Afternoon Farming Lessons « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Afternoon Farming Lessons

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I drove home from St. Augustine this morning (Monday, May 2, 2011), took a good nap, and am looking forward to resting up a bit and getting lots of work done before my Connecticut/Long Island trip. I fly to Hartford on May 14th. Click here for details of the May 15th program in Storrs, CT. There are already well more than 100 folks signed up; I hope to see you there.

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This image was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens, the Canon EF 1.4X III TC (hand held at 222mm), and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2 2/3 stops off the white sky: 1/500 sec. at f/4. Flash with the
Canon 580 EX II Speedlight at -1/3 stop. (Using the Canon external battery pack allows for more consecutive flashes and faster recharging times; see additional details in the Shopper’s Guide below)

Farming Lessons

With many hundreds of pairs of nesting wading birds at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm each spring it is obvious that you can show up and create thousands of images in a single hour. The trick, however, is to make a few good images. To do this, you need to learn to recognize the good situations. The Alligator Farm offers a wonderful photography pass. Get in early. Tip the keeper on duty $5 and stay late. One of my favorite times there is the half hour after the sun has dropped out of sight. Many of the breeding birds are flying back to their nests and hundreds of additional birds that spend only the evenings at the farm are flying in to roost. Mount a flash on your intermediate telephoto lens, add lots of light to your exposure, and make lots of images of the birds in flight from below–the best will usually be when the birds are directly above you. I start off using a lot of flash, usually at zero, and then reduce the setting in third stop increments as it gets darker and darker….

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This backlit Cattle Egret head & shoulders portrait was created with the Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens, the Canon EF 1.4X III TC and the
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/80 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode.

Two lessons here. First, use a long lens often with a teleconverter to isolate your subject. Rookeries are cluttered places. By working tight with long glass you can eliminate much of the clutter by carefully choosing your perspective. Next, one of my favorite situations is subject in shade, background in sun as in the image immediately above. Add a bit of light and your background will really glow.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear that I used to create the images above (along with some related items). 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. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

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–as I did to create the opening image here–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.
Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. My workhorse professional digital camera bodies.
Canon 580 EX II Speedlight. This is Canon’s most powerful, top of the line flash.
Canon CP-E4 Compact Battery Pack. Powers the flash. Allows more consecutive flashes and faster recharging times.
Better Beamer. Using a Better Beamer with long lenses concentrates the light from the flash and yields an increase in flash output of about 2 2/3 stops, allows you to work at greater distances with smaller apertures, reduces battery drain, weighs just 2 1/2 ounces, and holds the Fresnel lens in place with no sagging or flopping. It fits in your pocket and set up and removal is quick and easy.

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.
Mongoose Integrated Flash Arm. Lightweight yet fully functional. This accessory allows you to mount the flash well above the central axis of the lens thus eliminating or reducing problems with red-eye, flash-eye, steel eye, purple eye with birds and green eye with many mammals.
ProMaster Flash Cord. This flash cord is sturdy and reliable.
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.

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