Study Group 2

Andy S. Hayes, ARPS, EFIAP

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  White Tailed Eagle, Mull

Goal:  I had been trying to capture images of the White Tailed Eagle on the East Coat of Scotland near me. They were reintroduced here several years ago. My attempts had resulted in a lot of time and effort for no result so I went to Mull were they have been established for years and more common to see.
Equipment / Source:   Canon 1DX MkII, EF 200-400 f/4 1.4x ext, Hand held, 400mm, f/5, I/4000sec, ISO 800

Technique:  This was one of several shots taken from a small boat that took us around the coast of Mull to show us nesting sites. The skipper and the WTE's know each other and a fish is thrown into the sea for the WTE to dive on. We had 5 individual eagles come in to take the fish, over 3 hours, and got some interesting shots.

The big problem is the wing positions. These birds are massive and have a set of wings referred to as 'Barn Doors.' Wings that size cast shadows over the bird itself and these areas are difficult to recover. Timing is everything when taking shots of these birds and I have some shots with the wings vertical above the bird. Some shots have blurred cottages in the background and as it stands cannot be used due to the 'Hand of Man.' This is another occasion where the HoM, in my view, is acceptable but the rules exclude it. Is it time to review the rules?

Cropped, lightened, sharpened.

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

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Title:   Otter Swim by

Goal:    This was a return visit to capture more images of otters on the west coast of Scotland. I was hoping to see some cubs but was unsuccessful.

Equipment / Source:   Canon 1DX MkII, 600mm f/4, Beanbag
f/5.6, 1/1000seC, ISO1250

Technique:  I watched an otter swim over from the other side of the bay to a point just ahead of my location. I laid down on the rocks and crawled towards the otter. I was surprised when the otter appeared from round the headland heading towards me. The otter was only 4 meters away to my left. it continued until it was alongside me, rolled its eyes and dived away. I managed to turn and take a few shots before it disappeared.

Processing:   Cropped, noise reduction and sharpening

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

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

Review by commentator Dan C.

I like your “down at water level” angle of view of your image.  Your paneling of the image has successfully focused the viewer on the sea otter.  The wake enhances the feeling of motion and helps your nature story above a “here I am” level.

The lighting is not working for you.  The lighting conditions may have provided you the glassy conditions but it also washed out both the water and the otter’s fur.  This gives the image an overall over exposed feel to it.  Admittedly some of that could be due to differences between the brightness of my monitor and your monitor.

I feel you can strengthen the image by adjusting the brightness and then doing a bit more burning in of the otter’s head.  Use a low opacity so you can build the density without destroying the texture of the wet fur.

PS – You appear to have put the same information in both the Technique: space and the Processing space.

N2, T2, P3, E0, Total 7

Review by Fran M.
Your image leaves me wondering, Andy. I wonder about the wider landscape beyond your close crop; and I wonder if your otter is sharp (I can't quite see in this resolution). Technically, I like your low camera position - almost level with the water. I would have liked to know more about your processing.
N-2, T-2, P-2, E-0, total-6

Review by Dennis H.
I feel this is not a particularly strong nature story, but the image is sharp with good colour and detail.
N-2, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-7

Review by Bruce F.
I really like the low angle and the view point that you are on the same plane as your subject. I think this really helps focus attention on the eye and nostrils. Also, you choice of frame size, with the panoramic format really accentuates the movement of the otter through the water. The reflection and the leading bubbles also contribute to the visual storytelling aspects of the image. A well-developed eye always is a make or break item, and here you have captured it well, opened, sharp, and with a solid catch light.
As a pictorial element the dark water streak above the otter is a distraction and competes visually with the dark tone otter.
While it is a good solid nature image. Does the image have staying power? Does it tug at the shoestrings to the heart? Solid but not spectacular. Not sure how you could make a more dramatic image, unless you had low warm striking light on the otter.  
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8

Review by Bogdan B.
I like otters and their pretty faces very much. I know it's not easy to catch them swimming.
For me this dlat crop leaves to much free space on the right. Anyway you had to crop a part of body.
So large white space all around take interest from the small face of the animal. Catching from a higher angle should leave the water more dark. Also the face of the animal seems too bright to me.
N-2, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-6


I was born in Prestwick, Scotland and 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, member of Brechin Photographic Society. (Est 1888), Dundee Photographic Society and a Scottish Photographic Federation Judge. Much of my photography was aviation photography but about 10 years ago I returned to Wildlife photography, mostly in Scotland, but with trips to Kenya and India.