July 13th, 2009

Birds As Art Bulletin #293



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Roseate Spoonbill, fledged young, Hooptie Deux trip, Tampa Bay, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop set manually: 1/400 sec. at f/10. Mongoose M3.5 with the Gitzo 3530 LS tripod.

This is an image that I have dreamed of for years, a nice clean baby spoonbill about a day out of the nest. (I did do some minor clean-up of the base of the bill.) Notice that the bill is not yet fully developed. And note the perfect head angle. To see what others thought of this one and for an in-depth discussion on “how white the whites?” check out this BPN thread here: http://birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?t=40264. To set up a trip with James Shadle, see Posse News below..


After overnighting in Orlando on July 8th, I flew to Quito, Ecuador on July 9th and will be on the motor-sail yacht Alta in the Galapagos with a group of 14 great folks for a week. I will be back in the office on July 20. Jim and Jen will be here to help you with IPT registrations and product information. With so many folks using the new BAA store, the phone barely rings any more.

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Glossy Ibis, fresh juvenal plumage, Hooptie Deux trip, Tampa Bay, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 2000. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/5.6. Mongoose M3.5 with the Gitzo 3530 LS tripod.

I was amazed to see how tiny the glossies were as compared to the juvie White Ibises. I did extensive Quick Mask work on the background here, but many of the folks on BPN pretty much trashed my Photoshop work. I thought that it looked pretty good…. To see the original and read the whole BPN thread, click here. Note the great high ISO performance of the MKIII here.


I received this e-mail from Ram Vasudev:

Artie, You may want to check out this blog on 10 most influential nature photographers of all time: http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/top-10-influential-nature-photographers-alltime/. Regards, Ram

And this one from Tim Kaufman:

Hi Artie, Thanks for all the info you provide. I ran into a grumpy pro guy selling prints a few months ago that said of you, “Mr. Morris has ruined the bird photography business for guys like me because now everyone is able to do it.” I just smiled…. Tim

Here is an e-mail exchange regarding tripod safety with Mike Murphy of Los Madrones, Hill Country, TX:

MM: Hi Artie, Here’s another rule for your big glass handling blurb: Be sure that the platform of your Gitzo tripod is tightly secured. At a recent workshop here in early May a Canon 600mm f/4 with a 1.4X TC and a Canon 1D Mark III hit the ground. The plate had separated from the legs.

AM: Thanks for the reminder. I will advise the boys and girls via Bulletin. Jim now tightens the platforms plates of every Gitzo tripod that we sell. You need to use one of the two star nosed tools that come with the tripods. Using some Blue (semi-permanent) Loc-tite would not be a bad plan. Be sure also to use the Loc-tite on your tripod feet to prevent loss. Later and love, artie

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Dredging project, 3D Island, Tampa Bay, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens (handheld at 81mm) with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode.

This three frame stitched panorama was created in Photoshop with File/Automate/Photomerge. You can find complete instructions for creating stitched panos along with our complete digital workflow and dozens and dozens of great Photoshop tips in the Digital Basics PDF File. Learn more here.

For about the past fifteen years, there had been a large colony of Royal and Caspian Terns on 3D as well as a huge Laughing Gull colony. This year there are zero birds of these three species. Kudos to James Shadle who is working with various agencies to investigate this apparent environmental tragedy. The outflow pipe at the other end of the island is at the site of the old tern and gull colonies and it is believed that the dredging caused the colonies to abandon their former site. Caspian Tern is a rare Florida breeder.


We are proud to offer a new selection of head gear as follows:

BPN Logo Cap

Keep the sun off your head. Shade your eyes. Look good. Identify yourself as a member of the BPN community. Support our efforts. When BPN member Sid Garige was in Alaska, he was spotted wearing a sample BPN cap by some fellow BPNers. A long conversation relating to a rare controversial and slightly inflammatory post resulted. I do not do caps 🙂 (See more below.)

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Jim Litzenberg
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Order yours for $14.99 plus $4.00 shipping and handling = $19.99. Florida residents with sales tax on the price of the cap only: $20.39.

BPN Logo Visor

Now you’re talking my language! Keep the sun off your head. Shade your eyes. Look good. Identify yourself as a member of the BPN community. Support our efforts.

Order yours for $11.99 plus $4.00 shipping and handling = $15.99. Florida residents with sales tax on the price of the visor only: $16.83.

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Yours truly, wearing the BPN Logo Visor (see above), the Sun Protection Hood (see below), and his very favorite t-shirt. (Sorry: t-shirt not for sale.)
Image Copyright 2009: Jim Litzenberg/BIRDS AS ART

Sun Protection Hood

I have three dear friends who have experienced malignant melanomas. All are photographers. I have had a few minor surgeries to have various growths biopsied and all the results have been A-OK. After the first one about 15 years ago I got serious about sun protection, and as I grew more aware of alternative medicine, I learned that you are far better off protecting yourself from the sun with clothing rather than with chemicals. Almost all of the sunscreens on the market today contain harmful ingredients. Amazingly, they include a variety of carcinogens. For a while I wore the Adult Shade Cap from Sun Precautions along with one of their SPF 30 long sleeved blouses. The problem with the cap is that the brim hits the camera as you bring your eye to the viewfinder, especially when you are doing flight photography.

About two years ago James Shadle introduced me to an amazing sun protection hood. Do I look dumb when I wear it? Of course. Like a terrorist? Sure. But it gives my face, head, ears and neck total protection from the sun’s harmful rays. It is lightweight and vented so that wearing it in the hot Florida sun is at least bearable. With the perforated mouth patch, communication is easy even when the Hooptie Deux is running wide open. (Of course I have to raise my voice then.) When walking, I usually wear it in conjunction with a BPN visor. When I am actively photographing, I simply wear the visor backwards. When I am doing flight photography, I remove it and stick it in one of the big pockets of my customized Xtrahand vest (http://www.vestedinterest.com/xtra.htm). I own three of these as they get quite stinky; they need to be rotated and washed frequently.

The Sun Protection Hood is available in grey or tan. Please pick one. If you are serious about sun protection, you can order yours for $22.99 plus $4.00 shipping and handling = $26.99. Florida residents with sales tax on the price of the hood only: $28.60.

The three items above will be added to the store soon; the shipping charges there may vary by a few cents.

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Captain James Shadle aka Froggie, aka Darth, styling in the Sun Protection Hood, and wrap-around shades at the helm of the Hooptie Deux
Image Copyright 2008: James Shadle/Wild Florida Photography


Summer fun in Florida with Captain James Shadle (aka FROGGIE)

When folks ask me about photographing in Florida during the summer months I run out of suggestions after mentioning Fort DeSoto (https://www.birdsasart.com/baacom/siteguides.htm#the%20Fort%20DeSoto/Sarasota%20Site-Guide). After two recent summer visits, I was again astounded by the great opportunities available on a Hooptie Deux trip. At Alafia Banks on Tampa Bay, just a short run from the boat ramp in Gibsonton, I got to photograph recently fledged Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibises, Reddish Egrets (both white and dark morphs), and Little Blue Herons, all in fresh juvenal plumage. There were so many birds on the sandbar that at times you simply could not decide where to point your lens. Do check out all the Hooptie Deux images in this Bulletin both above and below.

There is more than a month left of the baby bird season on Tampa Bay or on several freshwater rookeries that James trailers to regularly. If you have any questions, or would like to join Jim for either a full or half-day, contact him as follows: by cell phone at 813-363-2854 or via e-mail at James@wildflorida.net. Better yet: get a small group together to cut costs. Reminder: most of the photography on a boat trip with James is done while standing in the water with your tripod. (Some folks have shown up with their Sunday-best Air Jordans…) Wish to keep your tripod saltwater free? Check out Drypods here. Lastly, if you have any Nikon-related questions or are curious as to James’ exposure system, please e-mail him at James@wildflorida.net.

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Reddish Egret, fresh juvenal plumage, dark morph, Hooptie Deux trip, Tampa Bay, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/6.5L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stops: 1/100 sec. at f/8. Mongoose M3.5 with the Gitzo 3530 LS tripod. Fill flash with the Better Beamer at -2 stops.

On my first Hooptie Deux trip in early July, we fought high winds and drizzle and escaped just before the monsoon hit. On that morning there were several juvie dark phase Reddish Egrets out and about. Creating pleasing front half horizontal images of herons can be a challenge as the compositions are often unbalanced. I like this one.


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Reddish Egret, fresh juvenal plumage, white morph, Hooptie Deux trip, Tampa Bay, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/6.5L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/320 sec. at f/9. Mongoose M3.5 with the Gitzo 3530 LS tripod.

On my second July visit, we had a beautiful clear morning and lots of birds. It was a thrill for me to see and photograph this white morph in fresh juvenal plumage. I had never seen one before….. As always, I check the histogram in each new situation and make sure to

expose to the right, that is, to get at least some data in the rightmost histogram box. This ensures maximum file information, color data, and detail. When doing so most images will look too light on the back of the camera; it is proper technique to go by the histogram and disregard what you see on the LCD (except when trying to determine the correct level of flash…) To learn to effectively evaluate and adjust your histograms, I recommend getting a copy of either or both ABP II (916 pages on CD only) and Digital Basics. See the links here. And be sure to check out the ABP soft cover/ABP II combo sale.

Flight School Photography Workshops, Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, November, 2009 with Jim Neiger

With thousands of migratory birds in flight daily at Bosque Del Apache, what better site for Flight School Photography workshops? Previous year’s workshops were a huge success, so once again, Flight School Photography returns to Bosque. Flight School Photography will be featuring two workshops in November, 2009. The workshops will be conducted by expert bird photographer Jim Neiger. Jim has spent the past several years perfecting his unique techniques for photographing birds in flight using large telephoto lenses, hand held. The focus of these workshops will be learning and practicing Jim’s hand held, long lens techniques for photographing birds in flight and in action.

The workshops will be held in November, before the Festival of the Cranes and Thanksgiving, which provides important advantages. First, the spectacular fall colors at Bosque are not to be missed and going early will provide that opportunity. The fall foliage offers incredibly beautiful backgrounds for your photos, and adds even more majesty to the already spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Second, going early means there will be less of a crowd, offering more opportunities for “front-row seats” and leisurely days in the field. Each workshop will include 3 hours of classroom instruction on the first morning, followed by a welcome lunch; an afternoon photography session; and a morning and an afternoon photography session each of the remaining days. Each photography session will be of three to four hours in duration. The workshops will be limited to 6 participants so that everyone may receive personalized instruction in the field.

As you may know, Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is located in Socorro County, New Mexico along the Rio Grande. A series of canals from the river carry water to various areas of the refuge. These waters are then managed to create numerous shallow ponds and pools. In addition, corn, alfalfa and other crops are grown in the nearby fields, and every year, the farmers leave some of the crops to feed the thousands of migratory birds that flock there. The water, food and shelter create a haven for the thousands of birds that call Bosque del Apache home during the fall and winter. Yearly visitors include: Sandhill Cranes, many species of geese and ducks, bald eagles, hawks, and wading birds. In addition, Bosque is home to 377 species of birds throughout the year, so anything is possible. The thousands of Sandhill Cranes, ducks and geese in flight provide spectacular opportunities for awesome flight images using Jim’s techniques. Jim is known for his consistent production of amazing flight images and images of the most desirable subjects. His imagination and dedication have resulted in new techniques, which can only be learned from him. Flight School Photography Workshops are a must for any serious nature photographer.

Workshop 2009-FSP-Bosque-1

November 10, 2009 thru November 12, 2009

Workshop 2009-FSP-Bosque-2

November 14, 2009 thru November 16, 2009

The cost of each workshop is $900 per person. Each workshop includes a three hour formal classroom instruction session, a welcome lunch, and five 3 to 4 hour photography sessions. The photography sessions include personalized instruction in the field. Discounted lodging is available, but is not included in the workshop fee. A $450 non-refundable deposit is required. The remaining $450 is due 15 days before the start date of the workshop. If you are unable to attend the workshop after paying the balance, the balance payment will be refunded ONLY if your spot can be filled, on short notice, from the waiting list. All workshop payments must be made by check or money order. Credit cards are not accepted.

Participants should have working knowledge of how to create a properly exposed image, a telephoto lens of 400mm or more (300mm with a teleconverter is acceptable), and be physically capable of holding their camera and lens up to their eye in shooting position for at least 20 seconds. Participants must also have a vehicle to travel to and from the photography locations.

Contact Info: You may contact Jim Neiger of Flight School Photography via phone or email: Cell phone: 407-247-5200. Email: jimn@cfl.rr.com Flight School website: http://www.flightschoolphotography.com.

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Landing Snow Geese on fall color background – Bosque Del Apache NWR, NM
Image copyright 2008: Jim Neiger/Flight School Photography

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Dancing Sandhill Cranes – Bosque Del Apache NWR, NM
Image copyright © 2008: Jim Neiger/Flight School Photography

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Northern Harrier banking over fall foliage – Bosque Del Apache NWR, NM
Image copyright ©2008: Jim Neiger/Flight School Photography


If you are noticing that you have been receiving fewer Bulletins over the past few months, you really need to check out the BAA Blog at www.birdsasart-blog.com. In addition to lots of great images and up-to-the-minute info, I have added a new feature: Back to the Basics, and More. In each post I will review one basic tenet of nature photography and follow that up with a tip for more advanced folks. If you are not subscribed to the RSS feed, you are missing a ton of great free stuff. Honest. Be sure to click on each image to view a larger version, 800 pixels the long way just as in Bulletins. There will always be Bulletins, but by visiting the blog regularly you will see more, learn more, and have lots of fun at the same time. The July 8th post talks about when to use One-Shot AF (S for Nikon) and when to use AI Servo AF (C for Nikon).


If you are interested in leading photography tours, or in taking a peek inside the head of a veteran photography tour leader, check out my new Resolve/Live Books blog post here: http://blog.livebooks.com/2009/07/what-it-really-takes-to-make-a-photo-workshop-work.

Be sure to surf around as there is tons of great stuff on this site.

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White Ibis, fresh juvenal plumage, Hooptie Deux trip, Tampa Bay, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/6.5L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/250 sec. at f/9 set manually. Mongoose M3.5 with the Gitzo 3530 LS tripod.

At f/8 or darker with the 1.4X and the 800, I am limited to the central AF sensor only. Here, by turning AF Search off to on, I was able to hold focus with the sensor just fractionally on the bottom of the base of the bill. As the original below shows, I did extensive bill clean up on this one.

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For the clean-up, I used the Patch Tool, the Clone Stamp, and a few Quick Masks. The work took about 20 minutes. Again, see Digital Basics .


I will be teaching fewer and fewer IPTs each year. The number of participants has been reduced, and the number of days in most tours have been increased. If you want to learn from the very best, do consider joining me somewhere great.


Late this summer, I will be returning with a small group to my old haunts–the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge–at the very peak of the juvenile shorebird migration. We will likely spend our last three afternoons at Nickerson Beach photographing a skimmer colony. If you have heard enough already and would like to join me, (everything that I have done at JBWR in the past decade has filled almost instantly), please send me an e-mail stating that you are good to go and please put a check made out to “Arthur Morris” for $1399 in the mail to the address above. I will hold your spot for five days after receiving your e-mail. I will keep a waiting list. To learn more, keep reading.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge/Nickerson Beach/Shorebird/Nesting Skimmer Photography-Tour (JBWR/NB PH -T):

August 18-21, 2009 4-DAY: $1399. Limit: 6 Openings 2.

For eight years in the late 70s/early 80s I conducted the International Shorebird Survey at JBWR for the then Manomet Bird Observatory. And it was there on the East Pond, in the summer of 1983, that I began to learn my trade with the old 400mm f/4.5 FD lens…. I remember the first roll of film that I got back; those dots on the slides, were they the birds? In a short time I was on my belly getting within 12 feet of my subjects, often even closer so that I needed an extension tube to focus. And I have been getting down on my belly in the mud for the past 25 years. And loving it. And I know the East Pond better than anyone living.

This photography tour is timed to coincide with the peak of the juvenile shorebird migration and with four morning high tides. We will be photographing the following shorebird species in fresh juvenal plumage: Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Stilt Sandpiper. Juvenile Pectoral and Western Sandpipers and several other species are possible. We will also get to photograph worn, molting adult White-rumped and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and Short-billed Dowitchers. Not only will you get to photograph these species, you will learn to age and identify them. Getting a copy of my “Shorebirds; Beautiful Beachcombers” and studying it in advance would give you a huge head start. You can order a signed copy here. On some mornings we may spend a bit of time on the back porch of my friend Denis Macrae’s home where we will get to photograph Laughing Gulls in both worn breeding and fresh juvenal plumage. Snowy and Great Egrets and both night-herons are possible there as well .

Most afternoons will be spent at Nickerson Beach just west of Point Lookout, Long Island, NY. For many years running there has been a large successful colony of Black Skimmers at this location. In mid-August we should have lots of fledged young, lots of large chicks, and a smattering of small chicks still in the nest scrapes. The existence of beach nesting birds is of course extremely fragile and in a given year the success of even a dependable colony like Nickerson may vary. There will be lots of adults both in flight and on the ground with fish for their young. American Oystercatcher and a variety of gulls are also possible at Nickerson. Two years ago we were blessed late one afternoon as several thousand Common Terns flew in to roost for the night, the nervous flock taking flight time and time again in front of a lovely setting sun. I will of course adapt to local conditions in an effort to always have the group in the right place at the right time.

I will not have a slide projector or a projection screen on this photography tour. All of the formal teaching will be done on the laptop either during meals or in the motel lobby during midday hours. As we will be getting up very early (sunrise averages about 6:10am), and be staying in the field very late (sunset averages about 7:45 pm), our evenings will be free after dinner. Breakfasts will be on the run and the cost of lunch is included. We will of course have a midday break of about three hours that will include instructor nap time. That will still leave us at least an hour or two for image review and some Photoshop lessons. To get the most out of this trip, experienced photographers should have at least a 500mm f/4 lens and be comfortable using at least their 1.4 teleconverter. The very best images will be created by those who are willing and physically able to get down on the ground and photograph while prone. Sitting behind a lowered tripod is also an option and is especially effective when the birds are actively feeding as it is easier to follow birds in motion while sitting than while prone. Added plusses at JBWR include jet fuel and Canada Goose dung…. 🙂

There will be tons of in-the-field instruction that will include stalking techniques and getting the right exposure via histogram review. You will learn to see and think like a pro. The closer you stay to me and the more questions you ask, the more you will learn. With the extremely small group, the opportunities for learning from a top pro will be unparalleled. Questions are limited to 500 per person per day. We should also get to do some fill flash work. As always, BAA reserves the right to exceed the noted limit by no more than one.

A ride with the leader may be available for $150. If you act quickly, affordable lodging (averaging about $85 per night plus taxes with advance payment) is available as follows:

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Days Inn Jamaica-JFK Airport
144-26 153rd Court
Jamaica, NY 11434


In addition, there are several 4+ star hotels in the area with room averaging $230/night plus taxes.

BOSQUE del APACHE 2009 IPT: “The Complete Bosque Experience.” NOV 21-27, 2009.

Slide program on the evening of Friday, NOV 20. 7-FULL DAYS: $3199. (Non-refundable deposit: $500.) Limit: 10/Openings: 3. Co-leader: Scott Bourne.

SW FLA PRESIDENT’S WEEK IPT: FEB 10-15, 2010. Slide program on the evening of FEB 9.

Slide program on the evening of FEB 11. 6-FULL DAYS: $2799. (Non-refundable deposit: $500.) Limit: 10/Openings: 5. Co-leader: Tim Grey!

Imagine having Photoshop guru Tim Grey at your side to answer your Photoshop questions for 6 full days!

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.

A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to hold a spot for each of the above IPTs. Deposits may be paid by check, Paypal, or credit card. Payment in full (by check or money order) is due four months before the start of each trip and is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out. You will be required to sign a statement of understanding 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 essential income.

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