January 28th, 2011

BAA Bulletin 357, Jan 28th 2011


  • BARROW JUNE 2011

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Brown Pelican, shaking head, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1250 sec. at f/8.

A few days ago I said to someone in the San Diego group, “Whenever I am framed up well on a bird and they make a fast, unexpected move, I never ever push the shutter button.” I believe that somewhere in the original The Art of Bird Photography (soft cover) and then again surely in ABP II (916 pages on CD only), I wrote, “Whenever unexpected action occurs, push the shutter button.” My desire to make every image perfect has kept me from doing that. Determined to improve in that area–heck, once you are out there digital really is free–I pushed the shutter button asap when this bird shook its head violently and was rewarded with a winner πŸ™‚ Live and learn.

This image was created in relatively harsh light at 8:37am. The histogram was (correctly) pushed well to the right. I recovered detail in the whites with a Quick Mask and a 30% Linear Burn (as described in Digital Basics and APTATS I) and toned them down by adding Black to the Whites in Selective Color (again as described in Digital Basics ) to the whole image. Then I added an Inverse Layer Mask to reveal the white areas that I wanted toned down. (You can contact Denise Ippolito for the Inverse Mask tutorial by e-mailing her at photographybydenise221@gmail.com.)


On the evening of January 18th I met this year’s San Diego group for the introductory slide program and editing session. (I edit a series of images from my scouting trip on screen and explain the reasons that I keep some images and delete most.) It turned out to be a great group and the weather was pretty much perfect. On day one we had a beautiful clear sunrise and lots of landing pelicans. That was followed by a thick fog bank that rolled in just about to La Jolla and then could not make up its mind if it wanted to stay or leave but eventually hung around all day. We had a great lunch at the Crab Catcher Restaurant that sits high above the cliffs. As one who makes only tentative plans on IPTs I decided that we would take advantage of the fog by heading to Children’s Cove to do the Harbor Seals. That turned out to be a brilliant move πŸ™‚ as we got to spend more than two hours with them as they rested on the beach.

It was a very different year with the pelicans. There seemed to be fewer than in previous years and they seemed to be more reluctant to land on the upper cliffs than ever before, possibly due to increased pressure from photographers. (Other factors might include the huge storm last year that adversely affected the population and varying local conditions including wind direction and speed and wave heights.) For years I have–in person, in the Bulletins, and in the San Diego Site Guide–urged folks to stay well back or to sit until the first few birds land up top. (See here for an interesting story that was repeated on most days.) The birds often landed on more distant cliffs. That said, everyone got some great pelican images the first two days and everything else went exactly as planned. The weather was dead solid perfect; San Diego in winter is one place where I actually prefer clear skies and bright sun and that is what we got every day with temps in the mid-70s or higher in the afternoons.

All of the spots described in detail in the San Diego Site Guide came through with flying colors. The birds were great, the food was great, and co-leaders Todd Gustafson and Tim Grey greatly enriched the experience for all, including me. Everyone learned a ton, including me. Todd’s slide program left all either inspired or strongly considering giving up photography and Tim, heck, Tim’s knowledge of Photoshop and his teaching skills are unparalleled. And yes, while Tim knows some really advanced stuff he is able to connect with everyone while covering the basic techniques. I learned that I was making two huge mistakes with basics, one involving the Clone Stamp Tool, and the other the Spot Healing Brush. I will be sharing what I learned in a BAA Blog post soon.

It was great seeing and working with Clemens van der Werf, Al Efron, Sam Hogue, and Kevin Watson again; all are IPT veterans. And it was great meeting Alan and Pat Lillich (say “LILL-ick”) who are active on BPN. Newcomers Dietmar Haenchen, Karl Ryden, and James Jerome rounded out the group. Though James Jerome arrived as a highly skilled, superb photographer he felt that he learned a tremendous amount. (His comments were very gratifying to me as I usually state that the less you know the more you can learn on an IPT….)

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Lesser Scaup drake, Coronado, CA
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/9.

Most folks (including me) wore their NEOS Adventurer Overshoes in the mud at the Coronado location. Alan Lillich ventured into the creek for a slightly better sun angle and struggled greatly to get his boots (with his feet in them) out of the deep muck. When the NEOS folks were done, we just took them off, tossed them into a plastic bag, and headed for sunset at the beach with our clean dry sneakers :). That’s why I love ’em. You can find the details on photographing in and around Coronado in the San Diego Site Guide.

This just in from Alan Lillich via e-mail:

Artie, A big thanks to you for the trip. Being able to spend time shooting next to you and Todd, and do some of your “which-is-better and why?” quizzes in person made for a wonderful experience. Todd and Tim were superb co-leaders. The joy and enthusiasm you all brought to the IPT was contagious. You and Todd will be seeing more of us as time and budget allows. Alan

And this just in from Pat Lillich via e-mail:

Artie, Thank you so much for a really wonderful IPT. Listening to what you said, watching the way you worked, and then seeing the images you took, seeing the way you saw the possibilities was an extraordinary experience. This may sound overblown, but thank you for changing the way I think about photography. I’m hoping that I will retain some portion of what you taught us and that we get to do more IPTs with you and build on what we learned on the first one. I posted a picture I made on the last day of the IPT in BPN’s Eager to Learn Forum; I kind of think that it is one of my best yet – thanks to you. Take care and thanks again. pat

Wow, I just got back from commenting on Pat’s superb image. You can see her image and all of the comments here.

Animated GIF; best to view for at least 3 seconds πŸ™‚
Brown Pelican braking to land, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II zoom lens with the 1.4X II TC (hand held at 185mm) with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/2500 sec. at f/8.

I optimized the image above last week. When I looked at it again this morning I realized that the early morning light (7:32am) had caused a large red/magenta cast. I brought the image back into Photoshop and ran a Robert O’Toole Average Blur Color Balance and loved how it looked at 100%. Sometimes as here, the results are perfect at 100%. More often I reduce to the Opacity of the layer to get the color that I want. And once in a while this trick fails totally and makes the image look weird. Look at the animated GIF above to see the before and after. I much prefer love the bluer looking one. Average Blur Color Balance is covered in both Digital Basics and in Robert O’Toole’s APTATS II.


I discovered this morning that I lost a folder containing more than a dozen names and e-mail addresses of folk interested in making the great trip to Barrow that I made last year. If you were one of those interested or if you are interested in photographing King Eider, Stellar’s Eider, Spectacled Eider, nesting Glaucous Gull, nesting Tundra Swan, nesting Pacific Loon, nesting Oldsquaw, nesting Rock Ptarmigan, nesting Lapland Longspur, and a variety of nesting shorebirds including Semipalmated & Baird’s Sandpipers, Red Phalarope, American Golden-Plover, and Long-billed Dowitcher, please e-mail me on my laptop immediately at samandmayasgrandpa@att.net.

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Barrow June 2010 Composite
Images copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1250 sec. at f/8.

From top left to right and then down: Long-billed Dowitcher, Spectacled Eider on tundra, Red Phalarope female, Rock Ptarmigan male, Spectacled Eider in flight, Dunlin in breeding plumage, Stellar’s Eider drake flapping, King Eider habitat image, King Eider tight portrait of drake.


I have been spending a huge chunk of my time making the blog special. Recent efforts of interest include:

β€œI Know Him Pretty Well…” and Surf Scoter Image Questions: A cute tale from yours truly along with two great images generated our 2nd most popular blog post ever.

Winning the Lottery & Bookmark This Site: A Killer In-Camera Blur and a link to Saltwater Tides, a web site that will give you high and low tide info for most US coastal sites as well as the times of sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, and the phases of the moon. All in one convenient spot.

Using the Right Tool & Surf Scoter Image Quiz Comments: I left my 800 on the beach and created my favorite image of the afternoon. And more.

Sunny Sunday Morning Duck Exposure Primer: Five great water level duck images along with my thinking on getting the right exposure for each one. All created in Av mode BTW πŸ™‚

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Sand Patterns, Coronado, CA
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 15mm fish eye lens hand held 20 minutes after sunset with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 3200. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/10 sec. at f/2.8.

Thanks a stack to Todd Gustafson for seeing a collection of tree patterns in the sand and sharing his vision with the group. I converted this image to B&W with NIK’s Silver EFEX Pro. You can save 15% on all NIK purchases by clicking here and entering BAA as the code.


I am considering giving up photography for a new and exciting career. See here for the details.

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American Coot flapping after fight, San Diego, CA
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6.

Is lying flat on the wet mud on a downhill slope on a cold morning worth it? For me yes, but after 30 minutes I had to sit up for a while. (This one was created at 7:48 am). To see more duck images and learn a ton about working in Av mode and getting the right exposure, click here.


I will be doing one of the keynote presentations at the 2011 Winter Wings Festival (mine on Saturday evening, February 19) and several additional programs as well. As always, my appearance is being generously sponsored by the Canon USA Explorers of Light program (thanks Steve Inglima!) and for this event, also by Leo’s Camera and Pro Photo Supply. I hope to see you there on a rare appearance for me in the Northwest.

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Bald Eagle screaming, Homer, AK
Image copyright 2007: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Congratuatulations to me: this image (slightly cropped) was selected as cover art for the current (FEB/MAR 2011) issue of National Wildlife. Thanks a stack to Photo Editor John Nuhn for the honor. You can learn more about the great work that the National Wildlife Fedration is doing on their web site at www.NWF.org.


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Would you like chance to have your one of your best bird photos presented to over 1,200 Photo Editors and Art Directors? Click here for details.

BIRD PORTRAITS-The Avian Persona/Submissions Close Midnight, Monday, January 31, 2011. Eligibility: Worldwide, Amateur or Professional Photographers. Entry Fee: $25 for the first 5 images, $5 for each additional image.

Portraits capture and reveal the essence of a personality. Birds may be photographed in the wild or captive.Chasing The Light Juried Photography presents outstanding, award winning images to over 1,200 select Professional Photo Editors and Art Directors. We maintain an up to date list of industry professionals who actively seek new talent and fresh images. Our goal is to unite emerging new photographers with the Photo Editors and Art Directors of the publishing world. We are looking to discover those photographers who have the talent to turn the mundane into something extraordinary. Talented photographers from around the world enter our themed competitions.

Prizes: The top five photographers will have their winning image prominently displayed on an email targeted to over 1,200 professional Photo Editors and Art Directors who are constantly looking for fresh and creative new imagery. These five photos will also be the FEATURED IMAGES on The Chasing Light Juried Photography website for the duration of the current contest. Jurors will award a First Place, Second Place, Third Place and two Honorable Mentions.

Jurors will also select twenty “Runners Up” whose work will be displayed online, along with photographer’s contact email and website URL information, in the Themed Contest Gallery. Chasing The Light Juried Photography was created by professional photographers and photo agents Tom and Therisa Stack to fill the need of a select group of Professional Photo Editors and Art Directors who are constantly searching for unique new imagery. Tom and Therisa bring with them years of professional experience in the photo publishing industry.

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Sanderlings on beach at dusk, Coronado, CA
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II zoom lens with (hand held at 95mm) with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2 stops: 1/6 sec. at f/16 in Tv mode.

Good photographers never keep their eyes on the subject no matter how wonderful. I have developed the necessary habit of letting my eyes roam at all times. We were photographing the beautiful sand patterns when out of habit I looked behind us and noticed that a group of about 50 Sanderlings had landed on the edge of the surf. I set up for blurs in about 10 seconds forgetting only to lower the ISO. I followed the birds for more than 10 minutes and created about 40 images. This, the first, was my very favorite; I just love the layered effect. See more on this image here.

To learn to create pleasingly blurred images get yourself a copy of A Guide to Pleasing Blurs by yours truly and Denise Ippolito.

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Fall Color zoom blur, somewhere in TX πŸ™‚
Image copyright 2011: Sam Hogue

Sam was on the San Diego IPT. When he got back home, he e-mailed me the image above. I love it. Sam wrote, β€œAttached is pleasing blur that I took while walking my dog around the neighborhood literally minutes after reading the Blur Guide .” Sam created the image using techniques that he learned from A Guide to Pleasing Blurs by Arthur Morris and Denise Ippolito. Heck, the guy is a quick study. On the subject of pleasing blurs, Denise is running a great contest. You can learn the details in her January 27, 2011 blog post here.

Whether you are seeking to photograph tame Common Loons, majestic winter owls, or find extensive forests with unique warblers and songbirds, Matthew Studebaker takes the reader through the best and most productive bird photography areas in Michigan. Both Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas are included with original maps for each chapter, highlighting key areas of interest. Every chapter has a list of the most likely species to be found, what time of year to visit, where to shoot, basic techniques for each area, and more. Popular photography areas covered include Nettie Bay and vicinity, winter hotspots in the Upper Peninsula, the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary for tame waterfowl, and Pointe Mouillee for hundreds of migrating shorebirds in the fall. A list of useful web links and up to the minute birding reports is included as well, providing the photographer everything they need to start planning their Michigan photo outing in any season.

We are proud to announce the availability of Matthew Studebaker’s excellent Michigan Site Guide, his second (along with the Ohio Site Guide) written especially for BIRD AS ART. To order your copy, you can send a Paypal for $50, call Jim at the office with credit card in hand, or click here to order through the BIRDS AS ART On-line Store.

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Hooded Merganser, drake flapping
Image copyright 2010: Mathew Studebaker

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Golden-crowned Kinglet
Image copyright 2010: Mathew Studebaker


Twenty-three BIRDS AS ART folks will be joining me on the killer South Georgia/Falklands Expedition that will run October 18 to November 11, 2012. If you missed that feature, see item one here. If you are seriously interested in this trip it would be best not to tarry as two years out there are only 8 slots left on the trip…. Please e-mail me at samandmayasgrandpa@att.net immediately for details and the sign-up info. This trip is so spectacular that I am good to go as a participant paying the full freight. I hope that you can join us.

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Western Gull, flash blur, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II zoom lens with the 1.4X II TC (hand held at 135mm) with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2 1/3 stops: 1/30 sec. at f/11 in Tv Mode. Canon 580 EX II Speedlight on the camera at -1 stop with the Canon CP-E4 Compact Battery Pack. .

Again I forgot to lower the ISO πŸ™‚ And as usual, I forgot to set rear curtain synch. But I simply love the result. I completely rebuilt the eye using the Digital Eye Doctor techniques described in detail in Digital Basics. If you would like to learn to create a great variety of pleasingly blurred images get yourself a copy of A Guide to Pleasing Blurs by Arthur Morris and Denise Ippolito.


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

Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens (My very best friend :))
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L II lens (My favorite new lens. By a mile.)
Canon 15mm fish eye lens: (Great fun for creative folks but requires practice to get it. Denise loves this lens and does amazing things with it.)
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body (I only own and travel with two.)
Canon EF 1.4X II teleconverter (I never leave home without at least two of these.)
Canon EF 2X II teleconverter (I never leave home without one.)
Canon 580EX II Speedlight (Canon’s current most powerful professional flash)
Canon CP-E4 Compact Battery Pack (This great accessory takes eight AA batteries and gives me more flashes faster and lots more flash power.)

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.)
Delkin e-Film Pro 32 gb Compact Flash Card (Fast and dependable. Everything I want in a 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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Surf Scoter swallowing clam, Bolsa Chica Lagoon, CA
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1250 sec. at f/8.

Before the IPT began I spent a morning at Bolsa and got lucky with a most wanted species. For the complete story of that wonderful morning click here. To see a classic field guide portrait of this species, check out my BPN post Handsome Dude.

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