February 2nd, 2010

Birds As Art Bulletin #315



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Pelican (California race), backlit, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 70-200–mm f/4L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC (handheld at 246mm) with the EOS-7D. Evaluative metering -1 1/3 stops: 1/500 sec. at f/8. Flash as main light in Manual mode at 1:1.

When the sun came out I looked for some shaded or backlit subjects. The cormorant wall behind this pelican was in shadow and with the backlit white feathers on the head I knew that the background would be rendered black. I used the highest possible flash output plus a Better Beamer in order to fully illuminate the shadowed side of the bird. To learn flash as main light techniques see “Flash Simplified” in ABP II (916 pages on CD only): https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/category.aspx?catid=32. (There were some lighter-toned areas of the background that were covered with a series of Quick Masks.)


Here is a kudos e-mail from Becky Field:

Dear Artie, I can’t thank you enough for encouraging me to participate in your San Diego IPT. I learned so much–including what there is that I still need to learn–if you know what I mean. I have a much better handle on exposure; that was the main thing that I wanted most to get out of the IPT. I was blown away by all the great photo ops that we had and can’t wait to edit my stuff. I can’t imagine how the five days could have been any better. You’ are a great teacher, obviously a world class bird photographer, and a great guy. (Editor’s note: ) I feel very privileged to have been a part of your workshop. By the way, on the topic of fathers, I’ve already ordered from Amazon the book you recommended. (Editor’s note: Seeing Your Life Through New Eyes–not only for father-related issues!) I’ will look into the Gitzo 3530 and the Mongoose 3.5. I do love your BLUBB for shooting out of my car; I do that a lot in Minnesota and Wisconsin. When I use my tripod, I normally don’t walk far with it, for obvious reasons. (Editor’s note: Becky has some back problems.) Keep the bulletins coming! Safe travels. Becky

And here is an e-mail from Becky to the group:

Hello again IPT-ers. I have managed, between weddings, funerals and grandchildren, etc., to get my favorite bird shots (and a few non-bird shots) organized. Here is the link – you will want to push the forward button to move through them quickly, as there are so many I couldn’t delete: http://www.RebeccaFieldPhotography.com/ArthurMorrisIPTSanDiego/.

The IPT was such a special experience for me, and getting to know all of you was an added bonus! By the way, Ben and I were in Washington, D.C. for a wedding last weekend, and we wandered over to the Museum of Natural History and happened upon the current exhibit “The Best of Nature” in which Artie’s Gannets in Love (sharing plant material as part of their breeding ritual) was prominently displayed. It is gorgeous beyond words to see it displayed so large. I’m sure if you Google “The Best of Nature” exhibit you can see all the winning images. It was very inspiring!! I wish you all the best and hope our paths might cross at some point in the future. Meanwhile, happy “shooting”! Becky Field
To make a long story short, I clicked on the link to Becky’s slide show and was blown away by the quality of her images. It is well worth a visit. These are my favorites: #4 (above ) and #s 7, 16, 17, 24, 35, 43, 59, 73, 98 (Wood Duck carrying acorn!), and 108 (flapping shoveler). I sent Becky a short note telling her how proud I am of her work.


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Arthur Morris on the cliffs, La Jolla, CA
Image courtesy of and copyright 2010/Becky Field: http://www.RebeccaFieldPhotography.com
  1. By releasing the leg tab on one or more legs when working on uneven ground it is easy to adjust the angle of the leg or legs as needed to ensure that the tripod platform is relatively square to the world. Doing so makes it easier to handle your lens and to produce sharp images.
  2. I actually do use the Mongoose M3.5B as my regular tripod head even with the 800 Do note that the M3.5B heads are in extremely short supply right now.
  3. Whenever I am using a big lens with flash the Better Beamer is in place. To do otherwise is to waste battery power. The only exception is when I am working right at or very close to minimum focusing distance; at short range, the flash might not have time to turn off quickly enough and might exceed the level of fill that you dialed in.
  4. Note–as described in both ABP I and ABP II–my forehead is pressed against the back of the camera in an attempt to produce the sharpest possible images. Learn more about AP and ABP II here: https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/category.aspx?catid=32
  5. I am in the process of tightening the swing knob; I do that as much as possible when working at shutter speeds slower than 1/250 sec. The horizontal pan knob has either been previously tightened or has a light tension set on it. The last thing that you want is the lens swinging freely when you are trying to create sharp images of static subjects.
  6. I am using the vertical shutter button; the vertical battery grip is standard on most pro bodies. For folks using pro-sumer bodies like the 50D and the 7D I strongly advise that they add the battery grip; they double your battery power and give the lighter cameras more of a pro body feel. (You can see that the 7D on my shoulder has a battery grip attached.)
  7. Note the dirty butt; if you want to be a successful nature photographer you need not only to be willing to get down in the dirt and the mud and to get wet if and when necessary but you need to relish doing so.
  8. Leg-Coats make toting the lens around the cliffs or the beach easier on my shoulders and less painful especially when I have taken my X-tra Hand Vest off and placed it in a safe place to reduce fatigue.
  9. The Canon CP-E3 Compact Battery Pack is plugged into my flash and then attached to the middle leg section of my Gitzo 3530 LS tripod via the velcroed strap. Using an external battery pack will greatly reduce your flash’s recycle time. Even with an external battery pack the flash will not be able to keep up with the fast frame rate camera bodies.
  10. I have the 70-200 f/4L IS lens with the 1.4X TC and a 7D on my shoulder. This great lightweight combo gives me more than enough reach to make both close-up and flight images of the pelicans. Hanging on my shoulder via the camera body strap the rig is easily accessible should I see a pelican flying in to land or some potential action.
  11. All of my long lenses are protected by Lens Coats; this prevents most nicks to the white paint and drastically increases the potential resale value.
  12. Even with the 800mm lens I often add the 1.4X II TC to the mix. I travel with at least three 1.4X TCs so that I can have one on the big lens and one on a smaller lens if need be. (When this image was created my 400 DO was in the large rear pocket of my X-trahand vest easily accessible if needed.)
  13. Note: No camera strap on the MIV that is mounted to the 800; camera straps just get in the way but only 100% of the time. Do note the heavy lens carrying strap attached to the 800; I loop the strap over the tripod head while mounting the lens to prevent a smashing lens disaster.
  14. Thanks again to Becky for creating this informative image. If you learned something substantive from this image that I did not mention please shoot me an e-mail.


The 2011 San Diego IPT will run in January, 2011. I will announce the exact dates once I can get a look at a tide table. Here are the basics:

San Diego IPT JAN, 2011. 5 Full Days: $2495 (Limit 8/Openings: 6)

Slide program on the evening before the first day of the IPT. A fully refundable $500 deposit now will hold your spot until the dates are announced. Once the dates are announced let me know either way. If you opt in, then your deposit will become non-refundable and you will be asked to complete the registration and release forms. Brown Pelicans, Wood and Ring-necked Ducks, Western and Heerman’s Gulls, Marbled Godwits, and lots, lots more.


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Great Blue Herons: Elegant and Sexy
Image copyright 2009/Denise Ippolito
The image above was created from the image below by Denise Ippolito with the Fractalius plug-in.

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Great Blue Herons: original Image copyright 2009/Denise Ippolito
Denise Ippolito (http://deniseippolito.smugmug.com/) is a talented, hard working, and creative BirdPhotographers.Net moderator in the Out of the Box Forum: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=51. I was never much of a fan of post-processing filters but when I started hanging out at OOTB and seeing images like the one above and others by the late Dave Phillips, my eyes were opened wide. And when I saw the Great Blue Heron Fractalius image above it reminded me of one of my very favorite images… But it was way more sexy and elegant so I suggested that to Denise as a title for the image and she liked it.

Here is a Fractalius tutorial written by Denise

Fractalius is a Windows only plug-in. It has many options. Here I will cover the Glow 100 look that I used for the GBH image above (Elegant and Sexy) and to create the images below. Glow 100 is my very favorite Fract. filter. First open your image in Photoshop and convert it to 8-bit: Image/Mode/8-bit. Then duplicate the layer: Control J. Then open the plug-in: Filter/Redfield/Fractalius. Select Glow 100 from the drop-down filter menu that is next to the green check. A window with the plug-in program should open. It will look like this:

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Now experiment with the various sliders. Give each of the changes a few seconds to load. By moving the slider from one end of the scale to the other and letting the changes take effect, you can learn what each slider does. The more you play, the better you will get. When you like what you see, hit the green check mark and allow the program to run. Now it is time to make some adjustments and fine-tune your image. The first thing that I do is adjust the opacity of the layer. Each image is different and the opacity % that you use will depend on the look that you want. Next add a Layer Mask to the top layer; paint with black to reveal the original sharper details below or paint with white if you over-do it. I usually use a soft brush at about 95% opacity on the eyes and possibly the bill or part of the bill. (If you are using Elements, simply use the Eraser Tool at a reduced opacity to reveal the sharp detail below.) When you are happy with the look of the Fracting, you can adjust the color and contrast to taste if you wish. Remember: do not sharpen your master file; sharpening should only be done after an image is sized for final use.

Below are three more of Denise’s really cool Fracts.

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Nite Bandit
Image copyright 2010/Denise Ippolito

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The Tango
Image copyright 2009/Denise Ippolito

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Fiery Fox
Image copyright 2010/Denise Ippolito

If you would like to join the Fracting fun, please click on this link to purchase: https://www.plimus.com/jsp/buynow.jsp?contractId=1720292&referrer=birdsasart. The program costs only $39.90. And best of all, it is easy to learn and use. And tons of fun. See you in Out of the Box. Ooops. Almost forgot: if you would like to access another Fractalius tutorial by Denise (“Soft Fix”), click here http://deniseippolito.smugmug.com/Photography/On/9597965_bsEhJ and scroll down. This one covers using the Impression 1 pre-set.

Denise, who lives on the Jersey shore, offers individual and small group photographic and Photoshop instruction; you can learn more here: (http://deniseippolito.smugmug.com/).


Thanks to generous sponsorship support from Canon USA/Explorers of Light I will be presenting “A Bird Photographer’s Story” at the February 8, 2010 meeting of the Sarasota Audubon Society.

The meeting, which starts at 7pm, will be held at the First Congregational Church Fellowship Hall, 1031 South Euclid, Sarasota (Take US 41 to Bahia Vista. Go east on Bahia Vista to Euclid–the YMCA is on northeast corner–then north on Euclid to the church.) Meetings are free and open to the public.

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Brown Pelican (California race), turning towards the cliffs to land, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 70-200–mm f/4L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC (handheld at 129mm) with the EOS-7D. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/6.3 set manually.

The three things that I love about this image aside from the sharpness are the perfect wings-down pose, the fact that the bird is angling a bit towards me, and the fact that the bird is completely above the horizon. In this case I did not actually need the teleconverter but since I am confident that I can create really sharp images it was best to have the extra reach available instantly when it was needed.


More than 100 folks attended the exhibit opening and we sold three large canvas prints. A good time and some good food was had by all. After the opening party I presented a 75 minute slide lecture entitled “A Bird Photographer’s Story.” I was so, so funny that I should have been on Letterman. Pirjo Restina did a great job hanging the 34 prints and Canon’s generous sponsorship of the exhibit was greatly appreciated. The exhibit will hang until the end of March so if you are passing through Lake Wales be sure to stop by.

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Bok Tower exhibit canvases, Lake Wales, FL
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
An early arriving guest peruses Blizzard in Blue.


Colin Haase is offering the following used Canon gear for sale:

Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens w/tripod collar (non IS): $385.00 (good condition)
Canon EF 200mm f/1.8 L lens w/tripod collar: $3100.00 (excellent condition/never used since overhauled by Canon)
Canon EF300 f/4L IS: $875.00 (like new)
Canon 300 2.8 AF-L (non-IS) lens: $1750.00 (excellent condition)
Canon 70-300 DO IS 4.5/5.6: $750.00 (like new)

To arrange for purchase or for additional details contact Colin by e-mail at colinhaase@sbcglobal.net. (If you would like to speak to him, please e-mail for phone number and a good time to call him at 630-269-2242.)

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Willet at sunset, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/stop: 1/60 sec. at f/8.

I posted three versions of this image on BPN and asked folks which they liked best. I was sort of surprised at the response: 47 comments, 683 views! If you would like to see the other two images and learn what folks thought, click here: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?t=55630


By e-mail from BPN member Brian Hix,

Hi Artie, I just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know how much I appreciate BPN as a resource for those who want to learn to improve their photography. Over the past three years have gradually ramped up my gear and increased the amount of time that I spend in the field . The advice I have received on BPN not only in my own posts, but while reading the critiques images posted by others has helped me very much to improve over the past year and take my photography to the next level. Your BAA bulletins are something I look forward to reading more than any magazine I subscribe to and I am getting to the point where I can probably recite word for word many of the paragraphs in both ABP (soft cover) and in ABP II. It’s nice to have these resources available, especially since taking off a week to attend a workshop with my career and family obligations is not practical at this time.

I have many hobbies in my life (probably too many) and all come with some type of community attached to them; the the nature photography world, however, and bird photography in particular have the nicest, most helpful people I have come across. Thanks again for being a passionate leader and teacher in that community. It inspires me to leave a legacy like the one that you have created. Have a great 2010. Regards, Bryan Hix

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Brown Pelican (California race), head throw, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 70-200mm f/4 L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-7D. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1600 at f/8 set manually.

With so many birds so close together, creating an image that featured a clean head throw was difficult at best. In an effort to keep a bird on the right out of the frame I clipped the end of the bill on this otherwise excellent image so I went to work with a variety of Photoshop tools and techniques as described in APTATS I (https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/category.aspx?catid=33)
and Digital Basics (https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/category.aspx?catid=32) to create the photo above from the one below.

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The original capture is above. I was able to borrow the bill from the image below. It pays to create long bursts of behavioral images as some of the frames may be used to provide source material for other images in the series if needed.

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Slide program on the evening of FEB 9. 6-FULL DAYS: $2799. Limit 12/ Sold out. Co-leaders: Tim Grey and Alfred and Fabiola Forns. If you would like your name placed on the interested list for this IPT in 2011, please e-mail.

MIDWAY ATOLL IPTs: Two trips, early March, 2010 (from Oahu, HI) 7-FULL DAYS OF PHOTOGRAPHY: $6395 ALL INCLUSIVE FROM OAHU.

There may be a single opening on either or both of these trips. Please e-mail or see the complete information including registration information click here: http://www.photosafaris.com/photography-trips-2010/midway-photo-tour/. (This second BAA trip was added by popular demand.)

BOSQUE del APACHE 2010 IPT: “The Complete Bosque Experience.” NOV 20-26, 2010.

Slide program on the evening of Friday, NOV 19. 7-FULL DAYS: $3199. (Non-refundable deposit: $500; see details below.) Limit 12/ Openings: 9. Co-leaders: Robert O’Toole, Jim Heupel., and multiple BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year honoree Chris Van Rooyen of South Africa (http://www.wildlifephotography.co.za/). Live, eat, and breathe photography with one of (if not the) world’s premier photographic educators at one of his very favorite locations on the planet. Plus great co-leaders and top-notch Photoshop instruction.

A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to hold a spot for this IPT. Deposits may be paid by check, PayPal, or credit card. Payment in full (by check or money order only) is due four months before the start of each trip and is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out. You will be required to sign a statement of understanding to this effect. Travel insurance is of course highly recommended. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options, you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage, which expands the list of reasons for your canceling to an infinite list, from a sudden work or family obligation to a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check of running your credit card. We regret that we must implement this new policy but we have been plagued by last minute cancellations that make it impossible for others to participate and deprive us of essential income.

Important note: please print, fill out, and sign the registration and release forms and include them with your deposit check (made out to “Arthur Morris.” ) If you use a credit card to register, please fill out, sign, and mail the two forms asap. Your registration will not be complete until we receive your paper work. You can find the forms here: Registration and Release Form.

San Diego IPT JAN, 2011. 5 Full Days: $2495 (Limit 8/Openings: 6).

Slide program on the evening before the first day of the IPT. A fully refundable $500 deposit now will hold your spot until the dates are announced. Once the dates are announced let me know either way. If you opt in, then your deposit will become non-refundable and you will be asked to complete the registration and release forms. Brown Pelicans, Wood and Ring-necked Ducks, Western and Heerman’s Gulls, Marbled Godwits, and lots, lots more.

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