Head Angle Questions: a Matter of Degree … Gatorland. How Fast They Grow! And I Liked the Color Version Best … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Head Angle Questions: a Matter of Degree ... Gatorland. How Fast They Grow! And I Liked the Color Version Best ...

What’s Up?

On Wednesday morning I found a ditch a few blocks from home surrounded for two hundred yards on each side by large (as-yet-identified) blooms. I did some flowers, and as the sun came up, several butterfiles began nectaring on the rather plain-looking blossoms. There were several swallowtails species including Black Swallowtail, Tiger Swallowtail, and the object of my desire, the smaller but spectacular Zebra Swallowtail. One of the Tiger Swallowtails was somewhat sedentary, often landing and drinking from the same blossom for a minute or more, but bird’s had pecked its hindwings and damaged them; what’s a swallowtail without it swallowtails? There were two pristine Zebra Swallowtails just out of their chrysalides.

I tried for almost an hour to create a good Zebra Swallowtail image, traipsing up and down the both sides of the canal in the heat. They would land but only for a second. And when they did, they rarely spread their wings flat. Heck, maybe they never do. Anyway, I give up at about 8:30am and headed home for breakfast. On Thursday morning I did a few flowers and spent a few minutes down by the lake when I created Image #2.

I will be heading out early today — Friday, 17 JULY 2020.

I was glad to learn yesterday that John Buswell sold his Canon EOS 7D Mark II within hours of it being listed on the Used Gear Page.

Color or B&W?

In the recent Some Respite From the Heat; this would make a nice jigsaw puzzle. On Not Letting the Old Man In … And a Used Like-New Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Lens! blog post here, opinions were divided about 50-50. My very great preference is for the color version because I love being at Bosque early in the season when the cottonwoods are still sporting some yellow fall color.

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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 at Gatorland on 28 APR 2019. I used the handheld Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens with the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter (at at 560mm) and the AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital camera body. Exposure determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear dial. ISO 800: 1/320 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode. AWB at 8:21am on a mostly cloudy morning.

Expand Flexible Spot (S) AF-C was active at the moment of exposure.

Great Egret — head portrait of large chick

A Matter of Degree A

In Image #1,the young Great Egret, still at the nest, the bird’s heaad is turned about six degrees toward us. As a result, the bird seems quite engaged with the viewer, but the bill tip — not covered by the shallow depth-of-field while working wide open, is soft.

Would you stop down to get the bill tip as sharp as the eye? Why or why not?


Gatorland re-opened on June 20 with social distancing and masks required (for the humans)! But it does not open until 10am and closes at 5pm. The Photographer’s Pass program ended during the pandemic. Assuming that they continued feeding the gators while the joint was closed, it is likely that there will be some birds around, especially young of the year. With the middle-of-the-day hours, a cloudy day would be best for photography. If you visit, let us know how you do.

Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens

With or without the 1.4X teleconverter, the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens is fabulous for close work with tame birds and large flowers, frogs, large insects like butterflies, and lots more.

Before I got some longer SONY lenses I used it with success on a Saan Diego IPT with the 2X teleconverter!

This image was created on 16 JULY 2020 at Indian Lake Estates. Working from my SUV, I used the Induro GIT 204/FlexShooter Mini-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and the 61-MP Monster, the Sony Alpha a7R IV Mirrorless Digital camera body. ISO: 400. Exposure determined by Zebras with exposure compensation on the rear wheel: 1/250 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. AWB at 8:02am on a sunny morning …

Trakcing Flexible Spot (M) AF-C performed perfectly and produced a razor-sharp eye.

Image #2: Sandhill Crane — head portrait of 9-week old colt

A Matter of Degree B

In Image #2, the young crane’s head is just about parallel to the back of the camera, i.e., the sensor (formerly known as the film plane). Perhaps, the head is angled one-half degree away from us. WDYT? In any case, the eye, the face, and the tip of the bill are in sharp focus, but the bird does not seem engaged with the viewer.

Your Call

Which of today’s two featured images do you like best overall? Why?

Do you prefer the head angle in Image #1, the head angle in Image #2, or somewhere in between.

I like one of these images a lot, the other, not so much. I will share my thoughts with you here in a few days.

The Surviving Mother’s Day Colt

It is hard to believe that the bird in Image #2 is one of the two chicks that hatched on May 9th or 10th of this year. If my math is correct, that makes it right around nine weeks old. How fast they grow! In the next few weeks, I hope to photograph this bird with a nice pink cap.

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16 comments to Head Angle Questions: a Matter of Degree … Gatorland. How Fast They Grow! And I Liked the Color Version Best …

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    Stopping down would have brought up detail in the background?

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    There are lots of good comments below but nobody has come up with my #1 reason for NOT stopping down in similar situations.

    with love. a

    • avatar Adam

      Bokeh, depending on your distance from the subject as well as the subject’s distance from the background?

      • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        Hey Adam, Youo are hinting at the right ansswer but Bokeh is the wrong word (though you have the right idea).

        BTW, you missed my repsonse to your B&W comment.

        with love, artie

  • avatar Adam

    For all of the reasons mentioned, I would not stop down further and the slight increase in DOF of the bill in image one would likely distract the viewer’s attention away from the eye. #2 reminds me of the myriad of images that I have were the head angle is just slightly off and while it produces a technically acceptable image because of the focal plane, it is less engaging. Though I find the colors more interesting in image #2, I still choose image #1. The sharpness in image #2 at a FL of 1200 shot at 1/250 is nothing short of remarkable even on a tripod.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes, SONY destroys all comers at 1200mm with responsive AF across most of the frame. Worst of the big three is Nikon because the TC-E20 III is not sharp. And with Nikon, more than with Canon, AF away from the center point suffers even with “only” the TC-E14 on lenses like the 600 VR …

      with love, artie

  • avatar James Saxon

    I would not stop down for a number of reasons. You are handheld at iso 800, 1/320 at 580 mm. If you stop down further you will be at a slower shutter speed and/or a higher iso. A not so sharp bill is ok is the eye is sharp. I prefer image #2 because of the muted background, color of the bird and the sharpness of the bird. Lastly I live on the Texas coast where we have a lot of Egrets but no Sandhill cranes until they migrate. They may or may not stop in our area. Stay safe and well. Thanks for all you do for us.

  • avatar Warren W. Howe

    I would not stop down. The way it was shot draws the viewer directly to the birds eye!

    I also much prefer Image 1 over image 2. It definitely engages the viewer!

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    For Gary and Joe, Stopping down from f/8 to f/16 would give you an additional 1/8 to 1/4 inch of d-o-f. That would sharpen up the bill at least a bit. But I would never ever even think of doing that. Why not?


  • avatar ilene weinstein

    you are in the month of July if you didn’t know
    you wrote heading out early Friday June 17 that’s my birthday hahahaha
    love your sister ilene

  • avatar Gary Prestash

    I agree with Joseph – if you’re already at f8, you really aren’t going to gain much more DOF by stopping down to f11 while at 560mm of focal length.

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    I like both. But in #1 the oof bill leads me right to the eye where I feel very close to and engaged with the bird. So #1 is my favorite. #2 feels farther away and I see the bill and eye equally so am not as drawn to the bird as #1 leads me to do by just focusing on the eye.

  • Hey Artie, the answer is no, I would not stop down. Working that close to the bird with a narrow depth of field changing to a smaller aperture would not provide really anymore depth of field. If having the whole bill in sharp focus moving back and cropping it about the only option.

    Hope you are feeling well, be safe.

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