OCTOBER 18, 2004
PHOTO THEME: lessons in bird photography...
Each and every BIRDS AS ART Bulletin features images with highly instructive and educational captions. In additional to reinforcing some old but basic points, the images and accompanying lessons below are packed with some brand new techniques that I have only recently developed, so do read the captions carefully...  And best of all, these lessons are totally free.
To contact BIRDS AS ART, use  If you respond to the sending address for Bulletins, we will likely not receive your e-mail.
For more than 21 years I have made a living by focusing on the bird's eye and choosing and using the wide open (or close to it) aperture.  My general rule is to use apertures no smaller than f/5.6 unless I can clearly state a reason for doing so.  The two most common examples are "The birds are on different planes and I want to try and make both of them sharp" and "I am  point blank range on a small bird therefore I need more D-O-F to ensure that both the eye and the near shoulder are in sharp focus." 
Study the two images below and see which background you like best.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron sub-adult, Blind Pass, Captiva Island, FL 
Image copyright 2004 Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Both:  Canon 600mm f/4 L IS lens EOS 1D Mark II.  ISO 250.  Evaluative metering -2/3 stop (for dark blackish-green background).
Image on left:  1/125 sec. at f/11.  Image on right: 1/1000 sec. at f/4.  
My preference is for the image on the right (or the bottom), but the more I look at the one on the left (or top), the more that I like it...  With the shallower depth of field in the right-hand (or bottom) image, the background is rendered smoother and, to my eye, more pleasing.  Do note that the subject is pretty much equally sharp in both images...
Ruddy Turnstone, foraging juvenile, Sanibel, FL
Image copyright 2004 Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS lens with 2X II TC and EOS 1D Mark II on Panning Ground Pod.  Central sensor only (by necessity)/AI Servo AF. ISO 250.  Evaluative metering +1/3 stop set manually: 1/320 sec. at f/16.  
I usually work at f/11 with the 2X TC but opted for f/16 here to ensure adequate DOF at close range.  This is especially important when limited to the central sensor only.  Here, the sensor was on the bird's shoulder which is a lot closer to the image sensor than the eye.  Working at f/16 yielded enough sharpness to "cover" the entire bird.  By working at ground level, however, the background is still rendered pleasingly out of focus.  From now on, it will be f/16 or smaller when working on my belly in sunny conditions.
In Bulletin 148, I suggested cleaning the electrical contacts on lenses and teleconverters with a pencil eraser.  Several folks wrote stating that doing so might quickly wear the thin layer of gold off of the contacts.  I contacted Chuck Westfall, Canon USA's top tech rep.  Here is his response:
"We do not recommend using any sort of abrasive material to clean the contacts on EF lenses and extenders as well as the lens mount contacts in the camera body. Try rubbing them gently with a clean, dry, soft cloth first. This technique is sufficient to remove fingerprint oil, which is the most common source of dirty contacts. If the problem is more persistent, try rubbing the contacts with a lens
tissue that has been slightly moistened (not soaked) with isopropyl alcohol. Remove any residue with a clean, dry, soft cloth. If the problem still persists, have the equipment examined by a Canon service technician."

Best Regards,

Chuck Westfall
Director/Technical Marketing Dept.


Barn Owl, captive, at the Florida Birding Festival
Image copyright 2004 Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 100-400mm IS L zoom lens on Gitzo 1325 CF tripod with Mongoose M-262.  EOS 1D Mark II.  ISO 400.  Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/60 sec. at f/10.
Though I do not go out of my way to photograph captive birds and have turned down many invitations to do just that at various rehab centers, when I see perfect specimens on display at various speaking engagements, I simply cannot resist.  The lesson here is to take care with your backgrounds...  Most folks just see the bird, and begin pressing the shutter button.  You must--especially when working in cluttered places--learn to actually see the background before creating and image.  As the bird was under a tent, do note the use of a tripod to ensure sharp images in the relatively low light.  Lazy photographers are sloppy photographers...
SPACE COAST BIRDING FESTIVAL  November 17-21, Titusville, FL
I will be appearing briefly at the Space Coast Birding Festival this year as I will be flying to Bosque on Friday...  (The folks at Space Coast have permanently changed the week of their festival...)     I will be doing a keynote presentation (Crossing the Digital Divide) on Wednesday night, a three hour nature photography seminar (Putting Art in Your Nature Photography; It Ain't Just Birds!), and leading (with co-leader Rocky Sharwell) two In-the-Field Workshops (early on Wednesday and Thursday mornings).  My appearance at the festival is being generously sponsored by Canon USA.  There are lots of great speakers (including Jeff Bouton, Kevin Karlson, and Peter Dunne) and tons of opportunities to learn about bird photography and to photograph in the field (Kevin Doxstater, Milton Heiberg, Renier Munguia, and Joanne Williams).  All bird photographers within half-day's drive should be there for sure.  Rocky will be manning the BIRDS AS ART booth for the entire weekend so that all will be able to pick up books, prints, and virtually all photo accessories while saving on shipping.  Be sure to drop by and say "Hi."  
You do not want to miss this great event.  For details on all of the above, or to register, click here:  
Terns and skimmers, Fort DeSoto Park, FL
Image copyright 2004 Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 100-400mm L IS zoom lens (at 400mm) with EOS 1D Mark II (handheld).  Central Sensor/One-Shot AF!  ISO 100.  Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops off of the sand & birds on the ground set manually: 1/20 sec. at f/16.   
As usual, one series of images (see below), so many lessons...  When making blurs (which I love to do), I have always had a problem with AI Servo AF.  At times it holds, at other times not, and worst of all, it sometimes grabs at a bird in front of the flock...  I often hesitate and the best images are lost.  (The best blast-off images are almost always made in the first three seconds.)  I am not comfortable focusing manually as in this case, indecision again sets in.  Inspired by Jim Neiger, who uses One-Shot AF to make sharp flight images with his 10D, I tried One-shot AF at DeSoto last weekend and was delighted with the results.  I used the central sensor only to focus where I wanted and then make a few images.  Once the birds moved closer or farther away, I would simply re-focus and make a few more images. 
As I have done for about the past five years, I will be hosting a Thanksgiving Day Buffet lunch at the historic Val Verde Steakhouse in Socorro for birders, photographers and friends.  The food is incredibly good, with tons of turkey and stuffing and yams and all the fixings as well as table-fuls of great desserts--save me lord!  This year we will meet at 12:30 pm.  All are invited.  Bring some pix to show off (or your laptop).  I hope that you can join us this year.  ValVerde is located two blocks off of the main drag (California Street) at 203 Manzanares Avenue East in a small courtyard of the old hotel. Pretty much anyone in town can point you to the Steakhouse...
Skimmers and terns, Fort DeSoto Park, FL
Image copyright 2004 Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 100-400mm L IS zoom lens (at 190mm) with EOS 1D Mark II (handheld).  Central Sensor/One-Shot AF!  ISO 125.  Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops off of the sand & birds on the ground set manually: 1/15 sec. at f/16.  
The 100-400mm zoom lens (as well as the Nikon 80-400 VR lens) are incredibly versatile.   Note here that the closer birds are more blurred than the birds in the back.  Apparent blur is as much a function of proximity as it is to shutter speed....
I fly to Düsseldorf, Germany this Wednesday to speak at the GDT Festival in Lunen.  I will be doing a keynote presentation and a digital photography seminar (in English with a translator). Many European subscribers have written that they will be attending.  If you do attend--it is not too late to register--be sure to say "Hi."  Here is a link to the festival information:  If your German is as good as mine, you will need to click on the English language link just above the Kodak symbol. 
Skimmers and terns, Fort DeSoto Park, FL
Image copyright 2004 Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 100-400mm L IS zoom lens at 400mm with EOS 1D Mark II (handheld).  Central Sensor/One-Shot AF!  ISO 125.  Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops off of the sand & birds on the ground (before they took flight) set manually: 1/30 sec. at f/13.   
When the weather is crummy, don't despair.  Think blurs or try to expand your creative vision in other ways...


From buddy Robert O'Toole, a talented young professional fashion photographer from Los Angeles:

I have been meaning to tell you something! That spoonbill image on the latest bulletin is my new favorite Artie-photo, and I think one of my favorites if not my fave of all time. Wow. Its so amazing for me that the image gives you the impression that you are there at 6 am, like you can just feel the atmosphere or ambiance or whatever, when that gorgeous bird is coming in for a landing. Does that make sense? You are the best!  Artie, I have to tell you that since I have met you and have been privileged to photograph side by side with you, I am such a different (and better!) photographer. Thanks so much!

From Richard Mc Donald Down Under:

How's this for a plug for your Digital Basics PDF (that I purchased last month)? 

Because I live in one of Australia's most isolated towns with a population of three thousand, there's no access to camera and Photoshop courses nor do I have contact with or know of other photographers who photograph dSLR birds.  Over the past ten months I've purchased and downloaded quite a few pdf files in the hope that they might ease the sheer frustration I was having with my digital editing.  All of these files were nearly useless because nothing new was learnt, so I was pretty skeptical that the Birds As Art Digital Basics PDF was going to be any better.  What a pleasant surprise: the information in the file has bought my editing to a point where I'm now getting full benefit from my Canon 1D MKII and 400L 5.6 lens.  What I gained most out of the PDF file was your image editing style, learning how to correct color casts using white point and black point adjustments, and learning to use Selective Colour adjustments while optimizing an image. I've actually gone back through a lot of my pre-PDF images and have been surprised and delighted at the difference your editing techniques have made.  Many thanks for the time you've put into the document and for choosing to share.
From Todd Gustafson, best pal and Kenya/Tanzania Photo Safari organizer and co-leader:
Hey Art, thanks for turning me on to Breezebrowser/Downloader Pro!   For the past couple of years I had been hearing about Breezebrowser.  For Canon photographers, it was billed as the cure-all for their digital editing workflow. Being a Nikon user I never gave it much thought until my big Nikon lens went down on the Kenya trip and I wound up using borrowed Canon equipment.  "John-Africa" (client-friend John Bryant of South Africa) let me edit my images on his laptop with Breezebrowser and I was amazed at how easy it was.  I was even more amazed when I discovered that it could also read the Nikon files!  As soon as I got home I ordered the Breezebrowser/Downloader Pro bundle off of your web site.  And while Breezebrowser does not convert the Nikon raw files, it is the only editing program that I use!  The ease and speed with which you can view, delete, move, copy, rename or re-order files is a timesaving wonder. And Downloader Pro is also a phenomenal times saver.  Put the card in, and six seconds later your images are zipping onto your hard drive.  Now I have lots more time to play trumpet, build aquariums, and go out photographing!
From Richard Rein, whom I met at the recent Florida Birding Festival:
What a terrific and enjoyable learning adventure Rena & I had under your tutelage in St Petersburg last week!  Both your Keynote and Saturday presentations were entertaining, enjoyable and most importantly, informative. And thank you for all of your personal attention at Fort Desoto, particularly regarding  exposure guidelines, compositional tips, in-the-field etiquette suggestions and bird & photographic insights.   The Digital Basics PDF file arrived this morning.  Scanning through it, it looks very interesting and useful. I am anxious to dive into the meat of it. In my business, I've used photoshop off and on since v4.0 and now own v6.1.    From what you mentioned in the Digital session about Selective Color (editor's note: and Shadow/Highlight)it sounds as if v8.0 (PhotoShop CS) might be a good investment.  Thanks again for all your help, your patience and for sharing so many of your insights.
Skimmers and terns, Fort DeSoto Park, FL
Image copyright 2004 Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 100-400mm L IS zoom lens at 300mm EOS 1D Mark II (handheld).  Central Sensor/One-Shot AF!  ISO 125.  Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops off of the sand & birds on the ground (before they took flight) set manually: 1/30 sec. at f/13.   
When making intentional blurs, it is almost always best to work in Manual Mode after determining the exposure.  That way, the exposure will be correct whether the background is beach, sky, or pine trees...  (If I had been working in Tv mode with Evaluative Metering + 1 1/3 stops, this image would have been grossly over-exposed.

Delkin 1gb e-film Pro Compact Flash Cards

$159.99 per card (plus $7.50 shipping & handling per order). 
$40 Manufacturer's Rebate per card! 
Through October 31, 2004.
(No per-person limit.)
Prices before the rebate(s):
 1 card:   $167.49   2 cards: $327.48
 3 cards: $487.47   4 cards: $647.46
(Florida residents will need to add 6.5% sales tax to the cost of the cards only: $170.39 per card plus the $7.50 per order shipping.)
Delkin 640mb e-film Pro Compact Flash Cards
$119.99 per card plus $7.50 shipping per order. 
One card:$127.49 ppd.        Two cards: $247.48 ppd. 
Three cards:$367.47 ppd.   Four cards: $487.46 ppd.
 (Florida residents will need to add 6.5% sales tax to the cost of the cards only: $127.79 per card plus the $7.50 per order shipping.)
All three Bosque Del Apache NWR, NM 2004 IPTs   (NOV 21-23 and NOV 27-29 with co-leader Ellen Anon and DEC 3-5, 2004 with Greg Downing) are Sold Out
The SW Florida IPTs   Post X-mas: DEC 28-30, 2004 3-DAY: $869 (Sold Out)   PRESIDENT'S HOLIDAY: FEB 18-22, 2005, 5-DAY: $1399 w/Ellen Anon co-leading (Sold out with one participant joining us from Finland!) 
The San Diego IPT : January 6-9, 2005, 4-DAY: $1299  (Sold Out)
Homer, AK, Bald Eagle IPT w/co-leader Greg Downing  FEB 4-8 (one opening) & 9-13, 2005.  5-DAY: $1599.  (please e-mail for details)

Lake Martin, La, Nesting Spoonbill IPT  3 -DAY: $899  MAR 19-21, 2005 (Sold Out)  May 13-15, 2005  (4 Openings) 

Fort DeSoto/Sarasota IPT:   April 1-3 3-DAY: $869  (4 Openings).  Join me at my new favorite bird photography hot spot!

St. Augustine Alligator Farm IPT  April 28 (aft) thru May 1, 2005.  3 1/2-DAYS: $1049  (Limit 12, 9 openings)

Register early!  You snooze, you lose!

Nome, Alaska  IPT June 10-20, 2006: (Please note the year: 2006 is not a typo!)  Sold Out, but please contact me if you are interested in joining us as part of a second group being led by Greg Downing. We will be sharing our talents on this trip and sharing nest sites and other info via GPS.  In addition, we will be holding joint critiquing and Photoshop sessions.  Long lenses are a necessity.

Antarctica/South Georgia/Falkland Islands Zegrahms Cruise with Arthur Morris and Greg Downing:  January 2007.  Please e-mail for details.

Kenya August 2005 Fly/Drive Photo Safari with Todd Gustafson (dates & details TBA soon):  Lake Baringo, Lake Nakuru, and Maasai Mara.  Please e-mail for details.

For general IPT info, deposit and registration details, and cancellation policies, please visit:

If you would like your name placed on a waiting list for one or more trips, please e-mail, indicate the trip or trips that you are interested in, and be sure to include both your day and evening phone numbers.  We often have late cancellations...

Scallop, Fort DeSoto Park, FL

Canon 600mm f/4 L IS lens with 1.4X II TC and EOS 1D Mark II.  ISO 250.  Evaluative metering at 0: 1/125 sec. at f/18.

You've heard of happy as a clam, how about smiling like a scallop?  While I love birds, my eyes are always open for new and interesting subjects, especially when there are very few birds around. With a very low tide at North Beach this past Saturday morning, birds were few and far between.   This one sort of reminds me of the plant in the great movie, "Little Shop of Horrors." 
Best and love and great picture-making to all,  

Note: Arthur Morris has been a Canon contract photographer since 1994 and continues in that role today.  Hunt's Photo of Boston, MA is a BIRDS AS ART sponsor, as is Delkin Devices.  Do feel free to forward this Bulletin to one or more photographer-friends. Those wishing to subscribe click here: mailto:  To unsubscribe, click here:   Back issues of all BAA Bulletins and relevant BAA Notes are archived on the web site at: