What’s Wrong With These Images? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

What’s Wrong With These Images?

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“Early Morning Cattle Egret” was created this morning with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/10. My rig was supported by the BLUBB (Big Lens Ultimate BeanBag; designed by yours truly). Double Bubble Level in the hot shoe.

What’s Wrong With These Images?

For me, the Cattle Egret above has one major flaw. Leave a comment and let me know what you think the biggest problem is. And let me know if there are any other issues that you would address while optimizing the image. The only thing that I did after converting the RAW file was to run a pretty hefty (40%) Linear Burn on the brightest whites.

I will be back in two days to let you know what I saw as the single biggest problem and will post the optimized image at that time.

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“Sandhill Crane Dancing” was also created this morning, this one with the 70-200mm f/4L IS lens (hand held at 200mm) with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/5. 45-Point AAFPS.

No need to comment on the major problem with this one; I think that it might be fairly evident 🙂 If you would like to bust me on some minor items, please do leave a comment. I posted this one to show how frustrating bird photography can be at times. Even though the wind was from the northwest (the bird should have been facing into the wind as it jumped up…), this one would have had a perfect head angle had I framed the image properly. You gotta love it! (Byron Katie)

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

Canon 70-200mm f/4 l IS lens
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens
Canon EF Teleconverter 1.4X II
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body

And from the BAA On-line Store:

BLUBB (Big Lens Ultimate BeanBag; designed by yours truly)
Double Bubble Level

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.

26 comments to What’s Wrong With These Images?

  • Agree w/aperture settings, makes for a busy portrait on the cattle egret, w/messy grasses all the same color. Too much flash also, causing blow out of detail on the whites and shadow. Wait for a better stance, cattle bird is hunched over. Lower angle, true, but just plain boring.

  • Mark

    Bad head angle. Shadow. Foreground distracts because it is brighter and seems to be more sharp. Needs lower shooting angle.

  • Monte Brown


    Couple of the brown blades of grass near the bird’s breast do detract somewhat, the exposure appears perfect on my monitor and th eimage is well balanced The bill could use a little clean up, the pupil appears to be at an unusual position.

  • Bill Stubbs

    I wonder how this image would look if you blurred the edges and lower corners of the bottom fourth or so of the frame ( and perhaps the whole area around the bird). Something is pulling my eye away from the bird in the lower portion of the frame; perhaps the sharply focused grass.

  • Commenting again on the shadow, it seems that kind of shadow behind a flash… I’m not saying a flash has been used, I’m saying that the shadow has that unpleasant impression.

  • Regarding the second image (Sandhill Cranes), bad head angle on bird on the right. And head and wing tip are missing from bird leaping into the air. You might say you like that, but one would have to understand the habits of the cranes to understand what is going on. At first glance, I thought the image needed leveling, but I don’t think that’s the case here.

  • I would crop off a good deal of the dead space above the bird. The bird’s feet are very close to the bottom of the frame, and there is relatively little space between the right side of the bird and the frame. I’d say, maybe shave 1/7th of the current framing off the top. The one blade of grass to the left of middle at the bottom bothers me. Removing the metal band would be simple. The shadow detracts slightly.

  • James Saxon

    There is a metal band on the birds left leg.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thomas, Please be more specific. BTW, I sort of like this image 🙂 From many of the comments one would think that it is maybe the worst bird photograph ever created 🙂

  • My monitor is calibrated and I see details in white, so no problem about exposure or filters. For what concerns the DoF, at 800mm there’s no way to shoot at a wider aperture than f/5.6. I must say that I don’t like the photo on the whole (it falls in the <5% of Art's photos that I don't like), so I can't understand what the defect Art is referring to, since he implies it can be corrected with postprocessing. Probably I'd like more a shot from a lowered point of view. I don't think legs are a problem, often birds in water have invisible feet. So, if I have to say something, it's the shadow.

    Thanks for this kind of mental exercise.

  • While the shadow distracts, I think the flaw you are referring to on your first picture is that your egret has no feet. Looks like staked legs driven into the ground.

  • The out of focus grass in the foreground is a bit off-putting. The harsh shadow and background have already been commented on.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    So far nobody has come close to identifying the main problem in the first image. And those who are not seeing detail in the WHITES need to calibrate their monitors and then go to BPN and check out the calibration strips at the bottom of each page 🙂 Keep trying.

  • Those white birds! What a challenge. A cold egret is a cold egret. He could have stood with his neck tucked up that way for hours so I’ll assume the ‘action’ is what it is and the same with the time of day for shooting.

    I think I would have bumped my ISO down to 200, opened up to F 2.8 or F4 and used an ND filter to cut the light yielding better feather detail overall and defocusing both the background and foreground. Singh-Ray has that neat vari-ND filter. This would be the perfect shot to try it out.

    Thank you for all the wonderful information you make available. I’m a dedicated reader.

  • HI Artie
    I find the shadow very off-putting, but that’s just my opinion, and presumably not a lot you can do about it. That said, if I ever manage an image that good of a Cattle Egret (a rarity here), I won’t care two hoots about any shadow!

  • Leonard Malkin

    The egret looks OK sort of but the background is jarring – some in focus, some blurred.

  • Esther Corley

    To me, it appears as if the middle to bottom part of the bird is more important than the unremarkable head. It just doesn’t compute…the head should be more definitive, somehow.

  • Nevertheless the latter photo is fun and I’d keep it with the ‘humour’ tag: I see some debris (piece of feathers?) just to the left of the ‘cut head’ and it looks like the poor bird has hit against the upper margin of the photo breaking it 😉 such as in cartoons.


    poor egret looks like it’s in a shadow box – no room to breathe – claustrofobic – I think I took that shot!

    crane looks pretty good – wish I had taken – but would love to buy a copy.

  • Bill Stubbs

    I agree with Beverly’s observations. Looks to me as if the lighting angle was too high, and that’s part of the “lifeless” look of the bird; no highlight in the eye (that I can see). A lower shooting angle might have been better. One minor point; you might want to clean up the end of the bill. Just as an aside, that sandhill crane shot would have been great if framed portrait instead of landscape; but then, I didn’t see the movement beforehand, so don’t know how much lateral movement of the birds was anticipated.

  • Claudio

    Egret is looking down.
    Sandhill shot among other things the horizon is slanted

  • laura

    not enough detail in the white

  • Bill Clausen

    I see just a tad too much white in the Cattle egret. too centered, shadow behind not pleasing. No much detail in the bird!

    Sandhill crane?? Whhere is his head??? Oh and some of its wing. You need a bit of photoshop on this one.

  • Beverly Kune

    I second the comment on the shooting angle and shadow, as well as the loss of feather detail; to me a major problem is that the bird looks depressed! Probably a problem with the eye angle … for me, there is just no sense of life in the bird, further emphasized by the heavy shadow at the bottom. A very static pose … nothing to excite the eye.

  • Thomas Rose

    Problem with the cattle egret looks to me like obbious flash causing shadows and over exposure causing loss of detail in feathers. Flash is too strong, maybe my computer screen is doing this for me. We will see what others say.

  • For the first image I would ahve gone for a lower shooting angle and maybe attempted to reduce the background shadow by changing my angle.