Gorgeous Bird, Gorgeous Light: Vary Your Compositions… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Gorgeous Bird, Gorgeous Light: Vary Your Compositions...


I got lots accomplished on Wednesday but still had time for a good swim, my core exercises, and an ice bath before dinner. This blog post, the 112th in a row, took about 1 1/4 hours to prepare. It was published at 4am on Thursday morning.

6:18am Update

I awoke just before 5am to discover a first. Due to a snafu, most of this post had mysteriously disappeared… At first it seemed that I would need to start from scratch but by hitting the back button I was able to get to a preview view. From that I was able to recreate the post in about 20 minutes. Whew! Starting over would have required at least an hour’s additional work.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Short-Notice Spoonbill and Wading Bird Chicks IPT: May 4-6, 2015. TWO FULL and TWO 1/2 DAYS: $1099. Limit 8/Openings 5.

Enjoy practically private instruction. Please call the office at 863-692-0906 for St. Augustine IPT Late Registration Discount info. For complete details see the blog post here and scroll down.

Canon’s Huge Megapixel Bodies

Many of you have read about the two new Canon 50+ megapixel bodies, the Canon EOS 5DS DSLR and the Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR. The two cameras look, sound, and pretty much are quite similar. I have withheld commenting until now because I did not have a good–heck, I did not have any–understanding of the single difference between the two bodies, that being the Low-Pass Filter Effect Cancellation.

If you missed the hugely popular “Canon’s Two New 50+ Megapixel Camera Bodies/You Must Read This Before You Buy,” you can click here to catch up and learn a ton to boot.

Please Remember to use our Affiliate Links 🙂

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you use our the B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. B&H is recommended for you major photography gear purchases, Amazon for your household, entertainment, and general purpose stuff. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod heads, Gitzo tripods, Wimberley heads and plates, LensCoats and accessories, and the like. We sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. I just learned that my account was suspended during my absence; it should be up and running by Monday at the latest.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and visiting the BAA Online store as well.


This image was created on the afternoon of Day 1 of the Fort DeSoto IPT while seated with the hand held hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400: 1/2000 sec. at f/8 is the standard bright WHITEs in full sun exposure. Manual mode. AWB.

Two AF points to the left and one row above the center AF Point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter Button AF (on the crease of the gape as originally framed) was active at the moment of exposure. 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 my 1D X AF Guide and the 5D Mark III User’s Guide. Click on the image to see a larger version..

Image #1: Laughing Gull/head portrait

A Gorgeous, Under-appreciated Species

At the peak of breeding plumage, Laughing Gull, Larus atricilla, is quite a handsome bird: red eye skin, white eye crescents, wine red legs, and a blood red bill fit nicely with it gray upperparts and stark white breast and belly. To many, it is just a gull. To me it is a beautiful bird that makes a great photographic subject.


This image was also created on the afternoon of Day 1 of the Fort DeSoto IPT while seated with the hand held hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400: 1/2000 sec. at f/8 is the standard bright WHITEs in full sun exposure. Manual mode. AWB.

Five AF points and one column to the right of the center AF Point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter Button AF (on base of the black hood as originally framed) was active at the moment of exposure. 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 my 1D X AF Guide and the 5D Mark III User’s Guide..

Image #2: Laughing Gull/front end vertical portrait

On Composition Here

The key for successful head portraits like the one that opened this blog post is to make sure that the bird’s eye is well above the horizontal centerline of the image; do this by carefully selecting your active AF point. The way that I describe front end vertical portraits is that you should always “give ‘em an inch behind the legs.” This design works well for many mammals as well as for birds.

Learn more about composition and image design in the section on Advanced Composition and Image Design in The Art of Bird Photography II (ABP II: 916 pages, 900+ images each with my legendary educational captions: on CD only. Adapts easily to an i-Pad.) ABP II is the digital follow-up to the original classic (now in soft cover only) The Art of Bird Photography, the best place around to learn exposure theory. Buy the 2-book bundle and save $10 here. If I am home I am always glad to sign and personalize the softcover books.

Image Questions

#1: Why was it important for me to be seated rather than standing for these two images?

#2: What would have been the easiest way to make Image #2 even stronger?

The Stronger of the Two?

Which of the two images presented here is the stronger of the two/ Why?


Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack!

Support the BAA Blog. Support the BAA Bulletins: Shop B&H here!

We want and need to keep providing you with the latest free information, photography and Photoshop lessons, and all manner of related information. Show your appreciation by making your purchases immediately after clicking on any of our B&H or Amazon Affiliate links in this blog post. Remember, B&H ain’t just photography!



Those who prefer to support BAA by shopping with Amazon may use this link:

Amazon Canada

Many kind folks from north of the border, eh, have e-mailed stating that they would love to help us out by using one of our affiliate links but that living in Canada and doing so presents numerous problems. Now, they can help us out by using our Amazon Canada affiliate link by starting their searches by clicking here. Many thanks to those who have written.


In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

19 comments to Gorgeous Bird, Gorgeous Light: Vary Your Compositions…

  • avatar Gary Axten

    Heh it’s hard to say when both are very good. I suppose it is the closeness of the image, in some it would be overwhelming but with this it highlights the strengths of the image; the contrasts, the richness of the beak and the details on the face. Though I do prefer the neck position on the second image.

    The different composure of the second image make it feel a little crowded whereas the first doesn’t, I think I would like a little more space around the bird & especially some space for the feet.

    Oh, the slightly open bill in the second image is good as well.

  • avatar Gary Axten

    I prefer the first, a nice strong image. Is the double eye highlight a reflection from the water?

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. I enjoy quoting you as saying “point your camera at a gull and it will do something interesting.” I credit many of my favorite bird photographs to that advice. Gulls are wonderful birds. In these two lovely images, the gull was not actually doing anything particularly interesting, but still the images are fine and interesting. I prefer #1 for the overall composition and balance, and I just have a general preference for landscape orientation, although I take my share of portrait shots.

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    My favorite is #2 because of the red legs balancing the red bill. Rounder head looks good too. Beautiful colors

  • Outstanding images. May I know the specific Gull ID? Thanks.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Quazi. Please see the image captions for the name of the gull 🙂 artie

  • avatar David Peake

    Another Artie-fact, another abreviation.
    Hi Artie.,
    I went to bed last night after one last look at the web in vain to see it the rest of your post would come through.
    Very happy to see it this morning.
    As usual there’s the main lesson , and there’s the other lesson.
    Firstly the questions.
    Your choice of a low position is to get a clean background. So far, In my time as a photographer, you do this more consistently than anyone I know.
    I think image one is stronger simply because no two feels a bit too crowded in the frame.
    Does it make sense that I like no two better. A wee bit more room above and in front please , and a little more behind the legs.
    The colours are great.
    Once again , something else to learn from your post.
    The. Artie-fact!
    Give Em about an inch I front. That’s another one for my growing list.
    The abreviation?
    Afraid to guess what this might mean.Snafu???
    As always
    Kind regards

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Snafu. A WWWII acronym that has come into common usage: situation normal, all fouled up. Usually not used with fouled…. This was pretty interesting: http://www.snafu.com/Snafu/SnafuStory.html a

      • avatar David Peake

        Thanks Artie.
        Just reread my coments. A few typos creeping in. The text box is pretty small and I,m having trouble seeing the small writing. snafu Something nobody anticipated …… 🙂

  • avatar Warren H

    1)sitting allows the background to be further away than if you were standing, which creates a better blur.
    2) Adding a digital blur to some of the water below the bird/ near legs would have made the image a little stronger. (Takes away a little distraction.

    I like Image #2 better. Mainly because I like seeing the whole bird, the curves, the contrasting colors, etc. I also like the blue background color better.

  • #1 is my pick. That beak is so striking. Eye ring is nice but big old beak is just super!

  • I prefer the first. Having the feet cut off in the second image bothers me.

  • avatar Deirdre Sheerr-Gross

    Great shots.. Love the Bird…

    Which is why I like #2, much more interesting, for me:
    Those Red socks that match the dramatic red bill and eye ring!!
    The composition: Love the long round white curve
    that leads you from the red beak/eye to those fab red legs;
    The repeating curves: Head, stomach, back of neck, wing, bill, eye, neck band.
    The red vertical line created by the leg reflection and legs, nails down the bottom corner.
    Better looking bird… the rounder head…
    and yes.. maybe a tad more room at the top/left of the shot….

    Artie you show restraint showing these “tame” positions..
    Since it was at the height of the breeding season,
    I can only remember these “guys” & gals” constantly in mating positions!!
    Quite a show!

    Thanks for another great IPT!!

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    1. To get a nice background bokeh rather than water detail.
    2. Get rid of the leg reflections (i.e. – bit lower) and give this one just half an inch.

    I prefer one as it has plenty of room in front whereas the second is a bit cramped in the frame (2 above may help there).

  • avatar Everett Gauthier


    Your Facebook link is on the lower left not the upper right on my screen.