It was not a slaughter, but oh, what a rush! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

It was not a slaughter, but oh, what a rush!

What’s Up?

With Patrick Sparkman off to work, Bryan Holliday and I enjoyed a truly great morning at La Jolla. There are still tons of great pelicans, many in fine breeding color with their fire engine red bill pouches. I worked for the most part with the 100-400 II and on camera fill flash, at times adding the 1.4X III TC to the mix. In addition to the pelicans we both worked a lot on the beautiful breeding plumage Western Gulls. I had hoped to photograph both Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants in full breeding plumage but so far both have disappointed…

I see Dr. Kellogg Parsons on Tuesday morning at 11:30am.

The Streak

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This image was created in San Diego, CA 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 simply amazing, astounding, mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 500. Evaluative metering -2/3 stop: 1/2500 sec. at f/6.3 in Av mode. AWB.

61-Point (Automatic selection)/AI Servo/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when photographing moving subjects). Though the optimized image above was a healthy crop from the original the result was a high quality 148+ MB 16-bit file. Click on the image to see a larger version. The AF system selected two AF points, one above the other, between the two birds;the eye of the bird on our right is razor sharp.

Clarke’s X Western Grebe courtship rush

It was not a slaughter, but oh, what a rush!

On Sunday morning we decided to head back to the grebe lake. The action was even slower than the previous day but we had lots of birds, both Clarke’s and Westerns, swimming by us at fairly close range. As Patrick had said that he was having trouble burning the WHITEs on a small portion of the grebe’s breasts when they did a courtship rush, I suggested working in Av mode with some negative EC (exposure compensation) dialed in. With full sun and blue water I suggested -2/3 for a rushing pair at fairly close range, -1 stop for a more distant pair (with more dark green water influencing the meter toward over-exposure. Once it got cloudy, we reduced the negative EC to -1/3 and -2/3 respectively. I explained, the bigger the birds in the frame the more white, the more white the less minus EC you needed. The smaller the birds in the frame the more dark green water and the more minus EC you needed. Barely a pixel was burned all day.

PS on the above: real photographers do not always work only in Manual mode… Don’t believe me? See the At Long Last, As Promised: the Greatest, Most Educational Blog Post Ever? Manual… Av… Tv… Program… Which is The Best Shooting Mode? blog post here.

As the day warmed up so did the action. But most of the rushes were on the far side of the lake. And then bingo, we enjoyed one really good rush–it lasted about 8 seconds–and we all made the most of it. My favorite–of course–is today’s featured image. We had met up with BPN-friend David Salem and his pal Cliff. There were lots of other photographers at the location. After the morning shoot was over the five of us met up at Patrick’s house, tidied up a bit, and headed for The Nat. There we took a long slow walk around my exhibi enjoying the images and the company. Then it was shish-kabob lunch at a Persian market between the museum and Patrick’s house.

There will be more on our museum visit in a future blog post.

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14 comments to It was not a slaughter, but oh, what a rush!

  • avatar Esther Corley

    Oh! Oh! I am SO excited! Western Grebes mating dance is on MY bucket list, I live S of San Diego and as far as I knew, the farthest south they were found was Santa Margarita, N of Los Angeles…but it appears, according to your post, that your photo was taken here in San Diego. Being 84 1/2 I try to stay fairly close to home. Is there a possibility you might tell me where you found these mating grebes in San Diego???

  • Sounds great! A pleasure shooting with you at Hodges Sat. Great rushes by the grebs… So glad our neighbors finally accepted you in the water… ha ha!
    You invited me to come along Wed 16 at the IB pier. I contacted you at your email and thought this might be a better venue to get my question answered. What time should I be there.
    Going to pull the trigger tomorrow as well on the 1dX 11 and 500mm f4.0 tomorrow as well.
    Brian instead of Bryan lol!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Brian, I heard that you were the peacemaker 🙂 Thanks for that. I just sent you an e-mail on tomorrow morning; see you soon. I have been swamped: we went back on TUES morning. It was gorgeous and LOUSY! Then I spent a few hours seeing the surgeon. I did not want to finalize anything till that was a done deal.

      I will send you the B&H links for your new gear in about two minutes. later and love, artie

  • Do you use AV mode when shooting white birds at other locations? White birds in flight? Thanks.

  • avatar Guido

    Thanks for all the info and the lessons.
    Great art.
    Best of luck with the Docs.

  • avatar Barrett Pierce


    Congratulations on your photo of the grebe courtship rush. Based on the bill colors and facial patterns both grebes appear to be a Clark x Western cross. I wonder if they are two males trying to intimidate each other or a potential pair.

    Best wishes on your surgery/procedure.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. Though I do not have any great knowledge of the hybrids, those two are pretty obvious. I will be doing a post on Clark’s vs. Western ID.

      No clue as to whether the birds are two males or a pair…. I know that folks have photographed five and even seven birds rushing; those cannot all be different sexes 🙂

      I will try to remember to check it out in my paper copy of BONA when I get home. a

  • avatar David Peake

    Lovely image Artie.
    I love it.
    It seems like the 5 Dsr lets you frame a bit wider and crop a little.
    This must surely be a big help when it come to following action like this.

  • avatar Dave Adler

    Hi Art:
    All of your stuff is so consistently amazing that I thought I’d just ask whether you have ever published (or even taken) an image of a wood stork. The reason I’m asking is we were in Wakodahatchee (DelRay, Florida) and disappointed to find that practically the whole place has been taken over by these, well, less than impressive birds.
    Just curious if you have any comments, and thanks.

    • avatar Wtlloyd

      Hmmm…wood Storks and spoonbills are on my bucket list. The storks have amazing faces!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Dave,

      I have published both in print and here on the blog many photos of Wood Storks, including many beautiful ones and many close-ups of their amazing faces. Try doing a search for “Wood Stork” in the little white search box on the upper right of each blog post page. You should find a few good ones. LMK what you think 🙂 a

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    Agree with Doug. Amazing photo!
    Yesterday’s pelican was amazing too. Very unique!

  • I think I’ve run out of words to describe your work 🙂