December 23, 2009


Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245  4041 Granada Drive, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855.  Telephone: 863-692-0906.  Computer fax: 877- 265-6955




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Northern Cardinal in snow, Morton NWR, Noyac, NY

Image copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART


Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with a 25mm Extension tube and the EOS-1D Mark III.  ISO 320.  Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/320 sec. at f/11 set manually.   (Should have been +1 2/3 stops....)  Fill flash at -1 stop.


Be sure to see yesterday's blog post at and this feature below: LONG ISLAND WINTER HOTSPOT: MORTON NWR for lots more great images and the skinny on Morton NWR.   When working in the snow with bright sun, be sure to use more fill flash than you would on cloudy days.  The 800 with a 25 tube is a killer songbird rig.  



First off, Jim Litzenberg, older-daughter Jennifer Morris, and I would like to wish each of you a safe and enjoyable holiday season.  With luck it will be filled with friends, family, good food, and at least a bit of photography.

Jennifer is flying to Islip on X-mas Eve day with husband Erik and children Sam and Maya to join the rest of the family that includes my Mom, my two sisters, her Mom, and her younger sister Alissa and her family (husband Ajiniyaz and two sons, Ilyas and Idris).  And me <smile>.

Jim will be in the office until noon on Thursday, DEC 24th and is then taking a rare and much needed vacation.  He will be able to ship or mail any order received before the close of business on Wednesday, DEC 23.   Both Jennifer and Jim will be back in the office on Monday, January 4, 2010.  PayPals and BAA On-Line Mail Order store orders will be processed and shipped on either January 4th or 5th. 



I was puzzled this past Saturday when I received several e-mails that had been forwarded from my office to my laptop.  I figured that my trusted right hand man Jim Litzenberg had for some reason chosen to stay over for the weekend.  (Jim lives with his loverly wife Fran near Cape Canaveral, drives to the office on early each Monday, and usually heads home on Friday afternoon.)  I called my office-home and Jim picked up.   He had decided to stay and work on Saturday and Sunday so that all of the APTATS would be at the post office on Monday at 11am so that most folks would receive their CDs in time to put them under the tree.  Jim has been with me for about six years now and this latest move typifies his dedication to the job.  (Not to mention the care and skill with which he does his job every day.)  Thank you Mr. Jim.


Sandhill Crane takeoff, composite sequence,  Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM

Image Copyright 2009:  Robert O'Toole Photography


Nikkor 500mm f/4G ED VR with TC-14E 1.4x II Teleconverter with the Nikon D300 and MB-D10, ISO 400.  Manual mode, metering on 0: 1/1600 sec. at f/5.6. Mongoose M3.5 head.


To make this image I had to run past a bunch of photographers who were heading to their cars since there were only a few remaining cranes. As soon as I stopped one of the last birds took off alone against a clean background giving me exactly what I was looking for. The composite image was created from 7 separate images in Photoshop.  Look look for this technique in the upcoming APTATS 3 CD.


(Note from Artie:  the image above blows me away for several reasons:  #1: The image is sharp and technically perfect.  #2: The vision and planning that went into creating this image is extraordinary.  #3: I am presently unable to track a single bird in flight so accurately as to keep it in the frame for seven consecutive images--and doubt that I ever could. #4: In order to assemble this image you need to possess some pretty good Photoshop skills.)



As you can plainly see by looking at the image above and those below, Robert O'Toole is a skilled and creative photographer.  When we do a trip together and I look at Robert's images afterwards, I often have two thoughts:  #1: What trip was he on?  #2: I should give up photography and throw my gear in the nearest lake.

Robert is highly skilled in Photoshop (and in all things digital, technical, photography equipment-related, computer-related, and electronic gadget-related as well).  But more important than his Photoshop skills are his innovative abilities.   He consistently comes up with stuff that I have never seen or heard of anyone else either using or mentioning.  That's why I encouraged him to develop APTATS I and APTATS II.   (APTATS II took quite a bit of encouragement--about two year's worth!  Robert can be a bit of a procrastinator at times <smile>.)

Robert has co-led many trips with me over the past five or six years.  He was always helpful with logistical and practical matters and when folks in the group asked him a question he was always there with the answer. But, as I told him many times, I felt that he could be much more outgoing in the field letting folks know what he was doing, letting them know his evaluation of a given situation, and volunteering information rather than waiting for questions.   One might say that over the course of the past few years I was guilty of beating the proverbial dead horse.  And as I got on the plane to Albuquerque this year, I have to admit that I had pretty much given up hope that Robert would reach his potential as a co-leader.   (Note: I am sure that Robert was more out-going on his trips, than he was on mine.  In fact, he always mentioned to me that he did not want to steal my thunder when he was assisting on my trips.)

On the recently concluded 2009 "The Complete Bosque Experience IPT" the Robert O'Toole who showed up was a new person.  He was outgoing.   He volunteered information.  He was there for everyone all the time.   He shared his creative visions with anyone near him.  He was loud <smile>.  He eagerly shared his vast knowledge of both the Canon and Nikon systems.  And he was persistent.  When we were in the field and someone did not get it, Robert stuck with them until they did.   For me it was a delight to see and to experience.  

Way to go Rah-BERT!

Sandhill Crane taking flight on icy morning,  Ed Krane Pool, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM

Image Copyright 2009:  Robert O'Toole Photography


Nikkor 500mm f/4G ED VR with TC-14E 1.4x II Teleconverter with the Nikon D300S and MB-D10, ISO 320.  Manual Mode, metering on zero: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6. Mongoose M3.5 head.


This was a perfect morning with south east winds and I knew exactly where to put my workshop group.  I had them set up well to the north of all the other photographers at the Ed Krane Pool so that the cranes would be taking off directly at us. The frost covered grass and soft warm background seemed unreal.



Sandhill Crane pan-blur lit by pre-sunrise glow,  Crane pools, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM

Image Copyright 2009:  Robert O'Toole Photography


Nikkor 500mm f/4G ED VR with TC-14E 1.4x II Teleconverter with the Nikon D300 and MB-D10, ISO 200.  Manual mode, metering on +1/3: 1/30 sec. at f/7.1. Mongoose M3.5 head.


A slow shutter speed gave me perfectly blurred wings and soft unrecognizable cranes in the background. Careful panning with the crane made the image a success with a sharp eye, nares and beak.


(Note from Artie:  The key to getting a sharp eye at slow shutter speeds is to be able to pan perfectly with the bird in flight; Robert is extraordinarily skilled at doing this consistently. Other photographers myself included are lucky to get one in a week.   I just love the pan-blurred foreground grasses in this one.)



Bald Eagles with mobbing grackles, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM

Image Copyright 2009:  Robert O'Toole Photography


Canon 600mm f/4 L IS lens and Canon 2X II extender with the EOS-1Ds Mark II, ISO 400.  Manual metering +2/3: 1/250 sec. at f/9. 


This dead tree at the main pond at Bosque was framed with only a single eagle perched against a gorgeous dawn sky. Out of nowhere a second adult eagle flew into the frame being mobbed by grackles. A millisecond after I pressed the shutter button the first eagle was gone.


(Note from Artie:  sometimes the battle goes to the young and the quick!  With his lightning-fast reflexes Robert consistently amazes me with his ability go capture unexpected action.)



Northern Pintail drake above the main pond,  Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM

Image Copyright 2009:  Robert O'Toole Photography


Nikkor 500mm f/4G ED VR with TC-14E 1.4x II Teleconverter with the Nikon D300 and MB-D10, ISO 400.  Manual mode, metering on 0: 1/1250 sec. at f/7.1, handheld.


Ducks congregate in the main pond at Bosque and make frequent flights over the road to the pay booth pond. Standing on the road with south winds, high clouds, and a lot of patience can be rewarding.



Sandhill Cranes flying above golden clouds,  Crane pools, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM

Image Copyright 2009:  Robert O'Toole Photography


Nikkor 500mm f/4G ED VR with the Nikon D300 and MB-D10, ISO 200.  Manual mode, metering on zero: 1/800 sec. at f/4. 


This image was made from the crane pools looking away from the pool, back over the road toward the southeast.  Scan your surroundings at Bosque and keep your eyes open for something different. 



Sandhill Crane flying in snow shower,  North crane pool, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM

Image Copyright 2009:  Robert O'Toole Photography


Nikkor 500mm f/4G ED VR with TC-14E 1.4x II Teleconverter with the Nikon D700 and MB-D10, ISO 2500.  Manual mode metering on zero: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6. 


It doesn't get much better at Bosque than when it is snowing lightly and the cranes are flying in front of the cottonwoods and snow-dusted mountains.  Considering how rare these conditions are I still can't believe how many photographers were just sitting in their cars....



I received and e-mail with "Thank You Teacher" in the subject line from Bobby Perkins last week.  Below is our e-mail conversation.

AM: Hi Bobby, re:

BP: I just wanted to thank you for being such a gifted teacher.

AM: You are welcome but much of the credit goes to the kids I taught in NYC who challenged me to make things simple enough for them to understand.

BP:  can't think of another professional bird/nature photographer as committed to teaching as you my friend.

AM: Thanks a ton for your most kind words. 

BP: You are not only teaching folks how to be better bird photographers, but how to be better photographers in general. For that, I again thank you.

AM: YAW.  I have always said that the subject matter is irrelevant because the principles are the same.  Thanks for realizing that!

BP: It has taken me awhile to transition to digital photography. I had your first book when I was quite younger and had a tough time understanding exposure theory. I just recently bought a Canon 7D, my first digital SLR.  Right now I started out with Photoshop Lightroom 2, planning to get CS, and also planning to get a laptop pc soon.

AM: All good plans.  I actually love having total control of the appearance of my digital images. 

BP: Many of my friends and co-workers like my images, started requesting portraits, and said I should start a business, so I did.

AM: Mazel tov and thanks for sharing that great story.

Thanks to your teaching, I've been learning more about histograms and more of your beginner basics and I can't tell you how much it's been helping. I can that see I need to get The Digital Basics File. I do have your "The Art of Bird Photography II on cd-rom and have been reading, studying, and "understanding" exposure and digital photography. It's tough because all of that info isn't in the camera manuals; I too think that you should be the one who writes those!

AM: <Smile>  Digital Basics is the next logical step for you as the updates from the last few years add tons of great new stuff. 

I also just got a copy of Alan Murphy's "Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography.  It is just awesome.  A lot shorter than your 900 some page cd-rom (thank you), but packed with wonderful ways of attracting birds and getting them to land where you want them to.  It is just brilliant.  The day after I got his cd-rom I was digging out the old X-mas tree stand for a woodpecker stump and set up a berry branch perch near my kitchen window. OK.  I'd better stop; good book!

AM: Alan and I are glad that you are finding it helpful. 

Right now I'm shooting birds out my window with a 28-135IS (kit lens 7D).  With only 216mm out the window I am not doing too bad!  With a few tricks I can get birds in close. And it's so much fun.

AM: Whoa, that is a trick. 

BP: I'll be upgrading to a new lens soon; wasn't sure if I wanted to get a 70-200f/2.8L IS (hope to see a ll version soon--it would also double as a portrait lens), or the 100-400L IS zoom to get started.   Within a year I plan to get the 500mm f/4L IS.   Which lens should I get now as a companion to the 500IS?

AM; If you are definitely getting the 500 I would go for the 70-200.  Are you sold on the f/2.8?  Do you know about the f/4 version?  (I love that one.)  If not, the 100-400 would be my choice.

BP: Art, thank you very much Sir, for sharing your knowledge in such a thorough way, and for sharing your elegant BIRDS AS ART. 

AM: And thank you for taking the time to write and again for your more than kind words.    When I am gone, I am hoping that I will be remembered as well for my teaching skills as for my photography skills.   later and love,  artie

Rental car and photo gear in my private "parking lot," Morton NWR, Noyac, NY

Image copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART



Morton NWR is located in Noyac, Long Island.   I was amazed to learn last year that bird feeding there is not only permitted but encouraged.   After Saturday's blizzard I was anxious to get out in the snow and put some of what I had learned from Alan Murphy's "Guide to Songbird Set-Up Photography" to good use.  Heading out to eastern Long Island on Sunday would have been borderline suicidal so I passed on that.  I woke early on Monday, packed my gear and warm clothing, and headed to the refuge.   Thinking that I might need to dig my way out at some point, I threw my Mom's long-handled spade into the back seat of the car.   It took me a shade more than an hour to make the trip but when I arrived, I noted that the road into the parking lot had not been plowed.   I got my warm coat on, took the long-handled spade out of the back seat, and started digging my own parking space.  After about 30 minutes (when I was about half finished with my one car parking lot) I was wishing that I had brought my Mom's real snow shovel.   


I stopped one guy with a plow on the front of an SUV; he stopped and was very nice but explained that it was his bosses truck and that he was forbidden to plow anything.   So back to work I went.  After another 15 minutes I was about 3/4 done when I spotted a bobcat with a snow plow on the front.  I waved the guy down and he stopped.  I asked him if I could pay him to finish plowing my spot.  He said, "No.  I will do it for free."  One, two three and there was a beautiful practically effortless parking spot big enough for two cars.  I tried to give the guy a ten-spot for breakfast but he refused and drove off.  


To see more of my Monday images check out the December 22 blog post here:




Tufted Titmouse on snow-covered stump, Morton NWR, Noyac, NY


Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with a 25mm Extension tube and the EOS-1D Mark III.  ISO 320.  Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/200 sec. at f/13.  Fill flash at -1 stop.


All of the songbirds at Morton were fast and capturing a pleasing pose with a good head angle was difficult.  I created more than 1,200 images on Monday and was really happy with less then ten of them.




If you would like information on the later registration discount for the San Diego IPT, please e-mail me at and request same.

San Diego IPT  JAN 13-17, 2010  5 Full Days: $2395  (Limit 8/Openings: 2).  Slide program on the evening of TUES JAN 12.   Payment in full is due now.   We can accept your $500 deposit via credit card and will await the check for your balance. You may pay your deposit with either a personal check or with a credit card and a phone call (863-692-09060.  To complete a valid registration, please fill out and complete the Registration and the Release & Assumption of Risk forms that can be found here: and Release Forms.pdf   If you call with a credit card to register, please be sure to print, sign, and return the Registration and the Release & Assumption of Risk forms within ten days.  

The gate at the Cave Store Cliffs has been unlocked for many, many months and my understanding is that the fence has now been removed as well.  (Though I am not quite positive on the cause and effect here I do know that Scott Bourne had a show-cause order filed with regards to public access at this location.)


We will get to photograph killer breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with the red bill pouches at close range and in flight.   Santee Lakes will yield close-up Wood Ducks and lots more; White Pelicans are likely there.  LaJolla Shores Beach will yield Marbled Godwits in beautiful buff reflections and this spot and Coronado will give us chances on a variety of gorgeous gulls and several shorebird species as well.  I selected dates that feature perfect tides for both our morning and afternoon coastal locations.   And we will have extensive time for image review and Photoshop techniques.


100 Reasons to Register for the San Diego IPT    You can view a gallery with my 100 favorite San Diego images here:  Click on the first image to see and then click on next to view the images as a slide show.  Scroll down to see the EXIF data for each image.  



Tufted Titmouse on berry perch, Morton NWR, Noyac, NY

Image copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART


Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with a 25mm Extension tube and the EOS-1D Mark III.  ISO 100.  Evaluative metering +2 stops: 1/250 sec. at f/10.  Fill flash at -1 stop.


For this two-frame stitched pano I followed the directions for creating the set-up verbatim from Alan Murphy's great guide.  When you receive this Bulletin I will be back at Morton freezing my feet off and creating some more great set-ups!   You can learn more about or order Alan's guide here: 


Best and great picture-making, 


Note: Arthur Morris has been a Canon contract photographer, part of the Explorers of Light program, since 1996 and continues in that role today.  Hunt's Photo of Boston, MA is a BAA sponsor as is Delkin Devices.  Back issues of all BAA Bulletins can be found in the Bulletin Archives which may be accessed here: