The Importance of Being Early III « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Importance of Being Early III

The Streak Continues: 273

This blog was published just before 6:45am from my home in Indian Lake Estates, FL. I will be here for the better part of the next ten weeks with no plane flights on the horizon until I fly to ABQ for a long stretch at Bosque. Then home for four days before heading to the Southern Ocean for a month on another great Cheeseman’s Expedition. See here for more info on that trip. Photographically, my New York week was phenomenal. This post, which took me more than 2 3/4 hours to prepare, makes 273 in a row.

As always, I would appreciate your using the BIRDS AS ART B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases, using our Amazon logo-link for all of your household purchases, and visiting the BAA Online Store for your tripod, tripod head, LensCoat, miscellaneous, accessories, and eGuide purchases as well.

Your Help Is Needed

Sales for the August, 2014 via our BIRDS AS ART B&H affiliate links have been microscopically abysmal at best. If you need to purchase some new camera gear, please remember to use either our B&H logo link below or one of the product-specific links in the blog or the Bulletins. All should feel free to write me via e-mail for gear advice.

/Nickerson Beach/JBWR IPT

I will be announcing the dates and details for a Nickerson Beach/JBWR IPT in the next week or two. If you would like your name to be put on the Interested List so that you receive advance notice please shoot me an e-mail.


This image was created at Nickerson Beach at 6:33am on the clear morning of 25 August, 2014 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 Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops as framed: 1/160 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode.

Central Sensor (by necessity)/AI Servo-Expand/Rear Focus AF on the base of the bird’s face and release. When you add the 2X TC to an f/4 lens with the 1DX or the 5D III hit the MFn button once to toggle to AF Expand and enjoy 4 extra AF sensors. Learn everything there is to know about the 1D X and 5D III AF systems including how to manage the various AF Area Selection Modes, when to use which one, and several ways to move the AF sensor around in the 1D X AF Guide and the 5D Mark III User’s Guide. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Black Skimmer chick with twig at dawn

The Importance of Being Early III

Why part III? Had I not gotten up and on the road ridiculously early (it is 44 minutes from my Mom’s to the parking lot at Nickerson with zero traffic and it takes me 15 minutes to get my gear together) I would not have been in position to create the images in the blog posts of August 27th (You Will Need to Put Your Thinking Cap on for This One…) and August 28th (You Need a Clear Head at Sunrise on the Beach at Nickerson).

The single images in each of those posts and the two images presented in today’s post are quite special to me, each because of the color, the quality, and the direction of the light. On each of my five mornings at Nickerson I was the first one on the beach. Most days a photographer or two would showeup at about 9:00am; they always left me shaking my head. But even those folks who showed up at 7:00am–and there were many of them each day, had missed the very best hour of light and photography….

The coral light in the image above is lovely, delicious, and priceless. And it is never available to those who need their beauty rest.

The funny thing with me is that though I had the alarm set for 4:00am each morning I was up every day before the rooster crowed (yes, cock-a-doodle-doo is my alarm sound). I guess that I was dreaming about the gorgeous light that would be my reward and that my subconscious did not want to miss out on it.

Image Question

What other elements of composition–though quite small and seemingly insignificant to many, add to the success of this image?

AF Question

With the active and the eight surrounding sensors squarely on the chick’s face why did I take my thumb off the rear focus button before creating the image? Note: I did not re-compose….

The DPP RAW Conversion Guide

To learn why I use Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) to convert every image that I work on, click here. Coming soon: the DPP 4.0 RAW Conversion Guide by Arash Hazeghi with Arthur Morris. DPP 4.0 rocked the conversion of the image above. As DPP 4.0 is a completely new animal that requires a steep learning curve for those who want to take full advantage of its capabilities. Arash and I will be spending several hours on the phone working on the guide today.


This image was also created on the morning of 25 August, 2014, this one at 6:46am, also 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 Extender EF 1.4X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/8000 sec. at f/5.6. in Av mode!

Central Sensor AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF on the base of the bird’s left wing just forward of the tail was active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version. .

Black Skimmer diving on another during an aerial battle

Exposure Screw-up

I have no clue as to why I was in Av mode at zero…. IAC, the result was a close to two stop under-exposure. I dealt with that easily during the conversion in DPP 4.0 by moving the Brightness slider to 2.00. As I was creating a quasi-silhouette I did not have to worry about noise. Obviously I should have been at +2 stops exposure compensation.

Exposure Questions

1-Why would +2 stops as framed have been very close to +3 stops off the sky?

All photographers need to be familiar with the relationships that deal with ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation. In other words, you need to be able to do the math.

2-Assuming that I went to Manual mode what would the correct shutter speed have been at f/5.6?

Those who have trouble doing the math are referred to “Measuring Light in Stop”s section on page 54 of the original The Art of Bird Photography (160 pages in soft cover).

The Moral of the Story

If the forecast is for a clear morning, or, if like me, you never trust the weatherman, set the alarm early enough to get you out to the beach with all your gear about 45 minutes before the sun hits the horizon. Learn to see and utilize the special light that you will encounter. Look for potential backlit situations, especially those that might be spectacular during the first 15 minutes after sunrise. You might need to get wet to take advantage of richly colored sunrise reflections so be sure to dress appropriately. In short, if you snooze, you will lose.

If this blog post inspires you to become an early riser feel free to send me a JPEG of your best image via e-mailSelling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charges a minimum of 20% plus assorted fees! Yikes. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few months, we have sold just about everything in sight.

I will do my very best to keep the listings below current.

Used Gear Caution

Though I am not in a position to post images of gear for sale here or elsewhere, prospective buyers are encouraged to request for photos of the gear that they are interested in purchasing via e-mail. Doing so will help to avoid any misunderstandings as to the condition of the gear.

Used Canon EOS-1D Mark IV

Walt Anderson is offering a used Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body in near-mint condition for $2899.00. The sale includes an extra battery the original box, and all cables and manuals. The seller will pay insured shipping via UPS Ground to US addresses only. Your new gear will be shipped after your check clears. Payment may also be made via credit card plus a 2% fee.

Please contact Walt via e-mail or by phone at 847-438-3587 (office) or 847-721-8319 (cell) (Central Daylight Time). Walt, a long time friend, is the inventor of the Better Beamer Flash Extender, the very first BAA mail order item. When it comes to taking care of his gear, Walt is fastidious.

The 1D IV is a 1.3 crop factor camera body that was my workhorse camera body for about 4 years not so long ago. I owned four of them in total. It is Denise Ippolito’s camera body of choice for birds and wildlife. They were selling used just a few months ago for more than $4,000 so Walt’s 1D IV is priced to sell quickly.

Used Canon EF 100-400 f 4.5-5.6 L IS Lens

Bruce Boswell is offering a used Canon EF 100-400 f 4.5-5.6 L IS lens in very good condition for $999 plus insured shipping via UPS Ground to US Continental addresses only. The tripod and zoom rings have a few minor blemishes. The sale includes: the original case, the front and rear caps, the lens hood, and the lens manual. Your gear will be shipped only after your check clears.

Please contact Bruce via e-mail or by phone at (309) 451-1506 or (309) 530-8493 (cell) (Central).

The 100-400 is a versatile intermediate telephoto zoom lens with 1,000+ uses. It makes a great starter lens especially for folks who do general nature and wildlife in addition to birds. I’ve sold 100s of images made with a 1-4 and denise loved hers for many years forsaking it only recently for the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. Bruce’s 100-400 is priced to sell.

Used Canon 800mm f/56L IS USM Lens

Multiple IPT veteran and good friend Mike Gotthelf, is offering a used Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens in excellent + condition for $8850. The lens is like new except for some very minor wear on the finish. The sale includes the leather hood, the original hard case and key, a low foot, a LensCoat, and insured shipping via UPS Ground to US addresses only. Personal checks only; your new lens will be shipped only after your check clears.

This great lens, my favorite for 3 years, sells new at B&H for $13,999.00. B&H is asking $11,399.95 for a used one here in the same condition as Mike’s. They recently dropped their price for this lens from $11,999.90…. Buy Mike’s lens and save $2456.95 right now! It will save you a ton of dough and you will have a super-sharp lens with lots of reach. And it works great with a 1.4X TC too with all pro bodies and with the 5D Mark III.

Interested folks can contact Mike via e-mail or by phone at (978)-407-0679 (eastern time).

Used Canon 300mm f/4L IS USM Lens

Chris Callahan is offering a used Canon 300mm f/4L IS USM Lens in good to very good condition for $900. There is some wear on the finish. The sale includes the heavy duty fabric carrying case that is moderately worn, the tripod ring (tripod collar), and the rear cap. The seller will pay insured UPS shipping within continental US. The lens will ship after the check clears.

Please contact Chris via e-mail or by phone at 1-850-516-7155 (eastern time).

The Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lens is still in production; it sells for $1449 new from B&H; buy Chris’s lens today and save $549! I have long recommended this lens as the best Canon bird photography starter lens, a clear choice over my old “toy lens,” the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L. Why? It is faster at f/4. It has IS. And it autofocuses with a 7D (or other pro-sumer body) and a 1.4X teleconverter. The 300 f/4 L IS offers a minimum focusing distance of only 1.5 meters (less than 5 feet). This makes it a great lens for for frogs, butterflies, medium-sized and large flowers, and large insects like dragonflies. It is a great flight lens either alone or with the 1.4X TC. It is deadly sharp and great on a tripod with the Mongoose M3.6.

Used Canon EOS-1D Mark III

Michael Zajac is offering a Canon EOS-1D Mark III professional digital camera body in Excellent condition for $1250. The sale includes the battery charger, one battery, the original paperwork, the camera strap, the original box, and shipping to the continental US.

Please contact Michael via e-mail or by phone at 732-979 -6644. Photos are available upon request.

Some EOS-1D Mark III bodies originally had AF problems. Michael’s did not. I have seen his great flight images made with this camera. This body features a 1.3X crop factor sensor and is a great step-up for someone who wants to take a big step up from a 7D. It’s powerful battery drives AF much faster than the pro-sumer bodies especially with either a 1.4X or 2X teleconverter in place.


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11 comments to The Importance of Being Early III

  • avatar Kevin Watson


    I was the first one in the Nickerson parking lot this Saturday (8/30), at 5:20 AM.

    One other photographer arrived soon after. I set up down by the water, where I had two groups of Skimmers between me and where the sun would rise.

    The other guy walked past me and set up between the birds and the sun (or where the sun would be in 30 minutes). And, every time I looked, he had his camera pointing away from the sun, basically down sun angle.

    So getting up early is not enough by itself ๐Ÿ™‚

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      That can be a bummer. Was the guy courteous?

      Good for you for getting there early! One of the tricks that I did not mention is to try to work the edges of the flocks to isolate a bird or a group of birds…. best, artie

      ps: he needs to read the blog! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • avatar Kevin Watson

        He was so far away, it made no difference to me. I don’t know what his objectives were, maybe he got the shots he wanted. But it seemed to me that he was missing several opportunities ๐Ÿ˜€

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          I am often baffled by similar stuff. One morning at Nickerson there was a lady photographer who was sitting and photographing a skimmer flock from about 80 yards when she could have stood up and easily approached to within 40 feet. And of course she was 45 degrees off light angle…. $11,000 for a lens but no money for good instruction :). artie

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi,Artie. Beautiful image indeed. What’s in the chick’s mouth? It looks like someone chewing on a toothpick. I hate getting up early but I love being on the beach before sunrise. Sometimes the early beach wins for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Hey Doug, Which of the two is most likely? artie

  • What other elements of compositionโ€“though quite small and seemingly insignificant to many, add to the success of this image?

    It’s the combination of the small blade of grass sticking up from the sand behind
    the tail…and this one, you’ll probably have to correct me on this, the other
    being the two orange beaks of Oyster Catchers (or maybe the legs of the Skimmer)…
    helping to frame the chick.