The Morning Lineup. Smart and Lucky — a great combination, and Surround AF. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Morning Lineup. Smart and Lucky -- a great combination, and Surround AF.


From dawn to dusk, Friday was about the grayest day I can every remember in Florida. It was cloudy dark from 7:30am to 5:30pm. I never got down to the lake. I spent most of the day doing final edits on several recent To Transfer folders to make some space on my hard drive for my upcoming San Diego trip. I met Jen and husband Erik and Sam and Maya at Crazy Fish in Lake Wales for dinner. We had a great time to go along with the great food.

Though is was quite chilly (for Florida …), I swam another slow mile at 3pm.

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The Streak

Today makes one hundred fifty-three days in a row with a new educational blog post! This blog post took about 90 minutes to prepare including the time spent optimizing the image. With all of my upcoming free time (or not …), the plan right now is to break the current record streak of 480 … Good health and good internet connections and my continuing insanity willing.

New Listing

Canon EOS 5D Mark III digital camera body

Gerald Barrack is offering a Canon EOS 5D Mark III digital camera body (with extras) in excellent to near-mint condition for $1,349.00. The sale includes the front cap, the Canon camera strap, one Canon battery, the battery charger, the Really Right Stuff camera body plate (B 5D3 A, a $55.00 value), a Delkin 700X- 64GB compact flash card, and insured ground shipping via major courier to US address only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Interested folks can contact Gerald via e-mail or try him on his cell at 201 638 3510 (Eastern time).

I owned and used this superb, full frame, 22mp digital body for several years. It was always my first choice for scenic, Urbex (urban exploration), and flower photography until I fell in love for a while with the 5DS R (for a lot more money!). Then I switched to the 5D IV body. In addition, I loved my 5D III body for birds with my big lenses and both TCs. I used mine to create many dozens of high quality images. artie

Click here for Amazing 5D Mark IV Bundles and Deals

Here is the best news: those who have used a BAA B&H affiliate link to purchase a 5D Mark IV (or other items totaling $3200 or more) are invited to send us a copy of their B&H receipt via e-mail and receive a free copy of the guide. If you would like to review the document before it is published, please send your receipt now. This offer is also valid for future purchases.


Booking.Com came through for me twice again recently with both the DeSoto Fall IPT and next July’s UK Puffins, Gannets, and Bempton Pre-trip room reservations. And all the rates were great. If you’d like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and you will earn a $25 reward. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This image was created down by the lake near my home at Indian Lake, Estates, FL on the morning of December 13, 2017 with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 300m) and my favorite vulture photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. AWB at 8:320m on a clear morning.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: extrapolated to -3.

Five AF points to the right of the center AF point/AI Servo/Expand/Shutter Button AF was active at the moment of exposure as originally framed. The selected AF point was on the neck of the closest vulture.

vultures on pier railing

Click on the image to see a larger version.

The Morning Lineup

It is not uncommon to see ten to thirty vultures on the railing of the long freshwater pier at Lake Walk In Water. Some day they might all be Turkey Vultures, some say all Black Vultures. Oftentimes both species are present as in the photo above. And some days there are no vultures on the pier. At this time of year, the sun is over my left shoulder as I approach the birds and the wind is primarily from the north. On the morning that this image was made the birds are all facing north by slightly northwest. Flight photography is very difficult in those conditions; when the birds jump off the fence they will almost always turn left — to the west — away from me. Learn more about wind direction and flight photography below.

This image was created down by the lake near my home at Indian Lake, Estates, FL on the morning of December 28, 2017 with the hand held Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II . ISO 800. Evaluative metering +3 stops off the light blue sky: 1/2500 sec. at f/4.5 in Manual mode. AWB at 8:11am on a clear morning.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: -3.

Center AF point/AI Servo/Surround/Shutter Button AF was active at the moment of exposure as framed. As seen by the illuminated red AF point in the DPP 4 screen capture below, the selected AF point was on the base of the bird’s near underwing, just behind and above the head. See more on Surround AF below.

Black Vulture in flight looking back

Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Smart and Lucky — a great combination

Smart …

When I head out onto the pier with my shirt off to collect some Vitamin D each morning recently, I have the 400 DO II with the 1.4X III in place and the 1DX II. As I got closer to the birds on Thursday past I realized that with the wind from the northeast that I might have some good flight chances with the birds that flew to the northeast, that is, angling from my left to my right. But I realized that at 560mm, the birds would be too large in the frame when they flew across sun angle so I stopped and put the TC in my pocket! As the image above shows, that was the perfect move.


Though it is often said that luck is the residue of design (John Milton or Branch Rickey), I was in fact very lucky in the situation above.

List as many ways as you can that show I was extremely lucky to create today’s featured image in the situation described. I can think of three major ones.

The DPP 4 Screen Capture

Click on the image to see a larger version if you’d like to read the fine print.

The DPP 4 Screen Capture

On the Quality of Light…

These RGB values above — R = 243, G = 232, B = 210 — were made before I moved the Color Fine-Tune dot a bit toward BLUE. What do the values show about the quality of light when the image was made?

Surround AF

For a variety of reasons, I have just begun trying AF Surround for flight. Note two important things about Surround AF:

  • 1-When you view the AF points in DPP 4, only the selected point is shown when you are using Surround. As I have done in all of our Camera User’s Guides, most recently the 5D Mark IV User’s Guide, I added the red dots to show the AF points that are active when you are in AF Surround. It is very possible that the two AF points below and to the right of the illuminated AF point caught the vulture’s neck and head …
  • 2-But there is no way to know for sure. When you are in Large Zone or 61-point only, the AF points that were active at the moment of exposure are shown in DPP 4, but that is not the case when you are in AF Surround (or AF Expand). I have been suggesting to Canon for many years that this should be the case and that it could easily be done with a Firmware update. Please don’t hold your breath …

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To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

7 comments to The Morning Lineup. Smart and Lucky — a great combination, and Surround AF.

  • Dane Johnson

    What I see in the RGB histogram values show the transition time between early morning and midday, your image time of 8:30am. The blue highlight values are starting to increase with the blue light reflected off the sky, and the blue shadow values are low, allowing a yellow cast to the shadows and dark tones. This gives the warm tone to the bird’s body while keeping the white in the feathers close to neutral but with a very light blueish cast.

  • A good quilty flight Image, sharp, exposure perfect, which is difficult with a black bird and bright sky, but you are one of the best Bird Photographers in the USA, and Canon equipment
    is the best in the world.

    Love and best for 2018

    Kel UK

  • Jake

    I agree with all of Franks points and I would add that (from what you said) you were also lucky that the bird was not flying completely away from you.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      It was, sort of … But the direction of flight was not luck; that was — as explained — a result of the wind direction … Still missing one important one.

      with love, artie

  • Jake Levin

    How I think you got lucky:

    1) The bird started flying away, but looked back towards you, creating a good head angle.

    2) The selected focus point caught a piece of the wing on the same plane as the bird’s head and eye.

    3) The vulture was captured entirely within the blue area created by the background water, meaning you didn’t get any lines cutting through him from behind.

    4) The wing position at the time of exposure didn’t create any shadows on the body.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Jake Levin,

      Bingo times four!

      See you soon in San Diego.

      with love and best wishes for a great 2018.


  • Frank Sheets

    My comment on the luck would be the head angle on the vulture. He (she) is flying slightly away from you, yet apprears to be looking back at you, which to me makes the image. Secondly, the bird is placed perfectly above the horizon and the light portions of the sky and “level” with each. I don’t think the image would be as good had the bird been intersecting either. Third bit of luck…..?

    Hope the sun comes out today!