Wildlife photography - critiques, please!

I just had a lovely little trip to Pinnacles NP and took some shots of the critters I saw. (I also took lots of photos of rocks and trees - what was I thinking? No one wants to see THOSE!)

Would anyone care to comment? I’ve gotten great feedback from you folks before.

Pics here.

Very nice pictures; the first rabbit is out of focus, unfortunately. I really like the junco peeking out from behind the water fountain, the kitty, mountain bluebird one and two, the deer, and the eagle.

I thought the water fountain bird had the most visual interest and best framing, while the bobcat pic did a good job at capturing a “moment”. Those two would be my winners.

The rabbit’s fuzziness looks more like motion blur, which a faster shutter speed would have prevented. It’s a bit dark, too (looks like it was getting late in the evening), but otherwise, nice full frame capture in mid hop.

My favourite by far is the bluebird. Really stands out nice and sharp. I like the sleepy bobcat too.

Very interesting, but you need to learn about composition. First of all, the ones with the subject right in the center, e.g. “grebe2” and “bye wabbit” and “mtn bluebird 2” seem static. They don’t show the subjects having moved into the shot or moving out of it. And I’d put the “eagle” somewhere on the right, like it’s just flown into the frame, and is about to fly right out of it, toward the viewer.

The “junko drinks” is a great idea, but the bird is so tiny, it’s hard to see. and the water fountain is just barely crammed into the frame. I would have cropped the right side, given the left side a little room, and possibly waited for a larger bird to show up.

And try to avoid having anything just sitting on the bottom, like “thirsty” and “wabbit.”

I love the various textures in “kitty,” and because of that I think it’s my favorite. But I would have placed the cat further to the right.

There are other problems as well, but if you could just learn more about composition, the other fixes will be easy.

Thanks for looking everyone!

From the little I do know about composition, I suppose what I was usually aiming for was having the animal’s eye/face at one of the intersection points of the “rule of thirds” thingy. Except when I was (trying to) break the rule on purpose, like the grebe, which I liked centred because of the circular ripples. Also, the blurry rabbit shot, I thought it made a nice contrast with the other, very still shot of the same rabbit. It was very very early, and around 30dg, so I was maybe a bit wobbly too :slight_smile:

Here:I just posted an uncropped bobcat photo - the log he’s napping on is beautiful - maybe TOO beautiful, I thought leaving it in made the frame a bit cluttered? There’s also another shot of the grebe, and one I forgot about before of a golden crowned sparrow, which I was pretty happy with.

That’s my favorite, too. I would tone it down a whole bunch. Bring the blacks and shadows a good deal down and give the picture some contrast and punch.

For me, light is the big issue in these photos. There lighting is just pretty flat or overly harsh in most of the photos. The bluebird photo is the one that is lit quite well.

But once you get past the lighting aspect, and then the compositional issues panach45 mentioned, the real important stuff comes into play: catching wildlife doing something interesting. That’s what makes a great wildlife photo: the intersection of light, composition, and moment. And that’s what makes any photo a great photo, really.

If I’d shot “kitty” as RAW, I’d be in Lightroom right now working on the overexposed areas trying to bring some balance. I like that pic, but the light is so flat and the overexposed areas are so out there, it’d be difficult to save, but it may be doable.

I also like the bluebird.

Several of your pictures have bright areas that need to be darkened. As an example, there are bright spots in the grass in the deer picture that distract from the subject. In a few cases the highlights are blown, which means that you won’t see any detail if you darken them. squeegee is correct that you might be able to save these if you have raw versions of the images - JPG compression tends to eliminate detail at the extremes of exposure.

The bottom of the eagle is blocked in - that is, there is no shadow detail. If you shot in raw, it is very likely that you’d be able to pull detail out of those areas.

The scrub jay picture is too busy. The branches, twigs and leaves distract from the jay holding the acorn. Too bad, since it’s nice that you were able to get an image of the bird with food in its mouth.

The “thirsty” picture suffers from having part of the drinking fountain poking in on the right. It would be better to either have more of it in the frame, or none of it. I would prefer more of it - helps the picture tell a story. Ideally, I would want to see where the nozzle connects to the base, so that all parts of the fountain are contiguous.

I agree with the others who have said that your images are “flat.” You can do a lot to make an image stand out by playing with contrast, especially the contrast of the main subject. Any decent photo editing software should have tools for this.

That was precisely my take as well. I’m always unsure of how much criticism to give in these threads, so I tend to keep it to a minimum. But all of these photos could benefit from more editing to do just as you suggested.

What I could see of the tree in the cropped photo looked interesting, but now that I see more of it, I love it and want to see even more of it. If the camera was aimed a bit up and to the left so that the bobcat was at the lower right intersection of the thirds, more of the curving branches would be visible on the left and give it a more dynamic composition. Pulykamell’s comment about bringing the tones down applies here too. The shadows in the tree aren’t dark enough and make the picture tonally flat.

If you’re interested, there’s a wildlife painter named Robert Bateman who shows his animals as part of their habitat. To me, that sets his paintings apart as legitimate art rather than just faithful depictions of animals. Here are some direct links to a few of his paintings:

Harris Hawks (to show what I mean about the bobcat and tree)

Bluebird (coincidentally)

Bateman can also go the other way, as in this extremely tight framing of an elephant to emphasize its massiveness.

After having said all that, what came across in your photos as a whole was an enthusiasm for taking pictures, and that’s always good to see. It reminds me of me when I was starting out (about a hundred and forty years ago). I like that you’re playing around with composition (and I agree with centering the grebe and water rings in the frame–although I might crop some of the top and bottom to emphasize the rings more). There’s room for improvement, but if you’re serious about it, it looks like you have the ability to improve.

Alt Kitty. Cropped like what Esox Lucius described above - kitty at lower right third, as much of the tree at top left kept as possible with the two tree “holes” balancing the bobcat. Also futzed with the light levels, dropped the red saturation a bit, and added just a sprinkle of sharpening to pop the textures some.

The blown out areas in the grass on the right and on the right side of the bobcat’s head are a real problem that can’t get fixed using a JPEG source. I do wish there was more of the interesting tree and less of the bland grass background to work with.


Alt Kitty v2. This pops the image a little compared to Alt Kitty v1. Using an adjustment layer, I fiddled with the contrast curve then painted out that effect on the newly blown-out areas of the image. I’m working with an uncalibrated monitor, so hopefully the contrast looks similar to what I’m seeing.

That’s puurrrfect.

I love the log, too - it really is a photogenic log.

That’s exactly who I thought of when I saw the uncropped picture - we have this picture of his, Excursion.

Beautiful - I’d buy a print of that.

That’s excellent.

Nice.:slight_smile: That must look great on your wall.

Bateman really resonates with me, both artistically and as a Canadian. I’ve been a big fan of his ever since I saw this print of wolves. It isn’t one of my favourites esthetically, but the attitude of the wolves really struck me. They’re neither snarling beasts nor majestic Kings of the Forest, but how I’d expect them to be in the wild. (Under the photo in the link, he describes how he wanted to portray them, and I think he nailed it perfectly.)

It really does. :slight_smile:

Very nice. I love his work - very dreamy and realistic at the same time, and not always obvious, like this portrait of a black wolf.

Man, that’s awesome. I don’t remember seeing that one before. That’s a great example of his work. Thanks for sharing it and making my day.