On Photographing Piles of Cranes and Geese at Bosque del Apache NWR « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

On Photographing Piles of Cranes and Geese at Bosque del Apache NWR

What’s Up?

I spent most of the day working on the 2015 Bosque Current Conditions Update. That included working on more than a few new images to illustrate key points in the text.

The Week’s Sign That The Apocalypse is Upon Us

For the first time in my life, I forked over $60 to Pay per View, for the right to watch UFC 194: Weidman versus Rockhold and Aldo versus McGregor. I taped it and will be watching the bouts on Sunday morning….

BAA Bulletin 478

BAA Bulletin 478 is online and can be accessed here.

  • Lessons on Photographing Piles of Penguins…
  • The 2016 OCT/NOV Cheesemans’ South Georgia/Falklands Expedition: Their and my last one!
  • Jim Neiger Flight School Photography: Osprey Heaven Workshops
  • Your Help Needed and Appreciated/Affiliate Stuff


This image was created at Bosque on the next-to-last morning of the second IPT with the Induro tripod/Mongoose M3.6-mounted
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III,, and the incredible Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 2000. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/160 at f/6.3 in Tv mode. AWB.

One row down and four AF points to the left of the center AF point (Manual selection)/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure. The chosen AF point fell on the back of the crane leaning forward with one leg raised, center left. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Sandhill Cranes and Ross’s Geese in the predawn light

Lesson on Photographing Piles of Cranes and Geese…

This feature lesson was adapted from “Lessons on Photographing Piles of Penguins…” in BAA Bulletin 278 (as above).

Photographing large groups of cranes and geese at Bosque and other locations is not as easy an endeavor as it might seem. There are so many birds that you need to pay attention to lots of small but important details. Keep reading to learn a ton.

  • In general, try to get as high a vantage point as possible. At Bosque, most of the photography is done from the tour loop roads or dikes that are somewhat elevated. Raise your tripod to full height to maximize the height advantage; every bit of elevation helps. A higher perspective gives depth to the flocks.
  • Unless you are doing a frame filling pure pattern shot, strive for a clean lower edge as above.
  • Zoom lenses are really helpful when it comes to framing. Take extreme care when it comes to checking the left and right frame-edges… Small crops and a bit of Photoshop edge cleanup can work wonders as they did with the image above.
  • Working on a tripod can really help with careful framing.
  • Try to find a close bird that is distinctive either by position or pose so that it can serve as a compositional anchor: in today’s featured image I chose to focus on the crane with its leg raised, lower left to set off the rest of the birds in the image.
  • Consider the options and choose your perspective carefully.
  • As far as the upper frame edge, at times it is possible to have a clean upper edge as here. At times, the birds at the top will simply disappear out of the frame especially if you are working at a wide aperture.
  • Speaking of f/stops, your best option when hand holding is to work wide open or close to it to ensure a fast shutter speed. If you are on a tripod and the birds are resting or sleeping, you have the option of going to a tiny aperture and trying to get lots of depth of field with the range of sharpness extending either well back in the frame or actually covering all of the birds; this is in part a function of your focal length and how far away from the birds you are. For today’s image I chose a wide aperture as that best fits my style. Just the one row of cranes and some of the Ross’s Geese in the front are in relatively sharp focus.
  • As far as the overall image design is concerned, in situations like this it is often best to compose through the viewfinder as I did with this image. Focus on a possible subject/anchor and then slowly move the lens from side to side and/or a bit higher or lower. Note the clean look to the left and right frame edges that I came up here using that technique.

Which Bird Bugs Me?

One crane bugs me in today’s featured image. If you think that you know which one it is, please leave a comment.

Selling Your Used Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charges a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few months, we have sold just about everything in sight. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the original 400mm IS DO lens have been dropping steadily. You can see all current listings by clicking here or by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the yellow-orange tab on the right side of the menu bar above.


Donna Bourdon used her old 400 DO exclusively as her long lens on the first-ever BIRDS AS ART UK Puffin and Gannets IPT in 2014. Her Atlantic Puffin with snack image won first place in the Photographic Society of Chattanooga 2014 Annual Photo Contest.

Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO Lens

A New Record-Low BAA Price

Good friend and multiple IPT veteran Donna Bourdon is offering a well-used copy of the Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO lens (the old 400 DO) in very good plus condition for a new record-low BAA price, an insanely low of $2599.00. The paint on the lens show signs of wear, but nothing major. The glass is pristine. The included LensCoat is well-worn but functional. The sale includes the lens trunk, the front and rear lens caps, the leather front lens cover, the aforementioned LensCoat, and insured ground shipping via UPS ground. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Donna by e-mail or by phone at 1-423 280-6019 (Eastern time).

I used this lens for several years with great success, especially for birds in flight and while working from various type of water craft. In addition, it would make a great prime super-telephoto lens for folks with a 7D II. Gannets in Love was created with the 400 DO. You can see that one and 13 other killer images that I made with my old 400 DO here. The title of that blog post is “The Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO Lens: Fourteen Images that Prove that the Internet Experts are Idiots.” Donna’s lens is priced to sell. artie

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To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you use our the B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. B&H is recommended for you major photography gear purchases, Amazon for your household, entertainment, and general purpose stuff. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod heads, Gitzo tripods, Wimberley heads and plates, LensCoats and accessories, and the like. We sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. I just learned that my account was suspended during my absence; it should be up and running by Monday at the latest.

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