Study Group 2

Bruce Finocchio

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Title:   Hutton's Vireo Calls Out After Bathing

Goal:  To capture interesting bird behavior. Until the last couple of month, this is a new bird species for me. I haven’t photographed Hutton’s Vireo’s before. My backyard setup with a bird bath has very successful. It’s also been good therapy for me. It’s a treat to see these birds up close and personal. I was hoping that I caught the open beak. And after reviewing the images in Adobe Bridge, I was pleasantly surprised that I did catch the open beak. For me, the little extra or something special is the white feather on its head. In my opinion, this takes the image up a notch. 

Equipment / Source:   Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 600mm f4.0 IS lens, with a 1.4x Tele-converter, 1/640 sec, f6.3, ISO 1600, Aperture Priority, Evaluation Metering. 

Technique: Backyard Bird Photography, Shot from a blind, Ameristep Doghouse Blind. Providing a water sources for the birds.

Processing: I don’t remember doing too much this image. Normal processing, Nik Define 2 noise reduction, and Pre Raw Sharpening plugins done on a mask and only affecting the background for noise Reduction and sharpening only on the subject. 

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Title:  Female Lawrence Goldfinch Stretches Wing Feathers
Goal:   I had a devil of a time deciding what to enter for this month. (The sinking feeling in the gut, too many choices). I was going to enter a Lion and Lioness mating image from East Africa. It wasn’t a full image and had minimal habitat. I wasn’t sure how well a vertical image of them cut of in the middle would be received. I was going to send in an image that epitomizes my photography style of a Red-breasted Nuthatch shaking its wet feathers, but I think I will save that one for next month.
This image of the Female Lawrence Goldfinch doing a wing stretch was taken on September 10, isn’t the type I normal take. The ugly dabbled light, the twigs from the blue oak running through out the background, some blue sky too. Ugly!!! For sure not my normal love of diffused lighting. As a result, I must of use at least twenty layers dodging and burning the background, and toning down the contrast in selected spots with Nik’s Viveza tool. The file size was over 1.5 Gb’s!
I really didn’t touch the bird at all. I never seen Goldfinch stretch their wings before. The sun caught the bird perfectly. Yet it didn’t help the background, but I digress. Not sure what caught my eye, and why I stayed on her; she did the poop and I expected she would fly. No, she did this wonderful wing stretch, caught a whole burst sequence; this is the peak one. All are good, but this I think is special because each feather is define so perfectly.
Moral? Yes, I have one. It is be open to the unexpected! Nine times out of ten I wouldn’t even focused my lens on a bird with a background as bad as this one. I gave up taking images in the blue oak bramble of twigs long ago. Still it’s a mystery to why I stayed on this one, thinking back on it. I think it was just because she herself was in such great sunlight. I think it is really important to ktrust your feeling and instincts, most often you’ll be rewarded like I was here.
Also, cropped this image down, then I resized it back up to my native camera file. If the image captured is sharp, I found that you can do this little loss in quality. I also had trouble deciding the framing. I at first thought that it would fit a 16 x 9 panoramic format well, because of the long blue oak twig that it is perched on. Then, I tried a 5 x 7 format, it seemed a little chunky, so I went back to the default 2 x 3 format, just cropped a little from the top and the left. Although there is a lot of empty space on top, I think I need it to counter the downward force of the spread wing. The diagonals of the branch and the wing subtly adds to the impact. 

Equipment / Source:   600 mm IS f4.0 lens, 1.4x tele converter, 7D Mark II camera body, on a Gitzo 3025 tripod. Shot Information: 1/6400 sec; f7.1 aperture; ISO 1000, Aperture Priority Shooting Mode, and Evaluative Metering, No Flash.

Technique:  Target adjustments on the background, dodging and burning, many layers. Use Nik’s Define 2 for noise reduction, and pre-sharpening, both with masks, to reduce only noise in the background and sharpen only the subject. 

Processing:  I know Nik tools are going to go away at some point. I joined Macphun as a window’s beta tester. Don’t think it will be as convenient as Nik, but I got to find something for that inevitable day when it will no longer work in Photoshop. It would be interesting to hear what others are using for their quick selective adjustment needs. 

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Review by commentator Dan C.

This is pleasing story telling image.  From the standpoint of nature story you are successfully showing avian behavior not often captured.  Your exposure is good and your details are sharp where they need to be sharp.  The background is well handled.

I find the story even stronger flipped horizontal.  That way the action of what the bird is doing is even more obvious.

From a pictorial standpoint, flipping also has all the movement directed at the bird, letting it become more dominant in the image.  Cropping and resizing increases that dominance without weakening the story.

N3, T3, P2, E0, Total 8

Review by Andy H.
Well Bruce you gave us plenty to read, did you actually mention your goal? What an extraordinary amount of work for one image. Still you did succeed. I think your hard work achieved an acceptable background. Would like to see what you started with. The image is well caught, sharp and a good DOF. Good catchlight. For me it doesn't have impact but that could be due to the colours.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8
Review by Bogdan B.
Bruce, the head of your bird is very sharp, but the end of the wing is not so. DOF is a little bit to small.
Background is well blurred. Anyway the blue sky is a little bit disatractive. It would be better from some centimeters lower point of wiev, where the bird would be in the middle of the blue sky.
N-2, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-6
Review by Dennis H.
Well captured image of wing stretch. Nice colour and detail on feathers. Eye clear with catchlight. I would have cropped top and left hand side.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8
Review by Suman B.
good sharp clean image taken. congratulations for getting the action up..close...and personal. indeed sharp catch light in the eye evokes interest. one thing I noted the yellow colour protruding from inbetween the feathers. you might try enhancing that tone a bit.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8

Response to critique by Bruce:
Dan, I wanted to say thank for your suggestion in flipping my Female Lawrence Goldfinch on the September entry. I didn’t think of this, and was struggling with the composition from left to right. Once you see it the other way from right to left it sings and the composition works so well, including the cropping. I don’t always agree with you, but I do have an open mind and I am willing to consider all suggestions for improvement. 

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