The Great Turkey (& Black Vulture) Shoot. SONY Center Zone AF-C Rocks! And a New FlexShooter Video « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Great Turkey (& Black Vulture) Shoot. SONY Center Zone AF-C Rocks! And a New FlexShooter Video

What’s Up?

Last weekend, five of the six teams I was rooting for in the NFL playoffs won. This weekend two of my four favorite teams lost. All-time great Drew Brees and his New Orleans Saints went down the tubes, vanquished by G.O.A.T Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Chiefs managed to eke out a win after all-world QB Patrick Mahomes was left very woozy after a big hit. He was diagnosed with a concussion that might keep him out of next weekend’s AFC Championship game …

The forecast for today — Monday 18 January 2021, is cloudy turning sunny with NW winds. Again. Though I will be heading down to the lake early, I do not expect to do very well with the wind against sun conditions. Maybe I will get lucky!

I was glad to learn yesterday that Roger Dietrich sold his Canon EOS 5D Mark III in excellent condition for the BAA recored-low price of $499.00 and a Canon Battery Grip BG-E16 the Canon 7D Mark II in like-new condition for a BIRDS AS ART record-low $99.00, both soon after they were listed in early January 2020.

Anyone who might be interested in COVID-Aware in-the-field instruction at the end of this week is invited to shoot me an e-mail to learn the low rates and to work out a schedule.

This blog past makes twenty-nine days in a row with a new blog post. This one took about 1 1/2 hours to prepare (including the time spent on the post-processing). Please remember …

Please Remember

With income from IPTs approaching zero, please, if you enjoy and learn from the blog, remember to use one of my two affiliate programs when purchasing new gear. Doing so just might make it possible for me to avoid having to try to get a job as a Walmart greeter and will not cost you a single penny more. And if you use Bedfords and remember to enter the BIRDSASART code at checkout, you will save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I am out at least forty to sixty thousand dollars so far due to COVID 19 (with lots more to come) — remembering to use my B&H link or to shop at Bedfords will help me out a ton and be greatly appreciated. Overseas folks who cannot order from the US because of import fees, duties, and taxes can always help out by clicking here if they see fit.

RawDigger e-Guide pre-publication version

RawDigger e-Guide and Video Advance Copy Still Available — but not for long …

Save $10 Now

The RawDigger e-Guide and Video is almost finished. It will sell for $51.00. If you are anxious to get started with RawDigger, learn to mega-Expose to the Right, and wind up with the highest quality image files, you can save $10.00 and have a chance to review a recently updated pre-publication version of the guide by sending a PayPal for $41.00 to with the words RawDigger e-Guide and Video Pre-publication Copy cut and pasted into the Subject line. The recent delay is the result of my recent conversations with Iliah Borg, the brains behind RawDigger. It is very likely that the Shock-your-World section will shock you.

In the new guide, we teach you why the GREEN channel is almost always the first to over-expose. We teach you how to interpret the Max G values. And most recently, we teach you a simple way to evaluate your exposures using an adapted RawDigger histogram. And tons more, of course. I am planning on having the completed RawDigger e-Guide ready for sale by this coming Wednesday. Folks who saved $10.00 by pre-ordering will of course receive a link to the final PDF.

Great Topaz News!

Folks who use the BAA Topaz link to purchase Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, or the Utility Bundle (or any other Topaz plugins) will receive a 15% discount by entering the ARTHUR15 code at checkout. To get the discount you must use my link and you must enter the discount code. Be sure to start with this link.

Topaz Stuff

As I said just a while back and have said often many times before, I should have listened sooner. If you, like me, are new to the Topaz party, please use this link to purchase. Right now I can wholeheartedly recommend both Topaz Sharpen AI and Topaz DeNoise AI. Though I have not yet worked with JPEGtoRAW AI or Gigapixel AI, I have installed both of these plug-ins and look forward to trying them on some I-Phone 11 images fairly soon. If you are thinking like me, consider the Utility Bundle that includes all four plug-ins mentioned above at a money-saving price.

Again, those who purchase Sharpen AI or DeNoise AI using my link, can e-mail to request a short Getting Started with Topaz e-Guide. I had a bit of trouble getting the two plug-ins installed and having them appear in the Photoshop Filter Menu. In addition, I will explain how to best learn about the two plug-ins by applying them on a Layer (in Photoshop).

New and Better Bedfords Discount Policy!

You can now save 3% on all of your Bedfords photo gear purchases by entering the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout. Your discount will be applied to your pre-tax total. In addition, by using the code you will get 2nd day air shipping via Fed Ex.

Grab a Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III and save $14.99. Purchase a Canon EOS R5 and your discount will be $116.97. Purchase a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and save a remarkable $389.94! Your Bedford’s purchase no longer needs to be greater than $1,000.00 for you to receive a discount. The more you spend, the more you save.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would enjoy free overnight shipping, your best bet is to click here, place an order with Bedfords, and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If an item is out of stock, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order to save 3% and enjoy free 2nd-day air shipping. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The wait lists at the big stores can be a year or longer for the hard to get items. Steve will surely get you your gear long before that. For the past year, he has been helping BAA Blog folks get their hands on items like the SONY a9 ii, the SONY 200-600 G OSS lens, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, and the Nikon 500mm PF. Steve is personable, helpful, and eager to please.

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 18 January 2021 at ILE. I used the Induro GIT 404L/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and the blazingly fast AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital Camera Body. ISO 1600. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the large rear dial on the back of the camera: 1/2500 sec. at f/4 in Manual mode. AWB at 10:16am on a cloudy day.

Center Zone AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly. Click the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Black Vulture landing

The Great Turkey (& Black) Vulture Shoot!

When we last spoke, I was in my SUV working on yesterday’s blog post. The first Turkey Vulture (TV) flew over the bait at 8:54am. The first Turkey Vulture landed at 9:08 but as quite reluctant to approach the big fish head and begin eating. So I stayed in my vehicle. Three other TVs landed and they also stayed well back. At 9:29, two the vultures began eating and it was as if the dinner bell had been rung. I had already set up the 600 on the slope that led to the canal so that I could be just about at eye level with the birds. I got out of my car on the side away from the birds and quickly made my way down to the lens. It turned out to be a real turkey shoot as about two dozen TVs landed into the east wind right at me. After a few minutes, about two dozen Black Vultures flew in to join the fray. I enjoyed a good twenty minutes of non-stop flight photography action. It might have been the best vulture flight situation ever, but for a few I got to experience in East Africa as dozens of vultures flew into a fresh kill.

As the action slowed, a man with a golf cart and a dog came by and all the birds flew away. That turned out to be the best thing that could have happened as many of them flew back in quickly. As I have mentioned here, the TVs are almost always the first to arrive, but when the smaller Black Vultures show up, they dominate and drive the larger Turkey Vultures away. By 10:30, the wind had switched to a less-than-ideal northeast so I headed home for a late brunch.

I created 360 images with the 600 GM/a9 ii rig. 358 were razor sharp on the eye. Two were very sharp on the eye. Center Zone AF with the a9 ii is simply amazing, almost science-fiction-like in its ability to create sharp flight images of bird’s flying toward the photographer. I kept only the best 28 based mostly on wing position. I will delete at least half of those on the second edit.

This image was also created on the morning of 18 January 2021 at ILE. Again, I used the Induro GIT 404L/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and the blazingly fast AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital Camera Body. ISO 1250. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the large rear dial on the back of the camera: 1/2500 sec. at f/4 in Manual mode. AWB at 10:13am on a cloudy day.

Center Zone AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly. Click the image to see a larger version.

Image #2: Turkey Vulture about to join the feast

Learning From Raw Digger

Analyzing the raw file brightness in RawDigger, I noted that pretty much every image was about 1/3 stop too dark. I went for some Zebras on the sky, but should have gone for lots of Zebras on the sky. As things worked out, noise in the dark feathers or both species did not turn out to be problematic; in both cases, Topaz DeNoise eliminated it completely.

In the same situation — having learned from RawDigger — every exposure will be perfect.

Note also that in the same light, I go to 1/3 stop more light with the Black Vultures because their light tones are not as white as the lightest tones on the Turkey Vultures. — the feather vanes and the bill tips of the adults.

Image #2A: Topaz Sharpen AI screen capture

Topaz Sharpen AI on the head of the Turkey Vulture about to join the feast image

After converting the raw file in Capture One, I created a new layer and — after checking out all three options using the Comparison View, opted for DeNoise AI on Auto. Despite the small underexposure, there was not much noise in this ISO 1250 image. And unlike the R5, there was zero color noise to deal with. Then, I painted the vulture’s head with a Quick Mask, placed the selection on its own layer, and ran Sharpen AI on the layer only. On Auto, the plug-in selected Stabilize so I went with that. Click on the screen capture above to see the the improvement in the After image on our right.

The FlexShooter Pro Heads on Slopes

Working on steep uphill slopes with a properly set-up FlexShooter Pro head is a dream situation. First, make sure that the tripod is firmly seated with the leg lengths adjusted so that the platform of the tripod is relatively level. Now, simply level the bubble on the silver ball and then lock the black lever. With the lens rotated to the click stop in the tripod collar, you can point the lens in any direction an be assured that you will be square to the world, i.e., that all of your images will be perfectly level. Note that if you move your rig up or down the slope, you will need to repeat the process above.

Please note that for smaller telephoto lenses like the Nikon 500 PF, the Canon RF 100-500, all of the 100-400s, and the SONY 200-600 G, we recommend the FlexShooter Mini. Why? The spring-loaded counterbalance of the larger models is too stiff to perform optimally with the smaller, lighter lenses.

Ron Bielefeld FlexShooter Video

Friend and colleague Ron Bielefeld of Whistling Wings Photography fell in love with the Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro when one of his students showed up with one. He created a great YouTube video. You can see it here.

I particularly enjoyed this comment by Michael Cohen: Thanks Ron. I bought the FlexShooter Pro and (sic) sold my RRS BH-55 ballhead, my original Wimberley, a Wimberley sidekick, and a leveling base!


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

3 comments to The Great Turkey (& Black Vulture) Shoot. SONY Center Zone AF-C Rocks! And a New FlexShooter Video

  • avatar Steve

    Image #1: that looks more like a gray vulture to me!

  • Hi Artie
    Black vulture 1# is my favourite a great dynamic image of the vulture about to land, In my opinion I think the bland background down grades it from a otherwise a crown jewel image.

    Best and love

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Ken. If the sun had been out, the sky would have been blue. But shooting vultures in the sun introduces many problems including more difficult exposures, black shadows, and very high contrast.

      with love, artie

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