Living Vicariously: A Completely Free, In-the-Field Morning Fort DeSoto Fall Workshop for All Who Read This Blog Post. And Just What Is a TLD-Bird? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Living Vicariously: A Completely Free, In-the-Field Morning Fort DeSoto Fall Workshop for All Who Read This Blog Post. And Just What Is a TLD-Bird?

What’s Up?

Monday was spent stock-piling blog posts and finishing the “UK Puffins and Gannets” article for Helen Longest-Saccone and Nature Photographer magazine.

Both the Fort DeSoto IPT and the Sunday morning Cheap in the Field Session (I need to do more of those) were huge successes filled with great folks, tame birds, and more than a few amazing situations. There was one Unhappy Camper at the Sunday workshop who was what she was. And I loved it. The fourteen other Happy Campers went home happy–no shock there, smarter, and with more than a few good images. Lots more on the IPT coming soon.

I am still working on finishing up the draft of the LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjusting tutorial. Thanks for your continuing patience.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of the folks 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.

The Streak: 326!

Todayโ€™s blog post marks a totally insane, irrational, illogical, preposterous, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, what’s wrong with this guy?, makes-no-sense, 326 days in a row with a new educational blog post. There should be no end in sight until my big South America trip next fall. Or not… 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. 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.



The six images above were chosen from among my 14 keepers of this very cooperative subject.

Things to Notice

Notice that I varied the size of the bird in the frame. Notice that with the bird small in the frame I tucked it well into the corner of the image. Notice that I changed my perspective from standing behind my tripod to kneeling to lying in the mud. Notice the right exposure for each image, even the last one; when the sun went behind a cloud I needed to add a lot more light.

Notice that the very same bird can exhibit a variety of postures and thus shapes.

Your Favorite?

Please leave a comment and let us know, via the file name, which of the six images you like best. And why.

What They’re Saying

Via e-mail and personal comment from the young Mr. Patrick Brady; Pat signed up at the last minute.


Wow. With ten folks you did a masterful job. I had an amazing time at the workshop and learned so much! Thank you! I got some great pictures (for me) of the night heron and the green heron and afterwards got to see lots of warblers at East Beach. Iโ€™m really excited to put what I learned to use on my own.
Cheers, Patrick

Best of luck to Patrick who is moving to the British Virgin Islands for his new job.

Fort DeSoto Spring IPT

Fort DeSoto is such a great teaching laboratory that I will be doing a Spring Fort DeSoto IPT in 2017. Dates TBD.

Living Vicariously: A Completely Free, In-the-Field Morning Fort DeSoto Fall Workshop.

Note: completely free is better than cheap!

Obviously, for a man who loves creating acronyms, a TLD-bird is a tour leader’s dream bird. More on that below…

I met my group of 10 (reduced by two due to the car crash on the drawbridge mentioned in yesterday’s blog pot) at 6:45am. Three folks from the IPT stayed on for their free morning session and were very glad that they did. Well before the sun came up I have a big lesson on exposure and on working in Manual mode. “When the sun is not out at full strength and the scene averages to a light tone (like pre-dawn sand or sky) the meter is stupid. Now point your lens at the sky in Av mode (Aperture for Nikon folks) and take one image with zero EC (exposure compensation). Where is the histogram?” All responded, “In the middle.” “Now, add two stops of light to your exposure again in Av Mode.” I helped the one gentleman who did not know how to set EC and was smart enough to admit it. “Where is the histogram?” All responded, “To the right.” And I added, “Right where we want it.”

“Y’all just learned that when the sun is not out at full strength and the scene averages to a light tone (like pre-dawn sand or sky) the meter is stupid.”

“Now, switch to Manual mode. If you have a zoom lens, zoom to the longest focal length. Set your widest aperture (the one with the smallest f-number like f/4 or f/5.6). Now, adjust the shutter speed so that the indicator on the analog scale comes to the 0 or null mark, that is, in the middle. Now point the lens at the sky and make one image. Where is the histogram?” All responded, “In the middle.” “Now, while pointing the lens at the sky, lower the shutter speed until the indicator on the analog scale shows +2 stops. Take one image. Where is the histogram?” All responded, “To the right.”

“Congratulations! You just learned how to work in Manual mode and that working in Manual mode is no different than working in Av mode.


This image was created with the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens(at 280mm) and the Nikon D750.

The Sunday Morning Cheap In-the-Field Fall Fort Desoto Group and the TLD-Bird.
Image courtesy of and copyright 2016 Fort DeSoto Fall IPT participant Juan Tolentino

The Sunday Morning Cheap In-the-Field Fall Fort Desoto Group and the TLD-Bird

Thanks to Juan for sharing this image with us. One thing he learned on the IPT was exposure. On cloudy days he was underexposing everything by two stops. But he was a quick study and got the WHITEs right here in full sun!

Technique Questions

That’s me lying on the ground in the middle of the group with the blue sun shirt on. Standing next to my left was multiple IPT veteran Bob DeCroce; I originally thought he was to my right. In any case you can see the TLD-bird standing in the water just to the right of my 100-year-old tan sun protection hat and just to the left of the left thigh of the guy to my right, the one in the dark gray shorts.

#1: From what you can see of the bird, why do you think that I was working a bit off sun angle (with my shadow pointed to the right of the subject)?

#2: What was I doing that was very wrong?

#3: Why do you think I did it?

#4: Which of the six images did I make while lying on the ground? (Please use the file #).

What Juan Said

Via e-mail from Juan Tolentino

Thank you for the wonderful IPT. It was amazing! And even more amazing was the huge amount of information that you shared in just 3 1/2 days. I loved it! Juan Tolentino

And Just What Is a TLD-Bird?

We headed out to the spit and noted that the amazing feeding spree from the day before did not repeat itself. We spotted a young Yellow-crowned Night Heron and approached it slowly. Many of them–including the one we were gaining on–are very tame. But with our shadows pointed at the subject, the bird, hunting for fiddler crabs, had its back to us with the sun behind it. The better to see you with my dear crab. Then came the TLD-bird: A second young Yellow-crowned Night Heron flew in and landed about 40 feet from us in beautiful still blue water. It was perfectly square to the light. We got into position, some folks standing, some folks kneeling, and one or two folks–including me eventually–lying in the wet muck.

The handsome bird stood stock-still for 30 minutes. With the sun out on a beautiful clear morning I suggested +2/3 or + 1 stop (or even more plus for those with short lenses). And then check your histogram to make sure that you have some data in the rightmost box. As the sun rose higher in the sky and we got closer, the bird filled more of the frame, so I suggested +1/3 or +2/3 and then check your histogram as above and as always. When the sun it out on a clear day, the meter is smarter; you need less positive EC. Had the bird stayed for an hour, we might have gotten to the point where zero EC, the metered exposure, might have been best. After 25 minutes a light cloud covered the sun and I explained that we all needed to get well above +1, to as much as +2 stops. Remember, when the sun is not out at full strength the meter is dumb…

In addition, we were able to talk about composition: “Choose an AF point that gets the bird out of the center of the frame. Be sure to give the bird 3-4 times as much room in front as behind.” And we discussed One-Shot AF (Single Servo in Nikon) and AI Servo (Continuous in Nikon) and when and why to use which one. Finally the bird moved off and so did we.

So now you know exactly how a tour leader’s dream-bird behaves.

After photographing a cooperative young Great Egret and an amazing juvenile Green Heron that flew in and landed 15 feet from the entire group, an adult Great Blue Heron caught and–after five minutes–swallowed a gorgeous green-striped, silver Pinfish. Pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides, is a saltwater fish of the Sparidae family. Again, it was high-fives all around.

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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™‚

33 comments to Living Vicariously: A Completely Free, In-the-Field Morning Fort DeSoto Fall Workshop for All Who Read This Blog Post. And Just What Is a TLD-Bird?

  • avatar Warren Hatch

    Artie, I hope the surgery went well this morning.

    As far as question #1, I think you went off sun angle so that you could frame the image with all water in the foreground. Had you stayed on sun angle, the shoreline would have run as a diagonal of non-uniform width across the bottom of the frame.

    Get well soon,

    Warren Hatch

  • avatar Mal Graham

    I like #6854 the best. Nice angle, nice colour and I like the framing at the top of the blurred background.

    #1. It looks like being right on sun angle would have cast shadows onto the bird?

    #2. I agree with Warren in that the tripod legs should be shorter to get a more stable setup. It’d be a little “bouncy” with them out fully.

    #3. I’d guess you were quickly going from standing to lying (and back again?)

    #4. #6872 was shot lying down.

  • avatar Henry

    #2 your tripod impeded the ability of your fellow photographers to get good images of the bird.

  • Only image no. 4 (bottom left) was made lying down.
    Your right elbow is in danger of shaking the tripod and messing up your neighbour’s shot.
    You could not move to your left (where your shadow would point towards the bird) because of soft, mushy, wet ground.

  • avatar Warren

    Here’s my shot at your questions…

    1. I think you may have been in that position for one of two reasons. First, because you were anticipating the bird moving from your left to right and that would put him in just the right light, such as shot 6881. The second reason may be to be more perpendicular to the plane of the bird.

    2. I’m guessing here, but when you go low, do you usually work with the tripod legs at short length rather than extended, as in this photo?

    3. You did it because you were working both high and low shots and needed to adjust quickly. (Better to get the shot.)

    4. #6872 while lying down. (angle and background match)

    Hope you feel better soon!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Warren and good stuff. Why is it better to shorten the legs before getting flat?


      • avatar Warren

        I would think the legs are stronger. When the are extended and flat, the weight of a heavy lens is starting to put a lot more stress on the legs, potentially causing it to bow.

        However, I noticed one other thing. It looks like you do not have one leg of tripod pointed toward the bird so you can be between the other legs. (You must be straddling the third leg) You would have done this since you are working with a group and want others to be able to be close to you as you teach. This keeps the two legs pointed toward the bird and out of their way. (Or so they don’t bump your tripod and mess up YOUR shot, but I think its for the teaching part…)

        • avatar Warren


          “able to BE close to you” and

          out of “thier” way.

          (I know you like good grammar and blogs are not an excuse for me to make errors, though there are probably plenty of others…)

  • avatar Krishna Prasad

    Thank you Artie for this great information which was shared to us.

    Sounds like IPT is the place to be if we want progress in bird photography. Hopefully I will register for future Photo Tours.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      You are correct sir. Hope to see you somewhere when I get back from South America.

      later and love, artie

  • avatar Catherine Costolo

    Hey, Artie. I like 6919 best just because it is bigger in the frame. I knew I would miss some good opportunities by not attending Sunday morning but I had a wonderful time with you and the group the 3 1/2 days before. Thanks so much for your patience and good humor. Hope you are feeling better soon.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Catherine. It was great seeing and working with you again.

      later and love, artie

  • My two favorites are 845 and 872, mostly due to the head angle. If I had to pick one I would go with 872 – this bird looks better to me from the low angle.

    As for the questions:
    #1: I think you picked that angle because it was the best compromise between getting the sun straight on and getting the head angled toward you.
    #2: The sun wasn’t directly at you back.
    #3: You didn’t want photos of the back of the bird’s head.
    #4: 872

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    Sounds like fun. Actually I like #4 and #6 the best. #4 because of the foreground and background framing the bird. I like #6 (overcast) due to the softness of the image. Just seems the light is a little harsh in the full sun captures.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Frank. The last one in full sun was created at 7:57am. With sunrise at about 7:20am the light was still pretty sweet.


  • avatar Elizabeth M

    Oh man, this IPT sounds like so much fun. Not surprising, since the spring Fort DeSoto IPT was awesome too. I love shooting the herons and egrets, and it sounds like you got many! They are all very nice, #6881 is my favorite. I like how it fills the frame. Did you shoot any in portrait orientation? I think with the heron’s neck extended, that pose would make some lovely vertical portraits.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I did on a few of this species but I do not think of this bird-both adults and young ones. I will be doing one this coming spring if I live through this kidney stone and my big trip.


  • avatar Jay

    I like them all, but most particularly 6881 & 6919. I see your logic for tucking 6845 into the corner. However, I was wondering why, either in framing the shot or editing it, you did not include all of the birds reflection in the water (or haven’t you shared that shot). It stands out to me that the reflection of the full bird was cut off from most of the shots, particularly with the nice light that you had for them.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Jay,

      Thanks. As far as not including the complete reflection, the answer is the same as with yesterday’s spoonbill on yellow image; mud does not do a good job of reflecting. See image #6872.


      • avatar Jay

        I see. I figured the difference with 6872 was that you shot it at the lower angle and caught some of the ground in the lower portion of the frame. Mud does answer my question.

  • avatar Kenneth Lui

    #6872 was taken while you were lying on the ground.

  • avatar Pat Fishburne

    I like #6881 — which shows the bird larger in the frame and a clean background. So sad we had to leave early and miss the young Great Egret, juvenile Green Heron, and the great blue swallowing a fish.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Tell Stokes I hope that he feels better. I am not feeling too good today as the result of trying to pass a kidney stone and my blood sugar levels are bonkers…


  • avatar Patrick Brady

    Thanks a million Artie! I ended up staying at Ft. Desoto for 10 hours that day and just about filled my 64gb card. I also left with a wonderful sunburn on the back of my neck.

    I wanted to note that I was always afraid of noise at higher ISO’s on the 7dII, but after the workshop I noticed that when I expose the photo correctly (info in the right box) the noise is not an issue at all.

    Patrick Brady

    P.S. I’ll be giving Jim a call today.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thank you Patrick! Just as I said with the noise ๐Ÿ™‚

      Did you get any warbler photos???


      • avatar Patrick Brady

        I did. The lighting wasn’t the best, but I made photos of a redstart, yellow throated, and black throated blue warbler that made me happy.