Study Group 2


Butch Spielman

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JANUARY 2015 ROUND

Title:  Dragon Fly

Goal:   I went to the Bluebonnet swamp to see what I could shoot. Bright sky with dappled light. Love to shoot dragon flies, and found this one in that light. Thought the dead limb with its vine made for an interesting combination even though no action.

Source:  Canon 5 D III, f10.0, 1/400 sec, ISO 1,000, 100-400 mm lens

Technique:  Hand held shot.

Processing:  PS CC crop, burn/dodge, sharpening, hue/sat.

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

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

Review by Lisa A., 1-14-2015
The dragonfly’s body seems to follow the shape of the log, adding interest to the shot. I like the texture of the wood. Your dragonfly is clear however in my opinion seems a bit too green. The wings are a bit dark against the background. Perhaps a softer post process would have given a softer green shade, a lighter background, and more clarity to the wings. I also think this would have been more interesting if the wing movement could have been captured. Perhaps a slower shutter speed would have helped.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total=7
Review by Les L., 1-15-2015
Tack sharp image following the rule of thirds with strong linear lines. Perhaps a shade under exposed losing the clear wing definition.
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total=8

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DECEMBER 2014 ROUND
Title:  Relaxing On Alert

Goal:   Ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate through Louisiana during the summer months, the females first, the males shortly thereafter. For the last couple of years, I have been taking pictures of these birds in flight as they feed on flowers. But, I wanted to do something different. So I set out to see what these birds look like up close while they are still. Stillness for a hummingbird, outside of perching on a feeder, is something I had seldom seen.These birds are wary of humans but also they are very aggressive and territorial towards other hummingbirds. After observing these birds over time, I noted that when other hummers were in the area, a bird would perch on a particular tree branch that openly presented him or her to all their competitors. The branch in the above image was used many times on the best days. Also I noticed that, while perched on this branch the birds were doing typical bird stuff like, scratching, preening, etc. But they were always on the look out for a possible attack from a competitor. Every now and again a bird would ruffle out its feathers, looking to be relaxed for just a moment. The above close up image shows that these birds have four or more very different types of feathers, the throat feathers being iridescent, other feathers almost looking tubular, etc.

Source:   Canon 5D III, Cannon 100-400 mm, (shot at 364 mm) f8.0, 1/800. ISO 1250, tripod, 'Vello Wireless Remote

Technique:  I set up my camera on the tripod and, over a few days got the camera to a position within 20-25 foot of the tree branch of interest without spooking the birds. Pre-focused and composed by tying a ribbon on the branch on the part of the branch that I thought had the best chance to get the shots I wanted. I shot MF since I was taking multiple shots from a hide and if I left the AF mode on, the camera would search for focus on each shot and often choose the background as the focal point. This whole effort turned out to be trial and error, with error being very common. Lasted about three weeks. But some days I got lucky and things all came together.

Processing:  Camera Raw, PS CC, exposure, clarity, etc in Camera Raw, some Hue and Sat on the branch, dash and burn, also denoise and sharpened using Nik software.

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

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

Review by LisaA., 12-13-2014
You have achieved your goal of catching the hummingbird in a natural state. Eyes are sharp and have a catch light in them. The feathers are clear with good texture. The background is nicely subtle. Your exposure is a bit dark. Perhaps a lower ISO would have given you a lighter photo. I tried a curves adjustment which did brighten up the feathers. They have great variation which needs to be shown to the greatest advantage.
N=3, T=2, P=3, E=0, Total=8
Review by Les L., 12-19-2014
A great photo which reflects the time and effort you took to get it. My only suggestion would be to lighten it slightly.
N=3, T=3, P=3, E=0, Total=9
Review by Belinda K., 12-18-2014
There may be more difficult birds to photograph, but these tiny jewels are rarely relaxed making it tremendously difficult. Even at rest they are full of nervous motion. To capture this image takes much hard work, extreme patience and great hope. To me, it’s wonderful with superb details. I cannot say how it could possibly be better accomplished. Focus is crisp with catch-light in the eye, completely uncluttered background. You captured the brilliance of iridescence, but more remarkable to me are the tiny, secondary feathers exposed as the bird was ruffling its feathers. Nicely done.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total=10
Review by Tom B., 12-28-2014
Great image. The time and effort really paid off. Good clean sharp image with brilliant colors. Well done.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total=9
Review by Rick C., 12-17-2014
A very nicely handled portrait of this Hummingbird. Just about everything is good to excellent. I like the tighter composition and the pose. U wish he had turned just a touch more to have the bill in the zone of focus, but that is a relatively small nit all in. I did notice that the color looked a little flatter than I thought might be possible. When I took the image into Photoshop, I noticed that you had left it in the Adobe RGB color space. Remember that the vast majority of PC and Mac viewing platforms for either web or projected viewing are natively based in sRGB and are not color space aware. Images in Adobe RGB will often look flat and muddy when viewed in sRGB, particularly if there are bright colors involved. I’m sending along a touch up version. I put a color marker on the white feathers near his rump (left just above the branch) and in his eye. I changed the white value on the individual color channels to 234, which was the value the blue channel had (the others were at least 10 values lower). I then changed the black values on all channels to 15. Anything below 10-15 will typically not show detail. That popped the image up a tad and cleaned up some of the duller color. I also ran the Sharpening Tool sized just a little larger than the eye over the eye and front of the face twice with it set on a Blend Mode of Luminosity and an Opacity of 15%. That touch up was converted to sRGB (Edit > Convert to Profile). See if you can see a difference.

N-3, T-2, P-3 = 9

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Review by Bogdan B., 1-11-2015
Butch, congratulations to get such a photo. Really sharp with neutral background. You can brighten it a little bit. Otherwise unbelievable.
N=3, T=3, P=3, E=1, Total=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.