Whaddya Do With a Softbox Sky? My Favorite Penguin Chick Rig. Why a 12mm Extension Tube? And Why Expose So Far to the Right? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Whaddya Do With a Softbox Sky? My Favorite Penguin Chick Rig. Why a 12mm Extension Tube? And Why Expose So Far to the Right?

What’s Up?

Thursday began with another hour-long walk with Jim down to the lake and back. I continued with about five hours all told of my core, shoulder and hip flexor exercises and stretching and enjoyed another 1/2 mile swim. I have come to realize that if I do not use it I will lose it …

Please call or e-mail for San Diego IPT late registration info. Click here for complete IPT info.

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: 413!

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, 413 days in a row with a new educational blog post. 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 of course appreciate your business.


This image was created on Bleaker Island in The Falklands with the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, the Canon Extension Tube EF 12 II, and my very favorite bird photography camera, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode.

Four AF points to the left of the center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter Button AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point fell squarely on the chick’s eye. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Rockhopper Penguin adult grooming chick

Whaddya Do With a Softbox Sky?

There is never ever a daily shooting schedule on a BAA IPT. I always have a plan, but I am always willing and eager to switch tracks as conditions change. Conditions were ideal as we headed out early: completely cloudy but a bit dark. We started out with the Rock Shags but there was not much gong on. Since it was cloudy dark we headed back for a quick breakfast. As we climbed back into our vehicle things had brightened considerably; the wind had dropped to nothing and the sky was a huge softbox. Without hesitation I said, “Conditions are perfect for the rockhopper chicks.”We enjoyed several hours of incredible photography.

Lesson: you do not want to photograph penguins (or any black and white birds for that matter) when it is sunny. Even with early morning light it is very difficult to create pleasing images. On the other hand, cloudy bright is magic: no shadows.

On IPTs, I share all of my decision making thinking with you so that when you get back to your home turf you will better be able to decide when to get out, when to stay in bed, and where to go …

My Favorite Penguin Chick Rig/Why a 12mm Extension Tube?

Whenever we headed out to do penguin chicks I went with the 500 II, the 1.4X III, the 5D IV, and added the Canon Extension Tube EF 12 II behind the teleconverter. There are two advantages when using the 12mm tube as described:

  • 1-You gain almost two feet of close focus.
  • 2-Even when you are working outside of the minimum focusing distance of your lens you enjoy about a 4% increase in subject size.

Note that when you add a 12mm extension tube it will cost you about 1/3 to 1/2 stop of light depending on the lens. Note also that you will lose distant focus, again, the distance will depend on the lens. If a peregrine flies by carrying prey it is likely that you will not be able to achieve focus. Lastly, I use a 12mm tube between my 1.4X and 2X TCs so that I can stack them for travel and in the field.


The DPP 4 Screen Capture

Why Expose So Far to the Right?

Note that before the RAW conversion in DPP 4 that the RGB values for the brightest whites came in at 249, 250, 251. Why did I push the whites so far to the right?

Note the perfect placement of the selected AF point. Image clean-up was minimal.

Your Call

All are invited to leave a comment and let us know what they like and/or don’t like about today’s featured image.


Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

2017 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT
Monday July 3 through Monday July 10, 2017: $5999: Limit 10 photographers — Openings: 8). Two great leaders: Arthur Morris and BPN co-owner, BPN Photography Gear Forum Moderator, and long-time BAA Webmaster Peter Kes.

Here are the plans: take a red eye from the east coast of the US on July 2 and arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland on the morning of Monday July 3 no later than 10am (or simply meet us then at the Edinburgh Airport–EDI, or later in the day at our cottages if you are driving your own vehicle either from the UK or from somewhere in Europe). Stay 7 nights in one of three gorgeous modern country cottages.

There are five days of planned puffin/seabird trips and one morning of gannet photography, all weather permitting of course. In three years we have yet to miss an entire day because of weather… In addition, we will enjoy several sessions of photographing nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes at eye level.


Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

The Details

We will get to photograph Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, Razorbill, Shag, and Northern Gannet; Arctic, Sandwich, and Common Terns, the former with chicks of all sizes; Black-headed, Lesser-Black-backed, and Herring Gulls, many chasing puffins with fish; Black-legged Kittiwake with chicks. We will be staying in upscale country-side lodging that are beyond lovely with large living areas and lots of open space for the informal image sharing and Photoshop sessions. The shared rooms are decent-sized, each with a private bathroom. See the limited single supplement info below.

All breakfasts, lunches and dinners are included. All 5 puffins boat lunches will need to be prepared by you in advance, taken with, and consumed at your leisure. I usually eat mine on the short boat trip from one island to the other. Also included is a restaurant lunch on the gannet boat day.

If you wish to fly home on the morning of Monday July 10 we will get you to the airport. Please, however, consider the following tentative plans: enjoy a second Gannet boat trip on the afternoon of Monday July 10 and book your hotel room in Dunbar. If all goes as planned, those who stay on for the two extra days will make a morning landing at Bass Rock, one of the world’s largest gannetries. We will get everyone to the airport on the morning of Wednesday July 12. (We may opt to stay in Edinburgh on the night of July 11.) Price and details should be finalized at least six months before the trip but you will need to be a bit patient. It would be ideal if I can get all the work done by the end of September so that folks can arrange their flights then.


Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version. Scroll down to join us in the UK in 2016.

Deposit Info

If you are good to go sharing a room–couples of course are more than welcome–please send your non-refundable $2,000/person deposit check now to save a spot. Please be sure to check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below. Your balance will be due on March 29, 2017. Please make your check out to โ€œArthur Morrisโ€ and send it to Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. 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. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

Please shoot me an e-mail if you are good to go or if you have any questions.

Single Supplement Deposit Info

Single supplement rooms are available on a limited basis. To ensure yours, please register early. The single supplement fee is $1575. If you would like your own room, please request it when making your deposit and include payment in full for the single supplement; your single supplement deposit check should be for $3,575. As we will need to commit to renting the extra space, single supplement deposits are non-refundable so please be sure that check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for big international trips is highly recommended as we never know what life has in store for us. I strongly recommend that you purchase quality insurance. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to include things such as sudden work or family obligation and even a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check of running your credit card. Whenever purchasing travel insurance be sure to read the fine print careful even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.

Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

12 comments to Whaddya Do With a Softbox Sky? My Favorite Penguin Chick Rig. Why a 12mm Extension Tube? And Why Expose So Far to the Right?

  • avatar Bob

    After your comment, I set up my 500 f4, a 12mm Kenko tube, a 1.4x III extender on a 5d4. While the auto focus works it never locks in but rather keeps seeking over a narrow range. Does not seem usable with tube between lens and extender. The camera does not “see” the kenko tube. I wonder if using a canon tube would make a difference?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      If the TC is on the lens with the tube behind it AF should work perfectly. With what you are describing it sounds as if you have mounted the tube on the lens with the TC behind it … Let me know which you are doing. My understanding is that the Kenko tube should work just fine …


  • avatar Bob

    you may want to try putting the tube between the lens and the tele-converter. It will give you more magnification and an even closer focusing distance.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes, but you lose autofocus and thus have to focus manually. That is all covered in the CD book, AB II ๐Ÿ™‚


  • avatar Penelope

    Exposing to the right will always maximise quality and minimise noise. In this image the blacks are dominant and so will especially benefit from maximum exposure – just as long as the whites are not clipped.
    This exposure is based on the in-camera JPEG-based histogram so in spite of being close 255, the whites are still perfectly safe. The RAW file will still have plenty of latitude. In fact you could have given this image another half a stop at least and still been safe with the highlights.
    Being an overcast day, the meter often underexposes so some ‘plus’ compensation to the metered exposure is often indicated if underexposure is to be avoided.

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    Good info on the extension tubes. I took your suggestion last year about using them for storing extension tubes for travel, however have never tried actually using them in a setup for close subjects. Always room to try new things!

    I like the image. If it were mine, I might consider a little tighter view, cropping on the bottom and right. Why, this would provide a little more concentration on the chick considering the adult is a little out of focus, especially along the feather line on the neck. Just me. Why the high values on the whites? Did you go go +1/3 to bring out a little detail in the adults face? Considering it was overcast and you were working in a big “lightbox” you could open up the image a bit and hopefully keep the whites from spiking on the right. Did you have any blinks going on?

  • avatar David Policansky

    Lovely image, Artie. No kidding about photographing black-and-white birds in the sun! But I don’t want to just go home when I find that situation in some exotic locale or even 2 hours from where I live.

    I think you shifted exposure more to the right to prevent the adult’s face from being too dark.

    Typo: you will lost distant focus (a couple lines below the yellow text).

  • avatar Kevin Hice

    You exposed the whites to the right to get more detail out of the blacks.Artie wish you would do a video on the focus align. Enjoy the blog immensely. Thanks

  • avatar Jim Brown

    You can also stack with OP/TECH stacking rear lens cap (B&H) if you do not have a 12mm extension tube. I used to do that in the film days by epoxying two rear lens caps together.

  • Hi Artie,

    Thank you for the info. I did not know the extension tubes increase the image size, although we lose distant focus. I will try this out.

    Regarding stacking Tele-convertors with Extension Tubes (1.4x with 2x) to carry them into field, can we only do it with cannon TC’s ?

    YAW. I would imagine that you could do it with any system that makes compatible extension tubes.