Red Knot Three Ways « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Red Knot Three Ways

What’s Up

We had the perfect morning on Wednesday. It began with a dead battery in the boat. While Anita went back to get the charger, I cast from the dock and hooked a nice pike on a lure — my favorite way to fish for them, and lost it at the boat. In the meantime, it was about 3 degrees C (37.5 degrees F) with a brisk NW wind! I was freezing. As Anita had to attend a Moose conservation meeting in Dryden, we only fished until 8:30am. We did not catch a Walleye and we did not catch a Northern Pike. On the way home, Anita was backing the boat away from the shore when she suddenly said, “We are sinking; we will never get home.” As it turned out, the bilge pump handled the momentary flooding in less than a minute. As I said, a perfect morning. Seriously, you gotta love days like those once in a while.

We did kill on Bald Eagle flight and diving photography on Tuesday afternoon and Anita and right-hand man Lorne caught their limits of Walleye. I caught one small one.

An Abundance of Riches

Multiple IPT veteran David Hollander and his wife Krista will be joining us in the UK as will newbie Carsten, a Nikon-shooter from Denmark.


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Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers 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. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This image was created on May 19, 2019 on the DeSoto Sandbar Secrets IPT. I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens and my souped-up Nikon D850. ISO 800. Matrix metering as framed at about +1 1/3 stops: 1/1600 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. AUTO1 WB at 6:16pm on a then very hazy afternoon.

I focused on the closest bird with center Group (grp) Continuous (C in Nikon/AI Servo with Canon) AF and then locked focus by pressing and hodling the AF-On button, recomposed, and made the image.

Nikon Focus Peaking fine-tune value: +4. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Image #1: Red Knot — small flock feeding in the surf

Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Why Did I Have to Lock Focus?

Why did I have to lock focus? When you are pohtographing a group of birds, it is almost always best to focus on the closest bird. With this image, that is the bird in the front right. So what was the problem? I wanted that bird in the lower right corner of the frame, but none of the AF points could be placed on on that particular bird — the AF coverage was not wide enough. So I set up my D850 to lock focus with the AF-On button so that I can succeed in situations where I need to tuck the main subject into a corner of the frame. Then as noted above, you focus, press and hold the AF-On button to lock focus, recompose, and press the shutter button.

I just love the rather musical arrangement of the birds in this one. I did eliminate three knots that either merged with another bird or otherwise broke up the pattern and the rhythm.

This image was also created on May 19, 2019 on the DeSoto Sandbar Secrets IPT. For this one I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens with the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, and and my souped-up Nikon D850. ISO 1250. Matrix metering as framed at about +1 1/3 stops: 1/1000 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. AUTO1 WB at 6:38pm as a faint sun brokie through the haze.

Nikon Focus Peaking fine-tune value: +1. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Center Group (grp) AF/Continuous (C in Nikon/AI Servo with Canon) was active at the moment of exposure. The array was centered just behind the right-hand bird’s neck (as originally framed).

Image #2: Red Knots foraging

Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Red Knot Plumages

The knot on our right has pretty much finished molting into its handsome alternate (breeding) plumage. As the feather edgings wear a bit, the pattern on the upperparts will become even more dramatic. After breeding above the arctic circle in June, these same feathers will be worn and ratty and the bird begins to molt into basic (non-breeding or winter) plumage. By fall, they will sport a coat of feathers that features on plain grey upperpart. They will wear those until the next spring when they begin the molt to alternate plumage. The bird on our left is a bird-of-the-year — note the retained median coverts that still have remnants of the whitish fringing characteristic of juvenile plumage. It is just beginning to grow some adult breeding plumage feathers. Most first-year birds will not complete this molt until at least their second year.

This image was created on the 2019 DeSoto Sandbar Secrets IPT on the morning of May 8. Standing at full height behind my tripod in a foot of water, I used the Induro GIT 304L/FlexShooter Pro-mounted Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens and the mega mega-pixel Nikon D850 DSLR. ISO 500. Matrix metering at about +1 2/3 stops: 1/50 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode was perfect with the histogram pushed all the way to the right. AUTO1 WB at 7:15am on a cloudy morning.

Nikon Focus Peaking fine-tune value: +3. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

One below center Group (grp) Continuous (C in Nikon/AI Servo with Canon) AF was active at the moment of exposure as originally framed.

Image #3: Red Knot flock/flight blur

Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Pleasing Knot Flock Blur

I am not sure how I wound up at 1/50 second as I would usually make images like these at 1/15 or 1/30 second. After converting the image in Capture One Pro 12 and bringing it into Photoshop, I was wishing that the foreground seaweed splotches were more blurred. So I selected only the foreground, went Filter > Blur > Motion Blur, played around with the slider, and was very happy with the result.

Your Favorite?

Please leave a comment and let us know which of today’s three images is your favorite. Be sure to let us know why you made your choice.

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11 comments to Red Knot Three Ways

  • avatar Tony Z

    I just really love the composition and colours of image 2. My definite favourite!

  • avatar Matt

    The more I look the harder it gets to pick a favorite. I love the pattern and depth of #1. #3 is really neat; there’s pleasing blur, kinetic energy, and my eye goes right to one bird. But I think I spend more time looking at #2, because I love the color, the sharpness, the detail, the texture of the water, the behavior, and the suggested comradeship. And I agree with Craig, the simplicity.

  • avatar Steve

    Art, you keep talking about your “souped-up” D850. What’s so special about it?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      With the vertical battery grip, a D850 goes from 7fps to 9fps and gives the body more of a pro body feel. See the widget below each image as it requires several components. The stuff is very expensive but for me it is worth it.


  • avatar Craig Wiese

    Prefer the second image: Love the simple, uncluttered perspective; like the contrast between the first year bird and the adult in breeding plumage as an ID aide; like the color contrast between the bright adult and the drab sand background; and, for ID purposes, like the ultra sharp close-up of a breeding adult.

  • avatar ilene weinstein

    Good morning Arthur, just wanted to wish you a early HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Happy hair cutting. Enjoy whatever you do on your special day.

    love ilene

  • I like Images one and two. The third image does not work for me, due to the intersecting seaweed patches.

    I like image #1 a lot.

    Thanks for sharing them.

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