August 21st, 2011




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Coastal Brown Bear nursing one of two yearling cubs, Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park, AK. Her second cub was just out of sight for a moment. It was great to see mom so relaxed as her cub nursed. This image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X III TC, and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/200 sec. at f/11 in Av mode.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: 0.


On the evening of August 2, 2011 Robert O’Toole, his girlfriend Jana, and I met the entire group for dinner at Henry’s Restaurant on Kodiak, AK. The boat’s fine cook Sherri joined us as did here husband Walt who turned out to be a fine deckhand/skiff driver. A good time was had by all.

The next morning (8/3) we grabbed three SUV taxis at 5am and met the two boats at Anton Larsen Bay just before 6am. As it was very still, about ten million no-se-ums were there to greet us. The plan was to photograph Sea Otters from the skiffs at close range and then cross the Shelikof Straits that afternoon or evening. As a fairly large storm was predicted for that afternoon we did a drive-by shooting of the otters that was not very successful and headed across the strait. I could kick myself for not staying outside and photographing for a while as several folks created great images of a Fin Whale on the surface with a Tufted Puffin floating nearby in just the right spot in the frame. (I hope to share one of those with you in a future Bulletin.) In any case it soon got too rough for photography and the two boats began to pitch and roll. Two folks got seasick but both were great sports about our teasing.

Late that afternoon we arrived at our protected anchorage in Kukak Bay. Though it was foggy we took the skiff to the beach and got to photograph several bears, the best being a sleeping female who stirred a few times to look at us. Day two (8/4) at Kukak was much better with lots of bears and a very tame Black Oystercatcher pair with three friendly chicks in the morning and more bears and two nice rainbows that afternoon.

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This half-grown Black Oystercatcher chick was photographed at Kukak Bay, Katmai National Park, AK. The family spent most of the time foraging among the rocks for limpets and mussels. I was amazed when this little one walked into the bay for a bath. I was sitting behind my tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/640 sec. at f/8 in Av mode.

Lens/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: -4. After the MIV body that I dropped was repaired and the focus was adjusted (by Canon Repair Services) I re-calibrated the 800; the correct micro-adjustment changed from +10 to -4.

The group–hearing tales of the yearling cubs and a tame white Wolf at Hallo Bay from Robert who had been there on the previous trip–was anxious to get out of Kukak and get to Hallo. After dinner Chuck and Olga ran the boats up to famed Hallo Bay, Timothy Treadwell’s “Grizzly Sanctuary.” Well, sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence…. We enjoyed our first clear sunrise (8/5) and the scenery was incredible but we found only a single very sleeping bear. We did see the white Wolf at a great distance. (It had walked right up to Robert the week before….) The theory was that a bumper berry crop drew the bears out of the sedge meadows into the thickets. As the tide dropped we found a nice variety of shorebirds foraging along the creek. As I am a any-port-in-a-storm type of guy I motivated most of the group to join me. The birds were fairly tame. And very beautiful. Most everyone got to photograph juvenile Western and Least Sandpipers, juvenile Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, juvenile and adult Short-billed Dowitchers, and a drop-dead gorgeous female Red-necked Phalarope. On our long low tide walk to grab the skiff back to the boats we had some nice chances with a backlit bear fishing.

Since it was after 11am and clear and sunny I let the group know that we would be much better off trying for blasting highlights silhouettes than working our way all the way around the bear to sun angle. So we did. This image was created at 11:36 am at Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1250 sec. at f/11 in Av mode.

Lens/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: -4.

Note that you can see a salmon and its splash right in front of the bear. The animated GIF shows the image before and after optimization. Digital Basics (a PDF sent via e-mail) teaches you several ways to level an image (my Bubble Level was in my pocket…) and add canvas. Clean-up as almost always was with the Patch Tool, the Spot Healing Brush (set to Content Aware), the Clone Stamp Tool, and a few Quick Masks, all as described in detail in Digital Basics.

The group of eleven included eight happy-camper repeat clients: My very good friend, skilled photographer, and multiple IPT veteran Clemens van der Werf of was on his first bear boat trip (though I strongly suspect that it will not be his last). Bill Keown of Minnesota was on his third bear boat; the guy cannot stay away from Katmai. 🙂 And he loves fishing as much as I do. Tom and Rosie Kreulen, from Cape Coral, FL, were traveling with me for the umpeenth time; both competent photographers who enjoy every minute in the field, they are as nice and sweet a couple as you would ever hope to run across. The always-smiling Mike Goldhamer from San Diego has also been on almost every IPT including Midway and Homer. He was joined by friend Tom Blackman who had joined us in Midway. Tom is a skilled birder and naturalist who is also from San Diego. John Snodgrass from Atlanta joined me for his fourth or fifth IPT in less than a year. He is another sweetie and is very serious about improving his skills.

Larry Master, I think from the Lake Placid, NY area, had been with me previously on a SW FLA IPT. He is a very nice man who is also very serious about learning; he asked lots of excellent questions. He was joined by wife Nancy who was taking her first images with a telephoto lens. She had absolutely no fear of approaching bears! The very pleasant newcomer Bill Goodhew, also from Atlanta, who was along for his first BAA ride learned a ton and made some good images to boot. Rounding out the group was Daniel Arias, son of my very dear friend Raul Arias de Para, owner of two fabulous eco-tourist/birding resorts in Panama, Canopy Lodge and Canopy Tower. Learn more here, and here, and here. I hope to share some of Daniel’s images with you fairly soon.

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This beautiful cub and her mom were pushed toward us by a big bad male bear that swam across the stream. I created this image while standing behind Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/640 sec. at f/10 in Manual mode.

Lens/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: -4.

There were more bears around Hallo that afternoon but in spite of a very good start–a mom and large cub walked right up to us–several of us opted to grab a skiff ride to Ninagiak Island. As we landed, an eagle flew over and hundreds of puffins simply left. Confident, but remembering my first evening on Plateaufjellet in Spitzbergen, we set up our tripods and within ten minutes we had more than a few Horned Puffins land right in front of us. We did not get back to the boat for dinner until after 10:30pm.

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This Horned Puffin flapping in place was photographed at Niniagiak Island, Katmai National Park, AK with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X III TC, and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/8 set manually.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: 0.

August 6th, day 4, was a wonderful day: it blew hard and poured rain all morning. Robert and I each did long programs that were very well received and appreciated by the boys and girls. That afternoon a skiff-load of eager photographers headed to the beach in a light drizzle only to return 30 minutes later soaked to the bone in a pouring rain driven sideways by strong winds. The rest of the afternoon was followed by small group Photoshop sessions. Late that afternoon the winds dropped and the decision was made to head north to Geographic Harbor.

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Seven of the eleven intrepid photographers heading to shore at Geographic Harbor. At the helm, our guide Chuck. Last row, left to right: Bill Keown, Tom Kreulen, & Clemens van der Werf. On the gunnel on our left, Robert’s girlfriend Jana. On the front bench seat: Rosie Kreulen, John Snodgrass, & Larry Master. On our right on the gunnel, Danial Arias. Foreground left standing, Robert O’Toole. Kneeling: deckhand Walt.

Image created with the Canon 24-105mm IS L lens (handheld at 24mm) and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/200 sec. at f/10 in Av Mode.

On our first morning (8/7) at Geographic we had lots of bears and several of them were fishing and catching. That afternoon the entire group got to enjoy my first nursing bear, a big light female with two yearling cubs in soft light. We ended the day photographing with a mom and her large cub chomping on grasses. On day 6 (8/8) the big excitement occurred when Cinnamon Mom lunged for a fish while here cub jumped on her back. For a description of what happened see the opening image here. On day 7 (8/9) we enjoyed cloudy overcast conditions with lots of bears and lots of cubs. The highlight came early in the afternoon when a mom with a cub ran into a large male coming down the path on the edge of the creek. Junior jumped on her rump and cowered staring at the big boar.

On our last morning we were blessed with a low tide at dawn and lovely soft sunlight coming over the ridge. We enjoyed early morning light on about a dozen clamming bears. In all we enjoyed almost three hours of action on our get-away morning. Three float planes later–on a perfect day for flying–we were all back on Kodiak awaiting our flights home. Despite our rough crossing, one day of horrific weather, and the virtual absence of bears at Hallo, it had been a great trip.

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This clamming cub was photographed in early morning light with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/8 in Av mode. I was working at ground level with the tripod legs shortened and splayed (with an occasional glance at the Bubble Level in the hot shoe.)

Lens/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: -4.


2012 Bear Boat IPT: July 24-31, 2012 from Kodiak, AK: $6499. Happy campers only! Maximum: TBD but surely between six and ten.

Leader: Arthur Morris (though it is likely that Robert O’Toole will be aboard as well). This trip needs a minimum of six participants to run; two are already committed (including Jim Heupel back for his third trip to Katmai with me). Please do not purchase your plane tickets until advised to do so. These always sell out but it is better to be up front and safe. It is mandatory that you be in Kodiak no later than the late afternoon of July 23 to avoid missing the float plane(s) to the boat on the morning of July 24th. With air travel in AK being what it is, with the chance of fog or other bad weather–being on Kodiak on July 22 is an even better plan. I will take you out to dinner in Kodiak on the evening of July 23rd.

The plan is to take at least two float planes to the boat mid-morning on July 24th. We should get to photograph that afternoon and for the next five or six days or so: there will be lots and lots of coastal Brown Bears of various ages including spring cubs (nursing and playing), bears eating luscious green grasses, bears clamming, and possibly bears catching a few early salmon. Bald Eagles with tiny chicks in the nest are possible, as are both puffin species (especially Horned). We may get to photograph at least one Black-legged Kittiwake colony and some hauled out Steller’s Sea Lions (an endangered species). Halibut fishing (license required) is optional.

We may, depending on the weather, be able to cross the Shelikoff Strait on the evening of July 30 and spend our last morning photographing rafts of Sea Otters. If this does not pan out, we will not get to photograph the otters and we will need to incur the additional cost of taking float planes back to Kodiak. But the plan is to cross and spend a morning with the otters.

Unlike my trips prior to 2011, this is a longer 8-DAY/seven NIGHTS on the boat trip. The eight days will consist of six full days (July 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, & 30) of photography featuring lots of Coastal Brown Bears as above plus a variety of other natural history subjects plus some nice scenic photography that I forgot to mention above. Plus the first afternoon and the last morning. As above, we hope to do the otters on that last morning.

What’s included? 8 DAYs/7 NIGHTS on the boat as above. All meals on the boat. (The food is amazing.) Bear Guide services. National Park fees. One night’s double occupancy lodging on Kodiak; arrive: July 23/depart: July 24. The thank-you-in-advance dinner on the 23rd. In-the-field photo tips, instruction, and guidance. An insight into the mind of a top professional; I will constantly let you know what I am thinking, what I am doing, and why I am doing it. Small group image review, image sharing, and Photoshop instruction on the boat.

What’s not included: Your round trip airfare to and from Kodiak, AK (almost surely through Anchorage). All necessary lodging other than the cost of your double occupancy room on the night of July 23rd. I will let you know the cost of a single supplement if so desired. And we will arrange for a room on Kodiak for you on the night of the 22nd if you opt to arrive a day early as we recommend. The cost of the float plane out to the boat on July 24th and possibly the cost of the return float plane trip on the morning of the 31st if we cannot make the otter crossing on the night of the 30ieth. The suggested crew tip of $210. Is this an expensive trip? Yes, of course. But with 6 full and two half days, a wealth of great subjects, and the fact that you will be walking with the bears it will be one of the great experiences of your life.

A $2,000 per person non-refundable deposit by check only made out to “Arthur Morris” is required to hold your spot. Please click here and then scroll down and read out cancellation policies. Then please print, read, and sign the necessary paperwork here and send it to us with your deposit check. Deposit: immediately. This leaves a balance of $4499. The first payment of $2499 is due December 15, 2011. The final payment of $2000 is due on March 15, 2011. Again, I need six deposits in hand to run this trip so please do not purchase your plane tickets or use your air miles until you learn from us that we are good to go. We will likely know for sure no later than December 15, 2011, but in all likelihood we will know well before then.

I hope that you can join me for this wondrously exciting trip.

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Sandhill Cranes, Fire in the Mist with texture added. Image copyright 2010: Denise Ippolito/A Creative Adventure

I love the textured effect here. To learn about this technique and dozens more check out Denise’s “A Guide to Creative Filters and Effects” here.


Last year Denise visited Bosque del Apache for the first time when she co-led my IPT (Instructional Photo Tour). She was amazed by the quality of photographic opportunities; the overwhelming number of birds along with the gorgeous sunrise and sunset colors took her by surprise. Her soul touched, she quickly fell in love with the natural beauty of the place. In her latest e-book she shares more than 100 of her favorite Bosque images with you in hopes of filling your head with visions of color and light and soft romantic hues and inspiring you on your next (or first) visit to this wondrous refuge. Learn to develop your inner creativity and to better express yourself by utilizing the photographic ideas, thoughts, and techniques mined from Denise’s “Impressions of Bosque.”

You can order your copy of “Impressions of Bosque” (127 pages, two poems, 103 images) for only $16.00. The PDF will be sent to you either via e-mail or U-Send-It. You can send a check (be sure to include your e-mail address) for $16 made out to “Arthur Morris” to Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855, sending a Paypal to, or through the BAA On-Line store here.


Gitzo is offering a $40 rebate until the end of September. To learn which would be the best 6X Carbon Fiber tripod for you click here. I currently own and use four Gitzo 3530 LS CF tripods.

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Puerto Rican Tody (Todus mexicanus), Bosque Seco (Dry Forest), Guánica, Puerto Rico. Image copyright 2007 in the name of the creating photographer. This image was created with the Sigma 50-500 and the Canon EOS-30D at 420mm). ISO 200: 1/400 sec at f/5.6.


From time to time I will be sharing a selected image or two from various contest categories that catch me eye. Above is my first Judge’s Favorite from the Bird Portraits (images that show the whole bird) category. You can learn more about the BIRDS AS ART 1ST International Bird Photography Competition by clicking here. Eleven great categories, 34 honored images, and prize pools totaling more than $20,000.

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This yearling Coastal Brown Bear cub was trying to figure out what all the commotion was when Cinnamon Mom caught a big salmon and her cub was having a snit fit about not getting its share. This image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/8 in Av mode.

Lens/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: -4.


I continue to put in 20+ hours a week towards making the blog informative, timely, and beautiful. Many of the educational features that formerly appeared in BAA Bulletins now grace the BAA Blog. If you have a problem subscribing, please contact us via e-mail. If you are not subscribed, you are missing a ton of great stuff almost daily. You can subscribe to the blog posts by clicking here. Below are links to recent posts of interest.

Huge News!

Natural Design: A new, hugely popular e-book on composition and image design by Gloria Hopkins.

Learn why I truly believe that Digital Nature Photography is Too, Too Easy.

In A Guide to Pleasing… I share my favorite blurs from the bear boat trip.

In Long Lens/Long Exposure/Image Stabilization Lesson I learned that something that I refused to believe for a very long time is 100% true.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear (or the current replacement) used to create the images in today’s post. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Support both the Bulletins and the Blog by making all your B & H purchases here.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon 1.4X III Teleconverter. Designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. My two Mark IVs are my workhorse digital camera bodies.
Canon EOS-7D The big brother to the old EOS-30D.
Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3 APO OS HSM Canon mount. A lightweight, sharp, versatile lens with a Canon mount.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sales value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders 🙂
Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
CR-80 Replacement Foot for Canon 800. When using the 800 on a Mongoose as I do, replacing the lens foot with this accessory lets the lens sit like a dog whether pointed up or down and prevents wind-blown spinning of your lens on breezy days by centering the lens directly over the tripod.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
Be sure to check out our camera body User’s Guides here.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV User’s Guide. Learn to use your Mark IV the way that I use mine.

Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. These high capacity cards are fast and dependable. Clicking on the link below will bring you to the Delkin web site. There is lots of great stuff there. If you see a product that we do not carry let us know via e-mail; we will be glad to have it drop-shipped to you and save you a few bucks in the process.

I pack my 800 and tons of other gear in my ThinkTank Airport SecurityTM V2.0 rolling bag for all of my air travel and recommend the slightly smaller Airport InternationalTM V2.0 for most folks. These high capacity bags are well constructed and protect my gear when I have to gate check it on short-hops and puddle jumpers. Each will protect your gear just as well. By clicking on either link or the logo below, you will receive a free gift with each order over $50.

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