January 18th, 2011

BAA Bulletin 356, Jan 18th 2011



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Clouds above the Gulf of Mexico, FL at dawn
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II lens (handheld at 70mm) with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/125 sec. at f/3.2.

Photographing from a window seat on a commercial flight can be fun and productive. See more below.


Years ago you would never find me on a flight without a window seat and an intermediate telephoto lens on my lap. Flying a lot as I do, I have missed some spectacular opportunities recently simply by not being prepared…. When I flew to San Diego (via DFW) early on the morning of Saturday, January 15, 2011, I quit being lazy and grabbed my favorite new lens and a Mark IV from my Think Tank bag. Then I created the image above and the image below. It’s great fun and you never know what will turn up.

Here are some tips: work in Tv mode so that you can set a minimum shutter speed. Then set the exposure compensation that you need. Auto ISO or ISO Safety Shift will ensure that everything works out properly. Select a focusing sensor below the central sensor to take full advantage of the available depth of field. Hold the lens as close to the window as possible without having the lens touch the window. Fashion a crude working tent from a blanket or a shirt to cut down or eliminate glare. (Yeah, the guy next to you will think that you are nuts but who cares?) The very best way to eliminate glare is to purchase and travel with a flexible rubber lens hood that screws onto the front of your lens; you press the front of the hood against the window but can still aim the lens as needed.

When you select your seats try to imagine the lighting conditions so that you wind up on the proper side of the aircraft. And remember not to choose a seat right over the wing :).

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Black and White Clouds above the Gulf of Mexico, FL
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II lens (handheld at 70mm) with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 4000. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/125 sec. at f/3.2.

I converted this image to B&W in Photoshop and then brought it into NIK’s Silver EFEX Pro to juice it up. To save 15% on all NIK purchases click here and enter BAA as the code.


I have been spending a huge chunk of my time making the blog special. Recent efforts of interest include:

Working Right on Sun Angle (which includes a free excerpt from The Art of Bird Photography II–916 pages on CD only).

45-Point AF for Flight on the Hooptie Deux discusses when and why I use 45-Point AF for flight photography with my Mark IV.

Do Birds Understand Death? Two Tales: One New, One Old generated 28 interesting comments. Folks were quite passionate when it came to stating their positions. And to think that I thought that I was asking a rhetorical question….

My Thoughts on “Bright Ideas: You be the Photo Editor featured great images and lots of tips on photographing in bright sunlight. It elicited a variety of unexpected comments including by Glen Fox one that led to my writing the blog post below. Thanks again Glen.

Two Tramps in Mud Time: how a Robert Frost poem reflects on my wonderful life.

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Brown Pelican in flight, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II and the 2X II TC (hand held at 300mm) with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops off the sky: 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6.

The 70-200 f/2.8L IS II has been a favorite of mine ever since I started borrowing one from Canon Professional Services about five months ago. I purchased my own in November past. You can read about my early impressions here.


Whether you are seeking to photograph tame Common Loons, majestic winter owls, or find extensive forests with unique warblers and songbirds, Matthew Studebaker takes the reader through the best and most productive bird photography areas in Michigan. Both Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas are included with original maps for each chapter, highlighting key areas of interest. Every chapter has a list of the most likely species to be found, what time of year to visit, where to shoot, basic techniques for each area, and more. Popular photography areas covered include Nettie Bay and vicinity for Common Loons and songbirds, winter hotspots in the Upper Peninsula, the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary for tame waterfowl, and Pointe Mouillee for hundreds of migrating shorebirds in the fall. A list of useful web links and up to the minute birding reports is included as well, providing the photographer everything they need to start planning their Michigan photo outing in any season.

We are proud to announce the availability of Matthew Studebaker’s excellent Michigan Site Guide, his second (along with the Ohio Site Guide) written especially for BIRD AS ART. To order your copy, you can send a Paypal for $50, call Jim at the office with credit card in hand, or click here to order through the BIRDS AS ART On-line Store.

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Snowy Owl, Michigan
Image copyright 2010: Mathew Studebaker

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Pectoral Sandpiper, juvenile, Michigan
Image copyright 2010: Mathew Studebaker

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Singing male Kirtland’s Warbler, Michigan
Image copyright 2010: Mathew Studebaker

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Cerulean Warbler, male, Michigan
Image copyright 2010: Mathew Studebaker


Twenty-three BIRDS AS ART folks will be joining me on the killer South Georgia/Falklands Expedition that will run October 18 to November 11, 2012. If you missed that feature, see item one here. If you are seriously interested in this trip it would be best not to tarry as there are only 13 slots left on the trip…. Please e-mail me at samandmayasgrandpa@att.net immediately for details and the sign-up info. This trip is so spectacular that I am good to go as a participant paying the full freight. I hope that you can join us.


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Thanks to the brilliant Michael Tapes of both the Lens Align MII and this product shot.

As far back as Bosque my sharp images got even sharper…. With help from Peter Kes I began fine tuning the focus on my various lens/camera body combinations by calibrating the focus using the Lens Align Pro. Just yesterday I tried out the new Lens Align Mark II, cheaper, lighter, easy to travel with, and yes, better. If you have spent thousands on a super-telephoto lens it would seem foolish not to ensure the absolute best results.

You can find the complete Lens Align Mark II tutorial here.

The Lens Align MkII costs only a fraction of the original Lens Align Pro and–with the slightly longer ruler, and the new ruler patterns, it performs even better. You can order yours right now by calling Jim at 863-692-0906 or send us a Paypal: $79.95 plus shipping: $6/US or $13/INT via Priority Mail. If you order through the BAA On-line Store here.
please be aware that the shipping fees may vary a bit depending on your location. International shipping charges will also vary by country depending on additional fees for customs, VAT, duties, or fees depending on their laws, rules or policies. Important note: we have been having a problem with the On-line store; some overseas customers are incorrectly being charged ridiculously high shipping charges. If this happens to you, simply complete the order and e-mail Jim. He will issue a refund for the overcharges. This is an obviously less than ideal situation and we are doing our very best to rectify it but we are at the mercy of forces beyond our control 🙂 .

Thanks a stack to the 100+ folks who ordered right off the bat. Jim will be shipping all of the unfulfilled orders early this week.

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Brown Pelican, 1/8 sec. head shake blur, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 800 f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/8 sec. f/7.1.

Though I liked the original here is the image caption for the optimized file: “Brown Pelican head shake 1-8 sec blur face & eye added & enhanced _W3C2439 La Jolla, CA.tif.” I made a Quick Mask of the face and eye from another image created just before this one, reduced the opacity, and fine-tuned it with a series of Layer Masks. Advanced Quick Masking and basic Layer Masking techniques are detailed in Robert O’Toole’s APTATS I and APTATS II.

If you would like to learn more about creating pleasing blurs check out A Guide to Pleasing Blurs by Denise Ippolito and yours truly.


Here is the gear that I used to create the images for this Bulletin:

Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens (My very best friend :))
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L II lens (My favorite new lens. By a mile.)
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body (I only own and travel with two.)
Canon EF 2X II teleconverter (I never leave home without one.)

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo 3530 LS Tripod (Sturdy and light and will last you a lifetime.)
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head (I use it every day with my 800mm.)
Double Bubble Spirit Level (Make your life easy by getting it right in the field; just a glance and you are square to the world.)
Giotto’s MH 1302-655 (Tiny) Ballhead (It takes me less than a minute to spin the Mongoose off and have this tiny head ready for a camera with a short lens mounted.)
Delkin e-Film Pro 32 gb Compact Flash Card (Fast and dependable. Everything I want in a flash card.)

If you are considering the purchase of a major piece of photographic gear be it a new camera, a long lens, a tripod or a head, or some accessories be sure to check out our complete Shopper’s Guide. You will learn to find the lowest prices, comparison shop, and help us to keep offering tons of great free info and images.

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Brown Pelican preening, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 800 f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. f/6.3.

Though the 800 is often too much lens on the cliffs at La Jolla, it allowed me to frame this image as desired.

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