Study Group 2

Natalie Murray (B)

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Title:   Returning to the Perch
Goal:    On a visit to the local wetlands area I was fortunate to see this pair of ospreys landing and taking off from a dead tree. They nest on a man-made tower nearby, so the aim here was to use the opportunity to get an action shot within the closer striking distance.

Equipment/Source:   Canon 6D2 100-400mm lens @ 400mm, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 320.

Technique:   Manual exposure mode with auto ISO. Spot metering, monopod with loose ball head for support. Fast-ish shutter speed to freeze the action. On reflection a smaller aperture would probably have been more useful, and I had enough light to have at least F8 on this occasion.  

Processing:   Lightroom for cropping, tone, sharpening and saturation adjustments.

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

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

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Title:   Inbound to the Nest 

Goal:   To capture a rainbow bee-eater in flight.  

Equipment/Source:    Canon 6D2, 100-400mm lens @ 400mm, f5.6, 1/1250sec, ISO 640.  
Technique:  These birds have a distinctive chirping call in flight and are easy to track down once heard. While on a bird walk along the beach I found 2 or 3 flying in and out of their nest. I continued past the nest giving a wide radius so as to minimise any disturbance. I then set myself up further along the beach, sitting and leaning against the sand dune, and waited. I used back-button focus to pre-focus on the nest area, and then fired off shots once I saw some activity. The birds are quite small (23-27cm) and extremely fast, so tracking in flight is very difficult. I find manual mode with auto ISO to be the most useful for wildlife.   

Lightroom for cropping, saturation, and tone adjustments. 

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 technique was good.  Too bad the spot you found did not give you a view of the nest burrow.

I like your choice of cropping.  It helps enhance the story you did catch.

Pictorially I have mixed emotions about your background.  The sky comes across for me as a bit bright and competes with the bee-eater.  The bright area in the lower left also competes.  I do not know if you have any of the DXO NIK collection but if you do, you might want to consider using Viveza in the Control Point mode to select that sky and darken it some.  That adjustment is allowed by the nature definition.  You might also want to try it on the foreground.  For me, that helps the bee-eater stand out better due to lack of competition.

N2, T3, P2, E0, Total 7

Dan, Thanks heaps for the processing edit, it has really enhanced the bird. I have an older copy of the NIK collection so I will check it out.

Review by Robert D.
These are beautiful birds, however the image is not well composed. More than half is totally out of focus, distracting and does not contribute anything to the nature story. I suggest that you try to fill the space with the subject as much as possible so that the viewer can appreciate the subject that you want them to see. This will do justice to the bee-eater. It can be done with cropping and enlargement. However if you encounter noise, perhaps you need a longer lens, tripod and Wimberly head.
N-2, T-1, P-1, E-0, Total-4

Review by Larry T.
Your stated goal “to capture a rainbow bee-eater in flight” does not really develop a strong nature story line and birds generally fly and thus you are just capturing ordinary behavior. However, your title “Inbound to the Nest” does suggest a stronger story line, but in my opinion not a compelling one. Perhaps if the bird were carrying a bee, or maybe some nesting material it would show a stronger story line.

While your settings on the surface appear to be adequate to capture the image I strongly feel that you missed the focus of the image as everything in the image appears to be quite soft. You state that you focused on the nest using back button focus but the nest itself is not truly sharp. Did you have your focus point on the right side of the camera or was it in the center and then after focusing you shifted the camera to the left to make the capture? T e problem you seem to have is that the bird is not sharp because the odds of the bird being the same distance from your camera as the nest are not great. This would render the bird out of focus (which it is). Your shifting of the camera also partially renders the nest out of focus. Catching a little bird, such as this inflight is extremely hard. I will offer a suggestion on how to improve this below.

I my opinion this image offers a quite weak composition. The mass of brush on the far right is really hard to identify as a nest and as such weakens the story line and since it is out of focus it weakens the entire image as well. While the bird is actually on one of the fixations points, it is still out of focus and again weakens the image. Your exposure sees to be right and you have generally made the background appear out of focus which is good. To make this image work I would suggest placing the camera on a tripod and making the nest itself a larger part of the image. Now you can focus on the part of the nest were the bird seems to enter. Since your ISO is only 640 I would suggest raising it to at least 1250 as this would allow you to raise the fstop to at least f8, (it would be better if you could set the fstop at f11). This would increase your Depth of Field. If your camera can capture 5-8 frames per second you would not stand a better change of catching the bird in flight. If you attach a cable release to the camera you won’t even have to touch the camera just watch for a bird to head for the nest and then fire off a burst and hope that one of them catches the bird in flight and neat the nest.
N-2, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-6

Review by Andy H.
Well spotted activity and well done in recognising that the birds are more important than the image.
Good choice of aperture giving a diffused background. Given the speed of these birds I would have experimented with faster shutter speeds and let auto IAO do the rest. It's important to see what ISO is acceptable for your camera. I set up my camera on a stationary target and take shots at increasing ISO, then check the images on the computer. This determines the max ISO that I feel will still produce an acceptable image.
A faster shutter speed will increase your ISO but you have plenty of light to cope. The image is soft and could be improved. If possible try to get a background that is consistent not one that is light in one area and dark in another. Like the format.
N-3, T-1, P-2, E-0, Total-6

Review by Dennis H.
Your patience certainly paid off by capturing the bird in flight. Nice colours on bird. The image appears to be a little overexposed on my screen. Good try.
N-2, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-6

Review by Bogdan B.
Nice, colorful bird. It's relative sharp, while it's captured in flight. I would prefere tighter crop.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, total-7

Review by Suman B.
Natalie, in my opinion your image is soft due to the choice of a very low aperture i.e. 5.6 in this case. my advice to you is not to drop your aperture below 9 in such cases as you are starting to get nuances of wildlife and nature photography and the very first thing which you need to understand that your image should be crisp spot on. secondly I liked your choice of going manual with auto iso range bound which will give you wider choices. next thing you may want to remember that nature story line is very important as it renders a point of view on the species captured. you may want to take a relook into the nature guideline which in my case helps immensely - "". you have tried your best but your best wasn't enough! and for that reason we all are here to learn the intricacies of natural world photography from the mentors and the PSA nature club is just for that. I appreciate your courage to shoot a flying action and hope that I will one day be overwhelmed by your beautiful pictures. keep shooting.
N-1, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-5

Hello.  I'm Natalie. I live in Brisbane, Australia and have been interested in nature photography for approx 8 years.

Last year I joined my local camera club.  They are a very supportive bunch and I was immediately encouraged to enter club, national, and international competitions.  I am lucky to have a diverse range of birds that live locally or a short drive away, and I also enjoy looking out for the smaller creatures in our botanic gardens.  I shoot primarily with a Canon 6D2 and 100-400mm zoom or 100mm macro lens and edit in Adobe Lightroom.