Study Group 2

Bruce Finocchio

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Title:  Wing and Tail Stretch From A Male Allen's Hummingbird

Goal:  To capture a hummingbird showing behavior while on a perch. This image was taken at the UCSC Arboretum. A place I have let workshops to in the past. However, this was the first visit in over two years. I hurt my back again on the day I was leaving Tanzania and East Africa in January 2015. This is the second time; the first time when I actually herniated a disk was in 2011. I am finally improving enough to make the drive to San Cruz and visit the Arboretum. I have study behavior and the places there that Male Allen’s Hummingbirds like to hang out and protect their territory and their nectar-filled flowers. The key is finding one that will come back to the same perch almost regularly. Usually, hummingbirds will move and go to a secondary perch if photographers get too close and within their tolerance space. Hummingbirds are very small birds and to get a decent image even with a big telephoto lens you need to get close. It’s not like birding where you use binoculars and scopes to magnified and bring in close view your subject. Yet, it’s important that you observe the bird or animal and make sure that you are not stressing or changing its natural behavior. This is the responsibility of a nature photographer. No photograph is worth harming, altering, or changing the behavior of a wild animal. Living is stressful enough and any additive pressure and stress are harmful even if the behavior change is slight and nuanced.

Equipment / Source:   Canon 7DII body, 600 mm f4.0 lens, 1.4x teleconverter III, 1/500 sec, f7.1, ISO 1000, Aperture Priority, Evaluative Metering, Raw Capture
Technique:  : Lens on a tripod, Wimberley II Head. As I stated above, the key is to observe and find a hummingbird that will allow close approach. I don’t mean right on top of it, but 10 to 12 feet away at least. Remember, I am using a large telephoto lens, so I can be far enough away to avoid a bird’s flight or fight distance. 

Processing:  I cropped the image a bit to increase the size of the hummingbird within the frame. Viveza to increase and decrease contrast, Targeted Nik pre-sharpening and noise reduction as well as a little bit of increased color saturation. Also, I used channels to create a mid-tone mask and then apply a special curve adjustment to increase contrast in only the mid-tone. A simple technique I learn from a photography LinkedIn group. 

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Title: Male Nuttall's Woodpecker With A Chip Of Bark In Beak
Goal:  I have setup some bird feeders in my backyard which abuts up against San Lorenzo Creek. It’s a nice wildlife corridor, which includes Wild Turkeys and Black-tailed Deer. I have also heard raccoons during the night. I am also up to forty two species of birds on my bird list. I have Fox Squirrels as well. Which necessitates squirrel proof feeders and tactics to combat them. As a result, I have a good cylinder type bird feeder with a cage around the feeding port and top of the feeder. It allows the lighter birds to feed--with the heavier weight of the squirrels closing the feeding port. Its work very well, and so far this feeder has frustrated them completely.
To attract woodpeckers, in the fore mentioned feeder, I am using Peanut Suet Nuggets; they like these very much. The feeder is low down on my dead tree. They start high and work their way down. Also, because of the dead tree; they have started chipping the bark in the search for insects. I have an image with an insect in the beak but this isn’t as clear and sharp as this image.
I think that I have mentioned before that I love diffused light. Looking closely at this image, noticed the wet bark, yes, this image was taken in the rain. No harsh light issues here. Diffused light saturates colors, and its softness just bathes the image with an illumination that is very pleasing to the eye. Yet, I do know when to quit or stop, and some point the light will become flat as the daylight wanes, or the storm clouds thicken and the sky becomes a dark gray. During sunning days, I use fill flash a lot to combat the harsh lightening conditions, using more flash power, the harsher the light conditions. I also use a Quantum Battery pack to recycle the flash time. I view this as essential in the fast pace shooting of bird photography.
I am using my house as a blind and shooting out of my open backdoor. But as with all bird photography, this requires a great deal of patience and lots of waiting for the right moment. You must like to watch birds, and learning their behavior, this gives knowledge to anticipate their flight path and favorite landing spots.
I have several blog post on my website dealing with many aspects of bird blind photography on my website. If you are interested in more information, check out my blog posts on this subject at
Stay tuned, I am going to use this information to make a blog post showcasing my backyard woodpecker images, including a few images of my simple setup.

Equipment / Source:   Canon D7II Body, 600 mm IS f4.0 lens, with a 1.4x Canon III tele-converter, at 840 mm, shutter speed of 1/320 at f5.6, ISO 2000, Evaluative Metering, no Flash. 

Technique:  600 mm lens mounted on a tripod, shooting within my house out the backdoor, using the house as a blind, Fill flash for sunny days, but not for this image. 

Processing:  Viveza On Background, reducing overall dark and light spots, as well as contrast. Photoshop levels adjustment on an adjustment layer, Dfine II noise reduction on background only, Raw Sharpening, and increased contrast on subject and tree bark. 

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

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

Review by Andy H.
Another superb bird image. Technically sound image and the quality is excellent. Cant say much more.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9
Review by Dennis H.
Great nature image of woodpecker attacking tree. Nice detail and colour on bird. Eye sharp and clear with catchlight. Good background enhances image.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9
Review by commentator Dan C.

This is an excellent image.  The Nuttall’s is quite similar to our local Downy except the red patch tends to be larger and is above the white head stipe instead of part of the white strip.

Your detail is excellent.  Your handling of the background has helped the bird stand out nicely.  The chips in its beak provide the essential story value.  Without it the image would be a good “Here I am” shot.  Your patience at your back door has paid off very well.

Even though most people will not consider your feeder setup nature, do not hesitate to try capturing images of the squirrels trying to defeat the setup.  They will eventually succeed and it is fun watching them try.  I have not yet found a guillotine feeder that was not eventually defeated.

N3, T3, P3, E10, Total 10

Review by Maria K-L 3-28
perfect photo.Thank you for sharing your technique, detail of postprocesing and garden setup.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Bogdan B., 3-28
Very sharp and good exposed image.Nice background and good DOF.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Les L., 4-4
Very good nature story especially since bird has chips in his beak. I like the sharp focus and excellent exposure. The gray background makes the bird stand out. Nice cropping although I would prefer that the bird had a little more room.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

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 and his website at