Study Group 2

Butch Spielman

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Title:  A delicacy

Goal:    My goal was to capture different activities at a rookery. Saw this gator very, very slowly approaching this egret chick. It took about 20 minutes for the gator to move 20 feet. The gators put his nose within an inch or two of the chick. With a single swift move it was over. I always thought that gators bit their prey with a wide open mouthed bite. In this case the gated merely held the chick in his mouth and then slowly backed into the water and sank. The gators did not crush his prey but rather gently drowned it.    

Equipment / Source:   Canon 5D III, EF 400 mm f/4.0, 1.4 ext. shot at f/5.6 1/1000 sec and ISO 800. Tripod used.

Technique:  Waited till some activity took place amongst Flamingos. The birds where in a brackish lagoon.
Hand held.

Processing: File adjusted in camera raw PSCC. Cropped, curves adjustment. Layer for dodging and burning. Adjustment layer for luminosity sharpening.

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

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

Review by commentator Dan C.

You captured a strong nature story even without dramatic action. This gator probably was just getting something for a later meal. They will pull prey down and embed it in the mud walls of their underwater lair to allow it to soften up before eating it when they aren’t looking for immediate food. The composition looks good to me as does your primary focus and depth of filed. Trying to hold the whites has biased the gator to under exposure and I feel you need to address that in post processing to let the story show through clearly. Some selective dodging and burning should do the trick. I don’t understand what the Flamingos noted in your Technique section had to do with the image shown.

N-3, T-2, P-3 = 8 (T-2 on the slight underexposure on the ‘gator.)

Review by Mike P.
Your patience paid off in capturing one of the more brutal aspects of nature. I think this is well composed, with the gator crawling up toward its unfortunate victim. The only downside to the image is that the gator has a soft focus, which affected the overall quality of a great capture.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7

Review by Dorothy P-R
This is a great capture of animals in nature. I love how the birds feet are not fully seen. This leaves the story to be told, the alligator is getting his meal. The front of the alligator is not in focus, however, the bird is sharp. I would have liked to have seen the alligator maybe a little lighter, and his eyes to contrast his body. The impact of this imagine is wonderful. Great job capturing this.
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total-8

Review by Les L.
Great image; focus, exposure, framing even though I thought it might be cropped a little closer. Nevertheless the story you told exceeded my interest in the image. Sorry.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8

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Title:   Cooing and Wooing

Goal:    Seen in the backyard. Saw that the birds billing. Interesting that both birds have their eyes closed. Just like humans, so who ws first humans or birds? Shot with Canon 5D III, 100-400 mm lens. shot at f 10.0, 1/1250 and ISO 1000.

Equipment / Source:    Equipment see above.   

Technique:   Hand held

Processing:    Dodge and burn 

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

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

Review by commentator Dan C.

You definitely captured a nice nature story with this image.  One aspect of your story I find a strong contribution is the closed eyes.  While I generally do not recommend attributing wildlife behavior to human behavior, it works for your story here.  Others may consider anything other than open eyes a negative so the matter is admittedly subjective and does add a risk factor if used as a competitive image.

I do not know if your dodging and burning included the vignetting effect around the edges but I recommend making that vignette more subtle.  Yes, it does help focus attention on the doves but borders on being too noticeable and hence artificial.  A subtle approach could be taken as a natural consequence of the intervening foliage.

I do recommend using a shadow/highlight layer to better balance the lighting.

N3, T2, P3, E0, Total 8

Review by Bogdan B.
Yes, the behavior of the birds is interesting. The image is sharp. You have made too tight crop. And the background is too bussy. You have used too small aperture and got too large DOF.
N-3, T-3, P-1, E-0, Total-7

Review by Andy H.
Well seen and interesting observation. Good story. Technically little to fault other than the area between the tails and the bottom of the image, there's some diffraction that's causing distraction. Could it be toned down more?
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7

Review by Dennis H.
Good capture of birds. Nice colour and feather detail. Feel the focus point wasn't on bird's head as left hand bird's head is soft. Nice lighting on birds.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7

Review by Fran M.
Kissing doves, eh? Nice capture of dove behaviour. I wonder about the eyes being shut though. It could be interpreted as marital bliss, or it could be "I'm dodging a double eye-peck move. Lovely lighting, and good close image. We can really see them up close and personal. Intimate even. . .
N-2, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total-7

Review by Bruce F.
A touching scene with the two doves touching bills. Adding to the nature value, yet if one was preening the other the story would be stronger. This might be the case but it’s not readily visible.
Your title is anthropomorphizing the situation, it should be more factual if you are going to enter this image in nature competitions.
A greater issue for me is the background, it’s much cluttered. The blue sky is hot and distracting. It’s not blurred enough to render the background pleasing pictorially. Overall, I would try to find a view where the background was farther away, so it could be dissolved. If this isn’t possible, then, I would create a perch where the background could be render out of focus with a minimum of colors.
The setting here is just not ideal. You captured some behavior, but sacrificed the other necessary elements that contribute to the overall quality of the image. Honestly, I think you were enamored by the story and behavior that is difficult to capture by Morning Doves. 
N-2, T-2, P-1, E-0, Total-5

Review by Maria K-L
Great moment and good composition allowing us to see clearly their interaction.
I like square format in this image. My only wish would be to have more muted/blurred background especially in the lower part of the image. Desaturation of the blue color and burning light spots might help.
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total-8

Review by Dorothy P-R
The birds appear to be kissing on the branch. You tell a story of these two birds who seem to be in love. The eyes are well pronounced, and honestly seem haunting. Your image is sharp, and the colors are perfect. The hint of colors on the birds, the feet curled up on the branch, and the birds touching make this a wonderful image.
N-2, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-8

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.