July 22nd, 2011



  • E.J. PEIKER’S “Ducks of North America; the Photographer’s Guide”
  • ALAN MURPHY’S “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography”

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This image of a Great Blue Heron eating a baby Marine Iguana was created at Punta Espinoza, Fernandina Island with the 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: 1/1600 sec. at f/8 in Av mode.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: +10.

I was flat on my belly on the lava rock–I gotta remember to bring a closed-cell exercise pad on the next trip–when our guide Juan saw this Great Blue Heron fly in and land near the group. He called out, “It is going to hunt for baby iguanas.” Foolishly, I ignored his prediction. Two minutes later he yelled excitedly, “It caught one!” I got to my feet asap and ran the 40 yards to the group, set up my tripod, and framed the subject. The bird leaned forward and took flight. My heart sank. But lucky me; it flew only a short distance. When it finally swallowed its prey and flew off I fell backwards onto the soft sand and raised my arms to the heavens in thanks. Heart-stopping moments on the Galapagos occur often.


The Galapagos 2011 Photo-Cruise of a Lifetime IPT was just that. Though vastly different from my seven previous cruises (the last two of which featured the Beagle’s great 2-week itinerary that visits all of the top bird and wildlife locations in the archipelago), wonderful photographic opportunities awaited us on most every landing and the heart-stopping moments of sheer excitement that fire our passions were numerous. I will share lots of those moments with you in the images here and in blog posts (along with lots of lessons) over the next few weeks.

Ten clients joined BAA web-master, skilled photographer, BPN Gear Forum Moderator, and my very dear friend Peter Kes–a most pleasant Dutchman from Switzerland, my eldest grandson–Samuel Henry Egensteiner, and me for the voyage. Most of the folks in the group were very happy campers. Our guide, Juan Manuel Salcedo, who purchased his own boat, the Samba, last year, was incredibly superb as expected. At only 29 years of age Juan impressed everyone with his great knowledge, his helpful and sharing nature, his finely polished people skills, and his great maturity.

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This image was created by my grandson Sam at Tagus Cove, Isabella with the Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens (handheld at 200mm) and the Canon EOS-7D. ISO 800: 1/1000 sec. at f/4 in Manual Mode (with help from Grandpa on the exposure).

On the Galapagos trips we do lots of photography from the pangas (Zodiacs). It can be quite challenging with more than a few photographers in a small boats being constantly rocked by wind and wave action. Though this Galapagos Penguin was as cooperative as could be as it posed for us on a barnacle and seaweed-covered rock it was clearly Sam who came up with the very best image (despite his lack of photographic experience). See Sam in action along with another of his excellent images here.

Bart and Heather Pembroke who have traveled with me extensively enjoyed themselves tremendously. Said Bart near the end of the trip, “You’ve done it again by putting together yet another truly amazing trip. You really know how to do it.” Bart and Heather befriended Sam early on as did all of the happy campers on the Beagle. Wayne Guerke from Atlanta was on last year’s Southwest Florida IPT. Though on the quiet side, Wayne asked some excellent questions. Dave and Mary Martin and another couple, all first timers, were along as well. Eighty-years young Jim Bickett of Hot Springs Village, Arkansas (soon to be 81), he of 2 artificial knees and 4 hip replacement surgeries–#5 is scheduled for early August, inspired everyone with his grit, his smiling spirit, and his stamina. He fell early on in the trip—much of the terrain is as Juan often puts it, “strenuous”—but continued undaunted. He scraped up both of his knees pretty nicely but was otherwise unscathed. We teased him often about having left his knee pads on the Beagle that day.

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This Land Iguana image was created at Dragon Hill with the tripod-mounted Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens (at 250mm) with the the 1.4X III TC and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/100 sec. at f/5.6 in Av mode.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: +2.

I skipped the landing at this spot on last year’s cruise when Patrick Sparkman created the world’s best-ever image of the extremely elusive Dark-billed Cuckoo. (You can see Patrick’s incredibly beautiful image here). When we landed I was struck by the beauty of the spot; we spent more than an hour creating some lovely landscape images.

Despite the clear blue skies Juan suggested that we head down the trail and look for one of the very large and handsome male Land Iguanas that inhabit Cerro Dragon. I was doubtful. Again. After about 20 minutes I said to Peter Kes, “This is a waste. We have not seen a single living creature and it is too darn sunny. Let’s tell Juan to head back.” Just then the word passed down the line that Juan had found a gorgeous male iguana resting in the shade. The group took turns photographing this great subject for well more than an hour. It rarely moved a muscle. After we packed up our gear and headed back the way we came (still being very respectful of the creature’s space and presence) Bart, the last in the line reported that the huge lizard turned tail and crawled off into the bushes as if to say, “If they are done with me I might as well quit posing.”

Alejandro (Alex) Furman traveled from Santiago, Chile to join us. He has been to Alaska on the bear boat with me, to Bosque for back-to-back IPTs, to Panama on a Linda Robbins hummingbird trip that I co-led, on an old St. Augustine Alligator Farm IPT, and to my home in Florida. Alex is a skilled photographer with superb Photoshop skills. He is quick to share his digital workflow tips with others (including me). We spent many hours on the Beagle working on images side by side sharing our thoughts and techniques. Alex has a unique shooting style. His big telephoto is the Canon 500mm f/L IS. His body of choice is the full frame, 22-mega-pixel EOS-1Ds Mark III. He works wide with birds and wildlife and crops extensively to create his exquisitely composed, beautifully optimized images. He also enjoys the 1Ds III for his landscape work; as you might expect he is quite skilled in that area as well. His favorite landscape lenses are the 17-40, the 17-35, and the 70-200 f/2.8L IS II (that he uses for wildlife as well).

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This image of five free and wild Galapagos Tortoises mud-soaking in a small pond was created with the Canon 24-105mm IS L lens (handheld at 24mm) and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/80 sec. at f/8 in Av mode.

Everyone in the group enjoyed photographing more than a dozen huge adult tortoises in a variety of settings less than a few hundred meters from the spot where our bus dropped us off in the highlands of Puerto Ayora. This image is a five frame HDR Grunge. I did lots of experimenting with HDR Grunge images on the trip; most were created with tripod-mounted lenses.

James Fuller, a 28-year old from Victoria, Texas who works in the field of oil and gas exploration was on his first IPT. He has, however, been a BIRDS AS ART “student” since he began photographing six years ago having studied ABP, ABP II, and Digital Basics diligently, subscribed to BAA Bulletins, and been an ardent reader of the Blog since its inception. He is yet another of the incredibly skilled young bird, wildlife, and nature photographers who never have exposed a single roll of film. He placed fifth in the Coastal Bend Wildlife Photography Contest two years ago and is competing in this year’s event that will conclude at the end of July (2011). He shared a folder of images that he will be entering and blew everyone away with the quality and artistic design of his work. James’ brother is a helicopter pilot. James has done some pioneering work photographing small groups and even single birds in flight from the helicopter. While it is in the air. Understandably, his favorite lens for this work is the Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO lens. I will be sharing some of James’s great images with you soon.

James had a wonderful time with Sam as did Peter Kes (and Jim and Alex and especially Juan as well). Peter had an absolutely smashing good time reveling in the wildlife and the scenery of the archipelago. Traveling from Switzerland was a challenge. Peter had to arrive a day early and will be staying a day late as KLM has limited service into Quito. In addition, they flew him all over the planet; his inbound and outbound air travel consisted of four legs including a stop each way in Bonaire. Despite warnings from Juan about the need for proper footwear on some of the landings Peter clambered over the lava in sandals as if he were a native Galapaguenio. I saw him stumble twice during our first ten days and regain his balance as if there were some mountain goat blood in his veins.

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When I saw this Land Iguana standing on its hind legs chomping on a prickly pear cactus on South Plaza Island I could think only of the Geico gecko; I was flabbergasted. I used the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens (hand held at 280mm with the the 1.4X III TC and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/6.3 in Av mode.

Lens/TC/camera body Micro-adjustment: 0.

We had had a great afternoon on Isla Lobos. Juan and Sam ventured along the rocky coast and found about ten nesting pairs of Blue-footed Booby nests. I was with Peter when he learned of their find and started to make the trek over rough ground with him. But seeing that it was a very rough go and it was already 5:40pm—we needed to be off the island by 6pm, I said to Peter, “I am not gonna kill myself on these rocks. Have fun and be safe.” Ten minutes later Juan came back down the trail looking very pale. . He told me that Peter had taken an horrific fall.” I learned later that feeling pressed for time he had been hurrying along when one of his sandals got snagged between two rocks. Juan continued, “He fell right on his face. I thought that he was dead. When I got to him blood was pouring out of his nose. It was the worst fall I have ever seen. ” Peter wore his hiking sneakers on the last few photo walks….

On Tuesday, July 19, Peter sat next to me as I worked on images for this Bulletin—we headed back to Quito that morning. It seemed that his nose was not broken (though it made some funny crunching noises when he moved it). And the scrapes on his knees and elbow had healed nicely a result of several snorkeling trips without a wetsuit. Peter—as Jim Bickett had been—was a good sport about his fall.

Weather-wise the trip was too sunny overall with clear days predominating during the middle of the trip. On all of my previous trips blue skies days were rare as we enjoyed cloudy-bright conditions much of the time. Full sun at the equator is especially difficult to deal with. I counseled the group to work with the sun behind them to minimize the dark shadows and avoid the numerous problems that come along with harsh sidelight. Some listened. At times we prayed for a few clouds and were rewarded.

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This image of a dancing Blue-footed Booby was created on North Seymour Island with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens and the Canon EF 2X III TC (hand held at 310mm) with the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/3200 sec. at f/5.6 in Av Mode.

Lens/TC/camera body Micro-adjustment: -12.

I counseled the group often to get low, to move with the subject, and to work right on sun-angle on clear days. Here I followed my own advice to create a pleasing image with a relatively clean background.

Having Sam along was a blessing for me and watching him develop as a young photographer was both exciting and rewarding. He loved the trip, all of the landings, and did not miss a single snorkeling session (including our last one at China Hat when we were in the water for an hour and a half). He was like a fish in the water. He struck up a great friendship with Juan as I knew that he would. Everyone was stunned by the quality of Sam’s best images as he had had practically zero photographic instruction or practice. He worked exclusively with the handheld 70-200 f/4L IS and an EOS-7D (adding a 1.4X TC when needed). See his killer Galapagos Penguin image along with my comments below. I will be sharing more of Sam’s images with you soon. Midway through the trip Sam was optimizing his RAW images in Photoshop. In addition to being perfectly well-behaved and pleasant he is incredibly bright with a keen mind and memory; he learned my keyboard shortcuts faster than anyone I have ever run into. All in all he is simply a great kid.

Most of the group joined me for dinner on me at Quito’s finest restaurant, Theatrum. Pretty much everyone agreed that it was the finest meal they had ever eaten anywhere. It was fine dining at its best and the desserts were sinfully good. Sam and I ended our trip with a long plate that held eight different types of chocolate desserts that included four different ice creams.

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This Nazca Booby head portrait was created at Punta Suarez, Hood Island with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens (handheld at 192mm) with the the 1.4X III TC and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode in early morning light (at 7:14am).

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: +2.

With the light “wrong” for our target species on Hood (Waved Albatross) I went looking for alternative subjects to take advantage of the sweet light. Conditions permitting Juan is often able to offer us a bit of latitude.


If you would like to join me in the Galapagos next year for this great trip please see the details below and e-mail me for an itinerary.

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This image of a Swallow-tailed Gull in flight was created at Darwin Bay, Tower Island with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens (handheld at 140mm) with the the 1.4X III TC and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/3200 sec. at f/4 in Av Mode.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: +2.

Both Tower Island landings are world-class photographic destinations rife with nesting boobies and frigatebirds. Folks are often so overwhelmed after we land that they have trouble deciding where to point their lenses…. As you can see by looking at the images in this Bulletin, lenses in the 70-200mm class are valuable tools on a Galapagos cruise. Here are prayers for a few light clouds were answered.


While I was gone and without internet access for two weeks, there was a blog post every other day or so. Now that I am home, I am back to putting in 20+ hours a 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.

You can check out the before and after versions of my favorite Svalbard Dovekie image here.

If you’re into landscapes, flowers, and reindeer check out Svalbard: It Ain’t Just Birds I and Svalbard: It Ain’t Just Birds II.

Folks are forever asking how I travel by air with all of my gear; click here to learn how I do it.

EJ PEIKER’S “Ducks of North America; the Photographer’s Guide”

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After purchasing a copy of EJ’s great e-Book Allan Warner e-mailed:

This PDF book is absolutely the GREATEST guide not only for duck work but other aspects of bird photography as well. It meshes very well with your teachings as regards to exposure and long lens work and is an excellent addition to the BAA store. My congratulations to the author and my thanks to you for making this book available!


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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This image of a White-cheeked Pintail was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/800 sec. at f/8 in Av Mode.

Lens/camera body Micro-adjustment: +3.

Even our less-than-world class landing sites such as Puerto Villamil offer lots of excellent photographic chances as well as a variety of bird and wildlife species. If you like to photograph ducks you will find EJ Peiker’s guide to be invaluable; see item next.

Alan Murphy’s “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography

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If you photograph at a feeder in your own backyard or otherwise and you do not have a copy of Alan’s great guide you are very much working in the dark….

Alan Murphy’s “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography

Aside from teaching you the basics of choosing attractive perches and getting the birds to land right where you want them Alan’s guide will teach you how to create sharp images of songbirds in flight on the way in to your feeder. Now don’t get me wrong, it takes work and practice but with Alan sharing his know-how with you, you can do it.

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Great Kiskadee in flight, Casa Santa Ana, Alamo, South Texas. Image copyright 2010: Alan Murphy Photography.

Nikon 300 mm f/2.8 VR lens with the D3. ISO 1250: 1/4000 sec. at f/4

Knowing that Kiskadees love grapes, I was able to use the tiny fruits to get this approach flight shot.

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Blue Grosbeak in flight, Laguna Seca Ranch, South Texas. Image copyright 2010: Alan Murphy Photography.

Nikon 600 mm f/4.0 VR lens with the D3. ISO 800: 1/4000 sec. at f/5.6 determined by histogram check.

Controlling the flight path from the feeder allowed me to get this image

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 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.
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.

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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