Getting Lucky With One Pair. And a Great Jeff Walters Depth-of-Field Question (and Answer). « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Getting Lucky With One Pair. And a Great Jeff Walters Depth-of-Field Question (and Answer).

What’s Up

As I type, Anita North and I are on our way from Roma to HRL, Valley International Airport, in Harlingen, TX. We connect in Houston and then continue on to Orlando. Jim will be picking us up late this afternoon. We will be meeting San Diego IPT veteran and my seemingly long-lost brother, Luis Alberto Grunauer, Jr tonight and then all of us will be continuing on the the Fort DeSoto IPT. Luis has lost more than 25 pounds (slowly) since joining me in La Jolla to photograph the pelicans. You can read how that all started in the Louie’s Life-changing IPT; Luis, You are killing yourself with food. … blog post here.

Thanks again to Anita North for her incredible help on the Roma IPT; I simply could not have done it without her: chef, chief cook and bottle washer, assistant instructor, chain saw expert, cheerleader, head of cleaner and maintenance department, peanut butter and seed spreader, log mover, driver, and last but not least, friend.

After a slow start, we had another great morning in the blind. And we struck out again trying for caracaras in the afternoon.

IPT Updates

There is still one slot open on the Fort DeSoto IPT; please e-mail for to learn about the last minute registration discount. I now have three folks for the UK Puffins and Gannets trip; that leaves two (or seven) openings on what will be an amazing experience and will possibly be my last trip and almost surely the last of the amazing Dunbar gannet boats trips — Gordon is getting old. ๐Ÿ™‚

I learned recently that one or possibly two folks will be signing up for the Galapagos trip this week. I may still have one or two openings: please shoot me an e-mail to learn about the huge late registration discount for this 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 10) or photographers/Openings: 2 (or 7). 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.
  • The 2020 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) WED JAN 8, 2020 thru and including the morning session on SUN JAN 12: 4 1/2 days: $2099.(Limit: 8/Openings: 7)


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

Lessons From the Field/BIRDS AS ART Style is a 1 hour, 15 minute, 314 image,
click and play MP4 video

Lessons From the Field/BIRDS AS ART Style: $10.00

Click here to order or see the Save $10 Bundle offer below.

Lessons From the Field/BIRDS AS ART Style is a 1 hour, 15 minute click and play MP4 video. It is available here in the BAA Online Store, by phone order, or by sending a Paypal for $10.00 to As the file is a large one, be sure to upload it when you have a good internet connection.

The video features 314 of artieโ€™s best images, educational and otherwise. Based on his 35 years of in-the-field experience, it covers all the basics along with many fine points. Are you making mistakes that give you no chance to create a great image? Learning to avoid those and learning to think like a pro will make you a better photographer. If you purchase and study the video, it will surely prove to be the best ten dollars youโ€™ve ever spent on photography.


birds as art: The Avian Photography of Arthur Morris/The Top 100:

Save Ten Bucks!

Order the Lessons From the Field MP4 video and add a copy of the birds as art: The Avian Photography of Arthur Morris/The Top 100 (via convenient download — normally sells for $20.00) for an additional 10.00.

Order the bundle for $20.00 by clicking here.

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.


Many IPT folks have been using the Booking.Com link below to get great rates and save a handsome $25.00 in the process. If you too would like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and to earn a $25 reward on your first booking. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.


I have been using AirBNB for all of my travel lodging needs. Everyone on the Fort DeSoto IPT is staying at an AirBNB property in Gulfport. Airbnb lists more than 4.5 million homes across 200 countries; youโ€™ll find spacious, affordable options for every occasion. With Airbnb you will travel with confidence as reviews from past guests help you find the right fit. Once you do, their secure messaging makes it easy to coordinate with your host. And Airbnb support teams are available 24/7. And this morning, I made a 17-day reservation for an Airbnb condo for San Diego, 2020. I am staying with Rick again: his place has lots of room, a full kitchen, two bedrooms, and great WiFi. All for a lot less than the price of a chain hotel.

Yikes. I almost forgot the best part: Airbnb rates average less than half of even the least expensive chain hotels and motels. If you would like to save $40 on your first booking sign up by using this link: Airbnb. Airbnb does charge clean-up and service fees that make short stays less attractive bargains than long stays.

Those who prefer to stay in a motel or hotel are invited to use the link above to save $25.00.

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 Thursday, April1, 2019 on the Roma, TX IPT by Indranil Sircar. He used the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and my favorite-ever Canon digital camera body, the EOS 5D Mark IV.. ISO 800. Evaluative metering at about -1/3 stop: 1/3200 sec. at f/5.6 was perfect. Cloudy WB at 8:34am on a clear day.

Image #2: Male Golden-fronted Woodpecker reaching down for orange
Image courtesy of and copyright 2019: Indranil Sircar

A Great Jeff Walters Depth-of-Field Question (and Answer)

Jeff’s left this comment on the Indranil Sircar Rocks Roma with the Canon 600mm f/4L IS III/EOS 5D Mark IV Combo! blog post here.

Jeff Walters
April 14, 2019 at 12:34am

I really like both pics! The eye of the thrasher is so sharp; I keep staring into it. But, I think the beautiful colors and back pattern on the woodpecker make that one my favorite. I do have a question. Since the depth of field is shallow the birds tail is not sharp; could the lens have been stopped down a little to gain some d-o-f without losing the nice soft background? Iโ€™m jealous of you guys! Would love to hear your answer. Thanks. Is Canon coming back into play????? Have fun!!!

Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
April 14, 2019 at 7:17am

Here is my somewhat expanded reply:

I like them both too and the woodpecker image is my fave. As for depth of field, are you talking about Image #1 or Image #2? Either way, the answer is no. If you stop down even one stop, you will bring up unwanted background detail. Remember, at close range with long focal lengths, depth of field is almost non-existent, measured only in fractions of an inch. And the woodpecker is at least 7 inches long.

The total depth of field at 18 feet/840mm/full frame is less than 1/2 inch. Stopping down to f/16 would increase that to less than 3/4 inch,, nowhere near enough to cover the tail all the while ruining the background …

with love, artie

ps: And the situation with the thrasher is just as bad because the background was a lot closer to the bird.

pps: as for Canon coming back into play, not for me. It is however a great system and AF performance with TCs put Nikon to shame.

You Will Have to Take My Word for it For Now

I had a brilliant idea and executed it perfectly on Sunday. I shot the same perch as in Indranil’s great woodpecker image, once at f/6.3 and one at f/16. I shared them with the group. They were astonished. The background at f/6.3 was creamy smooth. The background at f/16 was disgusting; light and dark areas that were not even visible at f/6.3 became well defined as did the previously unseen breaches and twigs.
I was proud of myself for creating the two images that would prove my long held point: focus on the eye and the heck with depth-of-field.

Yesterday I was picking my keepers with the group — always and IPT-favorite activity — explaining why one image was a keeper while another very similar image was an insta-delete. When I came across the f/6.3/f/16 series, I thought that those images were just exposure checks, did not tag, them, deleted all the untagged images, and emptied the trash. ๐Ÿ™ At some point I will create a similar series and share them with you here. But obviously not with Indranil’s woodpecker perch.

Such is life; we do our best and sometimes we screw up. It’s called reality.

This image was created on the morning of Saturday, April 13, 2019 on the Roma, TX IPT I used the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens and the mega mega-pixel Nikon D850 DSLR. ISO 500. Matrix metering at zero was spot at 1/500 sec. at f/5. AUTO0 WB at 9:07am on a cloudy day.

One array left of center Group (grp) Shutter Button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The array was centered on the side of the female (on the left), just below the bird’s head.

Nikon Focus Peaking/FocusTune fine-tune value: +7. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here

Golden-fronted Woodpecker pair

Getting Lucky With One Pair

One pair is usually not a very good hand in poker, but one pair worked out just fine on the ranch on Saturday morning. The male golden-fronted, the one on our right with the red cap, came to our set-up a lot less frequently that the drabber female. Every time that the female came alone, we would call out, “Bring your hubby!” Halfway decent images featuring the male and female of the same species are always pretty neat; back in the days when you could sell photos to print field guides, they were in high demand.

I had mentioned a bit earlier in the morning that if you are photographing two birds the it is best in general to focus on the closer bird and that is what I did when the male landed on the opposite side of the perch from the female. The first few images in the series flat out did not work as the head of the male was simply too soft due to a lack of depth-of-field. I thought about going to a slightly smaller aperture, say one stop to f/6.3, in an attempt to sharpen up the head of the male but did not want to risk missing the great juxtaposition (and bringing up unwanted background detail). Then I got really lucky as the male circled a bit more toward me on the perch so that the heads of two birds were pretty much on the same plane. I kept firing and was then able to pick a few with pleasing head angles.

Sometimes we get lucky.

San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects, including and especially the Pacific race of California Brown Pelican. With annual visits spanning more than four decades, I have lots of photographic experience there … Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

The 2020 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) WED JAN 8, 2020 thru and including the morning session on SUN JAN 12: 4 1/2 days: $2099.(Limit: 8)

Introductory Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; WED JAN 7, 2020.

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 (nesting with eggs and possibly chicks) and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heermann’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others are possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the IPT cards, there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well. Not to mention a ton of excellent flight photography opportunities and instruction.

Please note: where permitted and on occasion, ducks and gulls may be attracted (or re-located) with offerings of grains and healthy breads.

Learning Exposure, Whether You Like It Or Not

Whether you like it or not, we will be beating the subject of exposure like a dead horse. In every new situation you will hear my thoughts on the exposure situation along with my thoughts on both Nikon and Canon histograms and the subject of blinkies. Whether you like it or not, you will learn to work in manual mode and to get the right exposure every time as long as a bird gives you ten seconds with the light constant.And you will learn what to do when the light is changing constantly. What you learn about exposure will be one of the great take-aways on every IPT.

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. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

It Ain’t Just Pelicans

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 as well. 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 will be guided as to how to make the best of all of those opportunities. And depending on the weather and local conditions and tides, there are a variety of fabulous photo chances available in and around San Diego.


Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter? Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

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. And so that we can get some sleep, dinners will be on your own.

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, 3385, 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 10/11//2018. 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.


Variety is surely the spice of life in San Diego. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Getting Up Early and Staying Out Late

On all BIRDS AS ART IPTS including and especially the San Diego IPT, we get into the field early to take advantage of unique and often spectacular lighting conditions and we stay out late to maximize the chances of killer light and glorious sunset silhouette situations. We often arrive at the cliffs a full hour before anyone else shows up to check out the land/sea scape opportunities.

Help Support the Blog

Please help support my 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. There is no problem using your Prime account; just click on the link and log into your Prime account. With love, artie

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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.


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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

10 comments to Getting Lucky With One Pair. And a Great Jeff Walters Depth-of-Field Question (and Answer).

  • Thanks for answering my question on the DOF. Your pairs picture is terrific and that female doesn’t look drab to me. Not in the least. Hope your next stop is full of keepers! Shake Luis’s hand for me.

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    Hi! If you could get more DOF and razor sharp why wouldn’t you easily mask the bird and branch and blur the background in post?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Selecting a bird perfectly is extremely difficult to do well. And for all of that work, you would gain 1/4 of total d-o-f, nowhere near enough to get the tail of the woodpecker sharp …

      with love, artie

  • Dear Artie, a great and unusual image today. Out of interest, why did u frame/crop the image in this way, with slightly more negative space on the right of the frame? To my eye the bird on the right holds more attention, and so to me it would make sense to frame the image with slightly more negative space to the left?
    Hope you’re having a great trip,

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Jake, Your idea is a good one. Sometimes when unexpected good stuff happens we get so excited that we do not think such good (as my late Dad nigh have said). Some sort of a boxy crop might also work well. As would adding canvas left.

      with love, artie

  • avatar David Policansky

    Artie: Branch Rickey, a great man whom I’m sure you remember, once said “Luck is the residue of design.” Your post today proves his point. Wonderful image.

    I noticed two typos: “Rona” instead of “Roma” in the first line of today’s blog post, and “caraca’s” [should be no apostrophe] in the third paragraph.

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    Great image, Golden-fronted Woodpecker pair, that image alone would make the trip a winner! I love the colours and the checkered pattern on the top portion of the female’s wing.

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