Study Group 2

Butch Spielman

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Title:  Coming Home

Goal:  Capture an Image of an Osprey in an all natural environment. Went by boat to the edge of Lake Verret. This area iOS truly wild but accessible. Found three Osprey nests. All the nest were located at the top of dead or partially dead Bald Cypress trees. Was amazed at the size of the dent and the large limbs used to build it. Gor many shots that day--but no shots of Osprey and fish intersection. Shooting pics from about with two anglers also aboard is an experience itself. I want the pics they want to fish!! In those circumstances the boat is gonna rock! I like this image as it shows the majesty of the Osprey and the beauty and marvel evidenced by the nest.  

Equipment / Source:  100-400mm Canon lens, Canon 5D Mark III

Technique:  Find the Osprey, set the shutter speed at 1/1600 at f/6.3 and ISO at 400

  Sharpening and Hue adjustment to obtain good true color.

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

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Title:  Missed!

Goal:   This is another in a series of pics that I shot over a two day period. Last month I submitted an image of a Reddish Egret striking with its head beneath the water surface. A couple of comments made were that it would have been better if the image would have shown the egret's head and beak.

Well I found an image in the collection that shows a strike and the egret's head and beak. Unfortunately for the egret the strike was a cursed miss. How about the fish? Look in the lower right of the image. There you can see a dorsal fin making an escape. Note the small turbulence where the tail would be working.

I do not claim that I saw the dorsal fin when I took the picture. First saw it when post-processing. Also may not have been the fish that was missed.

I think the miss plus the dorsal fin make the image more interesting.

Equipment / Source:   Canon 7D II, Canon EF400,, f/4 DO IS IIUSM

Technique:   Sighted a feeding Reddish Egret and waited until it go close enough to get decent pics

Processing:  PS CC 2018, Camera Raw color adjustments and dodge and burning Viveza

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 dance continues.  The story Is a tad stronger for me with this image since I can see more of the action but that does not invalidate the excellent story of the previous month’s image.

It may be my imagination, but I think I see two fins.  One is where the egret’s legs enter the water and the other appears to be the one to the right of the bird.

N3, T3, P3, E0, Total 9

Review by Andy H.
Another lovely image. You don't give your shutter speed but it looks to be quite fast. Good exposure, sharpness and DOF. Composition and impact work for me.
Now all you need is to look at the rest of the images and find one that combines both!
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Mike P.
I think this image is a perfect example of taking some of the constructive comments in November and applying them to your December image. This certainly shows the value of our study group. The focus is incredibly sharp, it demonstrates a strong story element and the colors really stand out.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total-10

Review by Dennis H.
Well captured image of fishing egret. Good colour and detail on egret's head and body. Good action shot.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Bogdan B.
This is really a perfect image of the bird in action. Not just the bird, also the drops in the air are quite sharp. DOF is such as necessary to get the whole head with beak sharp. The exposure and composition are also perfect.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total-10

Review by Bruce F.
The nature story of this image is excellent. Yes, the missed attempt and the escaping fish with the fin showing all makes for a powerful nature story. However, for me the issue is the technical quality of the image. The image’s appearance is almost like a watercolor painting and with watercolor brush strokes without any detail in the feathers. The feathers are blocked up and you cannot see individual feathers. Even looking at the water I cannot find the zone of sharpness. The water appears soft, yet not blurred as you would see with a slow shutter speed.

I looked at your red egret image from last month. It too has some blocking up and lack of sharpness and feather detail, but overall much less than this month image. Some of the last months reviewers commented on this image have good sharpness others like me noticing the lack of feather detail.

We have discussed before the lack of sharpness in some of your other images. You don’t says what the camera specs were: your shutter speed, aperture setting or ISO level. Do you use a teleconverter? A softer off brand perhaps, not a Canon teleconverter? The 400mm IS DO lens II should produce clean and sharp images. Was the image crop severely, perhaps too much?
There is something wrong with your equipment or processing workflow. The image almost looks like you ran a Photoshop watercolor filter on it. Lack of detail and sharpness are problematic for a nature image.
N-3, T-1, P-2, E-0, Total-6

Review by Suman B.
excellent timing. choice of subject is also attractive. what I find annoying is the digital noise inside the wings which might have been caused due to non-appliance of noise reduction tools. keeping the tone down in the water was another challenge which is missing. nature story was very attractive and so a 3. technicaly tad below quality and so a 2. pictorially I find the image so entertaining and so a 3. may be next time the egret may be able to catch a fish on camera which is my wish for new year.
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total-8

Review by Maria K-L
Beautiful photo with strong nature story.
To me there is something strange with feather detail. Did you use any noice reduction?
Lack of the feather detail looks not natural to me so I put 2 for technical even I really like the image. I am wondering if with new postprocessing you would be able to get better results.Maybe this is equipment limitation -not sure.
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, total-8


Comment by Rick C.


I did something I do not normally do for the group images, but after reading Bruce’s comment I thought I would take a closer look at this month’s image. I pulled down a copy and went to about 400%, which is way more than I would normally do for evaluating a posted image. At that magnification I can see what Bruce is commenting on. The focus point is clear to me and the eye holds, but there is a general softness that is degrading the detail. That leads me to a question. Over the past few months I have noted a darkening around the edges of your images. One could interpret it as a more subtle burning in to achieve a vignette like effect to direct the viewer’s eye. This latest observation leads me to wonder how you are doing it. One of the popular methods for vignettes involves using a circular selection or gradient to create the shape. When done with a selection it is typically inverted and filled with black and then blurred heavily to “feather” the edges (i.e., soften the edge transitions). The move tool can be used to position the light “center” point and the opacity lowered to achieve a desired degree of darkening. Both the gradient (if used with a white rather than transparent setting as well as black) and the selection / blur method blur the entire image if you do not also use a mask to eliminate the effect in the core / critical area. That leads me back to Bruce’s comment relative to your workflow. Are you unintentionally degrading your images by using a technique similar to those I described to do your edge control? If the feather detail is there in your raw file, you already know the answer.

I am recently retired (chemical engineer/attorney) and I needed something to fill the resultant hole. I have fished and hunted all of my life, but was looking for a “soft” way to enjoy the outdoors and nature. Old age does that to you. I became interested in photography about 4 years ago. My photographic interests are wide in scope but I am now beginning to focus on wildlife. The “nature” category is a challenge.

I am an opportunistic photographer and try to find subjects wherever I go. My main “studios” are the swamps, marshes, woods and bayous of Louisiana. My subjects are mainly birds, flowers, insects, gators, etc. There are some excellent photo opportunities in the spring at the rookeries located in Louisiana’s Acadian (Cajun) country. Great food too!!!

I lean heavily in the direction of shooting “hand-held.” However, I will use a tripod in low light. I shoot Canon (70D and 5D III). I have several lenses, but my go-to lenses are the 24-104 mm 4.0L, 100-400 mm 4.5-5.6L and 70-200 mm 4.0L. Also use converters and extenders. Shoot in RAW and process with Photoshop CC and Nik Software.

I am only now beginning to enter competitions, etc. I have found success and recently won a Best in Show ribbon. I want to learn more (a lot more) and see what others folks are doing.