Why did I go with 1/60 second when photographing from a boat? And a New NIK Recipe. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Why did I go with 1/60 second when photographing from a boat? And a New NIK Recipe.


The Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch continued to mystify. We found a perfect spot in the mud with still, open blue water in front of us. As we settled in there were stilts and avocets and dowitchers close by and right down sun angle. Before we made an image a Peregrine stooped on the birds and they flew to the western end of the impoundment. After an hour they returned only to be flushed by another raptor. And so it went …

The shoulder is the shoulder and the inguinal hernia is the inguinal hernia. Both were feeling fine all day on Sunday. I enjoyed a rare Sunday physical therapy session, a nice lunch at the The Original Chop Shop, and a good dinner at Pita Jungle. I will be headed out again on Monday morning for some more avocet photography. I hope.

The Streak

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


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Money Saving Reminder

If you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H, would enjoy free overnight shipping, and would like a $50 discount on your first purchase, click here to order and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If you are looking to strike a deal on Canon or Nikon gear (including the big telephotos) or on a multiple item order, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Patrick Sparkman saved $350 on a recent purchase!


Several folks on the Gatorland IPT used the Booking.Com link below and got great rates and saved a handsome $25.00 in the process. If you too would like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and to earn a $25 reward on your first booking. 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 on an afternoon panga (zodiac) cruise at Punta Albemarle, Isabela, Galapagos, Ecuador. I used the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 153mm) and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/60 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AWB.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: extrapolated to -2.

One row down and two to the right of the center AF Point/AI Servo/Expand/Shutter button AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was right on the bird’s eye. Click on the image to see a larger, somewhat sharper version.

Lava Heron, hunting

The Situation

We had a wonderful afternoon on the zodiac photographing Blue-footed Boobies, baby Brown Pelicans in the nest, and nesting Flightless Cormorants. Right before sunset, we spotted and approached a tame Lava Heron hunting on the rocks. The zodiac drivers on the Samba are skilled at getting the pangas into position and holding them steady in just the right place. And that is what they did for this image. And best of all, the zodiacs switch positions often once a good subject is found.

Why did I go with 1/60 second when photographing from a boat?

If you think that you know why I stayed with 1/60 sec., please leave a comment. There were actually several reasons; see how many you can figure out …

A New NIK Recipe

I have been experimenting with Pro Contrast in Color EFEX Pro for a while as mentioned here previously and when I optimized this image, I created a new recipe: 30% Detail Extractor, 30% Tonal Contrast, and Pro Contrast with 5% Correct Contrast and 20% Dynamic Contrast. From there, I simply named and saved a new recipe. Then, you can always tweak the sliders and/or reduce the opacity as needed. It gives flat images just a bit of extra punch.

IPT Stuff

All IPTs include an introductory briefing before the IPT begins so you know what to expect, frequent in-the-field instruction and guidance (priceless), image editing and small group Photoshop instruction during and after lunch. Breakfasts are on your own so that we can get in the field early. Lunches are on me. Dinners are on your own as well so that we can get to bed as the days in spring will be long.

Rides with the leader are available on a limited basis for $50/day.

Registering for an IPT

To register for an IPT call Jim or Jen in the office at 863-692-0906 from Monday morning through Friday lunch with your credit card in hand to leave your $500 non-refundable deposit. Balances may not be paid by credit card so you will be asked to send a check for your balance along with the signed paperwork that you will find here.

Spring at DeSoto is often magical

DeSoto IPT #1 Sunrise: 7:07 am. Sunset: 6:22pm.

3 1/2 DAYS: SUN 15 APR thru the morning session on WED 18 APR: $1599. Limit 5 photographers.

You must purchase a season Parking Pass in advance for early entry. Click here and scroll down for info. If you are not a local, the six month pass if fine. Best to order by mail. Join me to photograph a wide variety of birds of the shore including pelicans, gulls, terns, sandpipers, oystercatchers, heron, egrets, and night-herons. Many in full breeding plumage. Most are ridiculously tame. Osprey likely. Learn to get the right exposure, flight photography techniques, my secret DeSoto locations, how to see the best situations (nobody is better at that than me), and how to make great images in extremely cluttered situations. Enjoy some great sunrises and sunsets.

Which will offer better opportunities, Desoto #1 or DeSoto #2? I have no idea. Both have the potential to be great.

Tame birds in breeding plumage and heron and egret chicks are great fun.

Gatorland IPT #2. Sunrise: 6:48am. Sunset: 7:58pm.

3 1/2 DAYs: THURS 26 APR through and including the morning of SUN 29 APR. $1599. Limit 5 photographers.

(2 1/2 DAY option) FRI 27 APR through and including the morning of SUN 29 APR. $1199.

Must purchase Gatorland Photographers Pass. Click here for details. All early entry. Late stays Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Gatorland IPT #2 should have lots of chicks, and lots of birds in breeding plumage. We will get to photograph Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, and Wood Stork. The Cattle Egrets in full breeding plumage will be present in good numbers. Learn my Gatorland strategy, to get the right exposure, flight photography techniques, my secret Gatorland spots, how to see the best situations (nobody is better at that than me), and how to make great images in extremely cluttered situations.

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22 comments to Why did I go with 1/60 second when photographing from a boat? And a New NIK Recipe.

  • Richard

    Hi Artie,

    I tried to duplicate your new NIK recipe but I don’t see anything called “correct contrast” under Pro Contrast. Did you mean to say “neutral” or possibly “auto enhance”?


  • Don M.

    Hi Artie,

    Here is one that might not have been mentioned; you are intentionally overexposing the image in order to make the heron stand out versus the lava background. You might also have been able to time the rhythm of the boat as it rose and fell in the waves much as you time your shots when a shorebird takes a brief pause.

    If your inguinal hernia is bothering you, consider Shouldice in Toronto. They only do hernias. People travel there from all over the world because their technique is so successful. I had both sides done more than a decade ago and they have been perfect. You are walking the grounds the next day and resume normal activity very quickly.


    Don M.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      No. The right exposure is the right exposure. This was actually a bit underexposed. Thanks for the info on Shouldice.

      with love, artie

  • David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Great image. Mostly what the others said about 1/60; you really didn’t have much option to use a faster shutter speed because your lens was near wide open (wide open would have been f/5 at 153 mm) and you don’t normally like to go above ISO 800, let alone 1600. I assume you’re not asking us why you didn’t use a SLOWER shutter speed. I agree with Phil Thach that you needed only one sharp image and that you probably deleted some unsharp ones.

  • Elinor Osborn

    I agree that the bird was motionless. But the boat was motionless as well. You mention still water. You didn’t want a higher ISO than 1600 because of noise. You were close and didn’t want to open the aperture more to get a higher shutter speed because the wider open aperture would have decreased DOF too much.

  • Hi Art.
    New Nik recipe…..
    I have to say, personally, I find the Detail Extractor too harsh, or not effective – nothing in between. I prefer to use the Nik Pro Sharpener 3 – Output Sharpener settings, of ‘Structure, Local Contrast and Focus’, along with the % Adaptive Sharpening. Using a mixture of strengths respectively, I find I can elicit some detail and sharpness from the image, without overdoing it. I will also use a touch of PS Highlight [1, or 2], to give a ‘pop’ to a dull image. If necessary, I will run a further DFine de-noise, after the sharpener, if necessary ,and if it works without ‘smoothing’ the texture. Note – I almost always run Dfine on all image TIFs, at the very start, before any post-processing or re-sizing has been done. We live with poor light in the UK, for much of the year, I’m afraid – no Florida sun. :-(( Just my experience. Richard.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Richard, DE is too harsh. That is why I reduce the Opacity 🙂 All is detailed in Digital Basics II.
      with love, artie

      ps: different strokes 🙂

      • Thanks – will order DB II and have a look. We met last year on the Farne Islands – weather was indifferent – UK weather. 🙁 Best wishes. Richard.

  • Mark Harrington

    Hi Artie,
    You didn’t want to raise our ISO. The bird was relatively motionless and the boat was relatively motionless so you could get away with a slow shutter speed.

  • I think you went with 1/60 sec because you had the luxury of time. You mention that the bird is tame and, at 153mm, you are obviously very close. So, I’m thinking you had plenty of time to expose the photos correctly at various ISO and shutter speed settings and then choose the overall best image in terms of focus, motion blur, and noise. You don’t mention how many images at 1/60 you made that had motion blur, but I’d wager that there were more of those than there were sharp ones. Still, all you need is one sharp one.

    Nice image. I’ve never seen or even heard of a Lava heron but I do enjoy taking photos of its near-doppelganger, the Green Heron.

  • Hi, Artie. Here are my reasons for going with 1/60th:

    – you were already at ISO 1600 and didn’t want to go any higher
    – The image stabilization on the 100-400 II is amazing and it’s possible to make sharp images even at 1/60
    – You were at 153mm on a full-frame and at that focal length, a slower shutter still worked compared to say the same lens extended fully to 400mm on a crop body (or with a 1.4x)
    – As Warren said, the bird was very still

    I have hand-held the 1-4 II with 1.4x on a 7D II and made sharp images at as slow as 1/80 when fully extended to 400mm (896mm equivalent) but I couldn’t do it at 1/60; however at a shorter focal length, 1/60 would be doable.

  • tom ronollo

    Hello Art:
    Just some thoughts here

    1) Background, background, background – you needed 5.6 to get the look you wanted
    2) Exposure – at the given ISO (etc) – no white is in there, as the colors of both foreground and background are neutral; using evaluative metering you would experience no problems with blow out
    3) The boat rocking could be timed so you could push the shutter when you are closest to the subject. That lens has good Image stabilization, and that helps.
    I’m not privy to the post-production settings.
    Just some thoughts, but the light looks somewhat soft and the look is fantastic. Thank you for the blog and information

  • Jake

    Hi Artie,
    I agree with Warren on point 1.
    However, I think that you were working at f/5.6, even thought you were at 153mm on the 100-400, because you had just created an image at 400mm (or close to that) before zooming out to capture this image.
    I think that you were at 1/60 second to keep your ISO as low as possible and 1/60 second was obviously the slowest shutter speed you thought possible on the rocking boat (I guess you were shooting bursts and getting a mixed bag of sharp and in-sharp shots).
    When you say ‘30% Tonal Contrast’, does that mean your usual of 12,25,12? If not what does it mean?

    • Jake

      The comments auto correct to ‘in-sharp’, I meant ‘unsharp’.

      • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        Jake, I am totally confused as to what you mean by “12, 25, 12.” Please explain. Do you have DB II?

        with love, artie

        • Jake

          When you select tonal contrast in color efex pro 4, it gives you four sliders: highlights, midtones, shadows and saturation. In the blog and your BandH lectures you have advised trying: highlights at 12%, midtones at 25%, shadows at 12% and saturation at 10%. Does your ‘30% tonal contrast’ recipe uses different values for these parameters?
          I don’t have DB II but I just purchased your 7D user guide and really benefited from your teaching style. So I am going to get more of your books. Does DB II replace the original Digital Basics?
          Thanks for your fantastic ongoing teachings,

  • Warren H

    Why 1/60th?

    1) you were already at 1600 ISO and did not want to go higher to increase exposure.
    2) you were at 5.6 aperture. While you may have been able to drop that 1/3 stop with that lens, it would not have added much exposure and you wanted a “little” better depth of field. Also, maybe a little better image quality stopped down.
    3) These birds probably stay very still, if they are like the similar looking green heron, so motion of the subject was not a concern. You just had to be fast enough to overcome the motion of the boat rocking and hand-holding.
    Summary – to get the exposure, you were already maxed out for the most part with ISO and aperture – you have to increase shutter speed (longer exposure).

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Some good, some confusing … Still more.
      with love and thanks for commenting.


  • Greg

    On the face of it shooting at 1/60 sec from a moving boat doesn’t seem like a good idea.
    However, it’s a dark(ish) bird on a dark background and it may have been in shadow or maybe the light was low (hence ISO 1600 even at F5.6) or all of the above. And maybe it was flat calm on the water.
    …or maybe you were going for a creative blur!