July 2nd, 2011




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This image of a Dovekie with its wings raised was created near the town of Lonyearbyen on the island of Spitzbergen which is in the Svalbard group, Norway with the the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/3200 sec. at f/5.6 in Av mode.

Lens/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: +2.

This was my single favorite image from the trip. As you will see when you visit the various blog posts, getting a clean background up on the mountain was extremely difficult and required lots of maneuvering on a nasty, rock-covered mountainside. Click here to see Jasper Doest’s great image of me on a 35 degree rocky slope; sometimes you gotta wonder….


My trip to Svalbard, Norway was amazing, exhausting, fun, exhilarating, challenging, and for a single night–disappointingly frustrating. That single night was followed by two thrilling evenings filled with some danger, lots of excitement, and a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. For additional details please see “The Blog is the Bomb” feature below.

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From left to right you see Robin Sparkman, husband Patrick, and our photographer guide, Jasper Doest. Robin and Patrick have been great client-friends for more than a decade, actually more friends than clients. Patrick is a very skilled photographer who turned me on to the 70-200/2X III TC combo on last year’s Galapagos Photo-Cruise of a Lifetime.

Note the rifle on Japser’s back; you are not permitted out of town without a weapon that can take down a Polar Bear. We did not see any. About a decade ago, two young German women were attacked after they climbed the mountain above town without any knowledge or protection. One jumped to her death, the other survived.

The four of us had a wondrous time in Svalbard. I could not have gotten down the mountain without help from Patrick and Jasper; they got my 800 safely back to our vehicle on each occasion. Thanks to each of them for their help and to Patrick and Robin for joining me in Norway. Note: the Sparkmans are currently on an auto tour of Norway visiting places connected with Robin’s heritage.


Though still a bit jet-lagged from the Norway trip (each evening for the past three I have felt like a zombie for about 90 minutes before getting my second wind) I fly to Quito early on Sunday with my grandson Sam who is joining me as a result of a couple’s last minute cancellation due to an injury. My good friend and web-man Peter Kes is joining me as co-leader.

Several of us are traveling to Tandayapa Bird Lodge on the Fourth of July for a day of perched hummingbird photography. I meet the whole group on Monday evening and we all fly to the archipelago on Tuesday morning for two weeks in wildlife paradise on the GALAPAGOS 2012 PHOTO-CRUISE OF A LIFETIME IPT: The Complete Galapagos Photographic Experience: July 1-18, 2011 (July 3-17, 2012 on the boat): 13 1/2 days of photography plus a last morning panga ride: $12,749. (Limit 12/Openings: 9.)

As this amazing trip has sold out three years running, I am totally mystified as to why there are still nine openings. If you are interested, please see the complete info below in IPT Updates and e-mail me for discount information.

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This image was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens (hand held at 70mm with the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/8000 sec. at f/4 in Av mode.

Lens/camera body Micro-adjustment: 0.

The first time all the birds took off from the mountain and flew over the fjord I stood helpless behind my tripod looking uphill while all the action took place behind me. Soon they all returned. When they took off again in even larger numbers, I removed the teleconverter from my 70-200, made sure my tripod was steady, turned around, sat on a rock, and enjoyed some fabulous action. The lesson: engage brain while photographing.


If you ever travel with a photo vest and two additional carry-ons, it would behoove you to print of copy of this page from the TSA web site. It states, “You may carry one (1) bag of photographic equipment in addition to one (1) carry-on and one (1) personal item through the screening checkpoint. The additional bag must conform to your air carrier’s carry-on restrictions for size and weight. Please confirm your air carrier’s restrictions prior to arriving at the airport. Air carriers may or may not allow the additional carry-on item on their aircraft. Please check with your air carrier prior to arriving at the airport.”

Those of you who know that most airlines have chosen not to allow one additional carry-on for photographers might be asking, “Why is Artie sharing this worthless advice with us?” On admittedly rare occasions I have been challenged by TSA agents while entering the security line: “You cannot proceed. Your vest is a third carry-on.” But one of those was at Newark just the other day while returning from Norway. For the whole story, click here and start reading at the third paragraph.

The point is that having a copy of the letter in your vest will get you past the TSA person who challenges you freeing you to have to deal only with the gate agent from the airline. Challenges by those folks have been equally rare and I have always gotten on the plane with my vest. If you travel with a vest print a copy of the page and keep it in a safe place. I did.

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This displaying Common Eider drake was photographed at the dog kennel pond 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: 1/640 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: +10. After a month of banging around the micro-adjustment for this combo increased from +3 to +10.

When we arrived there was non-stop courtship behavior with the eiders; it tapered off rapidly but there were still a few males displaying when we left. This image was in fact created towards the end of the trip.


I have continued to put in 20+ hours each week towards making the blog informative, timely, and beautiful. Many 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.

Check out What Artie Missed on Plateaufjellet/A Guest Blog Post by Patrick Sparkman to see what was going on on the mountain while I slept.

Turnabout is fair play. Hard work, determination, and perseverance on my part paid off big time. Click to learn of my Dovekie Redemption.

Are you forgetful at times? Click here; you are not alone!

The “For Your Critique” posts have proven quite popular. You can check out the second in the series here.

There is a good lesson here on how your image optimization skills can influence your creative visualization skills in the field.

Most accidents occur in the home. For a good laugh, click on this link to read how I almost killed myself walking into the bathroom here at Indian Lake Estates after surviving three trips up and down the rocky slopes of Plateaufjellet (PLAT-toe-FEE-el-ut).

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This female Red Phalarope was photographed at the 4:11 am on a still clear morning in Svalbard pond 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: 1/500 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: +10. After a month of banging around the micro-adjustment for this combo increased from +3 to +10.

Though this bird was silly tame, photographing it was a bit frustrating. It was feeding in grass littered water but would occasionally venture farther from shore into the perfect blue water. Whenever it did it would jump up and fly away to another section of the pond.

Phalaropes exhibit sexual role reversal with the more attractive females pursuing and defending the duller males. To learn more about phalaropes and North American shorebirds get yourself a copy of my Shorebirds/Beautiful Beachcombers. The book is out of print and when our last few copies are gone they will be hard to get.


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Though the image quality is poor due to a large crop from an extracted JPEG and I look more than a bit grizzled there is an important point to the image. Check out the strap on my right shoulder, the Black Rapid RS-7. The image is from the Lake Kerkini group portrait. For more info on the Lake Kerkini trip click here and here. See Robert’s return trip below in Posse News/Robert O’Toole.


Too many times in my career I have been too stubborn too long, refusing to listen to perfectly good advice. “The Wimberley Head is way better than a ballhead.” Didn’t listen for years. “Try the Venice Rookery, it’s fabulous.” Didn’t listen for years. BreezeBrowswer Pro and DownLoader Pro are amazing. Didn’t listen for years. “The Black Rapid Straps are the greatest.” Didn’t listen for years in spite of the fact that the intermediate telephoto lens that I carry via a camera body strap on my right shoulder had been slipping off the same shoulder for decades….

Well, about six months ago I finally listened. I got in touch with the folks at Black Rapid who kindly sent me several straps and accessories for testing. Man, I fell in love with the RS-7 in about five seconds. Your intermediate telephoto lens will never slip off your shoulder again. It will be there when you need it, instantly accessible, as accessible as John Wayne’s six-shooter.

I do have a few suggestions and tips for you on using the Black Rapid RS-7. I tried mounting the strap by screwing the FastenR-3 (the small connecting bolt) into the tripod collar. I hated it instantly. The lens is not balanced, it rides horizontally, and it is difficult to grab when you need it. Instead I recommend screwing the FastenR-3 into the base of your camera body as I do. Even with pro-sumer bodies, the construction is more than strong enough to support the weight of any intermediate telephoto lens. Your lens will hang pointing towards the ground as you see in the image above further reducing any strain on the system. Next you snap the ConnectR-2 to the FastenR-3. The ConnectR-2 is a BlackRapid original design that is constructed to work perfectly with the R-Strap system. It is strong, swivels smoothly, and locks to ensure the safety of your camera and your peace of mind. Your camera will slide smoothly up and down the strap to ensure the legendary BlackRapid speed.

Important Tip as noted again below: get in the habit of tightening the FastenR-3 (the screw) every time you grab your rig at the start of a photography session; they can work loose over time.

Next you simply loop the strap around your head and over your shoulder and you are nearly good to go. You can adjust the length of the strap so that the lens rides where you want it to ride. I like it to ride on my hip so that I can grab the lens instantly when I need it. Lastly you adjust the bumper. There is a great how-to tutorial video on the Black Rapid web site here.

For years Denise Ippolito opted not to go into the field with two rigs: a big lens on the tripod and an intermediate lens on her shoulder. “It’s just too difficult and winds up hurting me more than helping me,” she used to say. “My 100-400 is always in the way and I wind up missing great images.” I cautioned her that not having an auxiliary lens handy when she needed it in the field would hurt her more in the long run. Well, you guessed it, she tried one of the Black Rapid straps and found that carrying her intermediate telephoto zoom was a complete pleasure and that her 1-4 was there when she needed it without ever getting in the way. (Note: she did not like the woman’s model.)

Here are tips that you will not find on the Black Rapid web site. The first is so important that I mention it again: whenever you grab your rig be sure to give the FastenR-3 a twist. Despite the fact that it is nicely designed with a locking rubber compression ring it does occasionally work loose. If you are headed for a long walk down the beach, pull the strap over your left shoulder; it will be much more comfortable than having it rest against the left side of your neck. When you are ready to start photographing actively, just pull the strap off your shoulder. If you find that your lens bumps up and down on long walks you might wish pull the strap around so that the lens rests in the middle of your lower back rather than on your hip while walking.

Well, it took a while but we finally have the Black Rapid RS-7 Straps in stock. Now don’t get me wrong, they make lots of different versions and offer lots of accessories. Most other on-line stores will try to sell you lots of extra stuff that you don’t need or sell you the model that they happen to have in stock. I can assure you that the RS-7 is the very best that they offer. At BIRDS AS ART we sell what we use and we don’t try to sell you junk. If you do visit the Black Rapid web site and see a model or an accessory that you just cannot live without, less us know; we would be glad to order it for you.

You can order your Black Rapid RS-7 today through the BAA On-line store by clicking here, by calling Jim at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand, or by sending us a check or a Paypal for $58.95 plus $8.00 shipping via UPS Ground–signature required or plus $12.00 for international shipping. (Note: shipping charges in the store may vary slightly.) If either of the latter be sure to indicate Black Rapid RS-7 with your order.

I never go anywhere without my RS-7. It has proven to be invaluable in the Galapagos, and then again in Antarctica. I even grabbed one from stock for my grandson Sam; he will be using a great lightweight rig: the Canon 70-200 f/4L IS lens with a Canon EOS-7D. PS: he loved it.


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Like to photograph ducks? I do!


E.J. Peiker’s “Ducks of North America – The Photographer’s Guide” is the most comprehensive book ever written on duck photography. E.J. is an excellent photographer who has loved ducks for decades and traveled all over the globe to photograph them. I have been envious of many of his duck images for years; can you say Green-winged Teal or drake Canvasback?

His eBook is the essential guide for photographers of all levels to finding and photographing every species of duck in North America. Photographers outside of North America will also find it a great reference since the techniques for photographing ducks are the same all over the world; most of the 83 included species are not exclusive to North America.

You will be sent a download link via e-mail, and instructions will be included in the e-mail.

You can order your copy today through the BAA On-line store by clicking here, by calling Jim at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand, or by sending us a check or a Paypal for $30.00. If either of the latter be sure to note “EJ’s Duck Book” with your order.


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Diadem Sifaka Lemur, Mantadia, Madagascar, Image Copyright 2012: Todd Gustafson/Gustafson Photo Safari

Madagascar/In Country: April 30, 2012. Returning: May 13. $7,995.00 double occupancy

Join Gustafson Photo Safari as they travel to Madagascar for our third adventure to “The Eighth Continent.” Its unique habitats support plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals that are found nowhere else. I love photographing lemurs and we hope to see at least 20 species! Each one has its own unique, riveting eye color. We will also photograph a wide variety of endemic chameleons of all sizes and colors. (Try to capture the moment when the chameleon’s tongue shoots out to snare its dinner!)

Hiking the trails through national parks is the best way to see and photograph the natural beauty of Madagascar. We will encounter a wide variety of amazing subjects on our custom itinerary that includes some of our favorite locations as well as 2 new spots that will offer even more species. Each site has been chosen for dramatic indigenous species and easy accessibility. Madagascar is truly a destination at the ends of the Earth!

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Ostiletti Chameleon, Madagascar, Image Copyright 2012: Todd Gustafson/Gustafson Photo Safari

Namibia 2012. Dates: In Country: May 14, 2012. Returning: May 30 2012. $14,995.00 double occupancy.

Classic highlights of Namibia include; Sand dunes of the Namib desert, The Skeleton Coast, Desert Lions, Ghost Elephants, Quiver Trees, Balloon ride over the giant dunes of Sossusvlei, Rock paintings, and Big Game Safari in Etosha. We will have chances to see all of this and more including cultural interactions with Namibia’s indigenous people, and unique wildlife.

Request the full color PDF for both trips by e-mail. Learn more about Todd and Madagascar here. And be sure to get a copy of Todd’s great safari photo guide: The Photographer’s Guide to the Safari Experience.


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All images copyright 2010/Denise Ippolito Photography

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens NY, August 13,2011. 6am-9:30am: $195.00.

Join Denise Ippolito and Lloyd Spitalnik for a half-day workshop at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens NY. We will visit the East pond in the early morning where we will be photographing a variety of shorebirds in a birder’s paradise. Jamaica Bay is a birdwatchers heaven, a stopover on the Atlantic Flyway that provides a resting and feeding place for thousands of migrating shorebirds. In addition to the migrating shorebirds Yellow Warbler and American Redstart warblers, Willow Flycatcher and sometimes cuckoos are all breeding at the refuge. Lloyd Spitalnik has been photographing at Jamaica Bay for 15 years. Last year Lloyd gave a slide show presentation at the Jamaica Bay Shorebird Festival. He knows the best places to be and is very familiar with the species that frequent JB. Denise co-led Arthur Morris’s Jamaica Bay IPT (Instructional Photo Tour) last year. She and Lloyd will lead a great hands on workshop. Bring your longest lens, your teleconverters, and a sturdy tripod. You can e-mail denise for more info.


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Dalmatian Pelican in full breeding colors in flight, northern Greece.
Image copyright 2011: Robert OToole Photography.com

Nikon D700 with Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3 APO OS HSM. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1600 sec. at f/8.0 in Manual mode.

Dalmatian Pelican Workshop, Northern Greece, Feb 6-11, 2012. Six full days. $2799. Three photographers/boat, leader: Robert O’Toole (You need to be at the hotel on the late afternoon or early evening of Feb 5, 2012).

My first trip to Greece with Artie to photograph these amazing birds was one of my best trips ever. Our biggest problem was trying to keep from filling our cards. Artie was close to filling a 32GB CF card for the first time in his life! This workshop will offer morning and evening in-the-field instructional photography sessions from shore and on the water from boats. Afternoons we will be spending time on image optimization, workflow and friendly helpful critique sessions as a group and one on one.

For more information, click here.

You can get Robert on his cell at 310.619.8017 or reach him via e-mail.

To see lots of my Lake Kerkini images click here and here.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of my favorite gear and some of the other equipment mentioned in this Bulletin. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Support both the Bulletins and the Blog by making all your B & H purchases here.

Canon 100-400mm IS L Zoom lens. Though this extremely versatile lens is much-maligned by internet “experts” I used it for more than a decade and created lots of sharp images that sold over and over again.
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM zoom lens. Though I used this lens only once I was quite impressed with the sharpness and quick initial focus acquisition. It would make a great starter lens for folks living near tame birds. (Note: it does not accept a 1.4X teleconverter.)
Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2X III teleconverter. I also use it a lot with the 1.4X III TC which is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses. I used the 70-200 alone to create all of the images at Scott’s place.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. My two Mark IVs are my workhorse digital camera bodies.
Canon 70-200 f/4L IS lens. I used this sharp, versatile, lightweight zoom for years before moving up to the 70-200 f/2.8L IS II.
Canon EOS-7D. I have felt from the get-go that this lightweight beauty may be the very best ever value in a digital camera body.
Nikon D700. This is Robert’s favorite camera body.
The Nikon 500 VR is pretty much unavailable to the general public.
Nikon TC-14E II 1.4x Teleconverter for D-AF-S & AF-I Lenses ONLY. TCs are vitally important to all telephoto photographers.
Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3 APO OS HSM Nikon mount. I have seen with my own eyes the amazing images that Robert has produced with this versatile lens. )(Note: Robert is a Sigma Professional.)
Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3 APO OS HSM Canon mount. This one is also offered with a Canon mount.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
CR-80 Replacement Foot for Canon 800. When using the 800 on a Mongoose as I do, replacing the lens foot with this accessory lets the lens sit like a dog whether pointed up or down and prevents wind-blown spinning of your lens on breezy days by centering the lens directly over the tripod.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
Be sure to check out our camera body User’s Guides here.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.

Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. These high capacity cards are fast and dependable. Clicking on the link below will bring you to the Delkin web site. There is lots of great stuff there. If you see a product that we do not carry let us know via e-mail; we will be glad to have it drop-shipped to you and save you a few bucks in the process.

I pack my 800 and tons of other gear in my ThinkTank Airport SecurityTM V2.0 rolling bag for all of my air travel and recommend the slightly smaller Airport InternationalTM V2.0 for most folks. These high capacity bags are well constructed and protect my gear when I have to gate check it on short-hops and puddle jumpers. Each will protect your gear just as well. By clicking on either link or the logo below, you will receive a free gift with each order over $50.

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