The BIRDS AS ART SONY Era Begins. Lots on the Amazing SONY a7r IV. Working a Great Situation. And Striking Wading Bird Photo Tips. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The BIRDS AS ART SONY Era Begins. Lots on the Amazing SONY a7r IV. Working a Great Situation. And Striking Wading Bird Photo Tips.

What’s Up?

This blog post took more than five hours to prepare from soup to nuts. Please remember to use my B&H affiliate links or get in touch with Steve Elkins at Bedford when purchasing new gear. And be sure to e-mail for advice before you spend money on the wrong stuff …

Congrats to the Tampa Bay Rays on their 2 victories over the highly favored Houston Astros. The deciding game five is on Thursday.

Huge thanks to San Diego and Galapagos IPT veteran Frank Shields for using my B&H link to purchase his very own SONY 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and to Bob Lester for grabbing my a7r III in excellent plus condition. Bob also grabbed one of the two SONY 200-600s from Bedfords and multiple IPT veteran Larry Master who will be joining me at Bosque soon got the other 2-6 as well as an a7r IV. It was a busy day as I also sold my Nikon 500PF and my gripped D850 yesterday. If you are interested in my excellent plus Nikon 600mm f/4 VR lens at a very fair price — save $2,500, please get in touch via e-mail.

A New Era

I guess that today represents a new era in the history of BIRDS AS ART as I am now fully committed to the SONY system. There will be lots more on the SONY 600 GM OSS/a7r IV combo in the coming blog posts that will include flight photography with the 1.4X teleconverter and photographing birds on the ground at 1200mm with the 2X TC. Exciting times indeed.

The SONY a7r IV

While deciding whether to stick with Nikon or go all-in with SONY, one of my biggest hurdles was getting used to the small size of the a9 and the a7r III. The moment I took the a7r IV out of the box, I was amazed. Although the IV weighs only a minuscule 2 grams more than the III and the physical dimensions are only fractionally greater (126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7mm as compared to 128.9 x 96.4 x 77.5mm), the a7R IV felt like a real camera in my hands. Perhaps it is the 3.8mm increase in the front-to-back depth of the camera that makes the difference. In any case, my thinking on SONY was re-routed as soon as I held the a7r IV. Then throw in a superb AF system and fabulous image quality and you have a clear winner …

Your Favorite?

Please leave a comment and let us know which of today’s featured images is your favorite and why you liked it the best.

Galapagos 2020?

If you are interested in learning about a possible Galapagos Photo-Cruise of a Lifetime, September 29-October 13 on the boat (travel dates: 27 SEPT to Guayaquil and fly home on 14 OCT) please get in touch via e-mail. I will need at least eight deposits by December 1, 2019. Details will be announced here soon.

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 some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 100-400, the old 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the 7D Mark II and the original 400mm DO lens have been dropping steadily. Most recently the price of used Canon 600mm f/L IS II lenses have been dropping like a rock with the introduction of the 600 III. 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.

As used gear sales have slowed a bit in recent months — especially with dSLR bodies, there are lots of great buys right now on the Used Gear Page.

Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

BAA Record-low Price!

Allen Dale is offering a Canon 300mm f2.8L IS II USM lens for sale in excellent condition for $3399.00. The sale includes the rear lens cap, the lens hood, the lens trunk, the original tough front lens cover, a camo LensCoat, and insured ground shipping via major courier to US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Allen via e-mail.

I owned and used this fast, super-sharp, totally amazing lens often when I shot Canon. It is great for hand-holding and for flight, with or without either the 1.4X III or the 2X III TC. It remains super-sharp with the 2X TC. I used it often in the Galapagos and on Southern Ocean trips. Years ago Outdoor Photographer editor Rob Sheppard was stunned by the sharpness of my allo-preening Macaroni Penguins image that was created with the 300 II and the 2X III TC. artie

IPT Updates

  • The Return to Bosque Reduced Rate Scouting IPT. NOV 26-28, 2019 — 3 FULL DAYS: $1199.00. Limit: 8/Openings: 6. Extra Day Options: Join me for one to three extra In-the-Field Days at the end of the IPT as follows: FRI 29 NOV, SAT 30 NOV, and SUN 1 DEC for only $300.00/day.
  • 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: 5)

BIRDS AS ART

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

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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 getting folks the hot new SONY stuff: the 200-600, the 600 f/4 GM, and the 7R iv. And the wait-list is short for the Nikon 500 P.



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.

Great-Egret-situation-IMG_0226

I created this image on September 27 on the recent Fort DeSoto IPT with my iPhone 8+

Image #1: A Perfect Situation

A Perfect Situation

Lots of Lessons!

The Great Egret in today’s images stood on a small shelf — part of Battery Bigelow — fishing and catching small baitfish for more than an hour. During a 41-minute span — 9:04 to 9:46 — I created more than 500 images of the same bird in action with my new SONY gear, the 600 GM and the a7r IV. I kept 66 images after the first edit. I chose to sit behind my lowered tripod to soften up the background. I chose a spot about a yard to the left of sun-angle to avoid having the portion of the derelict battery on our left in the frame … I firmed up the tripod legs in the loose and then leveled the silver ball of the FlexShooter Pro. After alerting all the folks in the group within hearing distance to the situation, I went to work.

The small yellow towel was for keeping my hands clean. I did stand up and get back down every ten minutes or so to prevent getting too stiff :). When I finally quit, the bird continued to fish for about 15 minutes.

The iPhone Photography e-Guide

Check out this great guide by my good friend Dr. Cliff Oliver in the BAA Online Store here.

Great-Egret-tensing-to-strike-_DSC1073-Fort-DeSoto-Park-Pinellas-County-FL-1

This image was created September 27 on the recent Fort DeSoto IPT. I used the Induro GIT 304/FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and the 61-MP Sony Alpha a7R IV Mirrorless Digital Camera Body. ISO 400. Exposure determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/6400 sec. at f/4.5 in Manual mode. AWB at 9:18am on dead-clear sunny morning.

Center Zone Continuous/tracking AF was active at the moment of exposure. Click on the image to see a larger, inexplicably sharper-looking version.

Image #2: Great Egret poised to strike

SONY a7r IV Center Zone AF

I was pleasingly surprised that a7r IV Center Zone AF worked so well in this situation. Using Zone allowed for freedom with the framing of each image; it allowed me to move the bird slightly left or right or up or down in the frame with zero effort. And even though I was working almost wide open at f/4.5, virtually every image was tack-sharp on the eye. I was also somewhat shocked by the frame-rate of the a7r IV; the quoted 10 fps seemed to hold up even though I was using tracking AF and the IV was noticeably faster than my gripped Nikon D850. This speed allowed me to create some neat sequences.

Great-Egret-striking-_DSC1053-Fort-DeSoto-Park-Pinellas-County-FL-1

This image was of course also created September 27 on the recent Fort DeSoto IPT. Again I used the Induro GIT 304/FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and the 61-MP Sony Alpha a7R IV Mirrorless Digital Camera Body. ISO 400. Exposure determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/6400 sec. at f/4.5 in Manual mode. AWB at 9:18am on dead-clear sunny morning.

Center Zone Continuous/tracking AF was active at the moment of exposure. Click on the image to see a larger, inexplicably sharper-looking version.

Image #3: Great Egret striking

Timing the Strike

In image #2, you can see that the bird is poised to strike. It leans forward and pulls its head back. And just before it strikes, it retracts the feathers on its neck. When then happens, press the shutter button and hold it down. With Zone AF you can — if you concentrate — see the AF points moving around almost instantly to stay on the bird’s head and face. I learned later on during the IPT that Animal Eye Priority AF works well when the subject is close even though it is not supposed to work with birds. Animal Eye Priority AF did not come into play for the Great Egret fishing images because the subject was relatively far away and the eye too small in the frame.

Image Optimization Note

Surprisingly, the bird’s eye was fully open at the instant this image was created; the nictitating membrane was not covering the eye. There was, however, a drop of water covering the eye. So, using a small Quick Mask, I borrowed the eye from Image #2 and moved it into place on Image #3. Then I warped that layer for a perfect fit, added a Regular Layer Mask, erased the whole thing! and then working very large, hit X and painted back only the eyeball. All as detailed in the BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II), a hugely popular instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. Over the years, various iterations of Digital Basics have helped thousands of folks to improve their image optimization skills.

Great-Egret-shaking-head-_DSC1081-Fort-DeSoto-Park-Pinellas-County-FL-1

This image was of course also created September 27 on the recent Fort DeSoto IPT. Again I used the Induro GIT 304/FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and the 61-MP Sony Alpha a7R IV Mirrorless Digital Camera Body. ISO 400. Exposure determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/6400 sec. at f/4.5 in Manual mode. AWB at 9:18am on dead-clear sunny morning.

Center Zone Continuous/tracking AF was active at the moment of exposure. Click on the image to see a larger, inexplicably sharper-looking version.

Image #4: Great Egret shaking head after doubly-successful strike

Keep on Keeping On!

After the bird strikes, keep firing. After the strike, the egret would shake its head violently back and forth several times; perhaps this helped to subdue the small baitfish. The unusually high shutter speed here — 1/6400 sec. — froze the action nicely. Again, Center Zone allowed me to adjust the framing as needed.

Great-Egret-with-two-small-greenbacks-_DSC1095-Fort-DeSoto-Park-Pinellas-County-FL-1

This image was of course also created September 27 on the recent Fort DeSoto IPT. Again I used the Induro GIT 304/FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and the 61-MP Sony Alpha a7R IV Mirrorless Digital Camera Body. ISO 400. Exposure determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/6400 sec. at f/4.5 in Manual mode. AWB at 9:18am on dead-clear sunny morning.

Center Zone Continuous/tracking AF was active at the moment of exposure. Click on the image to see a larger, inexplicably sharper-looking version.

Image #5: Great Egret with its catch of the day

Catch of the Day

The baitfish were so densely packed that on several occasions, the bird caught them two at a time. Do check out the unsharpened 100% crop immediately below.

Great-Egret-100-crop-two-small-greenbacks-_DSC1095-Fort-DeSoto-Park-Pinellas-County-FL-1

Image #6: An unsharpened 100% crop of Great Egret with its catch of the day

The Unsharpened 100% Crop

Notice the incredible sharpness of the eye (thanks to Center Zone AF) and the complete lack of background noise in this unsharpened 100% crop.

Bosque-2019-big-card

Bosque del Apache 2019 IPT

Notice the incredible variety of images that you can learn to make by developing your skills and your creative vision on a BAA IPT.

2019 Bosque del Apache IPT

Return to Bosque Reduced Rate Scouting IPT #1. NOV 26-28, 2019 — 3 FULL DAYS: $1199.00. Limit: 8/Openings: 6. Introductory Meet and greet at 7pm on MON 25 NOV.

Extra Day Options: Join me for one to three In-the-Field Days as follows: FRI 29 NOV, SAT 30 NOV, and SUN 1 DEC for only $300.00/day.

I quit going to Bosque several years ago as conditions had worsened each year for several seasons running. My understanding is that things have improved dramatically in recent years. Photography-wise, I know Bosque better than anyone. Join me to learn how wind and sky conditions influence bird photography, how to create dramatic sunrise and sunset silhouettes, how to be in the right place at the right time, and how to create contest-winning blurs. As usual, you will learn to get the right exposure every time, to use your camera’s AF system to create pleasing, balanced image designs, and to improve your flight photography skills.

We should get to photograph many thousands of Snow Geese, more than a few blast-offs, some Ross’s Geese, and lots of Sandhill Cranes in the water, taking flight and flying. Depending on local conditions we may get to shoot some ducks: point-blank American Wigeon and Wood Duck. With any luck, we might enjoy sunrises and sunsets that leave you in tears. Live, eat, and breathe photography with one of (if not the) world’s premier photographic educators at one of his very favorite locations on the planet. Top-notch Photoshop instruction. Join me to learn to think like a pro and to recognize situations and to anticipate them based on the weather. Every time we make a move, I will let you know why. When you get home, applying what you learned will prove to be invaluable.

Lunch is included.

To Register

To register, send your non-refundable $500 deposit — check made out to BIRDS AS ART — via US Mail to PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. Or call Jim weekdays at 863-692-0906 to put your non-refundable deposit on a credit card. Balances must be paid in full by check no later than two months before the IPT. If you cancel, all but your deposit will be refunded only if the IPT sells out.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for both big international trips and US-based IPTs is highly recommended as we never know what life has in store for us. I strongly recommend that you purchase quality travel 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.


If In Doubt …

If you are 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 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 or Bedfords, 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 or Bedfords 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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Typos

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

13 comments to The BIRDS AS ART SONY Era Begins. Lots on the Amazing SONY a7r IV. Working a Great Situation. And Striking Wading Bird Photo Tips.

  • avatar Daniel

    I remember back when a couple years back you made an April Fools joke about switching to Sony and selling all your (back then) Canon Gear. Time sure flies.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Not sure that that was it exactly but it sure could have been. Wait till you see how fast time goes by when you are 73 🙂

      with love, artie

  • avatar Charles Scheffold

    Dear Artie,

    Hope you are doing well! I’ve been busy with kids, but recently sold off my Canon 600mm and have been contemplating a switch to Sony ever since. I see you have gone all in! (great minds think alike??). I think mirrorless is the way to go and Canon seems to be way behind Sony in that area. Now that Sony has a 600 prime, it’s even more of a serious contender.

    Would love to hear more about your experience so far!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Charlie, Good to hear from you. And yes, the SONY 600 GM is amazing. I have only begun to scratch the surface here … So stay tuned to the blog for tons more.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Gerald Kelberg

    You give the following description – “Exposure determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear dial”. Would you please give a brief explanation of how you work with the Zebras to indicate the correct exposure. It seems to me that the Zebras can be flashing, but areas being flashed aren’t necessarily over exposed. Thanks and best wishes, Gerald

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Gerald,

      The detailed info will be in the guide if Patrick ever finishes it … I do not feel right sharing it as he figured it all out and shared it with me.

      with love, a

      ps: what you say depends on how you set the Zebras … So do some experimenting …

  • The small yellow towel looks quite familiar. If you remember, we left 3 in your car at the Lakes in March. They do work well and I’m glad you are making use of them. Looking forward to seeing more images and your thoughts on the IV and lenses. Thanks for your blog. I always learn something.

  • avatar Pat Fishburne

    I like the full frame one with the two bait fish — unusual to see an egret with two fish.

  • Sweeter than Honey Butter on Cornbread!!! One of my favorite birds. I Enjoy them all. Thanks for sharing.

  • avatar Guido Bee

    I like all the images of the egret. I guess I like the strike image the best.
    Just curious what your (RGB) values ended up as in the whites of the feathers. Overall exposure is super and works well; my monitor does not show me the level of white detail that is likely in the raw or worked images.
    Be well.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The RGB values were in the mid-240s until I pulled them down with the Highlight slider … The WHITEs in the TIF look fine to me.

      with love, artie

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