Sit or Stand for Flight? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Sit or Stand for Flight?

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Black Skimmer in flight above beach grasses, Nickerson Beach, NY. Created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode.

Central Sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF Surround active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Be sure to click on the image for the larger version.

I added canvas to the bottom and the top, moved the bird down in the frame, cropped from the bottom, and added a bit of sky using techniques from Digital Basics and APTATS II (with lots of help from Denise Ippolito).

Sit or Stand for Flight?

In situations where the birds may be flying low over a field or a beach it is often a huge advantage to sit while doing flight photography. Why? You either move the background effectively farther from the bird or eliminate the background completely. This makes it much easier for the AF system to pick up the subject and hold focus. In addition, with the background effectively farther from the subject, the background is softened up considerably. Click here for the current IPT schedule and info. I am thinking about extending my stay in NY and offering a second Nickerson/JBAy IPT in late August; if you are seriously interested, please shoot me an e-mail.

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Black Skimmer aerial chase, Nickerson Beach, NY. Created while sitting behind my lowered tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

61-point/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Be sure to click on the image for the larger version.

With west and south winds respectively on our last two afternoons we were blessed with many dozens of aerial skimmer battles and chases. While this one was made while sitting following the action would have been easier while standing but I did not want to give up the chance to make images like the two that opened this blog post. Learning how the wind direction will affect not only flight photography but all avian photography is something that you will learn on most IPTs.

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Black Skimmer in flight landing in the colony, Nickerson Beach, NY. Created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 800. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/2000 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode.

61-point/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Be sure to click on the image for the larger version.

Here I added canvas in front of the bird again using techniques from Digital Basics and APTATS II (and again with lots of help from Denise Ippolito).

In the image above I would not have been able to include the nice strip of sky to the image design had I been standing.

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Black Skimmer in flight with wings extended and flat, Nickerson Beach, NY. This one was also created while sitting behind my lowered tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

Central Sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF Surround active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Be sure to click on the image for the larger version.

This is another one that would have been easier to create had I chosen to stand. Careful readers will note that as the light changed we constantly needed to adjust our exposures. Denise and I were of course willing and eager to offer exposure advice as the clouds came and went.

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Battling Black Skimmers, Nickerson Beach, NY. Created while sitting behind my tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops off the sky: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.

Central Sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF Surround active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Be sure to click on the image for the larger version.

The image above is a crop from a horizontal original capture. With its 22.3 mega-pixels a sharp 5D III original can stand up to some fairly aggressive cropping.

With well more than 100 visits under her belt Denise has been to Nickerson Beach far more than I have. And each visit involves a 4-hour round trip from her home in Brielle, NJ. Often at 3am. She felt that we enjoyed the best ever action with the battling skimmers. It sure was fun. Look for the Nickerson Beach?JBWR IPT report in a BAA Bulletin soon.

Which is Your Favorite

Take a moment to leave a comment and let us know which of the five skimmer images is your favorite, and why.

B&H Sigma Lens Specials

I have, on many occasions, seen the incredible images made by Robert O’Toole with the Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO autofocus lens. It is lightweight, relatively inexpensive, sharp as a tack at f/8, and it features an almost ridiculous minimum focusing distance. The OS refers to the optical stabilizer in the lens. Best of all, B&H is now offering some very nice rebates on both the Canon and Nikon versions of this lens as well as on a wide variety of other Sigma lenses.

Click here to learn more about the Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO autofocus lens with Canon mount.
Click here to learn more about the Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO autofocus lens with Nikon mount.
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And click here to learn more about the rebate offers for all Sigma Nikon mount lenses.

Your purchase will help us be able to continue providing free information on the blog and in the BAA Bulletins.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear used to create the images in today’s post. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens Right now this is my all time favorite super telephoto lens. But my 600 II is coming soon…. It has great reach, AFs with my EOS-1D Mark IV, is relatively light, and the the four-stop IS is amazing.
Canon EOS-5D Mark III. Man, I am in love with this camera body. Both the files and the AF system are superb.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sales value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders 🙂 And you will love them in mega-cold weather….
Gizo GT3532 LS CF Tripod. This one replaces the GT3530LS Tripod and will last you a lifetime. I’ll be commenting on this new model soon. In short, I like it.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
BreezeBrowser. I do not see how any digital photographer can exist without this program.

12 comments to Sit or Stand for Flight?

  • avatar Faraaz

    Of course, all these images are superb. What jumped out most to me was “Battling black skimmers” – an absolutely amazing shot. I love images that have a hidden design to them – this one is a ying-yang image for me. Both birds seem to have opposing personalities like the light and dark of the ying and the yang. Plus they’re facing opposite directions too. Beautiful, illustrating the whole concept of “Birds as Art”.

  • avatar Jay

    My favorite is probably Black Skimmer in flight landing in the colony. I like the detail that you can see on the face, and the way the grasses in the background offset the coloring in the bird. Also, the angle of the bird as it is coming in makes this a little more pleasing than the almost straight on shot of the skimmers side in the first picture. The other flight shots are great (the battling black skimmers is unbelievable – I probably would have missed the shot because I would have just been watching them).

  • avatar Deirdre Sheerr-Gross

    That was the GREATEST IPT!!!!

    Many Thanks Artie and Denise… and to all of my new bird photography adventurers…

    I so loved our time together…. I learned a “ton” …so many new things about photography (equipment, technique, composition, anticipation and positioning.. remembering to “tell the story”… the importance of the BG,I could go on..) and I learned a “stack” about birds and their behaviors… and the post production tips and techniques where terrific: Photoshop, Nik & Beyond… and I even learned some about life… and that Artie really is a sweetie….
    Many Thanks…. Many, Many thanks… Looking forward to the next ones…

    w/affection and a passion for the birds, Deirdre

    ps.. I love all the above shots… Each is a memory for me… But my favorite is #3/Skimmer Landing in the Colony: Great looking Bird, Love that all of the bird is in the superb soft green grass back ground, head turned just right, wow wings, the terrific colors pop, birds position in the frame is just right: heading home.. , soft blue sky border at the top, and that large sharp eye is looking right at you… Other than the upper-right pale grass, this is a winner for me…

  • Really like #5 best with the repeat diagonals and vertical orientation. The higher bird would really have to pull some G’s to close on the other… Glad you had such great conditions.

  • It was a great group! Charles, wish you could have been there- we had a blast!

  • avatar James Graham

    Art, you are an international treasure. I’ve been taking photographs, as an amateur, for over 60 years, but never understood digital until reading your blogs. As an eight-three old, I started sitting down in front of my tripod about three years ago, and found the same improvements that you describe Thanks for working so hard to improve our Art/Profession, and then sharing the results with the rest of us!

  • avatar Charles Scheffold

    I agree with you 100% – Denise is great at finding the birds at Nickerson. Always a good time!

  • avatar James Saxon

    It was a toss-up from the #3 image and #5 image. I love the color, position of the bird and soft background in image #3 but the overall winner is the action in image #5. Image #5 has everything, good light under the wings, a lot of action and soft colors in the sky and clouds.

  • avatar Ron

    I like them all – great shots Art. but I like the second one best – it almost looks like they are singing in unison

    P.S. I am looking forward to your comments/review of the Gitzo GT3532LS tripod.

  • avatar Marvin T. Smith

    They are all great, but you can’t beat the action captured in the last photo of the two birds.
    Marv

  • avatar Bill Richardson

    Liked them all but the battling skimmers was so dynamic and the positions so great that I have to pick that one as my fav. Surprised to see the 61 point option focused fast enough on that other shot. I have not tried my 5D3 on BIF but look forward to doing so. I am off to chase jaguars but will be heading to Florida in October. Right now, I still prefer the 1D4 over the 5D3 for wildlife but maybe I just need to get used to the 5D3.