Study Group 2

Butch Spielman

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Title:   Nest Building

Goal:    This image was taken at a rookery on High Island Texas. My goal was to obtain an image that showed a bird(s) engaged in an activity typical to rookery life. I did not want to shoot a portrait. This Roseate Spoonbill fit the bill has he(she) was in the act of gathering sticks for nest building. The stick chosen was not an easy get as it was green and of some diameter. The bird twisted and turned trying to break the stick. The flared wings helped it to obtain enough leverage to accomplish the task. Finally the stick was broken and carried to the nest. I think the reason this difficult stick was chosen was that all of the easy sticks were already taken and used by numerous other birds at the rookery. In fact, I observed no small amount of stick thievery from one bird's nest to build another bird's nest.

Equipment / Source:    Canon 5D III, Canon 100-400, f5.6, 1/1250, ISO 1600

Technique:   Hand held and vigilance for the kind of activity I was looking for.

Processing:   PS CC, curves for bringing highlight detail out, small amount of hue/sat and dodge/burn

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

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

Review by Manu R., 6-14-2015
Good action captured with nice clourful, clear details.I think if you could provide more space towards bottom and left the image will be better. Noce one.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8
Review by Andy H., 6-13-2015
I love this image and can't find anything wrong hence the 10!

If it was mine i would blur or tone down / darken the background. For non competition I would remove the two twigs on the RHS.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total =10
Review by Dawn C., 6-20-2015
Exceptional - great tone and detail, strong action and composition lines. The Spoonbill stands out dramatically against the dark background; I'm glad there is still enough information there to give a sense of place. A stunning image.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total=10
Review by Bogdan B., 6-20-2015
Butch, your story is interesting, but without your explanation I didn't know, what I'm looking. The background is a little bit distracting, especially the two branches near the tail.
N-2, T-2, P-3, E-0, total=0
Review by Les L., 6-17-2015
The birds color immediately attracts the viewer. The twig behind the birds bill is distracting. Otherwise excellent.
N-3, T-3, P--2, E-0, Total=8
Review by Tom B., 6-25-2015
Love the color, detail and tonality of the spoonbill. I do find the two twigs on the center right a bit distracting. I also think I would darken the background more.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total=8
Review by Rick C., 6-26-2015
This image has an excellent nature story. The basic technical aspects all look good. The wing position as the Spoonbill is breaking off the stick for the nest adds to the composition and allows us to see the reds and oranges of full breeding plumage in all of the key areas. The only minor nit is the two twigs projecting into the frame in the right middle. These aren’t worth cropping out, though they are catching just enough light to keep me from giving you a perfect 10. You have a strong image as it is.
N-3, T-3, P-3 = 9

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Title:  Love Triangle

Goal:   Capture waterfowl doing what they do.

Equipment / Source:  Canon 5D III, 100-400 mm, f 5.6, 1/3200 sec, ISO 500, hand held

Technique:  This March, I was watching waterfowl that were pairing up for nesting later on the breeding grounds. I noticed a blue wing teal pair. A unpaired drake approached from the rear and interjected himself between the paired hen and drake. Only a few seconds later there was an explosion of action and it was game on. This image captures that moment of explosion. It was important to me to not only show the image where the drakes go into action but also show the impressive amount of power generated by these small ducks with just their feet pushing against the water. Also, the hen in the background is quacking it up. I have the whole image sequence (5) images. The battle actually took place behind where the conflict starts and ends with the original paired drake jumping into the air and landing on the interloper. I just liked this image better than that one. Oh, the interloper lost both the battle and the war.

Processing: PS camera raw with minor hue3/sat adjustment in PS

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

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

Review by Tom B., 5-22-2015
The stop action in the image is great and the detail of what is visible is good. I find it hard to find a single focus point and the action is hard to define with all the water splashing around without using your explanation of what was happening. The series of 5 images would probably produce a much better story to the viewer.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8
Review by Dawn C., 5-24-2015
Wonderful capture with great stop action for such a fleeting interaction. Flat, overcast lighting allows for great feather detail and avoids hot specular reflections, however I'd brighten it a bit to give it a bit of pop to get that last exceptional point.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9
Review by Andy H., 5-23-2015
Great action shot. Not sure of the focus point. The water covers up too much of the action. A crop of the top, RHS and even bottom might create more impact.Perhaps one of your other images in the series would show more of the ducks. The image, for me, lacks punch. Perhaps someone can suggest a remedy.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total=7
Review by Rick C., 5-23-2015
The nature story is strong and well captured. The exposure looks good. I’m not expecting to hold detail in the splashed water here. I would be inclined to use something like Viveza to open up the drakes even a bit more. Primary focus looks good. DOF also seems good. There seems to be a little motion blur (not unexpected) so I would run the sharpening tool over the two drake’s faces to add a bit more snap there (keep the opacity at 15% - a little goes a long way) I think I would look at a crop to more of a panel to emphasize the flow and line of the action even more. It wouldn’t take much. Down from the top to eliminate the darker water you can see on the upper right. Up from the bottom to just above the wave ripple on the left. If you had any more space to the left in front of them, I would add some of that back in. These are relatively minor adjustments to fine tune. N-3, T-3, P-2 = 8 (crop to more of a panel and lighten facial area on drakes will bring P up)
Review by Bogdan B., 6-3-2015
The action is perfectly frozen. Unfortunatelly I couldn't realise, what's going on. I was looking a long time to find another 2 ducks. Their heads are hardly seen between the feathers.
N-2, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total=7

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.