Scratching Perfection? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Scratching Perfection?


Most of the group woke early and by 5:30am we were in place to photograph setting red full moon eclipse. Patrick Sparkman helped everyone including and especially me with the technical stuff. Despite the high tide and the perfect weather it was the worst ever morning for pelicans. By far. Zero pelicans landed on the cliffs despite that fact that everyone stayed well back and gave the birds lots of room to land … Heck, there simply were no pelicans.

I took the group out for the Thank You dinner on Tuesday night; on the way there we witnessed but did not get to photograph a mega-mega sunset …

Lee and I are having dinner with Patrick and Robin Sparkman on Wednesday evening. Lee and I fly to Orlando tomorrow.

There are two openings on the spoonbill IPT. Click here for complete info. If anyone would like to join me shooting spoonbills for 1 1/2 days, February 19 (full day) and February 20 (morning session only), please get in touch via e-mail.

The Streak

Today makes one hundred eighty-five days in a row with a new educational blog post! This one took about 30 minutes 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 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.

This image was created on the 2nd San Diego IPT on the morning of January 27 at La Jolla, CA with the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens (at 380mm) and the mega mega-pixel Nikon D850 DSLR.. ISO 400. Matrix metering : 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode was about -1/3 stop. AWB at 7:45am in early morning light.

One to the right and one down from center Group (grp)/Shutter Button AF. Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Brown Pelican, Pacific race, scratching

Scratching Perfection?

What did I do right in the field?

What did I do wrong in the field?

What are the good things about this image?

What are the negatives?

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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 :).

14 comments to Scratching Perfection?

  • avatar Donnette Largay

    Well I guess I missed it was โ€œscratching โ€œ. I did not want back foot eliminated, just space between foot and neck. I better look closely next time.

  • avatar Brendan

    I love this picture. The curves of the bird, both top and bottom, are gentle, beautiful, and complementary. The colors are vibrant and great. The action is captured in that “moment in time” sense that I really love.

    What did you do right? I’d say just about everything. Most importantly, you were there. The exposure is right on, I think. You zoomed out enough to capture the whole bird when it stretched out for the itch.

    What did you do wrong? I don’t know. Maybe the angle is off by a hair. I wonder if a split second earlier or later you might not lose the tip of the foot behind the birds neck. I wonder if it might be a tiny bit stronger pulled out a tad more to show a bit more space around the bird. All are tiny quibbles, though, the picture is lovely.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Brendan. I love it too. I think that I did everything right ๐Ÿ™‚

      with love, artie

  • avatar Dick Evans

    Hi Artie – I’m enjoying your comments regarding your gear switch! I notice you mention “shutter button AF” frequently. Are you not utilizing back button AF? Have you reprogrammed the buttons?

    Great images!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Dick, You have been away from the blog for too long. I went back to shutter button AF for flight several years ago ๐Ÿ™‚ I have been using shutter button AF with Nikon from the get go. No need to re-program anything to do that as shutter button AF is the default. I tried to set rear button focus and thought that I did but it did not work. I did, however, switch the AF-ON button to AF-lock so that I can re-compose when I need to. But that is dangerous when hand holding a 40 mp camera body as it is easy to throw off accurate focus.

      with love, artie

      • avatar Dick Evans

        Thanks, Artie. So if you want to lock focus, on a perched bird for instance, you push the AF-on button. If the bird then starts indicating it’s going to fly, you release AF-on and hit the shutter button for continuous AF. Right?

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. I love this image for all the reasons others have said but also because the guano-streaked rock looks like a wave, which adds a whole lot to the image for me. I, like some of the others, can’t see anything wrong. Well, maybe if I’m going overboard OCD I’d like it even better if the shadow of the bill weren’t there, but I feel like an idiot even saying this. It’s a great image.

    I do have a question, though. Since you’ve been using your new Nikon, the words “about” and “probably” show up in your descriptions of the exposures you use. I don’t remember that you ever used those words when you were shooting Canon. Can you explain?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi David, I love this one too and so does Patrick. And he loves his too; he was sitting right next to me! That tiny bill tip shadow bugs me just a bit so good on you for mentioning it.

      I will be addressing the “probably and about” exposure business here soon; you are not the first to ask ๐Ÿ™‚

      with love, artie

  • avatar Donnette Largay

    Great exposure and sharp. Like blurry background. Donโ€™t like back foot. Should have separation from neck. Even if separation not a fan of downward neck. Unless trying to get a piece of food on rock. But if you sold it…great Photo.

  • Good–exposure, DOF (the whole bird is sharp while the backgrnd is nicely blurred), timing (to catch the perfect scratch position),sun angle (whole bird is well lit even the shadow area has detail).
    Negatives–none to my eye. I did think about the small shadows from the bill and body, but decided I didn’t mind them plus they made the photo more realistic.
    I always like behavior photos, especially this one. The red and green bill and white swirls in the rock are bonuses here.

  • avatar Warren H

    What did I do right in the field?
    The high shutter speed to capture the scratching movement.

    What did I do wrong in the field?
    You were not right on sun angle. But, you may have been where you were in order to keep the bird more parallel with the image sensor plane.

    What are the good things about this image?
    I like the activity. I like the curves and the low part of the rock that the bill is dipping into. That really helps the shot.

    What are the negatives?
    I really don’t know. I can put a finger on it exactly, but it is not my favorite pelican image of yours. It just doesn’t grab me the way many other pictures do. That that is probably just me.