King Penguin Abstracts « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

King Penguin Abstracts

What’s Up?

Another day, another swim. And lots more core strengthening and balance exercises. And I made some decent progress on the 7D Mark II User’s Guide. Today’s blog post took about 2 hours to prepare. It was published at 6:52am from my home at Indian Lake Estates, FL where it is pouring rain right now.

If you are one of the very few who missed the Canon Digital Learning Center “Bird Photography with Arthur Morris” seven video series, be sure to click here for a link and the complete details. I still have many exciting new images, tales, and lessons from my recently concluded trip to share with you here over the course of the next few weeks and am looking forward to doing just that. Do consider joining me in South Georgia next October for the trip of a lifetime

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BIRDS AS ART BULLETIN #471 is available online here.

  • The Canon Digital Learning Center “Bird Photography with Arthur Morris” 7-Video Instructional Series
  • King Penguin Abstract
  • The Morro Bay, CA Canon Live Learning EOS Destination Workshop
  • The Blog is the Bomb!
  • Jim Neiger Osprey Heaven and Custom Anytime Workshops
  • Hooptie Deux/Roseate Spoonbills and More Instructional Photo-Tour: 1 Opening Due to a Cancellation!


This image was created in cloudy conditions on December 25, 2014 at St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia. I used the handheld Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (at 210mm), and the amazing Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/160 sec. at f/7.1.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is almost always best when hand holding). Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: King Penguin preening abstract

King Penguin Preening Abstract

A raging ice melt river more than two feet deep with a 6 knot current kept me and many others on the trip from making it to the best vantage points on a ridge above the King Penguin colony. (More on that tale soon.) That left me to work with hundreds of silly tame King Penguins along the beach. I photographed them coming out of the surf. I did head portraits. And tried my best to capture a few courtship interactions. But as always with this species, I could not resist creating a few tight abstracts of the bird’s heads, necks, and faces. With the bright colors and intricate patterns there is pretty much an infinite number of complex abstract images there for the making.

The success of this image was due in part to my crouching down to best parallel the resting subject and in part to the carefully thought out image design. The partially open eye added a lot here. This was the only frame of about a dozen in the series in which the eye was not shut tight. With the eye shut, however, the image becomes even more abstract.

One of my King Penguin neck abstracts was honored in the 2013 Nature’s Best Competition. Click here to see the image and here for additional contest info.


This image was created in cloudy conditions at 7:15am December 23, 2014 at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia, with the
tripod-mounted Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/125 sec. at f/16. Cloudy WB.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround Rear Focus AF on the center of the black-yellow/orange edge and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #2: King Penguin sleeping abstract

King Penguin Sleeping Abstract

I created an image similar to this one on a fresh snow day at Fortuna Bay in October 2012. After the fact I think that I prefer the one with the snow background by a small margin. OCT/early NOV trips to South Georgia offer a much greater chance of snowy conditions. I am always praying for a white-out. Note that I used the 1D X and the 7D II with equal effectiveness on my recent trip.


This image was created in cloudy conditions at 7:26am December 23, 2014 at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia, with the
tripod-mounted Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/100 sec. at f/16. Cloudy WB.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround Rear Focus AF where the black curve juts into the orange patch from our left and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #3: King Penguin neck abstract

King Penguin Neck Abstract

You’ve spent a ton of money to travel to one of the world’s premier nature photography locations. You’ve gotten up early. You’ve waited patiently for a gorgeous King Penguin to walk up to you and then stand still. You can’t resist making another series of tight abstracts even though you have previously created thousands of similar images.

Here is what you need to remember: when everything is perfect, make lots of images. Too many folks will make only one or two images in a given situation and then move on (to “save space on their flash card.” What they are not realizing is that in a series of nearly identical images one will almost always stand out as clearly best. Small differences in sharpness, the pose, the bird’s eye, and minute shifts of various lines and angles in the image (caused by slight changes in the composition can make a large difference in the impact of the photograph. The image above is a perfect example. At the end of a large series the bird looked up to the sky for a moment creating a totally new and different look. Ah, success. I plan on entering this one in the next BBC contest….

Your Favorite?

Which of the three images here is your favorite. Be sure to let us know why. Which do you think is the weakest image. And why?


All of the images on the card were made on South Georgia. This remote wilderness island offers both spectacular scenery and hordes of tame wildlife and birds. From top left clockwise to the center: Southern Elephant Seal, courting King Penguin pair, King Penguin abstract, Grey-headed Albatross, King Penguin rookery on Salisbury Plain, Macaroni Penguin head portrait, King Penguin molting Okum Boy, Macaroni Penguin pair, King Penguin preening, Southern Elephant Seal yawning, the view of Gold Harbour from a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross nest.

Click on the image to see an extra-large version.

The 2015 South Georgia Expedition Voyage

Why Sign Up Through BIRDS AS ART?

If you have been thinking and dreaming of finally visiting South Georgia, this is the trip for you. Quit dreaming and act now. Though I will not be an official leader on this trip, those who have traveled with me know that I cannot help but teach. I will make pre-trip gear recommendations. I will hold informal pre-landing briefings. In the same vein, everyone will receive a free copy of our Antarctica Site Guide once they are paid in full (July 2, 2015). I will be available on the ship to review your images,, answer questions, and conduct informal over-the shoulder Photoshop sessions. And best of all, everyone who signs up under the auspices of BAA are invited to tag along with me on the landings where I will be glad to offer invaluable in-the-field advice. And the same goes for the ship-board birds in flight and marine mammal photography opportunities.

Do join us. To learn how to be part of the BAA group please e-mail me with the words Antarctica/Extended Expedition BAA Info Please cut and pasted into the Subject line.

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#1: If you fail to e-mail me as noted directly above, and register directly with CES you MUST let them know that you would like to be part of the BIRDS AS ART group.

#2: Joining the BIRDS AS ART group as above will not cost you one penny.

#3: Do understand that King Penguins are pretty much “dirt birds” on a South Georgia trip. What’s a dirt bird? A bird that is so common and so tame that it is usually over-looked by serious birders….

Click here for complete details and to learn about Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris. Please e-mailor with any questions or try me on my personal line this weekend at 863-692-2806.


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8 comments to King Penguin Abstracts

  • avatar Therese Scheller

    Stunning! Love them all but #1 rises to the top.

  • “The eye’s have it”. A beaut

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Still recovering from the flu; almost there. My senses love the colors and textures! My brain isn’t quite ready to judge them. 🙂 All wonderful images. Thank you.

  • avatar Fain Zimmerman

    I love #1 best with the partially open eye. To me, everything works together perfectly – the colors, the angles and the intricate feather details. One question – why do you use the 1.4X when you are that close, and the 70-200 would get you just about the same image? How close were you? Thanks for the education and information!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Fain. Me thinks that you are confused. If I had not used the 1.4X I could not have filled the frame as I wanted. I was about 3 meters away. The bird had approached me and it would not have been right to try to get any closer and possibly agitate the penguin or cause it to move away…. artie

  • Artie
    I posted at 7:06 EST, but your blog shows 8:06. May not be important.

  • To me Image #3: King Penguin neck abstract is the best. I like Image #2: King Penguin sleeping abstract the least. All very nice though. I took your advice and put a 64G CF card in my 5D Mark III. and I don’t worry about card space.