been far better had it used F22 as opposed to F6 because of the depth of field problem which made the photograph blurry on the far end. 

Pictorial Quality (P): It is amazing how photographers can be impacted by passion. In a competition where the judge would not have the option of reading about the frustration of the author at the previous owners damage to the tree, I would not have known what I was looking at other than a tree stump that was out blurry and out of focus. This photographer would have better spent her time finding a more appropriate nature photograph. Although this photograph is not being scored, I would definitely score this photograph as follows – high for passion and high creativity, but we aren’t judging those in the Nature Study Group. 

Exceptional (E): This is not an exceptional photograph, but I understand how the photographer's passion and frustration led her to take this photograph which I truly enjoyed. 


This Review is written by: Diana R.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
To me the nature story is quite limited.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Well exposed, nice color palette , good depth of field.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The detailed part of the tree trunk had interest that could be brought out more with a tighter crop. 


This Review is written by: Jodi S.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
The image itself does not evoke interest, though the title is striking. The story behind the image gives much more context. I am surprised at my own feelings of anger that someone would pour concrete into this tree.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Nice contrast of light and dark, and detail in the foreground vs slilght blur in the upper part of the picture.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I love the detail in the tree closest to the viewer, with the clarity fading out as I follow the leading lines upward into the picture. I think the green of crocus in the background provides a balance of life in the midst of death, so I am glad you left that. 


This Review is written by: Larry T

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Your “murdered’ (that sort of has taken on the appearance of decapitated human greatly benefits from your told story. Although, even without the story the visual of a downed tree does tell the nature story of a “dead” tree. The question remains, just how much of a nature story does it tell. For me, keeping with the forum guidelines, I can’t raise this score above “average”. I do feel for your loss. Living in south Florida for nearly 50 years I have witnessed the “untimely” death of every single tree that was an original on the property. Successive hurricanes took them all before their time.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Your camera settings worked well to capture the image. The wide angle brings the tree to the forefront and helps to make the scene have an intimate feeling. Using the wide angle allows an almost macro effect through which I can see the extensive damage to the tree.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
In my opinion the composition works for the story you have created. The framing almost makes the tree (corpse) look like it is resting in a coffin and the viewer stands at the foot of the coffin, paying their respects.

I‘m not sure that your image meets the standard of the, forum and I’m sure my review is generous by forum standards, yet I think based on your intent, they both fit well together as we pay our respects. I’ll look forward to another bird image next month.


This Review is written by: Wayne S.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I didn’t feel there was a story here other than by reading the commentary. I felt the image should be able to convey the story without an explanation.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Since the image of the tree consists of many lines I found it distracting to have the tree in the upper right corner out of focus. I know that using a low depth of field may cause this but it could have been rectified through focus stacking.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The image had low impact. I foun d my eyes wondering rather than being drawn to any point.


This Review is written by: Louis P

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
definitely an interesting nature portrait

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
excellent detail, texture and grain of vertical trunk. but horizontal branch was out of focus

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
average impact and composition


This Review is written by: Edward X.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Interesting story,but do I see some concrete in the tree which is consider man-made element?

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
No complain

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
No super good composition, but it is okay.


Upload Next Round's Image and Description
JANUARY 2021 ROUND

Title:    Almost Fig Success
 
Goal:     To capture a ground squirrel behaving like an arboreal squirrel. 
Most people will look at this image and think, “yah so what, it’s a squirrel with a fig,” but this is not a tree-loving squirrel. It is a California Ground Squirrel — basically a small prairie dog and as such not known for its climbing abilities.

Background: we live on a small ranch in the Diablo Foothills and 90% of the images I capture are of the wildlife here at the ranch. (I have an entire website dedicated to documenting the some 70 different species of wildlife that share our land.) This image is part of a series I took documenting one very brave ground squirrel’s endeavor to obtain a fig from the ancient tree that sits north of the main house. It took him roughly five minutes to climb out to retrieve the fig and then get himself to safety. Considering a) we have Red-tails and Cooper’s in residence plus Kestrels and Sharpies; and b) I do have several blurry images of ground squirrels falling out of this tree trying to reach figs: this was no small feat of bravery.
 
Equipment/Source:     Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM @ 400mm.
ISO 1250, 1/1000s f/6.3
   
Technique:   Shot from my office through my as clean as possible window.

Processing:    Cropped from original with very slight work on the exposure and contrast. Then really pulled back on the background white point as originally the tree truck was pretty blown out. I intentionally cropped to have open space below the squirrel for it to possibly fall into as I think that helps highlight the precariousness of his position.

Score this image: YES


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

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

 
Review by commentator Rick C.
Fur texture and patterning, including the white ring around the eye, confirm it is indeed a California Ground Squirrel and that the behavior is unusual for this species. There is a nature story here in that feeding / gathering behavior. It is compromised to a degree by the lack of light on the principal subject and the brightly lit background. The rarity element is a factor, but not strong enough to raise the story value above a 2 for me.

Primary focus is clearly on the squirrel. Sharpness is reasonable, but can be enhanced in my opinion. You did a very good job in pulling the highlights down on the tree in back as it does not have the normal telltale gray cast of something that has been overdone. That said, the tonal difference remains a problem pictorially. The technical rating is 2.

I appreciate the fact that we constantly seem to give mixed signals in how tightly to crop. Your basic composition makes sense if the dominant lighting is on the subject and the background is smooth and uncompetitive. That is not the case. As a result, one of the few options you have to try and control the viewer’s attention is to crop in as tightly as you can without being overly cramped and eliminate as much of the background as possible. While the figs on the right edge do add a little to the context and story, there isn’t enough there to warrant keeping them. The pictorial rating is 1, due in large measure because of how badly the background overpowers the primary subject and story. While working with a jpeg limits the ability to make major shifts in tonality, hopefully the modified version gives you some sense of the possibilities.

N-2, T-2, P-1 = 5


This Review is written by: Rick D.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Hi LC. Quite an adventurous little squirrel there! The photo does tell a nature story, but without your commentary, it is a rather weak one. Only very knowledgeable people would be able to read the full story by viewing the photo. Most, like me, would see a squirrel with unusual markings eating a fig.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Your equipment and shooting technique worked well, especially considering shooting through window glass. And best of all, your patience made the differenc e. Your DOF created a very nicely blurred background.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I understand leaving room under the subject to show height. However, I do feel that an overall tighter crop would have brought the subject closer to the eye. It would also eliminate unneeded environment. However, foremost, it would reduce the size of the still obvious tree trunk, especially on the left side of the photo.

NATURE SCORE 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 1-Inadequate composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 6


This Review is written by: Alex C.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
The story here is pretty apparent without even knowing the background. Though with the information provided, it makes it an even better story.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The focus on the squirrel is not as crisp as I'd like to see. I can understand how the background, with the trunk, would have washed things out even more, so I'm glad some of that was toned down.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I like the use of space below the squirrel to show where it would wind up if it lost a g rip on t he branch. It not only helps highlight the story itself, it really brings your attention back up to the squirrel and gives a sense of excitement. The leaves that you can see tend to flow well with the image.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 1-Inadequate exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 6


This Review is written by: Adrian B

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Thank you for your narrative explaining things! Without that...yes, its a picture of some sort of squirrel in a tree!

Is there a Nature Story? Here a viewer (or judge) would need to know these animals quite well to know this chap is doing something quite unusual and that this is the story being shown here.

Given that I believe one is supposed to assume the viewer is knowledgable over these issues, then yes a Story.

But many will say no, I suspect.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
You commented that you had to pull back the image back a lot due to the bright background. The final result still has the animal dark with the rest bright - this doesn't help

I think you were right to leave space below for it to fall into and to better show the environment.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The above dark animal, bright background affects the enjoyment of the image Im afraid.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 0-No extra point

TOTAL SCORE 7


This Review is written by: Bogdan B

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I don't know the sorts of squirrels, but it's interesting with food in mouth.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Due to capturing through glass, you have got image sharp enough. OK, I would prefer to be sharper.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Background is too busy. Bright branch in the background is too distractive.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 1-Inade quate co mposition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 6


This Review is written by: Suman B.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
reading your storyline explains the nature story beautifully however seeing the picture only its just the same reaction you proscribed, a low impact nature story.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
sharpness, timing are good. ISO clutter is also not recognisable. windows panes not disturbing. technically perfect and your spontaneous reaction is to congratulated.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
only cause of concern is the disturbing highlights in the background which is non negotiable on your pa rt.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 8

LC’s (aka Stega to her friends) interest in photography started in a high school art class, but it wasn’t until she moved west to California and purchased a DSLR that she became somewhat serious about it.  

In a valley far below where she lives now, she was once a network engineer and technical trainer. Retired from that world she is now a working voice actor who also manages a small ranch in the foothills of the Diablo range. There she prefers to do as much gardening with her excavator and as much in camera as possible. Primarily taking photos of birds and other wildlife with the occasional flower, piece of heavy machinery or interesting bit of architecture tossed into the general morass of ranch documentation photos means her struggles with web publishing, crafting coherent essays and digital asset management are real.