Tough Love– Saved by f/10–Pano By Removal–And Death by Sandstorm… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Tough Love-- Saved by f/10--Pano By Removal--And Death by Sandstorm...

What’s Up?

I rested up a lot on Saturday and watched lots of back episodes of Chopped on my sister Arna’s TV.

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks a totally insane, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, what’s wrong with this guy?, makes-no-sense, 257 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-–and folks have been doing a really great job recently–-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. AND Please remember also that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the new BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


This image was created on Thursday July 21, the third morning of the recently concluded Nickerson Beach IPT with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R.. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop as originally framed: 1/1000 sec. at f/10. Daylight WB.

A single AF point that was two rows down and three AF points to the left of the center AF point/AI Servo/Spot AF (don’t ask me why…)/Shutter button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure; see the DPP 4 screen capture below. Click on the image to see a larger version.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: +5.

Common Tern adult scolding (?) chick

Tough Love?

As noted in the A Different Approach to Bird Photography blog post here, on wind against sun mornings you need to find a situation where the birds are not committed to facing into the wind and away from you and the light. I took the group to a spot that is somewhat protected from the west wind and usually has a few Common Tern nests. It was bingo again. We all spent two hours photographing a tern nest with two tiny chicks, two to three days old at most. For the most part the chicks stayed in the scrape where they were fed and tended by the adults.

Fairly late in the session, one of the adults flew in with a sand eel and landed a few feet to the left of the nest. The tiny chicks went running and one of them grabbed and swallowed brunch. The other adult did not like that the two chicks were now isolated and well away from the nest scrape. As seen in today’s featured image she let one wayward chick know that it needed to get back to the scrape. She actually struck it rather forcefully with her bill. We had a ton of fun trying to understand the various behaviors that we witnessed. And I think that we got this one right as within minutes both chicks were back in the scrape under the bird that we assigned the role of momma. That bird could of course very well have been the male.


Yup, it would have been nice if the tiny chick had been facing us…


DPP 4 Screen Capture

The DPP 4 Screen Capture

The RGB histogram here qualifies as a Lying Histogram. Why? It does not look as if there is very much data in the right-most box of the histogram. Note, however, that the RGB values for the brightest WHITEs come in a 234, 235, 227, just where I want them. Some folks advocate that perfect WHITEs are 254, 254, 254. For me, that is nuts as you will spend the rest of your life trying to get come detail in the highlights. I can live with those who suggest that you bring your WHITEs into Photoshop with the RGB values in the mid-240s. As stated here, my preference is to have them in the mid-240s.

Saved by f/10

With the active AF point on the tern’s wing behind the legs, it is a good thing that I was at f/10 as the extra depth-of-field–remember that wide open is f/5.6–was enough to cover the adult tern’s face and eye. At 25 feet, the depth of field for this combo in front of and behind the plane of focus is about 1 inch, just enough to cover the adult’s face and the eye. In a perfect world, I think that focusing somewhere between the plane of the eye and the plane of the bend of the wing would have been ideal.

Pano By Removal

To get to the desired pano look without losing the green along the upper frame edge I painted a large Quick Mask of the out-of-focus greenery with some sand below it. I place that on its own layer and then used the Move Tool (V) to drag the layer down. With the sand so out of focus there was no seam. I finished things off with the pano crop.

Death by Sandstorm

When we returned on Friday morning the group was eager to photograph the two small chicks again. On our walk in, I cautioned that there was a chance that the nest would be gone. Beach nesting birds face numerous threat with storms and flooding and ground predators like raccoons and feral cats leading the league. We met a photographer who had been with us the day before. “One chick is gone and the other is dead. The dead chick is being brooded by one of the adults…” Thursday evening had been super windy with the wind at a steady 20+ mph from the south and gusts of up to 30; death by sandstorm was the likely cause of the demise of the two small chicks.


Learn the details of advanced Quick Masking techniques in APTATS I. Learn Advanced Layer Masking Techniques in APTATS II. Save $15 by ordering both here.


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 my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

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 🙂

7 comments to Tough Love– Saved by f/10–Pano By Removal–And Death by Sandstorm…

  • avatar Jim Robellard

    Tigertail Beach way out 2.2 miles out after crossing the lagoon. Sun angle is terrible in the morning and too dangerous in the afternoon with the unpredictability of the storms and fierce lightening and an hour walk back. I understand now why your not enthused with it. Also large least tern colony. Interestingly the tern chicks which are much smaller seem to be able to wander into the skimmer colony without being accosted.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks on all counts. 2.2 miles is a long, long way with a big lens. Best of luck, a

  • avatar Jim Robellard


    We did not see the adult on chick behavior although one adult did remove a dead chick and drop it out in the ocean. The video is disturbing but life on the beach. The colony is large with a wide range of chicks so natural conflict I guess. Food supply seems adequate as the lagoon is on one side and the ocean on the other side. Skimmers skimming pics are like shooting ducks in a barrel they are so numerous we did not even shot them or the spoonbills. Sent you some pics to illustrate what we saw. Best Jim

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for the pix It is important to remember that attacking and even killing is not the same as devouring or cannibalism 🙂


      ps: which colony are you referring to?

  • Artie: A behavioral question. Joe Parisi and I have been photographing a large 300+ skimmer colony here on the island. It stretches over 100 yards and the chicks range from just born to 2 weeks old. We were shocked at the degree of cannibalism on the part of the chicks, oftentimes while the parent watched as older chicks body-slammed the younger brethren to death and then tried to eat them. we saw three instances of this behavior. As you say, life on the beach is tough as the Little Estero skimmer colony and least tern colony were devastated last month by high tides from a passing tropical storm, but despite the many loving, cute behavioral pics, the cannibalism was very depressing to watch. I’ve seen the fights to the death among chicks, but not the eating of the other chick. Is this behavior common?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Jim,

      It sounds as if the body slammers are likely more than 2-weeks old. That said, I have never seen the behavior that you describe. I have seen non-parent adults grab and kill chicks from other nests that wander into their territories. I am somewhat confused: are larger chicks preying on their siblings or on smaller chicks from other nests?

      Have you seen (or better yet have you photographed) a chick successfully swallowing another chick? That would really be news to me. I am almost never sad watching natural behaviors, especially with birds. The big exception was the zebra stallion kissing his mare and trying unsuccessfully to keep the vultures away from her. When the hyenas and jackals arrived after about six hours it was revealed that the mare died during the birthing process. I cried more than a few tears as it had only been about seven years since I lost Elaine.

      Folks can see the long series of photos in ABP II, the CD book.


      • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        Following up, I found a graphic video here of skimmer chicks being killed by adults. But in no cases was there even an attempt to swallow the chick…

        The killing of skimmer chicks by either adults or large chicks would surely seem to have a lot to do with low food supplies and thus, survival of the fittest…