Crazy Man, Nickerson, the Canon 800, & the Magic Kingdom « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Crazy Man, Nickerson, the Canon 800, & the Magic Kingdom

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This less than a week-old American Oystercatcher chick was photographed at Nickerson Beach Park in Lido Beach, Long Island, NY with the tripod-mounted Canon 800 f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X II TC, and the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 800. Evaluative Metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/200 sec. at f/10.

I took a red-eye flight to Orlando on Sunday, June 20 on the way home from Barrow, AK and made it back to ILE just after lunch on Monday, the 21st. Then I cooked up a plan to fly to Long Island on Friday, hang out with Denise Ippolito for two days, photograph at Nickerson Beach for two afternoons and two mornings, visit my Mom, and head home on Sunday afternoon. Thus the crazy man title 🙂 I was hoping to get some great images of the Least Tern chicks and I did just that. And more.

The lead image in this blog post features the runt of a three-chick brood that fell far behind the adults and its two siblings as they traversed the 300 yards from the shore back to their nest site after a short feeding foray. I stayed ahead of the slow-poke but found him anything but slow as he made his way up and down the tire tracks and human footprints. I wound up making only two sharp frames. Several adult oystercatchers buzzed the little chick until one pounced on it and grabbed it in its bill. Knowing that a life-ending pounding would likely follow, I ran at the two birds and the attacker dropped the chick and flew off. I put my lens down and after a short chase grabbed the chick gently. Then I grabbed my gear and carried the tiny shorebird back to the roped off nesting area. He chirped loudly for the entire trip. Its parents were glad to see it safely back and within minutes the three chicks were being brooded by one of the adults.

I am normally fine letting nature take its course but–right or wrong–could not find it in my heart to do so in this case.

When working with tiny shy subjects like oystercatcher and tern chicks the 800–with its incredible magnification–is a huge plus. Folks think that moving up from the 500 to the 800 gives them an image that will be just a bit bigger in the frame but the math is frightening. Why? The size of the bird in the frame is not a function of the length of the lens but a function of the square of the focal length…. Since an 800 lens is 60% longer than a 500 it would seem at first glance that the birds in images created with the 800 would be 60% bigger in the frame than images created with the 500. But remember, the size of the subject in the frame is proportionate to the square of the focal length…. 5 squared is 25. 8 squared is 64. Images made with the 800 will actually be 256% larger in the frame than images made with the 500 alone. And the numbers work out identically when you add a 1.4X teleconverter to each lens.

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This tiny Least Tern chick was also photographed with the tripod-mounted Canon 800 f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X II TC, and the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative Metering at zero: 1/400 sec. at f/11.

In my excitement I did not realize that I had set the exposure compensation back to zero…. The original was well underexposed but with this light-toned image I was able to make the needed corrections during conversion and optimization (all as described in Digital Basics) without introducing noise. Had there been some dark areas in the image avoiding serious noise would have been a big challenge. It is much better to get it right in the field.

I should be home before 9pm tonight, Sunday. I will be getting up bright and early to spend the day at Disney with my two daughters and my four grandchildren. It will be a fun day for all.

7 comments to Crazy Man, Nickerson, the Canon 800, & the Magic Kingdom

  • Cris Hamilton

    Awesome shooting, and enjoyed the commentary about the focal length of the 800 vs. 500. Now I am even more tempted to get that lens — but wow, lotsa’ money!!!

    Love the new website. Very clean and fitting to show off your very fine work!! Always enjoy reading the latest about you and seeing the incredible photos and your comments on them.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your kind words. A while back I think that I published an article on the 800 in a Bulletin… And yes, expensive but you only live once 🙂

  • Hurray for helping the little Oystercatcher…Heart over mind, always.

  • Beautiful pictures. The little Tern so so cute.

  • Great seeing and shooting with you over the weekend. I will have to dig out my better beamer after seeing it used so much this weekend.

    Enjoy your day on Monday and your upcoming trip.

  • Thanks for intervening with chick. After reading the story I could not bear to hear of another outcome.

  • Esther Corley

    If you have time, visit me at and see the baby seagulls I photographed close to La Jolla Cove…with my Canon 50D which I bought from you…and my 70mm-300mm lens. I was using a post, but I feel they are not as sharp as I would wish. One in post-processing I sharpened too much, I think. Just curious what you think of them, if you are so inclined. One baby was playing tug- of- war with her mom.