One Important Key to Becoming a Better Bird Photographer … And a clousy day exposure reminder. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

One Important Key to Becoming a Better Bird Photographer ... And a clousy day exposure reminder.

What’s Up?

I kissed my Mom goodbye on Friday morning and then had an easy flight from ISP down to MCO. Then I snuck away to Gatorland for an hour, made a few good images, learned a few things, and had another great dinner at El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant in Kissimmee.

Saturday at Gatorland was tough with clear skies. I wound up with two clients, Debra Lucas who drove down from AL and a Ken (last name unknown) who signed up on the way in 🙂 Ken was with us for the morning and the lunch session. Both learned to work in Manual mode and both learned a ton. And in the afternoon I worked with Debra on flash as fill and flash to light the shadow side of backlit birds. It is 8:23pm on SAT as I type and I am beat. Sunday morning is a two hour busman’s holiday for me.

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: 16!

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, 16 days in a row with a new educational blog post. As always–and folks have been doing a really great for a long time now–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 BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would of course appreciate your business.

Gatorland In-the Field Instructional Meet-Up Sessions

Join us in Kissimmee, FL next weekend to photograph Great (with chicks in the nest) and Snowy Egrets in breeding plumage, Cattle Egret and Tricolored Heron in breeding plumage, Wood Stork, American Alligator (captive), and more. We should get to make lots of head portraits of all the bird species and to photograph them building nests, displaying, copulating, and flying. Learn to see, find, and make the shot in cluttered settings. Learn exposure and how to handle WHITEs. Learn fill flash and flash as main light. All of the birds are free and wild.

Next Weekend’s Schedule

  • Saturday April 8, morning (early entry): 7:30 till 10:30am: $100. Lunch and Image Review: $75. Saturday afternoon till closing (late stay): $100.
  • Sunday morning, April 9, (early entry): 7:30 till 10am: $75.

Cheap Canon lens rentals available: 600 II, 500 II, 400 DO II, or 200-400.

To pay for one or more sessions in full via credit card, call Jim or Jen in the office weekdays at 863-692-0906. You will be responsible for the cost of your Gatorland Photographer’s pass or passes. Please shoot me an e-mail if you have any questions.

This image was created 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 (now replaced for me by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV). ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stop as framed: 1/1000 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode. AWB.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: +5.

Four rows up and one AF point to the left of the center AF point/AI Servo/Expand/shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure.

Black-legged Kittiwake with seaweed for nest

One Key to Becoming a Better Bird Photographer …

Though it has nothing at all to do with finding birds, seeing the good situations, getting the right exposure, making sharp images, or handling your gear, understanding the light in combination with the sky and wind conditions is a huge factor in your becoming a better bird photographer.Simply put, you need to learn where to be and when. With study and thought you can learn this stuff on your own but the very best way to improve in this area is to join an IPT. Or learn it from one of the many a BAA Site Guides. On our afternoon landing on the UK Puffins and Gannets IPT there is a superb kittiwake, murre, puffin, and Razorbill location, but you need the right wind and you need clouds. It is a worthless spot on a clear sunny day. When conditions are great it can be superb for landing murres, Razorbills, and even puffins. There are similar spots everywhere. Your job is to learn to recognize these locations and then take advantage of them when things are optimal.

A Clousy Day Exposure Reminder

On cloudy and/or gray or white sky days with what most folks think of as lousy light, you almost always need to overexpose significantly. The lighter the scene averages, the more light you need to add. The RAW file for today’s featured image was actually a bit too dark even though I added 1 1/3 stops of light to the exposure suggested by the camera’s evaluative metering system. (Nikon folks should be using Matrix). When photographing on clousy days with snow backgrounds or when doing flight +3 is often a great place to start. Check your image for blinkies and check the histogram. If the histogram is far to the right with no blinkies, you will be good to go. When photographing dark birds on what I call white sky days you might need to go as much as +4 stops off the metering reading on the sky.

ps: with digital capture, there is no such thing as lousy light.

pps: to learn my system for getting the right exposure with digital, see the Exposure Simplified section in The Art of Bird Photography II (ABP II: 916 pages, 900+ images on CD only.) If you are new to bird photography you will want to get the two-book bundle here. The two-book bundle includes both ABP II and the original bird photography how-to classic, The Art of Bird Photography (now in soft cover only).


Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

2017 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT. Monday July 3 through Monday July 10, 2017: $5999: Limit 10 photographers — Openings: 6).
All who register will be urged to take advantage of the two day Gannet Add-on so please do not buy your flights until making your decision. See below for details.

Here are the plans: take a red eye from the east coast of the US on July 2 and arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland on the morning of Monday July 3 no later than 10am (or simply meet us then at the Edinburgh Airport–EDI, or later in the day at our cottages if you are driving your own vehicle either from the UK or from somewhere in Europe). Stay 7 nights in one of three gorgeous modern country cottages.

There are five days of planned puffin/seabird trips and one morning of gannet photography, all weather permitting of course. In three years we have yet to miss an entire day because of weather… In addition, we will enjoy several sessions of photographing nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes at eye level.


Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

The Details

We will get to photograph Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, Razorbill, Shag, and Northern Gannet; Arctic, Sandwich, and Common Terns, the former with chicks of all sizes; Black-headed, Lesser-Black-backed, and Herring Gulls, many chasing puffins with fish; Black-legged Kittiwake with chicks. We will be staying in upscale country-side lodging that are beyond lovely with large living areas and lots of open space for the informal image sharing and Photoshop sessions. The shared rooms are decent-sized, each with a private bathroom. See the limited single supplement info below.

All breakfasts, lunches and dinners are included. All 5 puffins boat lunches will need to be prepared by you in advance, taken with, and consumed at your leisure. I usually eat mine on the short boat trip from one island to the other. Also included is a restaurant lunch on the gannet boat day.

If you wish to fly home on the morning of Monday July 10 we will get you to the airport. Please, however, consider the following tentative plans: enjoy a second Gannet boat trip on the afternoon of Monday July 10 and book your hotel room in Dunbar. If all goes as planned, those who stay on for the two extra days will make a morning landing at Bass Rock, one of the world’s largest gannetries. We will get everyone to the airport on the morning of Wednesday July 12. (We may opt to stay in Edinburgh on the night of July 11.) Price and details should be finalized at least six months before the trip but you will need to be a bit patient. It would be ideal if I can get all the work done by the end of September so that folks can arrange their flights then.


Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version. Scroll down to join us in the UK in 2016.

Deposit Info

If you are good to go sharing a room–couples of course are more than welcome–please send your non-refundable $2,000/person deposit check now to save a spot. Please be sure to check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below. Your balance will be due on March 29, 2017. Please make your check out to “Arthur Morris” and send it to Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. 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. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

Please shoot me an e-mail if you are good to go or if you have any questions.

Single Supplement Deposit Info

Single supplement rooms are available on a limited basis. To ensure yours, please register early. The single supplement fee is $1575. If you would like your own room, please request it when making your deposit and include payment in full for the single supplement; your single supplement deposit check should be for $3,575. As we will need to commit to renting the extra space, single supplement deposits are non-refundable so please be sure that check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for big international trips is highly recommended as we never know what life has in store for us. I strongly recommend that you purchase quality insurance. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to include things such as sudden work or family obligation and even a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check of running your credit card. Whenever purchasing travel insurance be sure to read the fine print careful even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.

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.

Have a Nice Day!

Happy April Fool’s Day. As some might have figured, I am not moving anywhere. I am both happy and firmly entrenched at Indian Lake Estates with a comfortable home, my great pool, and a great and irreplaceable staff of two, my right-hand man Jim Litzenberg and older daughter Jennifer. That said, I do love San Diego and have thought about living their part time. Thanks to Patrick Sparkman for the idea for this April Fool’s Day blog post.


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 One Important Key to Becoming a Better Bird Photographer … And a clousy day exposure reminder.

  • avatar Debra Lucas

    It was worth the drive to join you at Gatorland. I learned a lot and I’m excited about applying everything I learned. Thanks for all your hard work…Debra

  • avatar David Policansky

    Thanks, Artie. As my friend Ralph Fletcher says, this is very helpful. But I think I have heard you mention lousy light even for digital capture–bright sunlight especially at midday. 🙂

    “Clousy” is a good word.

  • avatar Ralph Fletcher

    As always, this blog post contains very helpful, very practical information. Thanks Artie!

  • avatar Richard

    Good morning,
    I’m curious when I see cheap telephoto lens rentals. Would you please enlighten me. Thank you.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      If you are interested in joining me in Gatorland, let me know as that is where the cheap lens rentals take place 🙂 Next Saturday is wide open.

      later and love, artie