Near Perfection Equals Total Failure « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Near Perfection Equals Total Failure


This adult Snow Goose image was created with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops off the sky in early morning light at 7:14am: 1/1250 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. Color temperature: AWB.

Central sensor/AI Servo/Surround Rear Focus AF os framed active at the moment of exposure. See the BreezeBrowser screen capture below 🙁 Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Jumping for Joy

Beautiful early morning light. The bird is pretty much right down sun angle and the exposure is spot-on. The subject is gorgeous. The wing position is perfect. There is a great look at the silver primary coverts contrasting with the black primaries and secondaries. The perfect image design that features the goose perfectly positioned against a distant, pleasingly de-focused mountain background. When I saw this image on the camera’s rear LCD screen I jumped for joy, though not very high out of concern for my healing left knee.

(Note: click here for the best diagram of dorsal wing surface feather tracts that I have seen.)

Yet the subject is not in sharp focus; the image is a total failure. I did not delete only because I knew that it would be perfect to make the point that in nature photography you need to do everything right. Often within a second or two at most…. That is the great challenge of bird and wildlife photography that drives me to succeed.


This is a 100% crop of the goose’s head.

Near Perfection Equals Total Failure

As you can see plainly above, the bird’s eye and face are not sharp. The image is a total failure. As you will see immediately below, this failure was caused by operator error.


This is the BreezeBrowser Main View screen capture.

BreezeBrowser Main View Screen Capture

Above is the BreezeBrowser Main View screen capture for today’s image. Note that the illuminated red square shows that the center focusing sensor was active at the moment of exposure. But it was not on the subject…. In an ideal world one of the Surround AF points would have caught the top of the bird’s far wing. But the main problem was that I had never properly acquired focus and was not matching the speed of the bird in flight with my panning speed. Had I done my job properly the 1D X would have nailed accurate focus as it does so often and well.

Note: in Breezebrowser you need to check “Show Focus Points” under View to activate this feature. To see the focus points in DPP check “AF Point” under View or hit Alt L. Hit Alt M to see Highlight Alert. To learn how and why I use DPP (Canon Digital Photo Professional) to convert my RAW files, see the info on our DPP RAW Conversion Guide here.

Note the perfect histogram and the smattering of flashing highlights on the goose’s neck. The highlight alert in Breezebrowser is a bit more sensitive than the highlight alert on all Canon camera bodies so the few flashing highlights on the subject here let me know that I have made a perfect exposure with the brightest WHITE RGB values at about 238. Just as I like them.

Regular readers know that I use and depend on BreezeBrowser every day of the year. It allows me to sort my keepers and delete the rejects faster than any other Windows browsing program. We use it on the main computer in the home office to catalog our images file-drawer style. And the companion program, Downloader Pro allows me to download my images quickly and conveniently. It automatically adds my IPTC data and the shooting location. I have it set up to create a folder named by the Month/date/year. The Breezebrowser/Downloader Pro combo saves me many hours each week. To learn more or to purchase this great PC only program, click here. As far as the BreezeBrowser/Downloader Pro Combo goes, if you are using a Windows platform and are not using these two great programs you are at best, wasting your valuable time. My understanding is that Photo Mechanic is best for Mac-users who do not opt to run Parallels or VM Ware fusion on their Macs so that they can enjoy the many advantages of BreezeBrowser. See BreezeBrowswer on a Mac for details.

1D X AF Guide and 5D III User’s Guide

To learn everything that I know about the great 1D X AF system check out our 1D X AF Guide here. 5D Mark III users should check out our 5D III User’s Guide here.

Image Exposure Question

Why is the correct exposure here–ISO 800, 1/1250 sec. at f/6.3–1 1/3 stops lighter than my recommended bright white ISO 400 exposure of 1/2000 sec. at f/8? (Note: the sun was out….)

Great buy: Used Canon 800mm f/5/6L IS Lens for Sale

Friend and multiple IPT-veteran Monte Brown is offering his lightly used Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens in excellent condition for sale for $9,500. Purchase includes the lens case and hood, the 4th Generation Design Low Foot, the original foot, a LensCoat, the original invoice and the original Canon shipping carton. The lens was purchased new from B&H in April 2009 and was recently underwent a pre-sale clean and check by Canon. The buyer pays insured shipping via UPS Ground to US addresses only. The lens will be shipped only after your check clears.

The Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Autofocus lens sells new for $13,223.00 so you will save a bundle on a great lens. No need to ever use a 2X…

If interested you can contact Monte by phone at 1-765-744-1421 or via e-mail.

Last Year’s Grand Prize winning image by Lou Coetzer


Time is Running Out!

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18 comments to Near Perfection Equals Total Failure

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    I am also opposed to cc. Got to be Greed?

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    Thanks for the Snowy Owl petition.

  • avatar Bill Richardson

    Just for fun, I took your goose and cooked it in PSCC using the shake reduction filter. Worked great. I would love to try it on a full res version if you would like. I think you would be impressed with this new technology.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Bill. Let me know if I can send you the full sized converted TIF via HighTailIt. Or do you need the RAW? Better if I send a TIF. I am philosophically opposed to CC as a rip-off :).

      • avatar Bill Richardson

        If you can send me a full sized, unsharpened jpg, that will give me an idea of how it works on this particular photo. At $9.99 a month for both PSCC and LR, I was willing to go to CC but I know there is a lot of resistance to the subscription idea.

    • avatar David Policansky

      Bill: Does the shake reduction filter fix both out-of-focus and motion-blurred images? If so, I’ve thrown away some images I shouldn’t have… 🙁

  • avatar Bill Richardson

    Maybe not a total failure. The new camera shake reduction filter in Photoshop CC is absolutely amazing in how it can correct photos just a bit out of focus. Not every time but sometimes. You should try it.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie, and thanks as always. How often I have deleted images because they weren’t quite sharp. People I show them to say it’s sharp enough, but I can’t bear to look at them. But when a bird is flying by fast, as I assume your beautifully exposed goose was, I expect to miss some shots. I agree with Elinor Osborn that when the sun is near the horizon, the camera’s meter is stupid, as you’ve said many times, and so you needed to add light in that early-morning shot.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks David. You and Elinor are both correct. I like your phrasing best for getting the point across 🙂

  • avatar Geoff

    Just a quick note to say that the petition has already paid off and they are now going to adopt a capture and release tactic as is already employed with great success in Boston. Go internet!!

  • Whites in softer early morning light need more exposure than they do in bright midday sun.

  • avatar Dick Huberty

    Art, your blog has been very helpful in learning this challenging and fun hobby. I was at the Bosque the same time you where there, but never saw you. My first time and we had great luck with beautiful skies and lots of birds. Hope to sign up next year for your workshop.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Dick, Sorry that I missed you. You must have been in the wrong place :). I will send you advance notice of next year’s Bosque trips via e-mail. Hope to meet you then if not before. artie

  • avatar Loi Nguyen

    Artie, thanks for sharing. we have all seen such near miss, but it is good for you to point it out. Loi

  • avatar Ron May

    Art, I gladly signed the petition against the shooting of Snowy Owls. Shame on the lot of them. In my opinion, such senseless killing will remove predators from the environment and thus has the potential to upset the balance of nature in the Arctic.

    I see these birds every winter in my part of the world and cannot fathom how someone could shoot them. There are easier ways to control them. It is my understanding that Boston’s airport has found a humane way of trapping and relocating them. Why can’t New York do the same?
    This lesson on sharpness is well taken and I thank you for the “proof”.

    Have a great Christmas and Happy New Year.

  • Good to see you make errors as well. 😉 Cheers!