Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
August 10th, 2022

A BAA Record 316 Images of the Same Bird Standing in the Same Spot. Flight Photography Basics. Another Wind-Against-Sun Tip. And Another Canon 800mm Price Drop!

Wanted to Buy

I have a serious buyer who would like to purchase your Canon 100-400mm L IS II lens. If you have one that you would like to sell, please contact me via e-mail.

What’s Up?

There were more clear skies and more southwest winds to deal with on Tuesday morning. I made my first image at 5:43am in the predawn light. At 6:19am, after making another 333 images (including a very few good ones), I saw a single skimmer land on clean sand to my right. The sun had just risen above a distant cloudy. I moved carefully to place the bird in front of an absolutely glowing yellow backdrop. I made the first image of this bird at 6:20:05am. One minute 20 seconds later, at 6:21:25, I was sated. I called another photographer in to enjoy the great situation and moved to my right. When the smoke cleared, I had created 316 images. That is surely a record for me. Other than the fact that the skimmer had beaten the fish up pretty well, it was as perfect a situation as you could wish for. I will be sharing the best one with you here soon. 🙂

As the sun got brighter, I worked on refining my new technique for dealing with these difficult, wind-against-sun conditions. I photographed incoming backlit skimmers and terns, many with carrying baitfish for their chicks, with the tripod-mounted 600 GM/2X TC/a/1 rig. Again, I sat to eliminate the distant background of cabanas and buildings and replace that with a golden sky and a nice row of beach grasses along the bottom of the frame.

On Tuesday afternoon, Carlotta Grenier joined me for a flight photography In-the-Field Session at Nickerson Beach. The session started off great with sunshine and a brisk southwest wind. I went over the basics of shooting flight off the tripod with a 600mm f/4 lens. Set the limit range switch to not full, tripod raised so that the camera body is comfortably at eye level, go with Tracking Zone AF, a shutter speed of 1/3200 second or more, and raise the ISO until you get some faint Zebras on the bird’s white bellies. Pan, frame, and fire. Later in the afternoon there were dozens of blast-offs. On the largest of those, we finally saw a peregrine streak by.

Today is Wednesday 10 August 2022. I will be visiting the the East Pond at JBWR early today. Water levels and the weather are looking ideal and I am excited about returning to my soul place. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took about two hours to prepare and makes one hundred thirty-nine days in a row with a new one.

So far, eight folks have been in touch about joining me at either Nickerson or JBWR in the coming weeks for an In-the-Field session or two. The first window for doing shorebirds at the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is from 10-12 August, the second window is 24-26 August. See the additional details below.

Please remember to use the B&H and Amazon links that are found on most blog pages and to use the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout when purchasing your new gear from Bedfords to get 3% back on your credit card and enjoy free second-day air FedEx. Please, also, consider joining a BAA IPT. You will be amazed at how much you will learn!

Canon 800mm f/5.6L ISUSM Lens/with extras!

BAA Record-low Price!
Price Reduced $400 on 18 July 2022!
Price Reduced $400 on 9 July 2022!

Galapagos IPT veteran (with wife Sandy), Don Selesky, is offering a Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens in like-new condition the BAA record-low price of $5997.00 (was $6,797.00). The sale includes the rear lens cap, the lens trunk and key, the original tough front lens cover, 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 Don via e-mail.

I used this lens, often with a 1.4X TC, as my main super-telephoto lens for five years. It is a superb lens that offers lots of reach for those working with birds that are skittish. It is great from the car. I was astounded that 15 of the 67 images in the San Diego exhibit were created with the 800. I missed it terribly for years. It will seriously kill with an R5 or an R6 and an RF-EF Adapter! This lens sells new at B&H for $12,999 but is back-ordered everywhere. Don’s lens is a superb buy; grab it now and save a very sweet $7902.00! artie

Clockwise from the upper left corner back around to the center: Wilson’s Phalarope, JBWR; just fledged Common Tern, Nickerson; Black Skimmer, adult skimming, Nickerson; Black Skimmer killing tiny skimmer chick, Nickerson; American Oystercatcher foraging at sunrise, Nickerson; Common Tern chick swallowing baby bluefish, Nickerson; Short-billed Dowitcher, juvenile, double overhead wing stretch, JBWR; Black Skimmers, predawn flock blur, Nickerson; Black Skimmer, 10-day old chick, Nickerson.

Click on the card to view a larger version.

Nickerson Beach/East Pond JBWR composite

Nickerson Beach/East Pond at Jamaica Bay (JBWR) In-the Field Workshops

Both Nickerson Beach and the East Pond at JBWR offer some of the best midsummer bird photography on the planet. Hundreds of pairs or Black Skimmers and Common Terns along with more than a dozen pairs of American Oystercatchers breed at Nickerson each season so there are lots of chicks of all sizes and handsome fledged young to photograph. Provided that the water levels are low, hundreds of young shorebirds in their handsome fresh juvenile plumages stop by the pond each August on their way south.

Nickerson often reveals nature at it rawest, most basic level. Most days we get to photograph all sorts of dramatic behaviors ranging from skimmers and terns fishing and feeding (and tending) their you. There are often chances to shoot a variety of predatory encounters — gulls eating large skimmer chicks, skimmers eating skimmer babies, and Peregrine Falcons hunting. And rarely, if we are lucky, Peregrine Falcons catching! Consider joining me to learn a ton both about bird photography and the birds.

I am taking the Auto Train north on 31 July and will happily spend all of August on Long Island. I head south on 31 August and should be back home on 1 September (barring anything unforeseen). I am offering In-the-Field sessions at both Nickerson Beach and the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. If you are interested, please get in touch via e-mail or text me at 863-221-2372.

Whether you are a local or would like to fly in for several days of instruction — a sort of private, or small group. — at worst, IPT, LMK via e-mail so that we can work on a schedule that could possibly include both Nickerson and Jamaica Bay.

The First DeSoto IPT

If you are interested in the first DeSoto IPT, 3 1/2 Days, Tuesday 27 September through the morning session on Friday 30 September 2022, know that I just reserved a three-bedroom AirBnB in Gulfport. Share it for four nights with many multiple IPT veteran Monte Brown and me and save a ton on lodging: $83.69/night/person for a whole home. AirBnB photos available upon request. If interested, shoot me an e-mail.

Instagram

Follow me on Instagram here. I am trying to feature both new and old images, especially images that have not appeared recently on the blog. Or search for birds_as_art.

BIRDS AS ART Image Optimization Service (BAA IOS)

Send a PayPal for $62.00 to birdsasart@verizon.net or call Jim at 863-692-0906 and put $62.00 on your credit card. Pick one of your best images and upload the raw file using a large file sending service like Hightail or DropBox and then send me the link via e-mail. I will download and save your raw file, evaluate the exposure and sharpness, and optimize the image as if it were my own after converting the raw file in Adobe Camera Raw. Best of all, I will make a screen recording of the entire process and send you a link to the video to download, save and study.

Induro GIT 304L Price Drop

Amazingly, we have two, brand-new-in-the-box Induro GIT 304L tripods in stock. They are $699.00 each (were $799.00) and the price now includes the insured ground shipping to the lower 48 states. Weekday phone orders only: 863-692-0906. Order yours here while they last.

Please Remember

You can find some great photo accessories (and necessities, like surf booties!) on Amazon by clicking on the Stuff tab on the orange/yellow menu bar above. On a related note, it would be extremely helpful if blog-folks who, like me, spend too much money on Amazon, would get in the habit of clicking on the Amazon logo link on the right side of each blog post when they shop online. As you might expect, doing so will not cost you a single penny, but would be appreciated tremendously by yours truly. And doing so works seamlessly with your Amazon Prime account.

Please remember that if an item — a Delkin flash card, or a tripod head — for example, that is available from B&H and/or Bedfords, is also available in the BAA Online Store, it would be great, and greatly appreciated, if you would opt to purchase from us. We will match any price. Please remember also to use my B&H affiliate links or to earn 3% cash back at Bedfords by using the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout for your major gear purchases. Doing either often earns you free guides and/or discounts. And always earns my great appreciation.

Brand-New and As-Good-As-Ever Bedfords BAA Discount Policy

Folks who have fallen in love with Bedfords can now use the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout to enjoy a post-purchase, 3% off-statement credit (excluding taxes and shipping charges) on orders paid with a credit card. The 3% credit will be refunded to the card you used for your purchase. Be sure, also, to check the box for free shipping to enjoy free Second Day Air Fed-Ex. This offer does not apply to purchases of Classes, Gift Cards, or to any prior purchases.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would like to enjoy getting 3% back on your credit card along with free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex Air 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 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and check the box for Free Shipping. That will automatically upgrade to free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The waitlists 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 a 1, 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.

Important Note

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small percentage when you purchase from Amazon after using any of the Amazon links on the blog (including the logo-link on the right side of each blog post page). My affiliate link works fine with Amazon Prime and using it will not cost you a single cent. Huge thanks, BTW 🙂

If You Enjoy the Blog …

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 (still!) save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I lost about fifty thousand dollars in income due to COVID 19 — 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, are invited to help out by clicking here to leave a blog thank you gift if they see fit.



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. If you are desperate, you can try me on my cell at 863-221-2372. Please leave a message and shoot me a text if I do not pick up.

Tracking: Spot S/AF-C with Bird-Eye/Face Detection performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a high-res version.

Image #1: The Photo Mechanic screen capture for today’s featured image

The Situation

I was on my way back to the parking lot before eight am when I noticed several adult Common Terns standing on the upper beach. All but one of them was facing into the southwest wind. With the sun behind me in the east, I would be shooting “up the bird’s butt.” But (one “t”), there was a single bird facing to the south. To get square to the subject, I needed to shoot about 20° off sun angle. I flattened the tripod, got down on the ground, pulled up the rear monitor, found the subject (not an easy task), and made several images as the bird preened its left side.

I was surprised when a young bird landed to the right of and much closer to me than my chosen subject. Just as I got lined up, an adult bird landed near the fledgling. The juvie tern went nuts running around in circles begging. As it turned, it did not care about the wind direction; I some great action chances with the subject square to the back of the camera (at times) and right down sun angle.

The Lesson

In wind against sun conditions, be on the lookout for the odd bird that is not facing into the wind or for a bird that is so busy doing something that it is not facing into the wind.

This image was created on 8 August 2022 at Nickerson Beach Park, Lido Beach, Long Island, NY. While seated on dry sand, I used the flattened, no-longer available except from BIRDS AS ART, Induro GIT 304L tripod/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera). The exposure was determined via Zebra technology with ISO on the thumb dial. ISO 640. 1/2000 sec. at f/8 (wide open) in Manual mode. When evaluated in RawDigger, it was determined that the raw file was about 1/3 stop too dark (due to operator error). AWB at 7:54:33 am on a mostly bright morning.

Tracking: Spot S/AF-C with Bird-Eye/Face Detection performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a high-res version.

Image #1A: Common Tern fledgling begging/Version I

The Image Optimization

Looking at Image #1, the Photo Mechanic screen capture, it is obvious that the three dark, out-of-focus circles in the background (distant skimmers, I think), needed to be dealt with. Eliminating the one in the center and the smaller one in front of the young bird was easy; I used the Patch Tool. The blob behind the juvie’s head required more care. First, I carefully selected the bird’s head with the Magnetic Lasso, feathered the selection, and placed it on its own layer. Next, I turned off the Eyeball, activated the layer below, and used a large soft clone stamp brush to eliminate the dark circular blob behind the head. I worked with impunity not caring that I was along away large parts of the bird’s head. When I was done, I simply went back to the layer above, the one with the bird’s head, and clicked the Eyeball back on. The young tern’s head was restored perfectly.

I did some beach cleanup, especially in the area below the young tern’s raised foot. Working large, I rebuilt one claw on the raised foot that had been broken. Next, I painted a Quick Mask of the bird’s eye, placed it on a layer, and ran Topaz Sharpen AI on that layer only. Though the original images was incredibly sharp, that last step brought the eye up a notch.

Rather than cropping from just behind the adult’s legs, I opted to crop from in front of its legs so as to include just the head, neck, and the bend of the wing. To finish off Version I, I pulled the Crop Tool in from the upper left.

Be sure to scroll down to see Version II, a higher crop.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II).

You can order your copy from the BAA Online Store here, by sending a PayPal for $40 here, or by calling Jim or Jennifer weekdays at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand. Be sure to specify Digital Basics II.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II)

Most of the techniques mentioned above and tons more great Photoshop tips and techniques — along with my complete digital workflow, my cleanup tools with instructions, Digital Eye Doctor Techniques, and all my personalized Keyboard Shortcuts — are covered in detail in the BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II), an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. Note: folks working on a PC and/or those who do not want to miss anything Photoshop may wish to purchase the original Digital Basics along with DB II while saving $15 by clicking here to buy the DB Bundle.

Folks who learn well by following along rather than by reading can check out the complete collection of MP 4 Photoshop Tutorial Videos by clicking here. Note: most of the videos are now priced at an amazingly low $5.00 each.

You can learn how and why I converted all of my Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide here. More recently, I became proficient at converting my Nikon RAW (NEF) files in Adobe Camera Raw. About three years ago I began converting my Nikon and Sony RAW files in Capture One and did that for two years. You can learn more about Capture One in the Capture One Pro 12 Simplified MP4 Video here. The next step would be to get a copy of Arash Hazeghi’s “The Nikon Photographers’ Guide to Phase One Capture One Pro e-Guide” in the blog post here. Today, I convert my Sony raw files in Photoshop with Adobe Camera Raw.

You can learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair.

This image was created on 8 August 2022 at Nickerson Beach Park, Lido Beach, Long Island, NY. While seated on dry sand, I used the flattened, no-longer available except from BIRDS AS ART, Induro GIT 304L tripod/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera). The exposure was determined via Zebra technology with ISO on the thumb dial. ISO 640. 1/2000 sec. at f/8 (wide open) in Manual mode. When evaluated in RawDigger, it was determined that the raw file was about 1/3 stop too dark (due to operator error). AWB at 7:54:33 am on a mostly bright morning.

Tracking: Spot S/AF-C with Bird-Eye/Face Detection performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a high-res version.

Image #1B: Common Tern fledgling begging/Version II

Version II

For Version II, I executed a tighter crop to feature just the begging fledgling. I used the Patch Tool to eliminate the head of the adult near the right frame-edge.

You Call?

Should I have cropped from just behind the adult’s legs? Why or why not?

Which is the stronger image, Version I or Version II? Why?

Unsolicited via e-mail from Pete Myers

I just spent 4 days in the field in a graduate course in bird photography taught by Artie Morris at Fort DeSoto. After almost 50 years of experience pointing cameras at birds from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego, New Zealand and beyond, I thought I was good enough. But what I learned from Artie in just four days has taken me to a whole new level. As he aptly puts it, “birds as art,” not simply bird photography. One of those 4 days was the most satisfying I’d ever experienced, anywhere. The IPT left me euphoric about what I’d learned, and frighteningly committed to recreating my portfolio with the techniques and insights he taught me.

Via e-mail from Jim Miller

I can’t stop thinking about how much fun the DeSoto Fall IPT was, and how much I learned. There were so many things that suddenly made perfect sense after I had been confused for so long. Thank you very much for the wonderful trip, and for being a great teacher. As I worked through the raw files last week, I realized what a fantastic lens the 600 GM is. Thanks for the rental! Maybe someday I will be able to afford one. Some images for critique are attached.

By the way, the plant we were looking at along the sidewalk in Gulfport is Blue Porterweed. It is worth a few minutes on the internet to read about it: native of Florida and the Caribbean, used for medicine in The Bahamas, etc. We have it in a large pot in the front yard and it takes a lot of water, but it blooms Spring through Fall. Thank you again, Artie. It was really wonderful to be with you and learn from you.

Via e-mail from Lee Sommie

I want to thank you for making the Fall 2017 Ft. DeSoto IPT such a fun and educational experience for me. I truly did not want the adventure to end. I now look through the viewfinder with an artist’s mindset. And the real bonus was making new friends with fellow students. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm for wildlife photography. I had a great time with you and look forward to more adventures on future IPTs.

Followed by this one

BTW. I downloaded Photo Mechanic and started using it in my workflow. Since I like using Lightroom for my adjustments, I found a way to incorporate Photo Mechanic and Lightroom together. Lightroom was driving me crazy with how slow it is to import and preview photos. I was impressed with how fast you could preview photos and start editing your photos on the DeSoto Fall IPT. Life is too short to wait for applications to import and preview photos and Photo Mechanic solves that problem.

Via e-mail from Muhammad Arif

I had a great time at Fort DeSoto. Thank you for all the instruction, for your help and pointers; my photography has already improved tremendously, and I’ve never made such good bird photos before. I wish I could’ve joined you on Monday and Tuesday morning as well, but work got in the way. It was also nice meeting the folks on the IPT. Thanks again for everything and I hope to join you at a future IPT sometime again.


desoto-fall-card-b

Fort DeSoto in fall is rife with tame birds. All the images on this card were created at Fort DeSoto in either late September or very early October. I hope that you can join me there this fall. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Clockwise from upper left to center: Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Caspian Tern, Great Egret, Sandwich Tern with fish, Willet, Black-bellied Plover threat display, Snowy Egret, 2-year old Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron, juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron.

The Fall 2022 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tours

Fall 2022 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tour #1

3 1/2 Days: Tuesday 27 September through the morning session on Friday 30 September 2022. $1899.00 includes three working lunches. Limit six photographers/Openings five.

Fall 2022 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tour #2

3 1/2 Days: 7 October through the morning session on Monday 10 October 2022. $1899.00 includes three working lunches. Limit six photographers.

Fall 2022 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tour #3

3 1/2 Days: Monday 31 October through the morning session on Thursday 3 November 2022. $1899.00 includes three working lunches. Limit six photographers.

Fort DeSoto, located just south of St. Petersburg, FL, is a mecca for migrant shorebirds and terns in fall. There they join hundreds of egrets, herons, night-herons, and gulls that winter on the T-shaped peninsula. With any luck at all, we should get to photograph one of Florida’s most desirable shorebird species: Marbled Godwit. Black-bellied Plover and Willet are easy, American Oystercatcher is pretty much guaranteed. Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, and White Ibis are easy as well and we will almost surely come up with a tame Yellow-crowned Night-Heron or two. And we will get to do some Brown Pelican flight photography. In addition, Royal, Sandwich, Forster’s, and Caspian Terns will likely provide us with some good flight opportunities as well. Though not guaranteed, Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork might well be expected. And we will be on the lookout for a migrant passerine fallout in the event of a thunderstorm or two.

On this IPT, all will learn the basics and fine points of digital exposure. Nikon and Canon folks will learn to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, and SONY folks will learn to use Zebras so that they can be sure of making excellent exposures before pressing the shutter button. Everyone will learn how to approach free and wild birds without disturbing them, to understand and predict bird behavior, to identify many species of shorebirds, to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. Most importantly, you will surely learn to evaluate wind and sky conditions and understand how they affect bird photography. And you will learn how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it). The best news is that you will be able to take everything you learn home with you so that you will be a better photographer wherever and whenever you photograph.

There will be a Photoshop/image review session during or after lunch (included) each full day. That will be followed by Instructor Nap Time.

These IPTs will run with only a single registrant (though that is not unlikely to happen). The best airport is Tampa (TPA). Once you register, you will receive an e-mail with Gulfport AirBnB information. If you register soon and would like to share an AirBnB with me, shoot me an e-mail. Other possibilities including taking a cab to and from the airport to our AirBnB and riding with me. This saves you both gas and the cost of a rental car.

A $600 deposit is due when you sign up and is payable by credit card. Balances must be paid by check two months before the trip. Your deposit is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out with six folks, so please check your plans carefully before committing. You can register by calling Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand, or by sending a check as follows: make the check out to: BIRDS AS ART and send it via US mail here: BIRDS AS ART, PO BOX 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. You will receive a confirmation e-mail with detailed instructions, clothing, and gear advice. Please shoot me an e-mail if you plan to register or if you have any questions.


desoto-fall-card-a-layers

Clockwise from upper left to center: Long-billed Curlew, juvenile Tricolored Heron, Marbled Godwits, Great Blue Heron, juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, Wood Stork, smiling Sea Scallop, Ruddy Turnstone scavenging needlefish, Great Blue Heron sunset silhouette at my secret spot, and southbound migrant tern flock blur.

Up Early, Stay Out Late!

Obviously, folks attending an IPT will be out in the field early and stay late to take advantage of the sweetest light and sunrise and sunset colors (when possible). The good news is that the days are relatively short in early fall. I really love it when I am leaving the beach on a sunny morning after a great session just as a carful or two of well-rested photographers are arriving. The length of cloudy morning sessions will often be extended. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Typos

With all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors.

August 9th, 2022

Nickerson Beach Backlit Basics Part II: Second Verse, Same as the First!

Thank you note from Carlotta Grenier

Via e-Mail from Carlotta Grenier

Dear Artie,

I just ordered the RawDigger guide and will book a morning session with you in the coming weeks. Thanks again for the great session on Thursday August 4th. Once you loaded my settings onto my a1 body it was as if I had a new camera. I could not believe how well the AF system performed, how sharp the images were even with teleconverters with your simplified AF Methods (only two!), and how easy it was to get the right exposure with Zebras.

On a personal note, you look so good right now, better than I have ever seen you look. You should get at least to 100 and continue being productive as you need to share your knowledge with people who love to learn.

Best
Carlotta

Carlotta is a very young 80 years old. She knew me when my floppy sun hat was new, close to 25 years ago. She loves to photograph horses and birds. Her images continue to do well in her local Connecticut photo club contests.

What’s Up?

There were more clear skies and more southwest winds to deal with on Monday morning. I came up with another new technique for dealing with these difficult, wind-against-sun conditions: I photographed incoming backlit skimmers and terns, many with carrying baitfish for their chicks, with the tripod-mounted 600 GM/2X TC/a/1 rig. I sat to eliminate the distant background of cabanas and buildings and replaced that with a row of beach grass along the bottom of the frame.

On Monday afternoon, with winds in excess of 28 mph in the forecast, I opted to stay in to protect my gear from windblown sand. Just one grain under the Playback button will have you sending your camera in for repairs.

I will be making my first visit to the East Pond at JBWR on Wednesday morning. Water levels and the weather are looking ideal. See below to join me.

Today is Tuesday 9 August 2022. I will be heading to Nickerson early to enjoy the challenge of another wind-against-sun morning. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took about 90 minutes to prepare and makes one hundred thirty-eight days in a row with a new one.

So far, seven folks have been in touch about joining me at either Nickerson or JBWR in the coming weeks for an In-the-Field session or two. The first window for doing shorebirds at the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is from 10-12 August, the second window is 24-26 August. See the additional details below.

Please remember to use the B&H and Amazon links that are found on most blog pages and to use the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout when purchasing your new gear from Bedfords to get 3% back on your credit card and enjoy free second-day air FedEx. Please, also, consider joining a BAA IPT. You will be amazed at how much you will learn!

Clockwise from the upper left corner back around to the center: Wilson’s Phalarope, JBWR; just fledged Common Tern, Nickerson; Black Skimmer, adult skimming, Nickerson; Black Skimmer killing tiny skimmer chick, Nickerson; American Oystercatcher foraging at sunrise, Nickerson; Common Tern chick swallowing baby bluefish, Nickerson; Short-billed Dowitcher, juvenile, double overhead wing stretch, JBWR; Black Skimmers, predawn flock blur, Nickerson; Black Skimmer, 10-day old chick, Nickerson.

Click on the card to view a larger version.

Nickerson Beach/East Pond JBWR composite

Nickerson Beach/East Pond at Jamaica Bay (JBWR) In-the Field Workshops

Both Nickerson Beach and the East Pond at JBWR offer some of the best midsummer bird photography on the planet. Hundreds of pairs or Black Skimmers and Common Terns along with more than a dozen pairs of American Oystercatchers breed at Nickerson each season so there are lots of chicks of all sizes and handsome fledged young to photograph. Provided that the water levels are low, hundreds of young shorebirds in their handsome fresh juvenile plumages stop by the pond each August on their way south.

Nickerson often reveals nature at it rawest, most basic level. Most days we get to photograph all sorts of dramatic behaviors ranging from skimmers and terns fishing and feeding (and tending) their you. There are often chances to shoot a variety of predatory encounters — gulls eating large skimmer chicks, skimmers eating skimmer babies, and Peregrine Falcons hunting. And rarely, if we are lucky, Peregrine Falcons catching! Consider joining me to learn a ton both about bird photography and the birds.

This image was created on 6 August 2022 at Nickerson Beach Park, Lido Beach, Long Island, NY. While seated on dry sand, I used the lowered, no-longer available except from BIRDS AS ART, Induro GIT 304L tripod/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera). The exposure was determined via Zebra technology with ISO on the thumb dial. ISO 800. 1/800 sec. at f/8 (wide open) in Manual mode. When evaluated in RawDigger, it was determined that there were 20,000 over-exposed pixels. Keep reading to learn why that was a perfect exposure in this situation. AWB at 7:10:41am on a mostly sunny morning.

Tracking: Spot S/AF-C with Bird-Eye/Face Detection performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a high-res version.

Image #1: Backlit Black Skimmer chick

Can an Image with 20,000 Over Exposed Pixels be the Best Exposure?

The key to the success of this image was the light coming through and illuminating the translucent orange of the proximal half of the bird’s bill.

As you can see in the RawDigger screen capture below, nearly all of the OvExp pixels are in the specular highlights along the bottom edge of the bill (as shown by the pink to red OvExp warnings). There are also a few OvExp pixels on the forehead. So why not set the exposure a lot darker and eliminate all of the OvExp pixels? As you are basically looking at a reflection of the sun itself, you would need to shoot many stops darker. Even decreasing the exposure by 10-12 (or more) stops would not do away with the over-exposed line along the bottom of the bill. And if you did shoot to minimize the over-exposure there, the shadowed side of the subject would be rendered so dark that opening up the tones would tremendously increase the noise on the bird and would muddy the colors as well.

Note: in the old days, and even today, flash can be used to light the shadowed side of the backlit subject. You would not, however, be able to use a Better Beamer to increase the power of the flash. Why? As the lens is pointed towards the sun, the fresnel screen would burn holes in your flash or your hand or forearm. (I learned both of those from experience).

The Lesson

When the wind is blowing against the sun, creating backlit images is one of your best options.

Backlit Basics

1- Use your longest effective focal length for a narrow angle of view that reduces background clutter.

2- Set your exposure so that the rim light is over-exposed so as to avoid under-exposing the shadowed side of the subject.
3- Place the subject on the same line as the sun to get the most dramatic backlight. Only rarely will you want the sun in the frame on clear days as it is far too bright.

4- Look for situations where translucent, brightly colored portions of the subject are glowing from the strong backlight.

Second Verse, Same as the First!

With one small addition, today’s lessons are pretty much identical to the stuff we covered in yesterdays blog post.

Image #1A: The RawDigger screen capture for the Backlit Black Skimmer chick image

More of the Same

Many students need the lessons to be repeated over and over again so that they can understand and master them. So, here we go.

First, note that the histograms in all three color channels are pegged against the right-hand axis of the graph, indicating severe over-exoposure.

Again and always, when shooting backlit creatures, we strive to include rim-lit areas in an effort to create dramatic images. If you expose dark enough to avoid over-exposing the rim light, the shaded side of the subject will be grossly under-exposed; the entire image would be nearly black. Lightening under-exposed tones, will introduce lots of noise and will muddy the colors. By pushing the exposure to the right and toasting the rim light, you will create a raw file with at least some detail in the shaded feathers and will have produced an image that you can work with during the raw conversion and then in Photoshop.

What can I say? The combination of Zebras live in the viewfinder (with your camera set up properly) and post-capture study of the raw files in RawDigger makes it pretty much child’s play to come up with perfect exposure after perfect exposure, even in super-difficult situations. It would be impossible to overstate how much I have learned by studying RawDigger and how much better my exposures have become since I started with the program almost two years ago. The raw file brightness for today’s featured image is perfect with the G channel almost making the 16000 line. In other words, the raw file brightness is perfect.

RawDigger — not for the faint of heart …

Nothing has ever helped me learn to create perfect exposures to the degree that RawDigger has. I think that many folks are reluctant to learn that most of their images are underexposed by one or more full stops and that highlight warnings in Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, and your in-camera histogram are bogus as they are based on the embedded JPEGs. Only your raw files tell the truth all the time. Heck, I resisted RawDigger for several years … Once you get over that feeling, RawDigger can become your very best exposure friend no matter what system you are using. On the recent IPTs and In-the-Field sessions, we have demonstrated that fact. Convincingly.

The RawDigger Adapted (pink) Histogram

In the RawDigger e-Guide, you will learn exactly how to set up the Adapted “pink” RawDigger Histogram and how to use it to quickly and easily evaluate the exposure or raw file brightness of images from all digital cameras currently in use. RawDigger was especially helpful to me as I have struggled with R5 exposures and learned my new camera body, the Sony Alpha a1.

Click on the image to better see the green eye-AF boxes in action.

Sony Alpha 1 Flight Photography AF Points!

The SONY Alpha a1 Set-up Guide and Info Group: $150.00 (or Free)

The SONY Alpha a1 Set-up Guide and Info Group is going great guns as more and more folks chime in with thoughtful questions and experience-based answers. As the a1 is becoming more readily available, more and more folks are getting their hands on this amazing body. By June 1, 2022, the group was up to an astounding 124 lucky and blessed folks. (More than a few folks own two or more a1 bodies! Early on, we discussed the myriad AF options. I gave my opinion as to the best one for flight and general bird photography. The best news is that everyone in the group receives an e-mail that includes a .DAT file with my a1 settings on it, and explicit directions on how to load my settings onto your a1; talk about convenience! I am now offering a .DAT file compatible with firmware update 1.20. Your entry into the group includes a consolidated Sony a1 CAMSETA2 INFO & GUIDE. New a1 folks will now receive six e-mails instead of the previous 28! You will receive new e-mails as they are published. Simply put, this e-mail guide is an incredible resource for anyone with an a1.

All who purchased their Alpha 1 bodies via a BAA affiliate link — B&H or Bedfords — will receive a free Sony Alpha a1 Set-Up Guide and free entry into the Info Updates group after shooting me their receipts via e-mail. (Note: it may take me several days to confirm B&H orders.). Others can purchase their guide here in the BAA Online Store.

Typos

With all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors.

August 8th, 2022

Nickerson Beach Backlit Basics Part I: How Can an Image with 124,000 Over Exposed Pixels be the Best Exposure?

What’s Up?

I kept only 102 of the 2712 images that I created on Saturday afternoon, a keeper rate of only 3.7%. That for the first edit. While there were a zillion skimmer midair battles, it was very difficult to keep the birds in the frame; the south wind was so strong that the birds were being blown to the north as soon as they took flight to squabble. on Sunday morning, the sun was out for a bit. With the wind from the southwest, I was glad that it clouded over quickly. I did well at sunrise on a single skimmer and then worked the birds with fish and the chicks. I kept 102 out of 1150 images, a keeper rate of 8.8%.

The Met game was great. I attended with younger daughter Alissa and my younger grandson, Idris. Mets all start pitcher Jacob DeGrom was spectacular. He had a perfect game for 5 2/3 innings. Then he walked a batter and gave up a home run with the Mets leading 5 to nothing. The Mets pitchers struck out 19 Braves to tie the team record. The Mets are now 6 1/2 games ahead of the Braves in the National League East. I lived in Brooklyn when the Miracle Mets won the World Series in 1969, and in Queens when they won again in 1986. Maybe this is there year too!

I should have mentioned that our seats were in the sun until the 7th inning. It rained hard at 2:30pm. Then the sun came out with a vengeance. By 3:00pm the temperature on the field was 93° but it felt like 111°. Can you say sauna?

Today in Monday 8 August 2022. The forecast for the morning is a repeat of the last few days; partly cloudy turning sunny with a brisk wind from the southwest. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took about two hours to prepare and makes one hundred thirty-seven days in a row with a new one.

So far, seven folks have been in touch about joining me at either Nickerson or JBWR in the coming weeks for an In-the-Field session or two. The first window for doing shorebirds at the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is from 10-12 August, the second window is 24-26 August. See the additional details below.

Please remember to use the B&H and Amazon links that are found on most blog pages and to use the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout when purchasing your new gear from Bedfords to get 3% back on your credit card and enjoy free second-day air FedEx. Please, also, consider joining a BAA IPT. You will be amazed at how much you will learn!

Missed Anniversary

On 7 August 1983, I purchased my first telephoto lens, the Canon FD 400mm f/4.5FD lens. Yesterday marked 39 years of bird photography for me. Mazel tov!

This image was created on 6 August 2022 at Nickerson Beach Park, Lido Beach, Long Island, NY. Working off the titled rear monitor, I used the flattened, no-longer available Induro GIT 304L tripod/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera). The exposure was determined via Zebra technology with ISO on the thumb dial. ISO 800. 1/800 sec. at f/8 (wide open) in Manual mode. When evaluated in RawDigger, it was determined that there were 124,000 over-exposed pixels. Keep reading to learn why that was a perfect exposure in this situation. AWB at 7:08:23am on a mostly sunny morning.

Tracking: Spot S/AF-C with Bird-Eye/Face Detection performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a high-res version.

Image #1: Backlit Black Skimmer chick

Was It Worth It?

In yesterday’s blog post here, I wrote:

Conditions for bird photography were extremely challenging on Saturday morning. The wind was from the west southwest, blowing straight at the sun. A large cloud on the eastern horizon blocked the red sunrise light on the beach for ten minutes. When the sun finally cleared the cloud, there were few birds left on the beach due to too many bicycle riders, and the beach, was a mess with seaweed.

Then, I tried and failed on some backlit landing skimmers. My only successful image was that of a single backlit skimmer chick. I sat behind the tripod along the western colony ropes with the ground level 600mm f/4 GM lens/2X TC combo and going after backlit chicks for more than an hour. All in all, photography was very difficult, but I did make one very special image. Was getting up very early, working hard for more than two hours, and getting one very good image worth it?

Yes. All that I ever hope for is one good image. After that, I get greedy.

Note that the keys to creating a successful image here were working at 1200mm to isolate the subject and getting the lens just inches above the ground to soften the background by effectively moving it farther from the subject and create an intimate perspective.

The Lesson

When the wind is blowing against the sun, creating backlit images is one of your best options.

Backlit Basics

1- Use your longest effective focal length for a narrow angle of view that reduces background clutter.

2- Set your exposure so that the rim light is over-exposed.

3- Place the subject on the same line as the sun to get the most dramatic backlight. Only rarely will you want the sun in the frame on clear days as it is far too bright.

Image #2: RawDigger screen capture for the “Backlit Black Skimmer chick” image

How Can an Image with 124,000 OvExp Pixels be the Best Exposure?

When shooting backlit creatures, we strive to capture rim-lit feathers or fur so that we can create dramatic images. If you expose dark enough to avoid over-exposing the rim light, the shaded side of the subject will be grossly under-exposed. Lightening it will introduce lots of noise and some muddy colors. By pushing the exposure to the right and toasting the rim light, you will create a raw file with at least some detail in the shaded feathers and will have produced an image that you can work with.

What can I say? The combination of Zebras live in the viewfinder (with your camera set up properly) and post-capture study of the raw files in RawDigger makes it pretty much child’s play to come up with perfect exposure after perfect exposure, even in super-difficult situations. It would be impossible to overstate how much I have learned by studying RawDigger and how much better my exposures have become since I started with the program almost two years ago. The raw file brightness for today’s featured image is perfect with the G channel almost making the 16000 line. In other words, the raw file brightness is perfect.

RawDigger — not for the faint of heart …

Nothing has ever helped me learn to create perfect exposures to the degree that RawDigger has. I think that many folks are reluctant to learn that most of their images are underexposed by one or more full stops and that highlight warnings in Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, and your in-camera histogram are bogus as they are based on the embedded JPEGs. Only your raw files tell the truth all the time. Heck, I resisted RawDigger for several years … Once you get over that feeling, RawDigger can become your very best exposure friend no matter what system you are using. On the recent IPTs and In-the-Field sessions, we have demonstrated that fact. Convincingly.

The RawDigger Adapted (pink) Histogram

In the RawDigger e-Guide, you will learn exactly how to set up the Adapted “pink” RawDigger Histogram and how to use it to quickly and easily evaluate the exposure or raw file brightness of images from all digital cameras currently in use. RawDigger was especially helpful to me as I have struggled with R5 exposures and learned my new camera body, the Sony Alpha a1.

RawDigger e-Guide with Two Videos

The RawDigger e-Guide with Two Videos

by Arthur Morris with Patrick Sparkman

The RawDigger e-Guide was created only for serious photographers who wish to get the absolute most out of their raw files.

Patrick and I began work on the guide in July 2020. At first, we struggled. We asked questions. We learned about Max-G values. We puzzled as to why the Max G values for different cameras were different. IPT veteran Bart Deamer asked lots of questions that we could not answer. We got help from RawDigger creator Iliah Borg. We learned. In December, Patrick came up with an Adapted Histogram that allows us to evaluate the exposures and raw file brightness for all images created with all digital camera bodies from the last two decades. What we learned each time prompted three complete beginning to end re-writes.

The point of the guide is to teach you to truly expose to the mega-Expose-to-the-Right so that you will minimize noise, maximize image quality, best utilize your camera’s dynamic range, and attain the highest possible level of shadow detail in your RAW files in every situation. In addition, your properly exposed RAW files will contain more tonal information and feature the smoothest possible transitions between tones. And your optimized images will feature rich, accurate color.

We teach you why the GREEN channel is almost always the first to over-expose. We save you money by advising you which version of RawDigger you need. We teach you how to interpret the Max G values for your Canon, Nikon, and SONY camera bodies. It is very likely that the Shock-your-World section will shock you. And lastly — thanks to the technical and practical brilliance of Patrick Sparkman — we teach you a simple way to evaluate your exposures and the raw file brightness quickly and easily the Adapted RawDigger histogram.

The flower video takes you through a session where artie edits a folder of images in Capture One while checking the exposures and Max-G values in RawDigger. The Adapted Histogram video examines a series of recent images with the pink histograms and covers lots of fine points including and especially how to deal with specular highlights. The directions for setting up the Adapted Histogram are in the text.

If we priced this guide based on how much effort we put into it, it would sell it for $999.00. But as this guide will be purchased only by a limited number of serious photographers, we have priced it at $51.00. You can order yours here in the BAA Online Store.

The Image Optimization

The image optimization here was relatively straightforward. For the raw conversion in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), I pulled the Whites slider to -100, moved the Shadow slider to +100, and surprisingly, left the Highlights slider at zero. Why the latter? I did not want to darken the white feathers on the shadow side of the bird. By experimenting with the Highlights slider and the Whites slider I came up with something completely new that worked.

I removed the white speck in the background, eliminated one or two distracting elements from the beach, and did some extensive bill cleanup work. I used Tim Grey Dodge and Burn to lighten the shadowed side of the bird in 10% increments with a large, soft brush. I selected the bill and the legs with a Color Range selection, increased the Orange saturation and Luminance, again in ACR. Technically, I should have played with the Orange tones during the raw conversion.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II).

You can order your copy from the BAA Online Store here, by sending a PayPal for $40 here, or by calling Jim or Jennifer weekdays at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand. Be sure to specify Digital Basics II.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II)

Almost all of the techniques mentioned above and tons more great Photoshop tips and techniques including my clean-up tools and techniques — along with my complete digital workflow, Digital Eye Doctor Techniques, and all my personalized Keyboard Shortcuts — are covered in detail in the BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II), an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. Note: folks working on a PC and/or those who do not want to miss anything Photoshop may wish to purchase the original Digital Basics along with DB II while saving $15 by clicking here to buy the DB Bundle.

Folks who learn well by following along rather than by reading can check out the complete collection of MP 4 Photoshop Tutorial Videos by clicking here. Note: most of the videos are now priced at an amazingly low $5.00 each.

You can learn how and why I converted all of my Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide here. More recently, I became proficient at converting my Nikon RAW (NEF) files in Adobe Camera Raw. About three years ago I began converting my Nikon and Sony RAW files in Capture One and did that for two years. You can learn more about Capture One in the Capture One Pro 12 Simplified MP4 Video here. The next step would be to get a copy of Arash Hazeghi’s “The Nikon Photographers’ Guide to Phase One Capture One Pro e-Guide” in the blog post here. Today, I convert my Sony raw files in Photoshop with Adobe Camera Raw.

You can learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair.

Typos

With all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors.