Exposing Dangerously to the Right… And Horizontal Portrait Basics « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Exposing Dangerously to the Right... And Horizontal Portrait Basics

What’s Up?

I am somewhere in South America. I hope that you are well. Jim and Jen are at the office most days to help you with your mail order needs and Instructional Photo-Tour sign-ups. I still need folks for San Diego, Japan, Galapagos, the Palouse, and the Bear Boat (Grizzly Cubs) trips. Among others 🙂 Please e-mail for couples and discount info for all of the above. Click here for complete IPT info.

I will have relatively decent internet access for all but 22 OCT thru 11 NOV while I am on the Sea Spirit. Best and great picture making, artie

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA 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: 349!

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, 349 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 on the 2016 San Diego IPT with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 263mm) with the EOS-1dX (now replaced by the rugged, blazingly fast Canon EOS-1D X Mark II. ISO 500. Evaluative metering probably +1 1/3 stops: 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode resulted in a very bright RAW file… AWB.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). The selected AF point was on the bird’s shoulder above the bend of the wing. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial.

California Gull, adult winter

Image Question

Do the breaking waves behind the subject bother you? Why or why not?

California Gull

Despite its name, California Gull is not a particularly easy species to photograph in Southern California in winter (or at any season as far as I know). In general, they are scarcer and much more wary than the Western and incredibly beautiful Heerman’s Gulls are, and–unlike those two species–they rarely respond to tossed bread. You can, however, usually find a few at the Green Patch in La Jolla where this bird was photographed. If you move slowly and stay low, you can get close. I have even made some head portraits with a big lens and a TC.

Horizontal Portrait Basics

Note that the bird is well back in the frame with about four times as much room from the bird’s breast to the right frame edge than from the tip of the tail to the left frame edge. And not also that there is about twice as much room above the bird than below. Lastly, check out the pretty much perfect head angle. Learn tons more in the Advanced Composition and Image Design chapter in The Art of Bird Photography II (ABP II: 916 pages, 900+ images on CD only).

The San Diego Site Guide

If you would love to learn all the great spots in and around San Diego and La Jolla–including the Green Patch, get yourself a copy of the BAA San Diego Site guide here. It is the next best thing to being on an IPT.

Exposing Dangerously to the Right…

As regular readers know, I like to have the bright WHITEs in my RAW files open in DPP 4 with RGB values in the mid 230s or at worse, the low 240s. With this image, operator resulted in the brightest WHITEs with RBG values in the high 240s and low 250s. As there were no blinkies on the back of the camera or in Photo Mechanic and the DPP 4 histogram looked fine with no data piled up on the right hand axis, I knew that getting the look that I wanted would be a snap. In addition, I would need to deal with the CYAN color cast.

In DPP4 I played with the color temperature, pulled the exposure down by moving the Brightness slider well to the left, and pulled down the Highlights to -2. Then I brought the now darkened to taste image into Photoshop, did a bit of clean-up work, and worked on the color cast. I will be offering a Color Balance/Color Cast MP4 video soon.

To learn why and how Arash and I use Canon Digital Photo Professional 4 to convert all our RAW files, get yourself a copy of the DPP 4 Raw Conversion Guide.


San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects. With annual visits spanning more than three decades I have lot of experience there….

2017 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) JAN 11 thru and including the morning session on JAN 15: 4 1/2 days: $1999.

(Limit: 10/openings 8)

Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; Tuesday 1/10/17.

Join me in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches; Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heerman’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the two IPT cards there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well.

With gorgeous subjects just sitting there waiting to have their pictures taken, photographing the pelicans on the cliffs is about as easy as nature photography gets. With the winds from the east almost every morning there is usually some excellent flight photography. And the pelicans are almost always doing something interesting: preening, scratching, bill pouch cleaning, or squabbling. And then there are those crazy head throws that are thought to be a form of intra-flock communication.

Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter?


Though the pelicans will be the stars of the show on this IPT there will be many other handsome and captivating subjects in wonderful settings.

The San Diego Details

This IPT will include five 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, four 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, four lunches, and after-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility.

A $599 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “Arthur Morris) to us at BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. Or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, will be due on 9/11//2016. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail.

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.


Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack!


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

4 comments to Exposing Dangerously to the Right… And Horizontal Portrait Basics

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks girl-Kerry, Jake, and Bill.

    Later and love from Ushuaia, Argentina. artie

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    very nice shot – i love the wet sand. The detail in the bird’s face is great.
    I like this image just as it is.

  • avatar Jake Levin

    The only breaking wave I don’t like is the one that goes through/behind the head. I guess it’s a crapshoot where the waves are going to be when you push the button. I like everything else, though.

  • avatar Bill Hill

    Next time you come to California, come on up to Carmel. We have California Gull by the hundreds. Easy to approach at the Carmel River State Beach. Have a great trip