Editing Practice and Principles « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Editing Practice and Principles

What’s Up?

On Monday February 22 we made the drive back up to Rausu. It was looking like sunny with blue skies the whole way. With wind against sun that would have been the kiss of death. But as we pulled into Rausu it had clouded over and begun snowing. Our pretty much private boat sailed at about 9:15am into perfect conditions. The next two hours were right up there with any two hour stretch in my 32-year career. Images and the whole story coming soon.

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks 113 days in a row with a new educational blog post. This post took me about 60 minutes to assemble including the time spent on the image optimization. As always–and folks have been doing a great job recently–please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated.


All of these images were created on the January 2016 San Diego IPT with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 400. All exposures set via histogram check: 1/800 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode.

I selected the AF point that was two AF points above the center AF point and used AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF. For some of the images I held the shutter button in so that AF was active (as framed) at the moment of exposure and for others I set the focus via rear button AF, released the button, and re-composed slightly (if at all). Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1

Editing Practice and Principles

The task is a simple one that all nature photographers face after every shooting session: select your keepers from long series of similar images. Many here on the blog have expressed consternation when faced with this task. All are invited to participate and learn by selecting five (5) of the 16 images to keep and letting us know what they consider to be the single best image. For the latter, please let us know why.

Just so you know, I have made your job easier by selecting the best 16 of what was a collection of at least 41 similar images. I will be back with my choices and comments in a few days.


Image #2


Image #3


Image #4


Image #5


Image #6


Image #7


Image #8


Image #9


Image #10


Image #11


Image #12:

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Image #13:


Image #14


Image #15


Image #16

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22 comments to Editing Practice and Principles

  • 15, 12 , 6, 10, 16. It’s a tie between 15 and 12. And then on a descending order of preference. In fact, I don’t really care about 6, 10, and 16. The pose on #15 has a very nice head angle which makes the connection with the viewers. The #12 is a really nice preening shot though. So, I guess they are completely two different “behaviors”.

  • avatar Barrett Pierce

    I would pick # 12. It shows the action of preening and the need for preening; the face, bill and eye are sharp; the posture is interesting with the tail in front of the legs; both feet show perhaps suggesting the gull was balancing on its feet and tail to get the big preening job done.

  • avatar Cheri

    My picks are 6, 10, 12, 15 and 16
    Love the protruding feather on 6 10 and 12 .. Adds interest ..
    The open beaks on 12 is interesting ..
    Great eye contact on 15 .. Very stoic posture, looks like he’s questioning your intent
    #16 being my top pick.
    Love the preening posture with feather in beak and upright head ..

  • avatar Tom Lamb

    The five images that I would pick are 1, 10, 12, 15 and 16 with number 16 being my top choice. The reason for choosing 16 is that the preening behavior is different from a standard portrait and still has decent eye contact.

  • avatar Kathleen Hanika

    My picks are 6, 10,11, 12, and 16. I like the eye contact. I do wish they all showed the foot like #1 as otherwise it seems the gull is standing on his (her?) tail. #16 is my favorite due to the feather in beak.

  • avatar Warren Robb

    On the first pass I would keep 1, 3, 5, 13, and 16. My favorite is 16 because the action of the gull is clearly indicated by the feather in its beak, the eye is open, the head angle is very good, and I get the message in a glance without thinking about it.

  • avatar Ron Gates

    I’d like to comment on Denis’ question about why we do this and is it important to “enjoy and be uplifted by the art of photography.” For me, I wrestle with the process of screening hundreds and sometimes thousands of images I take on a trip. In a series of similar images, it’s easy to weed out the out of focus and those where we’ve cut off the head or the feet. It gets down to a number of images that are very similar. Then the selection process gets difficult. It still comes down to which image do each of us believe to be our best. No one sees the one’s we discard. They can only judge our images by what we show them. I believe this process of editing our work helps us show others what we consider our best and not waste their time looking at 16 images that says “Here’s a bunch of images I made of this bird but I’m not sure which is the best so you decide”. I enjoy most of the images that Art gives us in his blog. Some of them aren’t my favorites but it’s my choice to evaluate them and learn from them. I benefit from this exercise because I can make my choice from the 16 supplied and see which ones other contributors feel are the best. If I pick one that not one of the other 20 responders select maybe I need to re-evaluate my selection process. If I were trying to sell my images and no one else thought mine choice was a good one, I probably wouldn’t sell many images. My apologies for the long post.

  • avatar Ron Gates

    I’d pick #1 and #16. I prefer the head upright and I like seeing the leg in #1 and parts of both legs in #16. Personally, I don’t care for any of those where the head is upside down. The open beak in #12 was good. Overall, I’d go with #1.

  • avatar Malcolm Bernstein

    9, 10, 12, 15, 16 with the latter as my #1 pick

  • My top 5 are 1,3,12,13, and 16. My favorite is 13. I love the position of the head and neck, and the open beak. I think the overall shape of the gull is exquisite. For presentation, I would probably crop a little off the top of the image.

  • avatar Ed Wright

    1, 3, 4, 7 and 16. Actually I like all the shots. But if forced to keep just one, it would be 16. The left wing feather is the least noticeable in that shot.

  • avatar Sibyl Morris

    I like 6,9,10,11, and 16, but 16 is definitely my favourite, both for the head angle and the fact that the bird is definitely preening, with the feather beautifully placed.

  • avatar Ed Wright

    1, 3, 4, 7 and 16. For me, it is 16. All images are good but it’s that protruding wing feather on the left side of the gull that draws my attention. In 16, the feather is least pronounced while still showing the gull actively preening.

  • avatar Warren H

    My first run though picked 2,6,10,15 and 16. I chose mainly for eye contact. I also really liked 1, but didn’t pick it for some reason on my first scan. (thought that was strange how I changed after going through all one time…) My favorite was 15, looking right at (or through) you.

  • avatar Bob Allen

    My favorites are #6 and #16; I can’t choose between them and would keep both (I would actually keep more but this is an *editing* exercise). I like the action of preening, grasping the feather(s), visibility of the eye, and of the red mandibular spot.

  • avatar Denis Glennon

    Is all this stuff really important to enjoy and be uplifted by the art in photography?
    Art is so good at the ‘art’ that I would like him to spend more time on this more elusive ingredient.
    I expect I will be blown out of the water by suggesting this.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Dennis, No bombing here. Please explain exactly what you mean and what you would like to see…


  • avatar Neil Hickman

    Top five are 1,10,14,15 & 16. One is favourite for a beautiful preening shot. It conveys tenderness and and also intimacy with the eye contact. Composition is just great and I also like the leg which is not visible in all the other images.

  • 1,5,12,15,16. 1 is my favorite because more of the leg is showing.


  • My top 5 to keep would be: 3, 10, 11, 15, 16

    I’d pick #16 as my number two, with your number one
    image as my number one.


  • avatar Shane Shacaluga

    #1 #5 #9 #12 #16

    Here are my choices. Most due to the eye contact and natural behaviour being displayed in the image

    1 and 16 are my clear favourites

  • avatar David Peake

    My picks are 1,6,10,15 and 16
    Well done capturing this preening behaviour of the gull.
    My choice for best of the five is between 1 and 16.
    One is very beautiful. I chose 16 because I really liked the gull preening with the feather in its beak. Beautiful backward upright stance, feet splayed with head upright and at a nice angle.
    Lovely ruffled feathers with one in its beak. That’s the icing on the cake.