I Can’t Get Enough: Fewer Pelicans Makes for Better Photography. And the Super Fine-Point Question Answers. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

I Can't Get Enough: Fewer Pelicans Makes for Better Photography. And the Super Fine-Point Question Answers.


The first San Diego IPT got off to a great start with lots of isolate-able pelican, some nice head throw, gorgeous light, and some early flight chances … We were headed for ducks in the afternoon but after our Photoshop program, it had turned cloudy/foggy so we headed for the coast. We had a large (but unexpected for the location) flock of shorebirds including more than 100 willets, about 30 Marbled Godwits, and a single Surfbird. And lots of gulls. And then as I had hoped, the sun broke through the lighter clouds in the west and lit the water golden. I wore my sneakers rather than the hiking boots I wear on the cliffs in anticipation of getting wet. And get wet I did.

When the dust cleared, I had created 1335 images on day one. Those included more than a few good ones. 🙂

There is only one slot left on San Diego #2 …

The Streak

Today makes one hundred sixty-nine 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.

More on my 1DX II

I may have jumped to conclusions when I stated that my brand new (replaced by Canon) 1DX II showed the first oil spatter after 18 frames … It seems that there is not an oil spatter problem with the new body. That said both my original and my replacement 1DX II are dust magnets. I cleaned the sensor with the big blower brush and got rid of all the dust spots but two. And heck, they might have been new ones …

There is, however, no denying the killer accurate AF. And the blazingly fast frame rate is addictive … But the 5D Mark IV image files are clearly superior. Lots more on the 1DX II soon.

This image was created on the morning of Monday, January 15 at La Jolla, CA with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 400mm), and the blazingly fast Canon EOS-1D X Mark II. ISO 800. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/4000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AWB at 8:47am on a clear morning.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: -4.

One AF point up from the center AF point/AI Servo/Surround/Shutter button AF as framed; The selected AF point was on the base of the bill pouch where it meets the white neck.

Brown Pelican, Pacific race in pre-breeding plumage scratching

I Can’t Get Enough; Less Equals More …

I just love photographing the pelicans in La Jolla. The only morning I have ever missed was the day after my major green light laser prostate surgery two years ago. On day two, I was back on the cliffs.

This year there are far fewer pelicans than in an average year; numbers on the cliffs at La Jolla are probably down 70%. But there are lots of gorgeous ones of all variety including chocolate-naped in full breeding plumage, white-naped pre-breeding, orange bill pouch variants, two years olds, a few strange dark birds, and even some juveniles. But few better birds makes for better photography. The biggest factor: it is far easier to isolate single birds. This in turn makes it easier to photograph a great variety of behaviors.

Super Fine-Point Question Answer

In the La Jolla Photography Cautions and Lessons. And Another Perfect, Boring Vertical Pelican Portrait blog post here, I wrote: 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 …

Many folks suggested getting lower. That is the obvious correct answer. Some folks suggested waiting for the waves to subside a bit. That is problematic for two reasons:

  • 1-This bird in particular was posing with its head slightly angled away. When he did turn perfectly two degrees towards me it was time to press the shutter button.
  • 2-The water nearer the cliff is always appears darker than the distant water …

The Second Solution

The second solution was a simple one that nobody thought of: switch from the 100-400 II to the 500 II with the 1.4X III TC and move well back. All things being equal this would decrease your angle of declination and effectively move the background much farther away. This is just another way of getting lower.

The San Diego Site Guide

Whether you are visiting San Diego for photography for the first time or live in the area and have done the pelicans many dozens of times, you will learn a ton by studying the San Diego Site Guide. Why spend days stumbling around when you can know exactly where and when to be depending on the wind direction and sky conditions? In addition to the pelican primer, there is great info on the best beaches for the gorgeous gulls, on Marbled Godwit, on the lower cliffs, Lesser Scaup, and Wood and Ring-necked Ducks as well.

Learn more or purchase your copy here.

Help Support the Blog

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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.


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