Study Group 2


Bruce Finocchio (B)

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MAY 2021 ROUND

Title:   A Female Long-tailed Weasel In Mid Air Fully Extended  
  
Goal:   To Capture The Behavior Of Long-tailed Weasels.
As a reminder, my philosophy for nature photography is to be “open to everything and attached to nothing”. This is one of Wayne Dyer’s 10 Tips for Success and Inner Peace. Thus, I try never to pass up an opportunity to make a great nature photo. Even with common species, as my Mallard image from a last month demonstrated.

Here while I was at Stow Lake in San Francisco (see last month’s image location), photographing the Great Blue Herons nesting, I met another nature photographer from Petaluma in the North Bay. An area I have rarely explored. He told me about this location for Long-tailed Weasels. This brings up a sensitive topic in the Bay Area, sharing great wildlife photography locations. There is a contingent of nature and bird photographers in the South Bay and Southern East Bay that swarms good and great locations as well as rare bird sightings. Once one member post an image of a new species or a new location on social media, they all come, sometimes over fifty individuals. What is a problem is that they chase the birds or mammals, pressuring them, stressing them. Their goal above all else is to get the “shot”, with little regard for the animal they photograph. They subscribe to the “Bird Lists”, and thus, there is a lot of tension between the birding community and the bird photographers in the Bay Area. The birders have had many posts this year about the conduct of this group. Sharing locations is a big decision, because once it goes past a group of friends, then, the targeted species could be put in harm's way. Thus, I have a decision to make. I will not include the location on my image postings. I will give the location to two of my best friends and request they not share the location. Swear them to secrecy. 😊

Some local North Bay photographers have some underlying resentment of outside photographers and request that postings don’t contain location information. They don’t want these rare species endangered, and their beloved weasels threatened. You can’t fault them.

Anyway, I bring this issue up for awareness and the issues that it brings up. The actions of some nature photographers give the rest of us who try to act ethically, a bad name and reputation. Not sure how we go about educating these selfish photographers. With a lot of new people entering photography, many take shortcuts and have little concern in their pursuit to become famous and well-known.
Again, the Canon R5 and its animal eye-tracking focusing decisively paid off here. These weasels move so fast, that with traditional autofocusing it’s almost impossible to capture images like this.  

Equipment / Source:    Canon Camera body R5, 600 mm f4.0 IS lens, with a 1.4 III teleconverter, RF to EF adaptor, at 1/1600 sec, f8.0, at 2500 ISO, Aperture priority, Evaluative Metering. Tripod Gitzo 1325 G and a Wimberley Gimbal Tripod Head. Sat in a chair to get an eye-level view. 

Technique:    Using a 600 mm lens with a 1.4x III teleconverter, panning and tracking the animals as they leap and move about in a frenetic manner. It is kind of like playing “wack a mole”. Using the new Canon R5 Animal Eye-tracking focus. Everything happens so fast, I never saw the actual moment of focus in the viewfinder. It was not until I got home and the next day when reviewing the images that I realized I had caught the weasel in mid-air. 

Processing:   Cropped the image and choose the 9 x 16 format to empathize the direction of movement and create a better flow for the subject. Applied selective noise reduction and sharpening using Topaz AI DeNoise and Topaz AI Sharpening. I first select the weasel and use this mask on both the denoise and sharpen layers in photoshop. I still believe that Topaz DeNoise creates an airbrush effect with loss of contrast and sharpness with its DeNosie software, even though the newest version has sharpening AI built-in its computations, especially when using it for higher ISO settings. I also applied a mid-tone contrast enhancement using the RGB Channel--method I learned long ago. I also used a new color profile and not the standard "Adobe Color” profile in ACR. See Glen Bartley’s video below for color problems with the new mirrorless Canon cameras and Adobe. The profile I used can be found here.
I am wondering what others think about Canon and Adobe processing with the R5 and R6.
https://www.colorfidelity.com/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VehumneFG9I&t=341s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nn520b1mOas

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.
Normally I would say that behavior without some form of interaction between the subject and another element would be at the 2 level, but in this case I feel the behavior capture is in the “rare” category for this species and warrants the full rating of 3.

The technical quality is excellent. Interestingly I have a 4K monitor and a 2K monitor with the 4K set to 2560 x 1440 to match the 2K. On the 4K the eye looks just a tad soft but on the 2K it shows as absolutely tack sharp. Perhaps a good lesson not to try to interpret critical detail on a monitor not set to its native resolution. The technical rating is 3.

I think your basic decision to go 16 x 9 is solid. One can debate whether a little of the left gives a better sense of the subject being out of the center, but I see no issues with the composition as is personally. The image has solid impact and the pull of the weasel is strong enough that I do not get hung up in the out of focus foreground area. The pictorial rating is 3.

N-3, T-3, P-3 = 9


This Review is written by: Rick D.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Hi Bruce! I never knew weasels could fly!! Zoooom, up, up and away!! A very nice capture indeed! Thanks for the commentary about nature photography ethics! It is something that needs to be repeated over and over. We all need to be reminded occasionally.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I also appreciate the detail you provide in your technique box. That’s is how we help each other perfect our skills. Also well done!

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
You did a fine job capturing the weasel in midair! Parts of the subject are not tack sharp, but the catch light appears to a good tight spot. The means the head is sharp and that is critical. I would prefer a tighter crop, eliminating the “dead” space top and bottom. I realize that is only my opinion. Otherwise, a fine photograph!

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 9


This Review is written by: Adrian B

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Great capture, even though luck was involved as you say. It was clearly going quickly and I find this enough of a story for 3 points.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Cant fault it. It looks though you were low and your panning technique was clearly good (you used a very high speed for such a technique) - and with a big lens.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Pleasing image in a sensible cropped format for the image. Thank you for sharing and I enjoyed your image a lot.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 9


This Review is written by: Nirmalya B.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
The floating body of the weasel definitely describing it's typical movement pattern and deserve full marks as nature story.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Capturing such a fast moving creature is not easy even with bust mode. Deserves full marks in my view in technical aspects too.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I liked the shot at first sight. Absolutely nothing to criticise.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNIC AL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 1-Exceptional

TOTAL SCORE 10


This Review is written by: LC B.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
This to me is more than a “portrait” shot as while there’s no obvious narrative story that we’ve been drummed to require, the simple airborne movement is plenty to give interest.


TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Well shot/focussed/color balanced etc. I don’t have any kvetches/notes for improvement.


PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Compositionally I think you could improve the image, as with the subject placed dead center the sense of movement is stalled and the story as well. Cropping most of the out of focus foreground and leaving more negative space on the RH versus the LH side would give the subject and the viewer’s eye room to move.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 8


This Review is written by: Suman B.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
story isn't there, portrait shot what I see in it.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
technically you have flaws. It's not Tac sharp which most probably my guess is due to the shutter speed since its a small animal moving fast over a lot of distance captured by a magnified telephoto. colour profiling you mentioned and I went through the video to learn a few tricks although I use Nikons! see the whites in the paws, the fur beneath the ear as well as the slight nose top we can vi ew all are not perfect white rather a tinted one. since the entire weasel is in a single parallel to the sensor the f8 is enough to get the DOF but what is missing is the Depth of focus.
However I am adding an exceptional point on the ground that you took the pain of shooting something different with the heavy gear and this needs to congratulated.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
ppictorially I would suggest you to crop from below as the blurry fronts are distracting.

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

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 1-Exceptional

TOTAL SCORE 7



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APRIL 2021 ROUND
Title:   A Flying Male Mallard Duck With Wing Tip Touching The Water

Goal:   To Capture A Mallard Duck In Flight
One would expect few wildlife opportunities in the middle of San Francisco. Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park has been a goldmine. While waiting for some action from the nesting Great Blue Herons and a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, I photographed this Mallard Duck flying out of Stow Lake.
My philosophy for nature photography is to be “open to everything and attached to nothing”. This is one of Wayne Dyer’s 10 Tips for Success and Inner Peace. Thus, I try never to pass up an opportunity to make a great nature photo.
This a great bird photograph location, and I am grateful to the person who told me about this location.
The Canon R5 and its animal eye-tracking focusing decisively paid off here.  

Equipment / Source:    Canon Camera body R5, 600 mm f4.0 IS lens, with a 1.4 III teleconverter, RF to EF adaptor, at 1/2000 sec, f8.0, at 2500 ISO, Aperture priority, Evaluative Metering. Tripod Gitzo 1325 G and a Wimberley Gimbal Tripod Head. 

Technique:   Using a 600 mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter from the shoreline of a lake. Then, tracking the flying Mallard Duck with the Wimberley Tripod as the Mallard flew low just above the water while shooting a burst mode to capture the best and decisive moments. Using the new Animal Eye focusing included in the incredible R5 camera body. 

Processing:  Cropped the image and choose the 9 x 16 format to empathize the direction of flight and create a better flow for the subject. Applied selective noise reduction and sharpening using Nik tools, Dfine, and Nik Sharpening Pro 3. Used small Viveza control points and the adjustment brush tool in Camera Raw to tone down the highlight spots in the water. I also applied a mid-tone contrast enhancement using the RGB Channel--method I learned long ago. Besides, I applied a saturation layer to enhance the colors a small amount.

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 Tom S.
It is a normal activity for birds to fly so since the duck isn’t gathering nesting material or food or escaping a predator, it doesn’t earn a high nature score. N2

Technically, this image is well done. Good exposure and very sharp but I question the color of the feet. I know they are orange but they seem a little too saturated. Maybe you shouldn’t have made that last saturation tweak, but it still earns a high technical score. T3

The wing tip touching the water adds interest, and it is flying to the left with plenty of room to move. Good. The bright reflections in the water are not distracting. The wings in a down position shows off the blue. P3

N2, T3, P3, E0 = 8


This Review is written by: Haru N.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Great shot! This is beautiful.
You captured it at right timing.
I am not sure that "Wing Tip Touching The Water" is strong enough to support "3" score in the section though.
But still this is a great shot. Congratulation!

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I do not have any negative critique in the technical skill.
Although I am not a Canon user, I realize now the power of "The Canon R5 animal eye-tracking focusing" system.
And your postprocessing is excellent as well.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
This is powerful image.
Composition is simple whereas the details are there - bird feather and water movement is well-described,
Reflection of water is distracting my eye a bit but main subject is really powerful.


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

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 1-Exceptional

TOTAL SCORE 9


This Review is written by: Dennis H

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Very good nature image of flying Mallard Duck in a natural environment.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Duck has good colour and definition. Areas on lower part of head neck, and tail could be dodged a little to bring out more detail. Whites a little blown out. Eye nice and clear.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Image has good impact and composition with wing tip catching water and duck flying to L/Side.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 8


This Review is written by: Rich F

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
this is a great image. Not sure if it is a great nature story but it does show a mallard flying low across the lake with a wing just touching the water.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Everything is excellent. the eye and head are very sharp, the colors are excellent, the white is blown out buy there is only a light bit of it.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
the crop works well and the mallard is well positioned in the frame.

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

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 1-Exceptional

TOTAL SCORE 9


This Review is written by: Susan N.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Nice capture of flight. Good and difficult behavior to capture.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Well focused. Crop is good to give room to fly forward.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
very pretty

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 9


This Review is written by: Dave F.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
stunning photo! Sharp and crisp and with the wing just grazing the water well done. Not sure I agree that when you went out that day that this was “your goal” but OK.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
again wow nice and sharp well focused and the cropping well done. I only Concern is that it looks a bit over processed and not real. Again stunning photo with the wing just grazing the water.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
pl easant image showing a sense of place and again stunning shot with the touch of the water - great timing and very nice.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 8


This Review is written by: Louis P

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Wonderful in flight image (like I want but usually do not get)

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
technically inspiring; white feathers slightly blown out; stunning colors otherwise

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
very impactful, especially with the wing tip just grazing the water

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition an d impact

EXTRA POINT 0-No extra point

TOTAL SCORE 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 www.brucefinocchio.wordpress.com and his website at www.dreamcatcherimages.net