Pre-dawn Japanese Painting, The Importance of Head Angle even with small in the frame subjects, and Still More 100-400 II La Jolla Versatility « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Pre-dawn Japanese Painting, The Importance of Head Angle even with small in the frame subjects, and Still More 100-400 II La Jolla Versatility

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 intermittent internet access for the rest of my South American adventure. I get back home late on December 25, 2016. 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: 392!

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, 392 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 La Jolla, CA with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 400mm) and the mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2 stops: 1/500 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.

One AF point below the 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). Learn more below. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Double-crested Cormorants in pine trees backlit in the pre-dawn

Pre-dawn Japanese Painting

As the weather in San Diego is usually lovely in January and February these types of images are there for the taking on most mornings for those who do not mind getting up early. The trick is to be lucky enough to find a somewhat pleasing arrangement of the birds and to know exactly where to stand.

The Importance of Head Angle …

Do understand that even when the birds are small in the frame, even tiny in the frame, head angle is still of paramount importance. When you have two birds in the frame, getting two good head angles as in today’s image is four times harder than it is when there is only a single bird in the frame. And each time that you add another bird the difficulty of getting three or four or more good head angles increases exponentially. A strong

More 100-400 II La Jolla Versatility

Though at times you might miss having a longer focal length lens available on the cliffs of La Jolla the breadth and variety of images that you can make there with the 100-400mm L IS II is truly astounding. And as we have seen here before, adding the 1.4X III TC will give you additional reach, up to 560mm with a full frame camera body and as much as 896mm of effective focal length with a Canon crop body like the amazing Canon EOS 7D Mark II.

AF Magic?

Neither the selected AF point nor any of the assist points fell on the bird or the branches, yet AF held nicely and produced a sharp image. In part this was due in part to the fact that with the clean sky background AF did not have much to search for and in part as a result of my Custom Case AF settings as detailed in all of the recent Camera User’s Guides. IAC, there are many situations, especially with flight photography, where none of the active AF points are anywhere near the subject and yet the image is sharp. When that happens, enjoy the results.

The San Diego Site Guide

If you can’t make the IPT below, be sure to get yourself a copy of the San Diego Site Guide here. The Site Guides are the closest thing to joining an IPT that you can experience without actually joining one. And they cost only fifty bucks–a lot less than an IPT! I share everything that I know about the five killer photography spots within 20 minutes of downtown San Diego. Learn where and how and when to photograph the amazing California race of Brown Pelican; Marbled Godwits against bright buff backgrounds; Wood Ducks, Lesser Scaup, and Ring-necked Duck at point blank range; and a variety of stunning gulls (including Heerman’s, Western, and California) both perched and in flight. You will learn where to go on what wind and what tides are best for each coastal location. As usual, I have held nothing back. Both the Fort DeSoto and Bosque Site Guides have received nothing but praise from the more than 500 photographers who were able to visit these sites for the first time as if they had been photographing them for a decade. The San Diego Site Guide consists of 8936 words and 38 color photographs. It will prove most useful to folks visiting in the colder months, but many of the locations are productive in other seasons as well, especially spring. Note: The Brown Pelicans, which are the big attraction in San Diego, have their bright red bill pouches only in winter, so this guide–though useful at other times of year–is most valuable to those visiting at that season.


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 6)

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 please remember that I am 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, 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 🙂

6 comments to Pre-dawn Japanese Painting, The Importance of Head Angle even with small in the frame subjects, and Still More 100-400 II La Jolla Versatility

  • avatar David Policansky

    Love the image, Artie. Minor typo: too many “in San Diego”s: “As the weather in San Diego is usually lovely in San Diego in January and February….”

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    love the composition. Head angle is important so you know you’re looking at birds. Because the angle of the birds is so good, and we can see the shape of the tail,neck, bill, etc, you can really see – especially with the bird on the right – these are cormorants.
    i actually like the tree limbs above the bird. it provides a bit of framing.

  • avatar Ron Gates

    I like silhouettes so I like this image. I have a suggestion….frame as a 5×7 horizontal (or whatever size ratio works) and eliminate the limbs above the birds but still include the trunk on the right. I don’t feel that the limbs above add to your image. You’ll probably have to clone the limbs out or at least part of them to get pleasant framing.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yup. A pano version version would work well too. As a 3X2 it needs those branches for compositional balance.

      later and love, artie