Only a Dream: Rock Shag Heaven… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Only a Dream: Rock Shag Heaven...

What’s Down?

I typed this blog post on the early morning of Tuesday, October 27, 2015 as the rest of the gang sleeps. We are supposed to fly via small plane this morning from Bleaker Island to Saunders Island. Yesterday we dealt quite successfully with steady north winds of 25 knots with gusts to 30. It sounds quit windy in the pre-dawn blackness so we shall see what develops. Our stay on Bleaker has been great. We have concentrated mainly on King Cormorant and Rockhopper and Gentoo Penguins. More on those at some point. After Saunders we fly back to Stanley, capitol of the Falklands, for a day trip to a rockhopper colony on Saturday. If all goes as planned, we will board the Ortelius for our Cheesemans’ South Georgia expedition that evening.

I hope to get on line in Stanley so that this and several other new blog posts might be published from the cloud during my time aboard ship.

While traveling in the Southern Ocean I will be 100% without internet from 24-30 OCT and then again from 1-14 NOV. Jim will be in the office doing his usually stellar job of minding the store and Jen will be here to help with with all things IPT related. You can reach either of them by phone at 863-693-0906. You can reach Jim by e-mail or Jen at e-mail (the latter with Attn. JEN in the Subject line).

Please refrain from e-mailing me from 23 OCT through 15 NOV. Fat chance on that. πŸ™‚

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To show your appreciation for my efforts here, we do ask that you use our the B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. Doing so won’t cost you a penny and is the best way to thank me for the 15-20 hours I put in to bring you fresh and free educational material most every day. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store. We sell only what I use and depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail (unless I am traveling without internet!)

You can find the following items in the store: Mongoose M3.6 and Wimberley heads, plates, low feet, and accessories, flash brackets, , Delkin e-film Pro Compact Flash Cards, LensCoat products, and our unique line-up of educational materials including ABP I & II, Digital Basics, Site and Set-up e-Guides, Canon and Nikon Camera Users and AF e-Guides, and MP-4 Photoshop video tutorials among others.

And we still have a few Gitzo tripods in stock. I imagine that we will be phasing those out soon….

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Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charges a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few months, we have sold just about everything in sight. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the original 400mm IS DO lens have been dropping steadily.

You can see the complete listings by clicking here or always by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the right end of the navigation bar at the top of each blog post page.

After a lull in September, things have really heated up lately:

Alan Walther sold his 500mm f/4L IS for $3900 in mid-October.
IPT veteran Larry Master sold his 300mm f/2.8L IS II lens for $4750 on October 22, 2015.
Canon 500mm f/4L IS (the “old five”) was sold by Glen Shellhammer for $4250 in mid-October, 2015.
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens was sold instantly by Walt Anderson for $4750 in mid-October, 2015.
Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM lens (the “old five”) was sold by Dane Johnson for $4150 in early October 2015.
Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 zoom lens (Canon mount) was sold by Beth Starr for $4,999 in early October 2015.
Canon EOS-1D X in excellent condition was sold by Patrick Sparkman for $3650 in early October, 2014.
Canon EF 100-400 f 4.5-5.6 L IS USM lens was sold for $699 by Sean Traynor on October 7, 2015.
Canon 100-400 L IS zoom lens (the old 1-4) was sold by Susan Carnahan for $675 in mid-October, 2015.

You can find the complete listings here.


This image was created on Bleaker Island, on our first-ever land-based Falklands tour, with the Induro tripod/Mongoose M3.6 -mounted Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the rugged professional body, the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 640. Evaluative metering -2 1/3 stops: 1/200 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. Cloudy WB.

One AF point above and two to the left of the center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Rock Shag head portrait

Only a Dream: Rock Shag Heaven…

I had photographed Rock Shag (Phalacrocorax magellanicus)on several visits to various Falkland Islands, always from a great distance, and always in horrific light. On Monday morning, October 27, 2015 we had discovered a nice cliff with about 30 breeding pairs, but as always, the birds were a long ways away. Then, that same afternoon, a gift was shared with us: access to a breeding wall of this gorgeous species. When birds are seen only and typically from long range, one often views them as shy and secretive. The nesting Rock Shags that we encountered were tame and accepting of our presence, as long–of course, as we moved slowly among them.

We got to photograph them display and courting, and creating head portraits like today’s featured image was a snap, even for those with “only” 400mm of reach. For me, it was a thrill of a lifetime; creating a variety of quality images of a beautiful new species. Even though I had seen this species before, I think of it as “new” in the sense that I was able to add quality images to the BIRDS AS ART collection.

Exposure Question

Why -2 1/3 stops EC?

My new long lens

Again I scrambled to get my hands on a Canon EF 400mm DO II before a big trip. The one that I had intended to purchase from B&H had a problem right out of the box: the camera would lose electrical contact with the lens whenever a TC was in place. B&H accepted the return and was able to get me a perfect copy just before our big Southern Oceans trips. I used the lens a ton for flight, without a TC in low light situations both for flight and for portraits, with the 1.4X for a variety of purposes (including some flight photography), and often with the 2X III TC as my walk around 800mm lens. And almost always on our Falklands trip with the 1D X for two reasons: superb high ISO performance and enough battery power better to drive the AF motor especially with either TC in place. With the 2X TC, I did encounter AF problems (as expected) when the center AF point (by necessity at f/8), fell on a plain area of white or black, an area with zero contrast.


Deadvlei Tree photo illustration courtesy of and copyright 2015: Denise Ippolito/A Creative Adventure

Denise created this artwork by combining an image of some Colorado mountains with a tree that she created in Photoshop. The rest is simply her creative filter magic. It is a given that denise’s creativity is virtually unlimited and unmatched. Just don’t ask me how she did it….


Photos of Namibian dunes, dead trees, birds, and wildlife often grace prestigious natural history calendars and are honored annually in pretty much all of the top flight nature photography contests including and especially the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition and the Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice International Awards Contest. Both denise and I have long dreamed of visiting. Our dream is coming true. With four folks signed up before the tour was even announced, this trip is a go. Most traveling from the US will likely want to be on one of the direct flights to Johannesburg, South Africa from New York’s JFK (on April 13, 2015 so as to arrive in Windhoek on the 14th). In addition, we would both be thrilled to meet some of our overseas followers on this trip.

In addition to enjoying several world class nature photography locations, you will learn more than you ever thought possible via in-the-field instruction from two of the best and informal image sharing and Photoshop sessions at the lodge. We hope that you can join us.

The 2016 Namibia BIRDS AS ART/A Creative Adventure Instructional Photo-Safari: April 14-28, 2016 on the ground: $8999. Limit: 10 photographers/openings: 6.

Our truly great itinerary is below. This workshop was planned with the help of two BBC-honored local photographers with an intimate knowledge of the area who will act as our guides for the entire trip. This IPT will be co-led by Denise Ippolito and yours truly. The dates and the price are set in stone: April 14-28, 2016. 15/days/14 nights: $8999 from Windhoek, Namibia (Hosea Kutako International Airport, airport code WDH). Please contact me via e-mail if you would like to register. Then please fill out, print, and sign the Registration and Release forms that are linked to here. Then mail it to us here: PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates FL 33855 along with your $3,000 non-refundable deposit check made out to β€œArthur Morris.”

The second payment of $3,000 is due on November 15, 2015 and the final payment of $2,999 is due on February 1, 2016. As with the deposit, checks only.

Single supplements may be available for parts (or all) of the trip. They will be quite expensive. Best not to ask πŸ™‚ Please inquire as to availability. If you or we are unable to line up a same sex roommate for you, you will be charged the single supplement on a pro-rated basis.

Travel Insurance

Please understand that we need the deposits for international trips as arrangements must be paid in full far in advance. If everybody decides to cancel then we are sort left holding a very short straw πŸ™‚ Seriously interested folks are urged to consider getting trip insurance within two weeks of sending their deposit checks. There are lots of options with Travel Services Insurance (TSI). You can explore them here.

The Namibia IPT Itinerary

Day 1: April 14, 2016. Fly into Windhoek (Hosea Kutako International Airport, airport code WDH. Spend the night at River Crossing Lodge. Note: folks traveling from the US and many other destinations will need to depart on redeye flights on April 13th. You need to be sure that you will be in Windhoek on April 14, 2015!

Day 2: Early departure to QuiverTree Forest Lodge on the outskirts of Keetmanshoop. Here we will be able to capture the beauty of the magnificent QuiverTree forest as well as have access to the Giant Playground area for some spectacular landscape photography. The sessions will include afternoon and evening shoots, the latter with stars, milky way, and star trails photography. Night photography instruction will be provided. In addition, we will let you know in advance what lenses and accessories you will need for the night photography.

Day 3: After breakfast we depart for the luxurious Sossusvlei Dune Lodge for 3 nights inside Namib Naukluft National Park. The distance to Sossusvlei is about 550km and the trip should take about 7 hours. Thanks to our experienced guides we will enjoy unparalleled after hours access to dead tree scenics at Dead Vlei. Arrangements have been made to to leave the lodge in the mornings an hour before sunrise to capture the best possible lighting conditions. We will be visiting Dead Vlei and Dune 45. There is a fairly strenuous up-and-down hike to some of the best photo locations that should take really fit folks about 15-20 minutes and as much as 45 minutes for the older fit folks or those with a bad knee. Denise is in the former category, Artie fits in both of the latter categories :). At Sossusvlei two desert systems come together: the beautiful red dunes of the Kalahari desert and the breathtakingly stark Namib desert. The desert experience is a surreal and life-changing one and even the best images do not reflect the amazing beauty of these unique deserts. Deadvlei, with its ancient trees in the now dried up lake, is a feast for photographers who are looking for something stark, different, and dramatic. Along with the spectacular landscapes we should get to photograph some wildlife as well with chances for oryx and springbok among others.

Day 6: From Sossusvlei we head off to Swakopmund to spend some three nights at the Swakopmund Beach Hotel. One morning will head into the dunes to target species such as the Desert Chameleon, Horned Adder, Sand-Diving Lizards, and Palmato Geckoβ€”the world’s cutest gecko. We will spend time photographing the amazing bird life in and around the Walvisbay area. The Salt Mine and bay area is especially productive with a huge selection of waders and other waterfowl along with large numbers of flamingoes. We will enjoy one chartered boat trip to target pelicans in flight. Those and a selections of skua’s and cormorants will keep the most discerning bird photographers happy. Afternoons in the area will be spent driving along the beach to the huge seal colonies and photographing their playful interactions and antics. A tentative schedule is below:

Day 7: Morning (private tour) Desert Experience photographing Palmato Gecko / Sidewinders / Desert Chameleon etc, etc. Afternoon we either shoot Pelican point for seals or Walvisbay for flamingos and more.

Day 8: Morning bay cruise with chartered boat shooting pelicans flying in . We will likely spend the afternoon with the seals at Pelican point.

Day 9: After breakfast we depart for Etosha; arrive that afternoon at Halali and spend 3 nights there. Just when you thought it could not get any better we head further north to the wide-open plains of Etosha. Here the wildlife spectacle is arguably one of the best in Africa. Etosha is home to not only the Big Five, but also a variety of other species such as Cheetah, Honey Badger, Oryx, Springbok, Dik-Dik, Black-Faced Impala, Eland, Ostrich and more. Depending on our route this could take as long as four hours to get to the park entrance and another 2 hours drive to Halali. We will travel about 400km

Day 12:. We wrap-up at Halali and move down to Okaukuejo where we will spend three nights. Okaukuejo Camp is famous for its large floodlit waterhole, the hub of animal activity especially in the early morning and early evening hours. We will see and photograph many species including and especially the endangered Black Rhino. There will be game drives during the say. For the night water hole photography flash is optional but recommended.

Day 15: April 28, 2016. We make the 4-5 hour drive back to Windhoek in time for your international flights.

This price of this tour includes:

All Accommodations.

All breakfasts and dinners.

Logistics make formal lunches impossible. There will, however, be a variety of snacks including nuts and cheeses along with sodas and bottled drinking water in each vehicle.

Bottled water at the lodges and in the vehicles. Also included at the lodges are soft drinks and sodas and local wines and liquors (excluding premium and imported hard drinks).

All transportation from the time you arrive in Windhoek to the time you leave again.

All park entrance fees

One extra-late night in Deadvlei where we will use NWR vehicles for transport.

The chartered boat activities in Walvisbay.

The Private Desert Experience tour in Swakopmund.

The price of this tour does not include:

Your flights to and from Windhoek.

Visa costs: no visa is needed for folks from the US and most other countries.

Gratuities and items of a personal nature.


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9 comments to Only a Dream: Rock Shag Heaven…

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    Dark background and dark bird. Without the minus EC the evaluative metering would have resulted in a grey bird.

  • avatar David Peake

    The image looks about 95% dark or very dark tones so the evaluative metering will way over blow the white without a significant e/c lower.
    DP from San Francisco airport.

  • avatar wtlloyd

    -2 1/3 EC to raise shutter speed, I guess combating subject movement since you were on a tripod. You could have raised the ISO, but even with the 1DX typically clean @ medium ISO, capturing those dark tones would make them pretty “dirty”.
    The default answer is of course,so as not to blow out the whites – but I’m thinking this one is a trick question!

  • avatar Arne

    Artie, you explain above that the larger battery power of the 1DX gives it faster autofocus when using a TC than a 7DII or a 5DIII. Does this mean that adding a battery grip to the 7DII and the 5DII will make them autofocus faster?

    • avatar Bobby Perkins

      Nope, the 1D series has a larger, higher capacity battery driving AF. The 7D & 5D even with a battery grip only uses one battery at a time.