Mystery Photographer & Experience Level Revealed! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Mystery Photographer & Experience Level Revealed!

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Sandhill Crane landing, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM. Image copyright 2010: Clemens van der Werf. Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 2000. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/9.

Mystery Photographer & Experience Level Revealed!

I first met Clemens van der Werf on the 2010 Southwest Florida Presidents Week IPT. Clemens had had an interest in black and white photography as a teenager, bought his first serious camera, an Olympus OM 2, and began photographing on local bicycle trips. In addition he photographed sailboat regattas when he was not racing himself. He even sold a few prints to the sailors to finance his hobby. When he entered college he developed other interests and shelved photography. In 2006 he was in Newport, Rhode Island for work when he came across a beautiful gallery that featured the work of a Dutch photographer, Onne Van der Wal.

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Golden Retrievers, FL. Image copyright 2010: Clemens van der Werf. Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II lens (handheld at 70mm) with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 640. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1000 sec. at f/6.3.

Onne got him to sell all of his Nikon gear and switch to Canon. In 2007 Clemens bought an EOS-5D, the 70-200/2.8 IS, the 300/2.8 IS, and the 24-105/4 IS. From 2007 through 2009 Clemens casually photographed his family and some more sailboat races. For the sailboats he used the Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS lens. Early in 2008 he bought an EOS-1Ds MkIII and in April 2009 added the 500/4 IS. Soon thereafter he drove to the St Augustine Alligator Farm with his daughter for a day trip; it was the first time he used the 500/4. He remembers that he photographed during the middle of a bright sunny day! All hand held as that is how he and Onne did it when photographing boats from the water. Clemens thought that tripods were for dummies. He was not happy with the crappy results. Coincidentally Onne had attended a program that I did in Newport, RI in the fall of 2008. I gave him an ABP II CD and in early 2009 Onne passed it along to Clemens who gleaned it for the technical information. Clemens had no interest in birds at all. Still in search of good technical info, he googled “Arthur Morris” and subscribed to and devoured our free Bulletins. Still he rarely got out to photograph.

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Short-billed Dowitcher, juvenile, Jamaica Bay WR, Queens, NY. Image copyright 2010: Clemens van der Werf. Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2 stops: 1/125 sec. at f/7.1 set manually.

In late 2009 Clemens thought it would be a good idea to do a workshop with me. He figured that he could learn a lot. The workshop that caught his eye was scheduled for February 2010 close to his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He did not care at all for the subjects that we would be photographing: birds. His only only goal was to learn about the technical side of photography. His knowledge of birds was pretty close to zero at that time, as was his interest in them.

When all the workshop participants got together on the first evening he seriously wondered if he had made a mistake and thought that he might not make it through the week . The average age of the participants was well above retirement age and they all were avid birders; there seemed to be no connection at all.

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Farr 40 sailboats, Miami Grand Prix, FL. Image copyright 2008: Clemens van der Werf. Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS I lens (handheld at 70mm from a helicopter) with the EOS-1Ds Mark III. ISO 200. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1000 sec. at f/9.

I will let Clemens continue the story:

How deceiving my first impression of the workshop had been! It turned out to be a fun week during which I started to appreciate birds and their behaviors. The information exchange during the week was close to overload as I had to deal with lots new things such as manual mode, flash, Photoshop, Artie’s rules, etc. But the bottom line was that I was hooked on bird photography and wanted more. During March/April of 2010 I went out on Tampa Bay twice with James Shadle for Roseate Spoonbills and visited Sanibel Island with my family. In August I joined Artie again at Nickerson Beach, NY. In November I joined him again at his beloved Bosque del Apache. I will be attending the San Diego IPT this coming January as well as one of the Homer Bald Eagle IPTs this March.

After the Florida IPT this year I bought an EOS-1D Mark IV; that was just before I went out with James Shadle. I borrowed the new 800 lens for the Florida IPT and Nickerson and bought my own just before the Bosque IPT.

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Snowy Egret fishing, Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel, FL Image copyright 2010: Clemens van der Werf. Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3 set manually.

My challenge is to combine my creative eye and the techniques of digital photography to create pleasing image captures. Creating technically perfect images is by no means equal to capturing images worthy of being hung on your wall or ones that leave you with the constant urge to look at it again and again. Once you have created an image that gets and keeps your attention, you know that you have met the challenge and hit the jackpot. Now there are two subjects that have my special attention: birds and boats. Both have their own technical challenges.

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Wood Duck drake swimming, Albuquerque, NM. Image copyright 2010: Clemens van der Werf. Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/8. Fill flash with Better Beamer at -2 stops.

I currently run a shipping company that specializes in transporting luxury yachts. We have four semi-submersible vessels that load yachts using float-on/float-off loading technology. The vessel basically sinks and becomes a floating dry-dock. The yachts sail onto the vessel; once they are above the submersed deck divers put supports underneath them while the vessel rises out of the water. Once the yachts are dry on deck we secure them for the ocean crossing and sail them to their new cruising destination. We move yachts from between 30 and 200 feet long all over the world. The great majority of them are transported between Florida or the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. You might have seen the process on TV as a couple episodes of Discovery and National Geographic shows about the company have aired. The most recent one was a “Monster Moves” episode. There is more detailed information available here.

(Note; you gotta check this out; it is simply amazing. There are slide programs and videos on the web site.)

The Answer

Clemens was quite flattered that so many folks thought that his images were mine. And I am proud of Clemens’ success. Yes, he has emulated my style, but in many cases he has outdone me while standing right next to me with the same gear. At present, Clemens has been photographing birds for less than one year. You can see more of his work here.

I enjoyed and totally agree with Keith Reeder’s comment: “These are great images to be sure, but nothing which any reasonably hard-working, capable photographer of far fewer than 27 years’ standing shouldn’t easily be able to achieve.”

The facts are that Clemens has worked hard and studied hard, and spent as much time as possible with quality instructors….

Once again it was Joerg Rockenberger who pretty much hit the nail on the head when he wrote: “I’d say less than 1 year. And the reasons the images are so superb are that the photographer is not only very talented and can afford top shelf equipment but most importantly devoured Birds as Art I & II, studied the Digital Basics file multiple times over, attended at least a Bosque and Florida IPT and is a regular at BPN.” JR

(Note: though Clemens is a BPN member, work and family obligations do not leave him much time to participate.)

Shopper’s Guide

Here is a list of the gear that Clemens used to create the images above. (The links are to the newer models in cases where the gear that Clemens used is no longer in production. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens
Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS lens
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens
Canon 1.4x extender (version II)
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body
Canon 580 EX II Speedlite

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo 3530 LS Tripod
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head
Mongoose Integrated Flash Arm
Better Beamer flash extender
Promaster Flash Extension Cord

If you are considering the purchase of a major piece of photographic gear be it a new camera, a long lens, a tripod or a head, or some accessories be sure to check out our complete Shopper’s Guide.

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