February 5th, 2010

Birds As Art Bulletin #316



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Brown Pelican, Fractalius filter, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
I created this with the Fractalius filter plug-in. The surreal look and the bright bold colors put this one over the top for me. I am curious as to whether Corbis will grab any of my Fracts…. You can see the original image here: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?t=55949. Follow the thread for an additional lesson on choosing your perspective.


After a few lessons from BPN Out of the Box moderator Denise Ippolito (http://deniseippolito.smugmug.com), I created the image above with the Fractalius plug-in on my very own. Above all, Fracting is great fun. While starting with a powerful image as I did above will often yield great results, Fractalius can–on occasion–create a stunning image even when you start with something that should have been deleted. Another great thing about the plug-in is that you learn by doing; move the sliders, give the program a few seconds to process the image, and see what you get. Keep experimenting. And when you hit upon a pleasing combination, you can save it as a pre-set. Note; if you are working on a full resolution file (be sure that you have duplicated your original master file) it may take several minutes (or even longer with slower computers) for Photoshop to process the image once you click on the green check-box. For those who missed the original Fractalius feature, you can check it out (and see four of Ms. Ippolito’s Fracted images) by scrolling down here: http://www.birdsasart-blog.com/bulletins/birds-as-art-bulletin-315. And you can find Denise’s two Fractalius tutorials by clicking here: http://deniseippolito.smugmug.com/Photography/On/9597965_bsEhJ and scrolling down.

If you would like to join the Fracting fun, you can purchase a copy ($39.90) here: https://www.plimus.com/jsp/buynow.jsp?contractId=1720292&referrer=birdsasart. Using this link (rather than purchasing the plug-in directly from the manufacturer) is a great way to thank Denise for the tutorials that she has prepared and to show your appreciation for the BIRDS AS ART Bulletins 🙂

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Great Blue Heron courtship, Copycat, Venice, FL
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
A few of you may recognize this as the cover of the soft cover (and previous editions of) The Art of Bird Photography.” I call it “Copycat” as I totally stole the idea from Denise after seeing her “Sexy and Elegant.” In fact, she helped me to create it by teaching me the basics of using Glow 100 in Fractalius. You could learn a ton about post-processing (and in-camera) creative techniques by visiting BPN’s Out of the Box Forum here: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=51.

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Gannets in Love, Bonaventure Island, Perce, Quebec, Canada
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Fractalius does a lot more than Glow 100. After seeing Jackie Schuknecht’s wonderful “Passover” in BPN’s OOTB Forum here: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?t=56163. I asked her how she created it, thought I remembered what she had done, and created the image above. As it turned out I used Fractalius’s Impression 1 while Jackie has used Sketch BW 01. I eventually tried her technique, liked both, but preferred the “mistake above” 🙂


Only two folks wrote suggesting additional lessons to be learned from Becky Field’s image of me on the cliffs at LaJolla in BAA Bulletin #315: http://www.birdsasart-blog.com/bulletins/birds-as-art-bulletin-315

Here they are:

1-Don’t fall off the cliff!
2-Wearing red and moving slowly will get you closer to the birds than wearing camo and moving quickly.

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Yellow-billed Kite, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Image copyright 2001/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 300mm f/4L IS lens (handheld) and the Canon EOS-1D. ISO 100. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/500 sec. at f/7.1.

This ancient (by my digital standards) image is still one of my very favorite High Speed Synch images and illustrates some important features. To learn everything that I know about using High Speed Synch flash to create images of birds in flight, check out item next.


First, a confession. For years I have been writing “High Speed Synch” flash without realizing that “High Speed Sync” (no “h”) was correct. I figured that since “sync” was derived from “synchronize” that it needed the “h” at the end. Not! Live and learn. Here’s how I eventually figured it out: Ian Butler of the UK wrote asking about high speed sync flash. I told him to do a search for it in the Bulletin Archives and in ABP II as I knew that I had written tons on it over the years. He wrote back saying that he had found only three references to it in a search of the Bulletin Archives so I went there myself; a search for “high speed synch” turned up 97 references. That’s when I realized that I had been misspelling the word all along 🙂

IAC, here goes. As most of you know, each camera model has a sync speed, a shutter speed above which the camera will not function properly when set up normally. This is less than ideal for folks working with long lenses as it prevents them from setting the fast shutter speeds that are needed to create sharp images of birds in flight and wildlife in action. (In addition, using a relatively slow shutter speed often forces you to use a small aperture; this in turn will often bring up unwanted background detail.) Most of the major camera manufacturers have come up with a workable solution: high speed sync flash. (Boy, I will never misspell that word again!) To learn to set your flash to high speed sync, consult the manual that came with your flash. The trick is different with most flashes. With the Canon 580 EX II, setting high speed synch flash is relatively simple: push the Flash Sync Button button (it is the button to the left of the Zoom Button) on the back of the flash to toggle from normal operation to High Speed Sync to Rear Curtain Sync (useful for putting the blur behind your subject when creating flash blurs).

Once you have done this you will be able to set a shutter speed higher than the sync speed of your camera. While this seems like a perfect solution there are drawbacks. Once you set a shutter speed higher than the synch speed flash output drops drastically. With each full stop increase in shutter speed, say from 1/250 sec. to 1/500/sec. to 1/1000 sec., you lose roughly one full stop of flash output. (That confirmed by Canon technical representative Rudy Winston.) That is why I advise that folks do not go whole hog and select 1/4000 sec. as shutter speed; I generally try to stick to either 1/500 sec. or 1/1000 sec. so that I might have enough flash to light the bird’s underwings. While it always makes sense to use a Better Beamer when working with telephoto lenses that yield an effective focal length of greater than 300mm, it is vitally important to do so when using High Speed Synch flash; doing so will roughly triple the flash output.

When photographing birds in flight, it may–depending on the situation–be best to work in Av mode, in Tv mode, or in Manual mode. Working in either Av or Tv mode can be best when the light and/or the background is changing rapidly and/or when you are photographing both light and dark species. I will usually go with Av when there is lots of light and Tv Mode (along with ISO safety shift) in low light conditions when I want to be sure to maintain a minimum shutter speed (usually at least 1/500 sec.) ISO safety shift or Auto ISO features will increase the the ISO in order to maintain your minimum shutter speed (while taking into account the exposure compensation that you have set). Not all cameras offer a feature that can do that; check your camera body manual. As always, the goal is to have at least some data in the right-most (highlight) histogram box with few or no flashing pixels.

Once you have determined either the best exposure or the best method and mode for getting a good exposure, you need to choose a flash mode and the best flash setting for you situation. When doing high speed sync flash flight I opt to work either in ETTL or in Manual (flash) mode. On cloudy days I will often work in ETTL and set my flash to -1 stop. This will generally reveal some nice underwing detail. (Checking for the effect of flash on an image is the only time that I recommend a close look at the image on the back of the camera.) If a check reveals that the flash is not brightening the underwings you can raise the flash level to zero or even to +1 stop. In extreme low light situations the flash will seemingly become more powerful; at dawn and dusk you may need to reduce your fill flash settings to -2 or even -3 stops to keep from toasting the bird with the flash. (This is true whether you are using fast shutter speeds and high speed sync or slow shutter speeds.)

When using high speed sync in sunny conditions I will almost always work in Manual flash mode and set the 1:1 power setting. And of course, a Better Beamer. This will give you maximum flash output. It would be extremely rare to over-expose a bird in flight with the flash in these conditions unless the bird flies by at extremely close range; if you can anticipate that situation and can switch to 1:2 you should be fine.

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Black-necked Stilt, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, UT
Image copyright 2006/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens (handheld) with the EOS-1DS Mark II. ISO 640. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1000 sec at f/8 set manually.

Setting the flash to zero in ETTL mode revealed the loverly underwing detail. A clipped wingtip here was repaired using the techniques detailed in APTATS I.


Ralph Paonessa (who will always be Ralphie-Boy to me) attended many IPTs in the early 1990s. (Ask me about the day that Ralph wound up neck-deep in ice water with his tripod-mounted 300/f2.8 at Cape Mary in Churchill, Manitoba….) At some point, after extensive career counseling by yours truly, Ralph accepted a buyout from IBM to pursue a career as a professional nature photographer. He worked for me for about a year after Elaine’s death in 1994 and proofread the entire text of the original “The Art of Bird Photography.” Today Ralph leads photographic trips around the world.

When I was searching for information on High Speed Sync (HSS) flash I came across Ralph’s article on the subject. I had intended to write a comprehensive article on HSS flash but Ralph’s article did a good job of covering the basics so I decided to limit my piece to using HSS flash to photograph birds in flight and animals in action. You can find Ralph’s article here: http://www.rpphoto.com/howto/view.asp?articleID=1026. It includes lots of screen captures and info on how to set HSS on both Canon and Nikon cameras.

During our nice chat last night Ralph asked me to mention that he has several openings on his April 2010 Costa Rica hummingbird trips. You can learn more here: http://www.rpphoto.com/trips/costarica/default.asp


If you would like to see some truly spectacular photography, check out Eric Meola’s home page “Color” gallery here: http://www.ericmeola.com/ . Eric is a fellow Canon Explorer of Light. And if you want to be impressed, check out his bio.

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Wood Duck drake. Santee Lakes Park, Santee, CA
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -2/3 stop: 1/320 sec. at f/8.

As it was with the Mark III, I rarely need to underexpose to come up with a good exposure, but with the bright whites of the throat markings and the upper mandible you need to guard against too many flashing highlights with drake woodies. I do, however, always like to see a few over-exposed white pixels on the camera’s LCD when photographing them; that way I know that I am getting as much detail in the blacks and dark purples as possible. The few hot white pixels can be recovered during conversion if need be. With his love and skillful use of color, I am positive that Eric Meola would enjoy photographing this species.


David McNicholas is offering a used Canon EOS-1 Ds Mark II (16.7 mp digital camera body) for $1795 plus shipping and insurance. The camera is in excellent condition, has no marks on it, and never had a problem. The firmware is 1.1.6. Included will be all of the original equipment, the original box, packing, cables ,battery charger and Instruction manual Extras: one additional camera battery and a 4GB memory card.

Contact Dave by e-mail at dpmcnicholas@comcast.net or by phone as follows: 239-352-0616 or mobile – 973-452-4940.


2010 Kenya Big Game Safari with an option to Rwanda for Gorilla Trekking

This itinerary concentrates on the two most prolific parks for big game photography in Kenya: Samburu and Maasai Mara. We will spend 7 days in each of these remarkable destinations. We are flying so that, unlike on other safaris, you will not waste two days traveling between these locations. We are staying in the best available lodges � close to the action. Safaris are tiring so we want you to be comfortable and rested so you’ll be fresh and able to make great pictures

We are going to the arid, sub-Saharan region of Samburu because that is the only place on earth where you can photograph a variety of species unique to that park: gerenuk, baisa oryx, vulturine guinea fowl, and Somali ostrich to name a few. Take a look at http://www.gustafsonphotosafari.net/ for video footage of Gustafson Photo Safari in Samburu. We are going to the Mara at the time most likely to lead to spectacular river crossings. The last 5 years have shown a remarkable increase in the frequency and consistency of the Mara River crossings. Nothing can be guaranteed but this should be a once in a lifetime experience. Enjoy the Mara Crossings article & pictures from our previous safaris available at: http://www.gustafsonphotosafari.net/wp-content/uploads/migration2.pdf

Of course you’ll have the best safari photographer in the business along to make sure that you maximize your photographic opportunities! Do check out the images from past safaris: http://www.gustafsonphotosafari.net/?page_id=53

Kenya Big Game Safari Itinerary: $11,999.00 per person double occupancy

July 28 Depart US
July 29 Nairobi Serena
Jul 30 � Aug 4 Samburu Serena � 6 nights
Aug 5 � 11 Mara Serena � 7 nights -plus you have the AM of August 12 for game drive
August 12 Nairobi Serena


Aug 13-15 Mountain Gorillas View Lodge � 2 days for gorilla trekking
August 16 Kigale Serena � morning excursion for trekking the Golden Monkey and Transfer to Kigale afterwards
August 17 Flight to NBO to connect back home
August 18 Arrive home

For additional information please contact Pelin Karaca, 800-451-7111 extension 338. e-mail: pelin@holbrooktravel.com

Note from artie: When it comes tocreating spectacularly designed images of wildlife in action, Todd is without peer. Born to missionary parents in Tanzania, Todd has an extraordinary knowledge of East African wildlife and a knack for hiring the very best driver-guides. It seems that he often knows what the animals are gonna do before they know and he is able to consistently put you close to the action in perfect position. Learn more about Todd here: http://www.gustafsonphotosafari.net

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Lion, teeth of lioness, Maasai Mara, Kenya
Image copyright 2007/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/200 sec. at f/11.

As I said above, Todd is able to consistently get folks close to the animals This image was created from the image below

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I painted a Quick Mask of the clean side of the mouth, flipped it, and moved it into place using the techniques described in Robert O’Toole’s APTATS I: https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/category.aspx?catid=33


Bee Eaters, European Rollers, Raptors and more in HUNGARY with Robert O’Toole

This central European country is mainly know as one of the top tourist destinations in the world but it also offers some of the most amazing bird photography opportunities on the planet. Based in the Kiskunsági National Park (2 hours south of Budapest) we will be visiting 14 established hides, 10 within a radius of 1.2 miles, during the very peak time of the year for Bee eaters, Rollers, Kestrel all nesting, displaying, and mating. Bee eaters spend an enormous time in front of our set ups, continuously offering food to the females: bees, wasps, butterflies and dragonflies right on our perches. Some bee eaters have been known to catch up to 250 bees per day.

Rollers will perch prominently while hunting and the male will feed the female about every 20 minutes with insects, rodents, snakes, lizards and frogs of all kinds. There will also be chances to photograph Golden Oriole, Cuckoo, Spoonbill, Squacco Heron, White-tailed Eagle, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Hawfinch and much more.

These workshops have been sold out for some time but 2 openings just became available.

Hungary Bird Photography Workshop 1: May 1-8, 2010 7 Days: $3899. Limit 4: 1 opening available.

Hungary Bird Photography Workshop 2: May 8-15, 2010 7 Days: $3899. Limit 4: 1 opening available.

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European Bee-eater in the rain with gift for mate, Kiskunsagi NP, Hungary
Image copyright 2009/Robert O’Toole
Nikon 500mm f/4 VR lens with the Nikon D300. ISO 800. Manual mode: 1/1000 sec. at f/8.

From artie: note the perfect exposure, the perfect head angle, and the lovely background. Robert is a skilled photographer and a skilled instructor.



Slide program on the evening of FEB 9. 6-FULL DAYS: $2799. Limit 10/ 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. Exact dates TBA: 5 Full Days: $2495 (Limit 8/Openings: 5.)

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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