Nature’s Best Image Quiz « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Nature's Best Image Quiz

This Japanese Red-crowned Crane image was created at Tsurui Itoh Sanctuary, Hokkaido, Japan with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6.

Central sensor (expand left and right) AI Servo/Rear Focus AF and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

Nature’s Best Image Quiz

Please let me know which if any of the four images presented here you would enter in the Nature’s Best Contest. And which you would not enter. And in either case, why. The deadline was yesterday, May 7. I completed two entries, 40 images in all. No spoilers please. 🙂

BTW, these are the categories: African Wildlife, Animal Antics, Art in Nature, Birds, Endangered Species, Landscape, Oceans, People in Nature, Plant Life, Power of Nature, Small World, Wildlife, Zoos and Aquariums. Learn more about the categories by scrolling down here.

After seeing an Andy Rouse image of a Sally Lightfoot crab on black lava rock surrounded by a blurred wave (in his book, Concepts of Nature, I was determined to try something similar (and perhaps better) on my next Galapagos visit. This image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 50. Evaluative metering -2 stops off the crab on the black rock alone: 1/30 sec. at f/9. (I knew that I would need to underexpose quite a bit to avoid losing detail in the white water of the breaking waves; I needed to check the histogram a few times to get it right.)

For a greater appreciation of the image, click on the photo. Then click on the enlarged version to close it.

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This image was created at Lower Klamath NWR, CA with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 100. Evaluative metering +2 stops: 1/15 sec. at f/18.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

I lucked out on my visit to Klamath last February; snow brought tens of thousands of light and dark geese to the refuge.

This image–of a flock of Sanderlings with a single Dunlin and a single peep–was created at Cupsogue Beach, Long Island, NY with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/1250 sec. at f/9.

45-point AI Servo AF. For a greater appreciation of the image, click on the photo. Can you spot the two odd-ball species?

More luck here. Had it been a clear morning, I would have gone home empty-handed.

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Shopper’s Guide.

Support both the Bulletins and the Blog by making all your B & H purchases here.

Below is a list of the gear talked about 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/5.6L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
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:

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….
GT3532 LS. This one replaces the GT3530LS Tripod and will last you a lifetime. I’ll be commenting on this new model soon. In short, I like it.
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.
BreezeBrowser. I do not see how any digital photographer can exist without this program.

49 comments to Nature’s Best Image Quiz

  • I’d submit all of the four images. I specially like the cranes for the elegant pose you captured and the sanderlings for the nice effect of the different focusing planes. I’d say that the sanderlings are the tecnically best shot of the set.

  • Love ’em all Arthur! I remember the crab from BPN..loved it then and still love the color of the crab against the black rocks with the water blur. My guess, however, is that you entered the cranes for their killer poses and how it looks as though they are dancing with each other. I think the second image entered was the Sanderling flock. I love how the dark edge of each and every wing creates a lot of interest within the composition and I like your positioning in front of the flock and how the lead birds in the flock are in focus.

  • After reading most, maybe all, of the comments and looking at the pictures over and over I have to change my mind……I vote for the Dancing Cranes to be number one. There is such beauty, such grace, how can you not love nature. So much of this work is luck, but you have to be in the right place, at the right time, set up your hear perfectly, so much to go wrong and yet you pull it off time after time. I am impressed, stunned by your work.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Many thanks. It’s a long flight to Japan and the jet-lag can be brutal :).

  • avatar brendan

    My favorites are #2 and #4. The sanderlings especially. I love the mix of focused and out-of-focus birds. I love the head-on view (unusual in this type of shot), and I particularly love that all the wings are approximately lined up in a parallel, upward diagonal orientation. It gives a sense of movement, hope, and joyfulness. Compared to the goose blur, which feels sort of abstract and static (to me), the sanderlings photo feels much more dynamic. They’re all great, but if I had to submit just one, it would be #4 and the decision would be pretty easy.

    Thanks and good analysis 🙂 Stay tuned.

  • avatar Frank Kratofil

    I like number 1 and 4. They are amazing. Pure Art. Good luck with the contest.

  • avatar Arla

    #4 Sanderlings. A lyrical image.

  • avatar James Saxon

    I would enter the crab and the cranes. I love the last 2 shots for their content and quality but I don’t feel that they are a “Natures Best” image based on what I have seen win in the past. I hope I am wrong about that because both are beautiful images. I love the crab image for all the qualities mentioned above. That is different and something I would pick as a winner. There is nothing I can say about the cranes except that image keeps you coming back and looking at it. These are four very strong images. Good luck.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi James, Thanks for dropping by.


      “I love the last 2 shots for their content and quality but I don’t feel that they are a “Natures Best” image based on what I have seen win in the past.”

      Stay tuned for a big surprise 🙂 artie

  • avatar Charles Scheffold

    The cranes by far are the strongest image IMHO – it looks like they are posing for the picture or dancing. There’s a real connection with the subjects here.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Glad that you liked the cranes; we will not see them in the Galapagos!

      • avatar Charles Scheffold

        I should hope not – and if it snows, we are going to have a big problem!

        BTW image #4 has definitely grown on me. I looked at it again on my large monitor and home and I really like it. I’m almost willing to bet that you picked that one for the contest 😉

  • avatar Jon

    I would without hesitation choose the cranes first – a truly memorable image, balletic and the snow all adds to the atmosphere. The poses are almost human, I can see why they are used as a source of inspiration in dance and martial arts. I have seen the crab shot before, it is unusual but at first a little confusing to the eye, I like it becasue it shows some considerable thought had gone into capturing the image. The sanderlings, I like but they leave me struggling to find any detail -I don’t for one minute doubt they are sanderlings but I cannot say for sure what they are from the shot,had they been a little larger in the frame I think the image would have had more impact and I suspect I would like it very much indeed. The blurred shot – sorry just doesn’t float my boat, too blurred for my taste, they leave me thinking they could be anything.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts. Stayed tuned for the whole story :).

  • avatar David Policansky

    I agree with Denise–they all are fine–and with Steve Sadler about the crab, which would be my first pick to enter. I like the composition, the color, the water movement, the sharpness of the crab’s eyes, and so on and on. My second choice would be the flock of sanderlings, which makes a beautiful pattern that retains my itnerest as I look at the details. Now, would I enter the other two? Depends on what else I had available and what the contest rules were, but if the choice were to enter only the two I picked, or only those four, then of course I’d enter all four.

    I think there’s some kind of floor for these contests; below the floor you probably won’t win, above the floor it’s anyone’s guess. All four images are above the floor IMHO.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. Another smart guy. And yes, the judging is totally subjective. Note however that I only entered two of the four images in this year’s conest 🙂 Stay tuned to learn why.

  • Sanderlings are best for me. Composition works, colors work, there is a beautiful rhythm that is hard to explain..focus is good also.

    Dancing Cranes while a dream of a shot for positions, the dance that is, it seems out of focus with a strange blurry effect.

    The Crab is sort of spooky, I did not know what it was for a few minutes

    The blur of the Geese does not work for me. Lack of contrast, lack of something to catch my eye.

    Of course send them all, they are world class photos, better than I can do.

    They all seem like sort of a reach for you. Almost all of the time your photos stun me with their beauty.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Richard. The cranes look pretty sharp from this end. As for these images “being a reach,” do check back in a few days. 🙂 I have a feeling that you might be a bit surprised….

  • avatar ThereseS

    I love them all but if I had to pick two to enter I would first pick #4, that shot blew me away. Most group flight shots are from the side but here they are coming at me and the front flyers are sharp! Lovely. The second pick is #1, like Subhrashis said magical. Art you inspire me every time I open your blog.

  • avatar Bobby Perkins

    I hear Mozart looking at the cranes snow dancing. It’s absolutely beautiful Arthur!

  • I would have entered them all, you never know what the judges will like. BTW, I like them all.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Smart lady 🙂 But I only entered two of them!!! Find out why in a few days. See you on Monday in Houston!

  • avatar Jay

    Strangely, the snow geese is the one that really captures my attention. I say strangely, only because it is not the type of nature shot that I would be first drawn to (the sally light foot crab or the cranes would be). The snow geese shot seems the most artistic to me, and is not a “typical” type of nature shot. In that vein, I also like the sanderlings. The red crowned cranes is a beautiful shot, particular with the positions (pose?) of the cranes. However, there’s something about it that seems a little off to me. I don’t know if it’s the white on the birds, or if the falling snow makes it seem a little grainy (yet, that is also something that makes the shot very striking). The sally light foot crab is a nice shot, and better than any I took when I visited the archipelago, but seems a little more run of the mill. So, for a “nature’s best” I would go with the snow geese, followed by either the sanderlings and/or the red crown cranes.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Jay for sharing your thoughts. And do check back in a few days when I share mine. 🙂

  • I’m going to go for #1 and #4.
    The ‘gesture’ of the 2nd crane makes the first image for me… the cranes are simply too magical… 🙂
    I like the fourth for the three dimensional effect of the layers of birds… with odd bird out as a nice focal point.
    The crab image is nice, but somehow not working for me… maybe the central comp, maybe too little of him showing… maybe the eyes not being noticeable enough .. can’t put my finger exactly on why.
    The third (flock blur) is too washed out (to my taste).

  • While the image of the cranes is absolutely stunning,(and i hope you entered it in the antics category) I tend to lean toward images that are different. This is why I like your crab image, since I have never seen and image of a sally lightfoot engulfed in water! (Most photographers wait for the ‘break’ in wave action to see the crab.) This is fun capture…and the color really gets one’s attention to look closer. My other favorite image is #4 of the sanderlings…they remind me of dandelion seeds scattering in the sky. I hope you entered this one in the nature as art category. Good luck with your entries!

  • avatar Phil Ertel

    I like all of the images and if they were mine, I probably would have entered all of them. Below is the order of my preference:
    1.Frame 1; Japanese Red-crowned Crane in the bird category or Bird Antics. This image is beautiful. The poses are excellent. I love the snow.
    2.Frame 2; Galapagos Crab in the Art in Nature category or perhaps Wildlife . Galapagos Crab. I love the blur of the water running over the crab. The colors are also engaging.
    3.Frame 3; Lower Klamath Blur in Art in Nature category. I like how the birds fill the frame. I also like how the background peaks through the mass of birds.
    4.Frame 4; Flock of Sanderlings in the Bird category. I like that there is a combination of birds in and out focus. I think this provides a since of movement and depth.

    I provided which category I thought the images best fit but, I am not very familiar with the category definitions so please do not hold those comments against me too much.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I always knew that you were a pretty smart guy as well as a good photographer.

  • avatar Steve Stadler

    I like the Sally Lightfoot crab for my #1 pick, the sharpness and the colors and the motion of the wave and the bubbles, it’s just great eye candy. The water coming off the top of the crab looks like a water wig, leaving it’s forehead and eyes clear, and then a flowing beard of water coming off it’s chin. The flock of sanderlings is my #3 pick, the black leading edges of the wings is catching. The red crowned crane image is such a cool display of behavior, but if there was only a sparkle in their eyes to show a little life?? This would probably be one to not submit, there are a lot of good things about it, but it’s not a winner. The lower Klamath image looks like something you would see in an abstract art gallery, there’s something that just makes you keep staring at it, this would be my #2 pick. So, submit the crab, and Klamath, and maybe the sanderlings, but not the cranes…..

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Steve, Asking for a catch light in the eyes of distant subjects in the middle of a snowstorm is asking for a lot….. I did in fact enter that one and hope that it does well :). More on the rest in a day or two.

      • avatar Steve Stadler

        Personally, I love them all!!

        The first one I saw when opening this page was the cranes, and I thought WOW!!!! I love that!!

        I tried to put on a judges hat and see what I might critique. Even though the natural beauty of the snow creating an artistic graininess prevented you from using a flash to get a catch light, well, maybe a judge would not consider the technical challenges if they were in the mood for a catchlight…..

        Good Luck, they are all winners in my eyes!!

        By the way – YoU RoCK!!!

  • I’d go for the crab shot. I love how the wave gave the crab’s eyes
    an exciting shape as it looks toward you.

    I am interested though, if you did enter the crab, what category.
    Reading thru the list, this shot could’ve went into any number.

    It could go into
    Art in Nature with how the waves create texture and form, along with the color of the
    Oceans – Because it too has all of the requirements.
    Wildlife – Because of the crab.

    Me, I’d enter the image in Art in Nature. Then again, the next day I could decide on something else.


  • avatar Colin Oatley

    Arthur, Yes, that is correct. I would only enter #1 in a nature photography contest, not the others.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for getting back to me Colin. My comments in a few days. 🙂

  • avatar Sarah Sterling

    The cranes are unique and the pose is delightful. So joyful!!! The others we’ve seen before. #1 is the only one to convey so much emotion.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Glad that you liked the cranes. You have never seen that geese blur before as I processed it on Monday. Just to clarify: you would only enter the crane image; is that correct?

  • avatar Andrea Boyle

    I think the Lower Klamath shot was perhaps in Oregon… Wish I’d been able to make it!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The festival was in Oregon, the refuge is actually in California.

  • avatar Colin Oatley

    Of the four, the only one that I really like is #1, and I love that one. The dancing pose is really beautiful. The lack of detail helps to keep your attention on the pose. The other three photos are too cluttered and unfocused.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      That pose is pretty special. Just to confirm, there is no way that you would enter the crab or the Sanderling images in a nature photography contest. Is that correct?

  • avatar Jim Longworth

    Of the four presented here, my #1 choice is image 4 the Sanderlings, it made me think ‘Wow’ – the combination of super sharp and oof individuals flying right at the viewer is a great effect. My eye is drawn to the on in the centre with wings up. Second choice is the crab, for the colour contrast or the living and not living elements, the sharpness, the sense of motion and detail in the bubbles. It’s not gonna be a good look if you win your own competition though!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Jim, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You gotta read the fine print though . :). The Nature’s Best Competition is a separate contest from the BIRDS AS ART 1st International Bird Photography Competition.

  • Without any inside on what has been entered previously or what is similar to something previously entered, my favorite is the Japanese cranes. The Sally Lightfoot crab is second for me. the others are wonderful, but just huge flocks of birds. Am I missing something?