At ISO 1250 the image had more noise than I like... but shooting at 700mm I was pushing it by shooting at 1/500th of a second... the normal rule of thumb would suggest 1/700th or faster. Had I slowed it down to say 1/250th my concern was that if the bear started running that my speed would be too slow for the movement. So in the low light I was splitting hairs between shutter speed and ISO. In hindsight I might have removed the 1.4 extender in order to gain sharpness, one f/stop and less grain... and just crop more in post. The problem there is when you're rolling up on a situation, you don't know exactly what length lens you'll need. In this case we were very lucky to have a bear that close to us. They are usually much farther away.
Processing: Cropped to the bear. Slight exposure increase. I did take this into Photoshop to remove a stick that was crossing the bears rear leg. So Content Aware/Fill was used to remove the thick stick... with a little Stamp Tool to finalize the fix. Slight sharpening, noise reduction and black adjustments were used prior to the Photoshop work.
Critique Image (only members of Study Group One may critique this image)
Review by MariaK-L, Jan 31, 2014
Beautiful, young bear. I think you manage light conditions and the whole processing very well. I can see all details in the fur, the bear face is well lid and background is very picturesque. As far as the nature story to me this is not as strong even I realized how long you might wait for the occasion. I also put value 2 for pictorial because this image does not hold my interest too long. Once I see the bear my eye is leaving the frame. It hard to explain why exactly but a different pose of the bear or different placement in a frame might change this feeling. By the way, it is difficult to put comments after Dan so I was writing them before reading his comments.
N=2, T=3, P=2, E=0, Total=7
Review by DanC., Jan 27,2014
You handled the situation well under the lighting conditions and the potentially fleeting opportunity. I have found with my 5D Mk III the noise performance is still pretty good up to 2000 ISO and within the range of post capture control at higher ISOs. I concur that removing the stick probably improved the image but not without consequences. If you intend to use this in a competition, you can only use this in a open competition, not in a nature competition that follows the PSA definition. This is due to the removal of the stick that crossed the bear's rear leg. That particular adjustment is not allowed by the definition but that does not preventing you from using it elsewhere. Some allowable adjustments that can enhance the image, also in Photoshop, is sharpening and flipping horizontal, and slightly more cropping. The flipping horizontal will increase the confrontation between the viewer and the bear and placing more emphasis on the excellent lighting you have on its face. This confrontation also adds story value to the image. As for the cropping, I suggest removing about 1/3 the space behind the bear. This will place its head in one of the 1/3 intersection points, increasing the pictorial quality of the image. Per the PSA Nature Definition, cropping is the only legitimate way of removing elements from nature images if they are going to be used in a nature competition. Where use in nature competitions is not a criteria, anything that enhances an image is fair game. The sharpening I recommend here is High Pass sharpening. After you have done all your sizing and other adjustments, create a duplicate layer and convert it to a smart object. Go to your Filters menu and select Other > High Pass. Do not be dismayed by that awful grey tone. Convert the blending mode for that layer to Soft Light or any other mode in the Overlay zone and the image will be sharper. Play with the radius slider to help define your edges. Different modes within the Overlay zone will also give you different amounts of sharpening. Your third control with High Pass Sharpening is the opacity slider next to the blending mode box. The additional sharpening will improve your technical quality.
N=2, T=2, P=2, E=0, Total=6
Review by TomP., Jan 30, 2014
Comments: Your focus and exposure are good, I believe. I think you could stand to crop the image to place the bear's head at a sweet spot and eliminate the great expanse of white. A little more contrast and/or clarity might also bring out more detail in the bear's face and torso.
N=2, T=3, P=2, E=0, Total=7
Constance Knox has been a photographer ever since her father showed her how to use his camera on the rim of the Grand Canyon when she was about ten years old. It was an Argus C3. When the pictures came back from the lab with beautiful images of the canyon she was hooked. She's been a Canon shooter since the early 80's but still owns that Argus C3.
"Connie" is best known for her hobby images in wildlife and nature photography but has a long professional history in television videography, editing, news journalism, show production and television station management. She currently sells images and videos on iStock and Shutterstock - enough to help pay for her hobby while continuing her career in broadcast management.
Connie's work can be found at ConstanceKnox.com. Catch ya thru the lens!