Study Group 2


Tom Brott

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JULY 2015 ROUND
Title:  Black Skimmer 

Goal:    To capture Black Skimmers in action

Equipment Used:    Canon 7D Mark II, f6.3, 1/160 sec, ISO 400, 400mm, hand held

Technique: Positioned myself between nesting area and water and was shooting in small burst of 3 to 4 frames as the birds flew by.  

Processing:  
  Processed raw image in PSCC adjustion black and white sliders and sharpened the image. I also cropped image and flipped direction of flight.

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

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

Review by Butch S., 7-15-2015
Real nice capture. Like the catch light in the eye. Good stop action of BIF. You have caught the real nature story of these birds as the glide over the water with lower bill down in the troll position. Your image shows the precision such birds must have to feed efficiently. Also, like the reflection.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total-10
Review by Maria K-L, 7-19-2015
You catch great moment. Light is perfect on the bird and reflection adds to pictorial value.
I like line on the water-it says how the bird catch the fish and works well in composition.
It surprised me that you used only 1/160 sec for such fast bird.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total=9
Review by Bruce F., 7-19-2015
This is a classic black skimmer image, showing its lower beak to skim the water as it fishes for food. Even though it is a classic image, the decisive moment of capture is excellent. I really like the light in the eye, for light shows life. Also, the trail of water is exciting and adds more action to the image. Excellent nature story! The reflection adds to the pictorial elements.

My only suggestions for improvement are technical in content. For to me, the image seems a bit pixelated or noisy, maybe this is because of the amount of cropping done. A 60D camera body should give you a good file. If you look at the water, you can see some noise in the ripples, especially in the shadowed darker ripples, even in the darker blue ripples.

Overall, the image isn’t as crisp as it should be, maybe it was the shutter speed, not quite fast enough. I know the rule is reverse of the focal length of the lens. In this case, 1/400 second shutter speed. I have found though for fast moving objects like birds in flight, faster or quicker is better, and I would have used a very fast speed like 1/2000 or better, sacrificing ISO up to 1000 ISO. These setting should have been available in the strong low light.
If it’s not the shutter speed, maybe it’s the lens, you don’t say what 400 mm lens you used. If it was a 400mm f5.6 lens rather than a 400mm f4.0 or f2.8 lens, this could account for some loss in sharpness and image quality, providing an image with less clarity.

Over sharpening does add contrast on the edges between pixels of different contrast levels, but the skimmer itself looks OK—good but not great. Water droplets look good at this image size. Yet, the noticeable technical issues do contribute to a less than perfect, pleasing pictorial presentation.
I cannot blow up the image beyond the larger size on the site, so could be a combination of all four of these factors.…

However, it’s a great story, showing unique behavior to the species, captured during a beautiful moment, with good strong low angled light, and well placed in the frame.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total=7
Review by Rick C., 7-23-2015
I think you handled this very nicely. All of the technical aspects look to be on the money. The action is excellent and the nature story is strong. I think that your chosen composition is reasonable, but wonder if the image wouldn’t be even stronger if we sacrificed the wings in the reflection to make it more of a panel and thereby emphasize the Skimmer and the action even more (see my crop). The slight angle the Skimmer is flying on is not an issue. There is a problem in the amount of sharpening used. There is a slight pixelization where the water should be smooth and a halo on the skimmer. It is hard to say whether this is from the actual sharpening applied or you cropped in significantly already. In any event, the over sharpened effect does keep the image from realizing its full potential. Your decision to reverse the line of flight was a good one. Your timing on the release is close to perfect.
N-3, T-3, P-2 = 8 (over sharpening the main issue)


I noticed that your image was saved in Adobe RGB. Remember that Windows (and the internet) are sRGB color spaces and as a result your image colors and brightness may not look as they did one your system. You will need to convert to sRGB to keep thing looking the same.


Review by Andy H., 7-24-2015
You achieved what you set out to do, well done.
I think the exposure is good, colour fine.Placing yourself in this position has made the DOF easy to handle. Sharpness, not sure it looks pushed. Can i see a halo over the back of the neck?
With regard to composition I would have cropped some of the foreground. Other than that you achieved what you set out to do and got a great result.
N-3, T-2, P-2, E-0, Total-7


Review by Dawn C., 7-29-2015
Great nature story - anticipating the behavior allowed you to get into the right position to capture the action. Bird is beautifully sharp, though I do perceive a halo on the back of the neck and noise in the water. I've had this happen when applying general sharpening to the entire image, don' t know if that is the case here. I really like the crop suggested by Rick.
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total=8


Review by Bogdan B., 7-31-2015
It's unbelievable, how you succeed to catch the bird at the right moment. I know, how hard is capturing birds in flight. It's really a sharp and good exposed photo. You have just made a typing error. Your shutter was 1/1600 and not 1/160s (EXIF information. My only complaint is halo effect, not just on the neck, also on the wings and back. I like Ric's crop.
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-1, Total-9


Review by Les L., 8-4-2015
I have never seen a Black Skimmer so I read with interest the other viewers comments. I think your vantage point and timing were excellent. I like the reflection. I would like to see a little more dodging on the eyes. Good job.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-1, Total=10


Review by Mike P., 8-21-2015
Great action shot. A bit too much empty space on the top and bottom for my taste. I'd suggest making a tighter crop. The image isn't as sharp as it could be. You probably need a much faster shutter speed for capturing birds in flight. 1/160 ordinarily is way too slow.
N-3, T-2, P-3, E-0, Total-8


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JUNE 2015 ROUND

Title:    Burrowing Owl Chicks

Goal:    Capture an image of Burrowing Owl chicks

Equipment Used:    Canon 7D Mark II, f9, 1/1250 sec, ISO 640, 400mm, WB= Sunny, Hand held

Technique:    Finding a burrow with the chicks outside without a sign or perch in the picture.

Processing:   PS CC, I lessoned the shadows, used Color Efex 4 to bring out more details and cropped

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

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

Review by Manu R., 6-15-2015
Beautiful image with the impact. Rare specimens!Light is a bit harsh affecting the back ground. Wish you had more space to the wright rather than the left. But it doesn't matter as the nature value of the image is high!!! Great effort..
N=3, T=3, P=2, E=0, Total=8
Review by Andy H., 6-13-2015
Birds with attitude! I like this subject. Well exposed, sharp good DOF. The grass is a little over saturated for me. I would have liked to have seen the owls positioned to the left but I don't know if this was possible.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total-8
Review by Butch S., 6-15-2015
Love the sharpness, great detail--could almost touch these guys. I like the turn of the heads. The one thing I would like to see and it concerns the background. The background has a yellow hue and tonal value that competes with the birds and does not let the birds be quickly seen in the wonderful detail that you captured.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E=0, Total=8
Review by Dawn C., 6-20-2015
Love the detail and interaction of the two birds. Would be better if they were framed to the left of the image so there was 'room' in the image for the birds to be looking. The direction of their gaze leads the viewer out of the image. Excellent depth of field. You may want to bring down the highlights in the background to make them less distracting.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total=8
Review by Bogdan B., 6-20-2015
Tom, your chicks are really pretty.Image is very sharp and exposed. You can selectively darkend the chicks just a little to be more visible on the background.The main disadvantage are sights pointed outside the picture. If you don't have any space on the right, you can make upright panorama (more narrow image). The space on the left should be smaller then on the right. That way you will also get rid of green branches on the right.
N-3, T-3, P-2, E-0, Total=8
Review by Les L., 6-17-2015
Great shot of Borrowing Owls! Technically excellent with good exposure, colorant framing. I like your arrangement following the rule of thirds. Image has feeling.
N-3, T-3, P-3, E-0, Total=9
Review by Rick C., 6-26-2015
You have some cute subjects here. The primary focus is good. The depth of field (DOF) is reasonable. Depending on your distance from them, F8 or even F5.6 might have allowed you to blur it even more while retaining the sharpness in the chicks. As it stands, I would be inclined to darken (burn in) the background and foreground a little to try to separate the chicks out even more. The surroundings are on the bright side and so compete with the chicks, particularly around the legs and feet. Be careful on what you do in Color Efex. Using Tonal Contrast or the Detail Extractor is OK as those are based on algorithms that deal only with contrast adjustments. Any of the other filters might potentially be considered to change the image (that is, constitute manipulation) and push it out of nature. A minor nit is that they are looking out of the frame, but I don’t see that as a significant impediment to the success of the image. N-3, T-3, P-2 = 8


My name is Tom Brott and I live in Cape Coral, Florida.  I started taking pictures back in the late 1960’s and have been shooting ever since.  I started to get serious about seven years ago when I fell in love with digital imaging.  Since then I have taken several courses and joined Fort Myers Camera Club, Florida Council of Camera Clubs and PSA.  I feel my photography has improved  with my club affiliations and am seeking to improve even further.

I currently shoot with a Canon 6D and have a wide variety of lenses to accompany the camera.  I shoot in RAW  format, feel comfortable using  the manual mode and primarily use Photoshop from CS6 to edit when needed. I am looking to enhance my Nature Photography as I have many great opportunities living in Southwest Florida and being  so close to the Everglades National Park  and Big Cypress Preserve.