Nature Study Group 2


Rick Dandridge (A)

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JANUARY 2022 ROUND
Title:     A Perfect Ten

Goal:  My goal was to capture some avian action that day. Fortunately, the local Brown Pelicans were very active. Their cousins, the White Pelicans, float along the surface searching for food. Upon seeing anything on their menu, they stick their heads under and seize it with their large beaks. They are not local residents, but migrate through in large numbers. The pictured Brown Pelicans glide just above the water, then rise and dive head-first, as seen above, snatching their prey with their beaks. Interesting and contrasting techniques. They have exceptional eyesight, able to see small fish from 60’ above the water and actually drink salt water when diving. I would rather have a good shot of an eye, but take what nature offers.

Equipment/Source:   Canon R6, Canon RF 100-500 lens, manual mode, 1/1600 sec, f/8, ISO 250 at 500mm, handheld, RAW, high-speed burst, tracking focus.

Technique:  
I usually make my settings prior to reaching my destination, especially if my goal is wildlife. Therefore, I am ready to capture fast action that may be in progress upon my arrival. Of course, due to changing light, I make needed adjustments. I like to have the sun at my back if possible. Knowing my subjects and the environment are essential for successful nature photography.

Processing:  
I made color and tone adjustments and cropped in LRCC. I used Topaz AI Sharpener to slightly improve the focus.

Score this image: YES

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

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


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DECEMBER 2021 ROUND

Title:    Spear Fisher
   
Goal:      In coastal South Carolina, there are two very similar water fowl; the cormorant and the anhinga. This is the latter. The anhinga is also known as the “snake bird,” due to its snake-like neck and the fact that it sits very low in the water, with only the neck and head visible. Early settlers mistook the harmless anhinga to be a water snake and possibly poisonous. The cormorant has a hooked beak, useful for grabbing its prey (fish, frogs, etc.) The anhinga has a very pointed beak for spearing prey, as seen by the fish’s wound in this image. Amazingly, they can dive up to 300 feet and spear their prey underwater! Like all waterfowl, these birds must arrange the fish to be swallowed headfirst. Watching all the needed maneuvering can be very entertaining! They lack the oily skin that helps ducks shed water and must perch and spread their wings in the sun to dry. That makes a nice pose for a photo! My goal was to take advantage of whatever action was present at this location.
 
Equipment/Source:    Canon7D MK 2, Sigma Sport 150-600 lens, mounted on tripod with a Really Right Stuff ball head. My settings were 1/2000 sec, f/8, ISO 1000 at 600mm.

Technique:   My technique was to locate with the morning sun to my back. I set my settings for action before arriving in order to be prepared should I come upon it right away. Although that was not needed this time, it has helped me “get the shot” several times in the past. A big part of technique is knowing the location and the subjects' habits.

Processing:  
I cropped and did some tone and color adjustments in LRCC.

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 good capture of an interesting story, and it is helped by the reflections.
However, as a PSA Nature judge, I would not give this a high score. If the other judges wanted to do so, I would agree to disqualify this image. I have the past 10 minutes looking at photos of wet anhinga, just coming out of the water. In each case, it is clear that they are not oily birds, yet their feathers still look like feathers. Here, your bird looks like an etching or painting. The feathers here look nothing at all like feathers. My advice it to enter this image in pictorial competitions. This image just does not look natural.

Technical Quality:
Although I feel the treatments here leave this image inappropriate for Nature (see above), the overall effect is pleasing. The light is good, and a nice even lighting on the bird and fish. The reflections are obvious, without being burned out.

Pictorial Quality:
This has a strong subject and it eye-catching. The composition could be helped by moving the bird and fish out of the dead center of the image. Also, the demarcation between the animals and their reflections is essentially on the 50% line. Moving the animals over and up a little, would help create a more dynamic and energetic feel to the image.

N – 1; T – 2; P – 2 = 5


PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Venter, Francois
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NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: nature wise well captured. It is not easy with these guys. We have a very similar Bird in South Africa, Calle an African darter (When doing a direct translation of the Afrikaans name to English it translates to "Snake Collared bird").
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TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Technically the image suffers from maybe some processing issues but generally low image quality. The image seems to be breaking up like when you look at really low resolution images. That is a pity
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PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Compositionally not to bad.  I am however wondering if it would not have been better in landscape format. Even if a bit of the reflection is cropped off. So I would consider adding the body of the bird on the right
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NATURE SCORE: 3 - Nature story strong
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
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Total score: 7

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Yang, Charlie
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NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: First, thank you so much to share this image, and additional information about anhinga, snake bird. One,  I have never seen this guy before, and my first thought that this is a cormorant, which seen a lot here in midwest, and photograph it.

Nature behavior is strong, enough for a rating of 3. 


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TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: image is sharp and clear, exposure is right on, 

If there're something to be suggested, it'd be the "tiny" over expose of water, in the area of right of the bird, could be easily tone down or darken.

Must comment on your preparation, set your camera setting early on. I even take one shot upon close in on my area to shoot, to fine tune the exposure and shuttle a bit, 
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PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Like the image, with part of the bird in the water, very nice. 
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NATURE SCORE: 3 - Nature story strong
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
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Total score: 7

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Stover, Heide
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NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: I think this tells a good nature story with the bird and the fish.
I do feel that a little more action would help bring more interest to the story.  Birds head tilted as it adjusts the fish to the correct position or just coming up with the fish and water dropping off of it.  
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TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: When I click on the image, to make it larger and easeir to see, it looses sharpness.  I don't know if this is from
cropping a lot.  I would like to see the image sharper.
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PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE:  I would like to see the birds eye lighter to get detail in it.  To me, the square format doesnt really work.  I would like to see this as a pano type format as I dont really think the reflection is needed. 
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NATURE SCORE: 2 - Nature story of average strength (portrait)
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
Extra Point awarded: 0 - No extra point
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Total score: 6

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Roberts, Lillian
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NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Great capture!  I'm envious of those in the SE with such access to all the large, photogenic and fairly tame birds!  In this case, the nature story is quite apparent and it's the type of image that tends to get accepted most of the time, though it has some technical challenges that IMHO keeps it out of the awards round.
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TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: It's clear you selected the subject for sharpening, leaving a bit of a halo.  There is also a quality that I have seen in some of my own images and it usually makes me start over with the processing - the crunchy bird, dull over processed eye, and the disparity between the noise level in the subject vs the BG.  You may have done some aggressive High Pass sharpening, that's one of the things that I like to use but it can give this quality.
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PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: I'm not a huge fan of centered subjects or square image format.  Consider cropping from the bottom - you don't need the entire reflection here, I'd try removing about 1/3 to 2/5 of the space below where the bird meets water,  and possibly also a bit of the top where those BG reflections or objects pull the eye away.  If you have it, include a bit more in front of the bird (viewer's left) to move the eye closer to the RU power point, and see if you like the balance better.
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NATURE SCORE: 3 - Nature story strong
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
Extra Point awarded: 0 - No extra point
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Total score: 7

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Treadwell, Larry
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NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: The act of feeding qualifies as a solid nature story.  The angle of view you used clearly shows the “wound” the act of turning the fish to swallow and the beginning of the meal.  Altogether a quite solid nature story.
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TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: The technical skills used to capture the image are clearly adequate and successful  You mentioned dialing in your settings before arriving on location so as to be ready and I firmly believe that this is an excellent approach.  As you mention, you just don’t know when the action will begin. The elevated shutter speed will guarantee and sharp image and having the rig mounted on a tripod  also improves the I mage quality.  You seem to have done everything right in the capture mode.
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PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: For the most part the post work seems to be adequate.  The background is clean and there are few distractions.  If this were to be shown anywhere other than in a nature category then you might spot out those white water drops, but in nature that is not allowed.  I also thing the crop work well.  My issue is with the artifact (white halo) that runs across the top of the birds head and neck.  It can also be seen on the front edge of the neck near the fish.  This is usually the result of too much contrast  and/or sharpening and is a sure image spoiler.
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NATURE SCORE: 3 - Nature story strong
TECHNICAL SCORE: 3 - Excellent exposure, color balance and sharpness
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
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Total score: 8

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Smith, Jodi
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NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: You have a strong nature story here with the Anhinga positioning its prey to consume it. Thanks for the background information on the reason this is called a snake bird with the detail on the oily feathers of ducks, etc. I have only seen a couple of Anhinga, and have never seen them in the water, so your description is quite intriguing.
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TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: The coloring and capture of the reflection are excellent. The focus is  a bit soft on the bird itself, and perhaps a bit too much denoise applies. The feathers seem to more clumped together than I would have expected, but this may be due to the lack of oil on the feathers of these birds that you mentioned.
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PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: I absolutely love the reflection of this scene, and the depth of the jewel tone colors. I think the composition is excellent, and the image is intriguing.
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NATURE SCORE: 3 - Nature story strong
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 3 - Excellent composition and impact
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Total score: 8

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Sarkar, Pinaki
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NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: This is obviously a nature image. 
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TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Miss the catchlight on the bird's eye. A little less sharp. A little less noisy would have helped. Otherwise, this is great photo and fantastic timing.
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PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: I like the color tones of the image and the reflection on the water. However, the feather on the bird's body looks good but could have been better. Probably a little more sharper.
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NATURE SCORE: 2 - Nature story of average strength (portrait)
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
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Total score: 7

I am an amateur photographer, with a background of fine art (oil and watercolor.) I enjoy backpacking and travels with my wife. Most of our trips have been to the great American west.

I live in Summerville, South Carolina, near to the coast. This area's natural beauty and rich history provide ample opportunities for varied photographic subjects. I joined PSA in order to improve my skill and to share my work with a variety of people.