Photo Discussion Friday - Week 52



PDF Week 52/2015: Nikon D4, 800mm, 1/1000, f9, ISO 500.

2015 - Week 52 (25/12/2015)

Franziska Iseli has quite a stunning portfolio of pictures. She has won several photo competitions in various categories. Good Pictures Online are proud that Franziska participates in our Photo Discussion Friday and that she puts her photo up for discussion and critique.

What does the picture mean to me?

"Das Foto entstand vor gut einem Jahr in Florida. Geschossen wurde es mit dem 800mm vom Boot aus, also recht herausfordernd, den richtigen Ausschnitt im richtigen Moment abzulichten. Zum Glück war genügend Licht, so dass eine schnelle Zeit gewählt werden konnte."

Translation by GPO: The photo was taken roughly a year ago in Florida, USA. I used my 800mm lens from a boat. Hence, managing to capture the targeted area at the right moment was quite a challenge. Luckily, there was enough ambient light at the time which allowed for the shutter speed to be dialled up.

Why did I want GPO to comment on this picture?

- no further information received


  • Franziska Iseli

    on December 30, 2015

    >What do you mean by "isn't this what you wanted?"

    I remember that I read somewhere that we should not enter photos that we intend to sell (or something similar). This meant IMHO that I don't enter my absolutely best shots.

    Yes, please, someone else, help us find another perspective in our discussion.

  • Good Pictures Online

    on December 29, 2015

    With a 'flat angle' I mean that your picture looks only slightly up to the bird. With a shorter lens that I mentioned, giving me only about 4 metres distance for a similar quality photo, I'd have to stand almost underneath the bird - a shy bird in the wild. That would either make the angle extremely steep in a way that the photo would only show the underside of the bird - not an acceptable perspective and I'd certainly have lots of foliage and branches in the picture.

    I think your personal taste is all that matters. If you accepted the amount of head space or even promote it to a stylistic feature, that is totally fine in my books. No apologies needed for sure.

    What do you mean by "isn't this what you wanted?". Photo Discussion Friday is not about what I want but about what contributing photographers want. I am not struggling with your contribution and still think it is a decent photo for the reasons pointed out. Photo Discussion Friday is about any kind of pictures that the photographer is happy to share and be discussed. It is not about my expertise and testing my expertise. It is my goal that we all, with various backgrounds and levels of photographic skills and equipment, can discuss what - subjectively - works and what doesn't. It is just too much hard work for me to write in every sentence 'in my view'. It is hard to know how accurately or rather inaccurately 'my view' is representing a 'general view'.

    You can not directly upload on my webpage. As far as I know pictures can not be posted in this comments sections. Before I started Photo Discussion Friday, I had long thoughts about offering a 'Which photo is better' service. It is what professionals and more proficient amateurs highly demand, rather than un-welcomed and unnecessary suggestions. A lot of photographers know in their hearts that a particular photo is simply not working and none of the pictures in the series do. I have been there many times and I would have loved to make it work so badly because the pictures and the situation simply deserved it. Photo Discussion Friday is a forum for such photos too, if we are being honest about it, don't talk around the bush (sorry, Ozzy slang but you might get the gist of it) or get into defensive routines when we the obvious is pointed out. Of course, I can offer to upload your supplemental photo adding it to your post above if that is what you want.

    Hope that helps. Maybe someone else is happy to voice their opinion.

  • Franziska Iseli

    on December 29, 2015

    What do you mean by "flat angle". What angle are you talking about?

    I do not need an excuse for anything :-), but if I wanted more head room I would have chosen anther picture of the same stream that has more head room, but lacks the nice eye contact. (How can I upload this picture to this page?) It's a matter of personal taste whether I should crop more or not. My personal taste say no :-).

    I agree that this is not my best shot ever, no discussion about that ;-), but isn't this what you wanted?

  • Good Pictures Online

    on December 27, 2015

    Whether a difficult situation should have an influence on the evaluation of a picture, is indeed not relevant in this case. I can only repeat that it is easy to take a similar photo even with an iphone and from land in certain places, not on command but when being at the right spot at the right time. That is what your picture is measured by in the genre of wildlife photography. For me the only two real surprises within the photo were the patch of colourful feathers and the unique sharpness combined with the angle the photo was taken. With my camera on a 400mm lens, I'd need to be about 4 metres from the animal which indeed would be extremely difficult to achieve with a fully wild animal. It would not produce such a flat angle either unless I had a platform or a drone. And I'd still have noise in the picture and other issues. Frankly, I'd not even try but rather wait for the tame bird to pass my way one day. The unique lens information is purely in your photo and will occupy ambitious photographers even if you don't mention the - supposedly wiggly - boat. The later I assumed was a pre-emptive excuse for the lacking head space. Maybe you didn't appreciate my comment in the sense that it was meant. Nothing wrong about a mangrove lining at all - if the picture is balanced that is. It isn't, and - in my non National Geographic opinion - you won't get away with it unless you zoom into your photo until that head space looks acceptable and the stories happen in spaces acceptable to the average viewer. Believe me I spent hours trying to find the story in the mangrove that would balance. It was simply not accessible to me and I am almost a bit disappointed that the feet were not the key for a possible explanation. Neither could I find access to your photo on a less documentary, more artistic level. But that is only me, not trying to give you credit for the difficult situation and ignoring your feelings about it. Having said that, I do care (hence the questions that you chose not to answer accordingly when submitting and hence my attempt to point out the positives). And I do think that we all strive for unique photos that are not easy to achieve and capture something special for us or anyone else. Actually, this is the very core of wildlife and nature photography for me.

  • Franziska Iseli

    on December 26, 2015

    As we have already discussed lengthly, I totally disagree that a difficult situation should have an influence on the evaluation of a picture. I shouldn't have mentioned it...

    On the other hand I did not mention that the bird was sitting almost on top of a mangrove tree, which is rather unusual. Sometimes I keep forgetting that not everybody was there when I take a photo and know the surrounding. Because of this I decided to crop only slightly on the right and on the bottom. I didn't even consider cropping it another way and I think the mangrove lining is important in the picture.

    You are right that the bird did not do anything which is the week point.

What works for me

+ The bird is captured beautifully clear with nice eye contact. Knowing that this is not a close range shot the sharpness is stunning, e.g. beak details.

+ The photo is extremely simplistic and reduced to the main subjects with hardly any distraction, simply sky - mangrove - bird.

+ I love how clearly the colours and shapes play with each other, e.g. diagonal (triangular) blue versus green contrasting to the S-shaped neck and straight beak line of the main subject in yet a different colour.

What doesn't work for me and what could have been done differently

- For me, the bird hits its head at the top of the picture and its eyes draw into an area too far up. Balancing is probably difficult and I am sure you tried it. I assume you were not sure if the picture could get away with it. 

- In all the simplicity I was struggling to see the stories, the little extra, anything unusual or exciting. While this is definitely an excellent ID shot, that is quite presentable, to make it an outstanding wildlife shot would have required almost endless patience and waiting for the bird to move, yawn, scratch, snatch a fish. Still, I had some fun exploring the picture but it probably should have been more.

- With that particular subject in my experience it is extremely hard to impress. While you did a good job with a 800mm from a boat, its size makes this animal a popular photo trophy. Even if they are shy in the wild, some of these animals are used to people making them almost tame. They can be photographed easily with any background. [If I were you, I'd plan long holidays in Brisbane and take the boat and boat driver with you :-)]

- I am happy about the S-shaped neck and the quite effective shadows (tricked me there for a moment which I love) on it. I also liked the coloured feather area on the bird's body (for me the core story actually). The hardly visible legs (or is it just a thick branch?) in between all the Mangrove foliage however, are too hidden for my liking. So, unless they are important to you, I'd suggest to crop radically, going from a full but hidden body to a partial body portrait, stressing head and feathers and moving them into the spotlight.


This picture puts me into a conflict because I know how hard it was to take it. Considering the photo was taken from a boat with an extremely long lens this is a fabulous shot. It came as a large size picture which shows that the timing of the shot and the camera settings were right. It certainly makes other photographers dream of forgiving camera sensors and endless magnification power at the highest standards without any obvious colour fringing or artefacts. It is still the photographer's job to know how to make everything come together. Well done!

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In