APRIL 26, 2005
Photo Theme: my very favorite images from the Texas Rio Grande Valley Ranches trip.  
Loggerhead Shrike with Texas Horned Toad, Forshage Ranch, Edinburg, TX      
Image copyright 2005: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens with 2X II TC and EOS 1D Mark II.  ISO 400.
Evaluative Metering at zero: 1/400 sec. at f/11 in Av Mode. Fill flash at -3 stops with High Speed Synch. 
I about had a cow when this guy jumped from the backlit side of the road and perched right down my shadow line, but even when you are blessed with incredible good luck, you need to have the basics down pat... 
Bronzed Cowbird displaying, Ramirez Ranch, Roma, TX      
Image copyright 2005: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens with stacked 1.4X TC and 2X II TCs with EOS 1D Mark II.  Manual Focus. ISO 400.
Evaluative Metering +1 stop: 1/250 sec. at f/10 in Av Mode. Fill flash at -3 stops with Better Beamer. 


I resort to using stacked multipliers only when distant birds are, as this one was, especially attractive for one reason or another. Displaying birds of this species remind me of Victorian women with their extravagant ruffs. Virtually the entire sky was flashing black on the LCD display warning that it was over-exposed and detail-less, but that was a necessity in order to come up with the right exposure for the black subject in low light.

I returned a few days ago from a 17-day trip to the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas photographing on several private ranches that offer incredible bird and nature photography opportunities. Several of the ranches that I visited are Lens and Land participating properties.  They were Steve Bentsen's Dos Venadas, Las Colmenas managed by Lowry and Jessica McAllen, John and Audrey Martin's two refuges, Homestead and Javelina, and Kent Weaver's ranch.  I had bad luck (clouds and high winds) at Dos Venadas.  Others who visited during the Edinburg Nature Festival raved about the opportunities that they had in many of Steve's blinds, especially the water level blinds.  I had great luck at Las Colmenas in both the morning and afternoon blinds.  One of Lowry's dogs was bitten by a rattler on the nose and was in bad shape for a few days but is doing well now.  I did well at the Martin's Homestead property, and got to photograph Scaled Quail on an afternoon visit to Javelina.  A beautiful dragonfly kept returning to the same perch there so I got the 300 f/4 IS and some extension tubes from the car and set up on the perch.  I concentrated and concentrated but the little bugger never returned.  My friend Linda was photographing a swarm of bees when I heard her call not too loudly, "Artie, there's a rattler." I backed up slowly, looked down, and saw a five footer slithering between the legs of my Gitzo 1325 tripod!  I had been so intent on photographing the dragonfly that I never even saw the big snake until Linda spoke...  Kent Weaver has some great songbird blinds (best on cloudy days) and a really good raptor set-up.  At present his raptor blind can accommodate only a single photographer; I have urged him to utilize a larger blind there.  Kent, an experienced snake handler, rounded about a six foot Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake for us to photograph.   You can learn more about visiting the Lens and Land ranches mentioned above by visiting  I believe that the daily fee for visiting the Lens and Land ranches is $125 per person and that of this group, only Las Colmenas offers lodging (a great deal at $75 per night).
Here are the cell phone numbers for the Lens and Land ranchers mentioned above: Steve Bentsen--956-648-0434, Lowry McAllen--956-227-9549, John and Audrey Martin--956-330-2055, and Kent Weaver--956-330-6937.  Do leave a message with a call-back number if you cannot get through. 
Painted Bunting, male, Ramirez Ranch, Roma, TX      
Image copyright 2005: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens with 2X II TC and EOS 1D Mark II.  ISO 250.
Evaluative Metering at zero: 1/400 sec. at f/8. in Av Mode. Fill flash at -3 stops. 


The last time that I had a chance to photograph this little beauty was at Roel's several years ago.  I screwed it up.  It is rare to get do-overs in bird photography, but this time I focused on the bird's eye with One-Shot AF and made a good image.  When I see them coming, my heart begins to beat much faster... 


Near Edinburg, I also had the privilege of visiting Eddie Forshage's caliche farm and had some great barbed-wire photography on his entrance road.  (Caliche is a limestone-like rock that is mined for road paving.)  I spent two days at the Cozad Ranch ( visiting with hosts John and Jane and the assembled cast of Harris's Hawks, Crested Caracaras, and vultures.   I also spent two days at Roel Ramirez's ranch in Roma.  In reality, Roel is the father of Rio Grande Valley Bird Photography Ecotourism.  After I visited his ranch several years ago, he became the first to encourage photographers to visit his ranch after paying a nominal fee. Though Roel is moving from Roma to McAllen, his ranch will continue to be available to visiting photographers.  You can contact the Cozads by e-mail at or by phone at either 877-417-5053 or 956-481-3320.  You can contact Roel Ramirez by e-mail at or via cell phone at 956-607-0050.
While my April visit was wonderful, the migrant passerines were beginning to arrive just as I left.  Painted Buntings were coming to water at several ranches.  There were six male painteds plus a pair of Scarlet Tanagers and a few Blue Grosbeaks at Las Colmenas on my last afternoon there. So what's the message?  While it is great to visit the Valley ranches to photograph at any time of the year, the next few weeks will offer many wonderful opportunities to visiting photographers seeking the Rio Grande Valley specialty birds and some incredible nature photography.  If you are in the area, do not waste your time visiting the refuges and state parks where photography is extremely difficult at best.  Do take advantage of the hospitality, the blinds, the feeding stations and water features, the rich and varied habitats, and the diverse wildlife that these generous Valley ranchers have to share with you.
Inca Dove on feeder log, Las Colmenas Ranch, Edinburg, TX      
Image copyright 2005: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens with EOS 1D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative Metering at 0: 1/250 sec. at f/10.


I have worked closely with Lowry McAllen in developing his ranch for ecotourism. After just a bit of tutoring, he came up with some great set-ups on his own.  Here, he found a lovely log with some long slots in it, positioned the log with the slots just out of sight, and placed seed in them.....


By chance, I fielded an order for a better beamer the other day while Jim was at the post office.  I spoke to a pleasant man with an Indian accent.  He told me that he had made a life of photography.  I asked him to send me a few links to his work via e-mail and he did.  Now I am usually not a whole lot impressed by the work of photo-journalists but when I saw John's work I was blown away.  The images were spectacular and filled with emotion, for John spent a good part of his life photographing tragedies of epic and global proportions.   I sent a link or two to Ellen Anon and she wrote back saying that her friend Charlotte had done an article on John for an on-line magazine, "Double Exposure."  I read the article and was further amazed by John Isaac as a person and as a photographer.  After tiring of all the suffering and tears and starvation, John gave up photography a few years back, but returned soon afterwards after seeing a swallowtail butterfly in a neighbor's yard.  He is now pursuing new projects, and has switched totally to digital.  He just returned from a tiger photography trip to India and spends quite a bit of time photographing birds!
Here are just a few of the links that amazed me:
and here is a link to John's web site:
I tip my hat to this amazing man.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Weaver Ranch, Raymondville, TX      
Image copyright 2005: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens with 2X II and EOS 1D Mark II. ISO 250.
Evaluative Metering -1/3 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/14 in Av Mode. 


When Kent Weaver offered to drive me around in his truck, I grabbed a 25 pound bag of whole corn to use as a beanbag!  It worked just fine.  The lovely background here is a mesquite tree, the  painterly look  a result of the high winds.  This image was made in bright sun so I used my newly-acquired tool, Curves, to reduce the contrast.   

#1: Dear Art:  This email is a big thank you for the recent Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo Tour that my wife and I attended.  We made many bird photographs that we are very happy with.  We will be using them in competition at our camera club in the fall, and some of them will be winners for sure.  And we now know another great place to go for bird photography on our own when we are in Florida.  But above all, we thank you for your instruction.  We learned more about bird photography.  We learned more about Adobe PhotoShop.  And we learned more about auxiliary software programs: Breeze Browser Pro, which we already owned thanks to you, and Downloader Pro, which we now own thanks to you.  Recommendations from experienced folks are extremely helpful to us. We left your IPT better photographers than when we started.  And we left your IPT better able to process photographs on our computers than when we started.  Thank you! Dick & Joan Shirley

#2: Hi Jim/Arthur,  I ordered a JRF Lens Cover from yourselves last week (500mm F4 L IS, shipped to England). I just wanted to say that the cover arrived on Saturday morning and I am very happy with it.  I am also very impressed with the excellent service and helpful advice you gave me.  It is nice when somebody actually takes interest in doing business with you and the speed of delivery was amazing (I’m actually still waiting for the Lens itself to arrive and it is only coming from halfway across my ‘tiny’ country!!!?).  Thank you very much from a very satisfied customer.  Best wishes to all. Jamie Macdonald.  P.S. Keep up the good work Arthur! (Your book ‘The Art of Bird Photography’ inspires me every time I read it).


Crested Caracara, Cozad Ranch, Linn, TX      
Image copyright 2005: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Canon 300mm f/4 L IS lens handheld with EOS 1D Mark II. ISO 640. Evaluative metering +2 2/3 stops of the sky: 1/1000 sec. at f/4 in Manual Mode.


After Johnny Cozad enlarged the viewing ports, flight photography with either a big tripod-mounted telephoto or a handheld intermediate telephoto lens was much easier. On white-sky days, I take a reading off of the sky, add from 2 to 3 stops, set that exposure manually, make one image, and then check the histogram. I used central sensor AF and panned with this bird as it flew towards the perch. On some mornings, the raptors swarm to the feeding station. The Harris’s Hawk’s are often the first to visit while the caracaras usually arrive in force by 8:30 am or so. Both species of vultures fly in sometime between 10 and 11 am.  Like Johnny, most of the Valley ranchers involved in photo-ecotourism will go out of their way to help create ideal conditions for visiting photographers.


Thanks to the dozens of folks who identified the crab in the last BAA Notes.  It was a flame box crab (Calappa flammea), also known as flame-streaked box crab or shame-faced crab.
Northern Cardinal, male   Martin Homestead Refuge, Edinburg, TX      
Image copyright 2005: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens with 2X II and EOS 1D Mark II. ISO 200.
Evaluative Metering +2/3 stop: 1/250 sec. at f/8 in Program Mode.
Fill flash at -3 stops with built-in diffuser lowered.  
Northern Cardinals are usually easy to photograph at most of the Valley ranches.  The vertical front-end composition used here is one of my favorites.
Todd Gustafson currently has an article on the Nikon Pro web site.  You can find "Great (Big) Glass" (with too few of Todd's super  images) here:  Way to go Toddi!  See the IPT Updates below if you would like to join Todd and me in either Kenya (August 2005) or Tanzania (January 2006).
Eastern Screech Owl, Dos Venadas Ranch, Roma, TX      
Image copyright 2005: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens with 2X II and EOS 1D Mark II. ISO 250.
Evaluative Metering +2/3 stop: 1/250 sec. at f/13 in Program Mode.
Fill flash at -2 stops.   
Steve has several pairs of Screech Owls on his property which features extremely rich habitat.
      The Art of Bird Photography; It Ain't Just Birds! Weekend Seminar
Atlanta, Georgia, July 30-31, 2005

Presented by Photo Road Show    



This seminar is for all nature photographers who want to learn how to make better images. I will describe the methods and techniques that I have developed and used since 1983.  My comments on equipment (including digital), autofocus, light, composition and image design, and sharpness and my tips on getting close to wild subjects and photographing action and behavior will benefit everyone with a telephoto lens who wishes to dramatically improve the quality of their images. Since going all-digital in November 2002, I have--in short order--become a digital photography and Photoshop expert.  My approach to optimizing images is to create a master file of excellent quality in the shortest possible time.  I will share our workflow and numerous Photoshop tips during the Sunday sessions.


Weekend package (2 days): $159.  Either Saturday or Sunday:  $109.  To register send a check for the full amount made out to "Arthur Morris" to PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855.  We accept credit cards by phone: 863-692-0906.  In either case, we need your e-mail address, your mailing address, and your daytime and evening phone numbers. Here is the Cancellation Policy  for these events.  Photo Road Show is relying on your attendance, so if for any reason you need to withdraw, please notify Arthur Morris as soon as possible.  Once we receive written notice of your cancellation the following fees apply: cancel 31+ days prior to the start of the workshop and your fee will be refunded less a $50.00 cancellation fee; cancel less 30 days prior to the date of the workshop and there will be no refund.  Venue: Renaissance Waverly Hotel


Please e-mail us to request the SAT/SUN schedules.




Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Weaver Ranch, Raymondville, TX      
Image copyright 2005: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens with 2X II and EOS 1D Mark II. ISO 400.
Evaluative Metering +1/3 stop: 1/100 sec. at f/11 in Av Mode. 


Kent Weaver held a diffuser above this rattler to shade it from the harsh afternoon sun.   That is what you call great service!  Note: It Ain't Just Birds!

Photograph Coastal Brown Bears safely at close range in Lake Clark National Park as they fish for salmon and cavort through streams.  There should be some young bears around, and in most years there are one or more pairs of spring cubs.  We will also fish for salmon ourselves and may do one trip for halibut if the tides cooperate.  We will fly to the fabled Silver Salmon Creek Lodge from Anchorage on the morning of Friday, September 16, 2005 and fly back to Anchorage about mid-day on Thursday September 22.  The 7-day/6-night package includes all meals, photo boat trips, salmon fishing and sea kayaks for the young and brave.  If we do fit in a halibut trip near the end of our visit, the cost is $50 per person.  There will of course be lots of in-the-field instruction and ample opportunities for image sharing and Photoshop lessons.  The cost of the trip is $3399.  If you would like to join us, please--at your earliest convenience--send a $1700 deposit check made out to Arthur Morris (PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855).  Six of the ten slots are filled at present.
Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Las Colmenas Ranch, Edinburg, TX      
Image copyright 2005: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens with 1.4X II TC and EOS 1D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative Metering at zero: 1/250 sec. at f/7.1. Fill flash at -3 stops with built-in diffuser lowered.


Lowry found the perfect spot for a thin orange slice: a scar on the side of a tree right on the perfect sun angle from his ground level morning songbird blind. The fruit was placed on a small nail totally out of sight, hidden by the scar. At first, the head-angle here seemed wrong, but without the bird’s head being turned well away, the image would not reveal the spectacular reddish-orange yellow patch of feathers on the back of his head.

Bosque IPTs  3 -DAY: $929.  All with co-leader Ellen Anon. NOV 15-17, 2005 (Limit 14, 5 openings), NOV 20-22 (Limit 14, 8 openings) & NOV 26-28 (Limit 14; 12 openings).
SW FLA, Post X-mas IPT. 3 -DAY: $929. DEC 28-30, 2005.  (Limit 12)
SW FLA President's Holiday IPT w/co-leader Ellen Anon:  $1549.  FEB 17-21, 2006.  (Limit 14; 9 openings)                    
San Diego 4-Day IPT: $1399 w/co-leader Ellen Anon.  JAN 5-8, 2006    (Limit 12, 11 Openings.)


August 2005 Fly/Drive Kenya Photo-Safari with co-leader Todd Gustafson.  August 15-31, 2005--16 days on the ground: $8,200/person. Non-refundable $500 deposit required. See or request Bulletin 163 for complete details.


January 2006 Tanzania Photo-Safari with co-leader Todd Gustafson.  January 16-30, 2006  (14 full and one half-day of photography): $7500/person. Non-refundable $1000 deposit required.  See or request Bulletin 166 for complete details.  


Nome, Alaska  IPT June 10-20, 2006 in conjunction with Greg Downing: (Both groups are sold out.) Please contact me if you are interested in having your name added to the waiting list. Long lenses are a necessity.

Antarctica/South Georgia/Falkland Islands Zegrahms Cruise with Arthur Morris and Greg Downing:  January 4-24, 2007.  Please e-mail for details.  Note:  We have already filled more than half of our allotted 30 slots for this trip...

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

If you would like your name placed on the 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 day, evening, and cell phone numbers.  We often have late cancellations. 


   Long-billed Thrasher, Ramirez Ranch, Roma, TX      
Image copyright 2005: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens with 1.4X TC and EOS 1D Mark II.  ISO 800.
Evaluative Metering +2/3 stop: 1/250 sec. at f/11 in Program Mode. Fill flash at -3 stops with built-in diffuser lowered.  


Roel's place is the very best spot that I know of to photograph this Valley specialty. Many birds kept landing on this perch but it was surrounded by vegetation.  We borrowed some clippers from Roel, went to work, and reaped the benefits for the remainder of our visit. Such are the advantages of working with most of the Valley ranchers. 

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: