January 29th, 2010

Birds As Art Bulletin #314



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Brown Pelican (California race), La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/30 sec. at f/20.

The theoretically best way to attempt to pull off images like this successfully is to focus halfway between the bill tip and the eyes while working at a very small aperture. (Depth-of-field with long lenses at close range is 50-50 rather than 1/3 in front, 2/3 behind. A quick visit to DOF Master (http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html) reveals that–if my math is correct, and I believe that it is–this strategy here has no chance. The total depth-of-field with the set-up above is only about 7/10th of one inch (at f/22!). I was glad that I tried only some of the images focusing halfway up the bill and still others focusing on the eye (as I did here). And even gladder that this one featured the very best staring pose 🙂 (I just re-did the math based on 30 feet and f/45–because of the TC and the total d-o-f came out to about 2 inches, still nowhere near large enough to cover the head from the eyes to the bill tip. In other words, focus on the eye and let the rest fall where it may.


Here is my current gear bag

Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS: the big gun
Canon 500mm f/4L IS: the world’s most popular super-telephoto lens
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO: great for flight, handholding, and while working from all types of watercraft
Canon 100-400mm IS L zoom: amazingly adaptable
Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS: for nature and wildlife; lightweight and especially deadly with my 7D
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS: for my grand-daughter’s dance recitals
Canon 180mm macro: my favorite macro focal length; it yields great working distances than shorter focal length macro lenses
Canon 24-105mm IS L zoom: great for bird-scapes and B-roll stuff
Canon 15mm fish eye: love to play with this one on cloudy days
Canon 28-300 L IS zoom: borrowed from CPS annually for Bosque; the world’s greatest travel lens
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV (two): Canon’s best ever camera body; try getting in touch with Gary at Hunt’s if you cannot get your hands on one.
Canon EOS-7D: pretty darned amazing: incredible new AF system.
Canon Speedlite 580 EX II (two)
Canon Battery Pack CP-E4 (two)
EF Teleconverter 1.4X II (four)
EF 25mm Extension Tube (two)
EF 12mm Extension Tube (one)

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Black-bellied Plover with prey item, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/7.1. Fill flash with the Better Beamer at -1 stop.

This bird walked back and forth feeding on the barnacle-covered rock right in front of us for more than 30 minutes while six of us from the San Diego IPT stood knee-deep in the Pacific (except for Todd who is 6′ 8″ tall!) Below are before and after close-ups of the bird’s head and bill.

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Above is a crop showing the head and bill of the converted TIFF. Note the excess of distracting sand grains on the bill, the double highlight from the flash, and the eye too dark. Note also the killer Mark IV image quality and sharpness.

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For the optimized TIFF I balanced the color, cleaned up the bill and even eliminated the lumps from the edge of the lower mandible, removed the lower highlight in the eye–the one caused by the flash, and did some additional Eye Doctor work, darkening the pupil and lightening the iris. All of the techniques that I used are described in great detail in Digital Basics. DB was written in what I call cook book style: clean, concise, and easy to read and follow. You can learn more about Digital Basics or order your own copy of the newly re-written and re-organized Digital Basics here: https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/category.aspx?catid=32


More than 200 folks wrote in response to my comments in the last BAA Notes (most but not all of them AOL users). First off, thanks a ton to all who wrote letting me know of their experience with the recent Bulletin and Notes. I did not have time to respond individually :). All but two folks wrote agreeing as to the extremely poor quality of AOL services. Many folks wrote describing a variety of other AOL-related BAA and Bulletin problems. And both of the folks who wrote stating that they liked AOL admitted that Bulletin 313 arrived zipped and could not be opened…. My belief is that most folks who like AOL are simply unaware of what a good e-mail program should do. Several suggested getting a free g-mail account and receiving Bulletins at that address.

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Artie Morris with 70-200, La Jolla, CA
Image courtesy of and copyright 2010/Yannis Arvanitis
The 70-200 f/4 with the 1.4X II TC and the Canon EOS-7D is lightweight, offers a decent range of magnifications, and is a great rig for capturing flight and action at close range. With the possibility of working at effective focal lengths of less than 300mm I removed my Better Beamer to avoid flash spot-lighting. This also makes handholding less cumbersome.

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Brown Pelican (California race), La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC (handheld at 129mm) with the EOS-7D. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/1600 sec. at f/6.3.

Though some folks on-line expressed concern with the sharpness and quality of 7D images I would have to attribute those concerns to operator error: my 7D has been killer for flight and I love the image files. See the blogs at http://www.birdsasart-blog.com/category/photo-equipment/7d and scroll down for additional 7D (and MIV) comments and AF recommendations.


I asked Denise Ippolito, BPN’s primary Out-of-the-Box moderator to write a short piece for the Bulletin on the recent loss of Dave Phillips. As you will see below, she did quite well.

DAVE PHILLIPS, by Denise Ippolito (with Arthur Morris)

BPN–and all of nature photography lost Dave Phillips on January 26, 2010. Dave was a very creative and talented BPN member who was always willing to share his knowledge of both photography and Photoshop with others. Dave’s contributions to the Avian and the Out-of-the-Box Forums (OOTB) have been immeasurable.

He spent lots of time in OOTB teaching others about new programs, color toning, filters, and plug-ins and commenting on composition and image design as well. As a full time printer Dave had a well-trained eye and thus was quickly able to identify the problems in an image and then offer suggestions for improvement.

Dave lived in the northwestern corner of Louisiana near a bend in the Red River where he photographed herons, egrets, and a variety of bayou creatures in his own little bit of heaven: “Cooterville.” You can see a collection of Dave’s images at http://critterscapes.zenfolio.com; his creative energy will be evident on every page.

Dave Phillips always gave an honest critique; he did not believe in sugar-coating anything. His critiques were well thought-out, well written, and often infused with humor. His sole purpose was to help other photographers. His well-trained eye, photographic expertise, and vast intellect made Dave Phillips a true asset at BPN and to nature and wildlife photographers everywhere. And it was Dave’s low-key Southern manner that earned him a special place in my heart and in the heart’s of many others. He will be a hard one to forget.

Note: Dave posted the poem below in BPN’s Framing Your Images With Words Forum on June 30, 2009. In retrospect, it turned out to be quite prophetic….

Over The Hill

Here I am alone going over the hill
The wind is calm and the waters still

I’ve worked really hard and given my all
But I feel a peace as I heed the call

The light is getting brighter and my heart almost still
As I go a little bit farther over the hill
Dave In NW Louisiana

You can see the image that accompanied his poem and read the comments here: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?t=39950

And here is a link to the tributes to Dave on BPN: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?t=55175.

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Green Heron/web page capture,
Copyright Dave Phillips
Green Heron was, in Dave’s own words, one of his favorite subjects. A quick look at his web site reveals that he loved to photograph all living creatures. I would be amazed if a quick peek at his “Flipped Out” folio does not leave you laughing and smiling: http://critterscapes.zenfolio.com/p89658114. Though I knew Dave only from BPN, I was struck by his knowledge of Photoshop, his skill as a photographer, his willingness to help others, his down-home humor, and his frankness. Guess that’s why I liked him so much 🙂


With the addition of one 7D and two Mark IV bodies to my bag, I am selling my two 50D bodies. One is in Like New condition, the other is in Very Good to Excellent condition with a single scratch above the Canon label on the corner of the pentaprism and several very fine scratches on the LCD. I have not used either since they were returned by Canon after a general clean and check. Each includes the original box with everything in it and, each includes a perfectly functioning Vertical Grip with two batteries.

Like-New Canon EOS-50D with Vertical Grip and two batteries: $975. You pay shipping and insurance.

VG to EXC Canon EOS-50D with Vertical Grip and two batteries: $875. You pay shipping and insurance.

If you have not done business with us before or been on an IPT, we will need to wait until your check clears until cashing it; I was burned for more than $3,000 by a phony cashier’s check last year that was sent as payment for a Mark III. Personal checks are fine.

A check of the Bulletin Archives will reveal that I loved my 50D bodies and that I felt that 50D AI Servo AF was more consistently accurate than the MIII. The 50D is a big step up from even the 40D and a huge step up from all of its predecessors.

It is probably best to call me at 863-692-0906 immediately as each of these are priced to sell quickly.

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Brown Pelican (California race), La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC (handheld at 108mm) with the EOS-7D. ISO 450. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops off the water below the cliff: 1/500 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.

With the inclusion of the cliffs and the cascades of water this one is surely not the typical BAA image.


Dear Artie: It was a great experience joining you and Todd in San Diego. I left just in time, racing the storm through northern Arizona, Yellowstone and finally North. Dakota. Hundreds of miles of ice, fog, snow and wind!

My major professor at the University of Minnesota, Dept. of Ecology and Behavioral Biology, was David F. Parmelee. Doc spent 20 years doing research in the high Arctic with George Sutton from the University of Oklahoma where he received his PhD. At Minnesota he was Director of Field Research which included administering the two field research stations: Lake Itasca and Cedar Creek. Upon arriving at Minnesota Doc wanted to look south and begin studying the Charadriiforme birds in Antarctica and so he submitted a grant proposal to NSF. That’s when he hired Bill Fraser and me (we were graduate students) to initiate the research and begin the wintering over process. I wintered first, in ’74/75, and Fraser followed. I continued with two additional expeditions: ’76/77, and ’77/78 to complete my thesis research on Brown and South Polar Skuas. Fraser focused on the Southern Blacked Backed Gull.

Parmelee wrote two books: Antarctic Birds; Ecological and Behavioral Approaches, and Birds of South Georgia. Doc was a world class watercolor artist much like his friend Roger Tory Peterson. After retiring from the U of M he moved to Las Vegas where he became research Curator of Ornithology at UNLV. After a 30 million dollar renovation of the Marjorie Barrick Museum they reopened it with Doc’s entire collection of art. It was only the second time the entire collection had been displayed, the first being at the Bell Museum of Natural History at Minnesota.

In Nevada Doc was working on his next book, The Birds of Lake Mead. While the research was being completed, he died of cancer prior to publication in 1998.

Today, the research at Palmer continues. Bill Fraser formed a small non-profit (Polar Oceans Research Group) after receiving his PhD and has been the principal investigator of bird research at Palmer for the last 30 years. Being a small non-profit the wolf is always at the door so any exposure on BirdPhotographers.Net would certainly be appreciated. Maybe you might be able to work something out where you follow them around and photograph birds. That worked out well with Eliot Porter 30 years ago. The study area extends from Palmer Station via zodiac to Dream Island, the Joubins and to the Gerlache, as well as Cormorant, Litchfield, and Shortcut Islands near Palmer. Three species of penguins, Blue-eyed Shag. Antarctic Tern, gulls, skuas, Giant Petrels, and Wilson’s Storm petrel breed within the study area. A few weeks photographing the breeding birds of the Antarctic Peninsula should be worth a second thought….

(Note: I wrote David and we are exploring the possibility of my visiting Palmer Station and doing some fund raising for the Polar Oceans Research Group.)

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David Neilson & Canon gear, La Jolla, CA
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC (handheld at 124mm) with the EOS-7D. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/5.6 set manually after histogram check.

Most IPTs are about 50/50 Canon and Nikon. Strangely enough, the San Diego was only the second IPT ever that was 100% Canon. And, there were three 800 f/5.6L lens in addition to mine.


To see how a posted image might be improved 10,000%, check out Ram Mallya’s “Small Green Bee-eater post here: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?p=411709#post411709. I have always been inspired when folks tell me that something is impossible 🙂

To see what the Canon MP E65mm Macro lens and the Macro Twin Light 24 EX can do in the right hands, check out Vida van der Walt’s truly amazing “Feeling Antsy” here: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?p=433300#post433300.

Jim Neiger’s Mark IV Barred Owl in flight with the handheld 500 is quite stunning as well: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?t=55689.

Do check out Kiran Khanzode’s excellent repost of Giova’s “Which is Best” tiger image in Pane #7 here: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?t=55273.

In Landscapes you can learn a lot from checking out Fabs Forns’ loverly “Mount Moran Sunset” at: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?t=54629. Do you think that it needs a small crop from the bottom?

And for the sickest ever songbird flight image made without a multi-flash set-up or beam triggers you will not believe Alan Murphy’s Great Kiskadee here: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?t=55589. Then visit his blog to learn how he did it!

I was surprised at how much play my “Your Favorite (of Three), and Why?” got in Avian: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php?p=434794#post434794.

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Wood Duck, head portrait, Santee Lakes, CA
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/200 sec. at f/8. Fill flash at -2 stops with Better Beamer.

This image reveals more detail in the purple cheek patch than any other that I have seen. A child was feeding the coots while this bird waited it turn on a deck. When photographing this species be sure to check for flashing highlights on the bill tip and the white feathering.


Gatorland Photographic Instructional Workshops

Field Workshops: February 6-7, 2010 (new – one space available), February 13-14, 2010 (new – just opened), February 26-27, 2010 (new – two spaces available), February 27-28, 2010 (new – two spaces available), March 20-21, 2010 (one space available), April 3-4, 2010 (three spaces available) – extensive in-the-field instruction at East Central Florida’s best rookery location, Gatorland in Kissimmee, FL. Includes two-hour image critique sessions each day of images you created during the workshop. Field instruction includes isolating your subject, understanding light, proper exposure (exposing to the right), using depth of field to your advantage, fill-flash and lots more. CD with lesson plans included – no note taking required. Find out more at http://www.wildscapeimages.biz/blog/?page_id=132.

Field and Classroom May 14-16, 2010 � three full days covering everything the field workshop does plus extensive classroom instruction in image editing and optimization and presentations on photographic technique concentrating on rookery photography. Find out more at http://www.wildscapeimages.biz/blog/?page_id=15.

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Great Egret – Gatorland
Copyright Robert Amoruso
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 600mm
1/1000 sec, f/6.3, Manual, Evaluative, ISO 800, Manual Flash

Knowing where to be and when at Gatorland; plus understanding fill-flash technique, is key to making images like this. Let me show you how.

St. Augustine Photographic Instructional Workshop

April 15-18, 2010 three and one-half days of extensive field and classroom instruction at the famous St. Augustine Alligator Farm with Robert Amoruso and Robert O’Toole. We will be using the Alligator Farm’s Education Center for meetings and equipment storage between morning and afternoon sessions. Weather is pleasant in mid-April and coincides with a point in time at the rookery when nesting, chicks, mating and nest building are all occurring one of my favorite times of the year to be there. Find out more http://www.wildscapeimages.biz/blog/?page_id=8.

Lake Clark National Park, AK Coastal Brown Bear Photographic Instructional Workshop

Join Robert Amoruso July 21 to 27, 2010 on a journey photographing Coastal Brown Bears in Lake Clark National Park on Cook Inlet in Alaska. We will photograph male and female bears; some with cubs sedging on the open plains, clamming and fishing. On each trip we have seen females nursing their young. The workshop also includes a day’s trip to a Puffin and Murres rookery island. Expert bear-savvy guides will transport us to our photography locations. Our headquarters will be the famous Silver Salmon Creek Lodge : after a day of photography warm yourself in the cozy lodge, enjoy fabulous meals and great company before retiring to a warm bed. Find out more http://www.wildscapeimages.biz/blog/?page_id=143.

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The Heart of a Coastal Brown Bear
Copyright Robert Amoruso
Canon 1D Mark III, Canon 600mm 1/500 sec, f/5.6, Manual, Evaluative, ISO 800

Proper exposure is key to rendering shadow details in bear images. Let me show you how.

Private Photographic Instructional Workshops

As good as a group workshop can be, sometimes private one-on-one instruction is the ticket. My private workshops cater to your individual needs. In advance of the workshop we will discuss your objectives and how they can be met in a private setting. Then I design your workshop to meet those goals. My private workshops generally include areas close to my home as I know them well but I can travel to other locations in Florida if you have a specific locale in mind. Download my brochure at http://www.wildscapeimages.biz/storage/PIW/2009_WSI_Brochure.pdf. Find out more including pricing on my website at http://www.wildscapeimages.biz/blog/?page_id=155.

BLOG and NEWSLETTER Email me at wildscapeimages@att.net to join my educational newsletter. Find out about where I am photographing, how-to tips, workshop information and more on my blog at http://www.wildscapeimages.biz/blog. Robert J. Amoruso: 407-808-7417 (cell). wildscapeimages@att.net. http://www.wildscapeimages.com (images). http://www.wildscapeimages.biz/blog (workshop info).



Slide program on the evening of FEB 9. 6-FULL DAYS: $2799. Co-leaders: Tim Grey and Alfred and Fabiola Forns. Limit: 10/Sold Out. If you would like your name placed on the interested list for this IPT in 2011, please e-mail.

MIDWAY ATOLL IPTs: Two trips, early March, 2010 (from Oahu, HI) 7-FULL DAYS OF PHOTOGRAPHY: $6395 ALL INCLUSIVE FROM OAHU.

There may be a single opening on either or both of these trips. Please e-mail or see the complete information including registration information click here: http://www.photosafaris.com/photography-trips-2010/midway-photo-tour/. (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; 7. Co-leaders: Robert O’Toole, Jim Heupel., and multiple BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year honoree Chris Van Rooyen of South Africa (http://www.wildlifephotography.co.za/). 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 great co-leaders and top-notch Photoshop instruction.

A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to hold a spot on 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: Registration and Release Form.

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