Happiness Is. Bathing Beauty Tips & Which Came First? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Happiness Is. Bathing Beauty Tips & Which Came First?


With the shoulder healing there will be no swimming for a while but I did enjoy my ice bath. Yesterday I got five optimized hi-res files on the way to the folks at The Nat, the San Diego Natural History Museum to be used for advanced publicity for my solo exhibit. It will feature 60 of my very favorite images from the past 33 years, will be opening next January, and hang for three months. I got lots more done on Thursday including working on a few writing projects.

This blog post, the 127th in a row took about 1 1/2 hours to prepare. It was published at about 5:30am on Friday morning. Enjoy and learn.

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This image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

One AF point below the center AF point/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was on the lower center of the bird’s near wing. 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 in breeding plumage “Look Ma, No Head”

Happiness Is

For me, happiness is the next breath. But when I am sitting behind my lowered tripod in a foot of water–lots more on that soon and how I fried a 1D X–on a calm morning with several shorebirds right down sun angle set against a pleasing distant, background, I am in what for me is bird photographer’s heaven. And it is exactly why I had the alarm set for 3:00am on Wednesday morning.

Bathing Bird Realizations

I am realizing more and more that when attempting to capture the after-bath flapping action that being a bit too far away is a lot better than being a bit too close. Too close and you almost always wind up clipping wings. In today’s two images we see the great advantage of being well back from the subject: you can get the whole bird in the frame on the front flap and on the overhead flap. And though I did not get it on this sequence, the same holds true for the wings-swept-all-the-way-back flap.

Exposure Fine Point Question

For the most part I was photographing Marbled Godwits and Short-billed Dowitchers in the sweet early morning light. With those two species I went with Evaluative metering +2/3 stop; that worked out to be 1/1250 sec. at 6.3. Why did I go 1/3 stop darker with the breeding plumage black-bellieds?


This image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

One AF point below the center AF point/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was just below the bird’s rear belly; the three assist point directly above the selected point surely helped maintain accurate focus. 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 in breeding plumage “Ballet

Image Questions…

Which Came First?

Which image was created first in this two-frame sequence? How do you know? Please be specific.

Did I Move the Lens?

Did I move the lens when creating this two-frame sequence? How do you know? Please be specific.

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22 comments to Happiness Is. Bathing Beauty Tips & Which Came First?

  • avatar Andrew G

    1. They’re shot in order they’re shown. Second picture-water droplets below bird.Birds jump up after bath-that’s what I learned from you to watch for last year in Jamaica Bay WR 🙂

    2. Lens rotated slightly to the left-distance between grass and frame’s edge. It’d be close to impossible to move a tripod such a small distance especially in the water in short time and then you’d risk not getting a picture on top of that.

  • avatar Doug

    1/3 stop darker to avoid blowing out the whites. The other 2 birds are mid-tone browns which allow higher exposure level.

    Images are presented in order taken. The 2nd is a take off. Feet are relaxed and dropping back. If it were landing they would be forward and open, ready to take the load. Water ripples are wider and more dispersed in the second image, even to the point of reaching the blades of grass and causing them to move to the left and stand straight up.

    Lens moved slightly up and to the left in the second shot. Brown patch at the water line is visible on the right edge in the first image but not on the second. In focus grasses moved further into the frame in the second image and they dropped lower in the frame.

  • I’ll probably be sorry I wrote this but here it goes: regarding the black-bellied shots, with a neutral background you might anticipate that the sensor could overexpose the black-bellied white plumage so since you were in manual mode you stopped down 1/3 stop so the whites wouldn’t be blown out.

  • Artie, congrats on the show at The Nat! You’ve accomplished tons in the past 33 years and it shouldn’t surprise anybody.

  • avatar David Peake

    Well Artie,
    this post was a little later than usual and I couldn’t reconcile several of the details in the two shots so I decided to sleep on it.
    Now 7 am and after a further hr of deliberation, going back and forth between images. I have refrained from refreshing the page since last night so that I will make my own decision without looking at the answers and reasoning of others. So far on my screen only dougs reply is visible.
    So here’s the thing. I suspect you of being tricky.
    So my answer is yes you moved the camera that’s easy and obvious.
    The first image posted is the second in the sequence.
    Reasons why.
    Camera movement.
    There is a different amount of space between Lh frame edge and the two reeds near that edge.
    The horizon line between water and reeds is different ie the camera angle is higher for one shot than the other.
    If I am correct about the sequence then i question why the camera apparently panned down and to the right for a bird taking off towards the left of frame.
    Resolving this has taxed my brain a bit.
    From observation of some birds generally, the dynamics of getting airborne are complex.
    They seem to leap up and the first beat or two of their wings is a bit of a prayer and a couple of Hail Marys . Just like a heavily laden top dressing plane they need a bit of a down hill slide to get some airspeed and thus lift.
    I wonder if the two frames posted are adjacent or separated by one or perhaps two frames.
    So my reasoning why the camera may have moved opposite to what you would expect for this frame order is that with the long focal length you are using (600, 1.4 TC , 7 d. 1.6 crop factor. – 1344 apparent FOV) you managed to jiggle the camera a tiny bit in your excitement as the plover took off.
    My reasoning for the image sequence comes from the Hail Mary observation mentioned above and two other details.
    There are two water droplets visible behind and at about birds shoulder hight in the first image posted ( second in sequence).these are higher than they appear behind the birds feet in the first image in the sequence So bird jumps up ,water flys , wings beat, Hail Mary, bird sinks towards water surface and droplets are higher in the second image of the sequence.
    Reason two.
    There seem to be three little something’s in the water near the reeds in the first frame of sequence.
    If the water is flowing left to right of frame which I think it is just a bit then these three something’s you would expect to see further to the right in the second image which does indeed appear to be the case and is partly why I think the images are maybe several frames apart.
    Well I have studied hard. Now I’m gonna say a prayer, hit the Post button and read everyone else’s responses.
    As always

    • avatar David Peake

      Ok so I just checked the shot info and it says wing flap not ‘Taking off’, so same sequence as noted but bird not going to flight but landing instead.
      That makes sense now.

      • avatar David Peake

        Also explains why his feet seem to be planted back in the water and the small water droplet kicked up in front of him as he lands back in the water.

  • I believe that the second image of the black-bellied plover came second–the one in mid air. If like Short-billed Dowitchers and other shore birds. They bath first, flap their wings, then jump up in the air last.

  • avatar Graham hedrick

    Art, I am curious to hear how you fried your 1d x.

  • I would guess that the second image was second because of the drops of water falling down. I believe the lens was moved because the angle of the reflection of the two strands of water weeds differs between the pictures. Still struggling with your exposure questions, could you have gone 1/3 darker so belly did not look washed out?

  • avatar Geoff

    2nd came 1st. Water is too disturbed in the first from just a standing wing flap.
    Lens was moved a from left to right from the 2nd image to the 1st. The sharp blades of grass have moved in position to the OOF blades behind. I think the bird jumped and then as it landed you moved the lens a bit right to get back on the bird.

  • avatar Doug Doornink

    I agree, happiness is enjoying each day we are given, just as we were created to do.

    1. The first image was taken first and the second one second because the water droplets were created when the bird rose up out of the water.
    2. The lens didn’t move, or at least not very much, because the two in-focus blades of grass are lined up with the same background detail in both images.


  • And on the second question, I’d say “yes”. Although the general framing is simialr, the blade of grass on the left (and indeed the out-of-focus grass) is distinctly altered in position in the frame. Looks like you moved the frame left in anticipation of the bird flying off, but it simply went straight up and down.


  • I think the second came first – the plover has “jumped-up”, given a mid-jump wing flap, or maybe more accurately a “wing shake”, and then landed.


  • avatar Warren H

    I would also say the first image came first – The bird is taking off. The bird is closer to the foreground vegetation to the left of image. Also, there is water splash in the second image. If it was landing and had not reached the water yet, there would be no droplets in the air.

    I believe you did move the camera by rotating to the left – following the bird as it took off. You can see the small foreground grass on left is moved in relation to the background.

    • avatar Warren H

      I love the second image, especially the wing blur. The blur appears to be motion blur, not Depth of Field blur. I would have thought 1/1600 should have stopped the motion more than that…

  • avatar Pat Fishburne

    Art: I would love to know what your favorite 60 images are (over 33 years)! But, we will be in Florida, not San Diego, next winter. Do you plan to publish your favorites?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes, there will be a CD book with the exhibit images and the stories that go with them. All birds. later and love, artie

  • avatar chris billman

    those two grass shafts in the lower left corner change alignment as you moved to your left…

  • Which Came First?

    I would say the 2nd image came second. If the Plover was landing, I
    wouldn’t expect to see the splash coming from behind the feet. So he’s
    taking off…hence #1 came first.

    Did you move the lens?

    I’d guess no. To my eyes everything seems to be in the same spot.