Study Group 2

Butch Spielman

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Title:  House Finches, Courting

Goal:   Always checking out the backyard birds looking for unusual activity.. Noticed two House Finches paying a lot of attention to each other. Shot a series of the activity. Looked it up on the web. House Finches court by the female soliciting food from the male, oftentimes the solicitation has the female imitating a hungry chick. Other images in the series actually show the male feeding the female. House Finches are monogamous.

Source:  Canon 5 D III, 100-400 mm IS lens, f6.3, 1/200 sec, ISO 125

Technique:  Hand-held and braced against the doorway. Always keep the camera ready with shooting parameters pre-set for opportunistic shooting

Processing:  PS CC, Camera Raw, hue and saturation, sharpening in Nik

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

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

Review by Tom B., 3-18-2015
The details in the birds and seed pods are good. I like the diagonal line the branch creates that the finches are on. I do find that the image appears to be a little busy with the seed pods and finches being almost the same color. I think it distracts the image.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8
Review by Rick C., 3-22-2015
You made a very solid capture in this image. The nature story is strong. The technical execution is solid for the lighting conditions that you had. Primary focus is good as well. The issue here is the serious clutter in the environment. Unfortunately, even a more severe crop would yield only a marginal improvement. This is a solid capture and definitely a keeper for your files or for a nature program, but I fear that the density and clarity of the seed heads on the bush would keep it from being a strong choice for exhibiting.

N-3, T-3, P-2 = 8

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Title:  Green Heron

Goal:   The goal was to capture birds doing what birds do. The spot I chose was one where egrets and herons often feed. The egrets were the "kings of the roost" the herons were way down the feeding chain. But the former was much less tolerant of humans than the latter. So, when I showed up everybody left, but the green heron came back quickly. He had to act quick to get a meal before he was run off. This guy did just that--note how far he is cantilevered out to get his fish. Honesty, requires that I say that the water is falling over a man made weir that has been at this spot for decades. "Hand-of-man"--I don't know.

Source:   Canon 5 D III, 100-400 mm, f7.1, 1/1600 sec Iso 1000, spot eval.

Technique:  Hand held, get in close, stay still and hidden

Processing:  PS CC

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

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

Review by Les L., 2-21-2015
Great image of a Green Heron catching his dinner. Nice composition, tack sharp, story all there, and I like the way the bird's eyes show up. Good job.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Tom B., 2-22-2015
Butch, this is a very nice image. The colors, tones, clarity and sharpness are all there. You caught the green heron with neck extended and the little fish adds the extra to make this a good nature story. I don't think that the weir qualifies as the hand of man -
You did a nice job meeting your objective.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total=10

Review by Rick C.
You have captured a wonderful nature story and done it with solid technical execution. I think the composition you have chosen to show is a plus here. Some may feel you are a little too tight near the tail, but this does not bother me. You are on point with the question you raise about the hand of man aspect. The structure of the weir wall is such that it is obviously man made. Some judges will mark down or potentially even DQ because of that. From my perspective this falls into that gray area of customary or adopted habitat and I have no issue given the story shown. I will also be honest and say that if it were up against an equally strong image that did not show the hand of man or one, even form this local, where the weir wall was much less apparent I would pick the other image when ranking them for possible awards. Try running the sharpening tool (blend mode – Luminosity, Opacity – 15%, Protect Detail box checked) over just the bill area. I think it will help the definition there. Use a new composite layer and turn the Sample All Layers option off. To my mind this one should be winning HMs if not higher awards whenever you put it out. It will definitely do so in any pictorial (PID) competition unless the judges are anti-nature. (Remember the hand of man is not an issue in PID.)

N-3, T-3, P-3 +bonus point = 10

I am recently retired (chemical engineer/attorney) and I needed something to fill the resultant hole. I have fished and hunted all of my life, but was looking for a “soft” way to enjoy the outdoors and nature. Old age does that to you. I became interested in photography about 4 years ago. My photographic interests are wide in scope but I am now beginning to focus on wildlife. The “nature” category is a challenge.

I am an opportunistic photographer and try to find subjects wherever I go. My main “studios” are the swamps, marshes, woods and bayous of Louisiana. My subjects are mainly birds, flowers, insects, gators, etc. There are some excellent photo opportunities in the spring at the rookeries located in Louisiana’s Acadian (Cajun) country. Great food too!!!

I lean heavily in the direction of shooting “hand-held.” However, I will use a tripod in low light. I shoot Canon (70D and 5D III). I have several lenses, but my go-to lenses are the 24-104 mm 4.0L, 100-400 mm 4.5-5.6L and 70-200 mm 4.0L. Also use converters and extenders. Shoot in RAW and process with Photoshop CC and Nik Software.

I am only now beginning to enter competitions, etc. I have found success and recently won a Best in Show ribbon. I want to learn more (a lot more) and see what others folks are doing.