What Garbage Can? Understanding the Importance of Perspective Choice with Big Lenses… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

What Garbage Can? Understanding the Importance of Perspective Choice with Big Lenses...


This head portrait of a breeding plumage Heerman’s Gull was created with the predecessor of the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the 500mm f/4L IS lens (now replaced by the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens), the 2X II TC (now replaced by the Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter))), and the EOS-1Ds Mark II (now replaced by the Canon EOS-1D X). ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/100 sec. at f/9 in Av mode. Color Temperature: Cloudy.

Central sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF as framed active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Breeding plumage Heerman’s Gulls will be fairly easy subjects on the Short Notice Small Group San Diego IPT. See below for details.

What Garbage Can?

Before you read on, do you see the garbage can in the image above?

Watch a good nature photographer. See how long they remain in one spot without moving their tripod. Unless they are staying on one spot doing flight photography they will be moving a lot. At the Venice Rookery it is not uncommon to see photographers who set their tripods down in a good location at 7am and do not move it for 3 or 4 hours. In that time a good photographer will have moved their tripod between 50 and 500 times. Sometimes these moves are of an inch or two, to hide a bright twig behind the subject. At other times they might move their tripod anywhere from 1 foot to 100 yards to get on light angle (have their shadow pointing at the subject), to be in the right spot considering the wind direction or intensity, or as mentioned above, to get a better perspective that will yield a cleaner background.

The image above was created on a San Diego IPT at one of my favorite afternoon spots. In some years the folks who clean the beach create berms of sand about 3 feet high. We toss bread onto the top of the sand ridges for the Heerman’s, Western, and Ring-billed Gulls that frequent the beach there. We had lots of handsome birds lined up on the ridge and folks were easily getting close enough to create head portraits with a telephoto lens and a teleconverter. As you can see above it was late in the day; the light was sweet. And the distant beach in the background was in shade thus the lovely grey background that you see in front of the bird.

Moving left and right I picked off attractive subjects one after another with the old 500 and the 1.4X II TC when I saw a unique opportunity. I switched to the 2X TC, moved well to my right, and created a short series of images before the handsome gull flew off. I quickly got back to the group to share my prize. Reaction was uniform across the board: “Where did you get that beautiful blue in the background? Our backgrounds are nice with that shaded slate grey but yours is amazing. I said, “It’s right there in front of you. Just look.” More of the same: “There’s no blue anywhere!”

Then I pointed about fifty yards to our right at a large, squat blue plastic trash receptacle….

By carefully, and I mean very carefully, positioning my tripod I was able to center the gull’s head against the out-of-focus blue of the hard plastic garbage can. Understand that if my tripod has been placed as little as a half-inch to either side that the image would not have been as strong. Once I explained things to the group we put some more bread on the berm and folks went to work with their newly found blue background.

Here’s the principle: always choose your perspective carefully to create the cleanest, boldest images possible. BTW, I love the American Flag color scheme of today’s image.


Join me in San Diego for three great days of photography and learning. Click on the image to better enjoy a larger version.

Pelican Paradise

LaJolla, California is a pelican paradise. At the right time of year, most will be sporting their incredibly beautiful breeding plumage of white and yellow and deep chocolate brown. But it is the olive green and bright red bill pouches that grabs you by the throat and never lets go. One of my LaJolla film images was honored in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competitions. Today, I still don’t have enough pelican images. I’d love to make another BBC-worthy photograph on my upcoming trip. I hope that you can join me in the quest. See below for details.

I’ve been away from LaJolla for too long. I visited San Diego for photography (and until 2007, to visit my folks who lived in North
park; my war hero Dad died in 2001) every year for almost three decades. My Mom, now 91 and living in Holbrook, Long Island, NY, lived in San Diego until seven years ago. Whenever I walked into my parent’s home on Pentuckett Avenue the same conversation would take place:

Hazel Louise Morris: What are you gonna do tomorrow?
Arthur Edward Morris: Ma, you know what I am gonna do tomorrow.
HLM: What are you gonna do tomorrow?
AEM: Ma, I’m going to LaJolla bright and early.
HLM: What are you gonna do there?
AEM: Ma, you know what I am gonna do.
HLM: What are you gonna do there?
AEM: Ma, I’m going to photograph those beautiful pelicans.
HLM: Don’t you have enough pelican pictures alreadY?
AEM: No Ma.

Announcing the San Diego Short-Notice Small Group IPT. January 15-17, 3-Full Days: $1049. Meet and Greet after dinner on your own at 7:30pm on Tuesday, January 14, 2014. Limit 6.

We will get to photograph the California race of Brown Pelican in flight, resting, preening, cleaning their bill pouches, and talking to their neighbors by tossing their bills high in the air. The afternoon sessions will feature Marbled Godwits, several gull species, and Wood and Ring-necked Ducks. If we have a cloudy morning we will get to photograph Harbor Seals. You will learn to get the right exposure every time, to see the best situation, to think like a pro, to create sharp, pleasing images, and to understand the joint effects of light and wind on the birds. All in a small group with tons of individual attention.

A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. Your balance will be due no later than January 7, 2014. The balance is alo non-refundable. If the trip fills, we will be glad to apply a credit applicable to a future IPT for the full amount less a $100 processing fee. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

If you are planning to register please shoot me an e-mail.

Then please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check (made out to “Arthur Morris.”) Though we prefer a check, you can also leave your deposit with a credit card by calling the office at 863-692-0906. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail

San Diego Site Guide

Can’t make the IPT? Get yourself a copy of the San Diego Site Guide; it’s the next best thing to being on an IPT. Nearly 30 years of San Diego bird photography secrets revealed in one fell swoop.

Great buy: Used Canon 800mm f/5/6L IS Lens for Sale

Friend and multiple IPT-veteran Monte Brown is offering his lightly used Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens in excellent condition for sale for $9,500. Purchase includes the lens case and hood, the 4th Generation Design Low Foot, the original foot, a LensCoat, the original invoice and the original Canon shipping carton. The lens was purchased new from B&H in April 2009 and was recently underwent a pre-sale clean and check by Canon. The buyer pays insured shipping via UPS Ground to US addresses only. The lens will be shipped only after your check clears.

The Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Autofocus lens sells new for $13,223.00 so you will save a bundle on a great lens. No need to ever use a 2X…

If interested you can contact Monte by phone at 1-765-744-1421 or via e-mail.

Last Year’s Grand Prize winning image by Lou Coetzer


Time is Running Out!
BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Competition
The December 31, 2013 closing deadline is fast approaching.

Learn more and enter the BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Competition here. Twenty-five great prizes including the $1000 Grand Prize and intense competition. Bring your best.

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IPT Info

Many of our great trips are filling up. You will learn more about how to make great images on a BAA IPT than anywhere else on the planet. Click here to learn about the just-announced 2014 Bosque IPTs. And click here for the schedule and additional info.

4 comments to What Garbage Can? Understanding the Importance of Perspective Choice with Big Lenses…

  • Ted Willcox

    Beautiful Bird!! Beautiful Image!!

  • Deirdre Sheerr-Gross

    You’re a scream Art Morris…
    I love your creativity in not just your choice of BG… but your wit… Who’d sell an IPT with that opening with “Ma”… Priceless!!

    See you later in Jan… on the South Florida IPTs….

    In fact…. HEY THERE to all you folks in BAA Land… Come join us in late Jan ’14, for a GREAT Time with this one & only guy (&gal) on the 2014 South FLA IPTs… Fabulous Birds… Humor, and critiques!! My 3rd in a row!!

  • Loi Nguyen

    Artie, this is a stunning image of Red, White,and Blue. Thanks for the tip. Loi