Common Bird/Rare Sight. And Saved By Surround AF « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Common Bird/Rare Sight. And Saved By Surround AF

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

Please remember that the blog is intended to be interactive; the more folks who participate, the more everyone learns, including you. And me.

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: 350!

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, 350 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 East Pond at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on my private morning with E-mac (Elizabeth MacSwann) while seated behind my Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the fast, rugged Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with 64GB Card and Reader. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/640 sec. at f/6.3 was close to one full stop underexposed. Daylight WB.

Center AF point/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point fell just missed the front of the bird’s breast; see more below. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment = 6.

Short-billed Dowitcher walking on mud

Common Bird/Rare Sight

Short-billed Dowitcher is a relatively common bird at Jamaica Bay in summer with some adults (failed breeders and females) arriving as early as late June and numbers building in a typical year to several hundred toward the end of July. By early August most of the adults have departed. The juvies, wearing their beautifully colored and patterned fresh feathers, show up right around mid-August. In a good year I used to count more than 100 juvies on the East Pond.

This species spends 99% of it time either foraging belly deep in shallow water or huddled at their high tide roosts, usually at the Raunt. To see one simply walking across a mud flat is a rare sight indeed. I had a few chances when the birds left the rain pool to my left to head for the one to my right. I was quite excited and am glad that I got one sharp decent one showing the feet and legs. Note: the bird was walking slowly when this image was created.

Tip: whenever you may wind up photographing birds that are walking or flying from side to side, take the time to level the tripod platform by centering the floating bubble in the scribed circle. Do this by adjusting the length of the individual legs or in this case, by shoving one or the other leg firmly into the mud. Be sure to leave the bottom leg section out about 3-4 inches to avoid getting mud or sand into the lowest leg lock. It takes a bit of practice to figure out which leg needs to be adjusted to level the platform but after a while you will be able to get it done quickly.

Image Design Question

If I had been lying flat down on the mud, how would that have greatly improved this image?


DPP 4 Screen Capture

Saved By Surround

Note that the selected AF point totally missed the bird’s breast. That means that one or more assist points to our left of the center AF point successfully tracked the subject. Note also the nice RGB values of 230, 230, 233 with the cursor on the white eyeline. This represents the RAW file after it was brightened in DPP 4. (The program remembers the recipe and adjusts the RAW file for viewing with those settings; if I need a screen capture of the original RAW without the adjustments I simply head to Photo Mechanic.)

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

5 comments to Common Bird/Rare Sight. And Saved By Surround AF

  • avatar MGUK

    BUT you would have probably lost the feet – which in an image like this, I prefer to see and you could easily remove the ‘dark blobs’ by cloning over them with the brush set to 40 – 50%.

  • avatar Kim Barkley

    Help the helpless old people. The little squares above focusing on the bird are automatic? It is a que3stion about using this over a single point of focus.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      They are automatic only if you choose an AF Area Selection Mode that offers assist points, i.e., Expand or Surround.

      Later and love from Ushuaia, Argentina. artie

  • avatar PKUK

    Getting lower would have moved those dark “blobs” lower to give a cleaner background.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Correct, but do see MGIK’s comments…

      Later and love from Ushuaia, Argentina. artie