October 22nd, 2011



  • Nikon DSLR User’s Guide for the D300s/D700/D3S/d3x
  • Nikon DSLR User’s Guide Questions
  • A Jobu Jr e-mail from Robert O’Toole
  • Alan Murphy’s “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography”

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This Sandhill Crane image was created down by the lake near my home at Indian Lake Estates 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 at zero: 1/400 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode. Central Sensor (out of necessity)/Rear Focus AI Servo AF active at the moment of exposure. If you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial, you can access it here.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: 0. For a greater appreciation of the image, click on the photo. Then click on the enlarged version to close it. You can see what the folks at BPN thought of this image here.

Nikon DSLR User’s Guide for the D300s/D700/D3S/d3x

Well, it took long enough–at least two years from concept to the final PDF–but Robert O’Toole has out-done himself by creating a masterpiece user’s guide for using Nikon gear. I just had my first look at the finished document and all that I can say is “Wow! Many Nikon folks show up on IPTs knowing little about properly setting up their cameras. “How do you see the histogram?’ “Don’t know….” “Can you set your camera so that we see the RGB histogram and blinkies in the same frame? “I once saw it done but don’t know how….” For me, it has long seemed that operating a Nikon camera required degrees in Physics, Language, and Logic. With Robert’s new guide those days are over.

You will learn when, how, and why to work in Manual mode and when, why, and how to work in one of the auto-modes (by setting exposure compensation). You will learn the various camera control options and custom settings so that you can fine-tune your camera to suit your shooting style. You will learn how and why many top pros works at higher ISOs than the regular Joes. And you will learn how Robert uses both Auto-ISO Control and Exposure Compensation while working in Manual Mode to routinely create perfectly exposed action photographs. He explains exactly how he sets the important camera controls. And why. Those include Release Mode, Focus Mode, and Rear Button Focus. You will learn how to set your camera and your flash to create flash blurs. You will learn which AF Mode Robert uses 90% of the time and how he sets it up using Menu/Custom Settings Menu.

He will teach you how and why to set a variety of buttons and dials. How and why to use Live View. About the only metering mode he uses. How, why, and when to switch AF points with the Multi-Selector. How and why to use the often-overlooked Info Button and the often over-looked My Menu feature. Then he takes you through the Camera Menus while dealing with the hows and whys of how he sets up the important items.

If you use Nikon gear then you simply cannot live without Robert’s great new guide. The Nikon DSLR User’s Guide is a comprehensive 45-page PDF that is sent by e-mail. There are dozens and dozens of diagrams and screen captures and even a few photos to illustrate key points. You can purchase your copy (no sharing digital files please :)) for only $32 by sending calling BIRDS AS ART at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand, sending a PayPal to us at birdsasart@att.net, or by sending a $32 check made out to Arthur Morris to us at Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL. If by check be sure to include your e-mail address. You can save two dollars by ordering the guide through the BAA On-line Store but you will need to wait till midday Monday to do that.

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Bald Eagle against mountains, near Homer, AK. Image copyright 2010: Robert O’Toole Photography. Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO Autofocus Lens for Nikon handheld at 290mm with the Nikon D700. ISO 640. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1600 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode.

Nikon DSLR User’s Guide Questions

When I’ve received questions on the Robrt O’Toole’s new Nikon Guide I needed to go right to the source.

Dan Brown in a blog comment, “The Nikon guide sounds great! One question, would it be applicable for the D300?” dan

Hi Dan, Virtually all of the guide will be applicable to the D300; the D300s and D300 are very similar. There are just a few small differences but the autofocus and the exposure systems are the same. If you purchase the guide an come up with any camera-specific questions please e-mail me; I’d be glad to help anytime. Thanks, Robert

Geri Bggs asked, “Does everything in the Nikon guide apply to the Nikon D80 and or the D90??

Hi Geri, Although the guide is not written with the D80 or D90 in mind, it will give you a lot of good information such as how, why, and when to use the Auto and the Manual modes, everything you needs to know about my metering techniques, and much more. That is the stuff that folks learn during my workshops. If you have a question on your camera, please e-mail me as above and I will do my best. Robert

From Jackie Bowman via an e-mail to Robert: “I am very intrigued by the new Nikon User’s Guide. I have a D7000, do you think that I can benefit from this guide?”

It would be very beneficial for a Nikon D7000 owner. The guide is not written specifically for the D7000, but there is lot of good solid general information on using the Nikon AF and AE systems and modes, the same kind of information that we cover in my field workshops. Thanks for writing. Robert

And from Glen DeKlein via e-mail to Robert: “I have the Nikon D300 but not the ( S ) model. Is there enough difference between the two models that the guide would not be compatible with the D300?”

Virtually all of the guide will be applicable to the D300; the D300s and D300 are very similar. There are some small differences but all of the important parts, the menus, AF and AE systems, are the same. There are some instances in the guide where I point out the D300/D300s differences. I own both cameras so I looked into this very carefully when I wrote the guide. If you do buy the guide and you come across any issue or problem at all please contact me directly and I can help you with it.

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I saw a local fisherman walking off the long pier at Lake Walk-In-Water the other morning and knew that the Turkey Vultures would–with the wind from the northeast–be pretty much taking off right towards me. They did. This image was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens) and the 2X III teleconverter (handheld at 400mm) with the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV). ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops off the sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 set manually.

Central Sensor AI Servo/Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Learning to read a situation as I did here can result in many fine images.

Lens/camera body Micro-adjustment: -13.

For a greater appreciation of the image, click on the photo. Then click on the enlarged version to close it.


This is one of a dozen or so e-mails that I have answered during the past few days:

am: Hi Ian, re:

Ian: Hi Arthur….I love your work and it’s such an inspiration to me. I am a retired teacher and my passion is bird photography.

am: Thanks; me too.

Ian: However, I am confused with what I read and hear from other bird photographers. Some (a Canon 7D user with L series lenses) says “Use AV” and others say “Use Manual”; however when I use manual I have difficulty locking in the exposure in the middle of the bar in the viewer.

am: It is rare that you would want to do that…. And when working in Manual mode, the exposure indicator will jump all over the place–that is what it is supposed to do… If I may be frank, I gotta say that you have no clue as how to get the right exposure….

Ian: When birds are in flight, I set the ISO at A and set the shutter speed at 1600 with a F8. But don’t get the results I want….

am: That is because you do not understand exposure…

Ian: Furthermore, when I am in AV I set the ISO at 400, F8 and the shutter speed is calibrated; my shots are good with AV setting.

am: That is a matter of luck and your perception; the very great likelihood is that they look OK but are underexposed.

Ian: Do you have any suggestions of books to read or videos to peruse?

am: Yes. You need to do the following. Click here. Order the 2-book combo. If you want to get started quickly making properly exposed images go to the section in the ABP II (the CD book) entitled, “Exposure Simplified.” Study it and then study it some more. In five to ten minutes you should have a good handle on getting the right exposure in a variety of situations: sun in, sun out, light background, dark background, white subject, black subject. The material is not difficult. If subject size, light, and background are relatively constant, you will be fine working in Av mode. Next find the section entitled “Working in Manual Mode.” Also in the CD book. Study it. In short order you will be comfortable working in Manual mode in changing light and with changing backgrounds and will be making images with good exposures. And understanding what you are doing and why.

Then, go back to the original “The Art of Bird Photography” and study the Exposure chapter, especially the section on exposure theory. Master it. Once you have exposure down then you can start to study the additional wealth of material in the two books. later and love and good luck, artie

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This Black Vulture flight image was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens and the 2X III teleconverter (handheld at 292mm) with the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV). ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop off the sky: 1/1250 sec. at f/6.3 set manually.

Central Sensor AI Servo/Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure.

Lens/camera body Micro-adjustment: -13.

For a greater appreciation of the image, click on the photo. Then click on the enlarged version to close it.

In the screen capture below the active sensor (the red one) was on the sky (not the bird) yet the AF system tracked the subject accurately. I currently have C. Fn. III-8 set to 1 on both of my Mark IV bodies. This allows the AF system to utilize the AF point on either side of the active point…. (Adapted from the MIV User’s Guide.)

Note that the vulture is centered in the original capture below but is pleasingly off-center in the optimized image above. I used a technique described in detail in Robert O’Toole’s APTATS II to move the bird to the left; it took less then 10 seconds from start to finish. You can learn more about APTATS II here.

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To see a larger version, click on the image; click on the enlarged version to close it.


I continue to put in 20+ hours a week towards making the blog informative, timely, and beautiful. Most 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.

If you’d like to join us for Thanksgiving brunch at the Albuquerque Crowne Plaza click here for details. And bring your appetite; they food was both great and plentiful last year.

Bird photographer goes swimming for a flower photograph here!

See what I met on my health walk in Watch Your Step and what I did with the original in Rattler Options.

If you use a big lens from your vehicle you need to check out “Beanbag Sharpness Issues.”

See how I re-worked another killer breeding plumage shorebird image from years ago in Family Jewel Improvement.

Canon Introduces its new full frame professional digital camera body the EOS-1D X here.

A Jobu Jr e-mail from Robert O’Toole

Artie, Thanks for giving me the opportunity to respond to your comments about the Jobu Jr.3 in BAA Bulletin 384. The Jobu Jr3 is my current tripod head by choice. It weighs only 14 ounces and gives me rock solid reliabilty and performance; I feel it is the best gimbal head on the market right now. The design is excellent and the customer service is awesome. If the head did not fit my requirements or meet my standards I would not be using it. Jobu has been kind enough to provide me with samples and loaners for my workshop participants. If you would like more info on the Jobu Design BWG-J3K Jr.3 please click here. Or feel free to e-mail me.

Note from artie: As I mentioned in BAA Bulletin 384, the knob on the clamp of the Jobu Jr.3 is simply too small (and I much prefer a clamp to a knob anyway; see item next.) Also, if you click on the link on Robert’s site to purchase be sure to read the fine print on Jobu’s “Frequently Asked Questions” page, especially this section: “Other Shipping Fees Disclaimer” first.

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This image of a breeding plumage Dunlin was created on April 29, 2003 at Fort Desoto Park with the Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens, the 2X II TC, and the EOS_1Ds, Canon’s first full frame professional digital camera body. That camera was slow but the image files were and still are beautiful. ISO 250. Evaluative Metering +1/3 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/11 in AV Mode. My rig was on the Panning Ground Pod–perfect for working on the ground in flat areas.

In the October 4, 2011 blog post, “Capture and Beyond Workflow Lessons That You Cannot Afford to Miss,” I wrote of the importance of saving and protecting your RAW files so that when your Photoshop skills improve you can go back and re-process your favorite images. The version above is a huge improvement on my efforts from almost a decade ago….


While considering Robert’s favorite new head in comparison to the Mongoose M3.6 that I have been using for years (spurred on by how much Robert loved his at the time and the great results he got even with the Canon 600mm f/4 on the M3.6), I realized how much I love the clamp on the Mongoose head (rather than a knob). As I have written often, “If you can support your rig for five ten seconds, you should be using a side-mounting gimbal head to save weight.” The Mongoose has a super-fast, sure, sturdy clamp. When I mount my rig on my M3.6 or when I add a teleconverter and need to re-balance, I am able to close the clamp in a second or two at most. If your head has a knob rather than a clamp it will take you a lot longer as you need to turn the knob. And smaller knobs are a pain. And tiny knobs are even worse. Every additional second that you need to support your rig makes the process more difficult and increases the risk of losing control of your rig and having it hit the ground with smashing results. I simply could not use a lightweight, side-mounting gimbal head with a knob; I could not hold my lens in place long enough to turn the knob and tighten it securely. The 4th Generation Design clamp is the bomb. Assuming that the Jobu Jr does indeed weigh 1.4 pounds (I could not find the weight on their web site) then the Mongoose M3.6 weighs 3.6 ounces more; I am glad to carry the additional 3.6 ounces in order to stay away from that tiny knob.

Alan Murphy’s “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography”

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Alan Murphy’s “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography”

Fall songbird migration is well underway and wintering species will be arriving soon all across North America. If you would like to learn to create great images in your own backyard or would like to learn to photograph at water features and feeding stations that you have created, get yourself a copy of Alan’s amazing “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography” ($50 on CD only) by clicking here. You can order by phone by calling us at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand. Alan teaches you how to select and set-up attractive perches (and even backgrounds!), how to get your bird to land on the perfect perch, and how to capture images of songbirds in flight without using active AF!

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Eastern Meadowlark on thistle, Bolivar Flats, Upper Texas Coast. Image copyright 2011/Alan Murphy Photography. Nikon 600mm f/4 VR lens, and the D3 Camera. ISO 800. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f8. Building a simple ramp on the back of the perch helps the bird to climb up to the flower. Page 76

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American Redstart on poke weed, Galveston Island, Upper Texas Coast. Image copyright 2011/Alan Murphy Photography. Nikon 600mm f/4 VR lens, and the D3 Camera. ISO 800. Evaluative metering: 1/800 sec. at f13. A carefully placed perch over a drip pond will produce some great photo opportunities. Page 51.

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American Goldfinch on coneflower, Louisville, Kentucky. Image copyright 2011/Alan Murphy Photography. Nikon 600mm f/4 VR lens, and the D3 Camera. ISO 800. Evaluative metering : 1/500 sec. at f8, Fill flash @ -2.3EV. Sprinkling seed on the flower head can entice the bird to land. Page 39.


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Denise will be presenting her popular slide program, A Blend of Art and Nature at the 2011 Nature Visions Mid-Atlantic Photography Association Expo, November 11-13, 2011 in Manassas, Virginia. She is on the same bill as Art Wolfe. You can learn more here.

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Friday Nov. 18th – Afternoon/evening shoot. Dinner with the group. Slide lecture.
Saturday Nov. 19th – image review/critique, afternoon/evening shoot.
Sunday Nov. 20th- Morning photography, break, afternoon/evening shoot. Dinner with the group.
5 shooting sessions, 2 dinners,1 program, 1 image review/critique.
Our goal will be to capture the gorgeous morning sunrise colors and the beautiful sunsets of Bosque and everything in between! We will experiment with a variety of techniques and shutter speeds and will concentrate on capturing some tack sharp flight shots. Individual attention will be paramount.

If you have any further questions please e-mail her.

Not included: Airfare, hotel, transportation, meals not listed, personal items. *Ride with the leader: $30.00pp per day.

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