Simplicity, a Single Blade of Beach Grass, and Lots of Room in the Frame « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Simplicity, a Single Blade of Beach Grass, and Lots of Room in the Frame

What’s Up?

Did lots of work on Friday on blog posts to be published while I am in Namibia. Lots more to do. The Post-processing Guide is finished. It will be announced in the Sunday blog post.

I was glad to learn that the first two folks signed up for the Nickerson Beach IPT. See below for details. If you would like to save a few bucks on lodging for this IPT I have a male looking for a male roommate. Please get in touch via e-mail. There is only a single opening on the Fort DeSoto IPT. Click here for all IPT info.

The Streak

Todayโ€™s blog post marks 155 days in a row with a new educational blog post. As I will be making the trip to Namibia on April 11, this streak will likely come to an end soon. As always-โ€“and folks have been doing a really great job recentlyโ€“-please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. For best results use one of our many product-specific links; after clicking on one of those you can continue shopping with all subsequent purchases invisibly tracked to BAA. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated. Please remember: web orders only. Please remember that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


This image was created at Nickerson Beach with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and my now forgotten Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/8 in Av Mode. Should have been at least +1 1/3 stops. 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.

Common Tern fledgling in fresh juvenal plumage

Simplicity, a Single Blade of Beach Grass, and Lots of Room in the Frame

When many beginning photographers get their first long lens, they often wind up stuffing the bird in the frame, barely giving it any room to see or to be. And nowhere to go should the need arise. It is much better to stay back a bit or to resist the urge to do a bill to tail tip “man-crop.” I love the large amount of negative space in today’s featured image. And simple as it is, the single blade of beach grass adds a touch of elegance and helps to establish the setting. My new technique of watching the RGB histogram shift as I adjust the Color Temperature slider during the RAW conversion in DPP 4, worked like a charm. Beach clean-up was minimal. But for that, some added brightness (again during the RAW conversion in DPP 4), and a reduced opacity layer of my NIK Color Efex Pro 25-25 recipe, this un-cropped image looks pretty much as it did when it came out of the camera.

If you want to improve as a nature photographer, learn to keep things simple.

Sun Angle Question

Which shoulder was the sun coming over?


I am proud to say that this image epitomizes the BIRDS AS ART style, a style that I popularized with the publication of the original The Art of Bird Photography, a style that has been successfully emulated by many of the world’s top bird photographers. Please do not forget, however, that I was inspired early on by John Shaw’s wildflower images and the bird photographs of both Rod Planck and Tim Fitzharris. Best of all, it is wonderful to know that I now count all three of those nature photography legends as friends.


From upper left clockwise to center: Black Skimmer head portrait, American Oystercatcher dining on surf clam flesh, Common Tern at sunset, Common Tern adult swallowing flatfish, Black Skimmer in flight, newborn Common Tern chick, American Oystercatcher with chick, fresh juvenile Common Tern (with fill flash), and Common Terns copulating.

Nickerson Beach Terns/Skimmers/Oystercatchers Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT): July 18-22, 2016. 4 1/2 DAYS: $1899

Meet and greet at 3pm on the afternoon of Monday, July 18. Limit 10.

The primary subject species of this IPT will be the nesting Common Terns. The trip is timed so that we will get to photograph tiny chicks as well as fledglings. There will be lots of flight photography including adults flying with baitfish. Creating great images of the chicks being fed is a huge challenge. In addition to the terns we will get to photograph lots of Black Skimmers courting, setting up their nesting territories, and in flight (both singles and large pre-dawn flocks blasting off). Midair battles are guaranteed on sunny afternoons. And with luck, we might even see a few tiny chicks toward the end of the trip. We will also get to photograph the life cycle of American Oystercatcher. This will likely include nests with eggs and tiny chicks, young being fed, and possibly a few fledglings.

Nesting Piping Plover is also possibly. There will be lots of gulls to photograph; most years I am able to find a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls of varying ages in addition to the Herring, Ring-billed, and Great Black-backed Gulls. You will learn to identify and age the various gull species. There will likely be some Willets feeding along the surf and with luck we might get to photograph a handsome juvenile or two. In addition to the locally breeding shorebirds, we will likely get to see some southbound migrant arctic-and sub-arctic breeding shorebird species such as Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover, and maybe even Red Knot.


From upper left clockwise to center: Black Skimmers with tiny chick, Common Tern landing with baitfish for young, fledged Common Tern chick in dunes, American Oystercatchers/display flight, adult Common Tern with pipefish for chick, Common Tern fledgling in soft light, American Oystercatcher on nest with eggs, American Oystercatcher 3-egg clutch, battling Black Skimmers.

The IPT Logistics

The tour will begin with a meet and greet on the afternoon of Monday, July 18, 2016. That will be followed by our first shooting session at the beach. From Tuesday through and including all of Friday we will have two photography sessions daily. Our morning sessions will start very early so that we are on the beach well before sunrise. We usually photograph for about four hours. Then we will enjoy a group brunch. We will always have a midday break that will include a nap for me. That followed by our daily afternoon classroom sessions that will include image review, workflow and Photoshop, and a review/critique of five of your trip images. Folks are always invited to bring their laptops to brunch for image sharing. I always have mine with me but heck, I am a big show-off. Afternoon in-the-field sessions generally run from 5pm through sunset.

Breakfasts are grab what you can. Four brunches are included. Dinners (if at all) will be on your own as we will often get back to the hotel at about 9pm. There is a fridge in every room and a supermarket within walking distance of the hotel so nobody should starve. You will learn a ton during the nine shooting sessions, the four in-classroom sessions, and even at lunch. Early morning and late afternoon parking is free. If we want to head back to the beach early we will need to arrange tight carpools and share the $30/vehicle parking fee. Non-photographer spouses, friends, or companions are welcome for $100/day, $450 for the whole IPT.

Save a space by calling Jim or Jen at the office at 863-692-0906 and arranging to leave your deposit of $599–credit cards are accepted for deposits only. Your balance will be due on April 18, 2016. I hope that you can join me for what will be an exciting and educational IPT.

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To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. 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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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right ๐Ÿ™‚

27 comments to Simplicity, a Single Blade of Beach Grass, and Lots of Room in the Frame

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks to the many who commented. Unless I am nuts, this is how it was. The sun was over my left shoulder. That is the only explanation for the shadow of the bird’s head being to the right of the bird’s head… And if you look carefully at the shadows of the legs, they too are angled from our left to our right. Again, this indicates that the sun was from over my left shoulder by about ten degrees. artie

  • I’m with Joe…right shoulder.

    I’m guessing you were standing just barely right of the bird. If the sun was over your left shoulder, I would expect the shadow to be more like Joe said…probably more toward 1 o’clock.


  • avatar Joe Subolefsky

    Just slightly over your right shoulder.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Why right? a

      • avatar Joe Subolefsky

        I’m going by the way the light is wrapping around the breast and to me the shadow off the legs is hitting the ground at the 11oclock position.

  • avatar Holly

    Love the simplicity of the photo and the blade of grass really adds to it. I will say left shoulder
    Have a wonderful trip

  • avatar Bill Clausen

    Left! Look at the shadows!!

  • avatar David Policansky

    OK, I won’t read the other comments; left shoulder just barely because the shadows of the legs and of the bird’s body are shifted ever so slightly to the right. Have a wonderful trip to Namibia. We leave for South Africa on Monday.

  • avatar Larry Brown

    All those votes for the left could not be wrong. I was thinking,left, even before looking at other answers.

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    As you stand facing the bird, the sun is coming over your right shoulder.
    The shadow has an angle to it that’s going from the bird, then left (does that make sense?).
    Anyway, my final answer is right shoulder.
    I really like what Bobby Perkins is saying above, and your response. The more we do as birders and bird/nature photographers, and share our images with others, the more love and appreciation we generate for the birds, and nature in general!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      g-K, I think that you are looking at your laptop in the mirror… Please check the left and right stuff again ๐Ÿ™‚


      ps: so no, does not make sense ๐Ÿ™‚

      pps: thanks for your kind words ๐Ÿ™‚

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    Hi Artie,

    Great to get the clearance from you Doc and you are good to go for Namibia. My guess, the sun is just behind your left shoulder maybe about 10-15 degrees. If right, the birds shadow would have been shifted a little more to the left. I like the grass. “Forgotten 1DX”, uh? I know you love your 5DSR, but in my mind, for moving subjects that 1DX is still a heck of a camera. Love mine.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good job Frank. The 1D X is a great camera especially for action but the files cannot compare to 5DS R files. Don’t forget that I am first on line for the 1D XII.

      later and love, a

      ps: see you in the Galapagos if not before ๐Ÿ™‚

  • avatar Cheri

    I’m guessing left should as well. Great capture and what a pose! I love seeing the juvenile and also breeding plumage images. I find the grass a bit distracting even though it’s just a simple blade that adds interest. I think i would like it better if it was further left or farther back in the image, IMO. Thanks for making me think this am! Looking forward to seeing your Namibia images .. Safe travels.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      No need to guess. The proof is in plain sight… I love the grass and its placement as for me, it balances nicely with the shadow the protrudes slightly in front of the bird… a

  • avatar Bill Coatney

    Ok, I’ll play–

    Both shoulders or neither if it is a single choice question
    (ok– maybe just barely over your left ear LOL)

    Shadow looks pretty symmetrical–

    leg shadows looks essentially straight on–

    Eye highlight looks pretty centered with the head angle

    just about as straight front lit as you can get

  • avatar Bobby Perkins

    Excellent image and most definitely “Artie style”.
    an , Kudos to you for the friends you have that was your source of inspiration. I have to say Shaw & Fitzharris, (especially Fitzharris) and Jim Brandenburg are among my list too. It was getting down low and kicking out those backgrounds to have a subject seem bigger and sharper then life in a swatch of color that I got from Tim early on. As a boy I had Tim’s nature books and romanticized about being a nature photographer.
    But I also have to say with out Arthur Morris I wouldn’t of learned to become that nature photographer and how to actually create those kind of captures (in camera) that I dreamed of looking at those books an magazines growing up. None of them teach the way you do Artie. revealing all that you do, waking the sleeping giant that’s in all of us. Thanks.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Many thanks Bobby. How about Audubon magazine when it featured great nature photo portfolios in every issue? Now all they show are great images of garbage dumps and oil spills. Important to get that stuff dealt with but a shame to abandon what got them into position to deal with the environment: share beautiful images of birds and wildlife with the world to inspire folks in many ways…

  • avatar Jackie M

    A very pleasing image, simple is better. It’s clean, bright with just a hint that something else is there besides sand.

    Hope I’m right: Looks like the sun is hitting your left shoulder.

    I checked out the IPT for Fort DeSoto, I have a small budget. If you ever decide on doing one in the Chesapeake Bay or Virginia Beach area or any were in Southeastern Virginia I’m game.

    Worked on the ETTR yesterday…I believe I got it!

    Safe Travels, Jackie

  • avatar Jim Brown

    Left shoulder. Shadow moves ahead of bird.

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    Lovely bird! Lovely image! Left shoulder?