Common Eider, molting male, Shinnecock Inlet, Hampton Bays, Long Island, NY. Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/8 in Av mode.
The Central Sensor Crop
When I am using the 800 with the 1.4X II TC and the Mark IV, I have autofocus but only the central sensor is active. This greatly limits your compositional choices, especially when you are working with moving subjects and AI Servo AF. There are many other situations where you are limited to the central sensor only. Two common ones for me were when I worked with either the 500mm or 600mm f/4L IS lenses, the 2X II TC, and a pro body.
When you are working with the central sensor only with a moving subject that is not large in the frame, the subject will always be in the center of the frame. Thus the “central sensor crop” was born. With the large file sizes of the modern digital bodies, sharp images can stand healthy crops. To execute the central sensor crop, I crop from below the bird and from behind the bird; this places the bird pleasingly near one of the lower corners of the frame in the vicinity of one of the rule of thirds points. I use this crop often with swimming ducks as well as with birds in flight.
Having the bird in the center of a horizontal image rarely works well (unless the bird is flying right at you). You can learn the basics of composition in the original The Art of Bird Photography (soft cover). And you can study advanced composition and image design in the section of the same name in The Art of Bird Photography II (916 pages on CD only). Better yet, you can save $10 by purchasing them together here.
This is the original image before cropping. Note that with the central sensor on the bird there is no other place for the bird to be but smack dab in the center of the horizontal frame. Bad! A healthy crop from behind and below the bird yielded the opening image in this blog post.
Here is a list of the gear that I used to create the image above.
And from the BAA On-line Store:
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