July 23rd, 2010

Birds As Art Bulletin #332


  • GALAPAGOS 2012

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Waved Albatross, Punta Suarez, Hood Island, Galapagos
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/7.1 set manually.

This bird is performing the bill-clacking display that is part of its intricate courtship dance. A fast shutter speed was needed to freeze the motion. The morning landing on Hood Island was–as expected–one of the great highlights of the 2010 two week Galapagos Photo-Cruise.


Our wondrous Galapagos Photo-Cruise ended on Tuesday morning, July 20 with a great panga ride at Black Turtle Cove. We flew to Quito later that morning arriving at about 2:30 pm. We enjoyed fine dining at Theatrum and headed to bed for our early morning flights home. I was asleep by 9:30 but unable to sleep well at high altitude I awoke at 1:36 am and was out of bed at 2:06 am Quito time (one hour behind Florida time). I started working on a blog entry that I would post later that day from my home in Indian Lake Estates, Florida.

The earliest departing group of seven headed to the airport at 4:15 am. Most were flying American. I was on Copa (Quito to Panama City, Panama to Orlando); I do my best to stay out of Miami. Check in at Copa took more than forever. After paying the airport departure tax, making my way through customs and security, and grabbing a quick breakfast, I arrived at my gate after boarding had already begun. I slept most of the way to Panama City. The nearly three hour flight to Orlando was uneventful; I slept a bit more, worked on some images, and started a great book.

When I walked into the customs hall in Orlando I was pleasantly surprised to see it virtually empty. Within minutes I was getting my luggage off the carousel, confident that I would be on my way home in minutes. Wrong 🙂 The customs officers asked me about my job (photo-journalist) and whether I had any “tools of the trade with me.” “Yes officer, about $20,000 worth of photography gear. I have my documentation with me. “Sit over there please.” In about ten minutes another CBP officer arrived and asked me to open my Think Tank rolling bag. I did. He requested to see my cameras. I took the two Mark IV bodies and the 7D body out of their wool hats and showed him. Then I took out my documentation and showed it to him in the form of several form Form 4457s and a copy of my Insurance Policy equipment page with serial numbers. He noted that the cameras were listed only on the insurance policy list and had not been registered as had the lenses and other accessories. I explained that the CBP web site indicated that both a copy of an insurance policy or a copy of the original receipts were–according to the CBP web site–acceptable documentation. He disappeared to see a supervisor for about 25 minutes. When he returned he told me that I was good to go as they saw on their computers that I had previously registered items at CBP Detroit on a trip into Canada in 2009. He did say that they were unable to find any mention of either insurance policy equipment lists or receipts on their web site. When I checked on Friday morning, the information on that had been there in 2009 had been edited out. As near as I can tell, only properly filled out and signed Form 4457s are acceptable as documentation.

The officer was pleasant and helpful but the delay added to an otherwise long travel day. After a stop at Publix for eggplant, broccoli, and chicken I arrived home just after 5pm nearly five hours after I had left the hotel in Quito.

Please see the Customs Advice feature below if you wish to avoid being hassled at customs when you return from an overseas photography trip.

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Swallow-tailed Gull landing, Darwin Bay, Tower Island, Galapagos
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO lens (handheld) with the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +3 stops off the white sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/4.

At Darwin Bay I used all three of my telephoto lenses. Both the 400 DO and the 70-200 f/4 L IS were great for photographing the birds that were constantly landing right in front of us during our morning at Darwin Bay, one of the premier wildlife photography destinations on the planet

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Above is a JPEG that represents the original capture. Note the canvas and the added primary tips. I used a variety of techniques from Robert O’Toole’s APTATS I and from APTATS II. I worked very large and very slowly with a series of small Quick Masks and a bit of cloning. Note also the brightening and sharpening of the face. (All techniques are described in Digital Basics.)


Co-leader Denise Ippolito and I were joined in Quito, Ecuador late on July 4th, 2010 by eleven excited photographers. As it turned out, ten were happy campers. Seven folks joined Denise and me for a day of hummingbird photography at Tandayapa. (See the July 4th blog post “Quito Hummers, Galapagos, and BAA Bulletin 330) by scrolling down here. The other five participants enjoyed a Quito city tour. The following morning, we flew to Baltra, took a short bus ride, and boarded the Beagle–the motor sailing yacht that would be our home for the next two weeks.

The trip was truly a blessed one. We had great weather and day after day of fabulous photography and snorkeling. Though I had pitched Juan Salcedo as the world’s very best Galapagos guide the group agreed that he had exceeded their expectations. They were most impressed with the huge amount of knowledge crammed into his brain, not only with his comprehensive knowledge of the Galapagos archipelago but with his comprehensive knowledge of just about any topic that came up for conversation. The great spots delivered as expected and almost all of the landings that would not be at the top of a photographer’s list consistently offered gems of photographic opportunity.

The group dynamics were great and not even the single unhappy camper could spoil things. One participant showed up knowing little about photography, how to operate her gear, or how to download, edit, and process her images. Denise and I worked with her extensively during the first week. By the second week most of the folks in the groups were tired of her behavior in the field where she disregarded both the rules and direct instructions, consistently blocked others by moving to positions in front of them, and consistently refused to get out of the way when asked to do so by others. I will treat the episode as a learning experience and make a few changes in our pre-trip informational packet.

An e-mail that I received from IPT veteran Jim White (who was joined on this trip by his lovely wife Linda) will serve as a fine Trip Report conclusion:

Artie, Metropolitan Touring picked us up at the Colon Hilton as planned and they smiling despite the early hour. (At least our pickup was at a much more civilized time than your 4:14 am one!) We arrived in Chicago with only a minor delay in Miami. We traveled with Kevin and with Richard and Dot until we got swallowed up by the “Passport Control Queue”. Your dinner event was a very fitting ending to a successful Galapagos Photo Adventure and provided a wonderful venue for saying good bye to the individuals in the group.

All in all it was a wonderful way to spend two weeks. The group spanned several generations with folks ages ranging from the mid 40s to the early 70s.! Your effort to make this trip successful was appreciated by all. I believe that you lost the three pounds because of your intense participation in all the events as well as running and taking care of the group! No one among us worked harder than you did to create evocative images and to make the trip as good as possible for everyone.

I am glad to be one of your clients. Every trip, every instructional session, and every communication with you has always directly benefited both my photography and me personally. At my age, I only associate with the best 🙂 As always, you have my continued support and appreciation. Jim

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Lava Gull, head & shoulders, Darwin Bay, Tower Island, Galapagos
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/5.6 set manually.

This species, with only 400 breeding pairs, is the world’s rarest gull. They are seen regularly in many Galapagos locations. The handsomest individuals are almost always on Tower. One or two ride on the ship on most trips by perching on a hoisted panga (Zodiac).


I kept a fairly extensive trip journal while cruising on the Beagle. I will be posting day by day entries pretty much every day for the next two weeks or so. I am off to a good start already. You can check out the July 21st post, Great News & Galapagos Day 1/July 6: Bachas and the July 22 post, Galapagos Day 2/Morning, July 7: Darwin Bay, Tower Island simply by clicking here.


If, after or before reading all of the Galapagos journal entries on the blog and checking out the images, you are seriously interested in joining me on the 2012 Galapagos Photo-Cruise of a Lifetime in either June or July, please e-mail me at birdsasart@att.net . Happy campers only please 🙂 The trip will be offered first to the BAA Friends List. Patrick and Robin Sparkman who traveled with me this year are seriously considering re-upping for 2012. The 2011 July trip has been long since sold out. I firmly believe that there is no other Galapagos photography trip that even comes close to offering what my two week trips offer.


If you will be leaving the country with your photography gear and plan on returning with it would behoove you to read the following carefully and to get your schwerve on before you leave 🙂

Several years ago I was hassled in Miami about my photo gear. The complete story can be found here: https://www.birdsasart.com/baacom/njuly31.htm and here: https://www.birdsasart.com/baacom/bn238.htm.

Much of the info provided there is no longer accurate. And one of the links is bad. Even original receipts may no longer be good as documentation. And as noted above, a copy of your equipment insurance policy is no longer any good. I cannot even find it stated that stuff that is more than six months old does not need documentation.

Therefore be advised that to be absolutely safe you need to print several copies of this form: Form 4457: http://forms.cbp.gov/pdf/CBP_Form_4457.pdf (Guard this link with your life; it took me weeks to find it. Most of the links on the CBP website for this form are either dead or incorrect.) Next find the closest post office to your home here: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/ports/. Be sure to call ahead and let them know that you are coming. Then bring all of your gear along with the filled out forms to have them signed. Also, I advise that everyone read this information carefully: travelers checklist: http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg/travelers_checklist.xml.

Good luck with your international travels.

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Marine Iguana, Punta Espinoza, Fernandina, Galapagos
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 250. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/400 sec. at f/6.3.

When working in bright sunshine, I try to remember to lower my ISO setting. And I make sure to point my shadow right at the subject to attain the most pleasing results.


Brian Small has a used Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM lens for sale. He is the original and only owner. It is in excellent working condition and glass is perfect. It was into Canon’s Irvine, CA facility in May for a “clean & check” service. There are the expected minor wear and tear marks on the paint but nothing drastic. It would rate at about 8 1/2 or 9 on a scale of 10. The lens has always been protected by a LensCoat. The price is $6499 plus shipping costs and includes hard case, the LensCoat, all original straps, caps and paperwork that came with the lens. Insured shipping will be as to the buyer’s preference. PayPal or check/money order will be accepted. A check would have to clear before the lens is shipped. Contact Brian by phone as follows: home/day (310) 440-9443 or cell (310) 849-0306. Or e-mail him at bsmallfoto@aol.com.

He is upgrading to the 800 at least in part because of my recommendation 🙂 BTW, the lens new is currently selling for $8,050.00 at both Hunt’s and at B&H.

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Sally Lightfoot Crab, Puerto Egas, Santiago, Galapagos
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 50. Evaluative metering – 2 stops off the crab and the black rock without a breaking wave: 1/30 sec. at f/8.

This image was inspired by an Andy Rouse image that I saw in his book, Concepts of Nature. I knew that I needed to underexpose to avoid losing detail in the white water of the breaking waves. My very favorite image from this series will run on the blog fairly soon.


BIRDS AS ART has recently added B & H Photo as a sponsor joining Hunt’s whose Gary Farber has been a big supporter for years not only of BAA but of NANPA, the NANPA scholarship students, and many other worthy photographic causes.

Eagle-eyed visitors will have noted that recent Bulletins and blog posts include active links to the B&H web site for most mentioned equipment. I have always urged folks ready to spend many thousands of dollars on a new lens or the latest camera body to comparison shop, to price an item at Hunt’s and to price it at B&H and to be sure to get a complete quote that includes the shipping charges and any tax. Hunt’s does not offer a click-through program similar to that offered by B&H but you can always check their prices at http://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/. Gary will continue running his great BAA Specials in selected Bulletins. In the last Hunt’s Specials he was selling Canon EOS-1D Mark IV bodies at a lower price than B&H. It always pays to compare.

We ask the following. Once you have comparison shopped, if you decide to order through Hunt’s, please let them know that you were referred by BIRDS AS ART. If you decide to purchase from B&H, please either click on a direct product link like the ones in this Bulletin and the current blog posts, or shop and search using the logo link below. We will soon have the same link on the home page of the BAA Blog and the new BAA website. If the latter, the small percentage of your purchase price helps to fund production of both the BAA Bulletins and blog posts 🙂 And it is a great way to thank us for 15 years of equipment advice. Your purchase price will be unchanged.

As always, do feel free to e-mail us with equipment questions. We are in a better position to answer them than the folks at any camera store. We just don’t sell cameras and lenses. We do appreciate you continued patronage of the BAA On-Line Store for your tripod, tripod head, photographic accessory, and educational materials purchases.

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Clicking on the link above to make all of your B&H purchases helps to fund the production of both BAA Bulletins and the BAA Blog, so thanks!


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. Room for just one more.

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 juvenal 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 have gotten reports of lots of skimmer chicks and lots of action both mornings and afternoons so 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. The introductory slide program 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 while seated behind their lowered tripods. 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 the extremely small group–six as I type–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 (6) by no more than one.


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 for a morning or afternoon at Nickerson Beach–just west of Point Lookout for some great Black Skimmer photography. When: any weekday/August 16, 18, or 19th. Tuesday and Friday are 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.

BAA reserves the right to book up to three folks for all session.

Likely subjects are as above. Call me on my cell phone at 863-221-2372–I should have a new cell phone soon–or send an e-mail to me at samandmayasgrandpa@att.net to check on availability and/or to register. 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.


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. Photograph and learn about migrant shorebirds, nesting skimmers, gulls, terns, and more. Three full days of photographic immersion. 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: 3. 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.

SW FLA President’s Week IPT: FEB 18-23, 2011

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 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 #332

  • Diana Atwood Johnson

    I took your advice, filled out Form 4457 and went down to my post office, as you suggested above to make an appointment. The local postmaster said, and I quote, “There is no way I am signing that form.” I was and am rather miffed at his attitude, but I have now discovered that you need to change “post” to “port” in this bulletin.
    Perhaps a port official will be more gracious, or not. My postmaster felt that I might put things in my suitcase after he inspected it, and he had no control over that. True, but what difference would it make? Oh well.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I typed “port office.” :). If you had followed the link and my advice to call first you would have saved yourself a trip for stamps…..