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Circle of Life
1st PlaceCircle of Life

Photograph Information Photographer's Comments
Challenge: Wildlife VII (Standard Editing)
Collection: Challenge Stuff
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1
Lens: Olympus 150mm f/2.0 Zuiko Digital
Location: Brazos Bend State Park, Texas
Date: May 20, 2017
Aperture: 4.0
ISO: 200
Shutter: 1/1000
Galleries: Nature, Animals
Date Uploaded: May 23, 2017

An American Alligator (Alligator Mississippiensis) eating a Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys Scripta Elegans) at Elm Lake in Brazos Bend State Park, Texas, USA.

This was so amazing to watch and photograph. I only caught the last 20 minutes of an hour long battle to eat the turtle. The gator would raise his head and make 20 or 30 bites on the turtle before taking a break. I was able to watch and photograph 4 of these chomping episodes before he swallowed the turtle. On the 3rd try (that I saw) he dropped the turtle and things got crazy as he was thrashing around in the mud and muck to get it back. This photograph is from the 4th and final attempt and you can see all the muck coming out of his mouth. The shots before this were all clean and no muck, but I prefer this shot for the gritty look with all the muck.

I shot this with my 150mm f2.0 lens, which gives me an effective 300mm of reach. There is only 200px of crop on this photo from me rotating it slightly, I was not perfectly level while shooting.

The shooting conditions were terrible. Harsh bright light coming from behind the gator and to the right about 30 degrees. Could not shoot from the other direction (which would have been a bit better) because the shoreline curved and you could not get a view of him. This made getting a good exposure really hard and then editing was super tough. I spent a lot of time on a series of shots from this and while not perfect they are acceptable. Would have preferred much better lighting but as a wildlife photographer you learn to make due with what you are given.

I was so excited when this challenge came up because I am a wildlife photographer. But other photographic commitments (have to pay the bills) limited me to just one day out shooting. Which I would like to bring up how much I love the 2 week submission time frame now, makes life for busy photographers like myself much better. Anyways............by 9:30 I was pretty disappointed with what I had gotten. Well I did some good shots but not ones that I felt would do well in this challenge, but did get my free study shot while out (well it's my FS entry for now). So when I came upon this scene I knew I was going to get a great photograph for the challenge. I have high hopes of 7+ from this entry, and a possible personal best. But I am worried that it may be to graphic for some and result in a lower score.................guess in a few hours I will have a good idea on how well it is being perceived.

[Jun. 1st, 2017 11:19:40 PM]

Well, it sure has been a long week. Have about 50 minutes until rollover and not sure I will be away so figured I would say a few things now.

If it ends with it's current score of 7.4333 (at 60 votes) it will be a PB as well as highest score with camera and lens. So I am super happy with how this turned out.

To answer Robert's question, gators can digest anything they eat.........even the entire turtle.......shell and all.

To answer the person who is hidden..........it could not have been better controlled in camera. The entire side of the gator was in shadow because of the direction of the light. I picked a middle ground and went with it and was happy I could raise the shadow enough to see the turtle without introducing excessive noise. Considering the photo exceeded the dynamic range of my sensor I think it came out as well as it could of. I blew the top end of the highlights and crushed the bottom end of the shadows, so exposure wise there was not much else I could have done.

Here are a few outtakes that I considered, with the 2nd one the most likely other choice

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Place: 1 out of 54
Avg (all users): 7.4746
Avg (commenters): 8.1333
Avg (participants): 7.1786
Avg (non-participants): 7.7419
Views since voting: 1715
Views during voting: 151
Votes: 59
Comments: 28
Favorites: 0

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06/07/2017 10:04:55 AM
Great score and great shot!
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/05/2017 04:19:27 PM
Thanks for all the wonderful comments, would be to much to respond to each person.....................

If anyone is interested the full story about the day can be found here
06/05/2017 11:18:58 AM
wow... definitely a winning shot though I feel really sad for that turtle. But as you mentioned in your caption, it's the circle of life. Love your thought process on your photo selection and I think the one with the muck gives greater impact. Looking forward to seeing more.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/04/2017 05:54:04 AM
Wow Ronnie, just came home and found out you got the blue and PB - huge congrats!!!!
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/02/2017 09:13:27 PM
Terrific shot; congrats on the Blue!
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/02/2017 05:40:19 PM
Wow.... not a pretty shot, but a very powerful one. I looked at your outtakes - you made the perfect choice.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/02/2017 09:17:50 AM
This sort of image breaks my heart. It's fantastic. And soul crushing at the same time. Congrats on the blue. What a score!
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/02/2017 08:43:15 AM
Hello from the critique club

An appealing image that meets the challenge well.

I'm so pleased you have triumphed in this challenge in what is your genre Ronnie, only you could have done such a good a job of this. What an amazing score for a truly amazing image no wonder it came out tops, thoroughly deserved. Yes, it is graphic, but thats what makes it work so well and whilst one can only feel sympathy for the poor turtle that is nature and the 'circle of life'. Your extensive notes make fascinating reading giving us a real insight into the difficulties you faced and given all that, you did really well. I'm proud of you Ronnie, well done
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/02/2017 07:05:08 AM
Magnificent capture. Congrats on the Blue and your PB.

Echoing a bit of what Lydia might have been going for, the only reason this wasn't my #1 is that the background/OOF area seems to have suffered from the very processing that enhanced the subject. Had you been able to isolate the two and handle them separately this would be magazine cover worthy. Just food for thought in the future. Your alternate shots, while not as captivating, do a much better job of this.

Again, well done.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/02/2017 02:01:18 AM
Wow Ronnie, that is some result, well done. Congrats on your PB and of course the Blue!
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/02/2017 01:07:41 AM
Huge congratulations, not just for the Blue, but for the photograph itself.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/02/2017 12:23:39 AM
Wow! Great capture! Congratulations.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
 Comments Made During the Challenge
06/01/2017 11:34:24 PM
What great timing. That poor... turtle? What a way to go.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/01/2017 10:47:43 PM
Wow.. what a catch.. well done.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/01/2017 09:30:06 PM
wow! what a capture..poor turtle.9
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/01/2017 03:51:31 PM
Winner, winner, turtle dinner! In awe of this - haven't been through the rest yet, but this must be the Blue.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/01/2017 01:39:18 PM
Wow, what a capture!
  Photographer found comment helpful.
06/01/2017 12:12:43 AM
Gee whiz... How does he digest THAT?
  Photographer found comment helpful.
05/31/2017 11:30:15 PM
Awesome! Literally. Poor little turtle. Top 3.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
05/31/2017 04:19:21 PM
Holy crap!!
  Photographer found comment helpful.
05/31/2017 12:36:24 PM
WOW...great capture...love the clarity of the detail.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
05/31/2017 09:10:13 AM
Oh, bummer for the turtle :-( Impressive capture.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
05/30/2017 02:42:58 PM
Wow great shot
  Photographer found comment helpful.
05/27/2017 10:10:48 PM
My top two! 9

Would be a ten with better lighting. You really should talk to God about that! Ha!

Seems a bit harsh... could have been controlled in-camera... but GOLLY! How does one prepare to find this!

  Photographer found comment helpful.
05/27/2017 09:59:27 AM
Crikey! Thank you.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
05/27/2017 05:13:37 AM
Well timed capture. My top pick for this challenge.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
05/26/2017 12:41:03 PM
RIP turtle. Great wildlife picture. A 9 from me
  Photographer found comment helpful.
05/26/2017 08:28:20 AM
aww no!!! poor turtle. hope croc/gator broke a few teeth on its shell.
  Photographer found comment helpful.

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