More Smart or More Lucky? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

More Smart or More Lucky?

What’s Up

Just the usual. Gorgeous day after goregous day with fewer and fewer morning photo opps despite perfect sky conditions and southeast winds. And long afternoon swims. I finished editing Andrew McLachlan’s Focus on Frogs e-Book last week and am waiting for him to return the final edit. After mnay months of work, Joe Przybyla and I are finished with The BIRDS AS ART Middle of Florida Photography Site Guide. As soon as I get the final edit to and then back from Joe, I will make the PDF and get this great new work into the BIRDS AS ART Online Store. This lavishly illustrated guide details a number of little-known hotspots that can be quite productive. One of those little-known hotspots is Indian Lake Estates. The guide should be available for purchase in about a week.

Thanks to the many who have commented on the four final images in the 2018 B&H/BAA Bird Photography Holiday Contest. I will be tallying the results and awarding the prizes this week. If you would like to be heard click here and enjoy some great photography.

Please remember that using a BIRDS AS ART B&H affiliate link or the Bedford’s discount code (BIRDS AS ART) will not cost you a single cent and is a great way to
thank me for the hours that I put into the blog and time spent answering your e-mails. As always (and as below), feel free to write with gear questions when you are in need of advice.

Our second shipment of twenty FlexShooter Pro heads finally arrived late on Friday. We will be shipping to those who ordered by phone on Tuesday as Monday is a holiday. I will check out the new Nikon 600 VR Bigfoot on Tuesday and let you know what I have learned.

Huge Late-registration BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour Discounts

I an effort to fill a very few remaining slots, I am offering a $3,000 late registration discount on the UK Puffins, Gannets, and Red Kite IPT (one slot) and a $4,000 late registration discount on the Galapagos Photo Cruise of a lifetime (one slot) — the world’s very best Galapagos photo trip. We do the three world-class landings twice each: North Seymour, Hood, and Tower … Join us. Click here and scroll down for the trip details. Please e-mail with questions.


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 on the late afternoono of Saturday, May 26 2019 down by the lake near my home. Working while seated in the front seat of my SUV, I used the Induro GIT 304L/FlexShooter Pro-mounted Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, and the mega mega-pixel Nikon D850 DSLR. ISO 800. Matrix metering at about +1 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode left the image overall dark despite the fact that the RED channel was toasted. AUTO1 WB at 8:06pm on a somewhat hazy evening (nine minutes before sunset). A somewhat muted sun was just out of frame right.

Nikon Focus Peaking fine-tune value: a very significant +9. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Center Group (grp) Continuous (C in Nikon/AI Servo with Canon) AF was active at the moment of exposure. The array was centered on the bird’s rear flank as originally framed.

Osprey landing/sunset silhouette

Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

More Smart or More Lucky?

Even though I had gotten into the pool fairly late in the afternoon, I had been planning to drive around Lake Walk-in-Water and explore the other side of the lake for afternoon bird photography oportunities (with the afternoon sun behind me). After I exited the pool and got dried off I still had more than enough time go exploring but thought that I’d best check the wind direction. Oops! 13mph from the northeast. Experienced bird photographers know that the last thing you want on a sunny afternoon is a northeast wind. With the sun setting in the southwest all the birds will be flying, landing, and facing away from you when you are on sun angle, that is, with the sun coming over the top of your heard.

Most folks do not realize that the worst wind for traditional front-lit bird photography is the best wind for doing silhouettes. Why? Looking right at the sunset (or the sunrise as well), the bird will be flying, landing, and facing toward you with the colorlful sky (if there is one) right behind them. So rather than drive 30 minutes toward poor conditions I took my time and headed down to the lake at 7:50pm.

As I approached my favorite perch, I saw that there was an Osprey on it (as had been the case each morning for the past two weeks). I set up the tripod in the front seat, leveled the FlexShooter Pro, and then approached slowly staying well back. The bird flew. I gave it a few minutes but impatient for action I drove a short ways to check out some cranes courting on a hill near the parking circle. That did not pan out so I looked back at the perch and saw that it was occupied again. I got back into position trying to line up my SUV with the brightest sky color. I shut off the engine and made two frames when the bird took flight again. It was now about 8:00pm so I decided to sit tight and wait for a bird to land. I was focused on the perch adjusting my exposure when suddenly the viewfinder was filled with a landing Osprey. The bird had flown in from the north and hung a quick u-turn to land into the wind. Totally surprised I followed my own oft-given advice: When unexpected action occurs, push the shutter button.

I created about 8 frames as the bird struggled to get its balance on the perch. A quick peek revealed what looked like some pretty decent images — the first one with the wings fully out-stretched looked fantastic. After re-positioning the vehicle, I tried a few more with both the bird and the sun in the frame but the sun was still much too bright for that. In moments, it had disappeared behind the far shore of the lake and I headed home.

The first few images including the one that I was sure was spectacular were no good. The bird had landed with its head down; silhouettes of head-less birds are rarely if ever successful. Today’s featured image, the fifth in the series, was the best of the lot with the head clear of the body and some nice light coming through the primaries. This image was converted in Capture One Pro 12 where I lightened the sky and blacked-up the Osprey a bit. I began experiemnting with the Color Editor and it turned out to be easier and more intuitive than I had at first glance. It is actually quite similar to the HSL (Hue-Saturation-Luminance) tab in ACR but in a completely different format.

In short, I was glad that I thought to check the wind direction and even gladder that I got lucky with the somewhat unexpected landing.


There is one thing about this image that bugs me. If there is something that bugs you, please do share by leaving a comment.

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: 1

Please e-mail to learn about the very large late-registration discount

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 White Horse Inn in Cranswick, about twenty minutes from Bempton Cliffs. After 3 1/2 days of photography 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.

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.

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.

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.

If In Doubt …

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 🙂

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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18 comments to More Smart or More Lucky?

  • avatar Matt

    Yes, the perch-tail merging is the first thing that comes to mind. And does it also bug you that the angle makes the two wings look different? One a full wing silhouette, the other much narrower, with the coloring of the backlight?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The former very much, the latter not at all. See my response to David Peake immediately below.

      with love, artie

  • avatar David Peake

    Well done on this image and I often hear your voice saying ‘push the button’ when something unexpected happens.
    I don’t like that the perch silhouette intersects with the Osprey Tail. I would like to see some clear space between them just to give a clean line to the tail.


  • avatar Peter Noyes

    Artie, I have a SONY A-9 I am thinking of selling. I think I want the A-7R III because of better image quality. The A9 has less than 1000 pictures on it and is in l would sell it with the charger, battery, body cap and original box. What do you think I could get for the camera?
    Thank you very much.

    Also, where would you like me to buy the A-7R III B & H or Bedford Camera exchange.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Lovely image, Artie. Nothing about it bugs me, although I’ll join the herd and mention the merging of the tail and perch. I also love the bit of light through the wings and wonder if making that part of the image–or the whole image–a bit lighter to accentuate that feature might be a good idea.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I almost always make my silhouettes pure black but left some of the backlight on this one. So don’t push it 🙂 Actually, leaving some detail in a SILH or increasing the backlight is a 100% personal choice.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Joel Eade

    Does it bug you because the bird is facing away from you?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      No. What you are seeing is an optical illusion. I sometimes call those optical collusions 🙂 Thew wing was from the northeast and the bird is facing us.

      with love, artie

  • I like the image. I think the issue is with perch and tail merging. Also the small nail on the left of the perch as well.

  • I agree with others that it must be the perch and tail merging. Love the light through the wing feathers.

  • avatar James Saxon

    No separation between part of the tail and the perch and/or the little hole in the top of the perch on the right which appears to create a hotspot.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks James. Ah, that tiny “hotspot” is a bit of light coming past one of the bird’s toes 🙂 That does not bug me at all.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Richard Lethbridge

    Part of the perch seems to be merging with the tail.

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