Just Barely In. How understanding one simple principle can improve your bird photography… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Just Barely In. How understanding one simple principle can improve your bird photography...

What’s Up?

Swim and ice bath. More IPT-related travel agent chores taken care of. Started working on second image edits for several trip folders; I need to get a ton of images transferred from my Apple 15.4″ MacBook Pro Notebook Computer with Retina Display (Mid 2014) to the office computer. Sent 79 e-mails by 8:43pm. This blog post took about 1 3/4 hours to prepare. It is scheduled to be published very early on Saturday morning. It will be the 87th straight day with a new educational blog post.

BAA Bulletin #473

BAA Bulletin #473 is online and can be accessed here.

  • Is this Image Worth Optimizing?
  • Date Change: St. Augustine Alligator Farm Short-Notice Spoonbill and Wading Bird Chicks IPT: May 4-6, 2015.
  • 7D Mark II User’s Guide
  • The Blog is the Bomb!
  • Used Photography Gear for Sale
  • BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) Info
  • South Georgia October 2015
  • Affiliate Stuff

Item 1 above,”Is this Image Worth Optimizing?” might very well be of interest to those who visit the blog regularly.


This image was created at Alafia Banks with the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X . ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6 in Av mode.

One AF point to the left of the center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Brown Pelican, intentionally mis-framed to allow room for the hoped for head throw.

Puzzling Mystery

In the blog post here, I asked about the image above:

Why in the world would someone intentionally frame an image with the pelican so low in the frame? Can you come up with the number one reason? Or was this possibly simply a bad framing error?

See the next image for the answer….


This image was created at Alafia Banks with the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X . ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6 in Av mode.

One AF point to the left of the center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). It fell on the white band at the base of the neck. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #2: Brown Pelican, fully extended head throw.

Just Barely In…

By pre-planning the image, I was just able to avoid clipping the pelican’s bill at the peak of the head throw. I made about 8 frames in a single sequence when the bird was close to full extension. The entire sequence was comprised of about 30 images all made in a very few seconds. I will share two more of those in a blog post soon.

How understanding one simple principle can improve your bird photography…

Here is the principle: bird behavior is often repetitive.

I liked this pelican from the get-go: a handsome bird on a pretty darn clean perch with a relatively distant background. Just what I look for. I added the teleconverter in an effort to create a striking full frame vertical portrait. When the bird did a head throw I was taken totally by surprise and was so tight that I did not even bother pressing the shutter button. But since I know that bird behavior is often repetitive, I simply moved back carefully. And then I moved back some more. And then I moved back a few more steps to the spot where I made the image above.

After about ten minutes my hunch and my patience paid off. And I did not even have to resort to praying….

When the bird began its head throw I pushed and held the shutter button for about 30 frames as noted above. For whatever reason or reasons, this was the sharpest of the eight frames that I created when the bird was near or at full extension.

Perspective Question

From Image #1 to Image #2 did I move to my right or to my left? How do you know?


All of the images in the bear boat card above were created in Katmai National Park during the month of September.

Bear Boat/Bears Catching Salmon IPT: September 1-8, 2015 from Kodiak, AK/6 FULL & 2 1/2 DAYS: $6699. Happy campers only! Maximum 8/Openings: 3. Plus the leader: Arthur Morris.

This trip is a go.

Join me in Katmai National Park, AK for seven days of photographing Coastal Brown Bears (grizzlies) catching salmon, fattening up for the long winter. Other subjects will include Mew and Glaucous-winged Gulls in flight and dip-feeding on salmon roe. Did I mention that we live on a boat and that the food is great? Most of our photography will be done in a variety of famed locations: Geographic Harbor, Kinak Bay, and Kukak Bay. We once had 39 bears fishing the creek at Kukak….

It is mandatory that you be in Kodiak no later than the late afternoon of August 31, 2015 September to avoid missing the float planes to the boat on the morning of September 1. With air travel in AK being what it is, with the chance of fog or other bad weather–being on Kodiak on August 30 is an even better plan). I will be on Kodiak on August 30 to avoid any potential disaster. That said in my nearly a dozen bear boat trips I was delayed only once but since I was day early as noted above there was no harm, no foul.

We will take one or more float planes to the boat mid-morning on September 1. We will photograph bears fishing that afternoon and every day for the next six days (weather permitting of course). We should have bears catching salmon every day. In addition, we will get some nice stuff on Mew Gull and Glaucous-winged Gulls dining on roe and the remains of predated salmon. We may–depending on where the concentrations of bears are–get to photograph Harbor seals and some hauled out Steller’s Sea Lions (an endangered species). Halibut fishing (license required) is optional. On September 8, our last morning on the boat, those who would like to enjoy one last photo session will do so. The group returns to Kodiak via float plane midday. Most folks will fly to Anchorage and then continue on red-eye flights to their home cities.

The eight days will consist of six full days (Sept 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7) of photography featuring lots of Coastal Brown Bears catching salmon as above plus a variety of other natural history subjects plus some nice scenic photography that I forgot to mention above. Plus the first afternoon and the last morning.

What’s included? 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS on the boat as above. All meals on the boat. (The food is quite excellent.) National Park fees. One night’s double occupancy lodging on Kodiak; arrive: Sept 1/depart: Sept 2. The thank-you-in-advance dinner on Sept 1. In-the-field photo tips, instruction, and guidance. An insight into the mind of a top professional; I will constantly let you know what I am thinking, what I am doing, and why I am doing it. Small group image review, image sharing, and Photoshop instruction on the boat.

What’s not included: Your round trip airfare to and from Kodiak, AK (almost surely through Anchorage). All necessary lodging other than the cost of your double occupancy room on the night of August 31 should you opt to arrive early–we can arrange that in advance for you. We will let you know the cost of a single supplement for the one night if so desired. The cost of the round-trip float plane to the boat on September 2 and back to Kodiak on September 9. The cost of a round trip this year was $500. The suggested crew tip of $210.

Is this an expensive trip? Yes, of course. But with 6 full and two half days, a wealth of great subjects, and the fact that you will be walking with the bears just yards away (or less….) it will be one of the great natural history experiences of your life. Most folks who take part in a Bear Boat IPT wind up coming back for more.

A $2,000 per person non-refundable deposit by check only made out to “Arthur Morris” is required to hold your spot. Please click here to read our cancellation policy. Then please print, read, and sign the necessary paperwork here and send it to us.

Your deposit is due immediately. That will leave a balance of $4699. The next payment of $2699 will be due on February 15, 2015. The final payment of $2000 is due on May 1, 2015.

I hope that you can join us for this wondrously exciting trip.

By e-mail from Bill Keown, veteran of three bear boat trips!

Hi Artie, What a great trip! With the exception of the one bright sunny day it was just great. Very different from my first trip in June where we only had the bears clamming; the fishing bears were amazing! As always I learned a lot and enjoyed the group immensely. All the Best, Bill


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18 comments to Just Barely In. How understanding one simple principle can improve your bird photography…

  • avatar steve soderling

    Moved to the right for sure. When moving left or right and maintaining the same focus point, anything behind the focus pint appears to move the same direction as the camera, while anything in front of the focus point appears to move the opposite direction.

    I have to concur with John G. on guessing which camera body is being used. Any time an image really jumps at me with especially good detail, I know it is the 1DX and I haven’t guessed wrong yet. This is somewhat surprising as the 7DII has much higher resolution in the sensor and should theoretically provide better detail. I also have the 7DII and I am having trouble getting good sharp images even when comparing to the 40D I was using before. Any other 7DII users having trouble with sharpness?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Steve, I have trouble getting all of my images sharp with a 7D II. Same as with my 1D X and my 5D II and all of my previous camera bodies 🙂

      I will try to put together a “Which Camera?” quiz so that you guys can show off 🙂 a

      ps: it will likely take some time and will be very difficult to do it right….. For lots of reasons.

  • avatar Ar

    Right. The bird now is more in front of the left branches.

  • avatar David Peake

    Hi Art,
    You moved a little to the right for sure. If the subject stays in position,then Bkgr moves same direction as photographer ( relatively speaking).
    I only found you a few days before the end of March so you can imagine my dismay after being away all week,to return and find you had retired.
    Nearly cried but decided to go back and review all the cool stuff lon your blog. Discovered the post that followed and laughed pretty hard. Retirement felt so out of character. So you got me. Well done. Thanks so much for all the great stuff you do. Now I’m hooked, so you have “gotten” me twice.
    Kind regards,

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes, very much out of character. Good to see you here. later and love and YAW. artie

  • avatar Bill Brinkhorst

    You moved to the left. There is a small “nub” just to our left of the bird that is lined up with a dark area of the background in picture #1. In picture #2 that dark area has moved to the right of the “nub”. If the background, behind an object, is moving to the right it means that you are moving to the left.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Bill, Not sure which nub and dark area you are talking about…. But, consider this. Put one palm in front of the other in front of your face, one behind the other. Move your head to the right. What happens to the hand in the back???

  • avatar Brian Carson

    Hi Art- when taking a photo of a bird..should you put the active focus point on the eye or a spot parralel to the eye.?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      On the eye is ideal if AF holds. Or generally on the face or neck is great as well. But when working at f/8 with only the center AF point you often need to try a spot on the bird on the same plane as the eye (not parallel to…) artie

  • This might be purely coincidence or could be totally my imagination, but lately I have been playing a guessing game to see if I can guess which camera Artie used for the photo. I really hate to say this because I do have the 7DII (and love it), but it seems I can usually tell the 1DX image usually because to my eyes, the image quality just seems to have something extra, something a bit smoother or creamier. Maybe to be expected given the price differential. Anyone else noticing this?

  • avatar Loren Charif

    Moved slightly right. More direct frontal angle. Another tipoff is the small area of sky showing through the foliage at the top (directly above/behind the bill tip); in the second image it’s slightly to the right of where it is in the first image, indicating that your camera angle on the bird was a bit to the left of the first image to get the more direct frontal angle.

  • I’m in the moved right camp. It’s the only direction that makes sense.

  • avatar Ken Siegel

    Moved left so the tree in the background no longer intersected with the pelican’s head.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Opinion is divided. Did I move left or did I move right…. Try putting some objects on a table to represent the bird and the BKGR stick…. Then move both left and right and see how the juxtaposition changes….

  • Artie, Great stuff. You moved to the right to ensure the distracting darker branch was no longer protruding from the pelican. Willy

  • avatar Cris Hamilton

    Hi Art – love the Pelican image. You moved to the right to get the background branch out of his back.

  • avatar lowell dickson

    You may have moved slightly to your left because there is a third layer of bush above the other 2.It’s not in the first image.