Taking Advantage… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Taking Advantage...

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I created this high key, tight vertical head and neck portrait of a Masked Booby on Sand Island, Midway with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the 2X III teleconverter (hand held at 230mm) and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/800 sec. at f/13 set manually after histogram check.

Taking Advantage…

I was out on the beach in front of the Clipper House after lunch photographing tropicbirds in flight–they love sunny, hot, windy afternoons. (More on that in a post soon.) IAC, I looked down the beach and saw a bird on the edge of the gentle surf. I assumed that it was Laysan Albatross but wanted to see why it was pretty much out of habitat…. I walked towards it and pretty quickly realized that it was too small to be an albatross. Size-wise the most likely candidate was Red-footed Booby which is common on Eastern Island. As I walked closer I realized that it was a Masked Booby. It is pretty much identical to Nazca Booby; I am quite familiar with that species from my Galapagos trips. (The two species were formerly a single species but were split several years ago.)

Not wanting to scare the bird away, I got low and created some standard portraits with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II and the 2X III teleconverter. Pretty soon I realized that the bird was tame. And would come to realize that in typical booby fashion, it was what I would call stupid-tame. I screamed and waved at the two photographers in the group who were down the beach. Kevin Dowie heard (actually saw) me, Jean-Luc Valliant did not. The sun was tamed by some passing clouds and I made some very nice images (including the opening image here). When the sun came back out, I opted to run down the beach to alert Jean-Luc. Then I headed for Charlie Barracks to let folks know that they should get their butts down to the beach asap. (Masked Booby is uncommon at best anywhere on Midway and is usually seen only on Eastern Island….)

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I created this image with the Canon 15mm fisheye lens (hand held) and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 200. Evaluative metering +1/3 stops: 1/300 sec. at f/18 in Program mode. Yes, Program mode! On-camera “fill flash” (ETTL at zero) was provided by the Canon 580 EX II Speedlight.

When I alerted the whole group I ran to my room and grabbed the fisheye lens and the flash. I used my flash at zero as I often do in bright sunny conditions to fill in harsh shadows and even out the exposure.

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I created this image of the Masked Booby scratching with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the 2X III teleconverter (hand held at 230mm) and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/500 sec. at f/16 set manually after histogram check.

With the sun barely peeking through, I got a bit higher than I was for the first two images of the Masked Booby so as to include the lagoon with its various shades of blue. With the bird scratching itself a slightly faster shutter speed would have been ideal but I went with my recommendation: when unexpected action occurs, push the shutter button. Failing to do so usually results in your coming away empty-handed.

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I created this image with the Canon 15mm fisheye lens (hand held) and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/640 sec. at f/13 again in Program mode. On-camera “fill flash” (ETTL at zero) was provided by the Canon 580 EX II Speedlight.

After ten minutes, most of the group left the Masked Booby and went off looking for greener pastures (or for whiter sand???) All in all I stayed with this beautiful, tame bird for more than three hours. I took advantage not only of the bird’s tameness but of the situation. I created exactly 332 images keeping 65 of them after the first edit. Only 19 survived the final edit.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear mentioned in today’s blog post. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear from B&H as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 15mm fisheye lens. It takes a while to learn to create pleasing images with this fun lens.
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2X III teleconverter. I also use it a lot–depending on the situation–with the 1.4X III TC.
Canon EF 1.4X III TC. This new TC is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
2X III teleconverter. The new 2X III TC is sharper than the older 2X II version.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. The very best professional digital camera body that I have ever used.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III. At present, this is Canon’s only full frame digital professional camera body.
Canon 580 EX II Speedlight. This is Canon’s most powerful, top of the line flash.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo GT3530LS 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 Leve.l You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am on a tripod and not using flash.

Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. These high capacity cards are fast and dependable.

I pack my 800 and tons of other gear in my ThinkTank Airport SecurityTM V2.0 rolling bag for all of my air travel and recommend the slightly smaller Airport InternationalTM V2.0 for most folks. These high capacity bags are well constructed and protect my gear when I have to gate check it on short-hops and puddle jumpers. Each will protect your gear just as well. By clicking on either link or the logo below, you will receive a free gear bag with each order over $50.

12 comments to Taking Advantage…

  • Dena Proctor

    Uninformed, yes. I haven’t been there… thanks for all of the great info.!

  • The question of whether or not we got “too close” to the bird has been raised. Who knows what goes on in the mind of a masked booby? But this bird was uninjured, not on a nest and in no other way hindered or endangered by the photographers present. It’s tempting to describe the bird (as Arthur has) as “tame”, but in reality it is wild and free. It doesn’t flee from humans, not because it can’t but, because it doesn’t preceive them as a threat.
    Whilst on this trip with Arthur, it occurred to me that the birds we encountered were so unconcerned by our presence, so “tame”, that for the uninformed, or thoughtless, there would be the urge to treat it as a petting zoo and actually physically handle the birds.
    Obviously our group were particularly mindful of the birds welfare and the need for their conservation. The ethos naturally adopted by our group (and I’m sure any of Arthur’s groups) is that no photograph can justify stressing or endangering the bird, and I think I can confidently say we didn’t.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Charles, You are most welcome. It was a great bird. later and love, artie

  • Artie,

    Love the fish-eye shots! Thanks for the “behind the scenes” view on this post. Very much appreciated.


  • John T.

    You should have a caption contest for the first photo. It would make a great poster with a humorous caption.

  • Dena Proctor

    I love the first picture, it is crazy cute. The second one is nice but the curve makes (me) a bit dizzy. I think that the photographer is a bit close, it isn’t a petting zoo. The bird appears to be ok with it, but why take a chance on startling it. Especially when in a group of photographers…why take a chance and ruin all the fun!

  • Too close? It depends on the situation. A naive animal that has never experienced humans may literally not register them. You could approach such an animal without causing it any stress. Likewise a tame animal already acclimated to humans. Most birds will in fact flee if they feel stress – but remember that in some situations they cannot leave, perhaps due to injury, the need to stay by a nearby nest or nestlings, or for some other reason that isn’t apparent. Someone who has seen as many birds as Artie has would recognize the signs of stress and back off. It’s the photographers that don’t recognize (or ignore) those signs that can give bird photographers a bad name.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Dave, All good points. Thanks for stopping by. I had considered that the bird was injured but it had flown away by late afternoon. All good points BTW.

  • LOVE your 15mm shot of the booby!
    IMO, you are not too close if the subject shows no sign of agitation. It seems pretty clear that the subject in this case is quite comfortable with his fans.

  • Fernando

    The bird is the one who decides if you’re close! If so, departs or flies. As shown in the photo, is very confident of human presence, in this case is not affected but otherwise it can mean any problems or death.

  • I do not find that to be too close. If the bird was already tame, there is no way that near-contact with humans could affect it negatively. Even if it was not tame, I do not see anything wrong with being that close if you slowly approach it without disturbing, startling and/or feeding it. In addition, you were not disturbing the nest.