November 20th, 2009

Birds As Art Bulletin #306


  • ROBERT O’TOOLE’S APTATS II/Pre-Publication Discount Offer

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Brown Pelican preening, LaJolla, CA
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO lens (handheld) with the EOS-50D. ISO 200. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6.

Wednesday morning I had sweet, sweet light and lots of colorful, cooperative birds. Note the perfect head angle here; poor head angles ruin more images of preening birds than any other factor. The distant Pacific Ocean is one of my very favortie backgrounds.


I had a great weekend at Photo Expo West. Both of my programs were well attended and well received and I had lots of fun doing the live demos; they went much smoother than I had anticipated. I got out on both Saturday and Sunday in the early morning to photograph a bit and then had a busman’s holiday Monday through Wednesday. I flew to Socorro on Thursday for the sold out IPT that begins on Friday evening.

I stayed in on Tuesday morning to get some work done but was out early on Wednesday. I was gonna skip my favorite spot but decided at the last second to check it out so I went down with only the handheld 400 DO and the 50D. Boy, was I glad that I did. It was the best morning of the trip and a sure sign of things to come in January on the San Diego IPT. There were lots of pelicans where there had been few or none for days. And as you can see by the bird above, some of them are coloring up.

There are still a few spots on the San Diego IPT (see below). If for whatever reason you cannot make the IPT, be sure to purchase a copy of our San Diego Site Guide so that you do not miss a trick. Even folks who know the basics spots in a given area would be amazed at the detailed info contained in each Site Guide. It is the next best thing to be on an IPT. Why stumble around in an area when you can photograph it like a 26-year veteran professional photographer?

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Brown Pelican “scissors” preening, LaJolla, CA
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO lens (handheld) with the EOS-50D. ISO 200. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/6.3.

Note here that the bird’s head is perfectly parallel to the back of the camera. Curious as to why I added 1/3 stop to the suggested exposure here but used the metered exposure for the image above? Check out the tonality of water…. If you don’t get it, see “Exposure Simplified in ABP II (916 pages on CD only): Want to master exposure theory? Check out the original “The Art of Bird Photography” at the same location: Buy both and save $10.


San Diego IPT JAN 13-17, 2010 5 Full Days: $2395 (Limit 8/Openings: 3)

Slide program on the evening of TUES 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: 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: 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.

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Western Gull over breaking surf, LaJolla, CA
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO lens (handheld) with the EOS-50D. ISO 200. Manual mode: 1/1600 sec. at f/5.6.

In situations where the background may be deep blue water one moment and then bright white the next, it is imperative that you work in Manual mode. If you made this image in Av Mode it would be well underexposed with many camera bodies. And if you have a camera that would give you the right exposure for this image then the gull against a dark blue background would be at least one stop over-exposed. Experiment by checking your histogram and once you have the perfect exposure with data in the fifth or highlight box of the histogram, set that exposure manually. Working in Manual mode is covered in detail in ABP II:


I spoke to Jiim Neiger at length on Wednesday. He just concluded two very successful workshops at the refuge. Here is a summary of his report:

The crane pools are excellent. In addition to the cranes flocks have geese have been landing in the predawn most likely because there is no water in the North Railroad Pond. There is no corn in the Farm Fields at the north end; as a result there were few geese near the road most of the time. On one of the ten days the birds were landing at close range on the inner refuge road when a government truck drove right through them. They all flew to the back part of the field. Nobody got any pictures of the truck. (Note: If you witness any type of disturbance please take some images and e-mail them to along with the details. I will forward them to the right folks at the refuge.)

Jim said that compared to past years that this year was fair. Despite less than perfect conditions Jim’s group had lots of great opportunities and learned a ton; everyone went home happy.

BPN’s Doug Brown painted a more rosy picture:

I just got back from 5 days at the Bosque. The past 3 mornings have been fabulous at the crane pools. The refuge has started flooding some of the fields and is adding water to others; the weeds are starting to vanish in places. Bird numbers, while not as high as last year, but are still pretty good; there are plenty of bird photography opportunities. The temperature is starting to drop; the past couple of mornings have been in the teens. There have been a number of bobcat sightings (I was fortunate enough to see one) and even a cougar (mountain lion) was spotted!

And here is my report based only a single afternoon and a single morning.

I got into Socorro on Thursday afternoon, November 19 and after getting most of my stuff unpacked, I decided to head down to the refuge to purchase my Golden Geezer pass, the one that gets us old folks into all federal properties and refuges for $10 for as long as you shall live. Just one of the many benefits of getting older. The crane pools were excellent at sunset. This morning, the 15th anniversary of Elaine’s death and my 15th straight year of being at Bosque in late fall, there was a nice blast off from the main pond and then the crane pools were once again excellent. I will be doing and sending an update of the Bosque Site Guide as soon as possible after the IPT ends in about 8 or 9 days. It will include the latest dope on where to be when.

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Sandhill Crane over ridge, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM
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 +1 1/3 stops: 1/600 sec. at f/5.6.

By getting as low as possible I was able to create this image just before the bird merged with the ridge.


BBC-honored photographers Arthur Morris and Robert O’Toole are doing a slide program tonight at 6:45 pm at K-Bob’s at the north end of the town of Socorro, NM. It is free and open to the public. The topic: photograping at Bosque. (The program is the introductory one for the IPT that begins tonight). A selection of books, CDs, and photographic accessories will be available before and after the program. If you learned of the program from this notice, please let us know.

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Snow Geese, pre-dawn fly-in, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 28-300 IS L lens (on a tripod with the Mongoose m3.5b at 70mm)) with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 200. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/15 sec. at f/5.6.

I used the Patch Tool to elimnate the birds that wer dissected by the top, left, and right frame edges. The 28-300 is a killer lens for Bosque. If you purchase one, make sure that it zooms smoothly throughout the push-pull focal length range. The one the I borrowed from CPS sticks badly at 300mm.


For the past 14 years I have visited Bosque during the holiday season in part to honor the memory of my late-wife, Elaine Belsky Morris. And for more years than I can remember, I have hosted a Thanksgiving Luncheon for visiting photographers and birders. For years it was held at the Val Verde Steakhouse in Socorro. When that closed, we traveled up I-25 to the wonderful and historic Luna Mansion. Now that that facility has closed, we will be holding this year’s luncheon at the Stage Door Grille ( in Socorro. In part due to my frantic pleading, Terry Eilers will be open this Thanksgiving Day.

Here’s the menu: Choice of turkey or ham, stuffing, mashed potato and gravy, vegetable, and choice of apple or pecan pie. Vegetarian special: eggplant parmigiana. Soft drink and tip are included: $20. If you would like to join us please send a check made out to “Arthur Morris” for $20 to us here: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, 4041Granada Drive, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. Sorry: no credit cards or Paypals for this party. Please note “Thanksgiving Luncheon” on your check. If you are registered for the The Complete BOSQUE Experience 2009 IPT, not to worry: this one’s on me. If you are gonna be in Socorro, consider joining us as good food is scarce there on Thanksgiving Day. And the event has always been a feel-good one.

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Marbled Godwit foraging, near LaJolla, CA
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO lens (handheld) with the EOS-50D. ISO 200. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/4.

I created about 200 images of the feeding godwits and kept just this one…. Tight editing is vital to serious digital photographers else their long term storage problems are likely to become untenable.


Q: I purchased a Better Beamer quite some time ago and never learned to use it properly, now I am looking to learn it and I do not have the directions for settings and what-not, is there any way to get that?

A: A better beamer is just a more powerful flash. You do not need to learn how to use a Better Beamer. You need to learn how to use flash; the beamer just gives you more flash. The flash turns off automatically when the desired output has been reached. The very best way to learn to use all three types of flash (as fill, as main light, and in Manual mode) for nature photography is the Flash Simplified Section of my CD book, ABP II:

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Black Turnstone, winter plumage, LaJolla, CA
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 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/100 sec. at f/9. Fill flash at -2 stops with the Better Beamer.

When using flash as fill the trick is to first get the right ambient exposure and then reduce the flash usually to somewhere between -1 and -3 stops when working in low light conditions.


BIRDS AS ART proudly announces the limited sale of a classic Arthur Morris image, “Great Blue Herons Courtship.”

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This intimate and timeless image was created at the Venice Rookery in South Venice, Florida. It is the cover of the original and the reprinted “The Art of Bird Photography” and has thus become the signature image of Artie’s career. It was honored with the Grand Prize in Wildlife in the first-ever Nature’s Best Photography Contest.

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 third in the 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. Most folks viewing the canvas prints for the first time ask, “Is that a painting?”

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 25 prints sold will be priced at $349 plus $20 shipping and handling to all US addresses. Once 25 prints are sold, the price will rise to $474. The last five prints will sell for $599. (Please e-mail for prices on other sizes and for framing options.)

Prints ordered before December 20, 2009 may apply a $50 discount. The prints are in stock; all orders will ship immediately.

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, 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 “Great Blue Herons Courtship” will become a collector’s item; thank you for your support of Artie’s work.

Purchase any five limited edition canvas prints and receive a sixth free.

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Sandhill Crane running start, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/1000 sec. at f/6.3 set manually.

Here, I chose the AF sensor just left of the central sensor to attain the desired composition with the bird back in the frame. I cleaned up more than a few weeds from the pong.


I will be presenting “Lenses for Nature Photography BIRDS AS ART-Style for the Enchanted Lens Camera Club in Albuquerque at 7pm on the evening of December 1, 2009 at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church located at 114 Carlisle Blvd (at the corner of Central and Carlisle). You can find additional information here: and directions here: This program is free and open to the public.

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I will be presenting “Lenses for Nature Photography BIRDS AS ART-Style for the Nature and Wildlife Photographers of Long Island group in Bayshore on December 8, 2009 at Bayshore High School. After a short break I will present an optional Photoshop session for those who wish to stay on. For directions click here: This program is free and open to the public.

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Western Gull, LaJolla, CA
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 +1 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/14 in Manual mode; confirmed by histogram check.

See the recent blog post on bill clean-up here: This bird’s bill was 99% perfect; I removed only a few small white flecks of salt.


Cabby Bloss is offering a used Canon 600mm f/4 IS lens for sale. It’s been protected by a Lens Coat (included) for all but 2 of the months that she has owned it. Dust is visible when looking at the lens from the front but it has no effect on images. It’s been checked out by Canon and been given a clean bill of health. Sale includes original case, box, packing, lens hood and a circular polarizer. Price $6500 plus shipping. If using PayPal, add 2.5%. Call Cabby at 775.843.6937 or e-mail her at

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Brandt’s Cormorant, immature head portrati, LaJolla, CA
Image Copyright 2006: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO lens (handheld) with the EOS-50D. ISO 200. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/5.6.

By sitting and moving very slowly I was able to get close enoujgh to this young bird to create a pleasing head portrait. For images like this I activate all of the focusing sensors; doing so makes it easier to ensure that the bird’s head is placed well back in the frame and above the horizontal centerline than when using the central sensor alone.


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/Sold Out 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 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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Western Gull calling at sunset, near LaJolla, CA
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1 1/3 stops: 1/3200 sec. at f/11.

In situations like this it is fine to have some flashing highligths on the back of the camera. If you try to eliminate them completely, the image will be so dark as not to be use-able; if you attempt to lighten it, you will be introducing noise and in addition, the colors would look quite muddy. I call that “giving away the highlights.” At times when working in mega-contrasty situations as I was here, IS will jump when you attempt to focus. When that happens, simply turn IS to off.

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