A Dime a Dozen: Lots of operator errors result in a lovely image… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

A Dime a Dozen: Lots of operator errors result in a lovely image...

What’s Up?

I worked on this blog post while waiting for my flight to EWR on Sunday, leaving MCO at 12:41pm. By the time this is published, co-leader Denise Ippolito and I will have landed at Edinburgh, Scotland and be well on our way to the cottages for the 2016 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT. If you would like to join me for the puffins in July 2017, please scroll down and then shoot me an e-mail.

Nickerson Beach Terns/Skimmers/Oystercatchers Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT): July 18-22, 2016. 4 1/2 DAYS: $1899. Limit 10/Openings 6.

Meet and greet at 3pm on the afternoon of Monday, July 18.

Please e-mail for repeat customer or couples discount info, or for info on a 3-day option.

With only four folks signed up, learning situations will abound. The primary subject species on this IPT will be the nesting Common Terns and Black Skimmers. The trip is timed so that we will get to photograph tiny tern chicks as well as fledglings. There will be lots of flight photography including adults flying with baitfish. Creating great images of the chicks being fed will be a huge challenge. In addition to the terns we will get to photograph lots of Black Skimmers courting, setting up their nesting territories, and in flight (both singles and large pre-dawn flocks blasting off). Midair battles are guaranteed on sunny afternoons. And with luck, we might even see a few tiny skimmer chicks toward the end of the trip. We will also get to photograph the life cycle of American Oystercatcher. This will likely include nests with eggs and tiny chicks, young being fed, and possibly a few fledglings.

The Streak

Todayโ€™s blog post marks a totally insane, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, makes-no-sense, 233 days in a row with a new educational blog post. And I still have dozens of new topics to cover; there should be no end in sight until my big South America trip next fall. As always-โ€“and folks have been doing a really great job recentlyโ€“-please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. For best results use one of our many product-specific links; after clicking on one of those you can continue shopping with all subsequent purchases invisibly tracked to BAA. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated. Please remember: web orders only. Please remember that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


This image was created on last year’s San Diego IPT with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 400mm) and the EOS-1D X (now replaced by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with 64GB Card and Reader. ISO 800 (should have been ISO 400). Evaluative metering +2/3 stop in early morning light: 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6 (should have been f/6.3). Shade WB (should have been Daylight).

I selected the AF point that was three up from the Center AF point (should have been five up)/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as framed. AF was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). The selected AF point fell on the base of the bill about an inch below the eye (an inch in real life). Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Brown Pelican, molting adult in early morning light

A Dime a Dozen

Images similar to this are a dime a dozen on the San Diego IPT. If push came to shove I could create ones just like this with a 70-200mm and a full frame camera body. It is just a matter of know where to be when and how and when to approach the birds…

Lots of Operator Errors Result in a Lovely Image…

OK, let’s take a look at the errors and ask a few questions.

#1: Why would I have been better off at ISO 400?

#2: Why would f/6.3 have been a bit better than f/5.6?

#3: Why would Daylight WB been better than Shade WB?

#4: Why would an AF point five up from the center AF point been better than the one that was three up from the center?

The Forgiveness of Digital RAW Capture

The huge advantage with today’s image was being able to change the WB. With Shade WB the water had a pretty ugly CYAN cast. Even when I changed the WB the CYAN cast in the the BLUE Pacific was still evident. White Neutralizer in NIK Color EFEX Pro took care of that in fine fashion. The rest of the errors were relatively minor. I wanted folks to see that even pros doing this for 32 going on 33 years screw up once in a while (in the heat of the action…) Do remember that the big secret to becoming a better photographer is attention to small detail… ๐Ÿ™‚


San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects. With annual visits spanning more than three decades I have lot of experience there….

2017 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) JAN 11 thru and including the morning session on JAN 15: 4 1/2 days: $1999.

(Limit: 10/openings 8)

Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; Tuesday 1/10/17.

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 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 Heerman’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others 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 two IPT cards there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well.

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. 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.

Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter?


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.

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-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility.

A $599 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “Arthur Morris) to us at BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. Or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, will be due on 9/11//2016. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. 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.

Please Remember to use our Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store ๐Ÿ™‚

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, we sell only what I have used, have tested, and can 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.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above we, and for everything else in the new store, we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store as well.


Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack!


In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right ๐Ÿ™‚

2 comments to A Dime a Dozen: Lots of operator errors result in a lovely image…

  • #1: Why would I have been better off at ISO 400?
    A bit less noise to deal with and a bit more dynamic range never hurts.

    Well done.

    #2: Why would f/6.3 have been a bit better than f/5.6?
    Although I can’t see it on the screen I am using I suspect that a little more depth of field would have helped with sharpness on the head.

    See my response to Jackie below.

    #3: Why would Daylight WB been better than Shade WB?
    It looks sunny to me… ๐Ÿ™‚

    ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes. Again, see my detailed response to Jackie below.

    #4: Why would an AF point five up from the center AF point been better than the one that was three up from the center?
    It would have put the AF point closer to the eye.



  • avatar Jackie Milburn

    These are some of the things I struggle with.

    #1: Why would I have been better off at ISO 400?
    A: You had plenty of light so coming down 400 ISO you would have given a sharper image, less grain. The bird was standing still so you really didn’t need the speed of 1/1000.

    You are on the right track but it had nothing to do with the bird “standing out.” I simply had more than enough light and shutter speed to go down one full stop of ISO and enjoy a bit better image quality and a bit less noise.

    #2: Why would f/6.3 have been a bit better than f/5.6?
    A: Changing to f/6.3 would have made the detail just a little sharper.


    #3: Why would Daylight WB been better than Shade WB?
    A: Shade wb has a higher Kelvin (abt 7500) so it’s compensating for the cooler light (blue) Where daylight wb is balanced at about 5500K. You were in a daylight.

    Yes, shade was too warm; it lead to the CYAN cast in the ocean. Daylight would have been better than AWB because it would yield more consistent color with changing background tonalities…

    #4: Why would an AF point five up from the center AF point been better than the one that was three up from the center?
    A: Focus at five up would have been closer to the eye, it looks like three up focused on the upper part of the beak.

    Yes on the first part however the bird’s eye is razor sharp as presented… But it is always better to get in the habit of doing things just right as opposed to doing them almost right…

    Got to love the pro’s! ๐Ÿ™‚