Torrential Miracle « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Torrential Miracle


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This swimming drake Torrent Duck image was created with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/8 in Av mode.

One sensor to the right and one sensor below the Central sensor/Surround/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the fold of the near wing active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Torrential Miracle

When I first met our Torres del Paine friends and guides, Rodrigo Moraga and Cristina Trugeda, Rodrigo asked, “What is your #1 most wanted bird ? “Torrent Duck,” I responded, “with chicks…” He said, “We might be able to do that.”

I could only dream….

Like our Harlequin Duck, Torrent Duck–though not closely related–is a bird of fast-moving rivers and streams. On the second morning with our skilled team, we stopped near the waterfall in front of the Paine towers to search for Torrent Duck. Within minutes Rodrigo said, “Got em, with chicks.” The family was resting on a shelf of flat rock that abutted some fast moving water. I was nervous as we approached, fearing that the ducks would simply swim quickly out of range. As we got closer, they swam off upriver. I sat, hoping that they would come back to the shelf. Denise Ippolito, Rodrigo, and Cristina circled to my left to get a bit closer to the birds that were now in the river. They had not moved too far off; they swam and dove about 15 meters from the trio of photographers, 25 meters from me.


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This is the hen Torrent Duck with her two chicks. The image was created with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/8 in Av mode was a bit of an under-exposure as I had been set up for the drake.

One sensor to the right and one sensor below the Central sensor/Surround/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the base of the hen’s neck active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the new version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Getting Better All the Time

Within two minutes of my sitting down behind my lowered tripod the whole fam damily (note: the “whole fam damily” is not a typo. :)) began to swim back towards their resting place, the rock shelf right in front of me. My heart began to race, seemingly as fast as the rapids just to my right….


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This Torrent Duck chick image was created with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/11 in Av mode.

Central sensor (by necessity) Expand/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the front of the wing stub active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger, cuter version.

Going for the Gusto; How Good Can It Get?

As the ducklings swam slowly against the current and right at me I decided to try for an image of a single duckling so I added the 2X III TC as quickly as my fumbling fingers would allow. I created a series of about a dozen images while thinking that the coloration of the baby Torrent Ducks was reminiscent of the coloration of Emperor Penguin chicks, chicks that I have never seen and will likely never see in this lifetime.

The whole experience is one that I will remember and cherish until the box is nailed shut. Thanks a stack to Rodrigo and Cristina not only for the great family of ducks but for a wonderful six days.


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This 3-frame in-camera Natural HDR image was created at Torres del Paine National Park, Chile with the hand held Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter) (at 98mm), and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital camera body ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop yielded a base exposure of: 1/1250 sec. at f/8 in Av mode (+/- 2 stops).

One sensor to the right of the Central sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on a rock in the middle of the stream active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Insane Deal on One of My Very Favorite Lenses

Right now B&H is offering one of my very favorite lenses, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, at the ridiculously low price of only 1899.00 The regular price is $2499.00. They are offering a limited quantity as follows: after clicking on one of the BAA affiliate links here proceed to checkout to receive the $2199.00 price. Follow that up with the mail-in-rebate $300.00. When the smoke clears you will own this great lens for only $1899.00.

I have this lens with me on every trip. I use it as above for scenics and habitat images. I use it to create bird scapes and images of groups of birds, for flight images of single birds with either TC and often with the 1.4X III TC for flocks in flight and for blast off blurs. It is a great travel and all purpose nature and wildlife lens. It is rare that I am in the field without having the 70-200 II on my shoulder via the Black Rapid S-7 strap.

Image Questions

Which of the four images above is your favorite? Please let us know why you made your choice. In the second image, the one of the hen with the two chicks, why should I have added 2/3 stop more light than for the image of the drake?

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16 comments to Torrential Miracle

  • JAJAJA..yes..at 3am we where ready to go…then we realized that we could keep sleeping!!!!!
    With Cristina we remember every day we had at Paine. Thanks again for all.
    Un abrazo
    Rodrigo

  • avatar Joel Haas

    ” In the second image, the one of the hen with the two chicks, why should I have added 2/3 stop more light than for the image of the drake? ”
    I think you added 2/3 stop more light because the overall tonality of
    the background was much lighter than the background in the image of the
    drake, and you wanted to properly expose the birds.

  • Dear Artie. We are still with lĂ­mited conection. But tonight we where able to read the post
    Great images that describes a beautifull morning with the ducks!!!
    Today we spend all the day with 3 pumas. For your next visit we Go for the cat!!!

    Un abrazo grande

    Rodrigo

  • avatar Steve Rentmeesters

    I tried the B&H link for the lens but did not get the correct price.

    Thanks for trying Steve. Are you seeing the price in your shopping cart as $2199? Are you in the UK?

    • avatar Geoff

      Hi Steve,

      You have to not only add the lens to your cart but you then have to initiate the checkout process before the price will reduce. Hope that helps.

      • avatar Geoff

        Just wanted to note also that according to CanonPriceWatch this is the lowest price on this lens for a new version since they started monitoring prices in April 2010. However, the mail in rebate is only valid for US purchasers.

  • All the images are simply stunning.

  • avatar Geoff

    Wow. I’d never heard of this duck until just reading the blog post. I was stunned by the beauty of the duck and especially of the chick. Great images. The close-up of the chick is the crown jewel of these images but all are spectacular. I can just picture all the TC fumbling, been there done that!!

  • avatar Jim Kranick

    Artie, I’ll join the rest of the group and say the chick with the water droplets too. With it facing the camera it has an additional quality I really like.

  • All three of these are fabulous. I love the red on the male’s head and the fact that it is just emerging from a dive. I love the female with the babies. Just when I was wishing they were in more focus, I scrolled down to the singleton baby. How dear! Yup, the baby is my fave!! Super work and nice selection to share with us. Thanks Artie!!!

  • Art,

    What goes around comes around. Just wonderful. The little chick with the water droplets is my favorite.

  • Artie, Your close-up of the TODU chick may be among one of your best images! Congrats!

  • avatar David Policansky

    Wow, great images. I think the closeup of the chick is my favorite for the detail, the chick’s expression, composition, but it’s close for me between that one and the hen with her two chicks. I’d have added more light to the hen and chicks because with the drake you had that brilliant white on its head that you didn’t want to blow out. The hen and chicks don’t have that.