Pan Faster! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Pan Faster!

Black Skimmer in flight above beach grasses, Nickerson Beach, NY. Created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode.

Central Sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF Surround active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Be sure to click on the image for the larger version.

Pan Faster!

For years I have been saying and writing and teaching that a good piece of universal advice for improving your flight photography is to “Pan faster!” All but the most skilled flight photographers have trouble creating original images with the bird well back in the frame, with lots of room ahead of the bird, room for the bird to fly into. Why? The rest of us pan too slowly and find it difficult to keep the active sensor on the bird’s eye, face, neck, or lower breast…. Note: most skilled flight photographers prefer to work with the central AF sensor active.

When it comes to panning faster it is a lot easier said, written, and taught than it is doing it right; you gotta love getting older!

In any case, this brings us to the image above. You first saw it in the Sit or Stand for Flight? blog post of 18 August.

This is the original capture from which the optimized file for the image above was created.

The Image Optimization Process

First I did my clean-up work. After much deliberation, I removed the out-of-focus skimmer from the upper right. Then I used Protect and Defend Cloning to remove the dark smudge behind the primaries of the raised near wing; the smudge was surely a distant bird in flight. I worked on the grasses a bit. Next I actually added canvas behind and below the bird (as detailed in Robert O’Toole’s APTATS II, moved the bird down and back in the frame, cropped from the bottom, and added some blue sky at the top. Finally I did some blending work on the edges of the layers that I had dragged back and down.

All off the techniques used above are described in detail in Digital Basics and APTATS II. Denise Ippolito helped me throughout the process.

I ran Tonal Contrast and a bit of Detail Extractor on the bird only after using the Quick Selection Tool to put the bird on its own layer. Tonal Contrast was responsible for brightening the WHITEs nicely. All from NIK’s Color Efex Pro.


As regular readers know NIK’s Color Efex Pro 4 is now an integral part of my workflow. 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.

Click here for a cool NIK tutorial.

This is the BreezeBrowser Main View screen capture for the RAW image. To be able to see the active sensor click on “Show Focus Points” in the “View” drop-down menu or hit Shift+Control+F. That’s one shortcut that I do not use as once I click on “Show Focus Points” is sticks. Coming soon: How to Run Breezebrowser on a Mac. Note that the latest version of BreezeBrowser supports the Canon EOS-5D Mark III.

Note as usual the perfect histogram with the WHITEs of the bird well to the right in the fifth histogram box. In The Art of Bird Photography II (ABP II: 916 pages on CD only) I teach you to get the right exposure using digital capture every time. And I teach you to work in Manual Mode as was necessary for this image. And best of all, both are simple.


Here my choice of Central Sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF Surround saved the day as the sensor diagonally left and below the active sensor just caught the bird’s head and was able to maintain accurate focus. To learn more about the amazing AF system as well as everything that I know about the 5D Mark III check out our 5D III User’s Guide here. You can still save $10 on the pre-publication version; my plan is to finish the guide before I head home on 4 September…. When the guide is complete, the price will be $50.

JPEG Compression

Recently, folks have been mentioned seeing concentric rings and other background artifacts in images posted here. Do know that these are the unavoidable result of JPEG compression, even in JPEGs that are prepared perfectly. They are often less evident when you view the larger files by clicking on the images.

Crazy B&H Canon Rebates

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Crazy B&H Canon Rebates

B&H is offering crazy-huge instant rebates of up to $300 on a variety of Canon lenses and Speedlites including many of my absolute favorite intermediate telephoto lenses like the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS, the 70-200mm f/4L IS, and the 100-400mm L IS. Click here or on the image above now for complete details; these offers expire on 1 September.

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Killer B&H Nikon Rebates

B&H is offering killer instant rebates of up to $450 on Nikon gear. First choose a camera body and then add a lens to the bundle. The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Autofocus lens is one of the choices! Remember, two of my very best friends are on the Black Side: James Shadle and Todd Gustafson both use Nikon gear and I love them both. Click here or on the image above for details.


The Nikon rebates expire tomorrow, August 25, at midnight. Honest; I just got them.

B&H Sigma Lens Specials

I have, on many occasions, seen the incredible images made by Robert O’Toole with the Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO autofocus lens. It is lightweight, relatively inexpensive, sharp as a tack at f/8, and it features an almost ridiculous minimum focusing distance. The OS refers to the optical stabilizer in the lens. Best of all, B&H is now offering some very nice rebates on both the Canon and Nikon versions of this lens as well as on a wide variety of other Sigma lenses.

Click here to learn more about the Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO autofocus lens with Canon mount.
Click here to learn more about the Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO autofocus lens with Nikon mount.
Click here to learn more about the rebate offers for all Sigma Canon mount lenses.
And click here to learn more about the rebate offers for all Sigma Nikon mount lenses.

Your purchase will help us be able to continue providing free information on the blog and in the BAA Bulletins.

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.L IS lens Right now this is my all time favorite super telephoto lens. But my 600 II is coming soon…. It has great reach, AFs with my EOS-1D Mark IV, is relatively light, and the the four-stop IS is amazing.
Canon EOS-5D Mark III. Man, I am in love with this camera body. Both the files and the AF system are superb.

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….
Gizo GT3532 LS CF Tripod. 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.
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.

5 comments to Pan Faster!

  • Oh yes, and for those with a zoomer lens it is also “pan wider” 🙂 Clipped wings…been there, done that, still do.

  • avatar leavell

    Dear Art
    At 90 I am trying to get lighter camera equipment
    I have recently gotten a canon 100 – 400 lens
    a canon D7 camera
    I would greatly appreciate knowing what tripod and head you
    would suggest.
    I presently have a canon mark 2
    a canon 500mm lens
    a monfrotto 755mf3
    a wimberly head which are too heavy for me to carry
    I enjoy greatly your e mails and blogs Ullin Leavell

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Again Ulin, Mazel tov on 90. My Mom is almost there! The Mongoose M3.6 was made for you; it is much, much lighter than the Wimbereley. You can learn more or order one here or by calling Jim in the morning at the office: 863-692-0906.

      How is Linda?

  • avatar David Policansky

    Artie: Thanks. I’m especially pleased that you removed the out-of-focus skimmer only “after much deliberation.” There’s something pleasing about an OOF bird in the background of a single sharply in-focus bird. Sometimes the choice is clear, but not in this case; I would have deliberated too.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      YAW. I just may go back and create a version with the oof bird; it is cut off at the perfect spot.