Study Group 2

Andy S. Hayes, ARPS, EFIAP

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Lapwing feeding

Goal: I have found and area of heather and grass moorland where lapwings breed. I managed to get some shots of chicks last year but it's too early yet. I have been going up on a regular basis to get the birds use to me being there so that where the chicks are born I can capture some images of the mother and chick. This character is being very co-operative and appears in the same position when I go up and is only about 6 meters away. Ive been going late evening to get the the light and have been successful in getting some nice shots. This guy stays with me and eats about 20 worms before moving off to display to the ladies. The colours of the bird are quite beautiful.
Equipment / Source:   1DXMkII, 600 f/4 IS II USM, 1/2000 sec
600mm, ISO 800, F/6.3

Technique:  I drive to the spot and draw off the track and park up. The bird is usually there, almost waiting to pose. I use the car as a hide and watch the birds movements for a short while. It stays close, 6m, and for about 10mins. Plenty of time to get shots and wait for good light and position.. The grass is short and only a few rocks and heater clumps to avoid.

  A little bit of everything on this one to bring out the iridescence of the bird 

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

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

Review by Mike P.
This is a lovely shot of the lapwing. I think you did a nice job of capturing the beautiful colors. I especially like the spindles of feathers protruding from his head. The focus on the him was extremely sharp, balanced by the soft focus in front and behind him. In my opinion, there is too much empty space on the right. Cropping from the right and focusing closer to the bird would help bring more attention to him, I think. Otherwise, he seems like a little bird lost in a big field.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8

Review by Butch S.
Indeed, this is a beautiful bird. Nice sharpness and color. The eating a worm earns a good Nature score.

My preference would be to crop off a good portion of the right side of the image. To my eye there is a lot of dead space that does not add to the story or the image.

You mentioned that you got within 6 meters of the bird and took the shot from your car. I think this combination gives the image an appearance of shooting down a bit on the bird. If you could have gotten out of your car and shot from a position close to the ground, your image may have a more intimate feel . This is not to say anything bad about the image, but rather is offered for trying at another time.
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total-8

Review by Les L.
I like the image but am distracted because the foreground and background have been clearly blurred using horizontal Focus software or another package. I sometimes get trapped using this package and try to be careful to turn off the blur tool when I sharpen with it. I believe blurring is illegal for competition.
N-0, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-4

Review by Louise H.
The bird is beautiful. The composition is very nice you left plenty of room for the bird to move forward. The bird's colors are highlighted so that the viewer can see the varied colors of the feathers. 
N-2, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total-7

Review by commentator Rick C.

A solid capture showing nice feeding behavior. The base exposure looks good for the lighting but double check your whites on the histogram. There looks to be some clipping going on and I suspect that some of your processing may have pushed the whites too hard. Don’t hesitate to go back into Camera Raw or Lightroom’s Develop module to pull back on the Highlights to keep thing in place. (Opening the base layer as a smart object is one way to be able to do this even after you’ve done processing as long as you have put any solid pixel layers into the stack. The alternative is to check after each adjustment and mask if needed.) I think you were very successful in bringing out the iridescence in the feathers. The background is reasonably soft. There are one or two brighter areas that you could darken a bit if you wanted. I don’t see them as a significant issue. I appreciate the off-center placement, but feel you could crop some off the right side and tighten it up a bit without seeming cramped.

N-3, T-2, P-2 = 7 (N-3 Good behavior, T-2 The whites, particularly the neck and cheek area, look to be clipping slightly, P-2 A little too much open area to the right for the level of activity taking place)

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Title: Red and Yellow Barbet 

Goal:   To take images of several birds while waiting to enter Lake Bogoria. The area around the gates had numerous birds and I found this Red and yellow Barbet on top of a termite mound.

Equipment / Source:    1DX
200 - 400 F4 1.4X ext
1/1000 sec f8 ISO 1250 519mm

Technique:  Adjusted settings and walked around the gardens slowly and quietly looking for birds to photograph. Found a few different birds including this one. Hand held. 

Processing:     Cropped. Toned down background. Added a little clarity and sharpening.

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

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

Review by Les L.
Interesting nature story of a bird I do not find in my area. I think your exposure and color development are very good. strong focus with the background blurred to emphasize the bird.I would suggest a slight dodging of the termite mound to give it some more emphasis. I would prefer the subject slightly off center but find it difficult to suggest an option recognizing that I prefer to continue to show the termite mound.
N-2, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total-7

Review by Dennis H.
I like the capture of the bird with insect. Nice detail and colour on bird, eye clear with catchlight. Background a little distracting.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7

Review by Bruce F.
A strong nature story with the insect in the mouth of the barbet. A little too busy of a background for my taste. I might crop of a little from the top and bottom. I think this would make the subject larger within the frame and simplify the background elements. It’s difficult sometimes trying to find a good background for an image during a random walk around an entrance gate. A big plus for this image is the insect in beak and that you caught a decisive moment. 
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7

Review by commentator Rick C.

A nice capture on this subject. The technical for the Barbet itself look good to my eye. As you already know, the background / environment is the issue. You’ve taken it down some. I’m going to suggest trying for even a bit more along with a revised and slightly tighter crop. If you use the Blue channel as the starting point for a mask I think you can target a Levels adjustment layer that will darken the sky areas better. This is going to turn them a deep blue, so you will need to use the same mask on a Hue/Saturation layer to pull down the saturation in the blues to something you feel is more realistic. Err on the slightly desaturated side. You crop as shown is reasonable as a square. Since we know that the environment is what takes us away from the subject, I would refine the crop with a bias toward keeping the termite mound as part of the story even at the risk of getting a bit too tight in the upper left relative to the implied direction of motion for the subject.

 I’ve attached a modified version to give you a sense of what I’m talking about.

Review by commentator Dan C.

This is another very nice image but without a strong nature story.  Cropping and enlarging will increase the story value because the insect in the Barbet’s beak becomes obvious.  The surrounding area that is cropped does not really contribute to the story since there is enough detail remaining to show the barbet is in an acacia and is over a termite mound.

Technically the image has good color and sharpness. your overall story. 

N2, T3, P2, E0, Total 7

Review by Maria K-L, 3-28
There is good nature story. I like that you got catch light. I find surrounding a bit too busy and not the best placement of the bird. I do not see easy fix to it. If you have had choice of shooting angle I would suggest avoiding top branch to overlap with bird head.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7

Review by Bogdan B., 3-28
The bird is indeed very colorful. tighter crop would be better.Too big DOF is the reason for so distracting branch behind bird's head and also too bussy background.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7



I was born in Prestwick, Scotland. I travelled to many parts of the world with my father who was in the Royal Air Force. Now living in Historic village of Fettercairn in Kincardineshire, Scotland with my wife Hilary and 'Smokey' the cat. Semi retired construction industry owner and business consultant. Grampian representative of the Royal Photographic Society and Vice President of Brechin Photographic Society. (Est 1888) Aviation photographer, turned Wildlife photographer.