December 20th, 2010

Birds As Art Bulletin #353



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Long-tailed Sylph, Ecuador
Image and card courtesy of and copyright 2010: Melvin Grey


Jim Litzenberg, older-daughter Jennifer Morris, and I would like to wish each of you a safe and enjoyable holiday season. With luck it will be filled with friends, family, good food, and at least a bit of photography. May your 2011 bring many blessings, lots of love and good health, oodles of happiness, wondrous travels, tons of success and fulfillment, more than enough time in the field enjoying nature, and flash cards filled with great images. Enjoy each breath, and remember, “Happiness is a choice.” πŸ™‚ (Byron Katie: The Work.)

Thanks a stack to all who have joined me on IPTs and Photo-cruises this past year, to all who have purchased stuff from BAA, and to all who have written with fresh new questions. And a special thanks goes to the ever-increasing number of folks who have used either the BAA B&H link or the various Shopper’s Guide links in each Bulletin or Blog post when making purchases from B&H. It does my heart good to know that so many folks are doing this to thank us for all the great free information that we provide on the Blog and in these Bulletins and for the countless e-mails that I respond to personally :).

And a huge special thank you hug to Peter Kes; meeting and getting to know and working with Peter has enriched my life. His redesign of first the Blog and then the web site have revitalized BIRDS AS ART and I shall always be thankful for his amazingly generous help and his incredible skills.

I am flying to Holbrook, Long Island, New York today (Monday, December 20, 2011) to visit my Mom and my two sisters (and to sneak out for a bit of photography). My younger daughter Alissa and her family are flying to Bratislava, Slovokia to wrap things up there; her husband, Ajiniyaz (son-in-law #2), has finally gotten a job with the UN in New York. Hooray! The whole gang including my 3rd and 4th grandchildren, Ilyas and Idris, will be returning to Long Island for good arriving on the 26th. Jennifer is spending Christmas with Erik’s family on Sanibel. She and Erik (son-in-law #1) and Sam and Maya will be joining us in NY on the 28th. There will be more of us in one spot on the 29th than there have been for quite a while.

Jim will be in the office Monday through Thursday, December 20-23 and 27-30. BAA will effectively be closed on both of those Fridays: December 24th and 31st. Jim will be taking inventory on Thursday December 30 so it would be best to place all of your late 2010 orders no later than Wednesday December 29th. He will be back in the office on Monday January 3, 2011. I will be back late on Wednesday January 5. Happy new year!

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Snowy Owl, Jones Beach State Park, Long Island, NY
Image copyright 2008: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D MIII. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/400 sec. at f/10.

I am hoping for another Snowy Owl for Christmas this year πŸ™‚


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Burrowing Owl, Cape Coral, FL
Image copyright 2006: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 600mm f/4L IS lens with the 2X II TC and the EOS-1Ds MII. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/320 sec. at f/8.

Getting to photograph these cute little birds is–understandably–always one of the highlights of this IPT.


Slide program on the evening of FEB 8. 6 Full Days: $2899. (Limit 10/Openings 2). (Call for late registration discount info.) Escape winters icy grip to enjoy a wide array of Floridas tame birds: herons, egrets, Wood Stork, shorebirds, gulls, terns, skimmers, raptors, and more. Please see terms and deposit info in item last.

As folks often write asking what exactly goes on on this IPT, I offer the following πŸ™‚ :

On the evening before the tour begins we offer an introductory slide program that covers the likely subjects, the places we will visit, the techniques we will use, and a bit on exposure and histograms. Then it’s off to bed by 9:30 and early to rise.

Most days we stop at McDonalds to grab a breakfast on the run. The cost of breakfasts are included.

On the first morning we almost always visit the Venice Rookery in hopes of photographing nesting Great Blue Herons. We arrive very early to create flash blurs of the large numbers of wading birds leaving the roost (and nesting) island. Once the sun is up, we usually will have good chances to create images of the great blues in flight, collecting and carrying nesting material, and going through a variety of courtship displays. Having the group fairly close together gives us a chance to go over the basics of gear set-up and tripod handling as well as the basics of working in Manual exposure mode.

We have lunch at Applebee’s. The cost of all lunches are included in the trip registration fee. Most folks bring their laptops in to edit their morning’s work and share images. Especially me.

Then we head south about 40 minutes to a spot where we will legally feed and get to photograph both Brown Pelican and White Pelican at close range and in flight. After my nap we get to work. We have dinner at a nice fish restaurant. The cost of the dinners is not included.

Over the course of the next five days we will likely spend at least two mornings at Little Estero Lagoon photographing a variety of waterbirds at close range, hopefully in gorgeous early morning light. In addition to the regular wading bird species, potential subjects include a variety of shorebird species including American Oystercatcher, Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Western Sandpiper, and Black-bellied, Semipalmated, Piping, Wilson’s, and Snowy Plovers. No matter the wind, light, or weather, we will teach you to think like a professional in evaluating various situations and encourage you to think outside of the box. We will likely spend at least one afternoon there as well. We will spend a day or two on Sanibel Island photographing at Ding Darling NWR and a variety of other productive locations. We should get to photograph Snowy Egrets catching live bait fish as well as a variety of wading birds including Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Wood Stork, and possibly Roseate Spoonbill. We will spend an afternoon or two at Cape Coral photographing Burrowing Owl. In the event of a dreary weather forecast, we might spend a morning at Corkscrew Swamp looking for Barred Owl, Pileated Woodpecker, Screech Owl, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, and American Alligator.

We will likely have some good chances with Osprey and/or Red-shouldered Hawk at several locations. And we may have a chance or two with a fly-by Bald Eagle.

This year we will have at least three accomplished nature photographers along as co-leaders, Robert Amoruso (Wildscape Images) and crack BPN Avian Moderators Dan Cadieux and Randy Stout. Help will never be more than a few steps away. The folks who stay closest to me and those who ask lots of questions will learn a ton. If there are baitfish in any of the traditional spots I will use a cast net to catch a bucketful of them. Where we can do so legally, we will use them to bait a variety of wading bird species into photographic range.

There is no set schedule. I call upon my 20+ years of experience in the area to decide where we will be photographing on a day to day basis depending on local conditions, the weather forecast, and the desires of the group. On the evening of day two there will be a critiquing session where each participant will share a small number of their best natural history images. We will have at least one afternoon Photoshop session. The weather in Florida in February is generally very pleasant. The worst case scenario would be a rare cold front; strong NW winds would like ruin a single morning of photography.

Rest assured that we will do our very best to get you into the right position to make great images on a daily basis and to make sure that you return home with improved skills, a lot more nature photography knowledge, and some great images.

A quick peek at the IPT schedule will reveal that everything is sold out until Bosque 2011….

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Great Egret, high breeding plumage, Little Estero Lagoon, FL
Image copyright 2008: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens with the EOS-1D MIII. ISO 200. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1250 sec. at f/4.


Below is an excerpt from Chuck Westfall’s excellent article on the new Canon gear that you can find here. Chuck’s job title: Canon USA, Advisor, Technical Information.

If you have any questions on the new TCs, please ask them here and I will do my best.

Extenders EF 1.4X III and EF 2X III

Extenders EF 1.4X III and EF 2X III have been newly developed in conjunction with the new Series II Image Stabilizer EF super-telephoto lenses. They can also be used with all previously announced extender-compatible EF lenses, but maximum performance is achieved when they are used with the new 300mm, 400mm, 500mm and 600mm lenses. The following sections provide more detailed information.

Image Quality

There are two significant improvements related to image quality when using the new Series III Extenders with the new IS II super-telephoto lenses: Anomalous dispersion glass elements are used in both new extenders to effectively reduce chromatic aberration to the greatest possible extent. This results in higher resolution and contrast, especially when the new extenders are used with IS II super-telephoto lenses.

Each Series III Extender features a newly developed microcomputer that increases AF precision when the extenders are used with an IS II super-telephoto lens. AF precision remains the same as the Series II Extenders when the Series III Extenders are used with earlier extender-compatible EF lenses.

As a result of these improvements, users of the new IS II super-telephoto lenses can expect significantly improved image quality when using Series III Extenders.

New Lens Coating

The front and rear elements of both Series III Extenders feature Canons new Fluorine anti-smear coating. The new coating is extremely oil-and water-repellent so that the front and rear elements can be cleaned without lens cleaning solvents using a soft, dry cloth.

Durability Improvements

The Series III Extenders are significantly more durable than earlier models due to the following improvements:

Seven screws instead of four are used to attach the lens mount to the body of the extender.

The lens lock pin and lens mount stopper pin have been improved for higher endurance.
The Series III Extenders are equivalent to the Series II Extenders in terms of weather resistance, with gaskets on both the front and rear lens mounts as well as the lens mount release switch.

The durability improvements of the Series III EF Extenders were made in response to feedback from professional photographers who use EF super-telephoto lenses and extenders regularly in their daily work.

Lens Compatibility

A list of compatible lenses for the new Series III Extenders can be seen by following the link to Chuck’s article at the start of this feature. If you own an older, non-compatible lens be sure to read the notes below the chart.

Camera Compatibility

The new Series III Extenders are compatible with all EOS Digital SLRs as well as the EOS-1V 35mm SLR. However, they cannot be used with other film-based EOS cameras because their signal relay system is not compatible with those models.

Other Operational Issues

The new Series III Extenders are basically the same as the Series II Extenders in terms of operation with compatible cameras. Here are a few bits of information related to usage and performance:

The Series III Extenders support autofocus when used with compatible master lenses and EOS cameras, with some restrictions as follows.

With most EOS cameras, the maximum aperture of the compatible EF lens/EF extender combination must be f/5.6 or larger to support autofocus. With EOS-1 class digital SLRs, autofocus with the center focusing point is supported for compatible EF lens/EF extender combinations with maximum apertures of f/8 or larger.

AF may not focus accurately when a Series III EF Extender is combined with certain discontinued EF lenses marked with an asterisk in the table above. This problem can be resolved through AF Microadjustment on EOS cameras equipped with that feature. Manual focusing is recommended when using Series III EF Extenders with those particular lenses on compatible EOS bodies that do not have an AF Microadjustment function.

The Extenders EF 2x III and EF 1.4X III make ideal companions to the new super-telephotos, adding up to twice the focal length of these, and many other Canon EF lenses without significant additional weight or cost.

Usage of Series III EF Extenders has no effect on AE (Automatic Exposure) or IS (Image Stabilizer) functionality.

Canon does not recommend stacking Series III EF Extenders because the extenders optical performance and AF precision cannot be guaranteed in such cases.

Similarly, Canon does not recommend combining a Series III EF Extender with an extension tube because the extenders optical performance and AF precision cannot be guaranteed in such cases.

As with previous EF Extenders, usage of Series III EF Extenders lowers AF drive speed to improve AF performance. When Extender EF 1.4X III is used, AF drive speed is reduced by 50%. When Extender EF 2X III is used, AF drive speed is reduced by 75%. This may seem like a drawback, but in reality subject tracking performance remains quite high when Series III Extenders are used with IS II lenses. This is due to improvements in AF precision made possible by the new microcomputer in the extenders.

Gary Farber of Hunt’s

asked me to let you know that the Series III TCs will be shipping soon. If you would like to get on the list, e-mail your name, address, and phone # to Gary at He will notify you when they are in stock. At present, no deposit is necessary. There will be free shipping for those who mention BIRDS AS ART Bulletins.

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Reddish Egret white phase, “Pinky,” Little Estero Lagoon, FL
Image copyright 2006: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 600mm f/4L IS lens with the 2X II TC and the EOS-1Ds MII. ISO 250. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/13.

We usually get to photograph a white morph Reddish Egret each year, but this one at the absolute height of breeding plumage will be hard to beat. And the best part of it was that the bird posed for us for two hours…..

When I was working with the 500 f/4 and the 600 f/4 IS L lenses I used my 2X TC with each of them probably 40% of the time and was consistently able to create sharp images down to 1/60 sec. I was always amazed at how few folks even tried to use them. With four-stop IS on the two new (and lighter!) versions of these lenses it will be even easier to make sharp images with both the 1.4X and the 2X. (Note: I rarely use the 2X II TC with the 800 f/5.6L IS lens as that combination does not autofocus; the Mark IV bodies only focus down to f/8. The 800 f/5.6/2X II TC combo works out to f/11.)


Folks are often eager to let us know what they think of the various PDFs that we offer. Everything below was received via e-mail. Do read on; you might be surprised here and there Smile emoticon

The Guide to Pleasing Blurs is fantastic! Its exactly what I was looking for. The information on second curtain flash and how to expose for the ambient light is great! I had already been playing with blurs with trees and flowers so I did have some knowledge with regards to the various techniques. What I find to be most helpful is all the information that is included; it helps me get the specific type of blur I envisioned (without having to rely on luck). The information about leaving a clean lower edge for blast offs was very helpful. I was just up at the Chincoteague Snow Goose impoundment and I was able to make better images than every before.
Thanks to both you and Denise for this great guide! Sean Thompson

Calling the Mark IV User’s Guide a guide is a misnomer. It is actually a series of notes. Charging more than $20 for it is scandalous. You are risking your reputation by such mislabeling and over-charging. Gary

I love the 7D User’s Guide! It has really helped me navigate through the overwhelming number of options and settings on this camera. Thank you, Γ…sta Tobiassen

Here’s a comment on your New and Improved Canon EOS-1D MIV User’s Guide: Wonderful, fantastic, full of lots of great new information. Joe

Hey Arthur, I attended two of your seminars at the Photo Expo West in November and found them very informative and helpful. Your straightforward, no-nonsense and entertaining presentation style was very refreshing. Im originally from NY (Nyack), so I enjoy colorful characters like yourself.

I purchased The Art of Bird Photography II there and wanted to let you know it is one of the best investments I have ever made. No matter what level youre at the volume is packed with excellent tips and guidance. I especially like Chapter 3 on your digital photography workflow and Photoshop. There are so many choices and options in photography today – people are looking for someone who has the experience and confidence to cut through the fog, and just tell you: This is how you do it right. I can already see a big improvement in my images.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge, wisdom, and stories about photography and life. As you already know, it comes back to you a thousand fold. Brendan Dozier

(Note to Brendan: If you liked the stuff in the CD book on Digital you will love our Digital Basics File πŸ™‚ )


I received the following e-mail from IPT veteran Richard Simonsen:

Dear Artie and Denise,

Just wanted to drop you a quick note about your Guide to Pleasing Blurs. I found it fascinating, stimulating, and easy to understand. I have not yet been able to make the six hour drive to Bosque and try some of the blur techniques on the birds, but I have had time to wander out into the desert and have been pleased with my results. Since you invited folks to send examples, particularly ones made after reading the Guide, I have attached six images. The first two are the classic Saguaro cactus; the next one the nasty Cholla cactus; and the rest the Agave family of one kind or another. Please criticize to the full extent of your kindness!

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Saguaro Cactus, vertical pan-blur, Image Courtesy of and Copyright 2010: Richard Simonsen
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF24-105mm f4L IS USM: ISO 100, 105mm, 0 ev, f/22 at 0.3 sec.

Of the images that Richard sent, this is my very favorite. I love the colors and the strong pattern. And I like that the colors are richer and the pattern stronger on the left side of the frame than on the right. A small crop from each side to eliminate the slim purple edges might improve it.

I was pleasantly surprised at how helpful the Guide was in stimulating me to go out and give blurs a try. Although I am sure some people balk at paying $33 for a pdf file delivered electronically, hey, I didnt have to go to the book store and I didnt have to wait for the mailman; I was out in the desert 5 minutes after finishing a quick first read and I had more than $33 worth of fun. And some of the results now, or after a little refinement, are worth considering as framed prints.
You cant put a value on a good idea!

By the way, the only issue I have with the Guide is the different fonts you use. I am not a fan of the kind of font in Denises sections; reminds me of a wedding invitation, but the images that come along with the font are stunning, so I am willing to ignore my hang up. Wish the whole Guide could have been done in Arties font choice, or, if you want different fonts, maybe a small variant of Arties font. But its a small criticism for the fun I am having!

Many thanks for a great Guide! Sincerely, Richard Simonsen

(Note: we struggled with ways to differentiate Denise’s text from mine and using different fonts seemed much cleaner than using different colors πŸ™‚ )

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Desert Agave blur, Image Courtesy of and Copyright 2010: Richard Simonsen
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF 24-105mm IS USM: ISO 100, 105mm, 0ev, f/20 at 1 sec.

I love the blurred effect on the left 2/3 of this image: the very light area on our right draws the eye as unusually light or dark areas in an image always do. Best to view the images on the LCD in an effort to scope such offending areas out; here, going vertical would have been the way to go. By going to vertical format and pointing the camera a bit to your left, you would have eliminated the light area and been able to include the tops of the leaves….


“A Guide to Pleasing Blurs” by Arthur Morris and Denise Ippolito is a 20,585 word, 271 page PDF illustrated with 144 different, exciting, and artistic images. The guide covers the basics of creating pleasingly blurred images, the factors that influence the degree of blurring, the use of filters in creating pleasing blurs, and a great variety of both in-the-field and Photoshop techniques that can be used to create pleasingly blurred images.

Artie and Denise teach you many different ways to move your lens during the exposure to create a variety of pleasingly blurred images of flowers and trees and water and landscapes. They will teach you to recognize situations where subject movement can be used to your advantage to create pan blurs, wind blurs, and moving water blurs. They will teach you to create zoom-blurs both in the field and during post-processing. Artie shares the techniques that he has used and developed for making blurred images of flocks of geese in flight at his beloved Bosque del Apache and Denise shares her flower blur magic as well as a variety of creative Photoshop techniques that she has developed.

With the advent of digital capture, creating blurred images has become a great and inexpensive way to go out with your camera and have fun. And while many folks think that making successful blurred images is the result of being a sloppy photographer nothing could be further from the truth. In “A Guide to Pleasing Blurs” Artie and Denise will help you to unleash your creative self.

The book is laid out in landscape format to make for easy reading and viewing and easy reading on any decent computer monitor.

You can order your copy of “The Guide to Pleasing Blurs” PDF now for $33 from the BAA On-line store here, with a PayPal to, or by phone: 863-692-0906. A download link will be delivered to you. Please note: this book is available only as a digital file in PDF form. You will need either Adobe Acrobat Reader or Fox-it to read the file. Both are free downloads. Instructions will be included with your purchase.

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Blackbird Blur, “Chaos,” Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM
Image copyright 2010: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 200. Evaluative metering at zero: 1 stop: 1/15 sec. at f/11 in Tv mode.

Here I used a 3-stop drop-in Neutral Density filter in the filter slot of the 800. This allowed me to work at a relatively wide aperture to minimize the number of dust bunnies from microscopic particles. And on sunny days, I use the 3-stop ND in order to get down to some really slow shutter speeds in the range of 1/4 to 1/15 sec. at ISO 50.

To make your own 3-stop drop-in Neutral Density filter you will need one of these: Canon 52mm Drop-In Filter Holder for Super-telephoto lenses and one of these:

B&W 52mm 3-stop Neutral Density filter (Slim: 0.9 ND). Then simply screw the filter into the holder and you are good to go. Note: when you are switching drop-in filters be sure to note the proper orientation, i.e. which side of the filter is the front and which is the back :). All of the drop-in filters are dust magnets. It is important to keep them clean. In the field I use both ends (first the brush-end and then the polisher-end) of the larger of the two Lens Pens from Lens Pen Combo Kit to clean the filter. In the car or at home, I use some Lens Clens on a Microfiber Cloth. Do not use absorbent cotton on the drop in filters as the fibers might get stuck around the edges.


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

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens (My very best friend :))
Canon 600mm f/4L IS lens
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L II lens (My favorite new lens. By a mile.)
Canon 24-105mm IS L zoom lens (I am never without this lens in my vest….)
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body (I only own and travel with two.)
Canon EOS-7D digital camera body
Canon EF 1.4X II teleconverter (I never leave home without at least two of these.)
Canon EF 2X II teleconverter

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 32gb e-Film Pro Compact 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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