Study Group 2


Heide Stover· (C)

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NOVEMBER 2021 ROUND

Title:     Sandhill Cranes Approaching Each Other
 
Goal:     I love sandhill cranes. They are very vocal and during migration are very social. I can sit for hours watching and listening to them. They migrate to my area for the winter. I would love to get a nice sharp image of one of the birds up in the air during a dance. While I wait and watch and hope for a clear shot I take plenty of other shots that have some action in them with the birds interacting.
 

Equipment/Source:     I used my Nikon D850 camera with a Nikon 800mm lens. I had this on a tripod. This was around 8:00am. I wanted to get sharp focus on both birds so had my aperture at f.10 with shutter speed at 1/1000. In order to get this exposure I had my ISO at 4000.
   
Technique:   I get to my area of choice before the sun comes up and get set up and ready to photograph. Then I wait quietly. This is at a refuge. There is a fence between me and the birds. Weeds grow everywhere and it is difficult to find a clean shot. The freeway is close by and the lights from the cars and signs also have to be avoided. There is a big building in the background in one area. I try to photograph low to avoid all these things. 

Processing:    I use Photoshop CC. This image is cropped and I lightened the shadows.
I used Topaz Denoise to help lesson the distraction of noise.

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 Jan L.
Nature Story:
This is a strong nature story. The image perfectly captures a very important part of the cranes’ life cycle: the mating dance.

Technical Quality:
Although this image has an almost monochromatic feel, it is a good representation of what their environment actually looks like in morning light. You have done an excellent job of greyish birds to stand out from their greyish background. This image is certainly not “flat.” The birds are sharp, and the background clearly depicted without being overpowering.

Pictorial Quality:
This image has lots of impact and it very dynamic. It is saved from having the look of “two different images in one frame” by the obvious interest the two birds have with one another. They are definitely moving together and towards each other. The slight motion blur on the displaying bird’s left wingtips add to the feeling of motion of the dance. The splash, reflections, and shadowy rear bird all add interest and atmosphere to the image.

The image, as a whole, has impact in all 3 areas, and is worthy of an exceptional score.

N – 3; T – 3; P – 3; E – 1 = 10


PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Venter, Francois

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Your nature story is very strong. The action is fantastic
TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: In general the exposure is good. When I read the description I was worried about an artefact that maybe present due to the very High ISO. I would suggest you do not need the F10 and could probably get away with F8 or F6,3 which would have allowed you to lower the iso and get rid of some of the noise that is present in the image
PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: The composition and interaction and impact is fantastic
NATURE SCORE: 3 - Nature story strong
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 3 - Excellent composition and impact
Total score: 8

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Smith, Jodi

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Excellent behavior shot! Both birds are relatively clear with the eyes equally sharp. Is this two males in a standoff of a male and female engaged in the mating ritual. I obviously do not know much about the sandhill cranes but the coloring led me to suspect that this was two males competing.
TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: The image brings up a lot of color and hues even in the grayish feathers. The red is striking of course. The wings furthest from the lens are blurry, which is a bit of a shame as the detail of the feathers spread apart would have added to this image.
PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: I do like the reflection in the water and wondered if it might have included more of the bodies of the birds. From your description of the weeds etc., that may not have been possible to achieve. Generally, I find it a very attractive and compelling picture.
NATURE SCORE: 3 - Nature story strong
TECHNICAL SCORE: 3 - Excellent exposure, color balance and sharpness
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
Total score: 8

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Yang, Charlie

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Sandhill crane migration is one of my favorite thing to do, it's about to start up here in midwest. hehe. Don't know where you're located, but it' wonderful to capture those activities, Of course, if the other bird respond in kind would be even better, would rate this a N3. TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Light is ok, sharpness is great, It's nice to have a 800mm lens in your gear bag. It's bonus to capture the water splash too. very nice. PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: I know, it's not easy to dodge car light, etc. but would be nice to move a few steps away, so that the left corner won't be distracted with another bird over there. sorry.
NATURE SCORE: 3 - Nature story strong
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
Total score: 7

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Treadwell, Larry

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: The semi aggressive position of the bird on the left and the approach of the bird on the right show interaction and present a solid nature story. I would suggest that you patience familiarity with the location paid off.
TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Glad to see you were on a tripod, but with that set up you really had to be. The low angle produces a much more intimate feel to the image and as you noted helped to hide the background issues. Using that focal length the elevated aperture was necessary and in this case paid off. Sadly there is quite a bit of noise evident in the raised wings of the left bird and on the individual feathers as well. This is certainly one of the draw back to shooting at such an early hour. The early light has also resulted in a fairly flat image and contrast is lacking. But this is quite common at such an early hour.
PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: I think you are sort of trapped with the noise issue. You clearly opened the shadow and doing so introduced even more visible noise. In this type of light, even the D850will struggle when an ISO of 4000 is used. Clearly you had to make some tough choices in this situation and things did not work out as you may have hoped. As is so often the case in photography---it is all about the light and you clearly did not have enough.
NATURE SCORE: 3 - Nature story strong
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
Total score: 7

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Sarkar, Pinaki

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: This a beautiful nature photo. Excellent work. I love the fact that the cranes seem to be dancing.
TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: The wings are little blurry. Because of the high shutter speed, the water splash was captured contributing to the drama of the image. You need the foreground because the reflection of the birds contributes to the picture and also because it is out of focus it leads to the sharp focus of the main subject.
PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Color tones are beautiful and has a pinking tone of the early morning light. The red on the top on the head of the birds came spot on .
NATURE SCORE: 2 - Nature story of average strength (portrait)
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
Total score: 7

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Roberts, Lillian

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Nice interactive shot of a
wonderful subject! I really like the action shown here. I get a lot of story at first glance (dancing cranes), then a second layer of story upon reflection (cold temperatures, shallow water, overcast sky).
TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Nicely exposed and crisply sharp. Excellent use of DOF and perhaps post processing to get both birds sharp. It's pretty noisy even though you report using Topaz. Consider playing around with it to see if you can smooth it out more? ISO 4000 doesn't seem too high, but I'm not familiar with the Nikon cameras at all.
PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: My only complaint is the partial bird in the background on the left.
NATURE SCORE: 3 - Nature story strong
TECHNICAL SCORE: 3 - Excellent exposure, color balance and sharpness
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
Extra Point awarded: 1 - Exceptional
Total score: 9


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OCTOBER 2021 ROUND

Title:     Male Ring-necked pheasant eating
 
Goal:   To get a picture of one of these with it doing something other than running away into the bushes
 
Equipment/Source:    Nikon D850 with a nikon 200 -400 mm lens. Early morning, ISO 5000, F/8, shutter 1/800. Camera balance on the frame of my car window as I was using my car as my blind.
   
Technique:     Lots of waiting quietly.  

Processing:  Photoshop CC. Cropped and denoised.

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.
Welcome, Heide. Glad you could join us.

A good nature story involves showing a critter doing something that tells us about its life and eating is one of those things. The long wait paid off. N3

Technically, this is a good image. Good exposure, color, and focus. The bird’s body and head are sharp. Good work. T3

Pictorially, the pose is not as good as it could be. Yes, we can see the eye and that it is eating but we are looking at the top of the head. Too bad it wasn’t a little more to its right. P2

A nice image but not exceptional. E0

N3, T3, P2, E0 = 8


This Review is written by: Rick D.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Hello, Heide! Welcome to Nature Study Group 2! I believe you will enjoy the give and take while improving your skills and talents. The Ring-necked Pheasant is a truly beautiful bird, one that unfortunately is not native to my home in South Carolina. You surely hit your goal that day. There is a nature story here, but it is a rather common one. 2

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Your camera and lens are fine. Shooting from your car is a proven technique that works very well in favorable circumstances. Tha t you were able to get eye level while doing so was quite an achievement! Add to that your patience and it all paid off. Well done. Nice job getting the open beak with a leaf in it.
Shooting at such a high ISO tells me that you are confident in using that feature of digital photography. Well done!
The surest way to determine a sharp focus is to look closely at the eye. In this photo, it (and the head itself) is soft. The head is the one part of the subject that needs to be perfectly sharp. Because it is not, and the leaf is, says that your focus was slightly off target. The tail is also soft, but if the eye and head were in focus, that would not distract as much. 1


PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
There is very nice color balance in this portrait. The warmth of the bird against the cool vegetation works well. There is a nice blur in the background. The crop is very nicely done. Of course, as wildlife photographers, we are limited in the manner our subjects are posed. Under the right circumstances, we can achieve a better shooting angle simply by moving right or left, higher or lower. This is where using a car as a blind fails. You have lost that mobility advantage. The composition issue is once again the head. If you had been able to move to your right, perhaps you could have “moved the head out of the line of the body” and more over the background. As it is, a viewer’s eye can get lost within the circular shape of the body, rather than going directly to the head. 2

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

TECHNICAL SCORE 1-Inadequate exp osure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 0-No extra point

TOTAL SCORE 5


This Review is written by: Dennis H

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Good capture of Pheasant eating in a natural environment.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Nice colour and detail on birds upper body. Head appears a little soft, eye could be tad sharper. Birds lacks some detail on lower body. Always difficult shooting through a car window.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Bird has good composition and impact with birds head on L/H side of image.

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: Susan N.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Nice nature story with foraging and eating activity. You caught the bird with its beak open and that is good

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Colorful and crop is OK. Focus of camera seems to be on bird's chest and forebody and less so on head. There is either a bit of light shining or a softer focus on head and eye.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Colorful and lovely bird. Crop is perhaps a bit tight and centered, but not sure what else I would do.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 7


This Review is written by: Kathy H

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Beautiful Bird! I like how his beak is open ready to take a chomp.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
It looks to me as though the camera focused on the leaves in front of him, leaving the pheasant a bit out of focus. Possibly a bit oversaturated. Still nice detail on the feathering.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I think it is cropped well, using rule of thirds and I like how you are on level with him, not shooting from above. The OOF bits bother me though.
NATURE SCORE 2-Nature story of average strength (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE 1-Inadequate exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 5

Photography is something I picked up in my younger years. Highschool is when I really started getting serious about it. I was going to a boarding school in Germany at that time so didn’t really have a chance to get out much but I would take pictures around the school. I came back to the States to go to college and took photography classes. My dad built a darkroom for me in our garage. I met a photojournalist and he would take me along on some of his assignments. I had quite a few pictures published in the newspaper. I also had a job at a photo-finishing plant where I started out retouching prints and worked up to Quality Control. I was with the company for 14 years and moved around to different places with them. Digital Photography was on the horizon and I no longer wanted to move so I left my job. Good thing, as the company is no longer around.

I have worked as a staff photographer for a small weekly paper, worked charitable events alongside retired football players, worked for a company photographing graduations, and before COVID was a volunteer photographer for a cancer center that helped me battle my own battle with cancer. Currently I photograph horse shows, which have started up again, and do a lot of volunteer work for PSA. I am also the president for my local camera club and do a number of things for our camera club council.

Nature is my favorite thing to photograph. I head out early in the mornings to photograph on Backroads and in Wildlife Reserves and love photographing along the coast or in the mountains. I am very patient and will sit quietly for long periods of time to get my shots. For this reason, it
Is better for me to go alone as most people just don’t want to sit around that long. I sat for 3 hours one day waiting for a bald eagle to take flight. I’ve waited that long for sandhill cranes to dance or for a coyote to walk closer to me. I am always looking to improve my photography.