Bird Photography Tip #1 and Bird Photography Tip #2 « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Bird Photography Tip #1 and Bird Photography Tip #2

What’s Up?

After seven straight days of great photography on the Japan in Winter IPT our eagle boat trip out of Rausu on the morning of Tuesday, 21 FEB was a big challenge. We drove three hours through beautiful blowing snow but when we got on the boat we were greeted by wind against sun conditions … We got off the boat and within ten minutes the beautiful blowing snow returned. Talk about bad luck! The boys and girls were quite understanding as we had a fabulous cloudy day on our first trip up there.

I will surely have good internet access every day. I get home late on 28 FEB.

Request 🙂

If I screw up The Streak numbers please let me know.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of 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: 466!

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, 465 days in a row with a new educational blog post. As always–and folks have been doing a really great for a long time now–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 BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would of course appreciate your business.

This image was created on the 2016 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/500 sec at f/8 in Manual mode. AWB.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: +5.

Center AF point (Manual selection)/AI Servo/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was on top of the black neck band directly below and right on the same plane as the bird’s eye.

Image #1: Atlantic Puffin with bill open

Bird Photography Tip #1

When you are photographing a bird that is posing for you, be patient. Lots of folks have an “I’ve got this picture already so let’s get on to another subject” attitude. By waiting, you will often be rewarded with an open bill, a wing flap or stretch, or by the bird shaking out its feathers. Or with something unexpected and even better. Most any behavior will an image more interesting than one of the bird just sitting there. Be sure, however to create lots of “just portraits” as in the long run, one or two will stand head and shoulders above the rest in a series of similar images due to a variety of factors that might include minute changes in head angle, eye position and/or focus, attitude, light, and many other possible factors.

About a decade and a half ago, I did an article for what was then “Birder’s World” magazine entitled “Go For the Gulls.” I wrote, “If you point your lens at a gull, you will usually not have to wait long for it to do something special.” The same obviously goes for puffins.

These image was created on the 2016 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (at 560mm) with the rugged, blazingly fast Canon EOS-1D X Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/640 sec at f/9 in Manual mode. AWB.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: +5.

Two AF points up from the center AF point AI Servo/Surround/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was on fish just to our right of the tip of the bill, well forward of the plane of the bird’s eyes.

Image #2: Atlantic Puffin with fish in bill

Bird Photography Tip #2

Images of birds staring right down the lens barrel can be very powerful. And I mean right down the barrel as in today’s second featured image. At times, if the bird head is turned even a fraction of a degree to one side or the other, the effect is lost. If a bird like a pelican is completely still, you can often move into position to ensure that you get the perfect down the barrel shot. On the other hand, if a bird is turning its head slowly, you should try rapid fire as its head swivels. With luck, you will get one perfect one.

The Stronger Image?

Which is the stronger of today’s two featured images, #1 or #2? Be sure to let us know why you made your choice.


Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

2017 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT
Monday July 3 through Monday July 10, 2017: $5999: Limit 10 photographers — Openings: 6). Two great leaders: Arthur Morris and BPN co-owner, BPN Photography Gear Forum Moderator, and long-time BAA Webmaster Peter Kes.

Here are the plans: take a red eye from the east coast of the US on July 2 and arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland on the morning of Monday July 3 no later than 10am (or simply meet us then at the Edinburgh Airport–EDI, or later in the day at our cottages if you are driving your own vehicle either from the UK or from somewhere in Europe). Stay 7 nights in one of three gorgeous modern country cottages.

There are five days of planned puffin/seabird trips and one morning of gannet photography, all weather permitting of course. In three years we have yet to miss an entire day because of weather… In addition, we will enjoy several sessions of photographing nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes at eye level.


Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

The Details

We will get to photograph Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, Razorbill, Shag, and Northern Gannet; Arctic, Sandwich, and Common Terns, the former with chicks of all sizes; Black-headed, Lesser-Black-backed, and Herring Gulls, many chasing puffins with fish; Black-legged Kittiwake with chicks. We will be staying in upscale country-side lodging that are beyond lovely with large living areas and lots of open space for the informal image sharing and Photoshop sessions. The shared rooms are decent-sized, each with a private bathroom. See the limited single supplement info below.

All breakfasts, lunches and dinners are included. All 5 puffins boat lunches will need to be prepared by you in advance, taken with, and consumed at your leisure. I usually eat mine on the short boat trip from one island to the other. Also included is a restaurant lunch on the gannet boat day.

If you wish to fly home on the morning of Monday July 10 we will get you to the airport. Please, however, consider the following tentative plans: enjoy a second Gannet boat trip on the afternoon of Monday July 10 and book your hotel room in Dunbar. If all goes as planned, those who stay on for the two extra days will make a morning landing at Bass Rock, one of the world’s largest gannetries. We will get everyone to the airport on the morning of Wednesday July 12. (We may opt to stay in Edinburgh on the night of July 11.) Price and details should be finalized at least six months before the trip but you will need to be a bit patient. It would be ideal if I can get all the work done by the end of September so that folks can arrange their flights then.


Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version. Scroll down to join us in the UK in 2016.

Deposit Info

If you are good to go sharing a room–couples of course are more than welcome–please send your non-refundable $2,000/person deposit check now to save a spot. Please be sure to check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below. Your balance will be due on March 29, 2017. Please make your check out to “Arthur Morris” and send it to Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. 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. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

Please shoot me an e-mail if you are good to go or if you have any questions.

Single Supplement Deposit Info

Single supplement rooms are available on a limited basis. To ensure yours, please register early. The single supplement fee is $1575. If you would like your own room, please request it when making your deposit and include payment in full for the single supplement; your single supplement deposit check should be for $3,575. As we will need to commit to renting the extra space, single supplement deposits are non-refundable so please be sure that check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for big international trips is highly recommended as we never know what life has in store for us. I strongly recommend that you purchase quality insurance. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to include things such as sudden work or family obligation and even a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check of running your credit card. Whenever purchasing travel insurance be sure to read the fine print careful even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.

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 please remember that I am 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, 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 :).

19 comments to Bird Photography Tip #1 and Bird Photography Tip #2

  • avatar David Policansky

    Great tips, Artie, which I have been following and crediting you for over quite a few years. So thanks again. Number 2 for me because of the fish, also the head-on pose.

  • Clear preference for #1, I feel more of a connection with the bird. #2 is fantastic, nonetheless! Not many folks can nail a down-the-barrel shot like this.

  • avatar Brendan

    Clear preference for #2 for me.

    #2 is a more unusual puffin photo. Usually, the eye drawn to the bill (of course), but the rest of bird is lovely too. This picture emphasizes the striking nature of the whole bird. I love the sharp contrast between the black upper parts and white lowers and vibrant orange feet. The behavior captured (tons of fish held at once) is a great classic puffin feature. I love the way the eyes look a little menacing.

    The first picture is a little static to me, even with the open mouth. The bird itself is a little more ruffled and messy looking compared to #2. I think the fact that it is sitting takes away from the dynamic nature of it.

  • #2 for me. The focus on the front-on face with fish totally dominates the point of interest and imho the oof feet dont distract at all. If the eye wanders from the face it finds the oof feet and automatically redirects to the face…great image

  • Simple tips; great advise. Often, being reminded about what you think you know, is wonderful reinforcement. Thank you! Looking forward to #100 after WE read 3 – 99. 😉

  • avatar Jay

    Like Elinor, I wish the feet in image 2 were in focus. However, I love shots of puffins with their beaks full. Given that this is head on, it makes the shot unusual. Image 1 is great because everything is tack sharp. Also, as pointed out, usually don’t see these shots of the bird with the beak open. Since you want a pick, I’d go with image 2.

  • avatar Ron Gates

    I’m with the crowd….#2 is stronger….and even if it is becoming common, I shoot a lot of images that may be common but they’re not common to me. It’s my shot even if 5000 people or more have stood in the same place and taken the same image, If I’m entering it in a contest then I’ll be concerned with commonality. I believe in “shooting what you like and forget what others are doing”. Both images are great. I just like the multitude of fish in the mouth of #2 as opposed to the other.

  • Number 2 is stronger because it is different and more interesting. However, number 1 tells you more about the bird, markings. size and overall appearance. Both are necessary for a complete collection.

  • avatar Glen Fox

    The thing that I like about “straight down the barrel” images is that feeling of a true face-to-face encounter, ..what I/we imagine birds see when they are communicating with one another.

    As for the oof red feet. It would not matter whether they were oof or sharp, its really that brilliant color that grabs the eye. I find I’m drawn to those feet in all puffin and Black Guillemot images where the feet are visible.

    Thank you Artie for more “simple truths”.

  • avatar byron prinzmetal

    Jay Maisel has said a great image entices some type of emotion in the viewer. The second does that for me.

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    I like both images a lot. The oof feet grabbed my eyes on #2, I wish they were in focus. But in focus would probably have made the background cluttered instead of the beautiful smooth one.
    I would never think of this at the moment. But if you had time, could you have made another image with the feet in focus, then combined them? However #2 is still my favorite. Straight on with all those fish is wonderful.

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    Image #1 is unusual because the Puffin’s bill is open – don’t think i’ve ever seen a shot like that. The whole bird is ultra sharp, plus we get a good look at the distinctive markings on the eye and bill.
    I LOVE shots of birds looking ‘down the barrel’ of the camera lens. These are my favorites, and you have shown us some amazing ones – like this. I’ve seen many photos of Puffins with a mouth full of fish, but never one like this. Yes, the feet are oof, but I really like Image #2, so that’s my favorite.

  • avatar Marvin T. Smith

    I prefer the first photo. I don’t think I have ever seen a photo of a Puffin with its mouth open, and the image is very sharp and well-lit. The second image is great, but I find the out of focus feet distracting and even though the mouth full of fish is cool, it is becoming a common image.

  • avatar Stu

    Thanks very much for posting both images.

    The second image is more unusual and thus more memorable. So I guess that makes it the stronger image. I wasn’t aware that puffins grabbed so much food at once.

    However, the first image has the entire bird in focus; and the viewer gets an excellent look at the bird’s face and open beak.

    Best wishes regarding the remainder of your trip.

  • avatar Richard Curtin

    For me, #2 is stronger also. Almost exactly symmetrical and interesting with it’s fish collection. And even the fish have pretty good head angles…

  • avatar Hermann

    No 2 is stronger (more powerful) to me … it has a very direct “feel”, almost uncomfortably so. Image no 1 has a very different feel (less involved, maybe even something forlorn) to it.