La Jolla Photography Cautions and Lessons. And Another Perfect, Boring Vertical Pelican Portrait, This One Made with the Hand Held 100-400 II, the 1.4X III TC, and the Canon 1DX II « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

La Jolla Photography Cautions and Lessons. And Another Perfect, Boring Vertical Pelican Portrait, This One Made with the Hand Held 100-400 II, the 1.4X III TC, and the Canon 1DX II


After a very long day on Friday I managed to stay awake until 9:30pm Pacific time. I slept until a bit after four. I am getting more efficient with my 8 Postural Restoration exercises; they took only 48 minutes early on Saturday morning. I had a great morning with the pelicans — La Jolla is one of my favorite places in the world to photograph. Then I walked from the cliffs to the Green Patch and back up the hill, about 1 1/2 miles in all. Then back to the room for lunch, more exercise, working on photos and blog posts, and answering e-mails. One NFL playoff game down, three to go. I meet the first San Diego IPT group on Sunday evening. There is still an opening or two on the 2nd San Diego IPT.

The Streak

Today makes one hundred sixty-seven days in a row with a new educational blog post! This one took about 90 minutes to prepare including the time spent optimizing the image. 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 and my continuing insanity willing.


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. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

1DX II and Me Question

Lots of folks have been asking what happened to my 5D Mark IV bodies 🙂

Mark Harrington
January 13, 2018 at 10:45 am

Artie, are you giving up on the 5D Mk IV?

Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
January 13, 2018 at 3:11 pm

Hi Mark, Good question but not at all. Canon replaced my oil spattered 1DX II with a new one. I had my first oil spatter on the brand new body after 18 frames … I want to use it to see how bad it gets. There is, however, no denying the killer AF. And the frame rate is addictive … But the 5D Mark IV image files are clearly superior. Lots more on the 1DX II soon.

with love, artie

This image was created on morning of Saturday, January 13 at La Jolla, CA 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), and the blazingly fast Canon EOS-1D X Mark II. ISO 250. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/320 sec. at f/9. AWB at 7:47am on a clear morning.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: +5.

Upper Large Zone/AI Servo/Surround/Shutter button AF as framed; the system performed perfectly by activating an array of four AF points centered on the red of the bill pouch, right on the same plane as the bird’s eye. As seen in the DPP 4 screen capture below

Brown Pelican, Pacific race in pre-breeding plumage

La Jolla Photography Cautions and Lessons

As you approach the pelicans before the sun comes over the big hill to your right, you must stay to the right side of the cliff. You must move very slowly. You must carry your tripod in front of you not on your shoulder. If you opt not to follow these cautions, you will usually scare all or most of the roosting pelicans. If you are working the birds on the lower cliff, everything above goes double when you get to the right hand edge of the upper cliff. Whatever you do, be sure to stay to your right until about 7:30 or so. This will leave lots of room for incoming pelicans to land. In short order, you can practically pet the birds. Unless you have scared them all away by being careless.

On my first morning in San Diego this year, I was halfway down to the lower cliffs trying to isolate single pelicans from a crowd of about 15 birds when suddenly most of them flew away. A photographer who I have seen before but did not know had come walking down the cliff as if she were in a big hurry. With her tripod on her shoulder … When I explained to her that she had just scared most of the birds away by approaching too quickly she said, “The pelicans were very tame the other day.” I explained that folks need to take extreme care when approaching the birds early in the day. I continued to work the remaining pelicans on the low cliff and ten minutes later when I turned around the cliff was overrun with photographers none of who had stayed to the right. I was lucky in that there were a few good looking, nicely positioned pelicans up top; I had a great morning.

Note that my 600II, my 500 II, and my 400 DO II were all safely in the trunk of my rental car while I went with the 100-400 II. Working without a tripod allows me to move around easily on the cliffs and to to stay low and get close. With the 1.4TC in place I have full frame range of from 140 to 560mm. And in the low light before the sun hits the bird the four-stop IS works well allowing me to create sharp images at 560mm with shutter speeds down to 1/60 second. I am working on a great new head throw AF technique and created many nice ones in that category. But the boring image above was my favorite from the session. Keep reading to learn why.

Another Perfect, Boring Vertical Pelican Portrait

The possibility of creating images like this has been bringing me (and countless others) to San Diego in winter for about three decades.

Your Thoughts?

Please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts on this image, the good and the bad.

My Thoughts

I love this image. It excites me. I especially love the rich, warm light, and the gorgeous white-naped bird. I love that I was working right on sun angle; this allowed the bird to be evenly lit. I love the framing and the sharpness. I love the distant Pacific-blue background. And I love the perfect head angle, two degrees toward us. What’s not to love? Actually, not a lot. On an ideal day, however, the ocean would have been calmer; this would likely have eliminated the darker water in the lower fifth of the frame, that a result of swells growing in size as waves approached the cliff.

Super Fine-Point Question …

Is there a possible way that I could have eliminated the darker water at the bottom of the frame in the field? Actually there are two ways ..

DPP 4 Screen Capture for Brown Pelican, Pacific race in pre-breeding plumage

The DPP 4 Screen Capture for Today’s Featured Image

Note the perfect early morning light histogram reflected in the red-rich RGB values: R=241, G=232, B=215. And note why I love Large Zone AF for verticals.

Help Support the Blog

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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.

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

11 comments to La Jolla Photography Cautions and Lessons. And Another Perfect, Boring Vertical Pelican Portrait, This One Made with the Hand Held 100-400 II, the 1.4X III TC, and the Canon 1DX II

  • David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. What Jake said.

  • I too like the brightness of your images. I met you at the Gilbert Water Preserve last week and you gave me some good pointers on how to expose more to the right. So now my photos are much brighter and I too can get the tonality I want in post.

  • Anthony Ardito

    First of all, and off topic, I love the brightness of your images. Not just this one, but your style. Most other photographers would be a number of stops darker, and their picture might be just fine. But you show the true power of light in your images. I’ve changed my approach because of your blog posts. I’m exposing to the right much more often and finding pleasing results.

    Now, to your question of removing the dark blue… I’m thinking getting lower. Should be easier with the handheld 100-400II vs a tripod. Also you could try to move to your right slightly, that way the bird is head on to the camera and maybe the dark water is out of the frame. In that case, the body of the bird might be OOF, but the head would be nicely done.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your kind words Anthony. I expose to the right and then achieve the tonality I want in post.

      with love, artie

  • Very nice image. Would agree with Warren – getting lower or timing (if possible). Post-processing would also work.

  • Adam

    Oh, to answer the question, “Is there a possible way that I could have eliminated the darker water at the bottom of the frame in the field? Actually there are too (sic) ways ..” I guess there are two “general” approaches. 1) Body/camera position; changing the angle of the shot vertically or rotationally, 2) Post processing; cloning out the disturbing portion or using a gradient to increase the exposure in the lower part of the frame. Enjoy the “summer” like weather in SD.

  • Adam

    Lovely image, and it’s always fun shooting the pelicans in La Jolla. Great tips and advice especially the part about being considerate of the birds and other photographers. The last time I was there, some bone head scared all of the birds so that they re-positioned themselves such that the backdrops were less than ideal. I ended up with shots of sea lions on the beach instead.

  • Warren H

    In order to get rid of the dark area of the water, I agree you could have done two things:
    1)Try to get lower, thereby removing that part of the background due to the angle of composition,
    2)Wait. If you wait in between “sets” of waves, you may have been able to time a shot without the waves causing the dark area. (I have never been to that area, so maybe there are continual waves coming in, but usually waves come in sets with a lull in between.)

    A final option would have been to zoom in on a tighter crop of the image, but that would not have been the same image.

  • Jake

    Hi Artie, beautiful portrait. As you said ‘perfect’. For me there aren’t any bad points of the image,