March 17th, 2009

Birds As Art Bulletin #286



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Burrowing Owl pair, Cape Coral, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-50D. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/160 sec. at f/8. Mongoose M3.5 atop the Gitzo 3530 LS.

I stopped down from f/5.6 to f/8 in an effort to sharpen the rear bird with additional depth-of-field. Had I used the depth-of-field preview button I would have seen that I needed a smaller f/stop. I should have gone to ISO 800 and f/11. Here, I made a Quick Mask of the rear bird and selectively sharpened it with a Contrast Mask, both as described in the hugely popular best seller, Digital Basics:


It has been more than a month since I sent a Bulletin; I am not sure if that has ever happened before…. I had been swamped for two weeks and am now catching up. Thanks to all of you who wrote to see if I was still breathing Despite more than a month without a Bulletin or even a Notes, the mail order business continues to thrive and I am grateful for that.

I drove to Fort Myers, FL on February 11, scouted on the morning of the 12th, and lead the SW FLA President’s Day IPT for five full days. The group was as good as it gets, all nice folks eager to learn. And they had great weather luck; lots of south and east winds in the morning, lots of south and west winds in the afternoons. It was a real love-fest. Scott Bourne ( once again joined me as co-leader, as did crack BPN Avian moderator Daniel Cadiuex. Thanks to both for their help.

The IPT ended at sunset on February 17th at a great Burrowing Owl nest in Cape Coral. My flight from Fort Myers to Albuquerque was slated to leave at 7am and I had to pack for the colder weather without even going home. I got to the airport and checked in by 5am for my AA first class flights to ABQ. No problema. After I parked my car, problema. My flight had been cancelled. Instead of a leisurely first class flight with only one stop that would have arrived in ABQ at 11am, I wound up in coach with three legs to the trip. RSW all the way to Phoenix and then back to ABQ. My flight to Phoenix was delayed and I missed my connection. I finally got to ABQ at about 6pm. As a lover of what is ( it was not at all a stressful day. I took advantage of all of my free time to get some work done.

NANPA was great. I did 8 portfolio reviews and spent as much time as possible with the High School and College scholarship students—so many great young folks in one spot. Lou Nettlehorst who had given his heart and soul to the High School program for 9 years stepped down to much acclaim. Former scholarship student Raymond Klass will be taking over the reins. Good luck Ray! There were several NANPA highlights for me. Art Wolfe’s keynote, “Between Heaven and Earth,” left everyone stunned as he re-visited his 25 years of climbing, visiting, and photographing in the Himalayan region. It was a very personal program; Art’s images of the various peoples and the native cultures of the region stole the show even from his stunning landscapes.

In “Magic of the Arctic World” my friend Norbert Rosing (eight National Geopgraphic articles) wowed folks with his images of polar bears, birds, musk ox, foxes, and northern lights. Norbert is a delightful man and a humorous speaker. It is my belief that he has held himself back (hard as that is to believe) by sticking with film; his was an actual slide program. The third killer keynote was done by Tim Layman who was named Outstanding Nature Photographer of the Year. Congrats to Tim who has 16 National Geographic articles under his belt. Tim’s program was entitled Expedition Wildlife Photojournalism; Chasing Rare Species to the Far Corners of the World. Most of it featured images of many of the world’s birds of paradise species and included photos of displaying males and pairs in courtship. Using Canon digital equipment and lots of flash the technically perfect and artistically designed images depicted birds that looked as if they had been created by Disney. The colors, patterns, and displays (the program included some video clips) were all unbelievable. As were the hot, humid, bug-infested conditions that Tim encountered, not to mention living in this or that tree for a week. If anything, NANPA is about the Annual Summit. Several of the most important events in my career occurred at NANPA Summits, and this year the keynotes (as well as many of the breakout sessions), were absolutely fantastic. My friend Bill Fortney of “America from 500 Feet” fame presented the fourth keynote. His was an excellent and enjoyable program; I wish only that it had included more pure natural history images.

On the Sunday morning that the Summit ended I conducted a NANPA program for about 100 folks: Photographing Bosque del Apache; In the Field Strategies and Post Processing Techniques. Everyone on the Post-NANPA 2 ½ DAY IPT was in attendance. When the program was over, we had lunch and the IPT began. Only the day before there had been 20,000 geese at Bosque. On our first morning there were about 2000, and there were almost none by Tuesday morning. On a previous IPT visit during the last week of February five years ago, there had been thousands of cranes. During this IPT there were only a handful of them. Seizing each teach-able moment, taking advantage of some lovely ducks (both at the refuge and on local ponds), doing some extra programs, finding an eagle here or a sunset there, and making the most of a small group of ridiculously tame Ross’s Geese on Sunday and Monday afternoon, we made the very best of it. I actually wound up working harder than if there had been thousands of geese and cranes around, and most of the 12 folks went home happy and appreciative. In nature photography there are never any guarantees.

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Lenticular Cloud, just south of Socorro, NM
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Tripod-mounted Canon 100-400 IS L zoom lens with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/30 sec. at f/5.6. Mongoose M3.5 atop the Gitzo 3530 LS.

The 100-400 is extremely valuable in spots where you need to be able to vary your framing quickly and easily. As here—and in contrast to ridiculous internet “reports”—it is very sharp even at the wide open apertures.


Well, it’s gonna be a whole new world. Over time, the hugely successful and popular BIRDS AS ART Bulletins will to some degree be phased out, replaced for the most part by the BIRDS AS ART Blog. We will be offering the same great photography and Photoshop tips, the same great images with our legendary educational captions, the same great product information and tutorials, and lots more. I will be better able to stay in touch on a more timely basis and to share—on an almost daily basis—more personal tales of the wondrous and blessed life that I lead. I will be adding some more recent Florida images this afternoon!

I hope that you will be able to visit often. Be sure to save to your favorites list.

The appearance of the blog is a bit simple right now as it consists of only the Word Press template. We hope to be customizing the blog ASAP. If there is anyone out there who is knowledgeable in this area, please do get in touch via e-mail. You can sign up for the RSS feed with this link Enter this link into your feed reader, and you’ll be automatically notified of new posts. Popular feed readers include Google Reader and Bloglines. Current posts include more great Bosque images, a busman’s holiday to Little Estero Lagoon, and notice of a very rare bird in Florida.

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Ross’s Goose, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-50D. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/9. Mongoose M3.5 atop the Gitzo 3530 LS. Fill flash at -1 stop with the Better Beamer: (Note: the new FX-6 is custom fitted for the Nikon SB-900 flash units.)

In all of my 14+ years of visiting Bosque, I have never gotten anywhere near this species so I was thrilled to run into a very tame group of Ross’s. The birds were present just past the Paybooth on Sunday and Monday afternoons but had disappeared by Tuesday. Note the perfect head angle.


Below is my e-mail to Jay Gould. It is a good example of what I do with my free time 🙂

Hi Jay,


I am in Brisbane, Australia; I will be paying by US credit card.

No probelma. We do tons of business Down Under.

I am interested in purchasing ABP and ABP II which is on sale – thank you – and substantially less expensive than through Amazon.

As far as I know, Amazon does not offer ABP II for sale…. As far as pricing, we try to price everything competitively and always at least one cent less than B&H. And we have two things that they do not have: 25+ years of nature photography experience and vast knowledge of the products that we sell.

I am also interested in Bird Photography Pure and Simple and the Digital Basics File.

Please let me know if what I am purchasing is overkill, e.g., does ABP and ABP II eliminate the need for Bird Photography or Digital Basics?

With ABP and ABP II you do not need Pure and Simple. Digital Basics as it existed in October 2006 is contained in ABP II but has been updated many times with great new info so we strongly recommend both. In addition to the Workflow and Photoshop stuff that comprises less than 10% of ABP II, the CD book contains tons of great info, everything that I learned about bird and nature photography from 1998 through 2006.

I am going to Antarctica for a month in January, 2010 with the Cheeseman Group; I will be traveling for an entire year which includes six months in South America. I tell you this so that the weight factor is taken into consideration in your answer. Thanks in advance for any and all assistance.

I currently have the 40D and the 16 – 36 f/2.8, 24 – 105 f/4, and the 100 – 400 f/4.5 – 5.6.

I want to carry two bodies because the last thing I want is to be without a camera should the unthinkable occur!

I have reviewed the Bulletin Archives and nothing has been said – at least I couldn’t find anything – about the 5D Mark II.

I have never used one.

Regarding bodies, would you keep the 40D or upgrade to the 50D and purchase the 5D II, or would you keep the 40D and purchase (which one?) either the 50D or the 5D II?

If it were me I would go with one EOS-1D Mark III and one 50D. I would not want to be without the great high ISO noise control of the MIII. But that may not be best for you. If you do lots of landscapes, the 5DII might be best for you with either a MIII or a 50D…. I no longer use full frame cameras for bird photography.

Regarding lenses, I am considering selling the 24 – 105, and buying the 70 – 200 f/2.8 and the 180 f/2.8 macro. That leaves a hole from 35 – 70 which could be filled with the 24 – 70 f/2.8. I am also considering either the 430 or the 580 EX II and the Macro twin light.

Lots to say here. The 24-70 f/2.8 is quite large and heavy.. Again, do you do lots of landscapes? The decision to go with the 180 macro and the macro twin light is an excellent one only if you will be doing lots of macro in South America. I am guessing that your answer is likely a yes. The 70-200 f/2.8 (I am assuming that you are talking about the IS version) is a great lens, and fast, but do consider the lighter, smaller 70-200mm f/4 L IS. You would need to purchase the tripod collar. With that and with high ISOs you negate the need to carry the heavier f/2./8 version.

Tripod: I have a Manfrotto 055CXPro3 with an 488RC2 head.

I do not know either of them but the combo does not sound ideal. I would strongly recommend the Gitzo 3530 LS tripod (assuming that you are not too, too tall) and both the Mongoose M2.3 (if you stick with the 100-400 as your longest lens) and the tiny Giotto’s ballhead that we offer: This combo would offer the very best in light weight, lens handling, efficiency, and most importantly, durability. You might want to bring your 488RC2 head as a back-up if you are currently happy with its performance.

All suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

It seems that your primary interest is not in birds and wildlife. If I am wrong, I would recommend that you sell the 100-400 and purchase the 400DO and the 1.4X teleconverter. In that case you would upgrade to the Mongoose M3.5. The 400 DO would give you great reach and additional sharpness. It makes great images with the 1.4X teleconverter (and even with the 2X with a pro body). And all that comes in a small, relatively light weight package.

Your gear bag would look like this:

EOS-1D MIII (or 5DII—the latter not my choice)


400mm f/4 IS DO lens.

70-200 f/4L IS lens. (With the 50D, this will give you close to the range of the 100-400. Add the 1.4X and you will be right there with a maximum equivalent focal length of 448mm (as compared to your current 400 X 1.6 = 640mm. You would however also have a faster 400mm lens with the DO….)

I’d keep the 24-105 IS L (or go with the 24-70 f/2.8 if you love landscapes).

180 macro plus Twin Light.

Gitzo FC 3530 LS.

Mongoose M3.5 plus the Giottos tiny ballhead.

580 EZ II plus the appropriate flash bracket and cord.

All of the gear above (except for the tripod and the heads which need to go in your checked bags) would fit easily into the ThinkTank Airport SecurityTM V2.0 or the slightly smaller Airport InternationalTM V2.0 rolling bags. Both are fabulous. If your preference is for a large backpack that can serve as your carry-on, they offer several great models. To check out or purchase ThinkTank products, click here:

and then enter this special code: AP-246. When you order merchandise totaling $50 or more you will receive a free Think Tank bag. You can check out the choices here:

Hope that the above helps. Let me know if I missed anything.

Later and love, artie

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Reddish Egret, white morph, Little Estero Lagoon, Fort Myers Beach, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 250. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/640 sec. at f/6.3. Mongoose M3.5 atop the Gitzo 3530 LS.

On a bright clear mid-morning on the SW FLA President’s Week IPT, my group asked, “How are we supposed to make a good image in this harsh light?” I turned around and created the image above. Backlit images, especially those of white birds, generally work best against dark backgrounds, but this one, with a white sand background, proved the exception to the rule. No flash was used but I did make sure to push the histogram as far to the right as possible (and actually had a very few flashing highlights that were easily tamed during conversion of the RAW file.


Who has not dreamed of photographing the coastal grizzlies at close range as they go about their daily business? If you are at all interested in joining me for the trip of a lifetime, please e-mail ( or call me at 863-692-0906.

Do check out the brand new Katmai Bear Boat Gallery here: If you do not think that you can afford the trip, best not no look at the gallery….

Bear Boat #1: June 4-10, 2009.

Openings: 4. (It is advised that you be in Anchorage on the afternoon of June 2nd to be assured of not missing the boat!). This trip will feature an afternoon (and possibly more) of otter photography (weather permitting), Bald Eagles with chicks in the nest probable, puffins possible, and lots and lots of coastal Brown Bears clamming and eating luscious green grass. Football sized cubs and copulations possible. One-and two year old cubs likely.

Bear Boat #2: Sept 4-10, 2009.

Openings: 3. (It is advised that you be in Anchorage on the afternoon of the September 2nd to be assured of not missing the boat!). This one is the bears catching salmon trip. In addition, Glaucous-winged and Mew Gulls eating roe are a certainty. Dark phase Northern Fulmars and Black-legged Kittiwakes (including the gorgeous immatures), Harbor Seals, and Stellar’s Sea Lions are likely. Did I mention bears catching salmon? And more bears catching salmon?

Bear Boat #1 is cheaper by $250 as we use the float plane only once: $6749. Bear Boat #2: $6999.

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If you are curious about either of the bear trips or have any questions and would like to explore the possibility of joining me for the trip of a lifetime, please e-mail ( or call me at 863-692-0906. I will do my best to make it happen.


Guango, Ecuador, NOV 7-13, 2009.

(Limit 6: openings: 3). 3 FULL and 2 HALF-DAYS of photography: $3,000. Non-photographer spouse or friend: $1,000.

Guango, Ecuador, NOV 13-19, 2009.

(Limit 6: openings: 3). 3 FULL and 2 HALF-DAYS of photography: $3,000. Non-photographer spouse or friend: $1,000.

Guango, Ecuador, JAN 10-16, 2010.

Co-leader: Arthur Morris (Limit 6: openings 5). 3 FULL and 2 HALF-DAYS of photography: $3,000. Non-photographer spouse or friend: $1,000.

Guango, Ecuador, JAN 16-21, 2010.

Co-leader: Arthur Morris (Limit 6: openings 1) 3 FULL and 2 HALF-DAYS of photography: $3,000. Non-photographer spouse or friend: $1,000.

Tandayapa, Ecuador, Extension JAN 22-26, 2010.

Co-leader: Arthur Morris . (Limit 4: Sold Out): 2 FULL and 2 HALF-DAYS of photography: $1,600. Non-photographer spouse or friend: $600.

For the past two plus years Linda Robbins has worked very hard to become one of if not the best high speed flash hummingbird photographers around, and in the process, taught me to make some great hummer images. She wrote and published (with a bit of help from me) “The Hummingbird Guide – How to Photograph Hummingbirds Using High-Speed Multiple Flash by Linda Robbins.” Learn more and see some great images here: As above, she is now running her own tours; the first four are to Guango Lodge in Ecuador. On some hummingbird trips you are required to bring your own set-up. Ugh! On some hummingbird trips you take turns on a single set-up while sharing with 6-8 other photographers (while the so-called leader is photographing on his very own set-up. How nice.) That means that you get a chance every three or four hours if you are lucky. On Linda’s trips she provides all of the equipment. She routinely travels with 30 flashes, 21 light stands, 400 rechargeable batteries, and with numerous backgrounds, clamps, clips, eye-droppers, and lots more. All you need to do is show up with your camera (and a back-up), a decent lens of from 300-500mm, one flash, some flash cards, and your laptop and you are good to go. With only two photographers per set-up, you will be photographing 100% of the time if your arm or your trigger finger does not give out. (I once created 3,500 images in a single morning at Guango.) Linda is an excellent Photoshop instructor and does lots of image optimization and teaching on the trips.

See FLYER FOR GUANGO TRIPS NOV 2009.pdf and FLYER FOR GUANGO TRIPS JAN 2010.pdf for complete details, registration and cancellation info, and a slew of great hummingbird images. If you would like to join Linda (or Linda and me) for the hummingbird photo experience of lifetime without having to spend thousands of dollars to purchase the needed gear, e-mail her at or call her on her cell at 941-350-5796. Do not tarry.

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Crowned Woodnymph hovering. Canopy Lodge, Panama
Image Copyright 2007: Linda Robbins, Hummingbird Addiction
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens and a Canon EOS-1D Mark II mounted on a tripod.
ISO 640.Manual mode: 1/250 sec. at f/22. Six flash set-up.

While it is hard to believe, Linda keeps getting better and better. She will be sharing her latest discoveries in the first update to her fantastic Guide to High-Speed Flash Hummingbird Photography in about a month (updated free to purchasers by e-mail only).

And here is even better news: Linda and I will be co-leading a trip to Panama for both tropical birds and hummingbirds in early August. Details TBA soon. To see my images from the amazing Canopy Tower and the luxurious Canopy Lodge, see Part I and Part II of the Panama Trip Reports here:

To learn more about these locations click as follows: Canopy Lodge ( and Canopy Tower (


Robert Amoruso and Robert O’Toole/St. Augustine Alligator Farm Photography Workshop:

May 7-10, 2009. 3 1/2 DAYS: $999. Limit 13

If you have never been to the Alligator Farm you won’t believe what you are missing; it is the perfect place to fine tune your bird photography skills. With many birds nesting just a few feet away, the SAAF is one of the great places in Florida for bird photography. There are birds with chicks and birds in flight. You won’t believe the opportunities here; things can seem unreal for the first time visitor. This place is the perfect location for a workshop due to the number of tame birds, the great location and weather, and the very helpful and friendly park staff. Robert O’Toole and Robert Amoruso are leading this workshop; with two leaders there will be plenty of personal instruction for all participants. Please see the updated links below for more information.

Download the Workshop Brochure:
Download the 5-page Workshop FAQ:

Need help: e-mail Robert Amoruso at: or Robert O’Toole at

Robert O’Toole/Bosque New Mexico, Sandhill Cranes and White Sands

This year I will leading two Photography workshops at Bosque del Apache NWR and one at White Sands National Monument. With 5 years of experience leading and co-leading workshops at Bosque, I can make sure that you maximize your opportunities in the field and then learn to produce high quality image files in Photoshop.

Bosque Photography Workshop 1:

December 4-6, 2009 Bosque Del Apache New Mexico 3 days, $999, limit 6.

Bosque Photography Workshop 2:

December 7-9, 2009 Bosque Del Apache New Mexico 3 days, $999, limit 6.

Please follow the links above for more information. Photography topics will include flight photography techniques, how to maximize sharpness in your images, techniques to minimize digital noise in your images, lighting, creative imaging, equipment set up, in-the-field long lens techniques, and more. The workshop includes one classroom session daily.

White Sands Photography Workshop:

December 10-11, 2009 White Sands NM, New Mexico 2 days, $599, limit 6.

This landscape workshop will cover wide angle, normal and short telephoto landscape techniques in depth. We will be entering White Sands NM early and will be leaving later with special permission. This workshop starts directly after the Bosque workshop on the 7-9 of December.

Please follow this link for more available workshop information: 2009 workshop schedule available here

Need help: e-mail me at or call my cell at 310.619.8017.

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Roseate Spoonbill wing stretch, Alafia Banks, Tampa, FL aboard the Hooptie Deux with James Shadle
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/10. Mongoose M3.5 atop the Gitzo 3530 LS.

Even though I have been swamped, I made time to get over to Gibsonton a few times to get out with James for a spoonbill fix. To create this image, I was sitting down behind my tripod on an uphill slope, up to my waist in the water. You gotta be committed to making the best possible image and you gotta love it ( Here, getting as low as possible added intimacy and provided the best possible background. To arrange your own trip on the Hooptie Deux please contact James as follows: by cell phone at 813-363-2854 or via e-mail at or James is a busy and hard-working man so keep trying if you do not hear back from him right away. Cell phone in the afternoon is often best.


I will be teaching fewer and fewer IPTs each year. If you want to learn from the very best, do consider signing up ASAP.

Bosque 2009 IPT: “The Complete Bosque Experience.”

NOV 21-27, 2009. Slide program on the evening of Friday, NOV 20. 7-FULL DAYS: $3199. Limit: 10/Openings: 4. Co-leaders Scott Bourne and others TBA. Non-refundable deposit: $500 per person (Deposits may be paid by check, Paypal, or credit card.) Please note our new cancellation policy: A non-refundable deposit is required to hold a spot for each BAA IPT, Photo-Cruise, or Photo-Safari. Payment in full (payable only by check) is due four months before the start of the IPT and is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out (10 in this case). You will be required to sign a statement to this effect. Travel insurance is of course highly recommended. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options, you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage, which expands the list of reasons for your canceling to an infinite list, from a sudden work or family obligation to a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services (We regret that we must implement this new policy but we have recently been plagued by last minute cancellations that make it impossible for others to participate and deprive us of income. The new policy does not apply to any of the previously announced trips listed above.)

NEW: SW FLA PRESIDENT’S DAY IPT: FEB 12-17, 2009. Slide program on the evening of FEB 11. 6-FULL DAYS: $2799. Limit: 10/Openings: 3. Co-leaders: Alfred and Fabiola Forns. Escape winter’s icy grip and join me in Florida in the land of ridiculously tame birds. This IPT will visit Little Estero Lagoon which has been fantastic for the past three years (and been getting better each year), the Venice Rookery, several killer Burrowing Owl nests on Cape Coral, and several spots on Sanibel including Blind Pass, the Sanibel Fishing Pier, and the East Gulf beaches (for Snowy Plover). If we have a foggy drizzly morning we may visit Corkscrew Swamp and Sanctuary. We have arranged for morning low tides at Little Estero and a setting full moon for our Saturday visit to the Venice Rookery For the first time ever, we will not be visiting Ding Darling NWR as photographic opportunities there have been diminishing steadily for the past decade. As you can see, I am teaching less and less, taking fewer folks, and lengthening the IPTs to allow for a slightly more relaxed pace with repeat visits to the best locations.

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Great Egret, breeding plumage, head portrait, Fort Myers Beach, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Above: Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark III on the Mongoose M3.5 atop the Gitzo 3530LS CF tripod. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/7.1.

Below: The same except Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1250 sec. at f/7.1. This exposure (2/3 stop lighter than above) was much better as I did not have to lighten the vertical as I did with the first image.

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The light was getting a bit harsh and a small group of us were headed back to the car. We stopped to photograph a nice Tricolored Heron when this gorgeous bird flew in and landed right in front of us. It was so close, that I was able to make this image and several just like it without having to add the 1.4X teleconverter. I used 45 point AAFPS to keep the bird’s eye above the horizontal center line. The gorgeous bird moved away from us a bit as it hunted for fish; in order to create the head and neck vertical (below) I needed to move back. I retreated about two yards being careful not to slip on the slick mud. In the trade we call this human zoomin.’ I like the incredible detail of the head portrait and the variegated background of the vertical.

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