On Grit. And the La Jolla Rig is best for capturing those elusive Brown Pelican head throw images. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

On Grit. And the La Jolla Rig is best for capturing those elusive Brown Pelican head throw images.

What’s Up?

I have spent the last day and a half answering e-mails most related to my upcoming Galapagos trip. It is looking like the best itinerary ever as in addition to our two morning landings on Hood Island for the Waved Albatrosses and our two morning landings at Darwin Bay, my guide has added a second landing at North Seymour. Those first two islands are among the premier wildlife photography destinations on the planet and North Seymour is right behind them. If you are seriously interested in an August 2019 Galapagos IPT, please get in touch via e-mail.

I have responded to many of the comments left on the last two blog posts. Many might be interested as there is often a ton of learning going on in these and similar situations.

The Streak

Today marks six days in a row with a new educational blog post.

On Grit: Food for Thought

Folks write books on how to become a better photographer, a better golfer, a better chef, or on how to become the best basket weaver. Most of those books deal with gear and with technique; simply put, they teach you what to use and how to do it. Few if any ever even mention what the heart and soul of the person wishing to improve has to do with success. I have always known that whatever I chose to do in life, I would have excelled at because of my determination.

Thus, I read the passage below in the July 24-31, 2017 issue of Sports Illustrated with great interest and wanted to share it here with you all. The quote below is from an article by L. Jon Wertheim on Roger Federer’s recent victory at Wimbledon.

We fix our gaze on the bells and whistles of talent, not the effort to extract it. We’re so seduced by the outcome that it distracts us from admiring the process. Grit is the real engine of greatness. Grit is what enables the winners to alchemize their native gifts into results.

It has become a voguish concept, grit has. It’s easy to discuss and harder to define. In her best selling book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth lands here: “[Grit] is a combination of passion and perseverance for a singularly important goal.” Duckworth even goes so far as to put forth an equation: “Talent X Effort = Skill.” Skill X Effort = Achievement.” In writing her book, Duckworth studied everyone from elite Army units to National Spelling Bee winners to Warren Buffet. She could just as easily focused her research on tennis, and specifically the 2017 Wimbledon champions.

I would add that she could just as easily have focused her research on successful nature photographers … All of us have grit.

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.

Please Don’t Forget …

As always–and folks have been doing a really great job for a long time now–please remember to use the BAA B&H links for your major and minor 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.

This image was created on the 2017 San Diego IPT with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens with the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (at 420mm), and my favorite bird photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop as framed: 1/640 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. Daylight WB.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: +3.

Center Large Zone/AI Servo/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The system selected two AF points that grabbed the lower bill pouch just above and on the same plane as the pelican’s eye.

Pacific race Brown Pelican head throw

The La Jolla Rig

As you have seen here before in many blog posts, the Canon 100-400 II with the 1.4x III is a deadly combo on the cliffs of La Jolla not only for the pelicans but for the gulls, the seals and sea lions, the cormorants, and even some of the smaller shorebirds.

Score another one for Large Zone AF …

The Elusive Head Throws …

Also as noted here previously, created well-framed images of pelican head throws is always a big challenge. Which bird is going to do it next? How wide or tight should I frame it? How is the background. All of those challenges need to be met in order to create a single pleasing image. You need to hang tight and concentrate. And think. And predict. Or else you need to get lucky.

The Image Optimization

During the RAW conversion I played around with the Adjust image colors tab, something that I rarely do. To bring up the REDs and YELLOWs I increased the Saturation and decreased the Luminance of those two. I also did some fancy Eye Doctor work along with a Contrast Mask on the bird’s face only. Otherwise everything was pretty straightforward.

Everything above plus tons and tons more is detailed in the new BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II), an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. Learn more and check out the free excerpt in the blog post here. Just so you know, the new e-Guide reflects my Macbook Pro/Photo Mechanic/DPP 4/Photoshop workflow. Do note that you will find the RGB Curves Adjustment Color Balancing tutorial only in the new e-guide.

You can learn how and why I and other discerning Canon shooters convert nearly all of their Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 using Canon Digital Photo Professional in the DPP 4 RAW conversion Guide here. And you can learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair. Folks can learn sophisticated sharpening and (NeatImage) Noise Reduction techniques in the The Professional Post Processing Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly.

2017 in San Diego was a very good year ….

2018 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART IPT: Monday, JAN 15 thru and including the morning session on Friday, JAN 19, 2018: 4 1/2 days: $2099.

Limit: 10: Openings: 4

Meet and Greet at 6:30pm on the evening before the IPT begins; Sunday, Jan 14, 2018.

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 (usually nesting and displaying) and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Wood Duck and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heerman’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Whimbrel, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seal (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lion; 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. Please note: formerly dependable, both Wood Duck and Marbled Godwit have been declining at their usual locations for the past two years …


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….

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. You can do most of your photography with an 80- or 100-400 lens …

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. Dinners are on your own so that we can get some sleep.

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.

The San Diego Site Guide

If you cannot make or afford the IPT the San Diego Site Guide truly is the next best thing to being there with me. It is all very simple, you will learn where to be when depending on the wind and sky conditions.

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.


Those who prefer to support BAA by shopping with Amazon may use the logo link above.

Amazon Canada

Many kind folks from north of the border, eh, have e-mailed stating that they would love to help us out by using one of our affiliate links but that living in Canada and doing so presents numerous problems. Now, they can help us out by using our Amazon Canada affiliate link by starting their searches by clicking here.


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 :).

5 comments to On Grit. And the La Jolla Rig is best for capturing those elusive Brown Pelican head throw images.

  • Since Angela published Grit, I have listened to her in long interviews and presentations on TED Talks, Freakonomics, and Tim Ferriss. It hasn’t changed my life but has given me a good word to describe my personal life long experience. My grandkids and I have had long talks about this very word and what it means. Artie, thanks for bringing it here as well.

  • “I would add that she could just as easily have focused her research on successful nature photographers, AND TRANSPLANT SURGEONS … All of us have grit.”
    Hahaha 🙂

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Ajit, One of my main points is that virtually all successful folks have grit. I look forward to learning more about your career on the Galapagos IPT very soon 🙂

      with love, artie

  • avatar Ron Gates

    I liked your comments about “grit”. There’s no question you have some…as opposed to “grits” which aren’t as likeable…at least in my book!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I have more the some. As for “grits,” they are a key part of one of my favorite movies, “My Cousin Vinnie.”

      with love, artie