Taming Bright, Off-Angled Sun Blast-offs with Long Lenses at Bosque « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Taming Bright, Off-Angled Sun Blast-offs with Long Lenses at Bosque

What’s Up?

I worked hard on the 2015 Bosque Current Conditions Guide and watched a few pretty boring NFL games. I continue to feel better each day.

The Big UFC Fights on Pay per View

So I plunked down $60 to watch two big UFC fights. How’d that go you ask? Pretty good at first. Luke Rockhold brutally beat down the much-too-confident previously undefeated middleweight champion Chris Weidman. Rockhold was so thrilled with his success that he collapsed onto the mat once the fight was stopped, pretty close to sobbing with joy.

In the main event I was hoping that the featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, undefeated in ten years, “the best pound for pound fighter on the planet,” would shut the mouth of intentional wise guy, the notorious Irishman, Conor McGregor. How’d that work out? McGregor knocked Aldo out cold in 13 seconds with a single left hook followed by two unnecessary hammer fists to the head.

From LA Times Sports:

Conor McGregor is one of the remarkable stories in sports. The man came in talking about how great he was from day one, talking himself up like few others ever have. He then proceeded to defeat every opponent and knocked out a dominant champion who hadn’t lost in ten years in a matter of seconds. It was as if he willed it into being.

The Offender…

The offending crane in the very popular “On Photographing Piles of Cranes and Geese at Bosque del Apache NWR” blog post here, will be identified in tomorrow’s blog post.

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.

Stuff has literally been flying off the shelves recently. Monte Brown’s 300 II sold in one day and the sale of Troy Duong’s 500 II is pending two days after it was listed.

Used Gear Sales Trust???

An e-mail conversation with Asta Tobiassen

Part I:

AM: Hi Asta, re:
AT: I have contacted Troy Duong, who has posted his 500 mm mark II lens for sale on Birds as Art.
AM: Mazel tov.
AT: Neither one of us has privately bought or sold anything of this value before. He lives in California and I live in Washington, so meeting is not an option. How do people do this?
AM: The buyer sends the check. The seller cashes it. When it clears, the seller ships the lens insured.
AT: Do I send him the money and then he sends the lens?
AM: Yes, as above.
AT: That seems reasonable on the sellers end, but makes me a little nervous.
AM: Some folks have been nervous. The only one who ever got really screwed was me but I learned a big lesson. The guy handed a COD teller’s check for $3K to the Fed Ex driver. The “teller’s check” was 100% phony 🙂 Twice there have been minor disagreements as to the condition of the lens. One I mediated, the other guy simply returned the lens.
AT: Are there any protections for me?
AM: If you are really nervous you might ask to call his boss at work….. That has never been done before yet everyone who has purchased a lens has gotten what they bought. That includes probably more than two hundred folks…
AT: Having talked to him on the phone, and communicated several times via email, I do feel he is trustworthy, but this is a huge chunk of change!
AM: Understood.
AT: Thank you for any advice.
AM: Good luck. I say this often—I am from New York, and I am the most trusting person you will ever meet. Go figure.
later and love, artie

Asta’s reply:

Dear Artie, Thanks again. I truly appreciate your thorough and incredibly quick response! Thank you for offering this service. I have wanted to purchase the Series II 500mm lens for quite some time, but have not been able to justify the expense. Well, life is short and the thought of saving $1500 off the new lens price made me realize the time is now. Were it not for the reputation you have built I would not have considered making such a big purchase online like this. You have also been incredibly generous in sharing your knowledge and expertise, for which I cannot thank you enough. All my best, Asta


This image was created at Bosque del Apache NWR on November 30, 2015, the 2nd morning of the second IPT. I used the Induro tripod/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR. ISO 50: 1/4 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode. AWB.

Center AF point (by necessity)/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Snow Geese Blizzard

Bright Sun?

“There is no way that these images were made in bright sun” you say. Well, not only were they made in bright sun, but the flock in image above was about 75 degrees off sun angle. Read on to learn the magical solution to taming bright sun at Bosque del Apache NWR.

Exposure Question

How do the exposure settings in the two images compare?

Image #1 Question

Which is my favorite goose?

Your Fave?

Which of today’s featured images do you like best? Be sure to let us know why.


Amazingly, the image featured in the “Messing Around” blog post here was from the very same mega-blast. (I had forgotten that I described the mega-blast off in that post. But it was worth writing about twice!)


This image was also created at Bosque del Apache NWR on November 30, 2015, the 2nd morning of the second IPT. I used Induro tripod/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR. ISO 50: 1/2 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode. AWB.

Center AF point (by necessity)/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #2: Fusili Snow Geese

Fusili Snow Geese

Adapted from Dictionary.com

fusilli [fyoo-see-lee,or fyoo-sil-ee] Noun: a type of pasta twisted into corkscrew or spiral shapes

The Story

An Excerpt from the 2015 Bosque Current Conditions Guide (coming soon)

On the morning November 30 with the IPT group, we set a time limit of 10:15am. At that time we would have to head back to town for lunch followed by our daily slide program. Thousands of geese were pouring into the back right corner of the first field after you make the left turn to the farm fields. More and more geese followed. Then about five thousand previously unseen geese blasted off from the big cornfield to our left and joined the milling masses. And the clock ticked. There were two false alarm blasts where the birds started to go and then fizzled. By 10:13am, the birds were a seething mass. They were ready to go.

I breathed deeply in and out while raising my arms to the heavens in an attempt to send some energy to the flock. “F.B.C.” I shouted out to the group, “Faith, belief, and confidence!” At 10:14 it happened. A mega blast-off that lasted probably close to three full minutes, an eternity for a blast off and left everyone in the group first gasping with amazement and then giggling uncontrollably with joy.

Taming Bright, Off-Angled Sun Blast-offs with Long Lenses at Bosque

Taming the bright off-angled sun is easy if you have a Singh-Ray 3-stop Resin Mor-Slo or 5-stop Glass Mor-Slo Neutral Density filter in one of the upper pockets of your Xtrahand vest. Or both. Each needs to be mounted in it’s own drop-in filter holder. The whole kit and kaboodle is kept in the elegant leather case that your Singh-Ray filter comes in. When you want and need to get to a really, really slow shutter speed without having to shoot at f/too-many dust bunnies simply remove the clear drop-in filter from your lens and replace it with one of your drop-in NDs. I always use the 5-stop in bright sun and the 3-stop on cloudy-bright or cloudy days. You should not have either in place in extreme low light situations such as in the pre-dawn or at dusk.

Note: keep an old cotton t-shirt and a small bottle of LensClens in a 1-gallon zip-lock bag either in your vest or in your Think Tank roller so that you can regularly clean your drop-ins in the field. You should also include a small, soft paint brush in your clean-up kit so that you can brush off any dust before wet-cleaning your drop-ins. I also include a few q-tips for cleaning the camera’s viewfinder.

With the 5-stop Mor-Slo it will take your eye a few moments to get used to the relatively dark view but your lens will focus just fine. Now you can easily get down to 1/8, 1/4, or 1/2 second even in bright sun.

Why Blurs?

On the first 2015 Bosque IPT, multiple IPT veteran and good friend Lou Newman said, “I actually saw one blast-off blur that I liked.” I said, “Lou, I’ve got you beat; I have never seen even one sharp Snow Goose blast-off image made on a sunny day that I liked.” On sunny days sharp goose blast-off images made at shutter speeds of from 1/1000 to 1/4000 sec. suffer from super-high contrast that includes harsh whites and deep black shadows that completely ruin the images for me. So how in the world did the two images featured in today’s blog post, images that were created in bright, sunny conditions, wind up looking as if they were made on a cloudy day? It was easy, due to the blend/blur effect.

Getting to the Point: The Blend Blur Effect

When you are working at extremely slow shutter speeds such as those between 1/8 and ½ or even one full second and panning as you shoot, the whites of the geese effectively blend with the middle tones of the background thus softening the otherwise harsh whites as you pan. And the background is softened as well. Bright sun is magically transformed into cloudy bright.

You can prove to yourself that the blend blur effect exists as follows: With an ND filter in place and a very slow shutter speed set—hint: you need to be in Manual mode–play with your settings and make a few test exposures until you have at least some blinkies on the white geese. Now take a second test exposure while panning: no more blinkies. You have just proven to yourself that the blend blur effect does indeed exist. In addition to creating wonderful pan-blurs you can tame the harsh light at any time of day, even high noon.

Singh-Ray Filters

Singh-Ray filters have been used by the world’s top photographers for many decades. As always, I will have my 77mm Singh-Ray Warming Polarizer in my vest in case of rainbows. And I now travel (as above) with various Singh-Ray ND filters so that I can create pleasing blurs even with clear skies and bright sun. See here for a great example.

No other filter manufacturer comes close to matching the quality of Singh-Ray’s optical glass that is comparable to that used by NASA. And they continue to pioneer the most innovative products on the market like their ColorCombo polarizer, Vari-ND variable and Mor-Slo 15-stop neutral density filters. When you use their filters, you’ll create better, more dramatic images and, unlike other filters, with absolutely no sacrifice in image quality. All Singh-Ray filters are handcrafted in the USA.

Best News: 10% Discount/Code at checkout: artie10

To shop for a Singh-Ray’s most popular solid ND filter, the 10-Stop Mor-Slo Glass Filter liter (for example), click on the logo link above, click on “Neutral and color Solid Neutral Density Filters (glass), then click on “Mor-Slo™ 5, 10, 15 and 20-Stop Solid Neutral Density Filters (glass),” choose the size and model, add to cart, and then checkout. At checkout, type artie10 into the “Have a coupon? Click here to enter your code” box, and a healthy 10% discount will be applied to your total. In addition to enjoying the world’s best filter at 10% off you will be supporting my efforts here on the blog.

The 10- and 15-stop Mor Slo filters are great for landscapes with water and moving clouds. With the 10-stop, 1/125th becomes 8 seconds and with the 15-stop, 4 minutes. I now own the 10-stop ND and will look for opportunities to use it. I am also testing their new Hi-Lux filters. More on that at some point.

Important Ordering Info for Singh-Ray 52mm Drop-In ND Filters

Singh-Ray offers both a 3-stop Resin Neutral Density filter ($124) and a 5-stop Glass ND filter ($275) to fit the filter drawers of Canon Super-telephoto lenses. If you will be heading to Bosque or to any location where you might be photographing large flocks of birds in flight with long glass, you will want at least one of the 52mm ND filters in your Xtrahand vest (in its own filter holder). To order one of the 52mm Mor-Slo filters for Canon, you will need to call Singh-Ray at 1-800-486-5501 (toll free) or 1-863-993-4100 (eastern time zone). Tell them that you want either the 52mm 3-stop Resin Mor-Slo ND or the 52mm 5-stop Glass ND (or both) and give them code artie10. Remember, you will absolutely need an extra filter holder or two:) See below for info on those.

Folks who use other brand lenses such as Nikon will need to follow the procedure above, specify their lens brand and drop-in filter size, and mention the artie10 code. But first they need to make sure that they can purchase an empty filter holder or two.

After I mount the two 52mm drop-in NDs in the filter holders, I store each, kit and kaboodle, in the leather case that each filter came in. Each then goes into the small zippered pocket on the upper right of my Xtrahand Vest.

Please remember that you will not get your 10% discount without mentioning the artie10 code. And I would not receive my affiliate commission. We can’t have that 🙂 Thanks as always for remembering to use our discount/affiliate code with your Singh-Ray phone and web orders.

52mm Filter Holder Insanity

It would be insanity to have to screw out the glass filter and then screw in a 52mm ND filter each time that you need it. The only option is to purchase a spare Canon 52mm Drop-in filter holder or two, screw the filter in, and keep that setup intact and ready to use. Singh-Ray includes a really neat soft leather filter holder with each purchase. I store all of the filters that I travel with in one of the small upper zippered pockets of my Xtrahand vest. I now have three extra filter holders and have the 3-Stop 52mm Resin ND, the 5-Stop 52mm Glass ND, and the new Hi-Lux filter to Bosque.

Summing Up

#1: Sharp images of goose blast-offs made in bright sun, on sun angle or not, simply do not work. All are invited to send me their very favorite bright sun/high shutter speed white geese blast-off via e-mail: a sharpened 1000 pixel wide JPEG is best.

#2: Having a 3-stop or 5-stop drop-in ND in place lets you get down to really slow shutter speeds in bright sun while avoiding the tiny apertures like f/22 and f/32 that maximize the effects of sensor dust. Remember: do not use even the 3-stop ND if doing so makes you use a higher ISO.

#3: Well done pleasing blurs win contests.

#4: I am always amazed by the variety of looks that you can come up with when working at very slow shutter speeds. To me it feels a lot like playing. You can vary your panning speed or even hold the lens still. Tip: if the latter you need to go to faster shutter speeds like 1/30 or 1/60 second lest the birds be rendered as long, unrecognizable streaks…. All are invited to join the fun.

#5: While the techniques above are great at Bosque, they can rock as well at any location where there are large groups of birds in the air at any one time.

Coming Soon

Coming soon to the blog: a similar feature on using the 77mm Singh-Ray Mor-Slo Neutral Density Filters with your intermediate telephoto lenses. And info on the great Xume filter holder system.


Learn the secrets of creating contest-winning images in our “A Guide to Pleasing Blurs.”

A Guide to Pleasing Blurs

In our A Guide to Pleasing Blurs by Denise Ippolito and yours truly, we discuss just about every technique ever used to create pleasingly blurred image. Ninety-nine point nine percent of pleasing blurs are not happy accidents. You can learn pretty much everything that there is to know about creating them in this instructive, well written, easy to follow guide.

The Bosque Site Guide

If you can’t make or afford a Bosque IPT, or if the holidays preclude your joining one, be sure to get yourself a copy of my Bosque Site Guide. All BAA Site Guides are designed so that with a bit of study you can show up at a great place and know exactly where to be at what time on what wind and in what lighting conditions. And on what wind. With a Site Guide on your laptop you will feel like a 22-year veteran on your first visit. Site Guides are the next best thing to being on an IPT. If you plan on visiting Bosque it would be foolish to make the trip without having this guide in hand. Why spend money on gear and travel and then spend days stumbling around in the wrong spot? If you have visited previously, and are still unsure of where you should be at this time of day with that wind, this guide will prove invaluable to you as well. Even folks visiting Bosque for the tenth time will learn a ton as I share my secrets and hold nothing back….

In the next week or so, I will be working on a very short but valuable information-packed 2015 Bosque Current Conditions Guide; it will be send free to all who have previously purchased the Bosque Site Guide and will also be available as an inexpensive, separate, stand-alone purchase.

Please Remember to use our Affiliate Links 🙂

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.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and visiting the BAA Online store as well.


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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right 🙂

2 comments to Taming Bright, Off-Angled Sun Blast-offs with Long Lenses at Bosque

  • avatar David Peake

    Hi Artie ,
    The goose you like is the one flying towards camera position, lower left corner. It really grabs you as the only clear item in all the beautiful blur.
    The exposure is the same for both images.
    My fav is the image with less birds and 1/2 sec exposure.
    I like the zipper effect of the geese across the image.
    Was the camera panning only slowly or still for this image? The background hills seem out of focus but not much blurred so I think the camera was still at the time of exposure.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Ah, at least somebody answered the questions 🙂

      Yes, the Blue Goose in the rule of thirds spot. Admission: I moved it about an inch to the left as presented. And then I sharpened it up with a Contrast Mask. Made a big difference.

      Yes on the same EXP. Ah, the pasta shot. Me too. The trick with the half second blurs is to pan perfectly with the flock. If you do that you will usually get about 3 1/2 wingbeats on each bird….

      Well done my friend. a