December 13th, 2010

Birds As Art Notes, December 13th 2010



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King Penguins Colony with one Oakum Boy, Gold Bay, South Georgia
Image copyright 2007: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 100-400mm IS L lens handheld at 150mm with EOS-1Ds Mark II. ISO 400.
Evaluative Metering +1/3 stop: 1/160 sec. at f/16.

The keys to the success of this image are the clean lower edge and the relatively clean upper edge. Images where the birds along the lower edge are cut in half do not work unless you are creating a pure pattern.


I recently got the heads-up on a killer South Georgia/Falklands Expedition that will run October 18 to November 11, 2012. It seems a long way off but if you want a seat on this ride you will need to act soon. So far eight BIRDS AS ART folks (including two couples, my pal George Brunt (eggs-ZACT-lee!), and Paul Mckenzie, an extremely skilled globe-trotting young photographer, are already on board with an equal number threatening to join us very soon. Paul’s web site and his blog are both amazing. Check out his two latest blog posts and you will agree 100%: the guy is talented!

After I returned from my Falklands/South Georgia/Antarctica trip a few years back I knew that I had to return to the Southern Oceans, but not with Zegrahm’s who had most generously had me along; we just had too little time ashore on that trip. Here’s what I wrote in the Antarctica Site Guide soon afterwards:

“By signing up with one of the few photography-only cruises, you will get a lot more bang for you buck. My understanding is that there are two companies that run trips that allow for far more photography time ashore.” I am currently working with the one of those two companies; they offer as much or more time onshore than any other tour company that regularly travels to the Southern Oceans. And they are very well respected.

I am already registered for the trip: October 18 to November 11, 2012 (including the travel days). Many folks who have been to the continent quickly realize that when it comes to wildlife photography, South Georgia is the crown jewel of the Southern Ocean. This trip offer 10-11 days of photography at various South Georgia locations and three additional and equally spectacular days in the Falklands on the way home. On my Zegrahm’s trip we had but a single day on the Falklands; the photography there was so amazing that if I had not hitched a ride down the hill from the spectacular cormorant colony in the afternoon with a farmer the ship would have left without me.

I will not be an official leader on this trip but those of you who have traveled with me know that I cannot help but teach. I will be available on the boat to review images and answer questions and all who sign up as a result of reading this note are invited to tag along with me on the landings. In addition my friends Tom Murphy and Rod and Marlene Plank will be along as photography leaders. Rod’s images inspired me early on and Tom and wife Bonnie offered guidance when I was just getting started in the tour business. It is obvious to me that the folks running this trip have an obvious passion for photography, for their business, and for their clients needs; they remind me a great deal of BIRDS AS ART, just on a larger scale.

When I read through the entire itinerary for the first time the excitement for me was palpable; I practically had a cow! If you can read the whole thing and not dream of making this trip you have me beat by miles. One of the great things about this trip is the timing; we will be early enough in the season that the fur seals will not be established in their rookeries. This will allow us safe access to more than a few locations that are inaccessible from December through February.

It is a far less expensive trip than the expeditions that travel to the continent, it packs far more photographic punch for your dollar than the longer trips that include time on the Antarctic Peninsula, and the wildlife and photography opps will be beyond mind boggling. I cannot even imagine getting the chance to photograph four different species of nesting albatross on a single trip. Not to mention Rockhopper and Macaroni Penguins and more King Penguins than you could ever imagine. If you are seriously interested in this trip feel free to call me with any questions at 863-692-2806 or email at for details. I am good to go. And I hope that you can join me.

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King Penguin, feather detail, Gold Bay, South Georgia
Image Copyright 2007: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens with 2X II TC and EOS-1Ds Mark II. ISO 400.
Evaluative Metering +1/3 stop: 1/200 sec. at f/16.

When folks ask me why I brought the 500 to the Southern Oceans when the birds are so tame I will show them images like this. When working near minimum focusing distance it is important to use a small aperture as depth-of-field at the wide open aperture is measured in mere fractions of an inch.

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Gentoo Penguin, Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands
Image Copyright 2007: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens with 2X II TC and EOS-1Ds Mark II. ISO 250.
Evaluative Metering -1/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/10.

When working (by necessity as we were here) in bright sun, it is imperative to work right down sun angle to ensure that the subject is evenly lit and that dark shadows are avoided.

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Elephant Seal, King Penguin, Grytviken, South Georgia
Image Copyright 2007: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 100-400mm IS L lens (hand held at 160mm) with the EOS-1D Mark II. ISO 400.
Evaluative Metering at zero: 1/200 sec. at f/4.

The 100-400 served me well on my trip to the Southern Oceans. It has been replaced by the the new Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS II (with both teleconverters).

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Southern Elephant Seals and King Penguins, Gold Bay, South Georgia
Image Copyright 2007: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 16-35mm zoom lens with EOS-1Ds Mark II. ISO 400.
1/125 sec. at f/3.2 set manually after histogram check.

I regretted having left the 15mm fish eye lens on my bunk when I got out of the Zodiac and saw this huge pile of elephant seals. I borrowed a 16-35 zoom and came up with this one.

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Rockhopper Penguin, Sea Lion Island, Falklands
Image Copyright 2007: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens with the 2X II TC and EOS-1Ds Mark II. ISO 400.
Evaluative Metering -1: 1/640 sec. at f/11.

To make this image I shortened the legs of my tripod and sat in the mud, muck, and guano. Most of the birds were sitting relatively still, but almost every time that I saw one with a relatively clean bill and sat down, the bird would waddle off ruining either the sun-angle or the background… I was glad to come up with this one. I did remove lots of gunk from the bill using the Clone Stamp and Patch Tool techniques detailed in detail in Digital Basics (along with our complete digital workflow and dozens and dozens of great Photoshop tips).


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

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II zoom lens (A top notch wide angle zoom)
Canon 100-400mm IS L lens (A sharp, versatile intermediate zoom lens)
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens (My #1 super telephoto lens for about six years)
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body (I only own and travel with two.)
Canon 2X II Teleconverter (Learn to use this with your super-teles and your skill level will skyrocket)

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.)
Wimberley V2 Tripod Head (I used one as my everyday tripod head for more than a decade.)
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.)

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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