Soft Light Flight. Exposure Basics Lesson. And ISO Savings versus Shoulder Shoulder Pain and Dysfunction … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Soft Light Flight. Exposure Basics Lesson. And ISO Savings versus Shoulder Shoulder Pain and Dysfunction ...


Which of today’s two featured images (made only minutes apart), is the strongest? Why?

What’s Up?

I wound up staying in on Thursday morning and worked on an e-mail for the Sony Alpha a1 Info and Updates group. New member Mike Liddick asked about the Custom Set. Memory menu item. In that highly detailed e-mail, I mentioned that one of my three huge gripes with the a1 (and with previous high-end SONY bodies as well), is that you cannot save Custom Key settings when saving a Camera Set. Memory. That makes saving a Camera Set Memory pretty much worthless to me.

I am not sure where the rest of the morning went, but I did catch up on a week’s worth of Jeopardy. An afternoon visit to the dermatologist resulted in lots of icy lesion-removals — darn, that thing burns. Dr. Hart also removed two other larger ones surgically. Those did not hurt at all.

Today is Friday 14 May 2021. The forecast for ILE this morning is calling for partly to mostly cloudy skies with light winds from the north. I will head down to the lake for a bit to see what’s up. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you have a great day.

Thanks to all who shared scanning advice yesterday by leaving a comment. I did have Silver Fast with my Nikon Cool Scan; I just could not get the device to work well on a consistent basis …

This blog post took more than an hour to prepare and makes 141 consecutive days with a new one. Please remember that if an item — a Delkin flash card, or a tripod head, for example, that is available from B&H and/or Bedfords and is also available in the BAA Online Store, it would be great if you opt to purchase from us. We will match any price. Please remember also to use my B&H affiliate links or to save 3% at Bedfords by using the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout. Doing either often earns you free guides and/or discounts. And doing so always earns my great appreciation.

Designing and Creating Pleasing and Dramatic Natural History Images
A Video Webinar: $30 by electronic download

Order your copy by clicking here.

Designing and Creating Pleasing and Dramatic Natural History Images

A Video Webinar

In this 1 hour 28 minute plus video you will learn and be inspired. We cover everything from the very basics to the fine points. After a brief bio, the topics include Behavior, Action, Diagonal Lines, and the Cuteness Factor; Birds in Flight — The Holy Grail of Bird Photography; Mis-Framing!; Basic Image Design/HORIZONTALS: Get the subject out of the center of the frame. Basic Image Design/VERTICALS: The center of the frame is generally fine; The Importance of BACKGROUND; Isolating the Subject; Other Elements of Composition; On Getting Low; Going Wide for Bird-scapes; Super-tight!; Working in Sunny Conditions; Working in Cloudy Conditions; Working in Foggy Conditions; Working in the Shade; Working in Bad Weather; Creating Back-lit Images; Creating Silhouettes; and Creating Pleasing Blurs.

Each segment of the program consists of an average of about 15 images that will drive home the points being made, educate you, and inspire. The instructions and advice, given clearly and concisely, are based on my near-38 years of experience photographing birds with telephoto and super-telephoto lenses. And on several decades of creating educational blog posts.

This presentation is based on the webinar that I did for the South Shore Camera Club in April. You can find some of the comments below along with comments from two of the folks who viewed the webinar the night before the DeSoto IPT began.

You can order your copy of Designing and Creating Pleasing and Dramatic Natural History Images/A Video Webinar by clicking here or by calling Jim with your credit card in hand at 863-692-0906.

Please Remember

With income from IPTs now at 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, are invited to help out by clicking here to leave a blog thank you gift if they see fit.

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 second-day air 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 (remember those?) 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

This image was created on 11 May 2021 on my recent busman’s holiday at Fort DeSoto. While seated, I used the the hand held Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 2000. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/2500 sec. at f/4 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 7:19am with clouds in the eastern sky.

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

Image #1: Snowy Egret fishing in flight at a washover pool

Soft Light Flight

It’s funny. On the 2nd DeSoto IPT, I used only the hand held 200-600 G lens on our morning sessions. On my recent busman’s holiday visit I used the 600 f/4 GM lens every morning. One day I carried the 200-600 in the big pack on the rear of my X-traHand Vest (now out of production). I never even thought about using it. Understand that on clear sunny mornings the 2-6 is always my choice. Even though it is four clicks slower than the 600 (f/6.3 as compared to f/4), it is much easier to hand hold and framing the birds in flight and in action is much easier as well.

With clouds on the eastern horizon for all three of our morning visits, I grabbed the 600, an Induro tripod topped by a FlexShooter Pro, and the Panning Ground Pod. By the third day I left the tripod in the car! For both of today’s two featured images, I shot flight using a quasi-knee pod technique: I rested my left forearm on the top of my bent left leg and raised the rig with my left arm when I saw a bird take flight. This put some strain on my left shoulder.

Easy ISO Quiz

If I had been using the slower 200-600mm lens (f/6.3) instead of the faster, heavier 600mm f/4, what ISO would I have needed to keep the same exposure?

Alpha a1 AF

I kept several frames of this bird from one fishing sequence. The bird must have spotted some fish as its eyes were so large and so, so sharp, that it looked as if they were bugging out of its head. I continued to be amazed by the AF performance of the Alpha a1. If you own one and are not getting the results that you want and expect, consider joining the SONY a1 Info and Updates group. Scroll down for details.

This image was also created on 11 May 2021 on my recent busman’s holiday at Fort DeSoto. Again, while seated, I used the the hand held Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 2000. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/2000 sec. at f/4 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 7:23am with clouds in the eastern sky.

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

Image #2: Tricolored Heron Egret fishing in flight at a washover pool

Changing the Exposure Based on the Tonality of the Subject, and Then Getting Lucky

I knew that I had the right exposure for the Snowy Egrets tooling around the pool in the very low light. When I saw the Tricolored Heron standing on the far shore of the washover pool, I lowered my shutter speed from 1/2500 sec. to 1/2000 sec. Why? Because the whites on the tricolored are not as bright as the whites on the snowies. Darker tones need more light to be properly exposed than lighter tones.

My good thinking was rewarded when the bird took flight in search of a fish. I kept the bird in the center of the frame — always a challenge for me, and made eight out of eight sharp frames. Based on wing position, I kept only this one.

ISO versus Shoulder Pain and Dysfunction …

As noted above, with the overcast weather each day, I opted to work with the 600m f/4 to save four clicks of ISO. This is especially helpful when shooting flight and action in low light. But when shooting flight and action, it is almost always best to hand hold rather than to work on a tripod; it is easier to follow and frame the birds. But all that is true only if you are easily able to handle the weight of the faster lens … Over the last two mornings I did a lot of work with the 600 using the Panning Ground Pod. With that, there is no stress on my left shoulder. But when I work on the ground, whether sitting or lying down flat, I tend to use my right arm to get up and down. That places lots of stress on my right shoulder.

On our last morning, I handheld the big lens quite a bit while standing for both static subjects and birds fishing in the surf. Attempting to hold the big lens up for ten or twenty or more seconds, places a tremendous amount of stress on my left shoulder. By Wednesday afternoon, it was really hurting. I need to quit trying to be a hand holding hero and work with the 600 on a tripod especially when photographing static subjects …

Sony Alpha a1 AF

Barring operator error, the performance of the Sony Alpha a1 AF system at any focal length (when the a1 is set up properly as detailed in the in e-mails to the Sony Alpha a1 Info & Updates group), continues to astound me. Early on, there was lots of discussion within the group with many preferring multiple back button approaches. For me a simple shutter button approach with the right AF settings that yield 99% sharp-on-the-eye images is best. By far. It is super-simple and mega-effective. In the next SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group e-mail, I will be sharing what I have learned as to when and it what situations it is best to abandon Wide. We have already learned to limit the AF Area choices and to switch AF Areas quickly and conveniently. The default method of switching AF points with the C2 button is both slow and cumbersome.

SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group

The SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group is going great guns as folks chime in with thoughtful questions and experience-based advice. We are now up to an astounding 41 folks. Early on, we discussed the myriad AF options. I gave my opinion as to the best one for flight and general bird photography. More recently, we have been in contact with folks at SONY sharing our thoughts, experiences, and frustrations with the EVF blackout problem.

All who purchased their Alpha a1 bodies via a BAA affiliate link will receive a free subscription to the Sony Alpha a1 Set-Up and Info Updates after shooting me their receipts via e-mail. (Note: it may take me several days to confirm B&H orders.) This same service may be purchased by anyone with an a1 body via a $150.00 PayPal sent to indicating payment for Alpha a1 Info Updates. Alternatively, folks can call Jim weekdays at 1-863-692-0906 to pay via credit card. New members will receive composite e-mails that summarize all previous discussions.


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

17 comments to Soft Light Flight. Exposure Basics Lesson. And ISO Savings versus Shoulder Shoulder Pain and Dysfunction …

  • avatar George Welch

    Typo under Soft Light Flight. 600 f/5 should be f/4

    Thanks for always inspiring Artie.

  • avatar James Saxon

    No. 2 for me. I like the composition and there is just enough color on the bird to make it “pop” against the background. Thanks for sharing.

  • avatar Joel Eade

    Typo: “Dysfunction” is mis-spelled in the title bar.

    I like the soft, almost all white, feel of image #1 but wish for less space above and more below.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Now that is a good catch. I would have bet my life that there was no “y” in that word!

      with love, a

  • I prefer the Tricolored–especially, as Pat mentioned, the blue/gray of the bird against the wonderful gray/green background and blue ripples on the water. The feathers look aerodynamic–like all the small aero (almost fractal) surfaces on an F1 race car and a marvel of evolution–rather than ratty.

  • avatar Pat Fishburne

    Art: I like the second image much better than the first. In the second image, I like the blue-gray area just behind the blue bird (unlike the blue-grey area that cuts the tip of the right wing in the first image) , the raised head (unlike the lowered head of the bird in the first image), the lighting that defines the right under-wing beautifully and the ruffled blue feathers on the left wing.

  • avatar David

    This blog reminded me to grab the sunscreen bottle for this weekends airplane spotting trip I am going on. Would have forgotten it without reading this blog. Great PSA. Every photographer should have a trail size in their camera bag.

  • avatar Jordan Cait

    typo – that one one my three huge gripes with the a1

  • avatar David Policansky

    Typo, under “What’s Up?”: “…mentioned that one one my three huge gripes with the a1…”

    I’m with Elinor Osborn in much preferring image 1 and for the same reasons. I think I like everything about image 1 better.

    f/4 to f/6.3 is 1.5 stops, which get you from ISO 2,000 to ISO 5,000. You also said four clicks, which also get you from ISO 2,000 to ISO 5,000.

  • Using the USB type Nikon Coolscan LS 5000 ED you can get excellent 100+ mb images. I have tried all the standard programs and found VueScan as the brains to run the machine to be the best. It is much better than the original Nikon software, Silverfast … and is constantly updated as needed.
    VueScan is very sophisticated and can be fine-tuned for various situations. There is certainly a learning curve, but the directions are very good and easy to follow. Once you get it set up it is just push a button and let it do the rest. It can resurrect slides that are from the 1960s into publishable digital images.
    I scan all of ours as a TIF. You can scan as a jpeg or even a RAW but I think the TIF is best. However, think of the TIF images as a “RAW” file that needs processing. I have had many 100s of images published with this and am always amazed at how good they look in a magazine or book. With VueScan I have never had an editor say that is a scanned slide and we will not use it. Of course, you must start with a good slide. In addition, the various film types (Velvia, Kodachrome, Fujichrome, Ectachrome) can have different settings to accommodate for their characteristics (color cast, grain etc.) and some films make better scans than others. The new Topaz Al Sharpen, and Noise Al programs help even more to transform the scans into useable professional images. Playing around with the other Topaz programs and photoshop can help with the final image processing. If you can get the Nikon Coolscan 5000, try to get the magazine that can load 50 slides and automatically scan all 50. Make sure to turn the unit off after each session so the bulb does not heat up and shut down for a while. I also have one of the larger more robust Nikon scanners (also does medium format), but it is a load one slide at a time. The ability to batch scan far outweighs the increase in scan size for most applications. Using Topaz Gigapixel Al is a way to get even bigger image sizes if needed and is an alternative to the larger scanner.

  • #1 by far. In #2 the feathers look a little ratty, hard to figure out the left wing. In #1 I like–
    the bit of reflection
    the all white look with the only color, those yellow feet
    it’s easier to understand the fishing behavior
    the dark (horizon?) being just above the wings, rather than the bird in it
    both feet and the bill pointing in the same direction

  • avatar Mike Cristina

    Just a follow-up to yesterday’s discussion, I use my Nikon ES-1 Slide Copy Adapter with my Canon mpe-65 and a 58mm to 52mm step down ring. I set my camera on a tripod, mirror lockup, 2 second delay, in front of a bright light so I can use 100 ISO. The results are more than adequate for online display. You get a file size equal to you body’s file size. I’ve only used it for slides, not negatives. And, if I had more than a few 100 or so to scan, I might send them out to DPSDave in CA, with similar results. Either way you’re probably not going to get enough quality for a huge print, but enough for digital display.

    ISO answer: 6000?

  • avatar Neal McEwen

    Four more clicks of ISO to compensate for the aperture change would require about ISO 5000.

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