Study Group 2

Butch Spielman

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Title:   Entwined

Goal:   I was looking for interesting wildflowers. I had taken shots on the edges of some woods but then saw an open field that had a scattering of flowers. Found this one and it peaked my interest because the flower was pretty and it was being used by one of many ground dwelling small vines; This vine sent sent out a tendril to use the flower stem to climb upward.

Equipment / Source:  Canon Mark 5 III, 70-200 mm, f/18, 1/200, ISO 1250

Technique:  Got low and tried to keep flower close to being in same plane as lens, composition required a slight tilt, hence f/18. Used a monopod collapsed to shortest length.

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 Manu R
Just Beautiful! Nice contrast between the flower and the background. Sharp image with details presented well. Good control of depth of field. probably it is better if you crop from bottom and keep the picture to a standard aspect ratio.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9
Review by Les L.
I particularly like the way you were able to capture an almost velvet look to the flower's leaves. For me the vine is a distraction which leads my eyes right and out of the image. Good focus and color.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, total-8
Review by Andy H
The image is nice but I don't feel that there is any story here. The 'leader' is distracting, for me.
N-2, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-6
Review by Dawn C
Beautifully seen and captured. Love the composition lines created by the flower and tendril. Gorgeous rich colors and depth of field expertly controlled. I think the vine climbing the flower and reaching out adds that touch of nature story we all are striving for - not easy when working with flowers vs animals.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9
Review by Maria K-L
Right, this is a pretty flower well photographed. Sharp with nicely blurred background , But addition of this small wine is really adding to the nature story and to the pictorial value of the image.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9
Review by Cindy M
Good, sharp image of a flower. The composition is nice. I like the long, curled vine and the bud, which adds to the image. Very nice blurred background which makes the flower pop.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total-9

Review by Rick C.
I find this image to be very strong pictorially. I think you also have an interesting nature story once the viewer takes the time to trace the vine tendril back to the stem of the flower. I think your base exposure looks fine. It looks as if the burning in that you did may have run onto the upper left petals and if you feel that is the case I would mask it out there. You did well with the primary focus and in holding a fair amount of DOF. The near petals still look a touch soft at the near edge and that could be a factor if it was in a competition. The composition is good as is, but I feel the image would be stronger if you reverse it to use the tendril as the lead in and the flower to hold the viewer in the image.

N-2, T-3, P-3 = 8 (Offset darkening on upper petals if possible and reverse.)

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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

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.