What A Way To Finish! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

What A Way To Finish!

This sleeping Red-crowned Crane was photographed at the Akan Crane Center with the with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X III TC, and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop off the snow: 1/800 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode.

Central Sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus on the bird’s eye and recompose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to enjoy a larger, more spectacular version.

This image, made in sweet, late afternoon sunlight, was one of the last that I created on my incredibly wonderful trip to Japan.


I worked on this blog post at 37,000 feet en route from Tokyo to Dallas’s DFW. As I sat so comfortably in my lie-flat first class seat on American Airlines flight 176, I have been thinking at length about how blessed I have been and am. Yes, blessed to be able to be sitting up front for sure, but blessed in so many other more important ways. I have been thinking about how privileged I have been to have made two amazingly wonderful trips already this year, the Southern Oceans trip with the Cheesemans’ and the Japan trip with Robert O’Toole and a small IPT group. Thinking About the wonderful weather, birds, and animals that I have enjoyed so much. About my safe travels in good health. About all the great food, the fine meals on the Ortelius and the yakatori meals and the curry dishes here in Japan. About all the great photographic opportunities that I and the folks whom I have traveled with have experienced. And about my two wonderful daughters and their wonderful husbands, about my four super grandkids, and about my 89 year-old Mom whom is waiting anxiously for my call after I clear customs in Dallas. About my relationship with Canon and about all the great folks who have joined me over the years on IPTs, and about the many who have become dear friends. Blessed by my involvement with BPN including and especially with founding partner James Shadle and all the great members and participants there. Blessed by friendships past and present with so many great photography folks: Linda Robbins, Joanne Williams, Denise Ippolito, Ellen Anon, my web-man Peter Kes, Jim Neiger, Robert Amoruso, and Robert O’Toole among others. And doctor, doctor, Cliff Oliver; had I not met him on the Bosque IPT so many years ago I it is not likely that I would still be alive. And thinking about my pool. And getting in it :).

With apologies to the many that I have inadvertently omitted here I have to say that I have been one lucky guy.

Sayonara Japan. It’s been great.

My right-hand man Jim Litzenberg (another blessing) is picking me up at about 3pm in Orlando. My plan is to publish this from my car on the way home after getting online with my Droid. Lord, what amazingly wonderful times we live in. So if you see this blog post it means that I made it safely at least to MCO and should be home soon.

So much for plans. We got into Dallas early so I am publishing this early :). Enjoy. ps: Mom is doing fine. pps: Home safely at 5:05pm but beat :).

What A Way To Finish!

When I saw that the beautiful bird featured in the opening image here had decided to take a nap not too far from the walkway at Akan, I about jumped out of my lined dungarees. Whatever is draped over the bird’s head adds a ton to the beauty of the image. I think that it was the bird’s far wing; if anyone knows otherwise for sure please let me know. My very first instinct was to go for the traditional super-tight head and folded neck portrait (see image-last below) with the bird’s eye placed on or very close to the upper right rule of thirds spot. But my 2X III TC was already packed for the trip home, to save time…. So I went with what I had, a maximum effective focal length of (only) 800 X 1.4 X the 1.3 crop factor of my camera: 1456 mm, or just under 30X magnification. Poor boy. I lowered my tripod to ensure as evenly-toned a distant, out of focus woods background as possible.

Getting the right exposure was easy. With the soft, late afternoon light I took a meter reading off the sunlit snow and opened up one stop. Then I stopped down a bit to ensure sharp feather detail as I was relatively close to the minimum focusing distance of the lens, 6 meters and I made a series of images framed as you see in the original capture immediately below. I knew all the while that I would need to figure out the best possible crop while working with a somewhat awkward image design. Whatever I did, the bird’s eye would wind up somewhere near the middle of the frame. I experimented with various crops and finally decided on the one that you see above.

If you’d like to see what others thought of the image above, check out my BPN post: Last Japan Keeper.

This is the original full frame capture.

How’d You Like My Crop?

Now that you’ve seen the full frame original image (immediately above), feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think of my original crop, the one in the lead image here.

This is the traditional “sleeping pelican, super-tight head and folded neck composition” that I had in mind until I realized that I did not have my 2X III TC with me. If I’d had the 2X with me I would have focused in Live View with Live Mode AF as described in detail in the Mark IV User’s Guide; accurate focus is attained via contrast on the imaging sensor. The TIFF file of this more tightly cropped version still has enough pixels for the image to run large in a magazine or for at least a sharp 8 X 12″ print.

Which Do You Like Best?

Please take a moment to let us know which you like best, the quasi-pano crop in the opening image or the tighter 3X2 crop (immediately above). And do let us know why. If you liked the middle image best–the full frame original capture–then you need to go back to image design school and study the principles outlined in the Advanced Composition and Image Design section of ABP II.

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Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of gear that I used to create the image in this blog post. 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 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. My two Mark IVs are my workhorse digital camera bodies.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sales value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders 🙂 And you will love them in mega-cold weather….
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.
CR-80 Replacement Foot for Canon 800. When using the 800 on a Mongoose as I do, replacing the lens foot with this accessory lets the lens sit like a dog whether pointed up or down and prevents wind-blown spinning of your lens on breezy days by centering the lens directly over the tripod.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV User’s Guide. Learn to use your Mark IV the way that I use mine. Also available for the 7D and the Mark III here.
BreezeBrowser. I do not see how any digital photographer can exist without this program.

23 comments to What A Way To Finish!

  • avatar Jens

    Glad you had a safe trip, truly enjoy your images, in this set I like the first better. it has a certain warmth to it in my mind. Thanks to your inspiration, last year I made sure I afforded a 600mm, and it has opened up a wonderful world of opportunities with that extra reach. I always look forward to your posts.

  • avatar Tom Martinson

    It’s always great to be home, regardless of how wonderful the trip was. You sure finished with a winner! That crane looks as cozy as one’s own bed feels on the first night home. In that regard I really enjoy the tight crop, and of the other two I prefer your slight crop, simply from a geometric perspective. Truly art.

  • avatar Rick Schmidt

    Well Mr. Morris, I’m a big follower- have been since your first book. I’ll assume there are many like me – guys (girls) who have jobs related to photography, I’m a video producer/director, who got their start (and love) through photography. We love seeing your eye’s mind and tech stuff. I’ve bought way too much gear lately (thanks to you) AND, I’m saving for that holiest of holys (sp), the 800. I love birds too, having 4 parrots in my care. Seeing the face on this day’s subject is just magical. I guess I’m saying, keep capturing, keep crawling, don’t get eaten by bears, and know that there is quite a few of us who are “living through you.” 🙂 Rick from Reno, NV.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your kind words Rick from Reno. I hope that you have been using our B&H links to thank me for all the hard work preparing the blogs and the Bulletins :). The 800 rocks but if you have the cash and are not getting a 1DX then the new 600 would be more versatile.

  • avatar Andrea Boyle

    I enjoyed hearing your blessings. We all need to do that at times…and what a wonderful time to do it when you are coming home. I loved your photo offerings along the way and as for the crane above, I like the cropped version better. (More draw to the eye) Love the red cap and wing hoodie!

    BTW, I check out the Snow Monkey live cam every day now. (Best done late in the day where I’m located) Have a good swim…:)

  • avatar Sudhir Das

    How ever fruitful and enjoyable the journey is it is always a pleasure to be back at home.
    Definatly the tight crop is much better. It is the clear and sharp eyes that gives life to this picture. The rule of third makes it more appealing.

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    I prefer the last image. I like the up close personal feeling I get from it and also to be able to see all that wonderful detail, for example the red crown. I would think it would have to be the wing used like an umbrella over it’s head.

  • avatar cheapo

    Artie, I’m not a religious person in any way, but I have to say, we others are all blessed to have you, me old mate, helping us out and chivvying us on towards a better understanding of what we are doing and thinking, with regards, not only, to photography, but the nature as a whole.
    The tightest crop is definitely the choice. It gives a tremendous feeling of oneness between the viewer and this most beautiful wild creature. It’s what telephoto lenses were made for!

  • The tightest crop is best for me because the crane’s eye is the subject and is looking right at “me”, connecting us. I like the composition better too with the eye at the upper R third instead of more towards the middle.
    You’ve definitely made your luck! I admire and learn from your outlook. I bet nearly all serious nature photographers feel lucky too. I sure do.

  • All three are magnificent but the last is my favorite. Viewer engagement with the eye and the feather detail make it an outstanding image. Glad you had a great trip and that all is well.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks and agree. That is why I wish that I had not packed my 2X TC! I’d have had a lot more pixels in the final file.

  • I prefer the traditional super-tight head shot because the eye placement in the rule of thirds gives it greater impact. But I wouldn’t sneeze at the first one. Beautiful bird in pleasing rest posture with what looks to me like a soft eggplant background.

    And yes, you are lucky. And the more you teach and the more you shoot, the “luckier” you get. Your success didn’t just come from luck. Though you might call it “fun,” you work damned hard!

  • Artie, welcome back. Next time you fly through Dallas, you should stop for a day or two. It’d be my family’s pleasure to host you and I can show you some spots around here.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for the invite. Last time I stayed over there was unplanned: 9/11/01….

  • Welcome back Artie. Nice to have you back.