My Favorite SONY Image Yet. Patrick Sparkman is a Genie’s Ass (aka Genius!) And Bad News About and From SONY … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

My Favorite SONY Image Yet. Patrick Sparkman is a Genie's Ass (aka Genius!) And Bad News About and From SONY ...

What’s Up?

It is cold and raining here at ILE on Tuesday morning. I have decided to send my 600 VR to Nikon so that they can check the AF performance; I would not be shocked if they find that these is some misalignment of the lens elements … Or some other problem.

IPT Updates

I was glad to learn recently that Dan Tishman will be joining six others on the DeSoto IPT — that leaves one slot open. And #3 just signed up for the UK trip; that leaves only two openings on what will be an amazing trip, and will likely be my last trip and likely the last Dunbar gannet boats trips — Gordon is getting old. 🙂

Despite lots of recent interest I still need three folks for the Galapagos trip. Please shoot me an e-mail to learn about the huge late registration discount on the Galapagos trip.

  • The 2019 Fort DeSoto Spring IPT/THURS 18 APRIL through the morning session on SUNDAY APRIL 21, 2019: 3 1/2 DAYS: $1549. Limit 8/Openings: 1. Meet and greet at 7PM on the evening of WED 17 APRIL. Free morning session on WED 17 APRIL.
  • 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 5 photographers/Openings: 2. This trip is a definite go.
  • 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: 13 photographers/Openings: 3. Please e-mail to learn about the huge late registration discount for this trip.


BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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 at Gatorland on Sunday, March 17, 2019. I used the hand held Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens (at 400mm) and the beyond remarkable Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Digital Camera. ISO: 800. Highlight metering with faint Zebras: 1/320 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

Click on the image to see a larger version. AF data is unavailable — see the Bad News From SONY … item below.

Great Egret in breeding plumage/head portrait

My Favorite SONY Image Yet

The Great Egret head portrait above is my favorite SONY image yet. I love the sharpness of the subject, the image quality, the gorgeous bird with lime green lores and a bright ruby red eye, the image design, the head and bill angle (turned only ever so slightly toward us), and the green BKGRD and the foreground halo.

Cheap Gatorland Sessions

Join me at Gatorland in March as below — it was great both days this past weekend. You will learn a ton. Including the simple trick that enabled me to create today’s featured image while nobody else could … Really.

If you are interested, please get in touch via e-mail or call my cell at 863-221-2372. Limit three.

Friday or Saturday Morning Session — 7-10am: $200.00
Saturday Morning Session with a working lunch including image review and Photoshop: $300.00
Saturday Afternoon session — 4pm til closing: $150.
Full day with the working lunch: $450.00.
Sunday morning session 7-10am: $200.00.
Sunday morning session with a working lunch including image review and Photoshop: $300.00

Save $100 by creating your own mini-IPT by combining a Full day Saturday session including a working lunch with a Sunday morning session with a working lunch. Limit: three photographers: only $650 for a ton of learning over two days. As I said, cheap!

Patrick Sparkman is a Genie’s Ass (aka Genius!)

There have been several things that I was hating with SONY. One of them that it is hard to get used to the fact that you are actually looking at electronic pixels rather than actually seeing what you are photographing when using a dSLR as I had been doing for almost 36 years … I hated the look of the image in the viewfinder and hated the look of the image on the rear LCD. Those feeling influence the way that I looked at and processed the images. If that does not make sense to you I can only say that there are a lot of mental shenanigans going on when you try a new system. If you have never experienced that, then good on you!

Any hoo (as my late Dad PFC First Class Robert Edward Morris said often), Patrick Sparkman, technical genius and super photographic researcher that he is, came up with a few simple menu changes that improved the look of the image in the viewfinder and on the rear LCD 1,000 percent. I now enjoy working with my SONY rig and have much more confidence in it. We will share these settings with you in the SONY guide we are working on.

I also hated the fact that you could not put Exposure Compensation on the rear thumb wheel (SONY calls that the Control Wheel). Turning the EC dial on the top of the camera was a huge pain that slowed down the process of getting the right exposure. Well, Patrick came up with a solution to that problem as well. And yes, we will share this method with you in the new SONY guide we are working on.

Thanks a stack Patrickio!

Bad News From SONY …

I persisted in trying to find out whether it is possible to determine the selected AF point and the Focus Area that you used to create a given SONY ARW file. First I downloaded the SONY software, Imaging Edge and played around with that but could not find what I was looking for. I sent my question via the contact form on the SONY website and received an e-mail stating that they would get back to me within 24 hours. That was about three weeks ago; I still have not heard from them.

Then I turned to SONY Artisan and friend Patrick Murphy-Racey; he had no clue. He kindly directed my to SONY Pro Rep Mark Weir. I sent an e-mail to Mark explaining the help that I needed. He wrote back:

Hello Artie;

I was finally able to get a concrete answer on your request to identify the selected AF point in a previously captured image. Unfortunately, there is no way to access this information through Imaging Edge or any other application of which I am aware. Although not a complete solution, one possible substitute is the use of the “Enlarge Initial Position” function in the Playback menu. User can select “Focused Position” – which centers the enlarged playback display on the focus point/focus area that was selected at the time of exposure – instead of the center of the image. This positively identifies the area of the image on which the camera focused at the moment of exposure.

We recognize the value of being able to identify the selected focus point through an application after capture, but this is all I can suggest at this time. I’ll update you if I learn anything else. My apologies for not having better news.

I followed his instructions by going to the Playback2 (2/3) menu and selecting Focused Position for Enlarge Initial Position. Center is the other option. I think that I had done the same thing previously going to the Focus Assist1 menu (11/13) under Camera1 and setting AF in Focus Magnification to On. Now when I hit the + button while reviewing the image, it enlarges to 100% on the area that was focused on. The problems are that in the best case the information is ambiguous, in the worst case it makes no sense at all, and in any case, you have no idea what Focus Area you are using …

This is a most unfortunate situation as it makes it pretty much impossible to learn how to maximize AF performance with the a9 and with the A7R III as well. There will be some new info on the latter camera here soon.

With both Canon (in DPP 4) and with Nikon (in Capture NX-D) it is possible to ascertain both the AF Area or Mode that was used and the AF point that was selected. That puts them light years ahead of SONY in this department. In an ideal world we would not only be able to see both of those but we would be able to see the AF point that was active at the moment of exposure.

A related problem with SONY is that there is no option to see the selected AF point during playback as you can with both Nikon and Canon … I will be writing back to Mark again in hopes that the situation can be improved with a firmware update or with improvements in the Imaging Edge software.

Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. All of the images on this card were created on the 2018 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT

The New, Expanded 2019 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT. Seahouses, Bempton Cliffs, and the Dunbar, Scotland Gannet boat to Bass Rock! Thursday June 27 (from EDI) through Tuesday, July 9, 2019 (on the ground; fly home on Wednesday July 10.): $9,999. Limit 5 photographers/openings 2.

Join me in the UK in late June and early July 2019 to photograph Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, Razorbill, Shag, and Northern Gannet, Red Kite, and more both in flight and at close range. We will also have great chances with Arctic and Sandwich Terns, both with chicks of all sizes; Black-headed, Lesser-Black-backed, and Herring Gulls, many of those chasing puffins with fish; Black-legged Kittiwake with chicks; plus Grey Seal. There will be tons of great flight photography. As on all IPTs, if you pay attention, you will learn a ton, especially about sky conditions and the relationship between light angle and wind direction and their effects on flight photography.

Why go all the way to Machias Seal Island off the coast of Maine, endure a two-hour boat ride, and have to photograph Atlantic Puffins from a cramped blind usually in bright sun (and well off sun angle) when you can hop a red-eye flight from Newark, NJ and be in Edinburgh, Scotland early the next morning. First we drive down to Bridlington for easy access to Bempton Cliffs where our primary targets will be Northern Gannet in flight. We will also get to photograph Razorbill, Northern Fulmar, Herring Gull, and Black-legged Kittiwake. While in Bridlington we will spend one afternoon visiting a Red Kite feeding station that should provide lots of flight photography action.

While in Bridlington we will staying at the Lobster Pot by Marston’s Inn, just fifteen minutes from Bempton Cliffs. After 3 1/2 days of photography at there, we drive down to Seahouses in Northumberland to the two lodges that will be our home base for a week. After a short boat ride each day we will have hundreds of puffins posing at close range all day, every day — usually in ideal cloudy-bright conditions. While we are in Seahouses we will do six puffin/seabird trips, all weather permitting of course; last year we did not miss a single landing. In five years we have averaged losing less than one half day per year to bad weather. We land at Staple Island in the mornings and then sail over to Inner Farnes for our afternoon sessions. In addition, we may enjoy a session or two photographing nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes at eye level from a rocky beach in Seahouses.

In Seahouses, we stay 7 nights in gorgeous, modern, upscale lodges with Wi-fi. They are beyond lovely with large living areas and lots of open space for the informal image sharing and Photoshop sessions. The bedrooms are decent-sized. Each lodge has one double bedroom and two twin bedrooms. (See the single supplement info below.) At the lodges we cook our own breakfasts each morning and prepare our own lunches to be brought on the six puffin boat trips. For dinners we will alternate cooking in the lodges with fine dining at several excellent local restaurants. We stay two nights at the Marston’s Inn in Dunbar. We will enjoy a fine-dining Thank You dinner at the Dunbar Hotel on the Tuesday evening before we fly home.

On the morning of Monday, July 8, 2019, the plan is to sleep late, pack, and head up to Dunbar Harbor, Scotland for lunch and an afternoon gannet boat chumming trip: flight photography until you cannot lift your camera. The next morning, Tuesday July 9, we will enjoy our second gannet boat chumming trip (both weather permitting). On both trips we will enjoy great views of the huge gannetry at Bass Rock. Included will be two nights lodging at the Pine Martin by Marston’s Inn in Dunbar. Very early on the morning of Wednesday, July 10, we will drive up to Edinburgh Airport so that everyone can make their flights home. No moaning please. You will need a flight that leaves at 8:30am or later. Not too much later is generally best. Note: this trip needs a minimum of four photographers to run.

Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. All images were created on the 2017 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT

The Details

This IPT is all-inclusive except for your airfare and alcoholic beverages. All ground transportation, lodging costs, meals, your National Trust membership, and all boat, entry, and landing fees are included. Weather permitting, we will enjoy three and one-half days (at least six sessions in all) at Bempton Cliffs, an afternoon with the Red Kites, six full days on the puffin boats, one amazing afternoon gannet chumming trip, and one spectacular morning gannet chumming trip. The trip cannot be finalized until I have at least six deposits as we will be renting a lovely 15-passenger bus with our private professional driver who happens to be my web-master, Peter Kes, who is also a skilled photographer and my co-leader 🙂

IPT Details

If you are good to go sharing a room–couples of course are more than welcome, heck, we actually need two couples — 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 February 28, 2019. 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.

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

Single Supplement Info

Single supplement rooms in Bridlington and Dunbar are available for those who register early. The cost of the single supplement for those six nights is $600.00. Single supplement rooms at the lodge may be available on a limited basis but only if the trip does not fill with ten photographers. The single supplement fee for those seven nights is $700. If you would like your own room in Bridlington and Dunbar, please request it when making your deposit and include payment in full for the single supplement with your deposit: $2,600.00. The single supplement deposits are non-refundable as I will need to make the reservations well in advance.

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 or running your credit card. Whenever purchasing travel insurance, be sure to read the fine print carefully even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.

I truly hope that you can join me on this exciting venture.

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10 comments to My Favorite SONY Image Yet. Patrick Sparkman is a Genie’s Ass (aka Genius!) And Bad News About and From SONY …

  • Egret picture is wonderful, what was the trick to make that shot? Can you give us an update on your photo contest? I know your busy and your laptop committed Hari Kari but I’m really looking forward to see some excellent pics from your posse! And to read your feedback on the images as well. Thanks trying to learn a little everyday. God Bless.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Jeff,

      Thanks. To learn the “trick” you would need to join me at Gatorland or purchase the BAA Middle of Florida Site guide. Joe Przybyla and I are working on it as we speak.

      I was able to get all the e-mail folders off of my old hard drive last week so I will be announcing the winners next week.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Donnette

    Thanks, Artie
    Making the jump to new system is not easy.
    Are you totally going to Sony? And abandoning Nikon and Canon?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      YAW Donette. Right now I am using lots of Nikon gear and the SONY 100-400 OSS with both TCs. Patrick Sparkman is all in on SONY. He sold all of his Nikon stuff recently after selling all of his Canon stuff 14 months ago … He has pre-ordered the SONY 400mm f/2.8!

      with love, artie

      • avatar Rick

        Artie the Sony 400 f2.8 is mind blowing expensive. Can a Canon 500 f4 work on a Sony A9?

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          There are adapters but AF performance declines quite a bit … SONY is definitely short on long fast glass …

          with love, artie]

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Wonderful image. Yes, Canon makes it very easy to see what AF points were active for any image.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Dr. Fish, Actually, Canon makes it easy (in DPP 4) to know which AF point you selected and which AF Area Mode you used but, when you are using more than a single point — as with Zone or Expand or Surround — it does NOT tell us which AF point was active at the moment of exposure. That has long been a big gripe of mine 🙂

      with love, artie

  • avatar Donnette Largay

    On Sony focus point on review image: do I understand correctly focus point cannot be seen after the fact. But, focus point can be seen when taking photo as in Canon. Your point is if subject slightly moved the focus may have landed on area not intended? This would be for clarification as to why not as sharp? Loved the A9 photo shown. I’m looking at this set up.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Donette,

      Yes, you can see the Focus Area and the selected AF point as applicable and you can even see the active point if you are in Zone or Wide as you are taking the photo. But in order to learn how effectively this or that AF Area is working you need to be able to access that info after the fact. You cannot tell what worked well and what did not work well if you cannot see the needed info …

      Stay tuned and if you bite please use on of my affiliate links or write for advice.

      with love, artie