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From July 24 through August 7 I was on St. Paul Island in Alaska's Pribilofs. I was joined the first week by 10 additional folks, and 9 for the second week. The photographic opportunities far exceeded everyone's wildest dreams. On my two previous visits in late June/early July, finding a few puffins was somewhat of a chore. At these later dates, both Horned and Tufted Puffins were much more numerous. Of the 113 rolls that I exposed in the two weeks, surely 2/3 were of puffins. On the last morning, those who did not opt to stay in and pack were rewarded with a point-blank Tufted Puffin with a mouthful of small fish with large eyes. The bird posed and posed and posed at Reef Wall.

During the first IPT, several of us got to photograph a Northern Fur Seal giving birth at fairly close range. On the last morning with the first group, those who went out experienced a clear sunrise--my first ever in eight weeks on St. Paul. I tired to think of a single spot on the island where the early morning sun would be on some cliff-nesting birds in a situation where the photographers could point their shadows at the birds. I finally came up with a section of cliff west of Ridge (Tourist) Point. When we first arrived our targeted nests were in shadow, but within 10 minutes we got to photograph a nest-ful of small, down-covered baby Red-Faced Cormorants. In the 90 minutes that we were able to spend at this spot, the birds were fed several times.

On the second IPT, we had great chances with Rock Sandpipers (both adults and juveniles). Several participants got to photograph Gray-tailed Tattler--a Siberian vagrant. Lastly, on consecutive afternoons, strong south/southwest winds at Southwest Cliffs found numerous Northern Fulmars holding in the up-currents just 25 feet from 6-8 eager photographers and posing for top shots. It was by far the best sustained flight shooting that I have ever encountered. (Sorry L.F, Darrell, et. al.)

When a slight wind shift altered the bird's flight patterns a bit, I switched to vertical format with the Canon 100-400 mm IS lens (that I used exclusively with the EOS 1v this trip for flight shooting ). The first bird that came by, an intermediate phase, angled himself perfectly to me and posed for 6 or 7 top-shots at about a 150mm focal length! I could have grabbed it!

Many rare wildflowers in bloom (in perfect condition) were photographed by both groups at Whitney Lake and other locations. I was a bit worried about taking so many photographers on a St. Paul Island Tour bus, but the plan worked out superbly. After the first day or two, we began dropping folks off at their preferred sites as per their requests. In addition, many of the locations were suitable for 5-10 (or more) photographers.

I may return even later in the season next year. I've heard that there are even MORE puffins then.

Using a Wimberley Head with Short Lenses

It was a still Thanksgiving morning. The entire eastern sky at Bosque Del Apache NWR in south-central New Mexico flamed red-orange from north to south. Thousands of Snow Geese swirled about through the intensifying color. As it seemed that fully half the sky was lit up, the situation screamed for a wide shot. While reaching for my short zoom lens, however, I realized that my ballhead was still in a suitcase back at the motel room. (I had arrived the night before.) . A Wimberley head was mounted atop my Gitzo tripod. This gimbal-type head is ideal for flight shooting; big telephoto lenses are rendered practically weightless and handling them is a breeze. I made many wonderful photographs that morning, but the wide image that I had visualized was not to be, for mounting a camera body with a short lens on a Wimberley head was not possible. Or so I had thought.

To mount a short lens on a Wimberly head follow these steps:

1-Affix a Really Right Stuff camera body plate to the bottom of your camera body or power winder. (Each RRS stuff plate is designed for a specific camera body or power winder). 2- Place a Hama Double bubble in the camera's hot-shoe. 3-Mount a short lens onto your camera. 4-Remove the clamp platform from the swing shaft by loosening the knob. 5-Loosen the swing knob, point the swing shaft towards the sky (instead of at the ground), and then tighten the swing knob. 6-Place the clamp platform onto the swing shaft by sliding it on from below. 7-Slide the clamp platform up as far as it will go and then tighten it. 8-Mount the camera body onto the clamp platform with the lens pointing away from the swing shaft. 9-Point one leg of the tripod at the center of the scene that you wish to photograph. 10-Adjust the vertical framing by adjusting the length of the forward pointing leg by loosening the leg lock, lengthening or shortening the leg as needed, and then tightening the leg lock when the desired framing is achieved. An option is to pull the leg-stop tab on the forward pointing leg out and adjust the vertical framing by changing the leg angle. 11- Loosen the swing knob and check the double bubble level in the camera's hot shoe to square the camera to the world before re-tightening the swing knob. (To make a vertical scenic image, rotate the camera to vertical so that the swing shaft is parallel to the ground and then check the double bubble as above.) 12-Make the image.

This technique is perfect for folks who photograph birds or other wildlife almost exclusively and who only occasionally attempt to make scenic images. Some folks have complained that step 10 is "too difficult" for them. To them I say, "Get a life!" Adjusting the vertical framing is simple and the directions are straight-forward. Thanks to good friend and IPT participant Darrell Miller for improving on my original method by suggesting step 5 which allows you to shoot any wide angle off of the Wimberley head. The upper photograph below (or attachment Wimberley 5) shows the set-up for making horizontally formatted images. The lower photograph below (or attachment Wimberley 4) shows the correct set-up for making vertically formatted images.


Still only two folks have signed up for the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Shorebird IPT (AUG 28-30). Ideal early morning high tides should make for some great photography for those who would like to crawl through the muck. > The OCT 1-3 Cape May Raptor IPT has one spot left (limit three). The other two are sold out.

The SEPT 9 JBWR FIELD SHOOT is sold out. There is room on the AUG 26 FIELD SHOOT. And lots of room for the two "The Art of Nature Photography" Full Day How-To Seminars in the NYC area; AUG 27--Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY, and SEPT 10--Bayside, Queens, NY

See the web site for details and additional INFO.

Best and great picture making to all.

Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Listing of Archived Bulletins

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