“I Know Him Pretty Well…” and Surf Scoter Image Questions « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

“I Know Him Pretty Well…” and Surf Scoter Image Questions

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I photographed this drake Surf Scoter yesterday morning from the boardwalk at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach, CA with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X II TC, and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Exposure date will be revealed in a future post 🙂

“I Know Him Pretty Well…”

When I got to Bolsa early on Monday morning, there were very few birds around. Very few. Some Lesser Scaups, a few Ring-billed Gulls, and some Willets flying by. Yikes. I made the drive up from San Diego as I had an appointment with human health specialist Melvin Tann at his new office in Santa Ana. The guy is amazing. Learn more about Zenergy here. In any case, I did not know of any other options so I stayed to see if anything developed. I chatted with the first photographer to arrive after me, a really nice guy named Art Holland. He told me that some Surf Scoters had flown in in the morning the previous day and hung out near the boardwalk. Ah, I had hope. I had photographed this species on film at Bolsa more than a decade ago and was excited about having a chance on them with digital.

Two more photographers showed up and at about 7:20 am so did the scoters: two adult males, two females, and an immature male flew in and landed about 100 yards from the boardwalk. Within ten minutes a single drake began swimming towards us and we had some good chances. Note: the two images in this blog were not created until just before 9am in relatively harsh light. (“When the light is bright, think tight.”)

After our first scoter chance, I heard one of the photographers say, “I’d love to go to one of his workshops or seminars but they are just too expensive. I think that he has a seminar in San Diego soon.” Half curious and half pretty sure that they were talking about me I asked, “Who are you guys talking about?” One of them answered, “Art Morris.

I said, “I know him pretty well. Very well in fact.” I walked up to the first guy, put my hand out and said, “Your name…” “Don Burd,” he answered. “Arthur Morris,” I responded. I don’ think that Art or Ramon, yet another nice guy, had had a clue as to who I was. But as soon as I said “Arthur Morris,” each began to smile. Don looked quite confused for a few moments. Eventually it registered with him and he blurted out “No way!” “Way” I said. And we all had a good laugh.

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As the bird continued swimming right towards the boardwalk, I kept on firing! Again with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X II TC, and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. And yes, the exposure data and mode will be revealed in a day or two.

Surf Scoter Image Questions

1-If you see a drake Surf Scoter swimming right at you on a sunny day would you want to be in Av Mode or in Manual Mode? And why? (Clue: there is only one right answer….)

2-However you choose to expose in the above situation what should be your main concern be?

3-Which of the two images is your favorite? And why?

4-Why is the water a darker blue in the second image?

5-The first image has a critique-able flaw. BPN Out of the Box Forum moderator Denise Ippolito spotted it in an instant. What flaw was she talking about? (Clue: it is not something subjective; it is something that can be proven….)

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear that I used to create the images above. 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 800mm f/5.L IS lens Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon 1.4X II teleconverter This is my most used accessory; I would be lost without it
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body And this is the very best professional digital camera body that I have even used.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo 3530 LS Tripod This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
Double Bubble Level You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card Fast and dependable.

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.

16 comments to “I Know Him Pretty Well…” and Surf Scoter Image Questions

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Odd, Good job!

    All, there is no clipping at all in the optimized master files.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Froggie, No flash at all. See here for the explanation of the darker water in the second image.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    All, Thanks for stopping by 🙂 You can find the answers/my comments here.

  • #4 The image looks like you used flash. Bringing the ambient down and exposing your subject with the flash.
    #5 I see a spot lower right, however the horizontal line look a few degree off.

  • Odd Johan Lundberg

    5. 0,7 degree off level. Should be rotated clockwise.

  • I’m not certain about the objective, critique-able flaw in the first photograph (as it looks like white clipping is a possibility), but I will point out something I, personally, find distracting about it. 🙂 The reflection of the neck, from the bird’s breast/chest, looks like someone spilled a small container of ink on the “print.” Anyway, it just looks like a giant detail-less ink-blot on the water.

    I prefer the second photograph, in addition to my above comment, because I like the tighter crop.

    Of course I couldn’t get either of them, so I probably should offer any commentary at all. 🙂

  • 1. Manual mode for changing amounts of light and dark areas in frame. Light seems to be constant, only changing angle from over your left shoulder to right. Or maybe spot meter on the black with compensation?
    2. Max detail in black without blowing white areas or reds.
    3.I’d like the second one.Greater intimacy in the closer framing…. Vertical seems an awkward compositional choice for the first one, thought it has a better reflection. And the first seems too centered.
    4. The angle of declination of the shot has changed, so the reflection would be different? I remember some high school physics regarding critical angle… amount of light rays reflected vs refracted at air water interface is more for first shot.
    5. Apart form comp. which is subjective, the white on the forehead is clipped?

  • M. Bruce

    Art – Hopefully you were able to spend enough time at Bolsa Chica so more things could eventually develop because that area, as I’m sure you already know, does attract a surprising variety. I saw my first Reddish Egret last month at BC and came away with a worthy (maybe not AM worthy) shot. “Reddish” water from an appropriate sunset. I’m guessing your Florida digs make you more familiar with this rare visitor to Southern CA but it was a real treat for me.

    I tend to shy away from questions with “only one right answer” – but your story is truly amazing! I’m guessing after discovering such eager cash strapped devotees you promptly eased their fiscal angst.

    Good shooting in La Jolla! Thanks to your guide I did pretty well there too.

  • Alan Lillich

    1. Manual mode, you don’t want variable input messing with a tricky exposure.
    2. Push the whites to the limit without blowing them beyond recovery.
    3. I like the second better for the immediacy.
    4. No clue.
    4. No clue.

  • Alan Lillich

    Pat and I spent Monday and Tuesday mornings at the San Joaquin Refuge, about 7 miles closer to San Diego than Bolsa Chica. Great color on the water, lots of Scaups, some Buffleheads, Mallards, and a few Cinnamon Teal. I’ll give you location details tonight.

  • Jim Longworth

    Is that a dust spot on the lower right hand side of the first image?

  • Caspar Davis

    1-2. I’m gonna guess manual because (as I think we see here)you need to expose for the whites, not the average.

    3. I like them both – I’ve never been anywhwere near that close to a Surf Scoter but would love to be – but I think I like the second one slightly better because of the colors and the different angles of the direct image and the reflected profile.

    4. I’m guessing you were using Av and the water is darker because the greater white area in the image led to less exposure.

    5. I think the whites are a little over exposed in the first one. But I’d be happy if I came anywhere near the quality of either image.

  • thought more abt the first question. BG change is probably not going to be significant in this case. But the bird will become larger in the frmae as it gets closer. In Av mode, SS will increase as the bird is primarily black. I am assuming the metering mode is evaluative. That can lead to whites and red getting blown. So my answer is still ‘Manual mode’.

  • Artie, awesome story. Thx for sharing.

    1 & 2: I think the right answer would be to be in Manual metering mode. Most important thing is not to blow the whites and the red channel. When subject is constant and light is constant, better to be manual metering mode so that background changes do not change the exposure. Exposure preset so as to not blow the whites/red but have them pretty close to the right side of histogram( which will make sure blacks aren’t blocked).

    3: Liked the first one more because of the clean reflection and water texture.

    4: I’ll have to think about that a bit…but it is probably because the 2nd shot seems a tad underexposed compared to the first one.

    5: Red channel might be blown on the bill. But frankly, I dont mind that as yellow-orange-red is looking good. Might be a few hot whites but not much. There is also a dust spot(or something) near the right edge in the bottom part of the image.

  • Great story, Art!

    The only flaw I can envision may be some right-on-the-edge highlights on his/her beak/face/eye, but it’s just my eye…hard to tell without a histogram, which I’m sure you would have checked, which is why I think I’m probably wrong!

    As to revealing the exposure date, am I missing something here? Didn’t you also say “yesterday morning”? AAHHHH…the light just came on…exposure DATA!!! ROFL at my own DOH!

    Hope you’re having great weather out there!


  • Hilarious story!
    I favor the first image. The reflection is so clean and clear. I don’t see the flaw, unless it needs leveling? Or maybe it has to do with the waves above the Scoter’s back? The second image reminds me of when somebody stands too close to your face while talking to you – but then I’m a claustraphobic. Others might not agree. I’m guessing you’d want to be in manual rather than AV because as the bird swims toward you there is more black in the frame. I’m looking forward to some education here because I really don’t know. You want to get detail in the black but still saturate the red and yellow. You also don’t want to blow the whites. But by the time I’ve thought through all that I’m ready for lunch.