Alligatorlily: If At First You Don’t Succeed … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Alligatorlily: If At First You Don't Succeed ...

What’s Up?

I headed out early on Friday morning to photograph the Alligatorlily blossom that I had found late on Thursday afternoon. Read all about it below. I finished and distributed SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Notes e-mail #21: Memory Cards and Lots More, worked on some images, and answered lots of e-mails. Long-ago IPT veteran Keith Kennedy wrote in response: Absolutely great information. I am calling Jim in a few minutes to order a couple of Delkin cards. Your timely email has saved me a ton of money! Many thanks.. In the same vein, John LeClair e-mailed this: Well, e-mail #21 alone was worth the price of admission! After receiving my a1 settings along with detailed instructions on how to copy them to her SONY a1, Pamela Viale chimed in with Artie, This email group has been such a boon to me! Thank you so much!

Thanks for all the comments on the blog yesterday. Those who left a comment on the Divide and Conquer Technique Revealed in a Free Excerpt. Clean-up By Popular Demand. And One Bird Butt Too Many blog post here, will receive an e-mail later today detailing exactly how I eliminated the extraneous tern butt in one fell swoop. I like this new approach to encouraging folks to leave a comment.

The forecast for this morning, Saturday 10 July 2021, is for early morning thunderstorms with a brisk wind from the northeast becoming cloudy with less wind later in the day. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day.

This blog post took two hours to prepare and makes 195 consecutive days with a new one. Please remember that if an item — a Delkin flash card, or a tripod head — for example, that is available from B&H and/or Bedfords and is also available in the BAA Online Store, it would be great, and greatly appreciated if you would opt to purchase from us. We will match any price. Please remember also to use my B&H affiliate links or to save 3% at Bedfords by using the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout. Doing either often earns you free guides and/or discounts. And doing so always earns my great appreciation.

Please Remember

With income from IPTs now close to zero, please, if you enjoy and learn from the blog, remember to use one of my two affiliate programs when purchasing new gear. Doing so just might make it possible for me to avoid having to try to get a job as a Walmart greeter and will not cost you a single penny more. And if you use Bedfords and remember to enter the BIRDSASART code at checkout, you will save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I am out at least forty to sixty thousand dollars so far due to COVID 19 (with lots more to come) — remembering to use my B&H link or to shop at Bedfords will help me out a ton and be greatly appreciated. Overseas folks who cannot order from the US because of import fees, duties, and taxes, are invited to help out by clicking here to leave a blog thank you gift if they see fit.

New and Better Bedfords Discount Policy!

You can now save 3% on all of your Bedfords photo gear purchases by entering the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout. Your discount will be applied to your pre-tax total. In addition, by using the code you will get 2nd day air shipping via Fed Ex.

Grab a Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III and save $14.99. Purchase a Canon EOS R5 and your discount will be $116.97. Purchase a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and save a remarkable $389.94! Your Bedford’s purchase no longer needs to be greater than $1,000.00 for you to receive a discount. The more you spend, the more you save.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would enjoy free second-day air shipping, your best bet is to click here, place an order with Bedfords, and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If an item is out of stock, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order to save 3% and enjoy free 2nd-day air shipping. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The wait lists at the big stores can be a year or longer for the hard to get items. Steve will surely get you your gear long before that. For the past year, he has been helping BAA Blog folks get their hands on items like the SONY a9 ii, the SONY 200-600 G OSS lens, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, and the Nikon 500mm PF. Steve is personable, helpful, and eager to please.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs (remember those?) and dozens of photographers 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 on 9 July 2021 near my home at ILE. While seated on wet grass, I used the Induro GIT 404XL/ Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 400. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial. Aperture Priority (A) Mode -1/3 stop: 1/125 sec. at f/8 (stopped down two stops) with the 5-second self-timer. AWB at 7:26am in the shade with a bit of sunlight peeking through the tall vegetation.

Manual Focus with Focus Peaking all as detailed in the SONY a1 Info and Updates Group e-mails. The more I use this feature, the more I love it, and the better I get at it.

Image #1: Alligatorlily (Hymenocallis palmeri)

If At First You Don’t Succeed …

I found my first-ever ILE Alligatorlily blossom on the afternoon of 4 July and photographed it the next morning. I was not thrilled with any of the results. I realized that I had been too low when working off the completely splayed tripod and the rear screen. I found another pristine blossom on Thursday afternoon two blocks from the first one so I headed out early to try again. Still sitting on the grass, I worked through the viewfinder from a higher perspective … The results were better.

Image #1 above was created with the naked 600mm f/4 lens at f/8.

The Challenges

With large flowers like Alligatorlilies (4-6 inches or more in diameter), there are many challenges:

  • 1- Getting just enough depth-of-field without bringing up horrific background detail.
  • 2- Choosing exactly where to focus.
  • 3- Choosing the best perspective, both up and down and side to side … The latter determines how the various part of the flower are juxtaposed.

You can find an interesting article on the reproductive strategies of this plant on the Treasure Coast Native blog here.

This image was also created on 9 July 2021 near my home at ILE. While seated on wet grass, I used the Induro GIT 404XL/ Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens with the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 400. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial. Aperture Priority (A) mode at zero: 1/30 sec. at f/16 (stopped down three stops) with the 10-second self-timer. AWB at 7:32am in the shade with a bit of sunlight peeking through the tall vegetation.

Manual Focus with Focus Peaking all as detailed in the SONY a1 Info and Updates Group e-mails. The more I use this feature, the more I love it, and the better I get at it.

Image #2: Alligatorlily (Hymenocallis palmeri)

Going Longer for Flowers

Looking for an even narrower angle of view, I added the 1.4X TC to the 600 f/4 and moved back only a foot or so. That is why the flower is so much larger in the frame. I was right about at the lenses minimum focusing distance (MFD) for both of today’s images.


1- Why did I use the 5-second timer for Image #1 and the 10-second timer for Image #2?

2- Why does Image #1 show a bit more depth of field than Image #2 even though it was made at a much wider aperture?

3- What might you discover when working at very small apertures like f/16?

4- Which of today’s two featured images do you like best? Why?

All who leave a comment will receive an e-mail with the answers to the three questions.


With all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors.

10 comments to Alligatorlily: If At First You Don’t Succeed …

  • avatar Ryan Sanderson

    I’m not fully convinced that the 600mm image has more DOF than the 840mm image. If depth of field is defined as the width of the area in focus in front of and behind the plane of focus, then the addition of a 1.4X teleconverter and the resultant decrease in the aperture by one stop should have no effect on depth of field if the distance of the subject to the sensor is not changed.

    In your photo, the 600mm photo was at f/8 and the 840mm photo was at f/16. The “equivalent” aperture in the 840mm shot should have been f/11 to get the same depth of field as the 600mm combo, but the 840mm shot was stopped down further to f/16.

    You also increased the distance between the subject and the camera for the 840mm shot. This also should have increased depth of field. At the end of the day, all the teleconverter is doing is magnifying the image that is already produced, so if the relative aperture stays consistent (one stop smaller than the non-TC image) and the distance from the subject to the camera stays the same, there should not be any change in depth of field.

    Output size can theoretically affect depth of field if all we’re looking at is how much looks sharp to the eye in the final output. Because the flower is smaller in the frame in the 600mm image, less detail on the flower may allow more of the frame to look sharp. This could be the explanation for perceived greater depth of field in the 600mm image.

  • 1-Shutter speed on @1 was 1/125. On #2 it was 1/30 so you wanted to make sure all vibration had stopped on #2 before the slower shutter activated.
    2-More DOF in #1 because of no 1.4 teleconverter.
    3-f16 would make the camera see more detail in just fractions of inches in front of and behind subject. And might make the background more lumpy depending on how close it was to the subject.
    I like #2 because of the lighter background with more colors with subtle transition between them. Also having the flower cover more the frame makes it more eye catching. The lines of the flower have more impact.

  • I have stared at both pictures for about 15 minutes and I still can’t decide which one I like better. They are both equally good. I think I know the answers to Q1 and Q2 and am eager to learn about f/16. Thanks.

  • avatar Joe Usewicz

    Hello Artie,
    Ay first I was leaning towards #1 because of the placement of the flower in the frame. But after I clicked on each picture, the power of #2 really showed up. Beautiful! Incredibly sharp on such a large flower. I would usually try some focus stacking to get the sharpness. Never used the more than a 2 or 3 second delay for the vibration. Thanks for the tip. I will try longer delays.

  • avatar Ruthie

    I like the first version, it is more balanced

  • Beautiful flower. What I like best in both photos is (1) surprisingly good depth of field (tough with plants at longer focal lengths in my own attempts even at smaller apertures), and most of all (2) the color gradation in the background that echoes the flower itself, the gold at the top feeling almost as if pollen or energy is rising from the flower. Since there’s more of that in the wider image, it’s my favorite. The background may not have detail, but it definitely contributes, as even negative space can sometimes.

  • avatar Pat Fishburne

    I prefer the off-center image in #1 to the centered image in #2.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Artie: Thanks for the reply. Makes sense. I use 400 mm to phograph flowers! Canon’s still brilliant 100-400 4.5-5.6L IS II lens.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. I prefer image #2. If there’s no detail in the background, why not fill the frame with the subject? On question 1, I don’t know why you use the timer at all, so I can’t answer. Q2: you were farther from the flower and that increases depth of field. Q3. You might discover diffraction and unanticipated background details. Cool flower, and I agree completely with your description of challenges in photographing large flowers. Small flowers have their own challenges!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks, David. When using long focal lengths (not many folks use a 600mm lens to photograph flowers…) at slow shutter speeds, pressing the shutter button causes vibrations. You use the self timer to give the rig enough time to settle down.

      with love, artie

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