Study Group 2

Bruce Finocchio

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Title:   Great Egret In Breeding Plumage Carrying A Stick For Nest Building

Goal:   My goal was to capture Great Egrets in Flight carrying twigs and sticks back to the tree tops where they were building nests. A client from Marin spoke of the 9th Street Rookery in Santa Rosa. He sends out an image every Saturday, and over the years I have seen many Egrets in flight and carrying sticks. Since I was in Santa Rosa on other business, I thought finally I would find this rookery and hopefully take pictures there. I can say that it was a successful side trip. I really like this image particular because of the strong flow of flight, and the wings positions aren’t typical but they do emphasis the power and motion of flight.   

Equipment / Source:   Canon D7II Body, 600 mm IS f4.0 lens, at 600 mm, shutter speed of 1/4000 at f8, ISO 1000, Evaluative Metering, no Flash
Technique:   600 mm lens mounted on a tripod, Wimberley tripod head flowing the bird in flight by panning along with it. 

Processing:  I darken the background a bit, and reduce contrast and brightness of the bright white feathers around the neck so they would show a bit of texture. I also brighten the area around the eye and the green patch just behind the beak. Target Noise Reduction with Dfine 2 only on the background, Nik pre-sharpening with mask only on the bird only. Also did a two-step technique with the RGB channels to boost mid-tone contrast. 

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

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

Review by commentator Rick C.

I think you pretty much nailed your stated goal. The technical aspects of the image all look good to me. There is a good nature story in the gathering of the nest material that is heightened by the green in the lores on its face as evidence of breeding condition. The subject separates very nicely from the background. I think your decision to darken the sky tone was a good one. The wing position is strong and the ruffling of the upper feathers on the near wing and back give an added sense of the speed and airflow. A very minor not is that I wish the far wing did not touch the head. A slightly more significant one is that the crop is too tight for motion that is implicitly this strong.

N-3, T-3, P-2, E-1 = 9 (N-3 The story and behavioral aspect are both there in the gathering of nesting material and in the breeding state as evidence in the lore color. P-2 Just too tight on the framing for implied motion this strong. E-1 Excellent technically with very good impact and warrants the added bonus point in my opinion.)

Review by Mike P.
A beautiful capture that illustrates nest-building materials. Perfect exposure that balances the bright whites with sufficient details in the shadows. Excellent focus.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Dennis H.
Great capture of egret carrying nesting material. Always tricky getting feather detail in white birds. Nice background. Another great image.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Les L.
Congratulations, another great shot and a fine bit of touchup.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Ken W.
Good nature story of Egret in flight with nesting material. Good exposure, sharpness, Great image.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total-10

Review by Hattie S.
Interesting behavior of the bird and story of your observation. Only thing I would point out is that the bird's head has more motion blur compare to sharp feet. Great capture. 
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8

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Title:   A Male Allen's Hummingbird Sticks Out Its Long White Tongue  
Goal:  To Capture Behavior of Allen’s and Anna’s Hummingbirds at the UCSC Arboretum. This image was harder than it seems, because the wind was blowing and the tops of the cape heath were sway back and forth, so focusing was an issue. I had to wait for the wind to die down, before I could take images. Even with continuous focus, it was still hard to get tack sharp images. Also, I think there was a bit of luck capturing the tongue out at its farthest length.     

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 1/1600 at f8, ISO 1250, Evaluative Metering, no Flash.   

Technique: 600 mm lens mounted on a tripod, Wimberley tripod head.  

Processing:  I darken the background a bit, and reduce contrast and brightness of the green cape heath branches. Target Noise Reduction with Difine 2 only on the background, Nik pre-sharpening with mask only on the bird and the green cape heath. Also did a two-step technique with the RGB channels to boost mid-tone contrast. In addition, I added some saturation and vibrance to the color of the hummingbird to match actual colors as I remember them. 

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

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

Review by commentator Dan C.

The tongue ticking out gives this image a strong nature story.  Your patience with the wind paid off and gave you an unique story that is both sharp and well exposed.

I did look at the image flipped horizontally due to my preference for confronting living subjects.  Admittedly that is a personal bias.  In this case that flipping had an even bigger effect.  The tongue became a much more significant element in the image.  Both orientations are equally valid so which one you finally use would depend on what you feel is important, the bird itself highlighted by the orientation you submitted, or the tongue, highlighted by flipping.  I feel the tongue makes a much more unique image when it is dominant.

N3, T3, P3, E1, Total 10

Review by Hattie S.
A lot of work to get the beautiful bird, I love it. Nice technic for the sharpening and noise reduction.  
N-2, T-3, P-2, E-0, total-7

Review by Georges D.
Nice picture. Well balanced in shapes and patterns. I like to shoft background contrasting with the bright colors of the foreground. Well done.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Bogdan B.
Your hummingbird is beautiful with tongue out, excelent color and blurred background. You had made a huge work processing. With a little more sharpness, I would give 10. 
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Dennis H.
This is great image of a humming bird with extended tongue. Good detail and colours on bird, eye clear and sharp. Nice background. Well done.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Suman B.
The male hummingbird has a green back and forehead, with rust-colored (rufous) flanks, rump, and tail. The male's throat is an iridescent orange-red. (wiki). thanks for sharing a typical picture of the Allens's Hummingbird. excellent technical abilities and pictorially pleasing however the amount of nature value is a tad low.
N-2, T-3, P-3, E-1, 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