The Cabbage Palm Kids « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Cabbage Palm Kids


Well, the last two days were fun and exciting for me. Though many folks got fooled, pretty much everyone enjoyed the spoof. Thanks again to the very kind and generous Bryan Carnathan of The who kindly granted me permission to adapt and re-publish his clever April Fool’s post here on my blog on April 2, 2014. Lots of folks were on guard on April 1 but had let their guard down by the next day. If you missed it, you can read Bryan’s original post here

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This blog post took about 1 1/2 hours to assemble. Enjoy!


This image was created at Gatorland at 6:21pm on March 22, 2014 at Gatorland on a cloudy afternoon 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 -1/3 stop as framed: 1/640 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. Color temperature: 6500K yielded perfect WHITEs (as noted by the RGB values when I brought the image into DPP).

Fill flash with Better Beamer at -2 stops in ETTL. Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT with the Canon CP-E4 Compact Battery Pack for faster re-charging times. Mongoose Integrated Flash Arm with the Canon OC-E3 Off Camera Shoe Cord 3.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the adult’s face and then recompose by pointing the lens down slightly. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The Cabbage Palm Kids

On cloudy mornings or on any given afternoon there are lots of opportunities to photograph the birds and nests on the eastern side of the gator swamp. On sunny afternoons you will have the sun behind you. All of the Wood Stork nests are on that side in the larger trees. But the herons and egrets like to build their nests in the cabbage palms.

Image Questions

#1: In the soft light, why did I need -1/3 stop with a white bird? Note: there are 2 reasons…
#2: What do you think that I like best about the design of this image?
#3: Click on the image to enlarge it and see if you can figure out what I like least about this image.
#4: After enlarging the image what do you think of the head positions and head angles of the two chicks?
#5: With the same gear would you have re-composed differently?

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Join me at Gatorland for a ton of learning. I will have my flash along…. Click on the composite image to enjoy a larger version. Click on the composite to enjoy the larger size.

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12 comments to The Cabbage Palm Kids

  • #1: In the soft light, why did I need -1/3 stop with a white bird? Note: there are 2 reasonsโ€ฆ
    The first being that it is a white bird and with the light behind you the scene, especially the birds would be overexposed if using the camera’s metering suggestion. The second reason,…. I have no idea.

    #2: What do you think that I like best about the design of this image?
    The fact that it has a clean bottom edge mostly ๐Ÿ™‚ and that it is neatly framed by the plants surrounding the birds creating a more loving and motherly feeling to the photo.

    #3: Click on the image to enlarge it and see if you can figure out what I like least about this image.
    the white markings on the sticks from the birds. Well that’s what I would like least.

    #4: After enlarging the image what do you think of the head positions and head angles of the two chicks?
    I personally think the head positions of the chicks are a bit confusing as it looks like there is only one chick body that has 2 heads coming out from it.

    #5: With the same gear would you have re-composed differently?
    I think possibly getting a bit lower personally might create a more pleasing image with regards to the birds and blur the background a bit more creating further separation, but doing so I think you would lose that feel which you have created Artie with the family and tight atmosphere.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. I hate to guess what you liked about the composition, but what I like is the palmetto fronds making an outer frame and the shape of the adult around the chicks making an inner frame. That’s really nice. – 1/3 because you don’t want either to blow out the whites or to underexpose everything else. Again, hard to guess, but the only thing I don’t like a little is the u- or v-shaped twig that starts near the upper chick’s head and points toward the adult’s neck. The image never gets larger when I click on it, by the way. The chicks’ head angles are fine, but would be even better if the lower chick’s head were angled a bit higher and a bit more to its left. I can’t answer how I would have composed without seeing more of what was there. Unlikely that I wold have done better than, or as well as, you did.

  • avatar Deirdre Sheerr-Gross

    1… A/ so as not to burn out the whites;
    B/ allowed you to have a darker photo (flash settings)… Which allowed you to shoot at f9 for a better DOF (punting on this)…

    2. The Mom’s head, eyes, & beak lead you down to the main story: A mom tending her chicks…
    Also the beak and her legs frame and contain the scene…..and their angle draws your eye down to the chicks;

    3. Besides the bird scat…
    The very in-focus palm stem & frond, that is coming out of the left of her beak, leads your eye away from the main story of the chicks;
    Could have been toned down or lost in post processing (easy for me to say);

    4. I like them: left chick’s beak parallels moms… They are both less prominent with this head position…
    While the right chick, by turning up to look at mom, showing us its eye, steals and seals the show!

    5. I would lose some of the distracting mess at the bottom (there still is plenty to tell the story)…
    and I would trade it for a bit more of the palm frond at the top of the frame,
    which I think would give more room to the story and be a better balance ;

  • A matching image for current breeding season of most of the birds.

    Really heart-soothing sight.

  • 3-now I see a small white stick that pokes into the adult’s head that I would like to remove.

  • avatar Terry Lee

    I wanted to let you know that I received four emails with today’s blog all sent at 8:41am. Every so often, I receive duplicates, but this is the first time I received four.

  • avatar Ar

    3. I’m not crazy about the leaf branch that appears so close to the mother’s beak.
    4. I wish the chicks’ head angles were not so close together and were both looking left or up at the mother. I’d like to see the mother’s eye better.
    5. I would have moved the framing to the right a bit, as my eye is not being drawn to the left.

  • #1: Darker than middle tone with bright whites. Second becasue of the incorporation of the flash?
    #2: The big bird’s head, neck and leags nicely frame the 2 chicks.
    #3: There is a ‘out of sort’ branch on the front right of the nest?
    #4: I think it’s a good enough head angle ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
    #5: Slightly more room above the bird, my central sensor would have been on the neck of the bird. (I’m not saying that this would have been better)

  • #1: Not touching that one ๐Ÿ™‚

    #2: What do you think that I like best about the design of this image? Well, what I like
    about it is the one beak laying on top of the head of the other. I just think its cute.

    #3: Click on the image to enlarge it and see if you can figure out what I like least about this image…this is a total shot in the dark, but my guess would be the extra
    ‘white stuff’ making up the nest.

    #4: After enlarging the image what do you think of the head positions and head angles of the two chicks? I don’t see anything wrong with the head angles of the chicks.

    #5: With the same gear would you have re-composed differently? Same gear? Right now, I’d say no….except maybe moving a little to the left (just a little) to get more head on with the three.

  • 1-The meter will be influenced by all the medium tone around the white so -1/3 is needed to keep white from burning out?
    2-I like the three heads close together and have the bills and eyes of all three showing
    3-The white line of excrement? down this side of the nest?
    4-The birds are far enough away that the eyes and bills are all sharp so head angles look fine to me
    5-I might have composed with just the top part of the nest to get rid of the white line down it. But I do like seeing the whole nest. I am guessing that moving right might have put palm leaves in the way and the adult leg in front of a chick. Moving left would have angled the adult’s head too much