Sharp/Soft Juxtapositions. 200-400 f/4L IS with Internal Extender/7D Mark II Combo « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Sharp/Soft Juxtapositions. 200-400 f/4L IS with Internal Extender/7D Mark II Combo

What’s Up?

I spent the most of the morning micro-adjusting my new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with LensAlign/Focus Tune. Patrick Sparkman called while I was at work and we both agreed that we had never seen tighter AF cluster. That says good thinks about the AF system. And though Patrick has not used the body extensively he is loving it, especially the AF system. And Bosque IPT veteran Joe Subolefsky prefers his 5D IV to the 1DX II and the 5DS R… Time will tell. I did get two more blog posts done. And then I spent five hours researching SealLine Dry Sacks and Dry Bags before placing a big order for the South Georgia cruise. Click here or on the Beach Stuff tab on the orange/yellow menu bar above to learn more.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending IPTs and dozens of the folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear, especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

The Streak: 308!

Today’s blog post marks a totally insane, irrational, illogical, preposterous, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, what’s wrong with this guy?, makes-no-sense, 308 days in a row with a new educational blog post. There should be no end in sight until my big South America trip next fall. Or not… As always-–and folks have been doing a really great job recently–-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. And please remember also that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the new BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


This image was created at Fort DeSoto with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (at 370mm) and the best-ever digital camera body value, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6. AWB.

Center AF point/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the plover’s eye and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Black-bellied Plover/Marbled Godwit juxtaposition

Sharp/Soft Juxtapositions

When I first began making a few good images–maybe 25 year ago or so–I used to say regularly, “I want nothing in the background but pure color.” After a few years, I showed some growth as a photographer when I realized that if you line things up just right, having a second bird or animal in the background in just the right spot can add interest and impact. And rather than trying to have both subjects in sharp focus, I learned quickly that the images are far more successful with the foreground subject in sharp focus and the secondary background subject nicely out of focus. To accomplish that it is best to work wide open or close to it.

High Level Image Design Question

How would taking a half step to my right and zooming out a bit have helped to improve today’s featured image?

The Canon 200-400 f/4L IS with Internal Extender/7D Mark II Combo

The 200-400 f/4L IS with internal extender/7D Mark II combo can be deadly when working with fairly tame birds or large mammals. When you have a decent amount of light, most folks will be fine taking the lens off the tripod and hand holding it. Sitting and using the knee-pod technique is the way to go if possible and the 2-4’s great four-stop IS system helps a great deal when it comes to making sharp images hand held. With the internal TC in place you will have 896mm of effective reach. Adding an external 1.4X TC gets you to 1254.4mm; best to be on a tripod with the latter set-up.

Eliminating Color Casts

The original image here featured a sickly greenish color cast. During the RAW conversion in DPP 4 I made a Fine-tune color adjustment by dragging the dot down a bit and a bit to the left, in other words, away from green. That helped but the color cast still needed more work. I did that in Photoshop with an Average Blur Color adjustment at about 85% opacity.

You can learn about Average Blur Color Balancing and several other ways to adjust the colors in your images in my Digital Basics File, an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my (former) complete digital workflow, dozens of great Photoshop tips, details on using all of my image clean-up tools, the use of Contrast Masks, several different ways of expanding and filling in canvas, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, the basics of Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro, Digital Eye Doctor techniques, using Gaussian Blurs, Dodge and Burn, a variety of ways to make selections, how to create time-saving actions, and tons more.

In my


Fort DeSoto in fall is rife with tame birds. All of the images in this card were created at Fort DeSoto in either late September or early October. I hope that you can join me there this fall one way or another. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

BIRDS AS ART Fort DeSoto In-the-Field Meet-up Workshop (ITFW): $99

Join me on the morning of October 2, 2016 for 3-hours of photographic instruction at Fort DeSoto Park. Beginners are welcome. Lenses of 300mm or longer are recommended but even those with 70-200s should get to make some nice images. Teleconverters are always a plus.

You will learn the basics of digital exposure and image design, autofocus basics, and how to get close to free and wild birds. We should get to photograph a variety of wading birds, shorebirds, terns, and gulls. This inexpensive morning workshop is designed to give folks a taste of the level and the quality of instruction that is provided on BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-tours. I hope to meet you there.

To register please call Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours with a credit card in hand to pay the nominal registration fee. Your registration fee is non-refundable. You will receive a short e-mail with instructions, gear advice, and meeting place one week before the event.


Folks attending the IPT will be in the field early and stay out late to take advantage of sunrise and sunset colors. The good news is that the days are relatively short in early fall. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Fort DeSoto Short Notice Fall IPT/September 28 (meet & greet at 2pm followed by our afternoon session) through the full day on October 1, 2016. 3 1/2 DAYs: $1549. Limit 10/Openings: 6. Sunday morning ITFW free to IPT registrants.

Fort DeSoto, located just south of St. Petersburg, FL, is a mecca for migrant shorebirds in fall. There they join dozens of egrets, herons, night-herons, gulls, and terns who winter on the T-shaped peninsula that serves as their wintering grounds. With any luck, we should get to photograph two of Florida’s most desirable shorebird species: Marbled Godwit and the spectacular Long-billed Curlew. Black-bellied Plover and Willet are easy, American Oystercatcher likely. Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, and Tricolored Heron are easy as well and we will almost surely come up with a tame Yellow-crowned Night-Heron or two. We should get to do some Brown Pelican flight photography. And Royal, Sandwich, Forster’s, and Caspian Terns will likely provide us with some good flight opportunities as well. Though not guaranteed, Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork would not be unexpected.

Folks who sign up for the IPT are welcome to join me as my guest on the ITFW on the Sunday morning following the workshop. See above for details on that.

On this and all other IPTs you will learn basics and fine points of digital exposure and to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, how to approach free and wild birds without disturbing them, to understand and predict bird behavior, to identify and age many species of shorebirds, to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, to, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. And you will learn learn how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it).

At brunch (included) we will review my images–folks learn a ton watching me edit–why keep this one and delete that one? If you opt to bring your laptop, we can take a look at a few of your images from the morning session. We will process a few of my images in Photoshop after converting them in DPP. That followed by Instructor Nap Time.

As I already have one signed up for this workshop, it is a go. Hotel info will be e-mailed when you register. The best airport is Tampa (TPA). It is always best if IPT folks stay in the same hotel so if you are interested it would be a good idea to register now and make your hotel reservations as soon as you hear from us. We can, however, coordinate with local folks who opt to stay at home.

Because of the relatively late date, payment is full is due upon registration either by check or credit card. If the former, please e-mail us immediately so that we can save you a spot. If the latter, please call Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand to register. Your registration fee is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out with eight so please check your plans carefully before committing. You will receive a confirmation e-mail with detailed instructions and gear & clothing advice a fairly soon.

Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

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 New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, 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 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, and for everything else in the new store, 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 those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store as well.


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8 comments to Sharp/Soft Juxtapositions. 200-400 f/4L IS with Internal Extender/7D Mark II Combo

  • avatar byron prinzmetal

    What is the subject of the image? My eyes move from the bird in front to the out of focus one in back and stays there. I like having complementary things in the background that add to the subject such as a flower image with an out of focus flower with complementary colors in the background. I don’t think in this case the out of focus bird adds to the image and makes the image more confusing.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Byron

      For me, the subject is the plover. My eye takes in the godwit but always returns to the sharp bird.


      “I don’t think in this case the out of focus bird adds to the image and makes the image more confusing.”

      Is that for you or for everyone?


  • avatar Frank Sheets

    I would agree with others that moving a step to the right would have provided some needed separation of the Godwit. I don’t think I like the godwit’s legs intersecting the Plovers back. Zooming out would have provided a little more separation as well, but, would it have added a bit more depth of field? And, the godwit might have not been quite as blurred, which I think I like. Also, with separation the birds by moving to the right, the opportunity to take the shot in landscape rather than portrait might have presented itself. Better or worse, I don’t know, but with more separation of the birds, the landscape shot would have been an option.

  • I agree that moving to the right slightly would have improved the separation and the overall image. Zooming out would have made it a bit different, allowing more space around the birds. Not necessarily better, but different.

  • avatar Warren

    I agree with John that moving to the right would separate the gotwit’s legs from the plover’s back. This would also create more separation, due to the angle of the plover’s back and gotwit’s belly. However, I believe by moving back you will actually help close that gap some.

    By moving right, the legs further over the plovers tail, so there is room to close the gap some. I believe the biggest aesthetic improvement might be that you end up aligning the slope and curve of the plover’s back with the slope and curve of the gotwit’s belly/chest. This would make a really interesting symmetry/line.

    Just a thought

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    Moving right would have given more space from bill to frame edge? Here the space from frame edge to bill and tail is both about the same. I like a little more space in front of the bill while tail closer to the edge is ok with me. But this is vertical, so maybe being centered right and left is ok here?

  • avatar John Patton

    If you moved to the right the godwit’s legs would be separated from the plover and moving out would add more separation.
    Appreciate the info about the dry bags. Thanks.