Study Group 2


Larry Treadwell (C)

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NOVEMBER 2019 ROUND
Title:   Mating Owls
 
   
Goal:    The nature story I set out to capture was the interaction of a pair of Burrowing Owls as they prepared to produce and raise their family. I was lucky enough to capture the mating process on 2 occasions.


Equipment/Source:  The gear I used was a Nikon D7200 fitted with a Nikon f4 200-400mm lens with a tc1.4 attached. I attached my ballhead to a Frisbee using the mounting screw and added my Wimberly Sidekick (creating a gimbal head) and then attached the camera and lens. I placed a beanbag under the Frisbee so that the Frisbee would slide easily. This allowed me to easily move the view angle both left and right as well as get an elevated angle to capture incoming flight shots. The image is from a Nikon RAW file

Technique:  I located a colony of Burrowing Owls (5 nests) on a berm in the Florida Everglades. I first found this site when the owls were digging their burrows and noted that one of the burrows was a bit more isolated from the others. I also noted the angle of the opening actually more or less faced the east. I knew from research that these owls are most active early in the morning so I determined that this would be the best burrow to try photographing. I brought a camouflage tarp to the site and staked it out one night just after sunset. For the next several months I journeyed to this site several times each week before daybreak, crawled under the tarp and set up my camera. I had a near ring-side seat to watch as this pair of owls dug their burrow, mated, raised and feed their young and taught them to fly. As they became accustomed to the tarp they were as ease with my presence and largely ignored me. They often landed on the tarp even while I was under it as long as I stayed still. Thus I was able to capture thousands of images of this family.

I spent my shooting time laying on the ground to keep me at nearly eye level to these 9 inch owls. I would only arrive before light and stayed until they were either in their burrow or not on the site. I was there in sun and rain. For this shot my settings were ISO 400, f8 and 1/1000. This shot shows the male mounting the female and pinning her in place with his beak. While this almost looks like an after the act kiss, I assure you the process was quite aggressive.

Processing:  In post I did a slight crop to off set the subjects as this is nearly a full frame shot . I’m using this shot because even thought their eyes are closed (they were closed throughout the entire process in every shot) they are still visible. I also like the diagonal line created by the wing on the left, and the bodies of the owls. I adjusted both the white and black points. And brought down the highlights. I made some adjustment using curves and sharpened the subjects.  

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

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OCTOBER 2019 ROUND

Title:    Blowing Rocks
   
Goal:   Located on Florida’s Atlantic coast is the Blowing Rocks Preserve State Park. This preserve features an Anastasia Limestone shelf just below the normal sandy beach. When Hurricane Dorian blew through it eroded the sandy beach and left more of the rock exposed than usual. Thus one morning last month I arrived at the nearest parking area that was available before dawn and walked the mile and a half to the rocks so I would be there for first light.

The pounding ocean waves bore holes into the soft limestone and this action creates large holes in the stone that allows the incoming waves to literally blast through and rise above the exposed stone. I wanted to capture this wave action against the rocks.

Equipment/Source:    Image is made from a Nikon RAW file using a Nikon D810, 24-70mm lens, remote shutter release, tripod, gold reflector
 
Technique:   I used my tripod with a remote shutter release and a Nikon D810 camera with a 24-70mm lens with attached hood. I was working quite close to the rocks and shot at 24mm focal length. I experimented with several elevations of the tripod and settled on this height so as to make the blowhole on the left side behind the foreground spray visible. I tried several shutter speeds to see which created the most dramatic effect and settled on 1/5 of a second. The ISO was 64 and the aperture was 22 to keep everything in focus and allow for the slow shutter speed and the sun was rising during the shoot. I wanted to shoot while the sun was close to the horizon so that the angle of the light would be low and thus would create shadows and texture on the sand in the foreground. I felt the patterns left in the sand as the water washed out added interest. I was working quite close to the spray and had to reposition the tripod on the sand several times as the waves caused the sand to washout from under the tripod. Because the rocks were semi back lit I used a reflector that I held by hand at water level to bounce some light back on to the rocks. I had to wipe the spray off the lens quite frequently. The camera was protected with a Lenscoat raincoat and placed a protective filter on the lens. As these rocks are only visible after severe storms this was a rare opportunity to make this capture. I shot in burst mode capturing multiple of shots of each wave crash. I only shot for about 10 minutes before losing the light I wanted.  

Processing:    
In processing I had to straighten the image due to movement of the sand and there was some minor cropping on the right side. I had to bring down the highlights and open some shadows as the angle of the sunlight was quite low and was semi back lighting the rocks. I was getting a strong yellow/orange cast due to angle of the sun. This time of year Florida gets a lot of yellow gold sunrises and since I was getting this color cast I did enhance it in post processing.

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

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Review by commentator Rick C.
There is a definite nature story in this capture. While it lacks the behavioral element we typically look for in animate subjects, I feel it does speak to multiple aspects of how water interacts with the land and, over time, shapes it. I am scoring this a 3 for story.

I think your technique, as described, worked well in this instance. Primary focus looks good to me as does the DOF. The rocks are reasonably sharp, but I feel could be / appear sharper still. Some of that may be due to a little flare given the angle to the sun, but I think a bit more contrast in the rocks would help as well. Without seeing a shot without the use of a reflector, it is hard to say how much helps it was just by viewing the image. The concept behind it is definitely valid. I’m less certain that a gold reflector was optimal, but understand the thought of preserving the warmth of the sunrise lighting. Your choice in shutter speed provides a nice blend of definition and blur in the moving water. I am scoring the technical aspect as a 3.

While the image grabs my attention the relative lack of contrast lets me lose focus / interest more quickly than I might do otherwise. I feel the composition is effective. I understand the idea behind preserving and enhancing the warmth of the light, but wonder if that is optimal for keeping the viewer involved in the image. I feel it would potentially work for a print on a wall, but would likely be unappreciated by most judges in an exhibition. Still, that is an artistic decision and one which you control completely as the maker. In the end, the lack of contrast keeps coming back as a sticking point as I view the image. As a result, I am scoring this as a 2 for pictorial.

I’m sending along an adjusted image where I retained your warm palette, but did some tone mapping and added a bit of contrast. See if this retains the feel you were looking for or just goes off in a different direction.

N-3, T-3, P-2 = 8


Review by Rich F

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
This is a nice image showing the motion of the waves on the rocks. The moment in time shows how the waves crash upon the rocks. Though this is not the wildlife story, the nature aspect is still interesting and compelling.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The image is very well done The choice of 1/5 second shutter speed is gives the water motion a ray like appearance. I would like to see longer shutter speeds, though this may have been the best speed. The rocks look a bit muddy to me, perhaps an increase in contrast would have helped them.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The arrange of the rocks and water is works fairly well though the image is slightly heavy on the left side. A small shift to the left (show entire rock on the left), less wave action on the right may help.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 7


Review by Natalie M

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
It is hard to convey a nature story with landscapes, and without your description I wouldn't know that there was anything more that waves crashing in to rocks. But, that slow shutter speed and spray has portrayed the drama, so I have awarded a 3

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Your camera settings appear to have produced your goal. I see a problem with colour, I'm not sure why, but it almost looks a metallic monochrome.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Composition is good, perhaps more variation in colour would have provided more impact.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 7


Review by Bruce F

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
The ring-like water streaks upward are very unusual. The rocks formations that create this effect are the nature story. I would elaborate this phenomenon more in the title, especially if going to submit to future nature competitions. The title should reflect the visual nature story.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I wonder what look and feel of a slight faster shutter speed like 1/8 of sec rather than 1/5 of sec would have render the water. Possibly the streaks would have a slightly more definition and aesthetic look and feel would be better. This is my preferred shutter speed to create the milky look of flowing water. To my eye, the water coming around the right side has a slight muddy appearance.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The yellow/gold coloring is very pleasing and adds to the pictorial value. Regarding the composition and the arrangement of the rock within the frame, personally, I don’t like that the rocks bleed out of the left edge of the frame. I would have shifted, slightly, if possible, and include a bit of water around the left edge of the rocks. Thus, the rocks themselves, the subject, would be surrounded and framed by the water. By having the black rocks touching the frame leads the mind to flow out of the image frame. The patterns in the sand also provide a nice foreground leading line to the rocks, adding to the composition and the three-dimensional aspects of the image.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8


Review by Robert D

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Extensive planning and thought went into this wave shot.

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

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
A mixture of multiple views and contrast each of which could result in a stand alone image. The image is a bit busy without one focal point

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Good enough to mount on a wall

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 6


Review by Dennis H

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
You've certainly put a lot of time and effort into obtaining this image of wave interaction with these rocks.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Your technical ability and equipment have certainly achieved your desired outcome.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The image has good impact with nice composition.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 9


Review by Louis P

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
excellent and rather rare nature shot

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
excellent all around, particularly in difficult conditions

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
wonderful composition and good impact;

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 8


Review by Suman B.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
sea waves bursting through rock holes is ample nature story citing nature's ferociousness observed through mortal human eyes. Lucky to have seen such a spectator of the amphitheater called Mother Nature.

SCORE N (Nature) 3-nature story strong

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
except for the low light haze seen in the dark zones everything is perfect, the angle, choice of camera & lens, exposure, tripod, balance, height et. al. perfect example to shoot the scene and an example that nature is not contained in the animal kingdom only.

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

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
the ferociousness of the nature is seen and impact is so great pictorially that providing a 3 is must. colour, balance, action everything is present in the shot.

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

TOTAL BASIC SCORE 9

IF APPLICABLE, WHY DESERVING OF EXTRA POINT FOR EXCELLENCE
the excellence value is due to the fact that Larry thought that this could be a nature story and went out of his way to prove it and utilised his technical acumen to present it in front of the entire group.

SCORE E (Exceptional) 1

GRAND TOTAL WITH EXTRA POINT 10

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.