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FEBRUARY 2017 ROUND
Title: Little Bee Eater Toss Moth In Air Before Swallowing
Goal: We were in Tanrangire National Park, the fourth day of our three week safari. We had drove most of this particular morning and were at the edge of the large Lormakau Swamp. My friend John who organized the trip is a bird photographer like me. As a result, we weren’t just after the big five. In fact, John knew our driver and had especially requested him, because they had built up a good relationship over John’s previous trips to East Africa. Both the guide/driver and John loved birds and shared that love with each other. On the most difficult sightings when they would disagree about the identification, I would keep a mental score card of who was right and periodically announce who was ahead. They were very competitive in a friendly way. John’s wife and I were keeping a bird species list as we went from National Park to National Park. During this particular moment, we were photographing a big bull elephant feeding on the edge of the swamp. On the hillside above the swamp where we were parked, there were several large bushes with open branches on top. Since we had been stationary for quite a while. The little bee-eaters resumed their hunting and sallying from these bushes. They came down the slope sparsely dotted with acacia trees. Important was staying put, this allowed the bee-eaters to become accustom to our presence. Because they were so close, both John and I were watching this particular bee-eater with our cameras trained on it. When it sallied out it would usually come back to the same perch; we didn’t attempt to track our cameras out trying to get an image of it flying. Our focus remain on the perch, when it came back with the moth, we were ready when it tossed the moth into the air, before eating. John and I got the shot. A fortune shot, yes, but those who are prepared and observant do get the prize.
Equipment / Source: Canon D7, 600 mm IS f4.0 lens, with a 1.4x Canon III teleconverter, 840 mm at 1/3200 of a sec, f6.3, ISO 1250, Pattern Metering, no flash.
Technique: 600 mm lens mounted on a bean bag from the top of A Safari Type Landover vehicle.
Processing: Some darkening of the background and slight reduction of overall contrast with Nik Viveza. Raw conversion with Photoshop ARC, some cropping.
Critique Image (only members of Study Group Two may critique this image)
JANUARY 2017 ROUND
Title: Lioness With Blood On Her Muzzle From A Fresh Wildebeest Kill
Goal: At all predator and lion kills I try to capture the best action. This image was from our second day at Ndutu. This morning on the hills above one end of marsh area we found three kills. The hyenas, jackals, vultures, and maribou stocks were on one wildebeest carcass. A few other lions were on a zebra carcass, and two lions were feeding on this just killed wildebeest carcass. Early in the morning, perhaps as dawn broke it seemed that the lions made three kills so they left one for the hyenas and vultures to fight over. Thus, having a relatively peaceful meal at the other kills. I learn that the lions lap up the blood first and they satiate themselves until their bellies become completely full. From a recent nature program, I also learn that lions have a very quick digestive system and process all that meat pretty quickly.
Equipment / Source: Canon 7D body with a 600mm f4.0 IS lens, at 1/640 sec, f16, at ISO 640, exposure, Aperture priority, Pattern or Evaluative Metering. Rear button focus.
Technique: 600 mm lens mounted on a bean bag from the top of A Safari Type Landover vehicle
Processing: I chose a 4x3 format to cropped out most of the Lioness on the left. I didn’t extra saturate the red color than what the raw file gave me. Used Define 2 luminosity mask to reduce noise in the green background. Also, used Nik software’s Raw Sharpening on the lioness and the wildebeest carcass.
Comments/Scores (N,T,P,E, Total)Critique Image (only members of Study Group Two may critique this image)
Review by Andy H.
Another successful action image Bruce. People don't realise how difficult it can be to capture such an image as although an everyday event finding the right angle and clear shot is not always easy. Her eyes are almost 'drugged' with the enjoyment of the meal.
My only wish is that there was some separation between the lioness and other lion, top LHS. Other than that, spot on.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9
Review by bogdan B.
Photo is sharp and good exposed. The part of Lioness is distractive anyway.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8
Review by Maria K.
This is strong story and good image technically but not very pleasant to look at –at least for me.
The shot is a bit tight and cropping a bit distract. I was wondering if burning around the edges would help and maybe a bit more space above the head.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8
Review by Dennis H.
Nice capture of lion feeding on a kill.
Good colour and detail on lion, eyes clear with catchlights.
Pity about distracting element in top left hand corner of image.
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total-8
Review by commentator Dan C.
This is an excellent image but you do tend to get carried away with your essay like titles. You reached a new high here with 61 characters. The tight cropping has let you emphasize the story but does make it harder to identify the prey. That would have given you the extra point for exceptional. The blood running between her mouth and the carcass strengthens the story. Sharpness and depth of field is good. The squint of her eyes and position of her ears does indicate she is upset, probably with you for intruding on her meal.
If you do use this in an Exhibition, please shorten the title. Most exhibitions have a length limit ranging from 25 to 35 characters. Their on-line entry system will truncate any excess characters or outright reject the entry. It would be a shame to see such an excellent image rejected on a title length technicality.
N3, T3, P3, E0, Total 9
Response to critique from Bruce:
Review by commentator Rick C.
A couple of side observations. The first has to do with the super-telephotos. Your 600 F4 is actually optimized to be shot at F4 or F5.6. Diffraction issues start to creep in at F8 and are generally significant by F11. By shooting at F16 you gain a minimal amount of depth of field at a significant price in terms of critical sharpness. My recommendation would be to take the shot at an aperture shy of F8 unless you have to prioritize apparent DOF over sharpness. Relative to technique, the 600 DOF will be about 50 -50 in front – behind the actual point of focus. I suspect that, like most good nature photographers, you tried for the eyes as the critical point of focus. That means that half of your actual DOF is going back into the ears and neck when the remaining 50% coming forward from the eyes may not be sufficient to carry all the way to the front of the nose. You don’t have time for fast shooting, but when time permits my recommendation is to focus just in front of the base of the nose allowing the DOF to cover the eyes. This way you pick up a little more of the muzzle. Keep in mind that at 30 Feet the DOF on a 600 at F 8 is about 3 ½ inches when using a 7D so you aren’t going to cover the full muzzle even at F16 (about 5 inches DOF). I’m not crazy about Nik Sharpener Pro’s raw sharpening. Try the trial download of Topaz Labs’ In Focus. For dealing with diffraction diffusion I set it to Unknown Estimate with a blur radius of 1 and then let the program estimate the amount of sharpening needed. It does a pretty good job most of the time. I ran it on your image and have attached the result. It can be hard to discern, but I believe there is a small incremental improvement.
I also noticed that your image was saved in ProPhoto. You are gambling with potential color problems for web based viewing like we do here if you don’t convert down to sRGB.
Review by Les L. (Feb 1)
Response to Rick's critique:
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.