Study Group 2


Larry Treadwell· (D)

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JUNE 2021 ROUND

Title:      Hitching a Ride
   
Goal:   The original goal was to capture nesting activity involving Great White Egrets. This changes to capturing the interaction between wading birds and alligators when this pair showed up.
The nature story here is long and confused—unless you are a wading bird or an alligator.
If you study wading birds and alligators you will find that there is a gruesome bargain going on. It is known that alligators and wading birds like egrets, herons and ibis tend to gather together.
Wading birds tend to gather in large colonies which may contain hundreds of nests. These nests attract predators like raccoons and opossums. Just one or two of these furry predators can easily clean out a colony. Thus, the wading birds draw the alligators toward their nests by riding on them and acting as guides. The gators will follow the birds to the nesting grounds because they know that there will be more chicks in the colony than the adult birds can find food to feed. However, the presence of the gators keeps the furry predators away. But the gators demand a price and that price is chicks! As protection payment, the birds will simply throw the weak, injured or unwanted chicks out of the nest and into the jaws of the waiting gators, creating a ritual sacrifice. The gator and egret in this image are heading to the nesting grounds about a hundred yards away.

Equipment/Source:  Nikon d850 and 200-400mm lens with tc1.4 and with cable release mounted on the kayak. Image from Nikon RAW file processed in Lightroom CC
 
Technique:   Technique: riding in my kayak with my Nikon d850 and 200-400mm lens with tc1.4 and with cable release mounted on the kayak I was drifting toward the nesting grounds when this gator and passenger silently swam past. It was early on a dreary morning and the light was diffused by heavy clouds. I often float toward nesting grounds in this manner but never approach close enough to impact the behavior of the birds. In this manner I can get to the best side of the nesting island to catch the light. I will either tie up or anchor in weeds or mangroves so as to stay semi hidden and not impact the birds. I will often get birds to approach within 15-30 feet as they fish. They are so focused of the fishing that they don’t even notice my presence as long as I remain still and quiet as I just become part of the landscape. While in the everglades I can go to remote locations in my kayak where I will be the only human for miles. For the record, I do not engage in this activity during gator mating season.
The camera settings were ISO 800, f5.6 and 1/350. This is almost full frame taken at 280mm.

Processing:   
There was minimal post work necessary. Slight straightening and small crop from the top. Some highlight adjustment and some burning of selected areas of the water. There was added clarity and standard sharpening.

Score this image: YES

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

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MAY 2021 ROUND
Title:   Get Out!
 
   
Goal:  Before posting this month’s image and commentary I wish to enter a note of apology. I full recognize that last month’s image was not up to standards for both myself and this forum. For me, and I’m sure countless others, obtaining new photos has been difficult with the raging pandemic as I have not been able to shoot as frequently as in the past. As a result, I have simply exhausted my collection of suitable images. Thus, last month I simply grabbed something, and it was certainly not my best. I was rightfully called out for the quality of my submission. As you know, obtaining a quality Nature Story does not happen every time one ventures out with a camera. Hopefully this month’s entry is up to standards as things slowly get back to normal.

Wood Storks are notorious for their aggression and squabbling. I visited a stork rookery in hope of getting a view of this typical stork behavior. I was rewarded by this pair of females who spent some time clacking their bills and squawking at each other. The birds were seeking nesting sites and the right hand bird took exception to having a neighbor too close to her favored position. The result was a lot of flapping, clacking and squawking. The Nature Story is a fairly clear display of territorial defense.


Equipment/Source:   Nikon D810, 200-400 f4 Nikkor Lens, ISO 500, f8, 1/1600. Camera in manual mode with auto ISO turned off. I use auto ISO for most bird shooting but not for white birds as I prefer to shoot them slightly underexposed and exposure compensation does not work with RAW files.  

Technique:  I was concerned about two of the camera settings. First was shutter speed because I wanted to freeze the flapping action. The second was aperture because these are large birds and they were not always parallel to the camera. I chose f8 to obtain the necessary DOF and 1/1600 for stop action. I felt the f8 was a suitable compromise with obtaining the necessary DOF and at least partially blurring the background. I also felt that, in this instance, color (the white birds against a green background) would aid in separating the subjects from the background. I was also determined to get a visible eye for both birds. This was not an easy task as the flapping wings and twisting bodies frequently blocked their heads.

The rookery was located on an island formed by growing brush. The shoreline was only about 25 feet from the island so with my camera on a tripod fitted with a gimbal head I was able to stand relatively near the rookery on a service road and the birds did not seem to care. Although I was standing the height of the roadbed allowed me to be at eye level with the storks who occupied the upper level of the rookery (the lower level was occupied by some large iguanas). In spite of my proximity to the island at no time did the storks alter their behavior change due to my presence. I spent nearly an hour just standing still and watching while photographing whatever activity occurred. I had a clear view of about 8 nest sites, all still in the building stage with no young present. My positioning included getting the morning sun and the light breeze at my back this allowed me to be in perfect position for landings and take off and I have dozens of images of males carrying nesting materials to the nest sites for the inspection of the females but I felt the argument was a bit more interesting than just another flight shot.

Processing: In post I did some cropping, lowered highlights and applied some local dodging and burning.

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 J.D. McClung
Nature Story (N): This nature story is marvelous! Let me say it again. This nature story is marvelous! Bravo! Score: 3

Technical Quality (T) The technical quality of this photograph is at the highest level of competence. Adding to that is putting your self in a position that you were able to “follow the light”. Bravo! Score: 3

Pictorial Quality (P) Although the work done to enhance the pictorial quality is excellent it might have been better to lightly dodge under the wing, but carefully, not enough to eliminate the natural shadow. Score: 2

Exceptional (E): This is an excellent photograph and certainly deserves the additional point for being exceptional. Score: 1

Scores: N 3/ T 3 / P 2/ E 1/ Score = 9


This Review is written by: Janice R

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
This seems like the time of year for territorial disputes in the bird world. This is a nice capture of these two ladies hashing out their nesting positions.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
You had some challenging choices with the DoF and needing to keep your shutter speed up for the action. The shutter speed was a good choice as the birds are sharp with nice detail. I do wish the background was a bit more blurry or perhaps just not as bright as I do find it distracting.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
This is a nice image of the two birds but between the background and the branches in the foreground, I'm wishing the birds stood out more.

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: Diana R.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Great nature story.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I am a bit confused by your comment that EC doesn't work on RAW files. I shoot a similar Nikon camera and always shoot RAW and EC works just fine.
The image does appear a bit underexposed but you state that you like to shoot white birds that way. You have been able to stop the action and get both birds in focus which isn't easy! The background is fairly blurred.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Except for being dark, I think this is a very nice 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: Haru N.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
You captured the right object with right timing. I imagine this would be a difficult shot. Your description helps me to understand the nature story better for the person like me who are not familiar to the Wood Storks. It is beautiful pictorial image, however, the image itself did not demonstrate the nature story at first glance. But it is worth to rate 3.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
The main subject has decent sharpness and the background is blurred to some extent as you aimed at. My eyes somehow stuck in the background patterns, although main object is white and brightest in the image.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
There is no further comments on the composition. It is well captured - simply composed, captured the key components well, and angle of the camera setting, etc.
This is very beautiful image. Well done in that sense.
However, if I think it is worth 3, I might not agree since I did not feel its powerful image.

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: Pinaki S.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Nice title. Love the Image . Nice work.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
it is great that I can see the details of the plume of white birds. With the morning light on I would have preferred a more lighter image. The technique of turning off the Auto ISO and underexposing the image is very creative .

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Overall the photograph is beautiful . The background blur is also there .Catchlight on the bird's eye is also there. All the checkboxes are there but personally I would have preferred an image with a little more light ...but that is just me.

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

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 7


This Review is written by: Louis P

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
very strong nature image; good choice in catching these birds fighting

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I did not find the image tack sharp, and I think that many of the white feathers were blown out.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
because the image was not very sharp, and the green background overwhelmed the birds, I only gave this image an average composition score

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 0-No extra point

TOTAL SCORE 7


This Review is written by: Susan N.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Excellent nature story.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Shot with good positioning to get level with birds and good settings. Nice capture and framing of the action. Not quite as much detail in the feathers as I would expect from your camera, so likely shot at a distance and cropped?

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Image could be brighter, but that would likely require that you selectively lower brightness of background yellow-green shrubbery to not distract. But overall, the birds appea r to be in too much shadow.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 1-Inadequate composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 7

I am retired and living the good life in south Florida.  I have always had a love affair with the wilderness and the natural world.  This naturally lead to an interest in photography to bring home memories from my adventures in the wilderness.  I have thus been involved in photography for more than 40 years and have worked as a semi-professional including work for the PGA and LPGA as well as shooting sports for various local colleges. 

My favorite photographic locations are Everglades National Park (the hardest place I’ve ever found to photograph), the Great Smoky Mountains and Rocky Mountain National Park.  That said, I will go anywhere to get a good image.  I enjoy shooting the Milky Way and the night sky, a real challenge, and I enjoy using long exposures.  

I have taught photography on the college level, belong to several local camera groups and have served as a photo judge at local clubs and for other local competitions.  Since retiring I have had several photographic exhibits in south Florida.

I am member of the online group called The Nikonians and shoot Nikon cameras currently using a D800 and D810.  While I have a collection of Nikon only lenses my favorites are my 24-70 and my baby, a 200-400 f4 beast that weighs 7.3 pounds.   My hiking buddy is my tripod that goes everywhere I do.