December 14th, 2009

Birds As Art Bulletin #309


  • ALAN MURPHY’S “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography” IN STOCK AND SHIPPING NOW!

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Wood Duck drake head portrait, Albuquerque, NM
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens with the EOS-7D. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/30 sec. at f/5.6.

The 800’s new four-stop image stabilization is pretty much miraculous. Here I was working at 25.6X magnification and was able to create a sharp image at 1/30 sec. It’s a whole new world out there. I did make sure to tighten both controls on the Mongoose M3.5B before depressing the shutter button. At this location several Wood Ducks always land on a fence at dusk with a loverly adobe building providing a sweet background. This is another DPP conversion.


If you are using a Canon EOS-7D or if you have a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV on order (they will be shipping soon), it would behoove you to check out the Sunday BAA Blog post here:

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American Wigeon, drake head portrait, Socorro, NM
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO lens (handheld) with the 1.4X I TC and the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/7.1.

The 400 DO has become one of my very favorite lenses and I have been finding many uses for it beside photographing from a variety of watercraft and handheld flight photography. I have consistently made very sharp images with the 1.4X TC while handholding. And when I first borrowed one and brought it to the Galapagos, I made many sharp images with the 2X TC with the lens on a tripod (with the Mongoose M3.5 that has been replaced my the M3.5B. Learn everything there is to know about photographing at Bosque in our Bosque Site Guide:


A Killer Image

Check out one of my very favorite all time bird images (Suzanne Huot’s “Gear Down… Bufflehead touchdown”) here: If you do not love this one you might consider taking up knitting!

Just How Low is Low?

To learn the six degrees of photographic lowness, check out Mark Malloy’s Blue Waxbill post here: and scroll down to Pane #7.

Purple Sandpiper head portrait

Not a ton to learn from this great head portrait of a wintering shorebird created with the Canon EOS-40D and the 500 f/4L IS lens by BPN Out-of-the Box moderator Denise Ippolito: : It just shows to go you that you do not need the very latest camera body to make great images.

BPN Barnegat Get Together

The first ever Mid-Atlantic Get Together will begin at 2pm on Saturday, December 19, 2009 at Barnegat Lighthouse. I will be there barring anything unforeseen. For details, visit: All BPN members are invited.

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Wood Duck hen, Albuquerque, NM
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
The image above and the image below were created moments apart with the Canon 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens and the EOS-7D. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/80 sec. at f/5.6.

The image above features a much better head angle; in the image below, the hen’s head is turned slightly away. For me, this is totally unacceptable. The image below, however, has several positive features: there is no orange blob above the bird’s back and there is more rock below the duck’s feet. I decided to utilize a series of Quick Masks to incorporate the best features of each image in the final optimized file. In addition, I made several other improvements. See below for the final image and additional details.

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The image above is of course the optimized master file for this image. I used a Quick Mask to cover the orange blob but had to work very large to get it close to right. To add more rock below the duck’s feet, I first expanded canvas and then used a Quick Mask. As the registration was not perfect I needed to use some small QMs to fill in a gap. In addition, I did the same thing to cover the poop that was on the rock just below the bird’s undertail coverts. Then I reconstructed the closest toe on the near foot and added rock below that, all with small QMs, and all done to remove the large piece of dried duck dung that was obscuring the near-foot. As all conversions were done in DPP I followed my old workflow: Levels, Curves, Selective Color, and Hue-Saturation.

Everything described above is detailed in Digital Basics ( The advanced Quick Masking stuff is in Robert O’Toole’s APTATS I:

This one took a lot of work: total time in Photoshop: 45 minutes.


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Everglades Workshop, January 22 to 25, 2010

Limit: 6. 4-DAYS: $1,200 (does not include lodging, meals, or ground transportation). Slide show and orientation the night of Thursday, January 21st.

Al and Fabs live close to the Everglades and are constantly scouting the area to ensure that tour participants will be taken to areas where there are abundant subjects and the best opportunities for excellent image making. A special emphasis will be placed on creativity and the creative process from visualization through the digital workflow, to optimization. Just a few of the techniques that will be covered are: capturing birds in flight, portrait making, optimal lighting (including front lighting, back lighting, and side lighting as creative alternatives), exposure, composition, sharp image making and out of the box thinking. Each day will include two “in the field” workshop sessions covering field techniques and one classroom session on Photoshop, Lightroom and creative plug-ins. During the workshops, we will always be available to critique your work. Slide show and orientation the night of Thursday, January 21st. We will guide you with gentleness and enthusiasm. 4 days of instruction: $1200 per person (does not include lodging, meals or transportation.) This will be our only Everglades group session of the year. Maximum 12 participants. Reserve your spot today, e-mail for more info. Referrals are available upon request.

E-mail fabs@avianscapes for more information or to reserve a spot today!

FLORIDA SURF AND TURF, March 5-7, 2010

Limit 12. 3-DAY: $999 (does not include lodging, meals, or ground transportation).

For the first time ever, BPN Publishers James Shadle and Alfred and Fabs Forns will be co-leading a workshop offering the best of Fort DeSoto and the pontoon boat Hooptie Deux. You will get the best of both land and sea and be led by experienced and creative photographers. This will be sunny Florida at its best; the three days will include six in-the-field sessions (weather permitting) and three classroom sessions. You will return home with lots of keepers and newfound knowledge.

Everyone will have at least two sessions on the boat and one instructor for every four students will ensure lots of individual attention.

E-mail fabs@avianscapes for more information or to reserve a spot today!

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ALAN MURPHY’S “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography” IN STOCK AND SHIPPING NOW!

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Jim Litzenberg took the first batch of Alan’s great CD book to the post office on Friday. He will be hard at work this week in an effort to get them to all US purchasers before December 25th. Please be patient as we are doing the best we can. Overseas folks will need to be patient as we are at the mercy of the foreign post offices….

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, even if you have only a small backyard, or even just a patio or a balcony, he can help you to create some stunning avian images on a consistent basis.

The professionally designed, packaged, and burned CD is now in stock and available. It sells 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. You can send us a PayPal, call us at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand, or order SSUPG from the BAA On-line Store (with secure credit card data transmission) by clicking here: Alan Murphy’s “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography” (Note: Shipping charges with BAA On-line Store orders will likely vary by small amounts from those noted above.)

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California Quail, British Columbia (male above, female below)
Images Copyright 2009: Alan Murphy Photography
Notice that each bird is perched on the very same rock. Alan artfully designed the two totally different set-ups (each with a sweet, distant background) . In his guide not only will Alan teach you how to select your perches and create pleasing set-ups (like these two), but more importantly, he will teach you how to get the quail to perch on top of the rock (or weathered stump or post). Do note the perfect head angle of each subject.

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Tom Wilberding

Hi Tom, Re:

I purchased your $100 BLUB and tried it out recently in Florida and Bosque del Apache. My verdict: pricey but worth it. Great design, the best. I trust your judgment on all the products you offer, and have not been disappointed. My bird photographer friends thought I was nuts to buy a $100 beanbag, but I am very pleased with it; it is definitely worth the price. I have made some sharp pictures with it, pictures I could not have made without it.

I am glad that you liked it.

I purchased your Bosque $50 CD and again—great! Unfortunately I can’t afford your IPTs, but this CD gave me a lot of IPT information at a great savings, worth every dollar. Thanks for writing this CD and making it available. (BTW, I could make a few minor suggestions to perhaps make it better, so let me know if your suggestion window is open.) I enjoyed the Wigeon pond in Socorro and got some great shots there. I also enjoyed the Wood Duck spot in Albuquerque and got more great shots there. I had a blast; many thanks!

Suggest away! And you are most welcome.

I was at Bosque December 2, 3, 4, and 5. I have been following your recent Bosque emails and blogs with great interest. BTW, my last day I followed a tip from a bed and breakfast couple in San Antonio and headed up to Bernardo Wildlife Area, a mini-Bosque with a three mile loop for cars. It is about 40 minutes north of Bosque and state run. These folks had no trouble planting corn and there were tons of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes there. The geese gave me several dramatic blast-offs. I didn’t see any Greater Roadrunners, but did see some interesting towhees and sparrows at Bernardo.

Thanks for that info. I did not know that they had a tour loop. Is there any entrance fee? (I subsequently learned from Robert O’Toole the the numerous telephone poles and wires there make photography very difficult.)

I believe I improved my photography a little each day at Bosque, learning as I went. Your recent Bosque photos were awesome, particularly your panoramic stitch of the Ed Krane pool. I regret not taking more panoramas, as CS4 makes stitching them together automatic and idiot-proof. Oh well, maybe next year!

Thanks. And for sure on the panos.

Photography certainly engages the mind—so much to learn, so many variables, so little room for error.

Agree. You gotta get everything right; there is no room for even a single error…

One has to think of f stop vs. speed vs. ISO vs. exposure compensation vs. one shot or AI Servo, not to mention autofocus or manual, tripod vs. handheld, background, foreground, balance, rule of thirds. Despite or because of all this I enjoy it!

Me too. And sometimes you have to make all of those decisions in only a few seconds at most….
One morning before dawn I squeezed myself onto the Flight Deck, crowded with bird photographers from all over the world. There were no clouds so the sunrise was going to be rather boring. The refuge management was negligent in planting corn, as you pointed out, so there were few geese or cranes in sight. We were all a bit frustrated, cold, crowded and testy at 6:30 am. Suddenly a Serbian started screaming at a German claiming that the Kraut had kicked his photo bag. “I got up early to get this spot while you slept. So don’t try to push me around, blah blah blah.” We all stared at these two combatants with horror. I was afraid that if the Serb pulled a gun there would have been a blast off–not of geese but of bird photographers jumping off the deck into the marsh to swim for our lives. This testosterone deck was not for the faint of heart.

You gotta love it.

The whole Bosque experience was very interesting. I met many nice folks. I never thought I would so enjoy a vacation where I had to get up every morning at 4:30am to go out into the cold, dark, winter night. But I did.

I do too. Always. Even when I gotta “work.”

I have been following BPN photos and comments and will post a few of my own photos soon to get some constructive feedback. That is a great website with very helpful tips. BTW, congrats on your healthy Thanksgiving dinner. I really enjoy your emails and blogs!

Thanks for all of your kind words. And later and love, artie


Louis Zhou

Hi Lou, re:

When did it start to snow on that Sunday? I left the Crane Pools about 8:30am that day and it was just starting to rain.

My mistake. The 30th was a Monday.

I even took a picture of you before I left (See the attached photo :).

That sure looks like me. Thanks for sharing.

During my stay in Socorro, I saw you almost every day somewhere at Bosque. You have been there for 16 years; you should already have the pictures you needed long time ago.

Ah, it seems to me that you do not understand at all what drives me. It is not about the pictures I need. Heck, Corbis rarely takes a crane or a Snow Goose image any more. It is about the images that I want. I want new fresh stuff. I want to create images that make folks go “Whew. That is too good.” I want images that I can enter in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. Two of my Bosque images have been so honored. I want more. Plus, I love the place. It is a shame that the photographic opportunities there have gone downhill ever since Phil Norton left due to uninspired, unimaginative management. But the place can still be magical as it was on that snowy Monday morning.

I’m deeply moved by your diligence. Thanks a lot for the inspiration.

I am a glutton. You are welcome and later and love, artie

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Snow Goose, immature blue morph, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO lens (handheld) with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 400. 1/1600 sec. at f/4 was a seat of the pants exposure. I was set up for white geese in Manual mode and when I saw this bird coming I just spun the thumb wheel a few clicks for a wider aperture knowing that this dark juvie would need almost two stops more light than a white goose.

Confused by the above? Check out the chapter on exposure in the original ABP (soft cover) and Exposure Simplified in ABP II (916 pages on CD only). Buy both and save $10. You can find the info here:


Michal McClure is offering an absolutely mint Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS lens for sale; it was only used twice. There is not even a single small scratch anywhere and the glass is perfect as well: $6,700 plus shipping. (The B&H price for a new one is $8,000.) Please call Michal at 847-395-9347 or e-mail him at

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Snow Geese taking flight in snow storm, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2 stops: 1/50 sec. at f/6.3.

This is another snowstorm image created on the early morning of Monday, November 30, 2009. Though I had the 800 in the trunk, I went with the 500 for a wider view so that I could include the tops of the trees.


San Diego IPT JAN 13-17, 2010 5 Full Days: $2395 (Limit 8/Openings: 2)

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.

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Brown Pelican, head toss, La Jolla, CA
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO lens (handheld) with the EOS-50D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/6.3

The pelicans will be much redder in mid-January. Not only will we bring you to the right spots for any given wind or weather, we’ll teach you the signs that indicate that a head toss is coming.


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 prints and receive a sixth free.

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Ross’s Geese taking flight, 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 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/11 set manually.

Laying downhill on rock and a little ice is a great way to spend a frigid morning but only if you are a lover of what is:




$6395 ALL INCLUSIVE FROM OAHU. Co-leaders: Arthur Morris & Joe Van Os. Limit: 12/Openings: 5 at the most…. For complete information, details including registration information click here: (This second BAA trip was added by popular demand.)

BOSQUE del APACHE 2010 IPT: “The Complete Bosque Experience.” NOV 20-26, 2010

Slide program on the evening of Friday, NOV 19. 7-FULL DAYS: $3199. (Non-refundable deposit: $500; see details below.) Limit: 10/Openings; 9). Co-leaders: Robert O’Toole and Jim Heupel. Right now it looks as if multiple BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year honoree Chris Van Rooyen of South Africa ( will be joining us as a guest co-leader. 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 great co-leaders and lots of top-notch Photoshop instruction.

A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to hold a spot for this IPT. Deposits may be paid by check, PayPal, or credit card. Payment in full (by check or money order only) 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. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check of running your credit card. We regret that we must implement this new policy but we have been plagued by last minute cancellations that make it impossible for others to participate and deprive us of essential income.

Important note: please print, fill out, and sign the registration and release forms and include them with your deposit check (made out to “Arthur Morris.” ) If you use a credit card to register, please fill out, sign, and mail the two forms asap. Your registration will not be complete until we receive your paper work. You can find the forms here: and Release Forms.pdf.


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/Sold Out. Co-leaders: Tim Grey and Alfred and Fabiola Forns. Please e-mail if you would like your name placed on the Interested List for the 2011 President’s Week IPT.

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