Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
November 22nd, 2020

Home! The SONY 200-600 + 1.4X TC at 840mm (or not?)

What’s Up?

On Friday, we left Lakewood, CO at 3:21am Mountain time, drove for 18 hours and 45 minutes, and checked into a Hampton Inn in Nashville, TN at 11:06pm Central time. We were in a single lane (construction zone) on I-24 about an hour outside of Nashville when traffic stopped suddenly. After a few minutes, I got out of the car and could not see anything but taillights ahead. Seemingly forever. Oops. We might have been there for several hours but after about 20 minutes we were up and running and in a flash the construction zone ended and we were tooling along at 82mph (seven over the speed limit). That was a very insane 1,165 miles.

We left Nashville at 6:15am Central time and was in my driveway at Indian Lake Estates, FL at 8:30 Eastern time. Chalk up another 12 hours and 45 minutes in the car and an additional 747 miles. Unexpectedly for a Saturday, traffic on I-75 around Atlanta was hell. We hit traffic again on I-75 near Ocala, FL.

Anita North did the great bulk of the driving both on the whole trip and on our long journey home. I managed about seven and a half hours on Friday and about another five on Saturday. The totals: 1912 miles and 31 hours (less pit stops and fast food drive-throughs). I got a good night’s sleep in my own bed and will be getting back into the pool this morning. Home sweet home.

As far as COVID, we always practiced social distancing, never ate in a restaurant, and wore masks on our brief shopping tips. Staying in AirBNBs enabled us to prepare our own meals. We did spend a wonderful afternoon and a morning photographing and getting to know BPN-friend Brian Sump (while social distancing). I can now say (and have video proof) that I completed a pass to someone who caught passes from Drew Brees (the latter on a professional level). Details soon.

I was glad to learn today that Used gear page veteran and SONY-e-Guide reviewer Craig Elson recently sold his Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Digital camera body in near-mint condition for $2300.00 (was $2498.00).

Wanted to Buy

If you have a used SONY 200-600 G lens that you would like to sell, please contact me via e-mail.

Topaz Still on Sale!

Right now Topaz is offering price reductions on the Utility Bundle and the Creator Bundle. The former normally sells for $359.96. It is on sale now for $249.95. Click here, scroll all the way down to the sale, and enter the ARTHUR15 code at checkout to save an additional 15%! The Creator Bundle usually sells for #279.97 and is now on sale for $149.99. Using the ARTHUR15 code at checkout brings the price down to $127.49!

Please Remember

With income from IPTs approaching zero, please, if you enjoy and learn from the blog, remember to use one of my two affiliate programs when purchasing new gear. Doing so just might make it possible for me to avoid having to try to get a job as a Walmart greeter and will not cost you a single penny more. And if you use Bedfords and remember to enter the BIRDSASART code at checkout, you will save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I am out at least forty to sixty thousand dollars so far due to COVID 19 (with lots more to come) — remembering to use my B&H link or to shop at Bedfords will help me out a ton and be greatly appreciated. Overseas folks who cannot order from the US because of import fees, duties, and taxes can always help out by clicking here if they see fit.

The BAA Used Gear Page

The Used Gear page continues to be red hot! It is BAA Used Gear Page is the place to sell your used photographic equipment. We will help you to get your gear sold quickly for 20 to 60% or more than what the big guys are offering … Doubt me? Check out the Recent Sales list for the past ten months at the bottom of the page.

BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Great Topaz News!

Folks who use the BAA Topaz link to purchase Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, or the Utility Bundle (or any other Topaz plugins) will receive a 15% discount by entering the ARTHUR15 code at checkout. To get the discount you must use my link and you must enter the discount code. Be sure to start with this link.

Topaz Stuff

As I said just a while back and have said often many times before, I should have listened sooner. If you, like me, are new to the Topaz party, please use this link to purchase. Right now I can wholeheartedly recommend both Topaz Sharpen AI and Topaz DeNoise AI. Though I have not yet worked with JPEGtoRAW AI or Gigapixel AI, I have installed both of these plug-ins and look forward to trying them on some I-Phone 11 images fairly soon. If you are thinking like me, consider the Utility Bundle that includes all four plug-ins mentioned above at a money-saving price.

Again, those who purchase Sharpen AI or DeNoise AI using my link, can e-mail to request a short Getting Started with Topaz e-Guide. I had a bit of trouble getting the two plug-ins installed and having them appear in the Photoshop Filter Menu. In addition, I will explain how to best learn about the two plug-ins by applying them on a Layer (in Photoshop). I amazed myself yesterday by completing this guide in the car on the way to and from Sebastian. Huge thanks to Anita for doing the driving. Please include a copy of your Topaz order when requesting the guide.

New and Better Bedfords Discount Policy!

You can now save 3% on all of your Bedfords photo gear purchases by entering the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout. Your discount will be applied to your pre-tax total. In addition, by using the code you will get 2nd day air shipping via Fed Ex.

Grab a Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III and save $14.99. Purchase a Canon EOS R5 and your discount will be $116.97. Purchase a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and save a remarkable $389.94! Your Bedford’s purchase no longer needs to be greater than $1,000.00 for you to receive a discount. The more you spend, the more you save.

122 sold to rave reviews.

The SONY e-Guide by Patrick Sparkman and Arthur Morris

The Sony Camera User’s e-Guide (and Videos)

Click here to purchase the guide with one Camera Set-up Video. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your camera body so that we can send you a link for the correct video.

Click here to purchase the guide with two Camera Set-up Videos. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your two camera bodies so that we can send you links for the correct videos.

Click here to learn more about the SONY e-Guide.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would enjoy free overnight shipping, your best bet is to click here, place an order with Bedfords, and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If an item is out of stock, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The wait lists at the big stores can be a year or longer for the hard to get items. Steve will surely get you your gear long before that. For the past year, he has been helping BAA Blog folks get their hands on items like the SONY a9 ii, the SONY 200-600 G OSS lens, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, and the Nikon 500mm PF. Steve is personable, helpful, and eager to please.



Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers whom I see in the field and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

New Listings

Nikkor 500mm AF-S F4 ED VR Lens

William Dummitt is offering a Nikkor 500mm AF-S f/4 G ED VR lens in excellent plus condition for an incredibly low $2999.00. The sale includes the rear lens cap, the lens trunk, the original front lens cover, and insured ground shipping via UPS to lower-48 US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact William via e-mail or by phone at 1-314-918-0720 (Eastern time).

The 500mm f/4 super telephoto lenses have been the world’s most popular for birds, nature, wildlife, and sports for many decades. This Nikon version is super-sharp with and without the TC-14E III (the 1.4X teleconverter). It is relatively small and can be hand held by some folks. It is much easier travel with, focuses closer than, and costs a lot less than the current Nikon 600 VR. The current version of the Nikon 500 VR sells new for $10,296.95 … It might be best to grab William’s lens asap. I loved my Canon 500 II. artie

Sigma 500mm f/4.5 APO EX HSM lens for Nikon mount

William Dummitt is offering a Sigma 500mm f/4.5 APO EX HSM lens for Nikon mount in excellent condition for a very low $899.00. (Artie’s suggested price). The sale includes the rear lens cap, the original soft case and padding, the vinyl lens cover, and insured ground shipping via UPS to lower-48 US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact William via e-mail or by phone at 1-314-918-0720 (Eastern time).

I have seen amazingly sharp images made with this lens both on IPTs and on BPN. artie

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR Lens

William Dummitt is offering a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR lens in excellent condition for a very low $498.00. The sale includes the front and rear lens caps, a Tiffen UV/Haze filter, and insured ground shipping via UPS to lower-48 US addresses only.Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact William Dummitt via e-mail at wdummitt@yahoo.com or by phone at 1-314-918-0720 (Eastern Time)

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens

William Dummitt is offering a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens in excellent condition for only $249.00. The sale includes the front and rear lens caps and insured ground shipping via major courier to lower-48 US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact William via e-mail or by phone at 1-314-918-0720 (Eastern time).

This, the original non-IS version of this hugely popular very sharp macro lens, was Denise Ippolito’s favorite for many years. It is great for flowers and bugs large and small. The tripod collar for this lens requires a separate purchase. This lens, still in production, sells new at B&H for $599.00 (though it is currently on back-order). The IS L version II sells for $1299.00. artie

This image was created at a tiny pond in front of the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. I used the handheld Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens with the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter (at 840mm?) and the blazingly fast AF king, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital Camera. ISO 1250. Exposure was determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear dial (as detailed in the Sony Camera User’s e-Guide with one camera Set-up Video). ISO 1250: 1/200 sec. at f/9 (wide open) in Manual mode. RawDigger confirmed that the RAW file was perfect. AWB at 10:39am in the shade on a variably sunny day.

Tracking: Expand Flexible Spot AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly (as did I). Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Image #1: Black-bellied Whistling Duck head portrait

The Situation (and More)

After one of our many excellent mornings photographing in the bay behind the Convention Center on South Padre Island, Anita and I decided to swing by the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center to check things out. We learned that there is fairly substantial entrance fee ($7.00 for seniors). They open at 8am and close at 5pm. With sunrise in November at about 6:30am and sunset at about 6:15pm, the hours are not meant to attract nature photographers (expect perhaps on cloudy days …) But adjacent to the parking lot was a very small pond surrounded by about a dozen or more whistling ducks. We grabbed our 200-600s and went to work.

We moved slowly into position, got on the ground very slowly, and butt-wiggled closer. I added the 1.4X TC in an effort to create some head portraits. The in-and-out sun and the backgrounds were somewhat problematic. As I have been doing more and more lately, I went with Tracking: Expand Flexible Spot. It has pretty much replaced Tracking Flexible Spot (M) as my go-to AF Area for static subjects. Both of these AF Areas are similar in that they require extensive practice so that you can attain the precise image design that you are looking to create.

We both used the dependable knee-pod technique with my left forearm well out on the lens barrel and squarely resting on the back of my left knee. I was pretty confident that I could create sharp images at 1/200 second. If you take a close look at the DeNoise screen capture below I am pretty sure that you will agree that I was right. The degree of fine feather detail on the duck’s face is astounding considering that the 200-600 G lens ($1998.00) is supposedly inferior to the 600 GM lens ($12998.00). When folks ask Patrick and me whether we see any differences in image quality with the two lenses, we simply answer “No.” While chuckling at bit.

The SONY 200-600 + 1.4X TC at 840mm (or not?)

aka Focus Breathing

Focusing to or near infinity with the 200-600 will yield a true 600mm focal length with approximately 12X magnification. But when focusing on nearby subjects, a phenomenon known as focus breathing comes into play. The actual focal length will be considerably less than that indicated on the zoom ring. When you are working close to the Minimum Focusing Distance (MFD) you will be at about 540mm when fully zoomed to the long end. At close range with the 1.4X TC in place you will be somewhere around 750mm (rather than the assumed 840mm). Note that the MFD of the 200-600 (7.87 feet) kills the MFD of its far more expensive big brother, the 600mm f/4 GM lens (14.8 feet). So for close work with relatively tame birds you are far better off with the 200-600 than the 600 GM. As long as your sharpness techniques allow you to go with relatively low shutter speeds when needed. Note also the effectiveness of the SONY OSS (Optical Stabilization System) at a focal length three and a half times greater than the reciprocal of the shutter speed — 750 to 200.

Do understand that focus breathing exists with all zoom lenses that focus internally, that is, lenses where the physical length of the lens does not change as you zoom in or out. Those include both the Canon 100-400 II and the Canon RF 100-500mm lenses.

Image #1A: Topaz DeNoise on the Black-bellied Whistling Duck head portrait image at 50%

Topaz DeNoise on the Black-bellied Whistling Duck image

As part of my now-regular workflow, I ran Topaz DeNoise AI on Auto on the whole image. Be sure to click on the image to enlarge it and note the complete elimination of noise in the background as well as the increased sharpness and the complete lack of any sharpening halos. To me it is pretty amazing that DeNoise can take a pretty much perfect image and make it considerably better.

Take a peek back at Image #1 and note the extensive clean-up of the dirt near the base of the bird’s bill … I used my usual cadre of clean-up tools and techniques– the Patch Tool, The Clone Stamp Tool, Content-Aware Fill, and several small Quick Masks refined with both the Transform command and Regular Layer Masks. All plus tons more as detailed in Digital Basics II.

San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects, including and especially the Pacific race of California Brown Pelican. With annual visits spanning more than four decades, I have lots of photographic experience there … Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

San Diego 2021 COVID-conscious Brown Pelican IPT

January 12 thru the morning session on January 16, 2021. Four full and one-half day: $2299.00. Deposit: $599.00. Limit: 8 photographers/Openings: 6.

Introductory Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; MON JAN 11, 2021.

Join me in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches; Brandt’s (nesting with eggs and possibly chicks) and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heermann’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others are possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the IPT cards, there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well. Not to mention a ton of excellent flight photography opportunities and instruction.

Please note: where permitted and on occasion, ducks and gulls may be attracted (or re-located) with offerings of grains or healthy bread.

Learning Exposure, Whether You Like It Or Not

Whether you like it or not, we will be beating the subject of exposure like a dead horse. In every new situation, you will hear my thoughts on the exposure situation along with my thoughts on both Nikon and Canon histograms and the subject of blinkies. Whether you like it or not, you will learn to work in manual mode and to get the right exposure every time as long as a bird gives you ten seconds with the light constant. And you will learn what to do when the light is changing constantly. What you learn about exposure will be one of the great takeaways on every IPT.

Though the pelicans will be the stars of the show on this IPT, there will be many other handsome and captivating subjects in wonderful settings. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

It Ain’t Just Pelicans

With gorgeous subjects just sitting there waiting to have their pictures taken, photographing the pelicans on the cliffs is about as easy as nature photography gets. With the winds from the east almost every morning there is usually some excellent flight photography as well. And the pelicans are almost always doing something interesting: preening, scratching, bill pouch cleaning, or squabbling. And then there are those crazy head throws that are thought to be a form of intra-flock communication. You will be guided as to how to make the best of all of those opportunities. And depending on the weather and local conditions and tides, there are a variety of fabulous photo chances available in and around San Diego.


san-diego-card-neesie

Did I mention that there are lots of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter? Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

The San Diego Details

This IPT will include five 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, four 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, four lunches, and after-brunch image review and Photoshop sessions. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility. And so that we can get some sleep, dinners will be on your own as well.

A $599 deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “BIRDS AS ART) to us here: BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 3385, or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, is due immediately after you sign up. Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail. If you cancel due to COVID 19 concerns, all of your payments will be refunded.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for both big international trips and US-based IPTs is highly recommended as we never know what life has in store for us. I strongly recommend that you purchase quality travel insurance. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to include things such as sudden work or family obligation and even a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check or running your credit card. Whenever purchasing travel insurance, be sure to read the fine print carefully even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.


san-diego-card-b

Variety is surely the spice of life in San Diego. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Getting Up Early and Staying Out Late

On all BIRDS AS ART IPTS including and especially the San Diego IPT, we get into the field early to take advantage of unique and often spectacular lighting conditions and we stay out late to maximize the chances of killer light and glorious sunset silhouette situations. We often arrive at the cliffs a full hour before anyone else shows up to check out the landscape and seascape opportunities.

Typos

In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

November 20th, 2020

Tandem Brown Pelican Sunset Dive Image: Gigapixel AI to the Stunning Rescue. Do You Have a SONY Callus?

What’s Up?

We pulled out of the driveway at 3:21am Mountain Time. The sun rose at 6:33am. About thirty minutes after we crossed into Kansas, we lost an hour as we entered the Central time one. Yes, Dorothy — there are two time zones in Kansas! I posted this at 12:14pm somewhere in Kansas. We are hoping to get a huge driving day under our belts and make it a bit past St. Louis, MO … We hope to be back to ILE late on Sunday afternoon. The straight line drive (no pitstops or lodging) is 1907 miles.

I was glad to learn your yesterday that the sale of James Paula’s Sony Alpha a7 III Mirrorless Digital camera body in excellent plus condition for $1098.00 is pending.

I was glad also to learn yesterday that Carolyn Johnson signed up for the San Diego IPT.

Wanted to Buy

If you have a used SONY 200-600 G lens that you would like to sell, please contact me via e-mail.

Topaz Still on Sale!

Right now Topaz is offering price reductions on the Utility Bundle and the Creator Bundle. The former normally sells for $359.96. It is on sale now for $249.95. Click here, scroll all the way down to the sale, and enter the ARTHUR15 code at checkout to save an additional 15%! The Creator Bundle usually sells for #279.97 and is now on sale for $149.99. Using the ARTHUR15 code at checkout brings the price down to $127.49!

Please Remember

With income from IPTs approaching zero, please, if you enjoy and learn from the blog, remember to use one of my two affiliate programs when purchasing new gear. Doing so just might make it possible for me to avoid having to try to get a job as a Walmart greeter and will not cost you a single penny more. And if you use Bedfords and remember to enter the BIRDSASART code at checkout, you will save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I am out at least forty to sixty thousand dollars so far due to COVID 19 (with lots more to come) — remembering to use my B&H link or to shop at Bedfords will help me out a ton and be greatly appreciated. Overseas folks who cannot order from the US because of import fees, duties, and taxes can always help out by clicking here if they see fit.

The BAA Used Gear Page

The Used Gear page continues to be red hot! It is BAA Used Gear Page is the place to sell your used photographic equipment. We will help you to get your gear sold quickly for 20 to 60% or more than what the big guys are offering … Doubt me? Check out the Recent Sales list for the past ten months at the bottom of the page.

BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Great Topaz News!

Folks who use the BAA Topaz link to purchase Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, or the Utility Bundle (or any other Topaz plugins) will receive a 15% discount by entering the ARTHUR15 code at checkout. To get the discount you must use my link and you must enter the discount code. Be sure to start with this link.

Topaz Stuff

As I said just a while back and have said often many times before, I should have listened sooner. If you, like me, are new to the Topaz party, please use this link to purchase. Right now I can wholeheartedly recommend both Topaz Sharpen AI and Topaz DeNoise AI. Though I have not yet worked with JPEGtoRAW AI or Gigapixel AI, I have installed both of these plug-ins and look forward to trying them on some I-Phone 11 images fairly soon. If you are thinking like me, consider the Utility Bundle that includes all four plug-ins mentioned above at a money-saving price.

Again, those who purchase Sharpen AI or DeNoise AI using my link, can e-mail to request a short Getting Started with Topaz e-Guide. I had a bit of trouble getting the two plug-ins installed and having them appear in the Photoshop Filter Menu. In addition, I will explain how to best learn about the two plug-ins by applying them on a Layer (in Photoshop). I amazed myself yesterday by completing this guide in the car on the way to and from Sebastian. Huge thanks to Anita for doing the driving. Please include a copy of your Topaz order when requesting the guide.

New and Better Bedfords Discount Policy!

You can now save 3% on all of your Bedfords photo gear purchases by entering the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout. Your discount will be applied to your pre-tax total. In addition, by using the code you will get 2nd day air shipping via Fed Ex.

Grab a Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III and save $14.99. Purchase a Canon EOS R5 and your discount will be $116.97. Purchase a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and save a remarkable $389.94! Your Bedford’s purchase no longer needs to be greater than $1,000.00 for you to receive a discount. The more you spend, the more you save.

122 sold to rave reviews.

The SONY e-Guide by Patrick Sparkman and Arthur Morris

The Sony Camera User’s e-Guide (and Videos)

Click here to purchase the guide with one Camera Set-up Video. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your camera body so that we can send you a link for the correct video.

Click here to purchase the guide with two Camera Set-up Videos. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your two camera bodies so that we can send you links for the correct videos.

Click here to learn more about the SONY e-Guide.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would enjoy free overnight shipping, your best bet is to click here, place an order with Bedfords, and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If an item is out of stock, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The wait lists at the big stores can be a year or longer for the hard to get items. Steve will surely get you your gear long before that. For the past year, he has been helping BAA Blog folks get their hands on items like the SONY a9 ii, the SONY 200-600 G OSS lens, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, and the Nikon 500mm PF. Steve is personable, helpful, and eager to please.



Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers whom I see in the field and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This is the Capture One screen capture for today’s featured image: Brown Pelican tandem diving in front of setting sun

An Impossible Exposure

At the moment of capture, the dynamic range of the scene far exceeded the dynamic range of the a9 ii sensor. And it far exceeded the dynamic range of any digital camera that I know of. And it far exceeded the dynamic range of any film that I know of. In the Photo Mechanic screen capture above you can see that the sun and a good portion of the bright sky above it show as grossly over-exposed. With the Exposure Warning activated, however, nothing showed as under-exposed.

This is the RawDigger screen capture for today’s featured image: Brown Pelican tandem diving in front of setting sun

Yes, An Impossible Exposure

RawDigger assessed the situation much more accurately. It showed the ball of the sun and just a small portion of the bright sky right above it to be overexposed (via the red warnings). And it correctly showed (via the blue warnings) that the two pelicans were under-exposed. Both of those as expected. It is simply not possible to maintain detail in a setting sun that is not fully muted by clouds while revealing detail in the veery darkest tones — in this case, the two diving pelicans.

In the RawDigger e-Guide (almost finished), you will learn how to interpret the Max values to ensure that your raw files are mega-exposed to the right. You will also learn how to interpret the OvExp/UnExp stats. And in addition, you will learn why it was possible to salvage what is obviously a grossly over-exposed image with 196,000 over-exposed red pixels and 142,00 over-exposed green pixels…

Topaz Gigapixel AI to the Rescue

Gigapixel AI to the Rescue

I was excited when I saw this image on the back of the camera and was thrilled to have an image with the two birds in the sky above the water. I knew instantly the it would require a fairly large crop. Immediately I thought that the cropped image would be a good candidate for Topaz Gigapixel AI. The results on Auto, as seen above, were quite astounding. The noise was reduced and the image rendered twice the size and much sharper. After bringing the rendered image into Photoshop and viewing it at 200%, I ran Topaz DeNoise AI to completely eliminate the little remaining noise in the background. I have no clue as to how the AI (artificial intelligence) can improve and image so dramatically, but all in all, the results were astounding. See the master file below.

This image was created on 14 November 2020 near the jetty at the south end of South Padre Island. I used the handheld handheld Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and the blazingly fast AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital Camera Body. Exposure determined by Zebras with Exposure Compensation on the rear dial: Multi-metering at +2 1/3 stops: 1/2000 sec. at f/4 in Shutter Priority mode. Auto set the ISO to 250. AWB at 6:28pm with some light clouds on the horizon.

Center Zone AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Brown Pelican tandem diving in front of setting sun

The Optimized Image

In addition to the Topaz AI work, note that I leveled the image and used the Patch Tool to eliminate a pole or two that cut into the horizon left to our left of the sun. As you likely have figured out by now, I was quite pleased with the final image. Topaz Gigapixel AI has opened up dramatic new worlds to photographers, especially to those who love to photograph action and flight.

Handholding and the SONY Callus

I mentioned to Patrick last week that after only a few afternoons of handholding the SONY 600GM with the a9 ii that I had developed a nasty callus on the inside of my right middle finger just past the proximal knuckle. He said, “I have that too. That’s the SONY callus.” There is a bit of a knurled protrusion just to the right of the shutter button that causes a callus to form. This area might have been better designed; that is, bean made a bit smoother.

San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects, including and especially the Pacific race of California Brown Pelican. With annual visits spanning more than four decades, I have lots of photographic experience there … Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

San Diego 2021 COVID-conscious Brown Pelican IPT

January 12 thru the morning session on January 16, 2021. Four full and one-half day: $2299.00. Deposit: $599.00. Limit: 8 photographers/Openings: 6.

Introductory Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; MON JAN 11, 2021.

Join me in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches; Brandt’s (nesting with eggs and possibly chicks) and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heermann’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others are possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the IPT cards, there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well. Not to mention a ton of excellent flight photography opportunities and instruction.

Please note: where permitted and on occasion, ducks and gulls may be attracted (or re-located) with offerings of grains or healthy bread.

Learning Exposure, Whether You Like It Or Not

Whether you like it or not, we will be beating the subject of exposure like a dead horse. In every new situation, you will hear my thoughts on the exposure situation along with my thoughts on both Nikon and Canon histograms and the subject of blinkies. Whether you like it or not, you will learn to work in manual mode and to get the right exposure every time as long as a bird gives you ten seconds with the light constant. And you will learn what to do when the light is changing constantly. What you learn about exposure will be one of the great takeaways on every IPT.

Though the pelicans will be the stars of the show on this IPT, there will be many other handsome and captivating subjects in wonderful settings. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

It Ain’t Just Pelicans

With gorgeous subjects just sitting there waiting to have their pictures taken, photographing the pelicans on the cliffs is about as easy as nature photography gets. With the winds from the east almost every morning there is usually some excellent flight photography as well. And the pelicans are almost always doing something interesting: preening, scratching, bill pouch cleaning, or squabbling. And then there are those crazy head throws that are thought to be a form of intra-flock communication. You will be guided as to how to make the best of all of those opportunities. And depending on the weather and local conditions and tides, there are a variety of fabulous photo chances available in and around San Diego.


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Did I mention that there are lots of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter? Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

The San Diego Details

This IPT will include five 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, four 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, four lunches, and after-brunch image review and Photoshop sessions. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility. And so that we can get some sleep, dinners will be on your own as well.

A $599 deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “BIRDS AS ART) to us here: BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 3385, or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, is due immediately after you sign up. Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail. If you cancel due to COVID 19 concerns, all of your payments will be refunded.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for both big international trips and US-based IPTs is highly recommended as we never know what life has in store for us. I strongly recommend that you purchase quality travel insurance. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to include things such as sudden work or family obligation and even a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check or running your credit card. Whenever purchasing travel insurance, be sure to read the fine print carefully even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.


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Variety is surely the spice of life in San Diego. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Getting Up Early and Staying Out Late

On all BIRDS AS ART IPTS including and especially the San Diego IPT, we get into the field early to take advantage of unique and often spectacular lighting conditions and we stay out late to maximize the chances of killer light and glorious sunset silhouette situations. We often arrive at the cliffs a full hour before anyone else shows up to check out the landscape and seascape opportunities.

Typos

In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

November 18th, 2020

Road Trip News. And Flight Pose: Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

What’s Up?

We spent our first day near Denver, CO photographing White Pelicans, Green-winged Teal, and Cackling Goose (a small race of Canada goose).

After careful consideration, Anita North and I have – for a variety of reasons — decided to forego the remainder of our planned road trip and head back to Florida soon — we will probably begin heading east this coming Saturday morning. Two of the main factors that influenced our decision were the re-closure of New Mexico (which again is requiring a 14-day quarantine) and the extremely poor photographic conditions at Bosque del Apache NWR. We had planned on a three-week stay in Socorro that would have been the centerpiece of our trip.

Topaz Still on Sale!

Right now Topaz is offering price reductions on the Utility Bundle and the Creator Bundle. The former normally sells for $359.96. It is on sale now for $249.95. Click here, scroll all the way down to the sale, and enter the ARTHUR15 code at checkout to save an additional 15%! The Creator Bundle usually sells for #279.97 and is now on sale for $149.99. Using the ARTHUR15 code at checkout brings the price down to $127.49!

Please Remember

With income from IPTs approaching zero, please, if you enjoy and learn from the blog, remember to use one of my two affiliate programs when purchasing new gear. Doing so just might make it possible for me to avoid having to try to get a job as a Walmart greeter and will not cost you a single penny more. And if you use Bedfords and remember to enter the BIRDSASART code at checkout, you will save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I am out at least forty to sixty thousand dollars so far due to COVID 19 (with lots more to come) — remembering to use my B&H link or to shop at Bedfords will help me out a ton and be greatly appreciated. Overseas folks who cannot order from the US because of import fees, duties, and taxes can always help out by clicking here if they see fit.

The BAA Used Gear Page

The Used Gear page continues to be red hot! It is BAA Used Gear Page is the place to sell your used photographic equipment. We will help you to get your gear sold quickly for 20 to 60% or more than what the big guys are offering … Doubt me? Check out the Recent Sales list for the past ten months at the bottom of the page.

BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Great Topaz News!

Folks who use the BAA Topaz link to purchase Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, or the Utility Bundle (or any other Topaz plugins) will receive a 15% discount by entering the ARTHUR15 code at checkout. To get the discount you must use my link and you must enter the discount code. Be sure to start with this link.

Topaz Stuff

As I said just a while back and have said often many times before, I should have listened sooner. If you, like me, are new to the Topaz party, please use this link to purchase. Right now I can wholeheartedly recommend both Topaz Sharpen AI and Topaz DeNoise AI. Though I have not yet worked with JPEGtoRAW AI or Gigapixel AI, I have installed both of these plug-ins and look forward to trying them on some I-Phone 11 images fairly soon. If you are thinking like me, consider the Utility Bundle that includes all four plug-ins mentioned above at a money-saving price.

Again, those who purchase Sharpen AI or DeNoise AI using my link, can e-mail to request a short Getting Started with Topaz e-Guide. I had a bit of trouble getting the two plug-ins installed and having them appear in the Photoshop Filter Menu. In addition, I will explain how to best learn about the two plug-ins by applying them on a Layer (in Photoshop). I amazed myself yesterday by completing this guide in the car on the way to and from Sebastian. Huge thanks to Anita for doing the driving. Please include a copy of your Topaz order when requesting the guide.

New and Better Bedfords Discount Policy!

You can now save 3% on all of your Bedfords photo gear purchases by entering the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout. Your discount will be applied to your pre-tax total. In addition, by using the code you will get 2nd day air shipping via Fed Ex.

Grab a Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III and save $14.99. Purchase a Canon EOS R5 and your discount will be $116.97. Purchase a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and save a remarkable $389.94! Your Bedford’s purchase no longer needs to be greater than $1,000.00 for you to receive a discount. The more you spend, the more you save.

122 sold to rave reviews.

The SONY e-Guide by Patrick Sparkman and Arthur Morris

The Sony Camera User’s e-Guide (and Videos)

Click here to purchase the guide with one Camera Set-up Video. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your camera body so that we can send you a link for the correct video.

Click here to purchase the guide with two Camera Set-up Videos. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your two camera bodies so that we can send you links for the correct videos.

Click here to learn more about the SONY e-Guide.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would enjoy free overnight shipping, your best bet is to click here, place an order with Bedfords, and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If an item is out of stock, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The wait lists at the big stores can be a year or longer for the hard to get items. Steve will surely get you your gear long before that. For the past year, he has been helping BAA Blog folks get their hands on items like the SONY a9 ii, the SONY 200-600 G OSS lens, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, and the Nikon 500mm PF. Steve is personable, helpful, and eager to please.



Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers whom I see in the field and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

Both images in this Photo Mechanic screen capture were created on 7 November 2020 at the fabulous morning raptor blind at the Laguna Seca Ranch in Hidalgo County, TX. The last image in this 3-frame sequence is today’s featured image (below). I used the handheld Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens (all at 448mm) and the blazingly fast AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital camera body. ISO 2500. Exposure determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear wheel: 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. AWB at 9:10am on a cloudy-bright morning.

Center Zone AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed superbly.

Image #1: Crested Caracara landing sequence Screen Capture

The Situation

A mentioned here previously, our first four mornings in the raptor blind at Laguna Seca Ranch were clear and sunny with an unfortunate breeze from the west that had most of the birds landing away from us. The prevailing winds in early November are generally strong from the east. It was foggy and still early on the morning of the seventh. The fog cleared nicely leaving us with the cloudy-bright conditions that I love. But with little wind, most of the birds were coming in too low and were partially obscured by the perch. Many excellent flight images are created by picking out the one bird that does not follow the expected pattern. The bird featured in today’s post flew directly at us at a decent height above the perch. The a9 ii took care of the rest. All three images in the sequence were razor sharp on the bird’s eye.

This image was created on 7 November 2020 at the morning raptor blind at the fabulous Laguna Seca Ranch in Hidalgo County, TX. I used the handheld Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens (at 448mm) and the blazingly fast AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital camera body. ISO 2500. Exposure determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear wheel: 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. AWB at 9:10am on a cloudy-bright morning.

Center Zone AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed superbly.

Image #2: Crested Caracara braking to land in full flare

Flight Pose: Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

With landing birds flying right at you this, is the pose I try for with the wings fully flared as the bird is braking hard. In a perfect world, the bird would have been staring right down the lens barrel instead of slightly to my left. When you get the right pose it is a treat with the SONY a9 series bodies that you do not have to worry about whether the image is sharp …

Image Processing Questions

1- Would you have removed the caracara on the ground? Why or why not?

2- Would you attempt to fill in the sky background that merges with two of the primaries of the bird’s right wing (upper left in the frame as we view it)? Why or why not?

Image #2A: Topaz DeNoise on the Crested Caracara braking to land in full flare image at 125%

Topaz DeNoise on the Crested Caracara braking image

As part of my now-regular workflow, I ran Topaz DeNoise AI on Auto on the whole image. Be sure to click on the image to enlarge it and note the elimination of noise in the background and on the black feathers of the bird’s chest. Note also the increased sharpness and the complete lack of any sharpening halos.

Typos

In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).