Pelican Lessons. And It’s Getting Late … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Pelican Lessons. And It's Getting Late ...

It’s Getting Late …

Been thinking of joining me on the San Diego IPT? It is getting late. Consider taking advantage of the largest-ever late-registration discount. Details below.

The Stronger Image?

Which of today’s two featured images appeals to you more? All are invited to leave a comment and let us know why they made their choice.

What’s Up?

It was so foggy on Thursday morning that you could barely see one short block. I went down to the lake anyway. For the first time since The Perch was erected more than six months ago, I had an Osprey on it. When it comes to using the perch, the birds have taken their sweet time. But I have had some decent action for the past two weeks or so. I made lots of images of the handsome raptor from my SUV using the BLUBB. I deleted more than 100 and kept 9. After processing the best image, I deleted seven more.

I was about four minutes late getting down to the lake for sunset. As I was walking out on the pier, about 50 Cattle Egrets flew by right through the color. Then, when I was adjusting the settings on my a1, another 100 birds did the same thing. I had a very few good chances after that. A surprise was one killer frame of a Mottled Duck leaving the scene through an incredible patch of deep yellow water.

Today is Friday 31 December. With a forecast for mostly cloudy in the morning, Jim and I are heading to Lakeland, probably to Circle B Bar Reserve. If you would like some In-the-Field instruction at either ILE or Lakeland in the next ten days or so, shoot me an e-mail or try me on my cell at 863-221-2372. Please leave a message and shoot me a text if I do not pick up.

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took about 90 minutes to prepare including the time spent on the image optimizations. This post makes 51 consecutive days with a new one.

Please remember that you can find some great photo accessories (and necessities, like surf booties!) on Amazon by clicking on the Stuff tab on the orange/yellow menu bar above. On a related note, it would be extremely helpful if blog-folks who, like me, spend too much money on Amazon, would get in the habit of clicking on the Amazon logo link on the right side of each blog post when they shop online. As you might expect, doing so will not cost you a single penny, but would be appreciated tremendously by yours truly. And doing so works seamlessly with your Amazon Prime account.

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, is also available in the BAA Online Store, it would be great, and greatly appreciated, if you would 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 for your major gear purchases. Doing either often earns you free guides and/or discounts. And always earns my great appreciation.

Your-Pick In-the-Field Sessions

The beauty of the Your Pick In-the-Field Sessions plans below is that I am free most days from now till mid-January and we can schedule sessions to coincide with the perfect weather forecast. They are ideal for central Florida locals or folks visiting the region for whatever reason. Interested? Get in touch via e-mail or better yet, try my cell at 863-221-2372. Please leave a message and shoot me a text if I do not pick up. Inquire for couples and group rates.

Indian Lake Estates In-the-Field Sessions

Two hours of intensive instruction: $300.00. Add a working brunch with image review: $100.00. Sunset shoot: $100.00. Guest room lodging available. Mix and match.

Sunny mornings with east winds are best. Likely subjects include ridiculously tame Sandhill Cranes along with Black and Turkey Vultures, Crested Caracara, Limpkin, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, and more. Bald Eagle possible; crane chicks coming soon.

Lakeland or Circle B Bar Preserve

Two hours of intensive instruction: $325.00. Add a working brunch with image review: $100.00. Mix and match.

Sunny mornings with east winds are best at Lakeland. Likely subjects include point-blank American White Pelican, Anhinga, Limpkin, Common Moorhen, White Ibis, a variety of wintering ducks including Ring-necked and Wood Ducks, and lots more.

Cloudy mornings or afternoons (shooting session only) are best at Circle B Bar Preserve. Likely subjects include Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Common Moorhen, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Alligator, Wild Boar, and more. If you wish to mix and match, loving at ILE is available.

Sony Alpha 1 Bodies in Stock at Bedfords/free card offer!

Steve Elkins of Bedfords let me know late yesterday that he had several Sony a1 bodies in stock. If one of them has your name on it, please click here and be sure to enter the BIRDSASART coupon code check the box for free shipping to enjoy free Second Day Air Fed-Ex. Right now, in lieu of the 3% credit refunded to the card you used for your purchase, you will receive a Sony 160GB CFexpress Type A TOUGH Memory Card, a $399.99 value!

Brand New and As-Good-As-Ever Bedfords BAA Discount Policy

Folks who have fallen in love with Bedfords can now use the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout to enjoy a post-purchase, 3% off-statement credit (excluding taxes and shipping charges) on orders paid with a credit card. The 3% credit will be refunded to the card you used for your purchase. Be sure, also, to check the box for free shipping to enjoy free Second Day Air Fed-Ex. This offer does not apply to purchases of Classes, Gift Cards, or to any prior purchases.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would like to enjoy getting 3% back on your credit card along with free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex 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 check the box for Free Shipping. That will automatically upgrade to free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The waitlists 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 a 1, 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.

Important Note

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small percentage when you purchase from Amazon after using any of the Amazon links on the blog (including the logo-link immediately above). My link works with Amazon Prime and using it will not cost you a single cent. Huge thanks, BTW 🙂

Please Remember Also

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 (still!) save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I lost about fifty thousand dollars in income due to COVID 19 — 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.

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. If you are desperate, you can try me on my cell at 863-221-2372. Please leave a message and shoot me a text if I do not pick up.

This image was created on 4 January 2020 at La Jolla, CA. While standing at full height, I used the hand held Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens (at 493mm) and Sony a9 ii (now replaced by The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ) ISO 640. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 9:25:53am on a mostly sunny morning.

Tracking: Spot (S) AF-C Bird/Eye Detection AF was active at the moment OF exposure and worked just fine. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy the hi-res version.

Image #1: What is It?

Head Throw Strategies

Ever since I created a BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition-honored head throw image (with Fuji Velvia pushed one stop to ISO 100!) at La Jolla in the mid-1990s, I have been trying to do better. It ain’t easy. Creating good head throw images is a huge challenge. My best advice is to frame wider than you think is necessary. Much wider. If you are doing verticals (as I was for image #1), you will clip the bill as the first one second usually works best as a horizontal. If you start off working in horizontal format, you will surely clip the bill at the apex of the throw.

So what’s the answer? Frame wider than you could ever imagine and then crop as needed. Sometimes to a square, as with Image #1 above. If you zoom in in an effort to create tighter images, you will always clip something … Though you might miss some of the action with that approach, you might wind up with a contest-winner as the bill pouches of the Pacific race birds in California feature incredible colors — fire-engine red and olive-green for starters, along with incredible detail. On the San Diego IPT I will do my best to teach you the behavioral signals that usually signal that a head throw is coming.

BTW, head throws are thought to be a form of intra-flock communication.

The Lesson

When attempting to photograph Brown Pelican head throws, framing wider rather than higher will lead to lots more keepers.

This image was created on 4 January 2020 at La Jolla, CA. While standing at full height, I used the no-longer available GIT304L Grand Series 5 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted-Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and Sony a7R IV (now replaced by The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera). ISO 400. The exposure was determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear wheel: 1/1250 sec. at f/7.1 (stopped down 1/3 stop) in Manual mode. AWB at 9:26:47am on a on a mostly sunny morning.

Expand Flexible Spot S AF-C performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a higher-res version.

Image #2: Brown Pelican Pacific race in breeding plumage with bill pouch distended

The Classic Head and Shoulders Portrait

For me, images like this are one of the main reasons to visit San Diego. The distant Pacific-blue backgrounds complement the colors of the breeding plumaged bird perfectly. And the sweet early morning light is a given on most days.


The greater the distance from the subject to the background, the softer the background will be rendered.

Shorter Focal Lengths Yield Greater Depth of Field

The bird in Image #1 is the same individual as in Image #2. I made both images while standing pretty much in the same spot. Note that the ocean background in image #1 has some detail in the waves (especially toward the bottom of the frame). In Image #2, however, the ocean background is super-smooth, completely defocused. That despite the slightly smaller aperture, f/7.1 as compared to f/6.3.


When the photographer-to-subject distance is constant, the shorter the focal length, the greater the depth-of-field (at a given aperture).

San Diego, California: A Bird Photographer’s Paradise!

I’ve been visiting San Diego, California for more than 50 years, and photographing there for almost four decades. It truly is one of my favorite bird photography locations on the planet. The Pacific race Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches, are indeed the stars of the show, but there are lots of other great birds there that are relatively easy to photograph. Check out this five minute video to see the potential.

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking here.

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 2022 San Diego Brown Pelicans (and more!) IPT. Monday 17 January thru the morning session on Friday 21 January 2022. Four full and one-half day: $2999.00. Deposit: $899.00. Limit: 8 photographers/Openings: 6

Please e-mail for late registration discount info

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, Northern Shoveler, 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 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 click here for more info and registration details.


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

10 comments to Pelican Lessons. And It’s Getting Late …

  • avatar Jeff Walters

    Like ’em both. #1 is unique and would get my nod. Happy Anniversary Pat Fishburne! Not enough like you in this day & age.

    Happy New Year!

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    Hi Artie! I think many will have a version of No 2, but No 1 made me stop and look with that different gape. I also like the square crop in 1, and must think more about the crop in my images.
    Happy New Year!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks and ditto, Neal. One of the reasons I am alway asking questions is to get folks to think 😉

      with love, artie

  • avatar Jordan Cait

    Hi Artie, I prefer image number 2. Number 1 has even less room for the pelican to move into on the right – it has nowhere to go…

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Jordan. The bird is sitting on a rock so not going anywhere 🙂

      with love, and thanks for your great proofreading!


  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. I prefer image 1 for the pose and the composition and the reversed Z shape. Happy new year.

  • avatar Pat Fishburne

    Art, the first image is a nice “behavior” shot, but I like #2 best for several reasons: (1) the placement of the bird in the frame, (2) the look of the white feathers on the bird’s head and (3) the fact that the bird is looking right at you. Happy New Year! Today is our 65th wedding anniversary.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Mazel tov on 65!

      With love, artie

      ps: to learn more about Pat and Stoke’s amazing lives, see the A Strikingly Beautiful Image From More Than 60 Years Ago blog post here.

      Here is an excerpt:

      I think that even if you have never met Stokes and Pat, the image above would touch you deeply. So much tradition. So much beauty. They eloped on Dec. 31, 1956, but when Stokes graduated in June 1957, they had a formal wedding at the Citadel Chapel. The Citadel — The Military College of South Carolina, commonly known simply as The Citadel, is a military college in Charleston, South Carolina.

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