Study Group 2


Butch Spielman

Click image to enlarge


Upload Image and Description
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

Upload Image and Description
NOVEMBER 2014 ROUND

Title:  A Twofer

Goal:   Came across feeding egrets. Prior observation informed me that egrets catch their prey by grabbing the prey between their upper and lower bills.Usually, the gripped prey is not in an ideal position for swallowing, so the egret kinda tosses the prey in the air and catches it near the egrets gullet for the swallow. This egret did something I have never seen, he grabbed a first fish in the usual manner, but he also, on the same strike ended up with second fish impaled on it beak. The egret just stood there trying to understand what was going on. He obviously wanted both fish. Finally he made his move with the toss or the first fish, but that cost him the impaled fish which fell in the stream and was washed away. Have not seen any more fish impaling by egrets.

Source:  Canon 5D III, Canon 100-400, f8.0, 1/320, ISO 200 and zoom to 370

Technique:  Hand-held. Patience, watched these birds for over an hour.

Processing:  Camera Raw with Nik for noise and sharpness. PS for hue/sat and local dodge/burning.

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

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

Review by Lisa A., 11-23-2014
Oh my! What a great story. With surprise I noticed the second impaled fish. The egret does look like it needs to make a decision. Either way he loses something. Good composition. The eye and beak are quite clear. Your feathers are mostly clear. You did not tell us what you used but a spot metering the feathers might have given you a more detail in your feathers.
N=3, T=3, P=3, E=0, Total=9
Review by Belinda K., 11-26-2014
A lucky-unlucky catch. Too bad he couldn’t have both. It must have been fun to watch, and you got a nice closeup. Details and colors throughout the image are lovely, and you captured amazing details of the tiny fish. The poor impaled one has a ‘poor me’ expression! Great shot of an unusual dilemma in nature.
N=3, T=3, P=3, E=0, Total=9

Review by Rick C., 12-7-2014
An excellent image all around. The strong crop is an obvious intentional choice. The exposure looks to be right on the money with nice detail in the white feathers throughout. Focus is excellent and the sharpening is not over done. The nature story is there and made stronger by the second fish that was speared. This one should be a guaranteed acceptance and likely HM or award winner in the nature competitions.

N-3, P-3, T-3, E-1 = 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.