July 5th, 2010

Birds As Art Bulletin #331



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Least Tern with shrimp dinner, Nickerson Beach, Lido Beach, Long Island, NY
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/500 sec. at f/8. Flash at -2 stops with the Canon 580EX II Flash and the Better Beamer.

The food hand-off with terns is done so quickly that you almost have to be on the subject before the parent bird lands to have any chance at all. Lucky can be very good. Image optimization by Robert O’Toole.


By the time that you read this, I will be at the Tandayapa Bird Lodge photographing perched hummers. Tomorrow, we will be off to the Galapagos for an amazing two weeks. As I will be gone from 4-21 July and without internet access from 6-20 July, please hold off e-mailing your photographic questions until the last week of July. Jim and Jennifer will be here as usual to help you with your product and educational book and CD needs and purchases and with IPT registrations.

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Long-billed Dowitcher, breeding adult, Barrow, AK
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +2 stops: 1/800 sec. at f/5.6.

Long-billed Dowitcher is a regular nester in Barrow. I was trying to create some images of the aerial courtship displays and duels but was not very successful. Had time allowed it would have been better to switch to an off-centered right AF sensor as that would have moved the bird to our right and resulted in a more pleasing composition. You can learn about Advanced Composition and Image Design in ABP II (916 pages on CD only). Image optimization by Robert O’Toole.


If you have not checked out the new web site yet, do take a peek. You will be impressed 🙂

Thanks to the IT magic of Peter Kes, we are proud to announce that the original, somewhat ugly, and now out-dated www.BIRDSASART.com, the website that has served us well for too, too many years, has been redesigned, simplified, and beautified. You can check out the new site now at the same address, www.BIRDSASART.com. Be sure to check out the Great Stuff page. Why? It contains links to lots of great stuff! If you inadvertently wind up at the old web site, simply hit the f5 key to refresh and you should get the new site. Viewing tip: press f11 to view the pages full screen and press it again to get your tool bar back. We are sure that everyone will love the cleaner simpler yet elegant look.

Thank you Peter!

If you are interested in having Peter Kes help you with your blog or website, you can contact him with regards to the services that he offers here: http://www.naturenotions.ch/blog-service or via e-mail at kpkes@yahoo.com.

As www.BIRDSASART.com is brand new and relatively untested, we would appreciate hearing of any problems that you encounter as you navigate around the site. Please e-mail us at samandmayasgrandpa@att.net with a Cc to kpkes@yahoo.com with news of any problems.

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Red Phalarope, female swimming, Barrow, AK
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/5.6 set manually.

This bird was photographed on my birthday, June 14. By the next day the water level had dropped so much that this pool was filled with grass. Timing is everything. Image optimization by Robert O’Toole.



BAA rate: $11,949/person double occupancy. You must mention BIRDS AS ART to secure this reduced rate 🙂

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Wildebeest herd with young, Tanzania
Image copyright 2010: Todd Gustafson

In nature photography Timing is everything! Being in the right place at the right time is crucial as is the choice of photo safari tour leader. Let Gustafson Photo Safari put you in the best position to photograph all that East Africa has to offer! We have the right vehicles, stay in the best lodges and work with expert guides who’s goal is to find great wildlife situations for you to photograph.(for more info on HD video visit http://www.youtube.com/gustaphoto#p/u. For our safari the story begins in Tanzania s Serengeti eco system in February when an estimated 2.5 million wildebeest and zebras arrive in the southern Serengeti to give birth. The grass is green and the time is right for new calves to be born. We will also visit Lake Manyara and the world famous Ngorongoro Crater. With no shortage of subjects to choose from; including the “Big Five, plains animals and 1,500 species of birds to chase, here are just a few considerations that will make photographing them a pleasure instead of an exercise in frustration. All of this and much, much more safari information in The Photographers Guide to the Safari Experience.

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Wildebeest birth, Tanzania
Image copyright 2010: Todd Gustafson

Todd Tips: Pack the right equipment. A common problem on safari is when a photographer has too much camera gear. They are prepared for every photo situation. Their equipment list includes super telephoto, macro, wide angle zoom, mid telephoto, fisheye, four camera bodies, two flash units (plus a macro flash) as well as Quantum batteries, two computers, four extra hard drives and battery chargers for everything. Im out of breath just thinking about getting all that gear from my room to the safari vehicle much less getting it though airport security and onto the airplane. More importantly, there is so much equipment to sort through that by the time you have decided what equipment will suit your vision of a scene, the moment is past. I have found over the years that you can use fewer lenses, shape your photographic vision to that set of optics, do less equipment juggling and make a higher percentage of dramatic images. My lens of choice is a 600 mm f/4 lens and a 1.7 teleconverter.

Understand your equipment. I have seen people on safari with brand new top of the line equipment that had never been taken out of the box until the safari. Figuring out which button and dial controls which feature on the camera while in the field is a recipe for failure. I’ve even seen photographers struggling with a computer that had never been turned on until the safari. Please realize that your driver can’t find a wildebeest birth for you to photograph if conditions aren’t right. If you insist on finding a group of wildebeest giving birth, you will end up a frustrated safari photographer. Have an open mind and a back up plan for your photographic day. There may be a large pride of lions or a cheetah with cubs waiting to be photographed in a different area of the reserve. If you and your driver work as a team the rewards can be astounding.

Have an idea of what you would like to photograph. As with any photo shoot there is a balance between spontaneity and preconception. Seeing the shot in your minds eye will allow you to be in the right place and make the proper lens choice when the prime moment arrives. At the same time, being open-minded and observant will allow you to shoot spontaneously as unforeseen situations develop. Following a wildebeest who is about to give birth is a balancing act of vehicle placement and timing. Get to close and she will move to the safety of the herd. Get too far away and you risk loosing the subject among all the other animals. When the birth moment arrives and there is no turning back you must get in the correct position quickly. There really is not time to reposition or the birth will be over.

Contact Todd Gustafson: 1: (847)373-5622. E-mail: gustaphoto@aol.com.

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Cheetah family, Tanzania
Image copyright 2010: Todd Gustafson


An e-mail exchange:

CJ: I have a question concerning your histogram discussion in Digital Basics. You did a fine job of explaining the various scenarios that photographers come up against: light toned subjects, dark toned subjects, middle toned subjects, etc. Then you followed each example with a histogram that depicts the appropriate distribution of tones relative to the middle tone marker on the histogram scale.

AM: Not exactly 🙂

CJ: You explained why the various peaks appeared to the left or right of this marker. I understand all of that.

AM: To the left or the right of center. I do not recall mentioning a marker….

CJ: What gets me is that later down in Digital Basics you said the following: “You will want to have some data in the right-most box of the histogram (this is the fifth box on Canon histograms and the fourth box on Nikon histograms); the closer the data comes to the right-hand axis of the histogram the more data you will have in your image file and the less noise there will be.” This also makes sense to me but it muddies up your earlier discussion on histograms. Please see the attached JPEG from Digital Basics and let me know if the attached histogram could have been moved farther to the right. It appears as though there is plenty of room to the right.

AM: It is hard to tell when viewing a relatively crude histogram diagram especially without seeing the image…. The black line going to the right looks very thick indicating that there are some light toned pixels in the image. If there were no date there at all that line would be a thin one. Aside from that, there are sometimes some very bright highlights that cannot be seen in the histogram; the histogram looks to be in the middle, i.e., underexposed, but if you add even 1/3 stop of light you get flashing highlights.

CJ: But doesn’t moving it to the right contradict your explanations concerning where the peaks should fall relative to the middle tone marker?

AM: Not at all. I state clearly many times that height and positioning of the the peaks and plateaus are meaningless. It is nice to understand what they are indicating, but they have nothing to do with getting a good exposure. Do do that you need some data in the right hand box of the histogram, the farther to the right the better as long as you have no or very few flashing highlights.

CJ: I seem to get better results (more often) when I don not expose to the right.

AM: I have written this in Digital Basics and in Bulletins and in Blog posts and on BPN about a zillion times. I will say it here for you again just once more: in many cases the very best exposure for a given RAW file will look washed out and too light both on the back of the camera and on the computer. Such images will represent the best exposures and will contain the greatest amount of data. All that you need to do is convert the image properly as described in Digital Basics and you are golden. You will have produced the best possible image.

CJ: Please note, I do own an autographed copy of the original hard copy of the original The Art of Bird Photography and am also a BPN member. I learned many years ago to make perfect exposures on slide film from John Gerlach.

AM: If you made perfect exposures every time with slide film then you were the best ever :). I was good but getting a perfect exposure with film was much more difficult than it is with digital. With digital it is actually as easy as pie.

CJ: I do understand exposure theory quite well (at least on film).

AM: Exposure theory on film and exposure theory with digital capture are identical.

CJ: I want to make sure I am following a “best practice” approach to digital photography.

AM: See above! The information above is correct and will not change 🙂 Later and love, artie


Pat Ford is offering an absolute killer package deal on the following: a Canon EF 500mm/f/4 L IS lens, a Gitzo 1325 Carbon fiber tripod, a Wimberley V2 Head, and a Walt Anderson Ground Pod. He states, “The whole set-up hasn’t been out of the house a dozen times.” The amazing price for the package is only $6,000. Buyer pays for insured shipping. You can e-mail Pat at tpfordjr@bellsouth.net but cell phone is best: 305-323-9943 (Eastern time.)

If you snooze on this one you will lose.

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Tundra Swan pair, Barrow, AK
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 640. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/250 sec. at f/8 set manually.

Unlike most of the pairs of this Barrow breeding species, the pair was relatively tame. I am always on the lookout for pleasing compositional juxtapositions. Image optimization by Robert O’Toole.


Late this summer, I will again be returning with a small group to my old haunts–the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge–at the very peak of the juvenile shorebird migration. We will spend our afternoons at Nickerson Beach photographing a skimmer colony.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge/Nickerson Beach/Shorebird/Nesting Skimmer Photography-Tour (JBWR/NB IPT): August 22-24, 2010.

Slide program on the evening of August 21. 3-DAY: $1399. Limit: 6/Openings 1.

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

This trip is timed to coincide with the peak of the juvenile shorebird migration and with three perfect morning high tides. We will likely get to photograph the following shorebird species in fresh juvenile plumage: Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Stilt Sandpiper. Juvenile Pectoral and Western Sandpipers and several other species are possible. We should also get to photograph worn, molting adult White-rumped and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and Short-billed Dowitchers. Not only will you get to photograph these species, you will learn to age and identify them. Getting a copy of my “Shorebirds; Beautiful Beachcombers” and studying it in advance would give you a huge head start. You can order a signed copy here: https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/category.aspx?catid=32. On some mornings we may spend a bit of time on the back porch of my friend Denis Macrae’s home where we will get to photograph Laughing Gulls in both worn breeding and fresh juvenal plumage. Snowy and Great Egrets and both night-herons are possible there as well.

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

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

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

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Semipalmated Sandpiper, either breeding plumage or first summer, Nickerson Beach, Lido Beach, Long Island, NY
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/640 sec. at f/10.

Join me on the JBWR/Nickerson Beach Photo Tour and learn to identify and age migrant shorebirds. In addition you will learn how to approach and photograph them as well. We should have lots of tame juvenile shorebirds at Jamaica Bay’s East Pond. All that plus tons of skimmers at Nickerson Beach.


Join me for a very muddy afternoon of shorebird photography and in-the-field instruction at the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens, NY or at Nickerson Beach–just west of Point Lookout–for a morning, an afternoon, or a full day of skimmer photography. When: any weekday/August 16-19 (Friday is booked.) Rates: $500 per day includes two three hour photography sessions and one hour of image review/Photoshop. Morning or afternoons: $300. These include a three hour in-the-field session plus an hour of image sharing/Photoshop over lunch or dinner (by necessity). Two persons, full day: $400 each. Morning or afternoon sessions: $200 per person. Three persons (the limit), full day: $300 each. Morning or afternoon sessions: $150 per person. Multiple day registrations are welcome.

I have a single looking for another single on Tuesday or Wednesday August 17 or 18.

Likely subjects as above. Call us at 863-221-2372 or send an e-mail to samandmayasgrandpa@att.net to check on availability and/or to register. Please note that I will be out of the country until July 21st. Non-refundable payment in advance is due when you sign up. You will be required to fill out, sign, and return the registration and release forms to complete your registration: https://www.birdsasart.com/baacom/Registration%20and%20Release%20Forms.pdf.

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Common Tern blastoff in peach, Nickerson Beach, Lido Beach, Long Island, NY
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the Canon EOS-1D MIII. ISO 200. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/30 sec. at f/9.

This most pleasing (to most) intentional blur was created on last year’s JBWR/Nickerson Photo-Tour. Do consider joining us and learning to see creatively and to think like a pro.


From buddy “Bug” Bob Allen of Southern California:

Hi Artie,

Now that is a site worthy of you and of BIRDS AS ART!

BTW – On your recommendation I bought the Canon EOS 7D this week. I cannot believe how fast it autofocuses! I’ve used it mostly with the new(ish) Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro lens. I always used to focus manually with my macro lenses but am trying the 7D autofocus and finding that it is quite good. And yes, I also bought your 7D User’s Guide and am reading it now with interest.
Best, Bob Allen

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Common Tern on nest, Nickerson Beach, Lido Beach, Long Island, NY
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2 stops: 1/125 sec. at f/8. Fill flash at -2 stops with the Canon 580EX II Flash and the Better Beamer.

The trick to breaking compositional rules is to know why and when to break them. Here, the beach grasses on the right balance the composition nicely. The bird is “breaking the rules” by looking out of the near side of the frame. I do wish that the dark area upper left were either absent or in the upper right. The latter would have further improved the compositional balance.


From IPT veteran Stan Burman:

Hi Artie, I wanted to reply to your latest excellent bulletin and tell you how much I enjoyed getting to spend a recent morning with you on Jim Neiger’s boat at Blue Cypress Lake. It was great fun and excellent bird photography. I also wanted to mention how great Jim Neigers and James Shadles (Wild Florida) workshops were. I first learned about Jim’s Flight School Photography Workshops after purchasing his great Central Florida Site Guide from BAA a few years ago. On a previous visit to Florida Jim was very helpful with updated info on his recommended sites when I contacted him via email. That is when I decided to check out his website and saw his workshops.

Early this year I visited Florida and took his Best of Florida and Osprey Heaven workshops. Both Jim and James are excellent photographers and have terrific access to bird photography sites. They both went the extra mile to ensure that we photographers had plenty of opportunities to get great photos. The value of their workshops was outstanding. Please feel free to quote me if any other folks ask about them. And thanks again for the great instruction I received from you at Bosque del Apache a few years ago. Best, Stan

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

This is an image that I have dreamed of for years, a nice clean baby spoonbill about a day out of the nest. I was able to make it thanks to James Shadle’s knowledge of Alafia Banks and his expertise.


Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge/Nickerson Beach/Shorebird/Nesting Skimmer Photography-Tour (JBWR/NB IPT): August 22-24, 2010.

Slide program on the evening of August 21. 3-DAY: $1399. Limit: 6/Openings 5. Photograph and learn about migrant shorebirds, nesting skimmers, gulls, terns, and more. Three full days of photographic immersion. Co-leader: Denise Ippolito. Please see terms and deposit info below.

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: 4. Co-leaders: Robert OToole, 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. Please see terms and deposit info below.

SAN DIEGO IPT JAN 19-23, 2011. Slide program on the evening of JAN 18.

5 Full Days: $2399 (Limit 8/Openings 6) Brown Pelicans in spectacular breeding plumage with their bright red bill pouches, Wood and Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Western, California, and Heerman’s Gulls, Marbled Godwit, and lots, lots more. Please see terms and deposit info below.


Slide program on the evening of FEB 17. 6 Full Days: 2899. (Limit 10/Openings 7). Escape winter’s icy grip to enjoy a wide array of Florida’s tame birds: herons, egrets, Wood Stork, shorebirds, gulls, terns, skimmers, raptors, and more. Please see terms and deposit info immediately below:

Terms and deposit info:

A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to hold a spot fn the above IPTs. 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 is Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that 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: http://www.travelinsure.com/what/selecthigh.asp?32940. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check or running your credit card. Travel insurance protects you against unexpected developments, injuries, or illnesses. 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 forms asap. Your registration will not be complete until we receive your paper work. You can find the forms here: https://www.birdsasart.com/baacom/Registration%20and%20Release%20Forms.pdf.

2010 & 2011 Galapagos Photo Cruise of a Lifetime IPTs/The Complete Galapagos Photographic Experience

July 2010 & July 2011: two weeks on the boat (Limits: 12/both sold out).

If you are a happy camper and would like to have your name(s) placed on a waiting list or either the 2010 or 2011 trip or on the the seriously interested list for the 2012 trip, please e-mail us at birdsasart@att.net.


March 18-22, 2011 & March 24-28. 5-FULL DAYS: $3249. Limit: 12 (including the leaders/both sold out). Both of these trips sold out with long waiting lists within hours after being announced to the BAA Friends List. The Friends List consists of IPT veterans who fit in the happy camper category. If you have been on an IPT and would like your name added to the BAA Friends List, please e-mail me at birdsasart@att.net and include a short note.

2 comments to Birds As Art Bulletin #331