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BIRDS AS ART ON-LINE Bulletin 53 August 26, 2001

GOOD QUESTIONS  from Bulletin subscribers with my responses.
Why Professional Nature Photography?
Grant's e-mail: 
I am 23 yrs old, in seminary studying to be a missionary or a pastor.  I am married and my wife is currently supporting us on her elementary school teacher's salary (i.e., not much).  I have recently developed a love for photography and am particularly draw to the out of doors and love birds.
I have done a good bit of reading about general photographic techniques, exposure, etc. over the last year as well as specifically on nature photography.  For the most part, all that I have heard about professional nature/wildlife photography is negative, lots of travel, little time with family, inconsistent income, etc., etc.  Could you give me some reasons why I should pursue professional nature photography?
My response:
Dear Grant,
I shall be totally honest with you. I cannot give you one single reason why you should pursue professional photography, but I can tell you hundreds of reasons why I love it:  I love birds.  I love photography.  My business grossed more than $1/4 million in 1999 and 2000, and will gross close to $1/3 million this year.  In the nature photography community, I am somewhat well known (and I enjoy that).  I am, for the most part, highly respected for what I do.  My older daughter runs my business and I have one other employee.  I love the process of photography and I love being in the field with the birds.  I love the out of doors, especially the seashore.  I enjoy teaching and meeting and influencing dozens, even hundreds of aspiring of nature photographers each year, and I enjoy seeing their (often amazing) photographs. I travel a lot, but I enjoy travel. I am away from home a lot, but I enjoy being on the road.  I work very, very hard, often well past the point
of exhaustion on my Instructional Photo-Tours--and often 14-16 hours a day.  It is the same when I am at work in my home-office, but I even enjoy the office work, and, the fruits of all that labor are sweet indeed. 
 The downsides?  I travel a lot.  I am away from home a lot.  I work very, very hard, often past the point of exhaustion on my Instructional Photo-Tours, and often 14-16 hours a day in the office when I am at home.
But all in all--as far as I am concerned--I have the best job on the planet.  Should you pursue nature photography as a career?  I have no idea.  You are the  only one who could answer that question. I laugh when I hear all of those nature photographers who complain about their chosen profession, especially those who complain that the competition is too fierce and that the "beginners" are giving away their images for $10 a pop.  The truth is that there are hundreds of untapped markets out there.  As well as BIRDS AS ART is doing, marketing is our weakest link...  I know 1,000 ways to make more money, but I am having too much fun doing exactly what I am doing...

One last thought:  It has not been easy to get where I am today, but I am happy with the past, am enjoying the present, and am looking forward with  great anticipation to the future and what it may hold.
Exposure Questions Answered
Hi Cyril,
CM: I have summarized your exposure comments from the  instructional slide show that you did for us on St. Paul Island in Alaska's Pribilofs.  The program was absolutely superb & comprehensive.
AM: Thank you much.
CM: Could you please just check for the accuracy of my statements and answer my questions?
AM: Surely.

CM: With regards to Canon;s Evaluative Metering System--and to the matrix or honey-combed metering patterns of most other manufacturer's cameras as well including the Nikon F-100 (but not to the F-5): 
1. Evaluative metering is programmed to expose correctly for high intensity white (in full sun) without any compensation.  
AM: That is correct. 
2. In the softer light of dawn or before sunset white is not seen as white by the meter and the photographer must open up 1/3 to 2/3 stops.
AM: That is correct to some degree, but, you would need +1 or even +1 1/3 in extreme conditions with overall white scenes and subjects, especially in cloudy or heavy overcast conditions.

3: CM: On cloudy-bright or somewhat hazy days would you add 1/3 or 2/3 stops of light to overall white scenes and subjects?
AM: Yes, that is pretty accurate. 

4. With darker backgrounds, is it always correct to stop down by (underexpose) by 1/3 to 2/3 (-1/3 or -2/3 stops exposure compensation)?

AM: Yes, usually -1/3 is fine, but -2/3 or even more with small bright white highlights that do not influence the meter much.  

5. CM: I understand that you feel that many shades or green are darker than we perceive them, and that we must, therefore, underexpose by 1/3 stop.  
AM: That is correct; beware especially of dark green reflections.
6. Evaluative meters concentrate on the center portion of the image, therefore, dark colors or black in the corners can be discounted.
AM: Though that statement is pretty much true, I do not believe that I ever stated that directly, nor do I consider it to be a cornerstone for those seeking to understand exposure theory.
What I have said over and over is that if there is a large black subject in the center of the viewfinder, you would need to subtract 1/3 or even 2/3 of a stop (or more), the latter (again) if there were small bright (white or yellow) highlights present in the frame.  Do note that all of the above (and in numbers 4 & 5 as well) are true for sunny conditions; less (or in some cases, no) underexposure is needed when working in soft light or cloudy conditions.  
I hope that my comments have helped.  As a Nikon F-5 user, your are to be commended for studying exposure theory so thoroughly.  As good as the F-5's RGB color matrix meter is, it is not perfect; understanding exposure theory will help you to know when to over-ride your meter and allow you to make perfect exposures in most situations.  Remember, the F-5's biggest problems occur with bright white subjects in full sun against middle or middle-dark backgrounds.  You do need to subtract from 1/3 to 2/3 stops of light in these instances to hold the detail in the whites.
For beginning and intermediate photographers who are scratching their heads at this point asking what the heck are they talking about?," I would strongly suggest ordering a signed copy of "The Art of Bird Photography" off of the web site ( and studying the chapter on exposure until you are sick of it.  On a final note, the re-design of our folding, laminated Pocket Guide to Canon Evaluative Metering Systems has begun and we should have the finished guides in here in Indian Lake Estates in about two months.  We will--of course--advise via this Bulletin.
Flash with Provia F 100
From Jackie: 
J: I read your book "The Art of Bird Photography" and bulletin #44 and am very confused...In bulletin #44 you write that you use Velvia (pushed 1 stop) in low light and on dreary days when NOT using flash...yet with Provia 100F you write that many of the fill flash images are overexposed (when using fill
flash exactly as with Velvia.  What gives?

AM: I am still struggling with the possibility that Provia F 100 may need slightly less flash than Velvia in identical situations.  I have an idea as to why many of my Churchill images were flash-overexposed, but I need to speak to Canon rep or two to see if they agree with my reasoning.  (I made lots of excellent flash images with Provia F 100 pushed one or two stops both before and after my problems at Churchill.)

J: Do you not use fill flash with Velvia pushed 1 stop?
AM: Yes I do, most often in cloudy bright conditions where shutter speed is not a concern.





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