Study Group 2


Larry Treadwell· (D)

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SEPTEMBER 2021 ROUND
Title:   Passage of Time
    
Goal: While most of the south Atlantic coast of Florida is sandy beaches, there are a few areas where there are outcrops of Anastasian Limestone. Anastasian Limestone is composed of interbedded sands and coquinoid limestones that has been compressed over eons of time. This rock is razor sharp and will slice foot gear to ribbons while walking across the surface of the rocks. The rock in this image is NOT over sharpened. The action of the water cracks off bits of the rock constantly creating new sharp edges to slice of those who are unweary. My goal was to show how the constant action of the sea washing against the rock erodes the stone.


Equipment/Source:   Nikon D810, 24-70mm lens @ 62mm, f18, 4 seconds, tripod with polarizer and cable release

Technique:  I positioned myself laying on the rocks on a closed cell foam pad I brought along for the purpose. I selected a location where the rocks would form a channel for the sea to wash through and where I would have a side view with the washs moving from left to right across the field of view as I thought this would better show the action of the water. With the camera on a flattened tripod and encased in my lens coat waterproof camera raincoat I waited for the waves to rush in, hit the rocks and then run back out to the sea. I wanted to catch the running action of the water to emphasize the constant movement of the sea over the rocks. I experimented with various shutter speeds and found that 4 seconds was the best. I was able to capture one shot per retreating wave. I chose the moment of first light because the directional nature of the light. This type of light increased the texture of the rocks and I thought showed the jagged sharpness of the rock more prominately. When the tide is fully out the rocks are high and dry and when the tide is fully in, the rock can be completely submerged. 

Processing: In post I darkened the sea and increased the whites to make the run of the water stand out more clearly. The blacks were made darker to create a greater contrast on the rock and make them appear more dramatic. Since I already had a golden glow I enhanced this by warming the light on the rocks. I selected a more pano format to make the run of the water appear to be longer emphasizing the movement of the water.

Score this image: YES

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AUGUST 2021 ROUND

Title:      Owl Mantling
   
Goal:   Burrowing Owl with Toad

Nikon D850, 200-400 f4 lens with 1.4tc. focal length 550mm. ISO 500, f8, 1/2000. Camera supported on frisbee with RRS ballhead attached.

This month you get the continuing adventures of Boris, my burrowing owl buddy. My objective was to capture owl behavior with the hope of getting some feeding and flight behavior. I was laying on my belly (to be at owl eye level) waiting for Boris the climb out of his burrow. He had kept me waiting for nearly a half hour when suddenly I saw his yellow eyes scouting the area. After scanning the sky for hawks, he strutted out onto his sandy front porch. He then turned back toward the entrance and began furiously scratching and flicking sand all about. He then retrieved a toad from his food larder where he had buried it and then strutted about showing off his meal before gulping it down. You may note that the toad looks rather fuzzy. This is because burrowing owls will bury frogs and toads in the sands around their nest entrance to “season” them as they rot. They will often partially dig them up and “turn” them before reburying them for additional seasoning. I have seen Boris pluck some of the white floral weeds growning near the nest and bury them with the frog. I guess he has aspirations of being a chef. His side viewere the owl is shown just after removing the toad from the sand. You can see that he is still shaking sand from his raised foot. He did finally eat the nasty looking from while facing the camera however the from blended quite nicely with his feathers and was hard to see so I decided to show the side view. I have also included a portrait of Boris perched on a post in the parking area about 200 yards from his burrow. Usually when I leave Boris will fly along with me as I head to the parking lot. We have become quite chummy. Stay tuned for future adventures with Boris.

Post work entailed straightening and a slight crop to position the owl in the frame. Additionally there was some dodging and burning

Equipment/Source:  Nikon D850, 200-400 f4 lens with 1.4tc. ISO 800, f8, 1/4000. Camera supported on frisbee with RRS ballhead attached.
 
Technique:   As noted last month, I have visited this owl colony now more than twenty times this season. When visiting the site I arrive just after first light, before the heat becomes intense. I position myself so the sun rises behind me and the off shore breeze also blows from behind me toward the burrow. This means that the owls will generally take off and land flying toward my camera position. Since these owls are quite small, I positioned my self laying on the ground with my camera mounted on a RRS ballhead attached to a frisbee. This provides me with a stable platform and positions me at owl eye level. My distance from the burrow was determined by the behavior of the owl. If in any way the bird adjusted its behavior I simply backed up. However, being a frequent visitor these owls have became quite accustomed to me and will often either land or walk up to me even landing on my camera bag several times. There are three burrows in a sort of arc in front of my position and I have come to believe the owls view me as their protector. The redtail hawks in the area sit in the far trees but will not approach the burrows as long as I remain in the area. I generally stay 2-3 hours to catch the morning feeding but spend the entire time just laying on the ground draped in a camouflage drape. As noted above, my camera rig is mounted on a RRS ball head that is then mounted on a frisbee. This provides a stable platform at ground level and allows me to just slide the across the ground as I point the lens toward the various burrows.

Processing: 
 Post work entailed straightening and a slight crop to position the owl in the frame. Additionally there was some dodging and burning. I could not move the owl toward the right in an attempt to honor the rule of thirds because these owls collect human trash and carry it to decorate their burrow areas. Just out of sight to the right was a Starbuck’s coffee cup. Since I was laying on the ground and any major movement on my part would have disturbed the owl and since I can’t clone it out due to nature rules the format of this image had to be more square.

Score this image: YES

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

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Review by commentator Jan L.
I am going to write and score on the image presented, not on the submitted goal paragraph. This month’s paragraph is mostly a repeat of last month’s statement and addresses the wrong image.

That said, this is a very strong nature image. You can easily see the remains of its prey (some other kind of bird). After a bit of looking, I could see that Boris, the owl, is stretching out his wing as he pauses with his breakfast. I have always liked watching birds do this, but I confess I had to look up the word “mantling.” It is always nice to learn something that I can actually use in the future.

Technical Quality:

The image is well exposed throughout. The depth of field is enough to capture the whole bird and his prey, then gradually blends toward out of focus in the front and back. This helps the eye find and stay on the center of interest; Boris doing his thing. The colors are lovely and look completely natural.

Pictorial Quality:

I have one real problem with this image. And that is the fact that Boris’s wing and head have no easily discernible separation up by his face. I really had to struggle to figure out exactly what I was seeing. I know that your own physical placement was not easy for you to change, especially as you did not want to disturb the bird. However, had you been able to move or if Boris had turned just a bit more toward you, his mantling would have been obvious, and this would have had loads of impact.

N – 3, T – 2, P – 2 = 7


This Review is written by: Janice R

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
I loved reading your description of how the owl prepared his meal. What an interesting feeding ritual. Without reading your description, there is simply a dead something with the owl. It's clear it must be a kill but all that action isn't visible in the image.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Color balance is good and shutter speed seems adequate. I wonder if more DoF would have rendered the wing sharper? However, that may have also made the background busier. I do find this image to be rather busy, with the spo ts on the owl the diagonal blades of grass and the debris on the ground and the highlights in the background. Perhaps taking those highlights down and also darkening the grass would make this scene less busy.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I had to really study this image to figure out what he had in his beak, then I realized it was just his beak merging with his elevated wing. His bright eye led me right to his face and beak and I spent some time trying to figure out what he had. It wasn't until later that I noticed the piece of meat between his legs.

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

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average composition and impact

TOTAL SCORE 6


This Review is written by: Jodi S.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Fascinating story. I'm glad your explained as the toad looked more like a bird to me with those feathers.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Tack sharp on the eye and most of the owl facing the camera. The background is nicely blurred.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I'm in awe of your rapport with these birds. I recently read a meditation by Richard Rohr that speaks of the photographer receiving the shot rather than taking the shot. Since these birds trust you, and know you provide some protection from the hawks, I'd say you definetely received this image.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 3-Excellent exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 3-Excellent composition and impact

EXTRA POINT 1-Exceptional

TOTAL SCORE 10


This Review is written by: Charlie Y

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
Mantling is hunching, crouching, or arching shoulders and spreading wings over a recent kill to conceal it from other birds.. had the image show clearly both wing spread, would no doubt a solid 3. In this image, it seems left wing is not, but still a good capture.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Main subject is sharp and good use of 1/4000 shuttle speed. I also gradually move up on that if situation allows.
Though ISO only shows low number, would suggest use Topaz Denoise, or similar to reduce noise in the background, to enhance the overall image quality. my take.

A side note: what's "Camera supported on frisbee with RRS ballhead attached", I have the same problem to position it low on ground, searching for solution.. thanks

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
Overall image is clear and effective, framing is good.
One little suggestion about lower left grasses, either darken it or next capture to move the camera position a foot to the right to render a better isolated subject in frame, without any distraction.

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: Pinaki S.

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE
As far as I am concerned this is 100% a nature image.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF IMAGE
I know while it is easy to comment after the fact and is very hard to do it on the field.
I feel that lower F number and lower shutter speed could have helped the iage.
Also, I would try to reposition myself in such a way that the distracting grass in the foreground do not get in the way.

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF IMAGE

While the image is good and low angle POV adds to the effect.
The color tones of the image seems to be a little subdued for me.

NATURE SCORE 3-Nature story strong

TECHNICAL SCORE 2-Average exposure

PICTORIAL SCORE 2-Average 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.