2018 BAA Top Twenty Images: Part III of IV « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

2018 BAA Top Twenty Images: Part III of IV

What’s Up?

We did great on our scouting morning. Patrick Sparkman is loving the Sony A9 with the Sony 100-400 and is making great images with it every session. He switched from Canon to Nikon last year when I did and is now strongly considering another switch. I will have six days to play with the Sony stuff starting next Saturday … Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of artie …

The San Diego IPT got off to a completely amazing start on Saturday with a fabulous morning with the pelicans; there are a lot of gorgeous tame birds in a variety of interesting plumages doing lots of interesting things. We returned to La Jolla in the afternoon to do the Brandt’s Cormorants and wound up having non-stop pelican flight photography, albeit at high ISOs it was a veritable flying circus unlike anything that Patrick or I had ever seen before. We ended the day with a gorgeous rising full moon to the east and a sweet, sweet reddish pink strip of a sunset to the west. I am looking at my day take now; out of my 1371 images I am pretty sure that I will have a few good ones …

Contest News

As below, the deadline for contest entries has been extended until February 7, 2019.

The 2018 B&H/BAA Bird Photography Holiday Contest!

Thanks to the generosity of the great folks at B&H, I am proud to announce the first-ever B&H/BAA Bird Photography Holiday Contest. The rules are simple:

1-Anyone can enter one or two of their favorite avian images that were created in 2018. As below, each image must be sent in a separate e-mail.
2-Image clean-up and repair is permitted.
3-Send you JPEGs in two separate e-mails only by clicking on this link: Contest Entry e-mail.
4-Please size your properly sharpened JPEGs as follows: 1200 high or wide less than 600 kb.
5-If you do not follow the instructions above to the letter your images will not be judged and you will not receive any notification.
6-There is one judge and you can guess who it is.
7-Here are the five prizes:

1st place: a $100 B&H gift certificate
2nd through 4th place: a $50 B&H gift certificate

All prizes will be awarded.

8- Entries my be submitted from now until February 7, 2019. Please remember to do your holiday shopping at B&H using a BAA affiliate link or by clicking here or on any B&H affiliate banner here on the blog.


If like me you purchase lots of household stuff from Amazon every month, please consider getting in the habit of clicking on the logo link above the Help Support the Blog feature below or the Amazon logo link on the right side of each blog post. Doing so is a great way to help support my efforts here on the blog. This post took three hours to prepare. Thanks with love, artie

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IPT Updates

I still need three or four folks for the Galapagos trip and two more for the Spoonbill IPT. If you would like to explore the possibilities, please get in touch via e-mail. For the Galapagos trip, no reasonable offer will be turned down.

  • The 2019 Hooptie Deux/Roseate Spoonbill Boat 3 1/2 DAY IPT — FEB 16 thru 19, 2019: $2599.00. Limit: 5 photographers/Openings: 2.
  • The New, Expanded 2019 UK Puffins, Gannets, & Red Kites IPT. Thursday June 27 (from EDI) through Tuesday, July 9, 2019 (on the ground; fly home on Wednesday July 10.): $9,999. Limit 10 photographers/Openings: 9. This trip needs four to run. Co-leader: Peter Kes.
  • The GALAPAGOS Photo Cruise of a Lifetime IPT/The Complete Galapagos Photographic Experience. July 23 to August 6, 2019 on the boat. 13 FULL and two half-days of photography: $14,499. Limit: 12 photographers/Openings: 4.


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Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They went out of business. And e-Bay fees are now up to 13%. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please scroll down here or shoot us an e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly — I offer pricing advice to those who agree to the terms — usually sells in no time flat. Over the past year, we have sold many dozens of items. Do know that prices on most everything dSLR are dropping steadily. You can always see the current listings by clicking here or on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange-yellow menu bar near the top of each blog post page.

Money Saving Reminder

If you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H, would enjoy free overnight shipping, and would like a $50 discount on your first purchase, click here to order and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If you are looking to strike a deal on Canon or Nikon gear (including the big telephotos) or on a multiple item order, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve currently has several D850s in stock along with a Nikon 600mm f/4 VR. He is taking pre-orders for the new Nikon 500 P and the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera body.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers 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 on the morning of Friday, February 25, 2018 on the Spoonbill Boat IPT with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, and the blazingly fast AF king, the Nikon D5 DSLR (Dual XQD Slots). ISO 1600. Matrix metering at about -1 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/7.1 AUTO0 WB at 8:12am on a clear day.

Nikon quick and easy AF fine-tune: +8.

Center Group (grp) Shutter Button AF as originally framed. Be sure to click on the image to see the spectacular larger version.

Image #1: Brown Pelican stitched pano take-off

Brown Pelican stitched Pano Take-off

I created a sequence of three sharp frames. One included the whole splash and another had the best wing position. It was easy to merge the two to create Image #1.

The Lesson

Like it or not, improving your Photoshop skills can make you a better photographer. And that is true even if you never create a stitched pano.


This image was created on the morning of September 27, 2018 on the last day of the Fort DeSoto Fall IPT. I used the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR AF lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, and my souped up Nikon D850. ISO 400. Matrix metering at about zero: 1/2500 sec. at f/8 in Manual Mode. NATURAL AUTO WB at 8:41am on a dead-clear morning.

Center/Group (grp)/Shutter Button/Continuous (AI Servo with Canon) AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. The array was centered on the bird’s neck just behind and below its face.

Nikon Focus Peaking fine-tune was a significant +5. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here. Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Image #2: Roseate Spoonbill tight feeding

Roseate Spoonbill Tight Feeding

I struggled mightily with the framing when photographing a group of spoonbills because the birds were feeding frenetically.

The Lesson

Determination is often more important than skill. You can learn more about the creation of this image in the blog post here.

Northern Gannet in flight shadow BKGR _MAI9163 Bempton Cliffs, UK

This image was created on June 30, 2018 at Bempton Cliffs, UK with the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens and my souped up Nikon D850. ISO 400. I went with the book exposure for super-bright whites, 1/5000 sec. at f/6.3 (the equivalent of 1/2500 sec. at 9) in Manual mode. AWB at 5:34pm on a dead-clear afternoon.

Center group (grp) Continuos (AI Servo in Canon) shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The upper point in the array was on the bird’s cheek as originally framed.

Image #3: Northern Gannet against blackground

Northern Gannet Against Blackground

This bird was in the sun while the background was in the total shade of a tall sea stack.

The Lesson

It is imperative to learn to work in Manual exposure mode so that when situations like this when the arise getting the right exposure is as easy as pie. Learn more about the creation of this image in the blog post here.


This image was created on Cayman Brac on February 12, with the Induro GIT 204/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, and the Nikon D850. ISO 400. Matrix metering at zero: 1/640 sec. at f/11. AUTO0 WB at 5:12pm on a sunny afternoon.

Live View Touch Shutter AF. The LV AF box was on the lower mandible just forward of the bird’s eye.

Image #4: Brown Booby chick yawning

Brown Booby Chick Yawning

To get the green background that I wanted, I needed to get as low as possible. As I could not lie down on the sharp lava rock I lowered the tripod, tilted the Live View LCD up, and used touch shutter release.

The Lesson

By learning everything there is to know about your camera your photography will improve by leaps and bounds. To learn more about the creation of this image visit the blog post here.


This image was created on the first 2018 San Diego IPT on January 15. I used the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 330mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II dSLR. ISO 400. Matrix metering +1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6. AWB at UTO0 WB at 8:59am on a relatively clear day.

Image #5: Brown Pelican, Pacific race head throw

Brown Pelican, Pacific Race Head Throw

Creating good head throw images is both challenging and fun. For best results, you want to work in vertical format and use an AF cluster just above center.

The Lesson

When photographing behavior it is far better to zoom out and get everything in the frame than it is to get greedy and clip all sorts of stuff.

Your Favorite

Which of todays’ featured images is your favorite? Please let us know why. Folks have been very lazy recently 🙂

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10 comments to 2018 BAA Top Twenty Images: Part III of IV

  • I like the chic and the pelican head throw is a different shot not seen often by a casual beach combed. Thanks for sharing.

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    #3 Northern Gannet my favourite, why, the lighting is spectacular!

  • Beautiful Images. I like 2 images more than others Brown Booby chick yawning and Brown Pelican, Pacific race head throw.

    Because of Beautiful Backgrounds and Behaviors.

  • avatar Jay

    Gee, four comments and only two address the images.

    My favorite would be the brown booby chick. It’s a visceral response having nothing to do with the technical aspects of the photograph. It just seems to be a happy image of the young bird that brought a smile to my face.

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    Hi Artie,
    I was going to purchase a Sony camera about 2 years ago because after much research I learned their service is awful. My experience with Canon is that they have excellent service. Don’t know about Nikon. For me, poor service is a deal breaker when making such an investment.
    Enjoy La Jolla!

  • Hi Artie, all great images but my favourite has to be image #3 for the dramatic contrast between the dark sea and the white gannet and for the perfect tip to tip framing.

  • avatar Jordan Cait

    While they are all nice images, I prefer Image #5: Brown Pelican, Pacific race head throw.
    It is very different. What would make it even better is a big fish tail protruding from his beak on its way down.

    Thanks for all your hard work preparing this blog.

  • Hi,
    Your opening says switched from Nikon to Canon—should it be the other way around.