Finally… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART


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This Bald Eagle image was created from the driver’s seat of my Toyota Sequoia down by the lake a few minutes from my home right after the SW FLA IPT. I used the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the EF 1.4X III TC, and the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/160 sec. at f/14 in Manual mode. Denise Ippolito was in the back seat. More on that to follow.


I wrote the following on morning of Sunday, October 25, 2009. It was saved as a draft but never published:

I got out early this morning to do some bird photography down by the lake.  (I had been working hard in the office about 14 hours a day for two weeks so it felt good to get out.)  The day dawned clear and the light was gorgeous.  The wind however was out of the north-northwest; this is about as bad a wind as you can have for morning bird photography as the birds will be facing into the wind and away from the light.  I was working from my SUV with the 800 lens on the BLUBB (the BAA Big Lens Ultimate Beanbag).

I headed east on a 1/2 mile long peninsula to see if the eagle was in its favorite tree.   As I got closer, I could see that it was in perfect position right at the top. The bird was facing away but I knew that it would have a careful eye on my vehicle and be looking back over his shoulder at me.   As I was headed south I needed to drive past the perch tree, make a u-turn, get everything ready, and then head back north so that I could photograph out of the driver’s side window. 

I got my gear ready and raised the window to reduce the angle of inclination. Then I stopped down to f/13 knowing that it is always a good idea to have some extra depth-of-field for those over-the-shoulder views (otherwise the feathers on the bird’s back will be rendered unattractively out of focus).  One I was all set, I put the car in gear and proceeded very slowly to sun angle (with my shadow pointed right at the base of the perch tree).   As I was coming to a stop, I glanced up at the eagle.  It looked huge and gorgeous.  And majestic.  To avoid flushing the bird from its perch on the narrow peninsula, I well to my right. I stopped the car and just as I got the lens on the bird it lifted its wings and flew northwest out over the lake….

You gotta love it.  I will try for this bird again soon and will share anything that I get with you.”   

Actually, I had been trying to get the eagle on the perch for more than ten years, ever since I moved from Deltona down to Indian Lake Estates in Polk county. It would turn out to be another 16 months until I finally got lucky. As Denise and I drove past the bird it was on top of a small tree. It flushed but landed up on its favorite perch. That gave me hope. I drove by the bird, made the u-turn, and held my breath. The image above was created with the 800 and the 1.4X II TC just before the bird took flight. The image below was my first effort; I was so nervous that I did not realize that I had not mounted the teleconverter….

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This was the image that I created before I remembered to add the 1.4X TC. After so many years of frustrating me, I could not believe that the bird just sat there posing. Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering 1 1/3 stops: 1/640 sec. at f/5.6 In Manual mode.

It is interesting to note the huge difference in the size of the bird in the frame with the addition of the 1.4X II TC. Folks fail to realize that that is a factor of the square of the focal lengths…. (Neither image was cropped at all.) I was happy with both of the images above. Denise in the meantime was in the back seat not taking any pictures. Though she had her 500mm f/L IS lens and a 1.4X teleconverter, she was hand holding the Canon 100-400mm IS L zoom lens hoping that the bird would take off. After about ten minutes it did and Denise created the spectacular image below.

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This image is courtesy of and copyright 2011 Denise Ippolito. She did a fine job of repairing the clipped primaries of the raised wing. Canon 100-400mm IS L zoom lens hand held at 400mm with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 800. 1/1250 at f/5.6 was Evaluative metering plus about 1 1/3 stops.

I am constantly telling folks that since I use long lenses and like to work tight that I am not very good at capturing images of birds in action and birds in flight. The tale and the three images above would seem to indicate that I am not blowing smoke.

I fly to London late this afternoon for the first ever Dalmatian Pelican IPT. Co-leader Robert O’Toole is picking me up at the Thessaloniki airport on Sunday afternoon. My Web/IT expert Peter Kes is coming as my guest. We have seven other photographers joining us for what should be a wondrous trip. I should be on line most of the time.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear that I used to create the image above. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon EF 1.4X III TC. This new TC is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. This is the very best professional digital camera body that I have ever used..

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. Fast and dependable.
The BLUBB. Ellen Anon’s son Josh forgot his BLUBB on a recent trip to Chicago so he called Jim yesterday and had one over-nighted for Saturday delivery!

2 comments to Finally…

  • M. Bruce

    I loved your “best laid plans—–” story. Haven’t we all experienced such frustration – which is why when thing do work out it feels so good.

  • Bill Richardson

    It is nice when they cooperate!! I was packing up after photographing the eagles’ nest near our house near Naples, FL when a tourist pulled up asking me about my gear. After talking a few minutes, he asked me if I had photographed “that one” pointing straight up. I looked up to see an eagle perched in perfect light 10 feet directly over my head intently watching me pack my gear! He sat there majestically as I unpacked my camera and put it back on the tripod and did not fly off until I had walked across the way to get a decent angle. Never took a shot. 🙁 However, he was kind enough to re-pose a week later for the perfect eagle shot and I was able to see the 2 chicks give flight.