Which Image Do You Like Best, and Why? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Which Image Do You Like Best, and Why?

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Western Gull wing stretch, La Jolla, CA. With the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the 2X II TC (hand held at 370mm) with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/5.6 set manually.

Which Image Do You Like Best, and Why?

Three images of adult Western Gull, each completely different. Which one do you prefer? And why? Which is the best image?

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Western Gull landing, La Jolla, CA. With the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the 2X II TC (hand held at 400mm) with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3 set manually.

Note that I used the same rig to create all three of these images. I will be ordering my very own 70-200 2.8 II from Canon on Monday 🙂

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Western Gull preening, La Jolla, CA. With the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the 2X II TC (hand held at 400mm) with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +2 2/3 stops: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6.

In the image above, the high ISO performance of the MIV was excellent. If you are mystified by the varying exposure compensations for the birds in the sun versus the bird in the pre-dawn light you need to get yourself a copy of The Art of Bird Photography II (916 pages on CD only) and study the Exposure Simplified section….

Shopper’s Guide

Here is a list of the gear that I used to create the images above.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens
Canon EF Teleconverter 2X II
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body

If you are considering the purchase of a major piece of photographic gear be it a new camera, a long lens, a tripod or a head, or some accessories be sure to check out our complete Shopper’s Guide.

22 comments to Which Image Do You Like Best, and Why?

  • Esther Corley

    #2, by all means. #3 is very confusing to me. Nothing of importance shows. #1 does not have action.

  • Figgis

    I’m fascinated by the diversity of comments and perspectives here. In response to Melvin Grey, who writes: “The intent is usually to get a good descriptive image of the species showing its identification characteristics clearly” — I think this points to differences some of us have with respect to what constitutes a good wildlife photo. From a birder’s perspective, the comment is quite true. But I like shooting both, looking for the esoteric and aesthetic to render even the most common, artistic and unusual. That’s why I do like #3.

  • Pat Knoy

    Each picture has something to recommend it. My personal favorite is 1. As far as abstract goes, 3 is definitely there. It has removed both the environment and the bird itself. 3 is the most interesting from a technique point of view, but the least interesting from the environmental view. Numbers 1 and 2 both contain elements of the environment and the bird itself. Both backgrounds have been softened but not to the point of elimination. Either pose is good for the bird and shows different aspects. The motion in 2 is very nice, but to my mind, more apropriate for birds of prey and makes the bird look heavy. In number 2, you get the idea that the bird could simply extend his wing and he would be airborne, effortlessly. My personal favorite is 1 because it shows the more particular aspects that define the species.

  • Chris

    I enjoy the three, but the second photo fascinates me the most. Flight to me is beautiful and seeing the wings set as the bird comes in to land is a spectacular shot. Thank you for giving us three beautiful photos to choose from.

  • harvey tabin

    None of them. SA gull does not make an exciting photo.

  • Jim Tidd

    I like to see the birds eye so wing stretch is my pick.

  • I like the second shot best. It’s got sharp details and is well-exposed. The wing stretch in the first shot doesn’t really show much of the wing and I find the dark bit between the gull’s legs a little distracting. Although I find the background in the third shot the most appealing, there aren’t sufficient details of the bird to really know where one part starts and another ends…if there were at least an eye visible, say, I think I’d like it a lot more. As it is, it’s my least favorite.

  • I like numbers 1, 3, and 2 – in that order. The smoother background in the first one makes for a softer blue background and the head angle is excellent. The one of the gull landing is my least favorite, I think because his head is down. I love the 3rd one except I find it confusing to try to figure out . . . where the head is, etc. I still like the one I took on your San Diego IPT last Janyary of the gull with the feather in his bill the best. :o)

  • #3…

    Taking exposure and sharpness out of the equation.. Image one feels like the decisive moment was missed.. or it’s the first shot in a burst and the fifth or sixth shot is the keeper.

    Image two.. The shadow on the breast, the angled view, not sure but it isn’t a keeper for me.

    Image three… off beat. Composition, background, one-legged stance. all work for me. It takes some study to determine exactly what’s happening.. love it.

  • Melvin Grey (UK)

    What are the photographs taken for? The intent is usually to get a good descriptive image of the species showing its identification characteristics clearly. A bonus is some activity to give the image ‘that extra something’, such as preening, wing stretching etc. All images are by AM so we can take their quality, sharpness and plumage detail for granted, so here are my purely subjective comments on the images as presented. 1, if only the bird was doing a FULL wing stretch instead this rather indifferent, inelegant pose we would then have had a much more attractive image with the head, with its excellent angle, beak and eye identification details, on the RHS of the frame and the fully stretched wing extending to the left. 2, Excellent detail but a FULL spread of those superb wings as the bird brakes prior to landing would have been more attractive. 3, Just a ‘fun shot’ giving little info. about the bird. To really illustrate preening it would have been great to have seen the bill in action and more head, and eye, detail. As such it is an abstract shape, albeit nicely presented.

  • I actually like the first one best, from the compositional standpoint. There is much less doubt as to what you are looking at. I tend to not go into the abstract or confusing themes with nature pictures.

  • All nice, but different. And, each are tweakable, IMHO.

    1 – Excellent HA & nice S curves. The head seems a bit bright.

    2 – Perfect exposure, nice eye contact, nice landing action. Might consider some CW rotation to give a more “in-your-face-balanced” look, and because the lines in the sea here and in #1 suggest CW rotation (I’m sure you used a bubble, but still I’d consider some CW).

    3 – Great composition, like the warm light, sufficiently different to make the viewer take a second look. Would a bit more saturation to the background give more drama?

    I like #3 the best, but the choice seems much like comparing blurs vs sharply focused images. They are all nice. It is fortunate that we don’t all prefer the same image.

  • Vince Gravel

    Like the head-on landing image the best: #2

  • Gordon Lindsay

    I like the action in the landing gull shot and prefer it to the other 2.

  • Sidharth Kodikal

    All three are great, but my favorite without question is the third one.
    Love the two toned bg, the perfect composition and the unique pose presented by this contortionist.
    The exposure is terrific (+2 2/3!!) as are the details.
    Is the 1Dmk4 this clean at iso 1600? (also, were you set up for flight shots when you took this pic?)

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Sidharth. I did not do anything at all as far as noise reduction on this image and the blacks look pretty good so yes, the MIV does pretty well with high ISOs. My colleague Brutus Oostling from Sweden routinely uses ISO 4000 and 5000 with the MIV for a variety of bird photography situations such as Golden Eagles in the snow in dark forests. And he gets excellent results.

  • Edward Fisher

    I like the second one best because you were able to capture the gull as it was landing which makes for a more interesting shot wnem motion is involved.
    Good detail in the wings and tail, with some loss of detail on top of the head.
    I also like how the gull stands out nicely against the B/G.

  • Pat Lillich

    I like the third one best – simple, elegant composition and colors – nice feather detail, intriguing to try to figure out what is going on and makes me smile when I do..

  • Figgis

    I find the third one interesting and uncluttered. I’d like a closer crop for less negative space, but unlike Mr. Clausen, I like the image.

  • Yikes! That’s a tough call. I’ll go with the wing stretch. I like the position of the bird and the wing position during the stretch creates lots of interest. Having said that, the preening shot is a very, very close second for many of the same reasons.

  • Bill Clausen

    The head on shot is very good! The portrait is OK. The third is a poor photograph!