Study Group 1

Bruce Finocchio

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Title:  Female grizzly with salmon

Goal:   To capture grizzly with salmon in her mouth

Source:  Canon 7D, 600 mm f4.0 lens, 1/400 at f4.0, at ISO 2500

Technique:  Very Dark along the River so used much higher ISO than normal, and f4.0 aperture to have enough shutter speed. This also helped blur a possible distracting background. Photographed this image from a boat floating down the river, used a tripod, and almost lost tripod and camera when boat driver steered boat into log. Big bang, and lens and tripod flew overhead before I grab it and got it back, otherwise, won't be able to photograph this image later.

Processing:  ACR and photoshop

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

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Review by Dan C., 1-26-2015
You are always coming up with strong nature shots and this one is no exception. The salmon meat hanging out of the bear's mouth helps strengthen the story you captured. The wet fur enhances the already strong story by showing it is a fresh catch. A bonus is the tip of the bear's tongue. The only very minor negative is not seeing more of the salmon the bear is tearing the flesh from but not enough of a problem to knock off a point for story. It might have gotten you the extra point for exceptional.

Not much you can do about the dark background but there are legitimate techniques to make the bear stand out better against that background. Enhancing the texture of the fur works and the job is completed with a bit of additional selective sharpening of the bear without any further sharpening of the background. Go light with that selective sharpening otherwise it will look over processed. Both techniques are allowed and both will improve the story and the pictorial quality at the same time.

This is a good example that even though the grizzly is technically a brown bear, not all grizzly's are brown. The keys to your correct identification are the claws, the eyes and the shape of the muzzle. Good job.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-1, Total-9

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Title:  Mexican Ground Squirrel Drinking

Goal: To capture a Mexican ground squirrel drinking at eye level. The water droplet was luck or being at the right place at the right moment, waiting for some behavior. 

Source: Canon 7D camera with a 600 mm f4.0 lens, shot at 1/5000 of second, at f6.3 aperture, and ISO 1000, Aperture priority setting with Partial metering, no flash.

Technique: It a blind at the Laguna Seca Ranch in the Rio Grande Valley, South Texas shooting at eye level to the pond, because the blind is below ground level.

Processing:    Normal dodging and burning on some aspects of the background to eliminate highlights. Processed through Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop CC and used the Viveza plugin, and a mid tone contrast technique to give the mid tones a little pop.

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

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

Review by Maria K-L., 9-4-2014
What a great expression and the water drop adds dynamic to the image. Beautiful colors and composition, excellent technique.
N=3, T=3, P=3, E=0, Total=9

Review by Dan C., 9-6-2014
Luck rewards the prepared. Here you were prepared and was successfully able to take advantage of the situation when luck presented the opportunity.

Your in camera cropping has successfully focused the viewer on the story that has been made obvious by the droplet. Without the drop the story would not have been as obvious and the image would have been closer to a "here I am" shot instead of a strong nature shot.

You have picked up a bit of digital noise, especially in the unsharp foreground area and the darker areas of the sand. It does not really show up until the image is blown up to screen projection sizes. Unfortunately this is typical of the 7D in intermediate ISO levels such as the 1000 you used here. It also shows up in the 800-1200 range of my own 7D but for some reason appears to start reducing again at 1600. The Define plugin in brush mode should let you take care of that.
N=3, T=3, P=3, E=0, Total=9

Review by Ana G., 11-21-2014
Wonderful technical photograph! Love the use of the frame with the subject diagonal across the frame. The eye is sharp and positioned according to the rules of thirds. Depth of field is nice and keeps the the viewers' attention on the subject (no distractions in the background or foreground). Reflections in the water droplet just add to the photo. Nicely done.
N=3, T=3, P=3, E=0, Total=9

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