October 12th, 2009

Birds As Art Bulletin #301


  • ALAN MURPHY’S “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography”

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Red-bellied Woodpecker
Image Copyright 2009: Alan Murphy Photography
Nikon 600mm f/4 VR lens and the D2X. ISO 320. 1/250 sec. at f/7. – 0.7 EV.

Drilling small holes into a stump and filling them with suet can give you the control to place the Woodpecker in just the right spot on your set-up.
How to place a vine and keep it fresh and alive is one of the many tips I teach in my new CD book.


I first became aware of Alan Murphy’s work about six years ago in various on-line forums. It was spectacular. So spectacular that I knew that Alan was not just taking a walk in the woods….. Every songbird image featured leaves, vines, berries, or flowers. Every perch had character. Every composition was artistically designed. And every bird was in the exact perfect spot on the branch or the perch. I began asking questions of Alan online. At first, he resisted answering wishing to maintain the mystique that existed around his perfect images of difficult-to-photograph songbirds. Even before he answered, I knew that he was attracting the birds to set-ups that he created. My motivation in asking was not so much to learn his secrets, but to prevent beginning photographers from thinking, “Boy, is that guy lucky. He goes for a walk with a long lens and look at the images he is creating. He’s got to be the luckiest bird photographer in the world.” After a while, not only did Alan let folks know that he was indeed working at set-ups that he had created, but he came to realize that creating artistic song-bird set-ups could become his niche and the basis of his photography tour business.

This past September, while visiting my Mom on Long Island, Alan and I met briefly and for the first time at Nickerson Beach. It was rather strange that our paths had never crossed before as we both have had our work published nationally for quite some time. Alan has had numerous Birder’s World and WildBird covers (he said with envy). As it turned out, I was busy with a group and we did not have much time to chat. As expected, Alan worked very hard at creating good images at the beach. As one who does the same, it is easy to tell. I did learn that Alan would be doing a slide program for NWPLI: Nature and Wildlife Photographers of Long Island. After speaking with my group, we all agreed to attend the program.

Before Alan showed the first slide, he shared this story with the audience:

“About 15 years ago I bought a book about bird photography. There were several things that I was not clear on, so I tracked the author and phoned him up. Though he did not know me from Adam, he spent more than 15 minutes on the phone helping out a beginner who was a total stranger. The book was “The Art of Bird Photography” and the guy on the phone was Arthur Morris. Thanks Artie”

I shot back instantly: “If I had known that you were gonna get so good, I would have told you to go to heck.” (Only I didn’t say “heck.”) I had no remembrance of that call….

The program was an eye opener. Not only did Alan share more than a hundred of his amazing songbird images, he shared many of his set-up secrets. Time after time I found myself saying, “So that’s how he did that. Amazing. Why didn’t I think of that? This guy is brilliant.” Before Alan was halfway through the show, I realized that if he was willing, the material in the program would make an ideal CD book that could help lots of photographers to learn to create attractive set-ups for the purpose.

That evening I sent Alan a congratulatory e-mail and told him that I would be writing soon to share an idea that I had come up with. I did, and he was good to go. He did let me know that the idea of doing a book on songbird set-up photography had been in his mind for a while. In any case, he was soon hard at work. We are presently working on the third draft. I have enjoyed editing the work and working with Alan. As it turns out, our thoughts on many issues involving bird photography and the business of bird photography are quite similar. Like our initials….

ALAN MURPHY’S “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography”

Available December, 2009. Order now; save $10.00. See below for details.

In this CD book you will learn the tips and tricks that Alan has been using to create exquisite images of songbirds on beautiful perches for nearly a decade.

These include:

  • How to attract a variety of songbirds to your set-ups and get them to land exactly where you want them to!
  • How to photograph hummingbirds in flight without a flash
  • How to get hummingbirds to land on your perch
  • How to create great set-ups for woodpeckers
  • How to keep plants, leaves, and flowers alive and looking fresh
  • How to get small songbirds to land on delicate perches
  • How to get birds to land on cactus set-ups
  • Which type of bird feeder is best by far and how to use them in your set-ups
  • The secrets of using suet with your set-ups
  • How to work with fruit and berries
  • How to build and work with water-drip ponds
  • How to choose perches including the do-s and don’t-s.
  • How to place, position, and secure perches at your set-up
  • How to get ground birds like quail, roadrunners and meadowlarks up on your stump set-ups
  • How to turn nest boxes into natural looking tree cavities
  • How to create set-ups for birds that frequent open fields and grasslands.
  • How to attract elusive kingfishers to your set-up
  • How to get low and in the water to create intimate images of ducks, geese, rails, grebes, and other waterbirds while remaining safe and dry
  • How to set up for and create images of songbirds in flight

The book is lavishly illustrated not only with Alan’s killer images but with dozens and dozens of step-by-step photos that will show you exactly how to create your own successful set-ups. The writing is clear and concise and the directions are easy-to-follow and inclusive. As Alan shows in the book, if you have only a small backyard, heck, even just a patio or a balcony, he can help you to create some stunning avian images on a consistent basis.

BIRDS AS ART is proud to announce that we are currently accepting pre-publication orders for Alan Murphy’s Guide to Songbird Set-Up Photography (SSUP). The professionally designed, packaged, and burned CD will be available some time in December, 2009. It will sell for $50 plus $3.00 shipping and handling to US addresses. Shipping to Canada is $6.00. It is $8.00 for all foreign orders. Florida residents will need to add 7% sales tax ($3.50) on the cost of the CD only.

Now here’s the best news: you can save $10 by pre-ordering your copy of Alan Murphy’s Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography now (only through BAA). You can send us a Paypal, call us at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand, or order SSUP from the BAA On-line Store (with secure credit card data transmission) by clicking here: Alan Murphy’s “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography”.

To see lots more of Alan’s wonderful images, click here: http://www.alanmurphyphotography.com/favorites.htm.

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Scaled Quail
Image Copyright 2009: Alan Murphy Photography
Nikon 600mm f/4 AFS II lens and the D1X. ISO 250. 1/320 sec. at f/8 AV mode, -0.3 EV.

A two foot stump makes a great perch for many types of ground birds. Adding some local vegetation enhances the image and gives it a sense of habitat. Getting the quail up on the stump is the tricky part; Alan will show you just how easy it is in his new CD book, The Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography (SSUP).

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Hooded Oriole, male
Image Copyright 2009: Alan Murphy Photography
Nikon 600mm f/4 AFS VR lens and the Nikon D2Xs. ISO 250. Metered off the background grass -0.3 EV: 1/640 sec. at f/9 set manually.

By placing the perch horizontal to the plane of the imaging sensor you ensure that all the entire plant will be in full focus. By arranging the perch so that the bird has only one spot to land, you can control the composition even before the bird comes on to the set. How did Alan get the bird to come in? Find out in SSUP (on CD only).

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Baltimore Oriole, male on mulberry
Image Copyright 2009: Alan Murphy Photography
Nikon 600mm f/4 VR lens and the Nikon D2X. ISO 250.
1/ 500 sec. at f/6.3. AV -1.0 EV.

Alan plucked the very large leaves off of the mulberry branch so that they would not dominate the image. When choosing the perch, I made sure that there were still some ripe dark mulberries still on it; this gave me a chance to create the feeding image that I wanted. Get yourself a copy of Alan Murphy’s SSUP to learn how he got the bird to land on his very special perch.

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Eastern Bluebird, male on stump
Image Copyright 2009: Alan Murphy Photography
Nikon 600mm f/4 VR lens with the 1.4X II TC, and the Nikon D2X. ISO 320. Metered off the stump, -0.3 EV: 1/640 sec. at f/8 set manually.

Perches and stumps that you find by pre-scouting can add a lot to an image as long as they have character. Learn what to look for when selecting perches in Alan’s new CD book. When adding wildflowers to your set-up, add a few grasses mixed in with the flowers will give the set-up a natural look. Getting the bird to land on your set-up is one of the many pro secrets that Alan shares in SSUP.


You need a long telephoto lens to make great images of bird, right? Lots of folks believe that. After all, I could not have created this tight head portrait of a juvenile Osprey with a short lens:

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Osprey, close-up of juvenile, Indian Lake Estates, FL
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 MIII. ISO 320. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/11 set manually. Rig supported by the BLUBB (Big Lens Ultimate BeanBag).

Bird photography at ILE is usually fair to lousy, but in early spring there are nesting Sandhill Cranes and in late spring there usually a few young Ospreys around. 2009 was a phenomenally productive year for this species. It took some careful driving to get my SUV into the perfect position…. If you wish to make sharp images from your vehicle, nothing else comes close to the BLUBB: https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=12

So to repeat: you need a long telephoto lens to create great images of bird, right?

Well, my final answer is no, you do not need a long lens to create great images of birds. Shorter lenses are often the best tools for capturing birds in flight and in action, and even wide angles can be ideal for creating bird-scapes, small in the frame photographs that include an avian subject or subjects along with lots of beautiful habitat, dramatic lighting, or both. Of the 30 images that are currently slated for my next gallery exhibit at the Bok Tower here in Lake Wales in early 2010, 8 were made with lenses with focal lengths of 400mm or less, and only two of those were made with a 400mm focal length. Both “Blizzard in Blue” (created with my old “toy lens”, the 400mm f/5.6L, at Bosque) and “Gannets in Love” (captured with the tripod-mounted 400mm f/4 IS DO lens at Bonaventure) have garnered major contest awards.

Here are some perfect examples of great images created with even shorter lenses:

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Osprey, nest, and Cypress Trees, Lake Blue Cypress, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 24-105mm IS L zoom with the full frame EOS-1Ds MII handheld at 100mm. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/1600 at f/2.8.

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Bald Eagle in flight over mountains and bay, Homer, AK
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS zoom with the full frame EOS-1Ds MII handheld at 120mm. ISO 250. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/1000 at f/6.3 set manually.

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Snow Geese and dramatic clouds, Bosque Del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM
Image Copyright 2008: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 28-300mm IS L zoom lens with the EOS-1D MIII handheld at 50mm. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/1000 at f/8.

None of the three images immediately above could have been created had I been standing behind a long tripod-mounted telephoto lens. Learn to see creatively, to recognize potential short lens situations, and to use the shorter focal length lenses effectively to create great images. Learn lots more on this topic by purchasing and studying a copy of “The Art of Bird Photography II” (916 pages on CD only): https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/category.aspx?catid=32. And remember, good photographers create good images with whatever camera and lens they have in their hands.


Great news: Todd Gustafson will be joining me as co-leader on the San Diego IPT. Check out Todd’s spectacular images from Brazil (including some killer jaguars) here: http://gustafsonphotosafari.net/galleries/brazil2009/index.html

San Diego IPT JAN 13-17, 2010 5 Full Days: $2395 (Limit 8/Openings: 4)

Slide program on the evening of TUE JAN 12. Payment in full is due now. We can accept your $500 deposit via credit card and will await the check for your balance. You may pay your deposit with either a personal check or with a credit card and a phone call (863-692-09060. To complete a valid registration, please fill out and complete the Registration and the Release & Assumption of Risk forms that can be found here: https://www.birdsasart.com/baacom/Registration and Release Forms.pdf If you call with a credit card to register, please be sure to print, sign, and return the Registration and the Release & Assumption of Risk forms within ten days.

The gate at the Cave Store Cliffs has been unlocked for many, many months and my understanding is that the fence has now been removed as well. (Though I am not quite positive on the cause and effect here I do know that Scott Bourne had a show-cause order filed with regards to public access at this location.)

We will get to photograph killer breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with the red bill pouches at close range and in flight. Santee Lakes will yield close-up Wood Ducks and lots more; White Pelicans are likely there. LaJolla Shores Beach will yield Marbled Godwits in beautiful buff reflections and this spot and Coronado will give us chances on a variety of gorgeous gulls and several shorebird species as well. I selected dates that feature perfect tides for both our morning and afternoon coastal locations. And we will have extensive time for image review and Photoshop techniques.

100 Reasons to Register for the San Diego IPT You can view a gallery with my 100 favorite San Diego images here: www.birdsasart.com/sandiego800. Click on the first image to see and then click on next to view the images as a slide show. Scroll down to see the EXIF data for each image (including those above and below). Then send your deposit check 🙂 I do hope that you can join us.


Final dates, details, and prices:

Bear Boat IPT: Sept 4-10. 2010: $7,299. Limit 6/Openings: 1)

It is advised that you be in Anchorage on the afternoon of the September 2nd to be assured of not missing the boat!). This is the bears-catching-salmon trip. In addition, Glaucous-winged and Mew Gulls eating roe are a certainty. Stellar’s Sea Lions are very likely. Dark phase Northern Fulmars, Black-legged Kittiwakes (including the gorgeous immatures), and Harbor Seals are possible. Did I mention bears catching salmon? And more bears catching salmon? We will spend some time fishing for halibut on the higher tides. (The bears are busy catching salmon on the lower tidal stages.)

Included: Round-trip airfare from Anchorage to Kodiak. Round-trip float plane airfare from Kodiak to Katmai. All meals on the boat. Two night’s lodging in Anchorage. Guide services. In-the-field instruction. Image reviews and Photoshop tutoring.

Not included: guide and crew tip ($200 recommended). Airfare from your home-city to and from Anchorage.

Non-refundable deposit: $2000 due immediately to reserve your spot. First payment: $3,000 due February 1, 2010. Final payment: $2,299 due May 1, 2010. To complete a valid registration, please fill out and complete the Registration and the Release & Assumption of Risk forms that can be found here: https://www.birdsasart.com/baacom/Registration and Release Forms.pdf

Deposits may be paid by check (preferred) or by credit card. Balances must be paid by personal check. Those using a credit card (phone only: 863-692-0906) to register will be advised to print, sign, and return the Registration and the Release & Assumption of Risk forms within ten days. I do hope that you can join us for the trip of a lifetime.


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BIRDS AS ART is proud to continue to offer the limited sale of the award winning classic, “Gannets in Love.” (We have just learned some great, great news about this image that we are not at liberty to share at the moment. See a future Bulletin for details.)

This endearing image was created at Bonaventure Island, Perce, Quebec, Canada. The thick gallery wrap (1 ½ inches) canvas is hand-made in the US under the supervision of the artist and is available only through BIRDS AS ART.

This is the second in a series of Arthur Morris’ digitally signed, numbered, limited edition gallery-wrapped canvas prints. The canvas is stretched over custom-made wood supports. The canvas has no frame and appears to float on the wall. There’s no need for a frame for stability since the structure is inside the art. These fine canvas limited edition prints are covered with a rear black dust cover. The hanging wire is neatly attached and a courtesy package with two clear bump-ons, a nickel plated hanger and nail are included.

This edition will be limited to 100 pieces of any size. Once the final print is sold the edition will be permanently closed making each Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART print a valuable collectible. Each 16 x 24 inch print is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

The first fifty prints will sell for only $349 plus $19.95 shipping and handling to all US addresses. Once 50 prints are sold, the price will rise to $424. These prints are in stock and ready to ship now.

Shipping and handling to Canada will require an additional $35 handling fee. (Canadian orders may be subject to Customs delays and duties and require payment via personal check or money order in US funds.)

Each image will be professionally packed to avoid damage during transit. All fees are due and payable in advance in US funds. (We cannot be responsible for delays at customs.)

Payment may be by check or money order mailed to Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855, by Paypal to birdsasart@att.net, or by credit card. Please call 863-692-0906 for credit card orders.

We offer a 100% money back guarantee. If for any reason you are not completely satisfied we will gladly accept a return for exchange or refund provided that the item is returned within seven days of receipt and is in saleable condition. We refund only the purchase price plus the shipping and handling. Return shipping is the responsibility of the customer. This guarantee does not include prints that you damage or that are damaged in shipping. If your print is damaged in shipping, please let us know and we will arrange to have a replacement sent. Please allow 14 days for your check to clear.

We are 100% positive that ”Gannets in Love” will join “Fire in the Mist” and become a treasured collector’s item; thank you for your support of my work.

Many folks have written asking for prices for traditional photographic prints and for alternate sizes and prices for canvas prints. Here goes:

Fine Art Traditional Photographic Prints

All BIRDS AS ART images, both film and digital, are available as signed traditional photographic prints as below. You may purchase an unframed print of any BAA image that you see on the web site, in a Bulletin, or on the Blog.

Print Paper Size Print U.S. Shipping
5 x 7.5″ $29.95 $4.95
6 x 9″ $49.95 $4.95
8.5 x 11″ $99.95 $9.95
11.7 x 16.5″ $159.95 $9.95
13 x 19″ $199.95 $14.95
16 x 24″ $249.95 $14.95
24 x 36″ $349.95 $19.95
30 x 45″ $449.95 $19.95
36 x 54″ $549.95 $24.95
40 x 60″ $649.95 $24.95

The sizes shown are the sizes of the paper. The image, with borders on all four sides, will be aesthetically fit to the canvas size. The borders allow for easy matting. Please indicate your choice of matte or satin (glossy) paper. Delivery times will vary depending on my travel schedule, and for some film based images, upon the production time. Please e-mail us at birdsasart@att.net for overseas shipping charges.

Fine Art Digitally Signed Canvas Prints

All BIRDS AS ART digital and some film-based images are available as digitally signed Fine Art Canvas Prints.

Canvas Size 1.5″ Gallery Wrapped Canvas U.S. Shipping
8 x 12″ $249.00 $14.95
12 x 18″ $299.00 $14.95
16 x 24″ $349.00* $14.95
24 x 36″ $449.00 $19.95
30 x 45″ $549.00 $19.95
36 x 54″ $649.00 $24.95
40 x 60″ $749.00 $24.95

* The price of the standard 16 x 24″ Limited Edition Fine Art numbered Canvas Prints will increase on a sliding scale as an edition sells. Please click here for availability and current prices. The prices of alternate sizes will increase proportionately as well. Delivery times will vary depending on a variety of factors. Please e-mail us at birdsasart@att.net for overseas shipping charges or to learn about framing options for canvas prints.

Buy any five 16 x 24 inch or larger Limited Edition Fine Art Canvas Prints and receive a free 16 x 24″ Fine Art or Limited Edition Canvas Print of your choice. (This offer includes free shipping.)

To order please call (863)692-0906

Thanks for your interest in my work, Arthur Morris


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; see details below.) Limit: 10/Openings: 1. Co-leaders: Scott Bourne and Robert O’Toole. Live, eat, and breathe photography with one of (if not the) world’s premier photographic educators at one of his very favorite locations on the planet. Plus two great co-leaders and lots of Photoshop instruction.


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: 1. Co-leaders: Tim Grey and Alfred and Fabiola Forns.

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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