Not There; Not Now! Three Nests, Three Visions « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Not There; Not Now! Three Nests, Three Visions

You Be The Judge: Youth

Voting at the You Be The Judge: Youth post was closed this morning at 7:30 am eastern time. The results are being tabulated and will be announced soon along with the winning images as chosen by the panel of five judges.

This image was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens (hand held at 100mm), and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 200. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/250 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode.

Far left Upper Sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to enjoy a larger, more spectacular version.

Three Nests, Three Visions

Denise Ippolito and I are on a busman’s holiday in San Diego, CA. We are hoping to photograph Pergrine Falcon at Torrey Pines State Park. Though June Gloom is here a bit early the weather is supposed to clear soon. So what to do? I was giving Denise the grand tour of La Jolla. Our first stop was the premier Brown Pelican spot on the planet. But there were only a few ratty pelicans on the cliffs. (See the San Diego Site Guide to learn where and when to be for the best pelican photography.) We did notice more than half a dozen Western Gull nests. When we returned the next morning there were as I expected zero local photographers. On a nice morning during pelican season one would expect as many as 50 folks at this relatively small site. But who would get excited by nesting Western Gulls?

Denise and I for two. Heck, as bird photographers from the east we thought that we were in heaven. And the bright overcast provided perfect conditions for photographing the black and white gulls. Not only is contrast reduced when you are working in diffused light but we were able to choose our perspectives without regard to sun angle. Our first concerns of course dealt with finding pleasing motifs (thanks to the late Fritz Pölking who loved that word) that included pleasing backgrounds. The super soft light allowed us great freedom in designing our images.

In the image above I wanted to include every strand of dried grass that made up the nest so I went wide at 100mm with the full frame 5D III. To put the emphasis on the bird and the nest I ran NIK Color Efex Pro’s Tonal Contrast at 50% and applied it only where I wanted it using an Inverse (or Hide-all) Layer Mask. Then I added a strong round of Detail Extractor and applied that with an Inverse (or Hide-all) Layer Mask only to the top of the gull’s head which had been the brightest part of the image. I lightened the iris and sharpened the eye and the eye skin using a Tim Grey Dodge and Burn along with the Digital Eye Doctor Techniques detailed in Digital Basics.

I stopped down a bit and made sure to have AF Servo AF active at the moment of exposure to ensure accurate focus while hand-holding. Most folks do not realize that if you use One-Shot in these situations any movement–even your breathing–with throw off the focus….


As regular readers know, NIK’s Color Efex Pro 4 has been an integral part of my workflow for almost a year now. You can save 15% on all NIK products by clicking here and entering BAA in the Promo Code box at check-out. Then hit Apply to see your savings. You can download a trial copy that will work for 15 days and allow you to create full sized images. See the great Color Efex Pro tutorial by clicking here.

This image was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens, the 1.4X III TC (hand held at 280mm), and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at +1 stop: 1/60 sec. at f/14 in Manual mode.

AF sensor two down from the Central Sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

For the egg and foot image above I stopped down to f/14, focused on the closest part of the egg, and again made sure to have AF Servo AF active at the moment of exposure to ensure accurate focus while hand-holding. As mentioned above, most folks do not realize that if you use One-Shot in these situations any movement–even your breathing–with throw off the focus….

This bird was quite used to people as it was nesting just a foot from the path that the tourists use to get down on the cliff for sightseeing. I stood nearby and when she stood up for a moment moved a bit closer and framed the image that I wanted vertically. I had chosen the Mark IV for more pixels on the subject as discussed here and here.

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This image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode.

Central Sensor/Spot AF/AI Servo Rear Focus and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. And as usual click on the image for a larger version.

In the image I knew that stopping down to f/11 would still provide a lovely out-of-focus background because the buff-colored sandstone wall was quite a ways behind the subject. I chose to leave the dark smudge in the upper left corner to balance the dark tones of the Western Gull’s wings.

Three Nests, Three Visions

Take a moment to leave a comment and let us know which of the three images is your favorite, and why.

Denise Ippolito

You can see some of Denise’s visions from the morning by clicking here and checking out her post, “The Cliffs at La Jolla.”

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear used to create the images in today’s 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 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2XIII teleconverter. I also use it a lot–depending on the situation–with the 1.4X III TC.
Canon EF 1.4X III TC. This new TC is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EOS-5D Mark III. Man, I am in love with this camera body. Both the files and the AF system are superb. I cannot wait to get to Morro Bay.
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.

12 comments to Not There; Not Now! Three Nests, Three Visions

  • Arthur, my favorite is the third image for the lower angle and the angle of the gulls neck, but all are lovely images. The egg and foot shot is my second fave…up at the cottage I have a wild turkey sitting on eggs, but over a three day period I did not see her leave the nest or re-position herself on the nest. Hope Denise and your self continue to have a productive trip.

  • avatar Alex

    (1) I think for the first photo, there needs to be a bird on a nest in the background (RHS) or something more more pleasing as my eyes goes away from the main subject.
    (2) Great composition, but not enough colour in the leg for it to work in my opinion. Had the leg been bright orange or more colourful I think it would have worked better.
    (3) This is my favourite of the three. The bird looks curious and interested in the viewer and very pleasing and uncomplicated photo to look at.

  • avatar Charles Scheffold

    The last 2 are my favorites, but I have to say that Denise has got you beat on this one! The last image on her blog post from La Jolla is awesome 🙂

  • avatar Richard Zbinden

    Third image! Composition is best of the three, I feel like I am visiting the nest, the gull is looking at me, very warm, very real. I would hang it on my wall in a second.

    Crop is wrong in the 1st picture, I think you need to be closer. Foot and egg is technically excellent: The subject is not pleasing, I would not hang it on my wall.

    As I write I am watching a white pelican and an egret fly around, oops, there went an eagle down by Lake Ewauna (Klamath Falls, Or.). Things could be a lot worse.

    Cheers all!


  • avatar Bill Richardson

    Last shot gets my favorite vote. Interesting body angle and good detail in the whites. BTW, I am recently back from Madagascar and there is a rumor being spread there by some tall guy that you are switching to the new Nikon D4. ;-0

  • avatar George Cottay

    I dislike getting down low for a shot so appreciate the third both as an image and as a reminder that that the result can make a belly crawl worthwhile. I’d remove the left-side twigs.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. I do like La Jolla; I enjoy fishing on the beach at Torrey Pines too. And of course very good restaurants… The third image is my favorite mostly for the reasons Jay gave; then the second. For my taste there’s too little going on in the first image, too much “empty” space to the right. I think that image requires more work from the viewer to appreciate it than the other two do.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Hey Jay, I am glad that you are not crazy :). Had I gotten down lower I would not have been able to include the rock in the BKGR…. I have many images of that nest from the bird’s level.

  • My favorite is the foot and egg. I like the foot coming out of the top corner and how its ever so slightly under the egg.

    One question…You have tons of material everywhere so its possible I missed it, but have you ever used your depth of field preview button? Just a curiosity question that popped in my head.

    I never have, except to see what its about. I’m probably the only on the planet that thinks this, but I always had a hard time seeing the difference between pressing the button and not pressing it.


  • avatar Jay

    My favorite is the third image. The shot was taken with the bird at eye level, and the bird takes up a good portion of the frame. While the head is centered, with the angle from the body you have that nice empty space to the left in the direction of where the bird is leaning. While I generally like the composition of the first shot (bird on the left, empty trail space on the right), I’m not crazy about the way you’re looking down at the bird (thus, shot # 3). When I first saw the photo, before getting to the third shot, I was wondering why you weren’t leaning/sitting to get eye level.