When in Rome, Do As Arash Does (if you wanna be a good flight photographer …) « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

When in Rome, Do As Arash Does (if you wanna be a good flight photographer ...)


The first San Diego IPT group enjoyed a second sensational morning with the pelicans on the cliffs of La Jolla. Isolating single birds was much more difficult than it was yesterday as there were about five times as many birds. But that made for better flight photography. After seeing some of my super-tight images at lunch several in the group vowed to go to longer effective focal lengths on Wednesday. 🙂

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

The Streak

Today makes one hundred seventy 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 my original 1DX II was a dust magnet and so is my replacement. I cleaned the sensor of the replacement body 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 Day one of the first San Diego IPT — the morning of Monday, January 15 at La Jolla, CA. I used the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 200mm) and the blazingly fast Canon EOS-1D X Mark II. ISO 800. Evaluative metering + 1 stop off the sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AWB at 7:53am on a clear morning.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: extrapolated to -2.

One AF point up from the center AF point/AI Servo/Shutter button AF as originally framed. The AF Area selection mode for this image is classified. The selected AF point was on the rear crown as originally framed.

Brown Pelican, Pacific race in pre-breeding plumage in flight

When in Rome, Do As Arash Does (if you wanna be a good flight photographer …)

I am on a two part mission to become a better flight photographer. Part two will shock a lot of folks. Part one began when Arash Hazeghi kindly sent me a copy of his Birds in Flight Photography: Basics for Canon EOS Users/2017 edition. I had pretty much quit using my 1dX Mark II when I came across this chart in Arash’s e-Guide:

AF Comparison Chart for Four Canon Camera Bodies with Series II Super-telephotos with and without Series III Teleconverters

Inspired by Arash …

At that point, I was inspired to go back to my 1DX II for flight and action. As it turned out, the replacement body (as noted above) does not at present (after 2812 frames) seem to have oil spatter problems. How did I set up my 1DX II for flight photography? The way that Arash suggests in his guide. The biggest change for me was his preferred AF Area Selection mode. I have been doing things his way for more than two weeks now and have been consistently making some of the best flight images in my career …

Birds in Flight Photography: Basics for Canon EOS Users/2017 edition

Birds in Flight Photography: Basics for Canon EOS Users/2017 edition: $55.00

If Arash’s guide helped me a ton, imagine what it could do for you. You can learn more or order your copy here. Please note that this guide will not be updated for future Canon bodies.

Arash Hazeghi

Arash Hazeghi, Ph.D. is an electron device engineer. He received his MS.c. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering in 2006 and 2011, from Stanford University, Stanford, California. His pioneering research on Carbon Nanotubes and quantum capacitance have been cited many times. He is currently focused on the development of cutting edge non-volatile memory technologies such as the ones used in imaging cards for DSLR cameras.

In his free time, Arash enjoys photographing avian species in their natural habitat and in flight: these are very challenging subjects. He has been working on hand held super-telephoto technique to capture dynamic, highly-detailed in-flight images of many different avian species. His birds in flight images, featured numerous times on the web, in printed media, as well as in prestigious museums and art galleries have inspired many photographers. Arash’s work was recently on display at the San Diego Natural History Museum for a period of 8 months. His work has also been featured many times in the annual publications of NANPA (North American Nature Photographer’s Association).

He is an Moderator in the Avian Forum on BirdPhotographers.Net and a premier photographer at 500px.com. He is the co-author of the Canon DPP 4 Raw Conversion Guide and the Post Processing Guide with Arthur Morris, which detail RAW conversion and post processing techniques for both professional and the enthusiast photographers. This guide is a result of extensive field experience in making in-flight images with various Canon equipment. The author wishes that every photographer finds this guide useful and effective in improving the quality of their photos.

I will add that Arash’s images of birds in flight amaze many. I will be sharing some of them here soon. For faster results, go to BPN and do a search for his name and follow his started threads … artie

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.

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12 comments to When in Rome, Do As Arash Does (if you wanna be a good flight photographer …)

  • Hi Artie

    Pin sharp Image of Pelican, my only concern is the the horizon splitting the bird. Am I

    being to pernickety on this ?

    Best and love



    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks KL. I too would rather have the horizon elsewhere 🙂

      with love, artie

      ps: I think that you may have meant persnickety …

  • Hey Arthur, Great flight frame love the pose on the pelican. I was hoping to get the preferred AF selection mode in the image description but i see that has been made classified.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      See in Arash’s Guide. This single change has made me a much better flight photographer …

      with love, artie

  • Jim Amato

    Great view of the Pelican banking. Wingtips adjusted for a turn and descent. Flaps down to brake and adjust glide. Tail down for more braking and control. Head turned and tilted forward. Amazing how Birds have learned and adjusted to ride the air.
    Banking Birds are beautiful. Great Capture

  • Terry Longenecker

    Mr. Morris: I have been reading your post everyday now or some time. I have a question please, I use a Canon 7Dii body, Sigma 150-600mm F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens. No converter. I use an old wood tripod I reconditioned, with a Pro Media Gear Katana Gimbal Head. When I am set up, I use a 5lb bag of shot hung from the ctr hook of the tripod. I had the lens calibrated to the camera body, but no matter what I do I can not get a sharp, in focus shot. I have even gone to the point of locking up the shutter, a using a remote shutter release. I have also created a small segmented sand bag I have laied on the lens. I have set my camera to your suggested setting for birding, still no good photos. I contacted Canon, they did not want to see the camera with the Sigma, only with their 70-200mm L is II, lens. When it came back all my calibrations and setting were set to default. Can you give me any suggestions. The above is also true with the with my Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens. Thank you very much for your time and consideration. I really love your photos and your blog!

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      What calibrations? Something is obviously very wrong as you should be able to make sharp images with all of those combos hand held. Where do you live?


  • RIchard

    Hello Artie,
    I was wondering I have the 2016 edition of Birds in Flight Photography: Basics for Canon EOS Users/2016 edition. Is there a difference with the Birds in Flight Photography: Basics for Canon EOS Users/2017 edition? Thanks for your invaluable blog and lessons.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes. If you have one of the newer camera bodies, there are vast differences. That is what helped me so much.

      with love, artie

  • Jon

    Interesting chart Artie, how was it created? Do the figures have units or are they relative? Have the data been evaluated/confirmed by Canon? I am not questioning their values just trying to see if they are impressionistic or scientific.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Jon,

      They are Arash’s opinions so impressionistic. That said, I have added a few paragraphs above (in the blog post) noting his credentials 🙂

      with love, artie