Excited By Common Cranes … Killing It With the Creative Use of Upper Large Zone AF. And Another Lying Histogram. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Excited By Common Cranes ... Killing It With the Creative Use of Upper Large Zone AF. And Another Lying Histogram.


Nothing too exciting on Friday. I worked on blog posts, sent Jim home early, spent lots of time waiting for the Fed-Ex Ground and UPS guys — both came eventually, enjoyed a nice, easy 1/2 mile swim, a short nap, and continued eating well. And I did start a new section in the current workflow guide. My plan is to put a few good hours of work in there on Saturday …

Mongoose M3.6 Heads in Stock

For the first time in months, we have Mongoose M3.6 heads in stock. We got our hands on six the other day; three were already accounted for and we sold another two this week … Call Jim at 863-692-0906 weekdays to order yours.

The Streak

Just in case you have not been counting, today makes 11 days in a row with a new educational blog post 🙂


I could not secure the lodging that I needed for the UK Puffins and Gannets IPT in Dunbar, Scotland, so I went from Hotels.Com to Booking.Com and was pleasantly surprised. I found the rooms that I needed with ease at a hotel that was not even on Hotels.Com, and it was a nice hotel that I had seen in person. And the rates were great. If you’d like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and you will earn a $25 reward.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of 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.

Please Don’t Forget …

As always–and folks have been doing a really great job for a long time now–please remember to use the BAA B&H links for your major and minor 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 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 the first afternoon of the Finland IPT from a small blind with the Wimberley V2 Tripod Head-mounted -mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and my favorite bird photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. AWB.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: 0.

Upper Large Zone/AI Servo/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The system brilliantly selected an AF point that fell on the bird’s upper back as seen in the DPP 4 screen capture below, right on the same plane as the bird’s eye.

Common Crane, Kuusamo, Finland

Excited By Common Cranes …

I love photographing cranes. Sandhill Cranes by my home. Sandhill Cranes on migration in the the western and central US. And best of all, the Red-crowned Cranes in Japan. So when our guide in Finland suggested on our first afternoon that we might have a chance to photograph Common Cranes from a blind at a nearby lake, I was excited. Until we got there. There were lots of distant cranes on the shore of the lake. The best blinds appeared to be the ones on the right, near the snow-covered shore. So I got into the cramped blind all the way on the left. A few cranes approached the shore well to my right and I made a few long-range snaps. There were lots of Whooper Swans to photograph but I was pretty much sated on them as I have been to Japan many times. And the settings for the swans in Japan were a lot nicer than in Finland.

I wanted Common Cranes. But for much of the afternoon, that seemed only a dream. The sun peeked through late in the day and then, as if in a dream, several cranes flew in to my left, landed, and walked into the sweet sunlight. Some even posed for a few moments. The frame above is my favorite from that afternoon, though I did create a few nice flight images in nearly impossible conditions (due to the blind).

The DPP 4 screen capture for today’s featured image

Killing It With the Creative Use of Upper Large Zone AF

As regular readers know, I have been using and loving Upper Large Zone AF for tall vertical birds for months. At times, you might give up just a bit of AF accuracy but you gain amazing flexibility in framing. With the crane relatively close, the bird was borderline too-large-in-the-frame at 1200mm. I was considered switching to the 1.4X III TC but knew that the bird would likely shift position, and worse yet, the shaft of sunlight on the water was quite narrow. If it moved at all, the magical light would be gone. Just then the bird struck a gorgeous over-the-shoulder pose. Thinking fast, I was able to get the the bottom left AF point in the Upper Large Zone array to focus on the crane’s upper back as seen by the illuminated red AF point in the DPP 4 screen capture immediately above. I created six images in the series and one was sharper than the next.

By sticking with it and thinking creatively about the AF system, I was able to turn a near-impossible situation into a series of very fine images.

Another Lying Histogram

Note in the DPP 4 screen capture that though there is no data at all in the rightmost box of the histogram, that the RGB values for the brightest WHITEs on the bird’s neck are R = 243, G = 235, B = 212. I would not want to go any brighter with the WHITEs. Strangely — and I have no explanation for this — the BLUE histogram is farther to the right of the GREEN histogram. Understand though, that the high value for RED reflects the warm light of late afternoon.

So what’s the lesson? In situations where middle and dark tones prevail but where there are small areas of WHITE in an image, there may be no data at all in the rightmost box of the histogram even when the exposure is pretty much correct.

2017 in San Diego was a very good year ….

2018 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART IPT: Monday, JAN 15 thru and including the morning session on Friday, JAN 19, 2018: 4 1/2 days: $2099.
Limit: 10: Openings: 4

Meet and Greet at 6:30pm on the evening before the IPT begins; Sunday, Jan 14, 2018.

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 (usually nesting and displaying) and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Wood Duck and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heerman’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Whimbrel, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seal (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lion; 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. Please note: formerly dependable, both Wood Duck and Marbled Godwit have been declining at their usual locations for the past two years …


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….

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. You can do most of your photography with an 80- or 100-400 lens …

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. Dinners are on your own so that we can get some sleep.

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.


Those who prefer to support BAA by shopping with Amazon may use the logo link above.

Amazon Canada

Many kind folks from north of the border, eh, have e-mailed stating that they would love to help us out by using one of our affiliate links but that living in Canada and doing so presents numerous problems. Now, they can help us out by using our Amazon Canada affiliate link by starting their searches by clicking here.


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 :).

3 comments to Excited By Common Cranes … Killing It With the Creative Use of Upper Large Zone AF. And Another Lying Histogram.

  • avatar Matt Schramer

    As always, great information in your blog regarding techniques and settings. Nice detail in the photo.

    As an aside, I am signed up for the 2018 San Diego IPT. Is the final payment really due on 9/11/2016 or should that be 2017? Just want to be sure I meet the deadline!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks a stack, Matt. I look forward to meeting and working with you and the rest of the gang in San Diego early next year. I am guessing that it should not be 9/11/16 🙂 Jen will be in touch when the balances are due.

      with love, artie

  • Lovely detail Artie. All came together well in the end. First time I’m seeing this species.