Light, Subject, and Background to Die For … And Depth of Field and Distance to the Background Lesson « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Light, Subject, and Background to Die For ... And Depth of Field and Distance to the Background Lesson

What’s Up?

I am somewhere in South America. I hope that you are well. Jim and Jen are at the office most days to help you with your mail order needs and Instructional Photo-Tour sign-ups. I still need folks for San Diego, Japan, Galapagos, the Palouse, and the Bear Boat (Grizzly Cubs) trips. Among others 🙂 Please e-mail for couples and discount info for all of the above. Click here for complete IPT info.

I will have intermittent internet access for the rest of my South American adventure. I get back home late on December 25, 2016. Best and great picture making, artie

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of the folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear, especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

The Streak: 389!

Today’s blog post marks a totally insane, irrational, illogical, preposterous, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, what’s wrong with this guy?, makes-no-sense, 389 days in a row with a new educational blog post. There should be no end in sight until my big South America trip next fall. Or not… As always-–and folks have been doing a really great job recently–-please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. For best results use one of our many product-specific links; after clicking on one of those you can continue shopping with all subsequent purchases invisibly tracked to BAA. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated. Please remember: web orders only. And please remember also that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the new BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


This image was created on Bleaker Island, The Falklands with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/640 sec. at f/13. AWB>

One AF point below the center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter Button AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was on the upper corner of the bird’s eye.

Rockhopper Penguin in early morning light

Light, Subject, and Background to Die For …

We woke early and hiked from the secluded Rookery cabin on Saunders to the rockhopper rookery. With the colony in the shade of a big hill I created a stitched pano of one segment of the colony with the tripod-mounted 100-400 II. When the sun crested the hill I worked the edges of the lower colony picking off single birds at the edges. This strategy works well in a great variety of bird photography situations including working a flock of birds at the beach; working the edges makes it easier to isolate. By pulling out the leg tab on the forward facing leg I was easily able to get about a foot lower and wind up with a background that was a combination of yellow lichens and green grass. For me, the early morning light and the open bill make this one special.

Whaddaya think?

Please leave a comment and let us know what you like or don’t like about this image.

Depth of Field and Distance to the Background Lesson

Notice that with the background probably 60 yards behind the rockhopper’s head that even with the relatively small aperture of f/13 the background is beautifully blurred. With backgrounds more proximal to the subject such small apertures can get you in trouble by bringing up unwanted background detail. And if the background is very close to the subject not even apertures of f/2.8 or f/4 will yield a soft, pleasingly out of focus background.


A New MP4 Image Optimization Video: $20

See the complete image optimization of the Rockhopper Penguin in early morning light image featured above as well as the image optimization for the Taming the Whites Black-browed Albatross in the wide-ranging, one hour three minute Rockhopper and Black-browed Albatross Image Optimization MP4 Instructional Video. The latter will be published on the blog in a few days. Topics covered in the two sections include moving the subject back in the frame, saving the WHITEs, NeatImage noise reduction, a variety of image clean-up on a layer techniques, creating and refining Quick Masks, removing specular highlights, understanding why you might have background noise in an ISO 400 image, using my NIK Color EFEX Pro 25/25 and 50/50 recipes, comparing one of those recipes with the results from a Linear Burn, Keyboard Shortcuts, creating and sharpening JPEGs for electronic use, and amazingly, lots more.

You can purchase your copy of the great new Black-browed Albatross Image Optimization MP4 Instructional Video in the BAA Online Store by clicking here.

And you can see the complete MP4 video collection here.

Falklands Cheap Land-based IPT DEC 22, 2018 thru JAN 5, 2019: Limit 7 photographers/Openings 6: $7499

I will be leading an innovative land-based Falklands IPT leaving from Stanley, The Falklands on SAT 22 DEC 2018 and flying back to Santiago, Chile on SAT JAN 5, 2019. Why innovative? We will be spending six nights at The Neck on Saunders Island, one of the premier wildlife photography destinations on the planet. We will be ending up on the amazing Bleaker Island. I will let you know in January when the trip will be formally announced as to we will be spending seven nights on Bleaker or 3 nights on Sea Lion Island and 4 on Bleaker. I will make that decision after visiting Sea Lion on the DEC 2016 land-based Falklands IPT that I am leading.

What else is innovative? Most two-week land-based photo trips have you visiting four or five islands hopping on a FIGAS plane every two days or so. As you are at the mercy of the flight operations you may miss several mornings or afternoons of photography. Why not stay in two or three of the best locations, locations that offer the best photo opps without any long walks. Saunders and Bleaker will get you close-up to the great species with ease. At The Neck we will be staying in rustic cabins right in the heart of the action. On Bleaker we will be enjoying near-luxury accommodations and great home-cooked meals. We will have two vehicles at our disposal.

What else? The first Black-browed Albatross chicks hatch every year on or about 12 DEC. If you visit in early January you will miss most of the tiny chicks. And worse yet, the Rockhopper Penguin chicks are leaving by the second week of January. This trip if timed to get you tons of chances on tiny fluffy white albatross chicks, some of the larger fluffy white chicks, and the rockhopper chicks as well.

With several years of experience on the Falklands, more than six in fact, nobody knows how to read the sky conditions, the wind, and the light better than me and have the group in the best possible spot at all times. With lots of strong west winds, you will need someone who knows how to put you in position to make good images on near impossible mornings.

If you are seriously interested, please shoot me an e-mail and I will get back to you during the second week of November.

Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, 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 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, and for everything else in the new store, 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 those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store as well.


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


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

4 comments to Light, Subject, and Background to Die For … And Depth of Field and Distance to the Background Lesson

  • avatar Wilfred Marissen

    Great shot, perhaps you would have preferred a slightly better head angle parallel to sensor? Or perhaps the eyeball that seems to be “sinking” into the eye pocket? No matter what, I think the colors and sharpness are exceptional!

    Cheers, Wilfred

  • Oh My.. What an awesome image. Beautiful light and background…

    Thank you for sharing this image.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Nothing not to like; it’s a wonderful image. Did you consider a vertical (portrait) crop? Why or why not?

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    Beautiful subject, Beautiful background, incredible sharpness!