Study Group 2


Larry Treadwell (C)

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SEPTEMBER 2019 ROUND
Title:   Nature's Miracle
 
   
Goal:    While everyone has both seen and heard of rainbows few people know that there also exists such a thing as a moonbow. While it can occur on occasion in a variety of places there are two locations where this miracle of nature can be relatively easily found. It occurs infrequently at Yosemite Falls in California but it occurs each month in only one location, Cumberland Falls, in Kentucky, USA. Rainbows are caused by sunlight refracting off water particles that are present in the air after a heavy rain. Similarly, a moonbow appears when moonlight strikes water particles hanging in the air at night. The trouble is that the moon is not as bright as the sun and so a great deal more water particles are required to be suspended in the air for the moonbow to be visible. This happens when thundering amounts of water crash over a large waterfall creating mist and when then the mist is trapped by rocky cliffs on both sides of the falls that prohibits the mist from dispersing. On three nights each month (before, during and after) a full moon, when the moon is at its brightest, a moonbow appears in the mist at the base Cumberland Falls. As the moon rises above the cliffs and the trees its light strikes the mist and a moonbow appears. There are several problems trying to see this wonder. First the moonbow can barely be seen with the naked eye, (if you know when and where to look you may see a pale haze), second, the sky must be completely void of clouds and finally, the photographer has to be standing in a straight line created by the moon, the photographer and the mist. Composition is thus fixed and moving to the left or right, even a few feet, will cause the moonbow to become invisible. My goal was to capture this visual miracle of nature. Photographers come from all over the world to take this photo and competition for the right locations is fierce. I was forced to be there 8 hours before the event, just to obtain a prime location.


Equipment/Source: Taking this photo required the following settings. First I needed 190 seconds of exposure to allow the camera to absorb enough light for the moonbow to become visible. I used an aperture of 5.6 to gain some DOF and approach the sweet spot of the lens. The ISO was 400 because with an exposure that long I did not want to introduce noise. This photo was taken at 2:30 a.m. The moonbow is only visible for about 30 minutes because as the moon rises its angle changes and when the moon gets high the moonbow vanishes. If the exposure is run too long the moonbow actually moves to the right and will just becomes a blur (this happens at about a 4 minute or longer exposure). Of course the camera was on a tripod, I used mirror lock up and a cable release. I applied Long Exposure Noise Reduction in the camera. The camera was a Nikon D810, with a 24-70mm lens set to 32 mm. and focused on infinity. This image is from a Nikon RAW file. 

Technique:  Taking this photo required the following settings. First I needed 190 seconds of exposure to allow the camera to absorb enough light for the moonbow to become visible. I used an aperture of 5.6 to gain some DOF and approach the sweet spot of the lens. The ISO was 400 because with an exposure that long I did not want to introduce noise. This photo was taken at 2:30 a.m. The moonbow is only visible for about 30 minutes because as the moon rises its angle changes and when the moon gets high the moonbow vanishes. If the exposure is run too long the moonbow actually moves to the right and will just becomes a blur (this happens at about a 4 minute or longer exposure). Of course the camera was on a tripod, I used mirror lock up and a cable release. I applied Long Exposure Noise Reduction in the camera. The camera was a Nikon D810, with a 24-70mm lens set to 32 mm. and focused on infinity. This image is from a Nikon RAW file. 

Processing:  As noted, composition is basically fixed by the position of the moon. This photo was taken by partially positioning the camera so that it hung over the edge of the cliff. To see the moonbow I was forced to keep the rock on the left in the frame. Moving to the right is not an option as I am on the edge of a cliff. Zooming the lens to a wider position brings into the frame an iron rail in the foreground. I could not go to the base of the falls because of the high water level and the rocks where I would have to stand were under water. In post I adjusted the white balance (the original scene was too blue), lowered the highlights to keep the mist visible, and brought down the saturation of the trees because they were bright green. I applied some sharpening to the rocks and added noise reduction.

I have been to the falls 5 times to obtain this photograph. On only two occasions has the weather been clear. On this occasion the first two nights were cloudy and foggy. Only on the third and last night did the weather clear. Yes that’s right, I spent more than 24 hours waiting over three days for 30 minutes of actual shooting. It is a 900 mile trip for me to get to the falls, I will continue to return until I can get to the lower level to try for a better composition. High summer water levels and icy rocks and closed trails make it impossible in the winter. You all should give this a try it is really beautiful.


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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)

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


Review by commentator Dan C.

This image is tough to evaluate.  If I base my score on the nature story on a snap judgment, it is only a standard record shot of a waterfall and the score would only be a 1.  Given time to really look at it, there is more to it. First problem with the snap judgment, there is nothing that really gives an idea of its height.  Seeing the volume of the water flow the height of the spray does provide some idea of the height of this 68 foot high waterfall.  Seeing all the silt in the falls itself and the runoff add up to a story of the high flow rate of these falls.  Seeing that verifies your intent and allows me to up the nature score to 2.  Too bad you were not there on the proper evening since this is the only place in the western hemisphere where a waterfall generates a moonbow under certain moon light conditions and water flow that creates the mist at the base of the falls.

Pictorially the image is well composed. Your foreground rocks are both a plus and a minus, a plus for composition in adding a depth but a minus for sharpness.  At first glance I had mixed emotions on the pictorial affect of the selected shutter speed.  From a nature standpoint I feel your choice was correct.  For success as a competitive image, too many judges have now come to expect a silky smooth cotton candy effect.  That is something to consider if considering this image for competition.  From a nature standpoint I feel a cotton candy effect would weaken your spray at the bottom.  For that reason I am not deducting any pictorial points.

Technically your overall exposure is good.  The sharpness is questionable.  As composed, your foreground rocks are important elements to add a sense of depth to the image.  When seen full size on a large screen, they are a bit soft. They can be selectively sharpened using any of several techniques.  I tested it with NIX Softener Pro.

N2, T2, P3, E0, Total 7


Response to Dan's comment by Larry:

This, I find no fault with your evaluation of my image of Cumberland Falls. I regularly submit nature landscapes, as you probably know, because I like the challenge and always learn something from the reviews. I am well aware of the Moonbow that you mention as I have made the trip several times just to photograph this event. While people at my photoshows like the images of the moonbow,  judges generally really hate them. Largely, I think, because they do not know what they are looking at and there is generally no explanation allowed, just a title. Most people have simply never heard of this monthly natural event.

I had another photo in mind to enter for September, but based on your comments I am going to submit one of my Moonbow photos. I really do not care what scores I get but I would greatly appreciate if you (Dan C) would review the image next month. If you would prefer to just send me the review privately that would be fine or you can just post it with the others. Thank you for the long review, I really appreciate it.


Review by Bogdan B

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I could not imagine, that this waterfall is so giant. I didn't see any reference. The trees above it could be also bushes. Everything about erosion is not seen, but have got known from explanation.

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

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
You prepared capturing with filters very carefully. I see the left side sharp enough, but the right one is not so.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Bright green bushes on the left is disraction. You can cut it out. That's also a wide unsharp band on the right.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 6


Review by Robert D

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Beautiful portrait of a flowing waterfall. One can feel the mobile power emanating from the water flow.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Great exposure paying attention to the highlights and shadows. I love the mist and the detail in the falls. I wonder what a slower speed would have done. The unusual crop fits the subject.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Would look great matted and framed on the wall

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 9


Review by Linda C

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Did not find dramatic as portrayed. Water falls common. Would have liked to see something in water to add interest.

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

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Subtle colors. Like the texture of the water.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Common picture.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 6


Review by Adrian B

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Larry - I think you gave yourself a difficult goal, because without knowing anything about these falls, it simply doesn't to spectacular! Ive seen the falls in Yellowstone and this looks impressive when there is a good amount of snow-melt coming over. This might have been your issue (ie: time of the year and volume of water), but the dept of falls do not look large, possibly because of the significant width distorts the impression.

So, Im afraid I don't see the story. Sorry.

SCORE N (Nature) 1-Nature story minimal or contains unrelated hand of man

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I can't offer any criticism here.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
For the reasons said above, the image does not strike me at all.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 5


Review by Dennis A.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
A nature/landscape picture, but no story that I can tell.

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

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
There are 2 ways to capture waterfalls: a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion and a slow shutter speed to make it look silky. Big waterfalls like these I think are best presented using a fast shutter speed as done in this case. I think this photo has good tonal range, very little is blown out and there is detail in the shadows.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I know the size of the waterfall because I’ve been there. However, I do not get a sense of scale with this composition. There is nothing with a known size in the photo. Also, I think a lower sun angle would have helped.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 6


Review by Suman B.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
excellent nature shot. not many would want to submit such variety as you do in every month. appreciated your choice of subjects. a true naturist.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
excellent tones but over sharpness done which could be viewed in the left side rock tops reduces picture value to me.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
nature's fury at the maximum. so flowing energy - love it.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8

IF APPLICABLE, WHY DESERVING OF EXTRA POINT FOR EXCELLENCE
the choice of the subject pulled off this way. with the nature's ferocity and grandeur showing can't help it approving the elusive 1.

SCORE E (Exceptional) 1

GRAND TOTAL WITH EXTRA POINT 9


Review by Bruce F

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
The framing choices, as adding the rocks on the left edge help set the nature story value, as to the rock type and the previous occurring erosion. The composition with added depth with the water flowing diagonally from top left to lower right, not only helps the composition but does effectively add value to the nature story itself—a fast-moving river eroding its rocky river channel. The brown water also implies erosion, here or upstream, another nature storytelling element.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
To my eye, when first viewing the image, it appears slightly over-sharpened, especially noticeable in the green foliage on top of the image. In your excellent description, you mentioned raising the contrast, I believe this is overdone and contributes to the spectral look and feel of the image. My thought is to use a mask for adding contrast to the water, but blocking the effect on the green foliage and the foreground rocks.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The composition as mentioned above is strong, creating a solid three-dimensional look and feel. The framing choice with the 16 x 9 format strengthens the pictorial aspects. The harsh midday light choice adds to the spectral aspects of the lighting. Therefore, I would have chosen a different time of day where the lightening is less strong. This would enhance the pictorial aspects of the image, and I believe strengthen the nature story values too.

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.