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BIRDS AS ART ON-LINE Bulletin #78 May 1, 2002



The May issue of PHOTOFOCUS MAG-A-ZINE is now online.  Featured are an interview with me at and a review of "The Art of Bird Photography" at
Thanks to the generosity of Brutus Östling, who came all the way from Sweden to attend this past weekend's St. Augustine Alligator Farm IPT, I had a chance to use the Canon 400mm f/4 IS DOE (Diffractive Optical Elements) lens extensively for 2 days.    
I was most thrilled with this new offering, which features lightweight optical elements and reduced size, as a handheld lens.  I can see one in the future hanging on a strap from my right shoulder with an Elan 7 mounted on it...
I began working with the lens mounted on a Wimberley head atop the Gitzo Carbon Fiber 1325 tripod.  With the swing arm set up on the left side of the Wimberley head (as I have always recommended), it was difficult to loosen and tighten the tripod collar because the swing arm blocked the tripod collar knob.   After the first morning, I switched to a Linhoff Prophy series ballhead.  While most folks would probably find this combination a pleasure to deal with, I am so used to the ease of handling provided by the regular Wimberley head that I was frustrated by the constant need to control the lens to prevent ballhead flop and to the general all around difficulty of handling this setup.  (Note: this is not a knock on the lens itself.)  Next, I went back to the regular Wimberely head with the swing arm mounted on the right.  I found this most awkward as I have been using the Wimberley with the swing arm on the left side for many, many years.  After a while, however, I became pretty adept at handling the lens.  (it is possible that the Sidekick may be the ideal head for this lens...)
On the first morning I really put the lens to the test, using Fuji Velvia pushed one stop in low light (almost always with the Canon 2X II TC).   I regret not having some Provia F 100 (pushed two stops) in my 1v when I had a chance on a spectacular Little Blue Heron performing some courtship displays that I had not seen either in life or on film.   My shutter speed was only 1/25th of a second...  I am hoping that with IS and the compact size of my "800mm lens" I will get at least a few acceptably sharp images.  In reality, this may be simply pipe-dreaming.
In the afternoons, I experimented hand holding the lens--with the tripod collar removed it weighs just 3.9 pounds.  It was a pleasure to be able to use Velvia pushed one stop and get fast shutter speeds with the f/4 aperture.  Flight shooting was a dream as the lens acquired focus in an instant.  (The wider the aperture, the faster initial focus acquisition.)  I had many excellent chances to photograph birds in flight and in action, and made some portraits as well.
The 10 rolls that I exposed with this setup are at the lab, but it is unlikely that I will be able to share any of them with you until I return from our warbler trip on May 15.  I am anxious to see them. 

A new, free online dictionary of photography was introduced on April 30, 2002.  You can visit at
Here is part of the press release:  "Vancouver, BC, Canada.  Photographers wanting to learn more about the rich and detailed vocabulary of photography - both traditional chemical photography and digital photography - have a new free online resource to turn to.  The Dictionary of Film and Digital Photography is the Internet's most complete online glossary of still photography.
Over 1400 terms and 90,000 words of definitions; all available in an easily searched, cross-referenced Web site.

Most print dictionaries of photography date back at least 20 years and don't cover the latest developments in automated camera systems. The dictionary, by contrast, includes all the buzzwords, jargon, acronyms and common camera symbols seen on
cameras today. Newcomers to photography can learn the basics and some of the history of early chemical photography. And experienced photographers can keep up with the newest digital technologies.

The dictionary was written by N. K. Guy, a Vancouver writer and designer."

When I visited the dictionary for the first time, I found it interesting, accurate, and highly informative. And the definitions themselves contained links to many fabulous web sites that contained additional information.  I have been photographing for nearly 20 years now, and only recently came across the term "bokeh."  I sort of understood it, but wanted to know more.  I found it in the dictionary and was amazed by the wealth of information awaiting me there.  Now, I truly know what boken is and how to find out if a given lens has good or bad bokeh!
While I know in my heart that I work very hard on all of our publications and especially on my IPTs, it is extremely rewarding to receive so many unsolicited thank you letters.  Thanks to those below, and to all who have shared taken the time to write to us here at BIRDS AS ART.
From Charley Huntley:  "Recently, I purchased "The Art of Bird Photography" and found it  incredible! I am enjoying studying it thoroughly! Many years ago when I began my study of photography and in particular large format, I spent a week with Ansel Adams in a workshop in Carmel, CA.  This was one of the greatest privileges I have ever had.  I must say that as far as I am concerned, having known Ansel and his aims and objectives and work methods, you are to
bird photography what Ansel is to black and white landscape imaging. This is especially true with respect to your prime goal of not setting out with a view to selling an image but rather making a photographic statement as you visualize it."
From Carlos Pimenta:  "I used to use spot meter all the time with birds; it was difficult AND time consuming to get right exposure.  After reading and studying the "Pocket Field Guide to Evaluative Metering Systems" for just two days, I went out and shot 10 rolls of Provia and got the right exposure on 98% of my images..  I have found it a breeze to use Artie's exposure techniques, and never in my life will use spot metering again.  The amount of exposure info that exists in that little guide is phenomenal. It's as if Artie revealed a lifetime of secrets in a $20 guide!  
 From Chris Dekle:  "I just got back off the road long enough to finally drop you an email to tell you how much I enjoyed your SW Florida IPT.  I really didn't expect what I got!  Your fans billed you as a great teacher who spent more time being sure that they learned than shooting for their portfolio.  Well, let me tell you, that was only half true; you really exceeded all expectations for the trip.  You are a concerned and able teacher.

I learned a lot about shooting birds that would have taken me years to figure out... if I could ever  have done it at all.  I learned some great field techniques and ways to think about shooting award winners.  Your insights on equipment and metering for fast action so that you can concentrate on the subject was also off the scale... it was really great.  I got a lot of shots that were right-on in difficult situations - which is important.  But, what is really invaluable is to know how to think about learning more about how my Nikon matrix meter sees things and making appropriate compensation for differing situations.  That insight on meter analysis and compensation was worth the entire price of the trip.

I was amazed at the people on the tour too.  I met some really interesting world travelers and have taken the advice of one, Hal, and booked an African tour with someone he regularly uses.

Art, you are an interesting guy. Thanks again, it was a great trip!"
From Jim Gluckin. M.D.: "First of all, thank you very much for the incredibly enjoyable five-day experience with you on the SW Florida IPT.  I don't think I have ever worked any harder at something, while at the same time being sleep deprived :-).  I feel that I learned a great deal from you.  I also came away from the workshop with a firm understanding of the major criteria which you need to apply to evaluate an image, and produce images that are pleasing and at the same time arresting.  The critiquing sessions that you gave were very simply... invaluable.

Your system for determining the correct exposure was far better than anything I had ever tried in the past.  It works!  It was a pleasure to be able to look at the subject, quickly evaluate the background, and then simply dial in the correct compensation and continue shooting. 

After going through the large number of images that I took during the five days, I have about 60 pictures which are suitable for framing and hanging in the office!   Thank you very much for the instruction, the pointers, the critiquing, and the very enjoyable five days!  I hope to join you on
another tour next year, at a different location."
From Mike Petulla, "I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the February 9 SW Florida  
  I learned a lot about exposure and flash exposure that I never knew.  I was impressed by the way you able to adapt to the weather conditions and get the group to interesting locations with excellent subjects. I especially enjoyed the set up instructions and the info on  using the Wimberley head for scenics. I liked the small group setting. I feel it's a wonderful way to teach as you were able to spread yourself out amongst us and answer all our questions. Your assistant Ellen is very knowledgeable and, I feel, an excellent complement to your style of teaching.
    I feel I have learned many valuable lessons in the three days, so much so that I have signed up for the November 30 - December 2 2002 Bosque IPT



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