Study Group 2

Bruce Finocchio

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Title:   Two Young Cheetah Drink From A Small Muddy Pool

Goal:   Our goal was to photograph cheetah cubs, especially young ones. However, we could not find the mother with the real young cubs, she moved out of the area, and none of the safari vehicles had sighted here for a couple of weeks.

We did find these older cubs near a muddy waterhole where they were drinking. It was funny to watch the young ones show their disdain and dislike of the mud. Of many vehicles tracking cheetah that evening, we switched from a couple of older cheetahs to this group, just in time to see them drink. Here I caught two of the youngsters drinking. I also caught some nice reflection images that are more pictorial.

Equipment / Source:   Canon 7D body, 400mm F4.0 DO IS lens, Exposure 1/2000 sec F10.0 ISO 1000

Technique:   Hand held on a bean bag from the top of the land rover. We park on a hill above the pan, so viewing and especially seeing the action was enhanced. Here to capture the line of wildebeest it was important to be above.

Processing:   In camera raw, I did pull back the blacks lightening them a bit, so more texture, and a truer tone and color, would show on the backs and bodies of the wildebeest

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

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

Review by Butch S.
Very interesting image Sharpness is realistic and not over-done. Good colors and contrast. I see you used a 400mm lens, how far were these cheetahs from you? Also, why did you choose an ISO 1000?
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total=9
Review by Mike P.
Wonderful capture! I suggest cropping a bit off the right side and bottom, maybe even a little on the left. Seems that the cubs appear lost in the space around them. I'd just like to see a tighter crop to focus more on them than the muck around them.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, total=8
Review by Bogdan B.
It's fine to see such young wild cats. Image is sharp and good exposed. I would just make a tighter crop and maybe brighten the right cat's head. It would be more visible.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, total=9
Review by Jerry S.
An interesting nature action that few have the opportunity to observe in person. Focus appears a little soft but the detail is sufficient. The raised hair on the top of the neck really adds interest. There is nothing in the image that provides a good comparative size for the cheetahs so it difficult to judge the size and age.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total=8
Review by Andy H.
Beautiful animals in a natural pose. Technically spot on in all departments, wouldn't expect anything else!
Composition is good but, I feel, cropping of the foreground would improve the image a little. This image would have been exceptional if the cubs had raised their heads and the eyes were clear. Sometimes you sit and you wait but nature dosen't give.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total=8
Review by Mary W.
I like this image very much. Bruce did a great job to keep both young cheetahs in sharp focus. One of them seems vigilant and looked at photographer's direction. Great detail of cheetah's fur and face. Perfect depth of field, you have a narrow focus on cheetah and background grass is out focus. I like the composition, you have both cheetahs and mud pool, you captured a nature story of cheetah's habitat.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total=9
Review by Cindy M.
Very nice catch of the cheetahs drinking. The image is nice and sharp. I like how you caught the one cheetah “watching for danger.” It’s unfortunate they were looking in opposite directions. Possibly waiting for them both looking in the same direction would have showed more impact. I think there is too much wasted space around them. I would have cropped in tighter.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total=8
Review by Les L.
Very good wildlife shot. I like the way you captured the wide eyes of the cheetah. You have good contrast in the photo so I like the way the cats show up so well. Your arrangement is good as you left room at the front for of the photo. Good energy.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total=9
Review by Manu R.
Cheetah cubs drinking water- Nature story is there, Good composition, nice clarity, rarity of the subjects. But I feel the Wow factor is missing probably due the flat lighting and black muddy surroundings.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7
Review by Rick C.
I like the story in this image. One of the siblings is alert and checking the surroundings while the other concentrates on getting it's drink. I think your exposure, point of primary focus and DOF are all good for this image. I am always fascinated by the way the texture and spot patterns on Cheetah and Leopards creates a visual softness that makes them look out of focus when they are just fine. This is one of the keys to why their prey may not "focus" on them as they approach. The one thing I would be inclined to do here is to crop up a bit from the bottom to more of a panel. I don't feel the story needs quite so much environment to be effective.

N-3, T-3, P-2 = 8 (A slight crop on the bottom to more of a panel would raise the P.)

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Title: Young Grizzly Cub Plays With and Attempts to Eat a Salmon Skin Carcass
Goal:  My goal on this trip to British Columbia was to capture as many interesting and arresting images of grizzly bears feeding, eating, and just being bears as possible. Most iconic grizzly images are taken in Alaska at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park or at Lake Clark National Park. Each location has a unique type of imagery basis on the geography, bears catching fish on the falls, and bears with cubs in the grasses and mud flats of the Lake Clark area. Less has been done catching bears imagery on the rivers type environments of British Columbia, in this case on the Atnarko River.

Low light of this river environment present a great challenge, for much higher ISO than normal were required to stop action and produce sharp imagery.
In this image I particular like the bear cubs expression as it half plays with a salmon skin carcass almost playing with it instead of eating it.

Equipment / Source:  7D Canon Camera body, 600 mm f4.0 IS lens, Exposure 1/160 at f5.6, ISO 4000

Technique:  The local lodge had small boats to run a small section of the river with, so I brought my tripod and Wimberely tripod head with me so I could use my 600 mm lens. It was difficult to brace the tripod and lens. I almost lost both when we hit a big log in a rapid flowing section of the river. With the low light, cloudy and drizzly weather, it was important to gain some stability for the lens, for hand holding I had my 400 mm f4.0 DO lens with me.

Processing:     I used Nik Software tools, Viveza to reduce bright area of the rocks on the left side, and did a bit of Photoshop cloning to eliminate some flare circle in the background. Used a noise reduction program, called Define, to reduce the noise in the background. I also used Nik’s pre-sharpening with a mask so I only sharpened the bear. It the raw processing I reduced the highlights and lighted up the shadows, so the bear and its background were closer in luminosity values.

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

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

Review by Dawn C.
Wonderful story and eye contact - engages the viewer nicely. Subject centered - recommend cropping some on the left side. Controlled the noise nicely.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8

Review by Les L.
Good capture. I especially like the way the cub appears to be watching you out of the corner of his eye. Good action scene. I'm always looking for my images to be just a little sharper.
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total-8

Review by Manu R.
Great effort to catch the rare subject in adverse situations!! Sharp focus on the eyes!Expression of the bear, Clear back ground and water droplets dripping from the leg are the positives. Slightly pixelated back ground -due to high ISO in low light an d the difficulty in identifying what the cub is eating are negatives
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8

Review by Andy H.
Great shot, love the Bears expression and the look he's giving you. I do like close in images but would like to see move of the environment if possible. Exposure, sharpness and DOF spot on, but wouldn't expect anything else. Low light high ISO, often the cass with NH images.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Jerry S.
Good nature story with the wet fur and water droplets showing it had recently waded. The fish skin is not readily identifiable for me. The eyes indicate you have been observed and influenced the scene.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7

Review by Mary W
Bruce, I love your image! It is lovely to see the young grizzly cub play and eat in this photo. The image is sharply focused with great details on the fur and the eyes. I was in Hyder Alaska recently to photo the grizzly bears. I faced the same light environment challenge. You did a super job and captured a great wildlife picture!
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Dan C.

If you are going to use this image in a competition you definitely need to shorten its titles.  Most competitions currently have a 35-character limit on titles but some go as low as 20 characters.  Your title here is 70 characters.

Even with a tripod you were lucky to get the image within range for sharping during processing.

The expression of the cub is also a potential danger signal since it is clearly showing it is aware of your presence and is not too happy about it.   Luckily your 600mm lens provided sufficient distance so that while it was not necessarily happy with your group, it was not going to do anything about it.

You did a good job with the flare removal.  While that is an allowed adjustment many people overdo it and wind up with noticeable cloning artifacts.  I see none here even after being told you did it.

While you were in Viveza you might have used the Structure slider to improve the texture of the fur.  The structure slider would have also brought out those three flies more, adding to your story.  This step would definitely need to be done before using Define since it also enhances the noise in the background.

N3, T2, P3, E0, Total 8

Response from Bruce:
For those commenting on my grizzly cub feeding on an old salmon skin piece, I wanted you all to know that the bear cub was not concerned with me, the photographer. I wasn’t intruding in the scene as some of you mentioned. The bear cub was checking to see if its siblings were paying attention to its find of a salmon skin piece. That’s why he or she was sneakily looking out of the corner of its eye. Sibling rivalries are fierce and very competitive. At 600 mm with a crop sensor camera at 1.6 magnification, I was a good distance away, and if I remember correctly, the bear cub was not even aware of me, or wasn’t disturbed by the other photographers that were photographing him or her at the time.

I am a wildlife, nature, and scenic photographer. I now live in San Mateo, after spending most of my adult life in Millbrae. I previously worked full-time for Applied Biosystems and Life Technologies as a senior business analyst. I left this position a few years ago to concentrate on my true passion of nature photography. My Dad was a deer hunter and bought some property in Monterey County, so he could have a place of his own to go deer hunting. We have owned this property since 1946. I grew up spending my summers down there, following in my father's footsteps, hunting quail, dove, and black tailed deer--using a b-b gun, graduating up to a powerful hunting rifle. When I was eighteen I had to kill a black-tailed buck up close shooting him in the neck, since my first shot from afar had only wounded him. I saw death up close and personal, deciding from that moment on I didn't not want to be part of death, but to cherish life instead.

My friends and I do a lot of bird photography at my ranch in rural Monterey County, using photo blinds extensively; and recently we have built a few permanent ponds to attract wildlife.

I was a Minolta user, but switched to Canon in 2001. I used to shoot extensively with slide film; now I strictly use digital camera bodies, specifically the Canon 7D and 40D bodies, previously the Canon D1 Mark II and as backup the Canon 20D. I primarily use RAW capture, and process the images in Photoshop. I recently upgraded to CS5, and also have many external hard drives to store my raw files.

Check out Bruce's nature blog at and his website at