Study Group 2


Butch Spielman

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AUGUST 2015 ROUND
Title:   Upon Reflection, It is a Crawfish

Goal:    In the Southwest La. marsh looking for some action shots. Observed this Blue Heron on the hunt. Got a shot of his strike, but it turned out that the after strike shot was more interesting. At first I could not tell what the food was, I thought that it was a sunfish. However, upon processing I noticed in the reflection that the food was clearly a speared crawfish. I knew that there was a reflection possibility and that was why I shot portrait. The Heron was on the move and I did not put the space that I would normally want between the reflected head and the image edge. But better to get the shot rather than wait for perfection.

Equipment / Source:    Canon 5D III, Tamron 150-600mm, f/6.3, 1/800, ISO 1250

Technique:   Hand Held observe and wait to see what's going to happen

Processing:   PSCC, Camera Raw, dodge/burn, hue/sat, denoise and sharpen

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

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

Review by Les L., 8-19-2015
Glad to see you could capture such a sharp image with the Tamron 600 mm lens hand held. Good shot and the reflection is almost as sharp as the bird! I like the way the birds eye shows up so well. If I had to suggest something, I would try to burn the background behind the bird to make him stand out a little more? Good job.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total=9
Butch responds 8-19-2015
Les, the term handheld should have an asterisk. What I do much of the time is to attach the camera monopod that is telescoped all the way up. the butt end of the monopod is then placed in the cup of a fishing rod holder. The fishing rod holder is worn around my waist. Thus, I can apply some small amount of downward pressure that helps steady the camera. With this arrangement I am much more mobile than is possible when using a monopod conventionally. Also, I can carry the camera in this point as I walk around and this takes the weight off of neck. the hips can stand weight a lot better. I don't do this all the time, but I did use it on this shot.

Review by Manu R., 8-20-2015
Strong points-Good nature story!Blue heron with the catch! Clear reflection! Weakness- Distracting background;Cropped shadow and feeling of Horizon tilt created by the patterns in water; Then as you said the strong nature story compensate for the pictorial set backs..
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8
Review by Bruce F., 8-22-2015
Great nature story with the Blue Heron capturing the crawfish, can’t get a better nature story. However, the head and crawfish don’t show well and separate from the background. I might have lightened this area to get greater separation in values so the head and crawfish would visually be seen better by the viewer.
Also, the head of the reflection touching the bottom of the frame isn’t ideal either. You want it in! There was room up on top to include the entire reflection, cutting it close but possible.
One other point is that the beak and head are facing away, better to have them facing the viewer.
Overall, thought good nature capture!
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8
Review by Andy H., 8-22-2015
The story is clear. Exposure is good and colours look natural. There are issues with the sharpness, unlike others, I can't see any part of the image that's sharp.(I might need new glasses!) I would have liked to have seen a bigger or smaller DOF, either blur the back ground or sharpen it up. The cutting off of the reflections head, for your own pleasure, you could rebuild using the actual birds head.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7
Review by Jerry S., 8-24-2015
Good nature shot of the little blue heron feeding. You identified some of the weaknesses in your description. It is difficult to see the catch in the image and the reflection is not properly framed. I use the same lens and at 600mm it is difficult to hand hold and properly frame the image in every shot. That is the challenge we accept when we choose the high magnification. If cropped to eliminate the reflection, it is much easier to identify the catch and the image cropped in this manner makes a good nature shot by itself. I like the reflection but its inclusion with the head touching the border may actually weaken the image that could have been presented. It takes patience to capture wading birds feeding and you captured a good nature image.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7
Review by Dan C., 8-25-2015

Your story value is there but one aspect of the story, the habitat, obscures the more important aspect of the story, the prey the heron has captured. I realize it is difficult to optimize image contents with a moving subject but the image would be stronger if the reflection did not merge with the bottom edge of the frame. The amount of space at the top indicates this should have been possible. The reflection is a key element because the crawfish is clearly apparent there but is obscured against the background on the actual subject. Selective lightening and darkening around the head and bill might have made the crawfish more noticeable in that area. Any other techniques available post-capture are not legitimate.

I do find the crawfish a bit more noticeable if you flip horizontal so it is the first thing you see when you enter the image.
N3, T2, P2, E0 – Total 7

Butch responds: (8-26-2015)
Dan, tried the horizontal flip and that made a big difference in noticing the crawfish and the birds face. I will have to remember that we read from left to right. Thanks for the tip. Butch


Review by Dawn C., 8-28-2015
Great nature story - better seen in the reflection. The unlucky location of a dark patch of grass behind the heron's catch and head makes it difficult to see at first. Some careful burning of the background may help that. As you mentioned, a bit more room below the reflection would have been nice. Just a touch less zoom would have given you room for the bird's movement. Nice catch!
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7


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JULY 2015 ROUND

Title:  Touche!

Goal:   Another rookery, this time, the Jefferson Island rookery in Louisiana. Usual cast of characters there, egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, etc. But for the first time I saw a few White Ibis trying to settle in for nesting. They really favored the tops of cypress trees having really bushy tops. Such trees were rather scarce. I noticed a ruckus at one tree top and started watching it closely. This shot shows how contentious the situation was. The bird on the left was caught with its eyes wide open and feet knocked from their landing perch. The bird on the right was in full attack mode, note that its protective eye lid is closed. Did not see any lasting physical damage, but I bet there was some bragging going on in the top of that tree.

Equipment / Source:  Canon 5D III, Tamron 150-600 mm, shot at 450 mm, f7.6, 1/2000 sec, ISO 800, hand held

Technique:  Looking for something different and sorting through the clutter.

Processing: PSCC, burn/dodge, hue and sat. denoise and sharpen

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

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

Review by Bruce F., 7-20-2015
Exciting nature image. However, the title isn’t descriptive of the visual nature story portrayed. You have a pictorial or whimsical title. Not good for nature or nature competitions. Fix the title if you are going to enter it in any type of competition, like PSA, or for a more local camera club.

I really like that the one defending his patch of greenery or tree space, particularly that it has its beak into the feathers of the other landing White Ibis. This action strengthens and adds drama to the story.

The light is good, shows the eyes well, especially the landing white ibis. Although, I might brighten the left one to clearly show the protective eye lid better.

I would darken the white ibis in the upper left corner and the lower right corner. If possible, I would dodge them out completely giving us more of that dark background that you have on the top and upper right side. If can’t get them out completely, then, tone down them as much as possible without making them unnatural… Tone down the light reflected from them, especially the one in the upper left. These White Ibis are a bit distracting, since the eye visually is drawn strongly to white.

Not sure if you clip the toes of the landing White Ibis, but this doesn’t bother me as much since toes are kind of buried in the green leave area.

A beautiful capture at a beautiful moment showing interesting nature behavior. Congratulations.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total=9
Review by Rick C., 7-23-2015
You captured excellent territorial interaction in this shot. The basic technical aspects look good for the strong, contrasty lighting that you had. Primary focus and DOF are also good. I think your composition works for the elements you need to have in the frame, though, like Bruce, I wish the Ibis In the upper left wasn’t there. I think you have darkened it about as much as you can without it being overly obvious that you are trying to make it duller. This is a well handled situation that yielded a strong nature story.
N-3, T-3, P-3 = 9
Review by Dawn C., 7-29-2015
Excellent nature story - confrontation in a crowded rookery. The exposure and DOF are excellent for this scene and the bright white plumage of the Ibis. Composition is strong. The two bystanders add context, but doing some judicial burning to bring the tone down might be a plus. Overall - excellent image!
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9
Review by Andy H., 7-24-2015
Another great image and superb interaction.
Can't see much wrong technically. I might lighten the leg area on the front bird. I would like to see a little more area above the wing tip on the RHS and possible darken the bird, top left.(a little distracting)
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total=8
Review by Bogdan B., 8-2-2015
Once more I will say, that it's hard to catch such situation in tops of trees. But pictorial there are some distractive elements: busy background with branches and other birds, birds overlaping ech other and the branches in foreground. In nature division you can't remove it and that's why it's so hard to get clear picture.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8
Review by Les L., 8-4-2015
This is good. You captured excitment, action at the Rookery. I like the good focus, clear eyes and sharp contrast between birds and greenery. I think your image is well cropped showing several other birds as props.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total=9

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.