Upload Image and Description
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)Critique Image (only members of Study Group Two may critique this image)
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.
This Review is written by: Bogdan B
This Review is written by: LC B.
This Review is written by: Adrian B
This Review is written by: Suman B.
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)Critique Image (only members of Study Group Two may critique this image)
Review by commentator Rick C.
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.
Review by Robert D
Review by Kathleen C.
Review by Prasad D
Review by John E.
Review by Dave F.
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.