Ah… Exposure Lessons. And why you gotta love nature photography. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Ah... Exposure Lessons. And why you gotta love nature photography.

The Streak Continues: 339

Yesterday was a day of learning more about my relatively new Apple 15.4″ MacBook Pro Notebook Computer with Retina Display (Mid-2014). Less than a week ago I was thisclose to offering my new $3,199.00 notebook for sale for $2100. Today I am fully confident that I will do just fine with my Mac. Thanks to the many who commented and e-mailed offering helpful suggestions and links to websites that offered lists of keyboard shortcuts and other helpful hints. There have been so many that I have not had time to thank everyone individually.

I will be sharing the tale of my transition to the top of the line Mac with y’all here soon.

I enjoyed an easy 3/4 mile swim; the pool was down to 74 degrees. It was not as bad as the ice bath that I enjoyed after dinner. This blog post, the 339th in a row, took less than two hours to prepare and was published from my home at Indian Lake Estates just before 5:30am.

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This image was created at 8:05am in the shade of a large stand of trees on the clear, cold morning of November 2, 2014 at Fort DeSoto Park. I used 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 a beta version of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II . ISO 800. Evaluative metering + 2 stops as framed: 1/250 sec. at f/8 in Av mode. AWB.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the bird’s belly 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.

Image #1: Black-bellied Plover winter plumage posing

Ah, the Flag!

As we approached the large flag after the entrance booth at DeSoto, I was happy to see the wind from the NE rather than from the NW as we had had on Saturday. Sunday loomed clear and bright and a NW wind in those conditions is pretty much fatal to bird photography.

As we approached my favorite, dependable location, the exact spot where we had had thousands of shorebirds, terns and gulls just 24 hours ago, there were less than ten birds. They flew away when we took one step towards them…. Some days are diamonds, some days are stone. But Greg was there to learn so we walked along the Gulf looking for a Willet or a Black-bellied Plover to photography. Even those two dependable species were scarce.

Ah, Birds in the Shade

When Greg saw a few birds feeding in the shade, he said, “The light is lousy.” I said, “There is no such thing as lousy light. Only lousy photographers who do not understand how to get the right exposure. With Nikon you will need to add about 1 1/3 stops of light to move the histogram well to the right and get a few blinkies on the background. With Canon I knew that I would need to go with +2 stops or more. “Let’s go: we can make some beautiful images. Watch the breaking waves in the background. Try to get a bird on clean sand with a nice wet sand background.”

He did.


This image was created on the clear, sunny morning of November 2, 2014 at Fort DeSoto Park. I used the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, with the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and a beta version of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/4000 sec. at f/6.3 in Av mode. AWB.

One sensor above the Central Zone/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the bird’s eye 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.

Image #2: Black-bellied Plover winter plumage running

Ah, Birds in the Sun

With the tide a lot lower than the day before for a variety of reasons, the birds never came in so we got in the car and drove a short distance to a different part of the lagoon in hopes of finding a tame Yellow-crowned Night-Heron for Greg. We did not find one, tame or otherwise. What to photograph? A very few Willets and Black-bellied Plovers. An oystercatcher flew in but as the wind had switched to north by a little bit west it fed along the Gulf surf facing away from us and away from the light. More lessons. We were left to photograph the Willets and the black-bellieds.

Exposure in the bright sun is a whole ‘nother topic. “Greg, with Nikon here you will need to be at either zero or -1/3 stop. Take a few in aperture priority, check your histogram, and when you figure out the perfect exposure, set it manually and you are good to go.” I did the same with the 7D II at +1/3 stop.

I forgot to mention that it was even colder on Sunday morning than it had been on Saturday morning. But it was less windy and we were much better dressed. The only thing missing were the birds. You gotta love nature photography….

Ah, the Big Question!

Which light do you prefer, shade or sun? I have a clear preference.


Morro Bay offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects in a variety of attractive settings.

2015 Morro Bay 5-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT): MAR 14 thru MAR 18, 2015: $1999 (Limit: 8.)

Meet and Greet after dinner on your own at 8:00pm on MAR 13.

Join me in one of the most beautiful and scenic places on the planet to photograph a large variety of birds of the sea and shore. As above, the star of the show will be Long-billed Curlew. There will be lots of Marbled Godwits and Willets as well as lots of the smaller shorebird species. Black Oystercatcher is likely and we should get to photograph large flocks of Western Sandpipers in flight over the bay. With any luck we should enjoy some great sunrise and sunset photography. There are lots of gulls including Western, California, and Mew. There is one good location where we should get to photograph Western, Clarke’s, Eared, and Pied-billed Grebe, Lesser Scaup, and Common Loon. We may get to photograph some passerines including Anna’s Hummingbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, and White-crowned Sparrow. And we have a chance for several species of raptors. Yikes, I almost forgot California Poppy. And California Ground Squirrel. Sea Otters are also possible.

This IPT will include five 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, five 2 1/2 hour afternoon sessions, five lunches, after-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions, and of course tons of great in-the-field instruction and photographic instruction. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility.

A $499 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “Arthur Morris) to use at BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. Or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, will be due on 12/1//2014. If the trip fills, we will be glad to apply a credit applicable to a future IPT for the full amount less a $100 processing fee. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance. Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail.

Used Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS (Image Stabilizer) USM Lens

Mike Stevens is offering a used Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS (Image Stabilizer) USM lens in like-new condition (used just once) for a ridiculously low $7999. The sale includes the front leather hood, the rear dust cap, the original case, a Wimberley P-50 lens plate, and insured shipping to US addresses only. Your lens will be shipped only after your check clears unless other arrangements are made; Paypal is an option.

Please contact Mike via e-mail, by phone at 951-260-2507, or on his cell at 951-821-1600.

The 800 was my go-to super-telephoto lens for about 4 years.


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17 comments to Ah… Exposure Lessons. And why you gotta love nature photography.

  • Carl

    Shade. Love high overcast.

  • Shade for me cause it means I could shoot all day from any
    angle if I want.

    I just hate it when the sun goes behind the clouds, then
    reappears, playing peekaboo with my exposure.


  • Ron Gates

    I would say bright sun in the examples above but the soft even light of shade probably would be the best choice in general terms. As another commenter said, bright sun in a tree and the harsh shadows would be a real problem. Time of day also plays a part. Early morning or late afternoon, I believe would favor the sun. Mid-day would favor shade.

  • Tim Harding

    Bright overcast – is that a choice?

  • Ted Willcox


  • David Arkin

    I have been following your blog for a short time and I think it is the first time you mention the “process” of setting the proper exposure. If I understand, you first obtain the exposure using Aperture Priority and look at histogram. Once you have the “numbers” from that you then use them in Manual exposure an work from there. Am I correct?
    Thank you for doing all the work to get the blog out.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      That is not always the case. It is easier, though, for some folks to do it that way. I do it that way at times. But with so many years of studying EXP and EXP theory my first educated guess as to how much plus or minus I need is right on the money. See Exposure Theory in ABP and Exposure Theory in ABP II.

      • Warren H

        I assume when you say “how much plus or minus I need,” you are shooting manual and add plus or minus exposure on your meter in the view finder, NOT using Exposure Compensation.

        Actually, either way is fine. Most folks simply do not realize that Manual and Av are exactly the same once you are at the right place…. artie

        The art and skill is how you select your exposure (speed, iso, aperture)!

        Thanks for what you do!

        Also, I like shade for even light, but the colors sure come out a lot better in sun!

  • Sarah Mayhew

    It always surprises me from day to day how different the bird population can be!

  • Love to shoot small birds with “no sun ” ! In fact hate bright sun in the woods.As usual your ability to shoot the whites remains excellent .

  • Gary Axten

    Do you get cold mornings in Florida?

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The low 50s is cold for this time of year. On occasion, it gets down to the low-mid 30s…. artie

    • Jim Kranick


      A few central Florida cities set new low temp records last Sunday, Nov. 2, of 44° F. The locals were not happy but at least the plants in the garden did not freeze as they did later in the winter a few years ago.

  • Bill Eaton

    Seeing the first image taken in low light reminds me of our shoot two weeks ago at Ft DeSoto when a guy walked up and said “can’t shoot today because there is no sun”. We went on to have a great day of wonderful shooting.Push that histogram to the right!