Insanity, Exhilaration, Exhaustion, & Home « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Insanity, Exhilaration, Exhaustion, & Home

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This sunset silhouette was created with the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/5.6. From the shore. I moved this bird back in the frame in about ten seconds using the ” Composition Correction: Increase Lead Room Without Cropping/Basic” technique from Robert O’Toole’s APTATS II. And then I cleaned up the sky a bit with a series of small Quick Masks and some Clone Stamp Tool work as described in the recently updated Digital Basics File.

Insanity, Exhilaration, Exhaustion, & Home

I awoke at 4:58 am on Sunday, March 27th to crystal clear skies above Homer, AK. We got on the boats at 8am and were in position well before the sun cleared the Kenai mountain range behind us. It was my 11th straight day of photographing eagles pretty much non-stop. On Saturday morning I had been so fatigued that when I acquired focus and my brain told my right pointer finger to press the shutter button most times nothing happened. And yes, it was fatigue not cold fingers…. My brain and my body were simply frazzled. I was, however, thrilled that the last IPT group would get to enjoy a clear sunrise. And my brain and body were energized by the fine weather.

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This image was created with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the 1.4X III TC (hand held at 280mm) and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops off the blue sky: 1/1600 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. From the boat at 8:56 am.

I just loved photographing the eagles in early morning light. I tried to teach the group not to depress the shutter button until just before the moment when the underwings were completely and evenly lit (as in the image above).

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This image was created with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the 1.4X III TC (hand held at 205mm) and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop off the blue sky: 1/1600 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode. From the boat.

This image was created more than an hour later than the previous one at 10:13 am. Note the somewhat harsher light (despite a thin cloud in front of the sun). The calmer water in the background was a result of the wind having dropped out.

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This image was created with the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +2 2/3 stops off the white sky: 1/500 sec. at f/5.6. From the shore.

After our thank you lunch at Fat Olive’s–we had 20 folks in attendance, we conducted a lengthly critique session at the Land’s End Resort where we were based. Then we headed out late on a beautiful afternoon. We set up on a spit and had a lot of eagles flying right at us into a brisk wind. But nobody noticed the huge, dark, gray cloud until it slid in front of the sun…. We continued photographing despite that fact that it kept getting colder and colder and darker and darker. We kept raising our ISOs and adding light to our exposures. With some noise reduction in ACR during conversion following by additional NR in Photoshop, I would have to say that the Mark IV at ISO 1600 handled the noise quite nicely. (You can learn both of these NR techniques and tons more in the recently updated Digital Basics File.

As you can see in the image above, we were photographing the landing eagles against a background of distant headlands. Several folks (including me) were losing focus whenever the sensor dropped off the bird for a moment; we were getting extremely frustrated. I instructed everyone to use the trick that I developed and describe in detail on page 14 of the MIV User’s Guide and on pages 25 and 26 of the 7D User’s Guide as well. Doing so made all the difference in the world as we easily maintained focus. Participant Mike Gothelf could not believe the difference. “It’s like night and day” he said.

In the meantime it continued to get colder and colder. And darker and darker. Many folks wanted to leave. “Nope” I said. Do you see the clear strip of sky on the western horizon? We are gonna stick it out. We are gonna have a killer sunset. We did. Later on, participant Malcolm MacKenzie and several others stated that had they been there on their own, the would have left two hours earlier. Then they thanked me 🙂

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This is Spencer, one of our boat captains, tossing fish at sunset with trusty dog Daisy at his side. This image was created with the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/5.6.

It seemed like ages until the sun slipped slowly under the big gray cloud that had plagued us for two hours. To photograph the silhouetted eagles, we had to face right into a very cold 20-knot wind. I instructed out boat captain/guides to move farther up on the big sand ridge so that the eagles would be silhouetted against the brightest portion of sky. Soon everyone was freezing. But exhilarated. My hands were getting painfully numb and I began to shiver. Photographic conditions were beyond challenging. But most of us kept at it for more than 30 minutes. I found myself laughing with joy and shivering at the same time. Finally, as the light faded and the eagles quit, I gave up and we all headed back to the boats.

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This image was created with the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/8000 sec. at f/8. This is the full frame original capture with about a 70% Multipy. With the +1 exposure compensation I was set up for silhouettes against the orange sky (as in the opening image here). An exposure compensation of -3 stops would have resulted in a much better exposure when this eagle unexpectedly flew right at the setting sun but I am not that fast 🙂 Heck, nobody is. For more on this image, check out my BPN post, Sunset Banding.

As it had begun to snow late on Monday, four of us caught the 7:30 pm flight from Homer to Anchorage, had dinner at the airport, and hung out at the gate until our 1:30 am flights to Salt Lake City. (I managed to sleep on a bench for two hours with Malcolm and co-leader Robert O’Toole watching my carry-ons.). And I slept for most of the red-eye flight to SLC and did lots of work on the laptop on my final leg to Orlando. I could not find my parking ticket and searched the B-parking structure at MCO for well more than an hour hoping to click on the lights of my SUV. Then I remembered that I had parked my Toyota in the lot at the Courtyard Marriott where I had stayed the night before flying to Alaska 🙂 You gotta love it. As a lover of what is (see the work of Byron Katie at I simply smiled and was glad for my exercise walk. Years ago, I would have beaten myself up. I arrived at ILE just after 7:30pm on Tuesday evening. Insanity, Exhilaration, Exhaustion, & Home!

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear (or the current replacement) that I used to create the images 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. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2X III teleconverter. I also use it a lot–depending on the situation–with the 1.4X III TC.
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. The very best professional digital camera body that I have ever used.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
Double Bubble Leve.l You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am on a tripod and not using flash.
Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. These high capacity cards are fast and dependable.

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