How Low Can You Get? Upper Large Zone AF Rocks Verticals! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

How Low Can You Get? Upper Large Zone AF Rocks Verticals!


I drove over to Fort DeSoto on Friday afternoon and met up with two good friends, many multiple IPT veteran John Dupps and multiple IPT veteran Lee Sommie. I was glad to see that though the wind was from the east southeast it was not very strong. We did great on my favorite afternoon beach with the usual cast of shorebirds, Willet, Black-bellied, Semipalmated, and Wilson’s Plovers, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, and Least Sandpiper. We wiggled over to my new favorite DeSoto location and had great fun with the Snowy Egrets photographing at first with the sun behind us and then, at K7500, shooting into the sun and the blasting highlights.

Dinner at Goodtimes on Tiera Verde as excellent as usual. Conditions for Saturday morning are looking perfect 🙂

The Streak

Today makes ninety-three days in a row with a new educational blog post! This one took about an hour to prepare. With all of my upcoming free time (or not …), the plan right now is to break the current record streak of 480 … Good health and good internet connections willing.


Booking.Com came through for me twice again recently with both the DeSoto Fall IPT and next July’s UK Puffins, Gannets, and Bempton Pre-trip room reservations. And all the rates were great. If you’d like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and you will earn a $25 reward. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

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.

This image was created at Fort DeSoto with Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and my favorite pelican photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/640 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. AWB. Early morning light.

Though my big lens was not mounted on the Induro GIT304L Grand Series 3 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod and the Mongoose M3.6, both were involved in the creation of the image. See below for details.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: -5.

Upper large Zone/AI Servo/Shutter Button AF was active at the moment of exposure and performed to perfection. See the DPP 4 screen capture below to learn the location of the activated AF points.

Brown Pelican juvenile, low perspective

How Low Can You Get?

The young pelican above was perched on a rock that protruded just above the water at high tide. I noted the bird even before the sun came over the dunes behind us. I knew from the get-go that the best images would be there for the taking if I got flat down on the ground. But the sand was wet, the beach sloped downhill towards the Gulf, and I was feeling a bit lazy and was enjoying being dry … I tried sitting behind my lowered tripod; the horizon cut through the top of the bird’s head. So I bit the bullet by splaying the legs of my Induro GIT304L Grand Series 3 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod — they do great around saltwater and sand — and got down flat on the beach. Still no good as now the horizon cut the bird neatly in half.

So, even though I was working at 1000mm, I unclamped the lens from the Mongoose and rotated the whole tripod so that one of the legs pointed squarely my left. Then I rested the barrel of the lens on that single splayed tripod leg; the bottom of the lens barrel was about an inch above the sand. I was effectively hand holding with a bit of support.

I faced several problems. My rig was so low that it was very difficult to get my eye to the viewfinder while working vertically. But it was imperative that I do just that so I could get a good look at the in-viewfinder electronic level. When you are lying on the ground your head is naturally skewed while looking through the viewfinder so the in-viewfinder level is a must. As I strained to get my eye to the viewfinder I felt at times as if my left eyeball was gonna pop right out of its socket. And I received the gift of an instant headache every time that I got to make a few frames. I could not take the pain for long so I quit as soon as I felt that I had made a few good ones.

I had thought of using Live View but concluded that without the lens securely mounted on the tripod that that would be a losing effort.

Was it worth it for me? Yes, I absolutely love going super low even when it involves great effort and some pain.

Note that the FocusTune micro-adjustment of -5 fits into the fairly significant category.

A DPP 4 Screen Capture for today’s featured image

A DPP 4 Screen Capture for today’s featured image

Upper Large Zone AF Rocks Verticals!

Check out the three AF points that were activated and note the perfect job done by Upper Large Zone AF. If you own a camera that offers Manual Selection Large Zone AF and are not using it for verticals, you are making your life more difficult than it needs to be. Upper Large Zone offers almost unlimited compositional freedom.

The RAW Conversion

After bringing the image into DPP 4, I entered my 5D Mark IV/ISO 400 basic recipe and then checked the RGB values for the WHITEs for this early morning light image. Since the RGB values noted lots of RED I moved the Color fine tune point toward BLUE. This lined up the R, G, and B histograms quite a bit but still left the image looking like rich early morning light. With less RED than I had started with the RGB values read 244, 234, 217. Note as pointed out in the Understanding the Color of Light/Part II blog post here, it is not necessary to work towards images with a perfect neutral white balances (unless that is what you want). For this image, the warm light was a big plus for me. As was the low perspective 🙂 (Next time I might dig a big hole so that I can get even lower …) Adjusting the Color fine tune dot was the only thing that I did in DPP 4 (other than entering my basic recipe). So then I hit Command + D to convert the CR2 file to a TIF.

The Image Optimization

The image optimization in Photoshop was about as simple as the RAW conversion had been. I used the 2X3 crop preset and cropped a bit from above and from the left to tighten up the composition. Then I selected the bird using the Quick Selection Tool (my keyboard shortcut W), placed the selection on its own layer, and applied my NIK Color Efex Pro 30-30 recipe mainly to bring up some of the detail in the bird’s white breast. Then I saved the master TIF file, cropped the image to 900 pixels high, sharpened it with Unsharp Mask at 80/.3/0 and save the JPEG, making sure to hit “D” for Don’t Save when asked if I wanted to save the changes made to _W5A7642. (If you hit save, you replace your master TIF file with a tiny JPEG …)

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II) will teach you an efficient Mac/Photo Mechanic/Photoshop workflow that will make it easy for you to make your images better in Photoshop (rather than worse). That true whether you convert your images in DPP 4 or ACR. See the blog post here to learn lots more and to read a free excerpt.

You can order your copy from the BAA Online Store here, by sending a Paypal for $40 here, or by calling Jim or Jennifer weekdays at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II)

Everything mentioned above is covered in detail in the BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II), an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. Learn more and check out the free excerpt in the blog post here. The new e-Guide reflects my Macbook Pro/Photo Mechanic/DPP 4/Photoshop workflow. Do note that you will find the RGB Curves Adjustment Color Balancing tutorial only in the new e-guide. Note: folks working on a PC and/or those who do not want to miss anything Photoshop may wish to purchase the original Digital Basics along with DB II while saving $15 by clicking here to buy the DB Bundle.

The two most recent and many of the older MP4 Photoshop Tutorial videos releases go hand and hand with the information in DB II):

  • The Wingtip Repairs MP4 Video here.
  • The MP4 Crow Cleanup Video here.

Folks who learn well by following along rather than by reading can check out the complete collection of MP 4 Photoshop Tutorial Videos by clicking here.

You can learn how and why I and other discerning Canon shooters convert nearly all of their Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 using Canon Digital Photo Professional in the DPP 4 RAW conversion Guide here. And you can learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair. Folks can learn sophisticated sharpening and (NeatImage) Noise Reduction techniques in the The Professional Post Processing Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly.

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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.

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