We Simplify The Technical!

Renowned Bird Photographer Artie Morris answers some viewer questions and gives amazing tips for getting super sharp images.


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Episode 100 with Artie Morris

Advanced Sharpness Techniques for Photography

About Artie

World Premier Bird Photographer

Top Nature Photography Instructor

Canon Explorer of Light Emeritus

Switched to Nikon

– Advantage – Sharper bird in flight images

  Group Autofocus (4 dot array) – focus grabbed and held without having to bump the focus button

– Disadvantages

  Can’t easily reach the button to change the AF mode.

  Difficult to focus in low light / low contrast with a long lens and teleconverter.

  Closest focus for Nikon 80mm-400mm is 7ft  (Canon 100mm-400mm can focus at 3ft)

Artie’s Advice

“You need to learn to make good pictures with what you have, give a damn about your subject, and work hard to improve.”

  • Shooting a city at night – Auto ISO, TV Mode, 4 stops under (shooting at night with red neon – still burn red channels anyway)

– Zoom Blurs at 1/4 sec to 1 sec

– sharp images at 1/125 sec

“Cameras have different modes.  The more you know about your camera, the more you can get out of it.”

  • Shooting pelicans (or other birds exhibiting active behaviors) – the best AF mode is Central Large Zone.
  • Shooting action with a zoom lens – zoom wider!
  • Shooting birds in flight – pan faster!
  • Best way to learn bird behavior – 
    • Be out there and put in the time.
    • Check out Artie’s books:  The Art of Bird Photography and The Art of Bird Photography II (CD Book)
    • Sign up for an Instructional Photo Tour.
  • Best way to capture a unique moment – 
    • Pay attention!  Concentrate on your subject and what you’re trying to do.  The moment your attention wanders or you begin to fidget, you might miss it!
    • Know your subject’s habits so you can better anticipate what they might do.
    • Really try to connect to the birds and become aware of subtle cues.
    • Stay low.  When moving up on a bird, lower your tripod, crawl on hands and knees or sit and scotch forward.  You’ll be able to get much closer than if you approach standing.
  • Lens recommendations for bird photographers – minimum – 8-15mm fisheye, or 16-35mm

“The best lens for a given photograph is the one you have with you.  That said, always bring your biggest lens or you’ll regret it.”

Specific Challenges for Bird Photography

  • They have wings!  They can be quick to fly away before you can get the shot you want.
  • Background – birds can be located all around you, but finding a good background for a great shot can be difficult.
  • Sky conditions and wind direction – understanding how the birds behave in different conditions will help you get a good position.
    • Even when conditions aren’t favorable ‘on paper’, go out anyway.  You never know how fast the conditions can change and create a more optimal experience. 

Artie’s Favorite Gear

  • Tripod – Induro GIT304L   (comes in a variety of sizes)
  • Gimbal head – Mongoose 3.6 side-mounting head (much lighter than Wimberley)
  • Camera body – Nikon D850
  • 500 or 600mm lenses
  • 2x Teleconverter

Artie’s Secrets to Sharp Pictures

“The way you connect to your camera and lens determines the sharpness.”

There will always be play and torque, no matter how much you tighten things.

To make things as steady as possible:

  • Make sure the tripod legs are all the way out against the stops.
  • If standing in sand or mud, push the tripod down into it a little to stabilize it.

Your stance:

  1. Your left hand holds the lens from below, just behind the lens hood, and pushes up slightly.
  2. Rest your left forearm against tripod leg.
  3. If possible, lean your left hip against the tripod leg as well.
  4. Your right hand belongs under the camera body, pushing up slightly.
  5. Press your face firmly against viewfinder cup and help brace the camera with your head.

Finding Artie

BirdsAsArt.com and BirdsAsArt-blog.com

The artist for Artie’s pants – Ram Papish (Facebook)




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