Down and Dirty/Sand or Mud… And Why I Usually Opt to Sit « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Down and Dirty/Sand or Mud... And Why I Usually Opt to Sit

What’s Up?

I am somewhere in South America. I hope that you are well. Jim and Jen are at the office most days to help you with your mail order needs and Instructional Photo-Tour sign-ups. I still need folks for San Diego, Japan, Galapagos, the Palouse, and the Bear Boat (Grizzly Cubs) trips. Among others 🙂 Please e-mail for couples and discount info for all of the above. Click here for complete IPT info.

I will have relatively decent internet access for all but 22 OCT thru 11 NOV while I am on the Sea Spirit. Best and great picture making, artie
If you want to learn to photograph shorebirds, do consider joining me on the DeSoto IPT; scroll down for details.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending 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: 368!

Today’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, 368 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-–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 the greatest-skimmer-chick-morning-ever at Nickerson Beach. I used the hand held Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, a Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (at 104mm) and the mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/13. Daylight WB.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as framed on the back of Tom’s head and recompose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Tom Pfeifer on the beach at Nickerson

Down and Dirty on the Beach

Above is long time buddy Tom Pfeifer on the sand on the greatest-skimmer-chick-morning-ever at Nickerson Beach. Tome uses a home made ground pod built around the Walt Anderson Panning Ground Pod. Note that as I recommend, Tom is wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. The craziest thing about that morning was that there were about fifteen photographers in a line about 20 yards behind us, many of them sitting in beach chairs…

How many baby skimmers can you see?


This image was created on a great morning at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 104mm–how’s that for a coincidence?) and the mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/6.3 in Av mode. Cloudy WB.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF on E-mac’s head and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #2: Elizabeth MacSwan (E-mac) on the mud at JBWR

Down and Dirty on the Mud at JBWR

Multiple IPT veteran Elizabeth MacSwann joined me for a cloudy morning session at the East Pond in mid-August. We were literally surrounded by shorebirds all morning, most of them tame juveniles. Note that she successfully used a ground cloth to keep her pants relatively clean but in spite of that, she was able to get as close as she wanted.

Most folks should be able to identify 3 species of shorebirds using visual, habitat, and date clues. Feel free to leave a comment. If you can’t be sure to get yourself a copy of my Shorebirds, Beautiful Beachcombers.

E-mac opts to splay the legs of her Induro/GIT 304L Tripod rather than use a Skimmer Ground Pod II as many do. As I do, she uses the Mongoose M3.6

Why I Sit Most of the Time

In the two situations above, you will usually find me sitting behind my lowered tripod. Why?

  • #1: It is all around easier physically. The older you are, the more this is true 🙂
  • #2: It is not as messy.
  • #3: As I am always using extremely long focal lengths ranging from 840 to 1200mm, my angle of declination to the birds on the ground is slight. Folks are often sure that I was on the ground rather than sitting.
  • #4: It is much, much easier for me to track walking and foraging birds while seated than while flat on the ground.

One of the Reasons…

Even though it can be a pain, one of the reasons that I always have an intermediate telephoto lens along in the field is so that I can create B-roll images like the two featured here today. Sometimes it is on my shoulder via a Black Rapid RS-7 strap, sometimes it is in my Xtrahand vest, and sometimes it is safely in my Wheeleeze (see the Beach Stuff tab at the top of each blog post page for Wheeleeze info).

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 🙂

8 comments to Down and Dirty/Sand or Mud… And Why I Usually Opt to Sit

  • avatar Michael Renner

    I usually prefer sitting as well, but sometimes I will lie down to get some extra stability when handholding, especially if it is dark and I need to use a low shutter speed to keep the noise down. I use my elbows as a sort of “bipod” and press the camera to my face to get as still as I can and that usually works pretty well for me.

  • avatar Lee prater

    This is truly amazing information Arthur Thankyou lee prater found it really usefull

  • avatar colin bradshaw

    another reason for sitting is that, if you wear binoculars as I do [having graduated from a birder to bird photographer] they get abslutely covered in muck as well as leaving a bruise on your chest!

    • I always wear binoculars as I am still very much a birder. My favourite position for photography is as E-mac, although typically this would be hand-holding as pushing a tripod around is the pits. Before I get down and dirty, my bins are swivelled around such that they are on my back rather than my chest. Easy.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      What are binoculars?

      later and love, artie