Photographing Erratically Flying Ducks/100-400 II Versatility Continued… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Photographing Erratically Flying Ducks/100-400 II Versatility Continued...

What’s Up?

We photographed a wonderful old prairie home in the early morning; I made probably my favorite image of the trip. I will share it with you here soon. Then we photographed a barn that we had been searching for for a year. We made out trek to Palouse Falls State Park that Monday afternoon and photographed the Yellow-bellied Marmots and the falls.

This blog post, the 152nd in a row, took about 1 1/2 hours to prepare. It was published just after 1:00am on Tuesday.


This image was created on the San Diego IPT with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 400mm) and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/2500 sec. at f/5.6.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter Button AF was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). The center AF point was on the base of the bird’s left leg. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Ring-necked Duck drake in flight

Photographing Erratically Flying Birds

Photographing birds that are flying erratically, even relatively large birds like ducks, it a huge challenge for most including me. The biggest part of the challenge is keeping the active AF point on the bird’s eye, face, or neck (as I failed to do here). Even though we had the perfect situation with the wind from east and the sun right behind us, the zig-zagging flight of the incoming ducks tested one’s hand eye coordination to the max and to a lesser degree, their arm strength and stamina.

For some good tips on photographing small birds in flight, see Doug West comments on the recent blog post here.


Note that the active AF point is nowhere near the bird’s eye, face or neck but that the image is relatively sharp on the duck’s eye.

The DPP 4 Screen Capture

Though I had the active AF sensor on the bird’s foot, the system did a great job of accurately tracking the subject and producing an image that was sharp on the eye. My personalized Custom Case 3 settings surely had something to do with the success of this image.

From multiple IPT participant Stokes Fishburne via e-mail:

Dear Art, Many, many thanks for setting the AI Servo controls on my 7D II ls for me. It made a world of difference. When I first purchased the 7D II I had trouble producing tack sharp images as I had with the 1D Mark IV. I just could not seem to get the right combination for AI Servo AF. Thanks to the options that Canon built into the camera and your Custom Case 3 setting my birds in flight are now almost all sharp and I am now very happy with the 7D Mk II. It is a great camera.

See you in the Palouse. Thanks again…. Stokes Fishburne

The Image Optimization

After converting the image in DPP 4 it was brought into Photoshop. The optimization was straightforward: I ran my NIK 50-50 on the bird only, did some Eye Doctor work on the eyes, sharpened the face with a contrast mask, and executed my final crop.


San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects. With annual visits spanning more than three decades I have lot of experience there….

2015 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) JAN 8 thru the morning of JAN 12, 2016: $1899 (Limit: 10)

Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the day before the IPT begins
Two great leaders: Arthur Morris and Denise Ippolito

Join us in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches; Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants in breeding plumage with their amazing crests; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heerman’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions likely; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the two IPT cards there are some nice landscape opportunities as well.

Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter?

This IPT will include five 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, four 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, five lunches, after-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions, and a thank you dinner. 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 us 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 11/1//2015. 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. 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.


Though the pelicans will be the stars of the show on this IPT there will be many other handsome and captivating subjects in wonderful settings.



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