Amy Runs to the Ruffs! And When to Be Wary of Group AF … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Amy Runs to the Ruffs! And When to Be Beware of Group AF ...

Stuff

After a great Thursday, Friday was a bust until late in the day. We went out behind the hotel at about 7pm. Amy and Anita found the black Ruff that has been regular at the pond along with the Red-necked Phalaropes and a few pairs of Tufted Ducks. I walked to the eastern end of the island and concentrated on Common Gulls n flight with the 600 alone and one of my two D850s. I got a few killers …

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Ruffs-_MAI3185-Vadso,-Norway

This image was also created on June 7 at Vardo, Norway. I rested my rig on the lowered window of the van: the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, and the Nikon D850. ISO 1000. Matrix metering +2/3 stop as framed: 1/250 sec. at f/6.3. CLOUDY WB at 5:36PM on a cloudy afternoon.

One below the center, Group (grp)/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The array was centered on the right flank of the Ruff in the middle.
Click on the image to see a larger version.

Focus peaking AF Fine-tune: +5.

Image #1: Six Ruffs: The Ruffians

Amy Runs to the Ruffs!

Amy Novotny runs pretty much every day. I do not know her complete running history but I do know that she has run in and completed four Boston Marathons. So she is not just running around the block. She set out on a run from our hotel in Vadso on Thursday and returned with news: she had found lots of Ruffs.

An Exception to the Rule …

When photographing groups of birds, I have long advised that folks focus on the closest bird. Here, I chose to focus on the second closest bird and it worked out perfectly. I thought of switching to a lower left AF point, but when the arrangement presented itself momentarily, I had no choice but to push the shutter button. I guess that all rules are made to be broken when the opportunity presents itself.

Ruff-_MAI2977-Vadso,-Norway

This image was created on June 7 at Vardo, Norway. I rested my rig on the lowered window of the van: the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, and the Nikon D850. ISO 800. Matrix metering plus 1/3 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/6.3. CLOUDY WB at 4:06pam on a cloudy afternoon.

Center Group (grp) AF point/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The array was centered on the bird’s front end. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Focus peaking AF Fine-tune: +5.

Image #2: Victorian Royalty Ruff

Brushane

Brushane is the Norwegian name for Ruff. The correct pronunciation is quite baffling to Americans: say “bruce-HON-uh.

Ruff-feeding-_MAI3043-Vadso,-Norway

This image also was created on June 7 at Vardo, Norway. I rested my rig on the lowered window of the van: the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-17E II, and the Nikon D850. ISO 800. Matrix metering minus about 1/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/7.1. CLOUDY WB at 5:00PM on a cloudy afternoon.

One to the right of the center Group (grp)/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The array was centered on the bird’s face. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Focus peaking AF Fine-tune: +1.

Image #3: Rusty-headed, black-chested Ruff feeding

When to Be Wary of Group AF …

While Group (grp) AF is superb for flight photography, it can hurt you when using it for photographing single birds. If the bird is large in the frame as with Image #3, you are OK if you can place the array on the bird’s face. But with subject that are not so large in the frame, the array is often confused (for lack of a better term), and may focus on the bird’s breast (or somewhere else) that is in front of the plane of the face and the eye. It is much, much better to go with single point or d-9 (at most) with birds that are filling about half the frame. For me, lesson learned.

I made many unsharp images on Thursday, in part due to using Group AF when I shouldn’t have, in part because long effective focal lengths and relatively slow shutter speeds are not a good mix, and in part because I do not have a BLUBB with me. Resting the 600 on the lowered van window is a problematic strategy at best. And using pillow or a rolled up sweatshirt simply does not offer the stability of a BLUBB with its concave top that allows the bag to solidly cradle your long lens.

Ruff-_MAI3095-Vadso,-Norway

This image was also created on June 7 at Vardo, Norway. I rested my rig on the lowered window of the van: the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, and the Nikon D850. ISO 1000. Matrix metering plus about 2/3 stop: as framed: 1/500 sec. at f/6.3. CLOUDY WB at 5:20pm on a cloudy afternoon.

Center Group (grp) AF point/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The array was centered on the bird’s ruff; this image is cropped from the horizontal original.

Focus peaking AF Fine-tune: +5.

Image #4: Queen Victoria Ruff

Ruffs and Reeves

The male of the species bears the English name, Ruff. The females are called reeves. In breeding plumage, the males feature spectacular ear tufts and ruffs or boas of shaggy, colorful feathers. Color-wise there is so much variation — as you can see with today’s images — that it is difficult to find two that are even pretty much the same. The females are quite plain and resemble a stock Pectoral Sandpiper. I have yet to make a good image of a reeve. Thanks to Amy, we had a banner days with Ruffs (and also with Eurasian Golden Plover).

Ruff-_MAI3177-Vadso,-Norway

This image was also created on June 7 at Vardo, Norway. I rested my rig on the lowered window of the van: the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, and the Nikon D850. ISO 800. Matrix metering +1 stop: 1/250 sec. at f/6.3. CLOUDY WB at 5:20Pm on a cloudy afternoon.

Center Group (grp) AF point/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The array was centered on the bird’s chest. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Focus peaking AF Fine-tune: +4.

Image #5: Rough and Ready Ruff

The Image Optimizations

Because I was fighting to keep a relatively low ISO while maintaining a halfway decent shutter speed, most of Thursday’s images were about one-third stop underexposed. I began each conversion in ACR by increasing moving the Exposure slider to the right. Once I finished working all the sliders and got the TIFF into Photoshop a healthy dose of one of my NIK Color Efex Pro Detail Extractor/Tonal Contrast recipes was applied. Having use CLOUDY WB I moved the color temperature slider to the left a few hundred degrees with each RAW conversion. But the GREENs of the grass were still too intense so I put the whole thing on a layer, hit Command + U (Hue/Saturation), picked the YELLOW channel from the dropdown menu, and reduced the Saturation about 15-20 points to tone down the color of the grass. Then I applied a Regular Layer Mask, hit B, D, X, and erased the effect from the bird.

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Your Favorite Ruff?

Which Ruff do you like best? Do let us know why.

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11 comments to Amy Runs to the Ruffs! And When to Be Wary of Group AF …

  • avatar Ford Price

    Hi Artie,

    What are the artifacts on the bird in the background on the right hand side of picture #1. Looks like you did some work on it but it didn’t blend in correctly.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good eye Ford! I believe that I ran some NIK on only part of that bird and failed to see the sloppy edges. I will re-do the image.

      thanks with love, artie

  • avatar Bill Hill

    I really like #2. Great pose, perfect use of depth of field with the grass in front sharp and the background totally smooth.

  • I like all but especially 1 because it shows such a wide variety of coloration. Was this Ruff casual Thursday?

  • avatar Guido Bee

    +1 for #4. I like the detail and being close up.
    #2 is a close second. I’d be happy if any of them were mine.
    All the best.

  • avatar Mark Jordan

    Hello Artie. The visual impact of #4 is excellent. The pose and color is very good. Simply royalty.

  • avatar Adam

    I’m with David on image #4; the plumage is simply stunning. Care to tell us how you are otherwise enjoying Norway?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Adam. The food is great. None of the bird like people. At all. Especially the shorebirds. Photograph has been much more difficult than I could have imagined.

      with love, artie

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Seems the wind has dropped now to a whole gale, which is good. 🙂 My favorite is the Queen Victoria Ruff (image # 4) for the pose, composition, detail, expression, color, and so on and on.

  • Group AF always focus on the nearest thing with all the points in the Group AF taken into consideration. I learnt it the hard way while on your Gatorland IPT.

    I got few images of great egret way out of focus. Eye not at all in focus.

  • avatar Jordan Cait

    Hey Artie,
    Sorry to hear you had such a ruff day with your group AF.

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