You Can’t Win if You Don’t Buy a Ticket … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

You Can't Win if You Don't Buy a Ticket ...

What’s Up?

Wow. It rained all night and was raining at 5am. At 5:30am I got in touch with everyone in the group and let them know, rolling at 7:00am. We got to the cliffs just as the rain stopped and enjoyed three hours of fabulous Brown Pelican photography. Twice there were more than 100 pelicans on the cliffs. Oh, and we had an hour-long session with a lady Peregrine Falcon. Then we enjoyed our third consecutive great lunch at Islands on Balboa. Great burgers, incredible onion rings (God forgive me …), and my very favorite, Cabo Loco: seasoned grilled pork w/caramelized onions, stuffed into corn tortillas w/onions, salsa, and guacamole! Islands is a chain; there are several in San Diego. The one on Balboa is closest to the IPT hotel and the wait staff is as pleasant and efficient as you will find anywhere.

After a short break, we headed to one of my favorite San Diego beaches and enjoyed some of the most spectacular late light I have ever seen … Photo soon.

Some great news: three folks have already up signed up for the DEC 2018/JAN 2019 Falklands Land-based IPT so there are just four spots left. Learn more here.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of 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: 428!

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, 428 days in a row with a new educational blog post. 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 of course appreciate your business.

You Can’t Win if You Don’t Buy a Ticket …

The little old Jewish man went to temple every Shabbos. Every week he prayed and in his prayers he included, “Dear God, I’ve been a good Jew all my life. And so has my wife. We keep a Kosher home and observe the Sabbath and all of the holidays. Please, please let me win the lottery.” For seven more weeks, he said the same thing, “Dear God, I’ve been a good Jew for all my life. And so has my wife. We keep a Kosher home and observe the sabbath and all of the holidays. Please, please let me win the lottery.” But on the eight week he added, “It’s worth $30 million this week.” A clap of deafening thunder sounded and lightning struck the roof of the synagogue. A loud gravelly but loving voice called out, “So at least buy a ticket.”


DPP 4 Screen Capture

The DPP 4 Screen Capture for Today’s Featured Image

What’s to learn? Note the pretty much perfect histogram; the RGB values for the sky were in the high 240s. Exposing far to the right is the best way to control high ISO noise. I used the Clone Stamp Tool around the edges of the extraneous pelicans and then eliminated them completely with the Patch Tool.


This image was created at La Jolla, CA with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens and my very favorite bird photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +2 2/3 stops off the grey sky: 1/640 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. Daylight WB.

Center AF point/AI Servo (Manual selection)/Shutter Button AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point fell on the middle of the bird’s bill.

Brown Pelican (Pacific race) braking to land

You Can’t Win if You Don’t Buy a Ticket …

One of the San Diego IPT participants called out “Incoming left!” I raised my 100-400 II and executed an estimated zoom out as I knew that the bird would be much too big in the frame at 400mm. I knew also that the chances of having a clear shot at the bird were slim to none. With film, I surely would have passed on the opportunity. With digital however, it does not cost you a penny to try in nearly impossible situations. So I tried by firing off two frames as the bird landed. In the first, I clipped one wing badly. With the “orchestra conductor pose” image featured in today’s blog, I got lucky as the subject did not merge with any of the extra pelicans. You might say that I won the lottery …

Cliffs or No Cliffs?

Please leave a comment and let us know if you feel that the out-of-focus cliffs in the background add to the image or if you feel that they are a distraction.

Flight Photography Tip

Many bird photographers state emphatically that you need a shutter speed of at least 1/1600 second when photographing birds in flight. I am fine at 1/500 second or faster. What do you think?


DeSoto in spring is rife with tame and attractive birds. From upper left clockwise to center: breeding plumage Dunlin, dark morph breeding plumage Reddish Egret displaying, breeding plumage Laughing Gull/front end vertical portrait, breeding plumage Laughing Gull with prey item, Laughing Gull on head of Brown Pelican, screaming Royal Tern in breeding plumage, Royal Terns/pre-copulatory stand, Laughing Gulls copulating, breeding plumage Laughing Gull/tight horizontal portrait, Sandwich Tern with fish, and a really rare one, White-rumped Sandpiper in breeding plumage, photographed at DeSoto in early May.

Fort DeSoto Spring IPT/April 19-22, 2017. (meet & greet at 2pm on Wednesday April 19 followed by an afternoon session) through the full day on Saturday April 22. 3 1/2 DAYs: $1599. Limit 10. To save your spot, please call and put down a non-refundable deposit of $499.00.

I will be offering small group (Limit 3) Photoshop sessions on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning if necessary. Details on that TBA.

Fort DeSoto is one of the rare locations that might offer great bird photography 365 days a year. It shines in spring. There will Lots of tame birds including breeding plumage Laughing Gull and Royal and Sandwich Terns. With luck, we will get to photograph all of these species courting and copulating. There will be American Oystercatcher and Marbled Godwit plus sandpipers and plovers, some in full breeding plumage. Black-bellied Plover and Red Knot in stunning breeding plumage are possible. There will be lots of wading birds including Great and Snowy Egrets, both color morphs of Reddish Egret, Great Blue, Tricolored and Little Blue Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, and killer breeding plumage White Ibis. Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork are possible and likely. We should have lots of good flight photography with the gulls and terns and with Brown Pelican. Nesting Least Tern and nesting Wilson’s Plover are possible.

We will, weather permitting, enjoy 7 shooting sessions. As above, our first afternoon session will follow the meet and greet at 2pm on Wednesday April 19. For the next three days we will have two daily photo sessions. We will be on the beach early and usually be at lunch (included) by 11am. We will have three indoor sessions. At one we will review my images–folks learn a ton watching me choose my keepers and deletes–why keep this one and delete that one? The second will be a review of your images so that I can quickly learn where you need help. For those who bring their laptops to lunch I’d be glad to take a peek at an image or three. Day three will be a Photoshop session during which we will review my complete workflow and process an image or two in Photoshop after converting them in DPP. Afternoon sessions will generally run from 4:30pm till sunset. We photograph until sunset on the last day, Saturday, April 22. Please note that this is a get-your-feet and get-your-butt wet and sandy IPT. And that you can actually do the whole IPT with a 300 f/2.8L IS, a 400 f/4 ID DO lens with both TCs, or the equivalent Nikon gear. I will surely be using my 500 II as my big glass and have my 100-400 II on my shoulder.


DeSoto in spring is rife with tame and attractive birds. From upper left clockwise to center: Laughing Gull in flight, adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, copulating Sandwich Terns, Roseate Spoonbill, Great Egret with reflection, Short-billed Dowitcher in breeding plumage, American Oystercatcher, breeding plumage Royal Tern, white morph Reddish Egret, and Snowy Egret marsh habitat shot.

What You Will Learn

You will learn to approach free and wild birds without disturbing them, to understand and predict bird behavior, to identify many species of shorebirds, to spot the good situations, to understand the effects of sky and wind conditions on bird photography, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. And you will learn how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you are scared of it).

The group will be staying at the Red Roof Inn, St. Petersburg: 4999 34th St. North, St Petersburg, FL 33714. The place is clean and quite inexpensive. Please e-mail for room block information. And please call Jim or Jennifer at 863-692-0906 to register. All will need to purchase an Annual Pass early on Tuesday afternoon so that we can enter the park at 6am and be in position for sunrise opportunities. The cost is $75, Seniors $55. Tight carpools will be needed and will reduce the per person Annual Pass costs. The cost of three lunches is included. Breakfasts are grab what you can on the go, and dinners are also on your own due to the fact that we will usually be getting back to the hotel at about 9pm. Non-photographer spouses, friends, or companions are welcome for $100/day, $350 for the whole IPT.

BIRDS AS ART Fort DeSoto In-the-Field Meet-up Workshop (ITFW): $99

Fort DeSoto Spring In-the-Field Cheap Meet-up Workshop (ITFW) on the morning of April 22, 2017: $99

Join me on the morning of April 22, 2017 for 3-hours of photographic instruction at Fort DeSoto Park. Beginners are welcome. Lenses of 300mm or longer are recommended but even those with 70-200s should get to make some nice images. Teleconverters are always a plus.

You will learn the basics of digital exposure and image design, autofocus basics, and how to get close to free and wild birds. We should get to photograph a variety of wading birds, shorebirds, terns, and gulls. This inexpensive morning workshop is designed to give folks a taste of the level and the quality of instruction that is provided on BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-tours. I hope to meet you there.

To register please call Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours with a credit card in hand to pay the nominal registration fee. Your registration fee is non-refundable. You will receive a short e-mail with instructions, gear advice, and meeting place one week before the event.

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 please remember that I am 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, 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 :).

29 comments to You Can’t Win if You Don’t Buy a Ticket …

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks Kevin,

    I am glad that I got your comments un-spammed. Have a great time in Nepal.


  • avatar Michael Renner

    Personally I prefer a faster shutter speed. I don’t mind blurring the wing tips but I like the bird’s head and body to be as frozen as I can get it. Honestly if it weren’t for the high ISOs I would probably shoot at 1/8000 all the time 🙂
    I like the cliffs. They give a little context. Great image as always.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for commenting Michael. This bird’s eye and face are very sharp at 1/640 sec.


  • avatar Sara Harrell

    Hi Yah Artie,
    I’d leave the cliffs, it’s always nice to have a ‘feel’ for the environment the birds are in, and gives added depth vs just sky or high key — both of which I am a fan, but it’s nice to include the environment when possible as you did here.

    Speed — depends IMHO first on the speed of the bird. Is he taking off? Incoming? Landing? or soaring by… I often get great shots at 1/350 as they are breaking and coming in to land.

  • avatar James Saxon

    I like the cliffs in the photo because it gives a sense of place, breaks up all the “white” background and adds depth to the image.

  • Adequacy of SS would depend on the size of the bird (smaller birds usually have a faster wing flapping movement) and also wing position relative to the flapping cycle. For instance it appears that the moment of exposure for this image was right at the point where the wings were fully extended forward and were stopped (or nearly so) and about to commence the backward (upward?) stroke . You also have to consider that even though birds like eagles and geese have big slow flaps the wing tips , being out at the ends of a considerable arc, are moving a lot faster than the inner portions so if one wishes to freeze the tips of the outermost feathers a higher shutter speed would be needed.

  • avatar Jim Amato

    Remove the lower left group of cliffs.
    Better isolation of the beautiful bird and pose.
    Also More depth with overall image will be present.

  • avatar Jan L Gambrell

    With all that you do, Artie, when do you ever find time to sleep?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. I go to bed early and get up early as well. Plus a short nap most afternoons.


  • avatar David Policansky

    Fine image as it is. Did the IPT participant who acted as God for you (“Incoming!”) get good images?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      We did our critiquing session yesterday and everyone had some excellent stuff. With the cloudy weather that we enjoyed, the biggest problem for most (as I warned them many times both in our sessions and in the field) was underexposure.


  • avatar Bill Hill

    Either way on the cliffs. I find them a little distracting where they meet the bird. Not much. As for shutter speed, I think skill level plays in this. Our ability at 1/500 and that of many others varies. I think over 1000 is good advice for those that need to ask for advice

    Love and light

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    Wonderful shot !
    There are some OOF spots on the wing tips, but it adds movement to the shot.
    Shutter speed of 500 + seems fine according to this image!
    I like the shot that shows more cliffs plus the additional bird in the lower right corner. It tells more of a story.
    The bird that’s landing is staring right at the other bird!

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    I would leave the cliffs. More and more I am leaning toward flight photos that have some sort of background in them compared to just sky. Adds depth and location to the image. For large birds in flight that move relatively slow, you can get away with lower shutter speeds. But, I should add, its much easier to get a sensor on them. Pelicans are an example. For smaller birds with faster relative to their size, I don’t think I would be happy with the results. I get a lot more pelican shots in focus and sharp than I do sparrows or swallows.

  • avatar Bob Allen

    Super image! I love the background as-is. It really adds to it.
    Shutter speed of 1/640 sec froze the bird nicely, while allowing wing tips to blur, denoting motion. It *also* allowed waves(?) in the background to blur a bit (ƒ/5.6 limited the bg and helped bg blur too).
    You won the lotto (again) with this image ;7)

  • Terrific image as usual. As far as the shutter speed question goes, the answer is “it depends”. In some cases you want to totally freeze the motion, so 1/1600 makes sense, but in other situations you might want a bit of blur at the wingtips to give the image a more dynamic look so 1/500 is the way to go.

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    Cliffs. Well- you’ve done it again! Cliffs convey place and space. Second time I’ve posted such comment. Maybe not an accident then? Love the image.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I just try to get on the bird and push the button as it comes clear of other birds in the frame. Thanks.


  • Hi Artie. Your “slower” shutter speed works well I think. With this image the wingtips show some motion blur and give a sense of movement. A higher shutter speed would have frozen that movement.