Dime a Dozen Part IV: It’s Just a Boat-tailed Grackle. And some really tough exposure questions … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Dime a Dozen Part IV: It's Just a Boat-tailed Grackle. And some really tough exposure questions ...


I woke early on Saturday and met photographer/friend Clemens van der Werf at lake Blue Cypress to try out his new boat. It was great for two photographers. Though the sunrise colors were not great and though we were a bit late getting started, it turned out to be a perfect day for lake-scape photography: lots of big dramatic clouds and with zero wind all morning long, the mirror-like reflections of the clouds made perfect settings for the Cypress trees. I used every lens form the 8-15mm circle lens through my 100-400 for the tree- and sky-scapes. There were a few Osprey around and we had some decent opportunities to photograph them.

We called it quits at about 10:30am and before noon we were sitting around the lunch table on my pool deck enjoying barbecued halibut and brussels sprouts with fresh, ice cold lemonade. Then Clemens went to work with his chain saw and I with the loppers continuing the Hurricane Irma clean-up of my yard. Clemens headed back to Lake Blue Cypress for a sunset session. After my lazy 3/4 mile swim I headed down to the lake for yet another very lovely red sunset.

Right now it is looking as if the 5D Mark IV Userโ€™s Guide will be in the BAA Online Store available for purchase on Tuesday, December 26, 2017. I will be doing all the mopping up today. Mitch Haimov and several others have been sending reviews of the guide but Mitch’s efforts have been stellar! Thanks to all it will be much improved from my original drafts.

I was glad to learn that Marvin Falk is coming down from Alaska to join San Diego IPT #2; that leaves only three slots with several others interested.

I was glad to learn that the sale of Mike Rust’s Canon 600mm f/4L IS II ISM lens in near-mint condition for $9396.00 and the sale of his Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens in like-new condition for $699.00 were both finalized. I learned also that the sale of Joel Williams’ Fujifilm X-T2 body with two grips, his Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR lens with the LH-XF 16 lens hood, his Fujifilm XF 23 f/2 R WR lens, and his Fujifilm XF 35 f/2 R WR lens with the LH-XF 35-2 lens hood, all to a single buyer, is nearly complete. Joel generously put together a discounted package price. There is still lot of great stuff available at just the right prices on the BAA Used Photo Gear page here.

Important Note

More than a few folks over the past few days have sent requests for their free copy of the 5D Mark IV Guide along with their B&H receipts. When I searched my account by their order number, there was no record of the transaction. When I asked them about it, it turned out that either they made a phone order and never mentioned BIRDS AS ART (please remember, web orders only), or that they simply had not used a BAA affiliate link. Please remember to make all of your B&H purchases by starting with the generic Photo Gear and More B&H logo link on the top right of each blog page, or to use a product-specific or to e-mail for one and then click on that. Using these links wonโ€™t cost you one penny more and are the best way to thank me for the work that I put into the blog and the time I spend answering your queries via e-mail. Using my Amazon links helps too. All of your efforts are appreciated.

Click on the logo-link above for great holiday savings!
$300 off on the Canon 100-400 II!


If you have sent me a FB friends request that has gone unrequited, it is because I am up to the 5,000 limit on my personal FB page. You are invited to click here and then Like and Follow the identical content. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Streak

Today makes one hundred forty-eight days in a row with a new educational blog post! This blog post took about two hours to prepare. With all of my upcoming free time (or not …), the plan right now is to break the current record streak of 480 … Good health and good internet connections and my continuing insanity willing.

Click here for Amazing 5D Mark IV Bundles and Deals

Here is the best news: those who have used a BAA B&H affiliate link to purchase a 5D Mark IV (or other items totaling $3200 or more) are invited to send us a copy of their B&H receipt via e-mail and receive a free copy of the guide. If you would like to review the document before it is published, please send your receipt now. This offer is also valid for future purchases.


Booking.Com came through for me twice again recently with both the DeSoto Fall IPT and next July’s UK Puffins, Gannets, and Bempton Pre-trip room reservations. And all the rates were great. If you’d like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and you will earn a $25 reward. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

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. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This image was created down by the lake near my home at Indian Lake Estates, FL on the evening of December 22. I used the Induro GIT304L Grand Series 3 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and my favorite silhouette photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 200 in Av mode. WB: K7500 at 5:31pm with just a bit of haze in front of the sun.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: -10.

Manual focus with rear focus set. Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Boat-tailed Grackle, singing male at sunset.

Why Manual Focus?

Most photographers know that acquiring focus can be difficult in extreme low contrast situations. Though few folks try to create photographs similar to today’s featured image, those who do will learn quickly that it can be equally difficult or even impossible to acquire focus in extreme high contrast situation. When I need to focus manually I far prefer to switch from shutter button AF to Rear button AF rather than turn the AF switch to M (for Manual focusing). Why? It is easier to forget the latter than it is to forget the former …

NEOS Adventurer Overshoes

Many of these sunset images of birds on the various perches down by the lake would bot be possible without my NEOS Adventurer Overshoes. When I see a bird on the perch at sunset I know that I will need to wade into the mucky shallow water. I reach into the rear driver’s-side seat well and grab my NEOS. Whether I am wearing my sneakers or my hiking boots, it takes about 30 seconds to get them on. Then I slosh around in the mud and muck, usually managing to stay shallower then knee-high ๐Ÿ™‚ The Navigators come right up to below the bottom of my knee. Once I am done, removing the lightweight, completely waterproof overshoes takes less than ten seconds. And my regular footwear and the bottoms of my jeans are perfectly clean and dry.

Folks in cold-weather climes need to look at the NEOS Navigator Overshoes. They are perfect for getting through the wet snow and the Vibram Ninja Outsoles will prevent slipping on ice. They are conservatively estimated to good for -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Ace photographer-friend Brian Zwiebel swears that they are the warmest winter footwear on the planet despite their light weight. I own and use a pair of both.

Image Questions

How might this image have been improved if I had moved my tripod one inch to the right and had worked one inch taller?

What do you think of this image?

Exposure Questions

Knowing that the ISO was 200 and that I was in Av mode, what do you think the exposure compensation was? What do you think the shutter speed was? And what do you think the aperture was?

2017 in San Diego was a very good year ….

2018 San Diego 3 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART IPT #2: Sunday, JAN 28 thru and including the morning session on Wednesday, JAN 31, 2018 and a free morning session on Saturday, JAN 27: 3 1/2 days (+1/2 free day!): $1699. Limit: 8: Openings: 3.

Meet and Greet at 6:30pm on the evening before the IPT begins; Saturday, Jan 27, 2018.

San Diego IPT #2: Shorter and Less Expensive!

Join me in San Diego near the end of January 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 four 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, three 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, three 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 is payable only by check. 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.

Support the Blog

Please help support my (stupendous) efforts here on the blog by remembering to click on the logo link above each time that you shop Amazon. That would be greatly appreciated. with love, artie

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If in doubt about using the BAA B&H affiliate link correctly, you can always start your search by clicking here. Please note that the tracking is invisible. Web orders only. Please, however, remember to shoot me your receipt via e-mail.

Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store ๐Ÿ™‚

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 :).

21 comments to Dime a Dozen Part IV: It’s Just a Boat-tailed Grackle. And some really tough exposure questions …

  • avatar David Peake

    Hi Artie, Moving the camera slightly would have moved the subject towards the centre of the Setting sun.
    Iso 200 , SS 1/500, Aperture f16, exp comp +1 1/3 stops.

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    I did a lot more thinking and came up with–
    –ISO 200 to keep noise down (as Jake commented earlier)
    –f16 to keep the sun fairly sharp (f8 would have been the most open f stop possible with a 600mm and 2x extender. I didn’t think through that earlier)
    –1/3200 for -5 stops
    I have no sun today to experiment. It’s a gorgeous Christmas snowfall.

    Will add this from my previous comment–
    Beautiful and unique image ! One inch to the right would have moved the birdโ€™s tail away from the sun edge and into the sun more. One inch up would have moved the bird lower in the sun.

  • avatar Jeff Friedhoffer

    ISO 200 to reduce noise in the black.

    Sun is fuzzy, so aperture is wide open 5.6, exposure compensation, -3. Speed 2000

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for playing Jeff. Wrong, wrong, close, and not so close. But everyone who tries and fails to one degree or another will learn a lot more than the lazy folks ๐Ÿ™‚ So good on you.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Jake

    Hi Artie, I agree with Elinor on what affect your movement would have had on the placement of the bird. I like the image very much and agree with you that it would be more powerful if you had moved the tripod in the way that you suggested. Assuming you were in evaluative metering, based on the amount of black in the image I guess the exposure compensation would be -2 2/3 or -3. I guess you were at f9 or f10 (stopped down a little from the minimum aperture for your lens and extender combination) to maintain sharpness throughout the whole bird and perch. As there was no cloud obscuring the sun and you may have been trying to keep your shutter speed fast in case the bird took flight (hence the use of ISO 200), I reckon your shutter speed was around 1/1000 or 1/1250.

  • avatar Mitch Haimov

    I enjoy this image. Others have already discussed how the grackle would move relative to the sun if you moved the camera up and right. That movement would also have moved the tip of the lower fork of the branch closer to the bottom edge of the sun, possibly making it look stranded. In which case I suspect you would likely have removed it in post.

    The sky is black because it, like the grackle, is underexposed. If you exposed for the sky the sun would be blown out, the grackle would not be a silhouette, and this would not be an interesting image.

    You have written “Do not point your lens at a bright sun during Live View shooting as doing so can damage the cameraโ€™s internal components.” The camera’s internal components are less valuable and more easily replaced than your eye’s. How do you protect your vision in these situations?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Mitch and well done. The sun was muted only a bit but more than enough so as not to damage my left eye. If you look through the viewfinder and look away and see purple, the sun it too bright so you need to quit it.

      with love, artie

      ps: thanks for your fantastic help with the 5D IV guide.

      • avatar Mitch Haimov

        Forgot to offer my exposure estimate. Knowing you use evaluative metering, there must be some negative EC or you wouldn’t have those blacks (even though the relatively bright sun is near the center). I’ll guess -2 1/3. You had difficult focusing conditions and wouldn’t have wanted to spend a lot of time at it (to protect your eye, minimize chance of subject departure, cope with rapidly changing conditions due to sun movement) f/11, possibly as high as f/16, so that DoF would cover your subject even if the focus a little off. Another hint to a fairly small aperture is that, while not sharp, the sun has a definite edge rather than being a diffuse blob as I would expect wide open. Shutter speed is the hardest to guess. Sunny f/16 would be 1/200; -2 1/3 EC would take that to 1/1000. These were not Sunny f/16 conditions, so shutter speed a little slower–perhaps 1/640 (2/3 stop slower than 1/1000).

        P.S. You’re welcome!

  • avatar Monty

    The position of the bird and sun are about right.
    One inch taller would have pushed the subject(s) too far down in the frame.
    One inch left would have pushed the subjects too close to the right hand side of the frame.
    Aperture: F5.6
    Shutter speed: 1/1000sec
    Compensation: zero

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks billyboo for sharing your opinion. You misread the second question; it asked about moving the tripod one inch to the right. You exposure answers are not even close.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Monty

    Do you actually eat fish with brussel sprouts and wash it down with lemonade?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes. I caught the halibut in Alaska last summer and brought it home frozen. The brussels sprouts were fresh but not organic. Wrapped the fish and the veggies in foil with lots of butter, Mama’s Garlic on the fish, and salt and pepper on the sprouts. I guess that I am not sure that I understand the purpose of your question ๐Ÿ™‚

      with love, artie

  • avatar David Policansky

    I can imagine the camera would have focused on the sun rather than on the bird in AF, so that’s why MF. I like the image a lot. A bit to the right and a bit taller would have moved the bird a bit down and to the left. Maybe better, but I’m not sure; it’s fine as is. I’m guessing -2 EC to get the background dark. Normally a low sun appears in an orange sky, not black, especially if it’s a bit hazy. I’ll guess the exposure ended up at 1/1000 at f/8.

  • avatar john

    nothing in nature is dead center, leave grackle where it is……do you use dual pixel on or off?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Or not ๐Ÿ™‚ IMP dual pixel is a 100% waste of time advertising sham. And I have never heard of anyone other than someone paid by Canon who has had anything good to say about it. Have you or do you?

      with love, artie

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    Beautiful and unique image ! One inch to the right would have moved the bird’s tail away from the sun edge and into the sun more. One inch up would have moved the bird lower in the sun.
    A wild wild guess– f5.6 -2 1/500