Study Group 2


Bruce Finocchio (B)

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NOVEMBER 2020 ROUND

Title:     A Flying Short-eared Owl With Wings Down
  
Goal:    What image to enter for this month? There are so many possibilities; I can’t decide. Therefore, I am going to enter an image I took last night. It’s a first for me, a Short-eared Owl.
I don't think this image would have been possible without my new Canon R5 camera body and its awesome animal eye-tracking autofocusing. I just saw the bird, swung the lens, and pressed the autofocusing button set-up on the back of the camera body, and the autofocusing animal tracking nailed the focus. It happened so fast; the sequence was over in a couple of seconds.
I have my back buttons, the “*” and the “AF” buttons set-up for the two different focusing methods—regular focusing and animal eye tracking. It is so easy to go back and forth between the two. I found using the regular focus gets you close and then, the animal eye tracking can take over and lock on the subject.
This camera body and it’s autofocusing is just amazing. My old 600 mm f4.0 IS lens (the 1999 version) is focusing much faster and locking on to birds in flight better than with my older Canon 7D Mark II body. I am using a Canon adaptor to mount this older lens. Thus, with the adapter, I can use all of my EOS Mount lenses.
Thus, if you are on the fence about this camera body, I feel it’s a great improvement and competes very well against the Sony mirrorless camera bodies. Canon has finally done something right, and this camera body is currently at the top of mirrorless camera bodies available.
Besides, I decided to go out to the Hayward Regional Shoreline in the evening instead of the mornings. It paid off for this sighting of the Short-eared owl. This sighting where the subject was only close to me very briefly. Another photographer, Alex and I, watched it soar up an up and take off towards the West side of San Francisco Bay. This was very surprising, for I assumed that the Short-eared owls were more local residing like the Barn Owls we have been photographing at this location.  

Equipment / Source:     Canon R5 camera Body, Canon EOS to R adaptor, 600 mm f4.0 IS Lens (1999), plus the 1.4x III teleconverter, with an 840 mm focal length, 1/3200 of a sec at f8, ISO 2500, Aperture Priority, Evaluative Metering.  

Technique:    On a Gitzo 1325 tripod with a Wimberley Tripod Head II

Processing:   The 45 MB raw files allowed me to crop down to slightly under my 7D Mark II of 21 MB. This allows one to photograph birds in flight that are much farther away. Thus, I cropped down from 8192 x 5464 to 4992 x 3328.
I used Photoshop to select the Short-eared Owl, with select subject and then refined the selection with select and mask function, using the second brush down to lighten the owl by using level adjustment. I also selected the background by inverting my mask and reducing the contrast with a target adjustment. I also applied selective noise reduction and pre-raw sharpening with Nik tools.
I also increased the eye saturation and lighten the owl’s face with a Viveza, and I also used a very small brush to darken the black beak and lighten some parts of the Owl’s face, the lighter areas to increase the contrast in the feathers. 

Score this image: YES

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

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Review by commentator Dan C.

You captured a nice flight shot of the owl.  With the plain sky the story is not really that strong but the lighting created by the setting sun elevates the story to a 3 by adding the extra information about the time of day the shot was taken.  Seeing your triad, the image also shows the speed of the flapping wings since even 1/3200th of a second could not overcome the motion blur.

Technically your subject is nicely sharp where it needs to be sharp, mainly the owl’s eye.  The exposure is good and you did a good job from preventing the setting sun from washing out the leading edges of the owl.  Technically it is easy to assign a 3.

Pictorially your presentation is effective.  I especially like confronting the owl as I read the picture.  For me it lets me interact with the subject.   Another 3.

N3, T3, P3, E0, Total 9


This Review is written by: Alex C.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
While there is only the single subject in the photo, I believe that owls are filled with a story line all by themselves. I've only been lucky enough to capture an owl once, and I was of course not prepared for it, so it's really not a great shot. This on the other hand is fantastic!

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The R5 is on my wishlist, but it's definitely way out of my price range. I can see how/why the eye tracking is so awesome! The focus is great, there's just a sligh t blur t o the wings, which really shows the movement well. Really a great shot!

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Awesome! I don't know that I need to say more.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 1-Exceptional

TOTAL SCORE 10


This Review is written by: Bogdan B

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Portrait of bird in flight.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Sharp, a little bit nosy. Some chromatic aberration on the bright edges of the wings and face.

Also this author doesn't know, what is dimension 1024x768 for uploading to study group.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
A lot of negative space.

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

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 1-Inadequate composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 6


This Review is written by: LC B.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I think this is a good capture of an owl in flight: but it is only a bird in flight, and while it is evident the sun is low based upon the angle of light, the overall story comes up short.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
While the bird’s face is in sharp focus, I think the focus is lost past the shoulders. While I think the nice in-motion blur of the wings adds to a nature image, the lack of sharpness on the hind-section distracts my eye too much.

PICTO RIAL REV IEW OF IMAGE
I like the composition of the image and my only suggestions would be to crop to have the bird a bit more to the right. You mentioned you did work on the background, which I find very flat and have no clear ideas for how to improve it.

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

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 6


This Review is written by: Adrian B

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
A lovely capture! Modern technology is amazing and the head of your bird is very sharp. I have an Olympus EM1X and a Firmware due soon will (apparently) auto find a flying bird in the frame and if one is clear, its eye! Sounds similar to what you have.
As to a Nature Story - this is marginal. To me part of the story is the lovely light on its face and wing edges - I therefore wonder whether the title should be (to help define a story) "Short eared owl flying towards the sunset".

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Your owl's head is very sharp and clear. The blurred wings are fine. Its all about (to me) the sun on the face etc as above. This means the rest of the body has to be relatively dark and this affects the pictorial enjoyment of it rather than technical.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
While I enjoyed your owl, there was not much detail clear in the feathers due to their darkness.

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

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 0-No extra point

TOTAL SCORE 7


This Review is written by: Suman B.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Nicely executed but more of a portrait shot as per me. The observation which you made is however very important from the point of view of conservation. The movement of the short ear owl from one habitat place to another is intriguing but not unlikely. As some day before I have read in the Odobon society website that owls are more attracted towards humans since residue left by them attracts the rodents owls crave. Also as stated in the ODOBON website - aside from its North American range, it also nests in South America and Eurasia, and on many oceanic islands, including Hawaii. So the migration cause may not be unlikely.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
technically excellent. nicely exposed with the subtle dusk lights showing on the edge of the wings and with crispy owl's eyes glittering. Love it the more I zoom in. Only slightly bit of ISO clutter shown under the wings which could be easily avoidable with any ISO management programme.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
pictorially the bird is placed off centre causing visual tension and movement towards the open space which is praiseworthy. But the dusk light capture must be appreciated and the coveted 1 is thus awarded.

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

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 1-Exceptional

TOTAL SCORE 8



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OCTOBER 2020 ROUND
Title:   A Wet Grizzly Cub Stands On Its Hind Legs To See Above The Sage Brush And Access Danger

Goal:   My goal was to capture images of grizzly bears exhibiting some kind of behavior. It had been a long time since I was in Yellowstone National Park. My two previous visits were in the winter, November 1999, and February 2001—a long time ago. Therefore, I was excited to take a workshop or photo safari from wildlife photographer Brent Paull. This would be my first fall visit to Yellowstone; we would also spend three days in Jackson Hole National Park. A National Park I had never visited before. Even though it was early October, Yellowstone was very dry. No measured rainfall had fallen for quite a while, mirroring the rest of the Western United States. The park air was hazy and thick with smoke, coming from the fires burning in California.
We only had this one grizzly bear encounter while in Yellowstone. We were driving back from the Beartooth pass, passing Silver Gate and Cook City at the Northeastern entrance to the park. We were coasting down the Soda Butte Valley heading to Lamar Valley when we saw a group of cars parked on the side of the road. Our practice was to see what the congregation of cars was seeing, so we slowed down. A group of young ladies in a passenger car responded to our question of what are you seeing. One girl, in particular, standing through their sedan’s sunroof, said she saw wolves in the distance across the sagebrush toward the Soda Butte creek. Brent stopped our car and went to take a look for himself with his binoculars. As he got his first look, the girl in the standing up in her car, exclaimed “bear”, and Brent agreed with her new species call.
The girls had foreign accents and long dark hair with dark eyes. Later, I began calling them the “Italian Girls”, because their accents sounded Italian, although they could have been from Portugal or Argentina, or any other Latin country in Europe or Central or South America.
Brent planned our course of action, as the bears, a sow with two cubs were quartering closer, heading to where we were, so we reversed course and drove back to the last pull out behind us. This was so we could get the bears walking towards us. The bears had just crossed the Soda Butte Creek coming from the other side of the valley, and their fur coats were entirely wet.
I wish I had taken the time to change my camera body, from my old Canon 7D Mark II to the new Canon R5 body, that I had just received one day before I left on this trip. Everything happened so fast, so very fast. Brent got out of the car but told us to stay in and shoot through the windows, as the grizzly family was fast approaching our car. It was hard shooting out of the window from the passenger side, moving around to get the best view was difficult because of the cramped conditions. As more vehicles stopped, the approaching grizzly bear family began to sense the people and cars along the road. At one point all of the grizzly bears stopped and stood on their hind legs. I tried to concentrate on one, this cub with the more blond grizzly fur coloring around its face and head. Thus, I missed all three standing up at once briefly, as Brent mention later—a shot he captured.
It was mid-day when this encounter happened; it shows that even at 2:45 pm, you can see animals moving around. The more time you spend out looking for wildlife the more you increase your odds of seeing something. Here many would have been persuaded to head back to the hotel because of the warm mid-day temperatures and smoky skies that nothing would be out and moving around.
Even though this encounter was less than fifteen minutes, it will be a moment I will never forget. It will be forever engraved on the viewscreen of my mind. To see this grizzly bear family up close and personal, to share a moment in their lives is something so special, so incredible, it’s hard to describe and to put into words. All the hours of patiently searching for wildlife and driving the roads of Yellowstone paid off in ways more numerous to quantify. I was blessed with this sighting and encounter, and this image will always bring back those moments I shared with this grizzly bear cub, its sibling, and its mother. It was a spiritual experience.
As an aside, I believe Canon has come up with a great mirrorless camera body, in the R5, the autofocus and eye-tracking feature, in particular, is awesome. Even with my old canon lenses like the 100 -400 mm IS lens II and my even older original 600 mm f4.0 IS lens, first produced in 1999, have focus that is so much faster and accurate, than my Canon 7D Mark II. The files are so sharp and clear, with much detail, even in the new compressed raw file format. With the extra megapixels, it is going to make enlarging subjects by cropping so much easier and more successful. 

Equipment / Source:    Canon 7D Mark II Body, EF100 – 400 mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens with a 1.4x teleconverter, at 189 mm, 1/2000 of second, f8, ISO 1600, Aperture priority, Evaluative Metering. 

Technique:   Hand holding lens and camera body while resting arms on the car’s window ledge. 

Processing:  Nik Dfine 2 noise reduction on the out of focused sagebrush, plus a mid-tone contrast adjustment, and cropped down from a horizontal to make a vertical frame. Selective darkening of lighter sagebrush areas. Lightening of the bear cub’s fur and some highlight reduction in camera raw. Some Nik Pre-sharpening on the bear cub. A little work on its eyes, with a paintbrush set to the Overlay blending mode, with very low settings of 8 opacity and 14 flow, using white to lighten, and black to darken. 

Score this image: YES

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

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Review by commentator Rick C.

Good basic capture of the subject. The wet fur is a plus as is the standing posture. They do not raise it to the behavioral level needed for a high rating, but this is a solid 2. Some added habitat would actually be a good thing if you can pull back on the brightness of it.

Technically focus and sharpness are good. You biased the exposure or development to show good detail in the fur of the cub, but this leave the environment very bright. It would likely be overly difficult to make an exact selection of the environment to darken it, but it may be worth trying to tone map the image to see if that differential can be lessened. Technical quality is rated as 3. The issue with the relative tonal difference between the subject and the surroundings is more of a pictorial problem than purely technical and so it will be assessed in that score.

The composition is centered and relatively static. You noted that you had cropped from a horizontal, so my recommendation would be to add back more of the habitat and allow the cub to be off center to one side or another. That imbalance should actually improve visual tension. See my comments above relative to trying tone mapping. I’m adding a very quick pass at doing that and I feel it does improve the feel and look of the image. Pictorial quality is rated as a 2.

N-2, T-3, P-2 = 7


Review by Rick D.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Hello Bruce. I also have been to Yellowstone (aka America’s Serengeti) 3 times, the latest being in February, 2012 to photograph the wolves. What a marvelous park! I have several shots of grizzlies, but none standing! So kudos to you, my friend! Well done!

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Your settings worked well, although I feel the 1/2000 is a little too fast for mammals. By slowing just a bit, a lower ISO (almost always my goal) would have sufficed. With that being said, the image is well done regardless. Shooting th rough a window in a crowded vehicle had to be a challenge, one that you overcame. If there is a next time, I might seek out a different guide who had a better shooting plan. I understand caution is needed when grizzlies are involved, but it is possible as long as all are aware.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
With the tall grass and the wet bear there is very good texture in this photo. You left a bit of room to move (or breathe as some prefer) on the right margin. Well done. That seems to be a simple effect that many photographers haven’t grasped. However, I feel a slightly tighter crop would have eliminated some unneeded grass from the image. That would also bring the bear closer to the viewer’s eye, resulting in greater impact.
Of course, we all know that we can only capture what nature reveals. If you could have shed the car you may have been able to better position yourself. By moving to your right, perhaps you could have put more sunlight on the face and captured a distinct, more natural catch light.


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

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 0-No extra point

TOTAL SCORE 6


Review by Robert D

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
This bear cub was caught surveying the land. Your narrative was interesting but I must point out that in Photography, the picture alone must tell the story. Here we have a dark subject with a bright surround and background, You have tried to improve this but it is not enough. Try HDR and Camera raw. Select the bear - lighten it then select the background and darken it.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
A little increase in saturation and vibrance will also help

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Not a wall hanger

NATURE SCOR E 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 1-Inadequate composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 5


Review by Kathleen C.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Your experience observing this wet little cub and family sounds fascinating. Watching the wet cub on its hind legs in the middle of the sage along with the family is a nature story I would love to witness. Thanks for sharing the details of your experience.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Taking this from a car window in crowded space was a challenge. Seeing sharper details especially of the cubs face might have added to this image.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The colors of the bear and sage alon g with t he wet fur produce a soft and pleasing image .

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 8


Review by Prasad D

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
A Wet Grizzly Cub Standing On its Hind Legs To See Above The Sage Brush And Access Danger is certainly a lovely image in middle of the Sage Brush.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Lovely exposure

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Centered composition suits for me in this scenario as the patterns of the warm Sage Brush gets interesting and in the middle the Bear attracts attention.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 0-No extra point

TOTAL SCORE 8


Review by John E.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Nature story is about this bear cub searching for any sign of danger.  Seeing the eyes and expression the cub has ads to this story.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The bear is in bright sunlight which may have made this a difficult shot.  Although I can appreciate seeing the bear's fur, much of the bear's face is in shadow which detracts a bit.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Pictorially, the fact that the bear cub is look ing away from the viewer is consistent with the nature story but for me lessens the impact of the image compared to if it was looking at the camera.   

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

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 6


Review by Dave F.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Love grizzly bears and this is a nice shot – especially with the wet fur – gives the bear some character

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Sharp image but I would have brought out some of the shadow a bit. I think I would have shot the image at 5.6 as some of the background is in focus and not soft.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The bear is centered in the image and I would have given him some room on the right in the cropping.

NATURE SCORE 2-Nature story of averag e streng th (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 6















I am a wildlife, nature, and scenic photographer. I now live in San Mateo, after spending most of my adult life in Millbrae. I previously worked full-time for Applied Biosystems and Life Technologies as a senior business analyst. I left this position a few years ago to concentrate on my true passion of nature photography. My Dad was a deer hunter and bought some property in Monterey County, so he could have a place of his own to go deer hunting. We have owned this property since 1946. I grew up spending my summers down there, following in my father's footsteps, hunting quail, dove, and black tailed deer--using a b-b gun, graduating up to a powerful hunting rifle. When I was eighteen I had to kill a black-tailed buck up close shooting him in the neck, since my first shot from afar had only wounded him. I saw death up close and personal, deciding from that moment on I didn't not want to be part of death, but to cherish life instead.

My friends and I do a lot of bird photography at my ranch in rural Monterey County, using photo blinds extensively; and recently we have built a few permanent ponds to attract wildlife.

I was a Minolta user, but switched to Canon in 2001. I used to shoot extensively with slide film; now I strictly use digital camera bodies, specifically the Canon 7D and 40D bodies, previously the Canon D1 Mark II and as backup the Canon 20D. I primarily use RAW capture, and process the images in Photoshop. I recently upgraded to CS5, and also have many external hard drives to store my raw files.


Check out Bruce's nature blog at www.brucefinocchio.wordpress.com and his website at www.dreamcatcherimages.net