What do you do when the bird takes off but you have too slow a shutter speed for action, the wrong AF point selected, and no chance of fitting the subject in the frame? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

What do you do when the bird takes off but you have too slow a shutter speed for action, the wrong AF point selected, and no chance of fitting the subject in the frame?


We tried for the godwit early on Saturday morning at Heckscher without success. No sweat, I figured, we can photograph some gulls in the parking lots. No gulls in the parking lots. Let’s try Captree. No gulls in the parking lots. Lets try Robert Moses. No gulls in the parking lots. We finally did get some nice stuff on a White-tailed doe with one young one but we whiffed on some killer bucks because our 100-400s were in the trunk. My bad.

Then it was off for lunch at younger daughter Alissa’s. Then we had to take a school bus to the LIRR in Hicksville because of track work on the Ronkonkoma line 🙂 Tonight it will be Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, the second time in a month for me, the first for Anita.

Do consider joining me on the Early Winter DeSoto IPT. Details below.

The Streak

Today makes one hundred fourteen days in a row with a new educational blog post! This one took less than an hour to prepare. With all of my upcoming free time (or not …), the plan right now is to break the current record streak of 480 … Good health and good internet connections willing.

Everybody’s Doing It…

Everybody’s buying and selling used gear on the BAA Used Gear Page. Sales of lenses especially have been picking up recently. There are lots of great deals on a variety of camera bodies right now, all with low prices. Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They recently folded. And eBay fees are now in the 13% range. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few months, we have sold just about everything in sight. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the original 400mm IS DO lens have been dropping steadily. Even the prices on the new 600 II and the 200-400 with Internal Extender have been plummeting. You can see all current listings by clicking here or by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the yellow-orange menu bar at the top of each blog post.


Booking.Com came through for me twice again recently with both the DeSoto Fall IPT and next July’s UK Puffins, Gannets, and Bempton Pre-trip room reservations. And all the rates were great. If you’d like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and you will earn a $25 reward. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

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.

This image was created at Fort DeSoto on the Piping Plover morning of November 11, 2017 with the Induro GIT304L Grand Series 3 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and my favorite pelican taking off camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop as framed: 1/640 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode. AWB in mostly sunny, slightly overcast conditions.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: -10.

One AF point to the left of the center AF point/AI Servo/Shutter Button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was on the side of the bird behind the base of its neck.

Brown Pelican taking flight

Be sure to enjoy an enlarged version by clicking on the image.

What do you do when the bird takes off but you have too slow a shutter speed for action, have the wrong AF point selected, and have no chance of fitting the subject in the frame?

I had spent well more than an hour photographing the tame juvenile Piping Plover seen twice in the DeSoto composite image in the DeSoto Sucked This Past Weekend blog post here. Near the end of that session I splayed the legs of my Induro GIT304L Grand Series 3 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod and got down flat on the ground. When I saw this pelican I set up to make a simple portrait of the floating youngster. The first thing that I did was to go three clicks (one full stop) lighter; I did that instinctively by lowering the shutter speed. Leave a comment if you think you know why this was a mistake on my part — please explain your thinking. Then I moved the AF point a bit to the left to move the pelican back in the frame. When the bird began to take flight I thought “There is no way that I am gonna avoid clipping the wings or half the bird.”

That brings us back to the original question: What do you do when the bird takes off but you have too slow a shutter speed for action, have the wrong AF point selected, and have no chance of fitting the subject in the frame?

The answer: Push the shutter button! It’s digital and won’t cost you one penny. So that’s what I did. I was quite pleasantly surprised by the results. Especially in light of the fact that photographing action from a prone position has never been my forte.

Critique This Image

All are invited to post a thoughtful critique of this image. What do you like and why? What don’t you like and why? Any suggestions for improving it either in the field or during the post processing are welcome?

Recent Fort DeSoto Images

From bottom left clockwise back to center: Great Egret, blasting sunrise highlights; Black Skimmer, winter plumage in pre-dawn light; Roseate Spoonbill foraging; Brown Pelican, juvenile landing; hybrid heron X egret???; American Oystercatcher feeding; Royal Tern, worn juvenile; Great Blue Heron from below.

You can see a composite of more recent images in the DeSoto Sucked This Past Weekend blog post here.

Fort DeSoto Early Winter IPT. 3 1/2 days: $1599

Saturday DEC 2 (afternoon session) through the full day on Tuesday DEC 5, 2017. Meet and Greet Introduction on SAT DEC 2, 2017

With no water in Estero Lagoon, Corkscrew Swamp and Anhinga Trail total busts for many years, and Ding Darling NWR managed into oblivion, Fort DeSoto has emerged as the premier bird photography location in the state. Join me in early winter to escape the cold weather and photograph lots of tame terns, gulls, herons, egrets (including Reddish Egret), shorebirds (including and especially Marbled Godwit), Osprey, and Brown Pelican. Long-billed Curlew, Wood Stork, and Roseate Spoonbill all range somewhere between likely and possible.

Learn to get the right exposure every time, to approach free and wild (and often tame!) birds, and to design a pleasing image. And learn the location of my new Fort DeSoto hotspot along with my favorite sunset location (sky conditions permitting). To register call Jim or Jen at the office at 863-692-0906 or shoot me an e-mail.

DeSoto IPT Details

This IPT will include four 3 hour afternoon sessions, three 3 1/2 hour morning sessions, three lunches, and after-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility. Dinners are on your own so that we can get some sleep.

Because of the narrow time frame, your $499 non-refundable deposit can be paid not by credit card. Call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906 to register. Your balance must be paid by check once you sign up. The balance check (made out to “BIRDS AS ART) should me mailed to us at BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your balance check. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail.

Canon lens rentals are available on a limited basis: 600 II, 500 II, 400 DO II, and 200-400 f/4 with Internal TC.

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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.

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8 comments to What do you do when the bird takes off but you have too slow a shutter speed for action, the wrong AF point selected, and no chance of fitting the subject in the frame?

  • avatar Jack D Waller

    Very nice capture!

    Of course, press the shutter button!

    I was packing my own 22 rifle when I was just 12 and could never afford to pull the trigger carelessly (ammunition was not cheap). Seems that early childhood experience has inhibited me from firing away when there appears to be little chance of a good shot. Difficult habit to break but I’m trying.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Same for me having used film for so many years. By the end of film it cost about a dollar to press the shutter button twice!!!

      Thank God for digital.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Rob Stambaugh

    Great angle and action. I cropped at 16:9, removing about 2/3 of the foreground, and believe I may prefer that.

  • avatar Mark Jordan

    What a great shot!!! Love it!!

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    Pelican looks great to me.
    -Composition—bird is just right being completely below horizon so no bisecting of bird. Maybe add a little canvas on the right side to give more room to fly into. (If that can be done keeping the sharp circle of water natural.)
    -Very sharp
    -The water splash really makes the image for me
    -Exposure is just right to my eye or maybe just a bit lighter would be good. Would have to try it to know.
    By opening the shutter speed 1 stop plus lowering the ISO one stop from the plover, the exposure was equal for both the plover and pelican. (I took the settings from yesterday’s plover on the same day, same morning.) So would it have been safer to keep the plover shutter speed for the action that happened?
    The scene with the plover looks lighter to me than the pelican scene. So I’m wondering how the same exposure worked on both? If it was the same exposure for the pelican, and if a darker scene, why didn’t the pelican turn out too light? Maybe I’m missing something? Exposure is hard for me.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      My bad. The ISO was unchanged: 800. I shall fix that now. So the the exposure was in fact one stop lighter. Good catch.

      with love, artie

      ps: digital exposure is easy 🙂