December 15th, 2014

Manual… Av… Tv… Program… Which is The Best Shooting Mode?

What’s Up?

If things go right this blog post should be published sometime on Tuesday morning, either by Peter Kes in Switzerland or by Jim Litzenberg from Indian Lake Estates. Thanks Guys.

I will already be aboard the Ortelius heading towards the Falklands. We will be back at the dock to disembark on the morning of 9 JAN. There is no wifi on the ship. That means that I will effectively and absolutely be without internet at least from 14 DEC through 9 JAN. At present I am further behind with answering e-mails than at any time since I have began answering folks’ photography-related questions about 25 years ago. I have been doing me best.

Please refrain from e-mailing me at the usual samandmayasgrandpa e-mail address until I get back home on 13 JAN. You can reach my right-hand man Jim Litzenburg by e-mail here or reach Jennifer here as usual.

Important Blog Notice

I hope to have some time before getting on the ship to prepare a few new blog posts and to have them published during my absence with the help of either Jim or the invaluable Peter Kes, the BAA webmaster. In addition, my plan is to resurrect a collection of older but very important educational blog posts (like today’s) and have them re-published during my absence. Please enjoy. Please consider signing up for an IPT. And please continue to do a great job of using my B&H and other affiliate links while I am gone. Today’s offering was originally published on 22 DEC, 2013. It garnered 42 comments. You might enjoy reading them by scrolling down here.

All of the plans above are dependent on my being able to get online with a decent connection at the hotel in Ushuaia…. If not, happy new year!

To show your appreciation for my efforts here, we ask, as always, that you use our the B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. B&H Is recommended for you major photography gear purchases, Amazon for your household, entertainment, and general purpose stuff. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially Gitzo tripods, Wimberley tripod heads, and the like. 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 we are 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 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 visiting the BAA Online store as well.


sandhill-crane-in-flight-_y5o0172-bosque-del-apache-nwr-san-antonio-nm

This image was created on the 2013 Bosque IPT with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop as framed: 1/1000 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode.

I set the exposure manually at +1 1/3 stops off the light blue sky in late afternoon light. That worked out to +1 stop as framed here because the bird is somewhat darker than the sky. In the crane image below, +1 1/3 stops off the sky worked out to the metered exposure…. See more in the next image caption below.

Central sensor (by necessity) Expand/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the head of the crane active at the moment of exposure. But it is likely that one of the Surround AF points took over and just caught that bird’s head. Click here if you missed the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Manual… Av… Tv… Program… Which is The Best Shooting Mode?

This is one of the age old photography questions: what is the best shooting mode? There are many who state definitively: “Real photographers work in Manual mode 100% of the time.” Many who preach this as gospel are hard-headed, obnoxious, loud-mouthed, and ignorant. Others simply prefer to work in Manual mode most or all of the time but realize that other modes might be best for other photographers (or clients) in a given situation.

At present I work in Manual mode most of the time, probably about 80% I would guess. I often work in Av mode, probably about 15% of the time. I occasionally work in Tv mode, probably about 4% of the time, but more than that when I am at Bosque del Apache NWR late each fall. (BTW, happy winter; it began today just after noon on December 21, 2013, at 12:11pm EST.) And I actually work in Program mode on rare occasion.
So what is the best shooting mode? The best shooting mode is the one that works best for you in a given situation. I will share my Shooting Mode preferences with you here.

Manual Mode

As I mentioned above, I now work in Manual mode about 80% of the time on average. When photographing birds against backgrounds of rapidly changing tonality or when that possibility exists, working in Manual mode is mandatory. This is such an important principle that I will state it again: when photographing birds against backgrounds of rapidly changing tonality working in Manual mode is mandatory.

Why? If you are in an automatic mode like Av or Tv and the background goes from light sky to dark trees you are dead in the water. Nobody can change the exposure compensation (EC) from say plus 2 to minus 1/3 stop instantly. Not to mention the times when the framing might yield both sky and trees or mountains in varying proportions. To learn to work in Manual Mode click here.

Similarly, you must be in Manual mode when the size of a very light or very dark subject in the frame is changing. Why? Unusually light or dark subjects have a big influence on your camera’s meter.


sandhill-crane-landing-_y5o0155-bosque-del-apache-nwr-san-antonio-nm

This image was also created on the 2013 Bosque IPT with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering at zero as framed: 1/1000 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode.

The two crane images here were made about two minutes apart; the light on the subject was constant. I began by metering the sky and adding 1 1/3 stops in the late afternoon light. When working in Manual mode you strive to get the right exposure for the subject. That is what I did here. Note that the exposure for both images was 1/1000 sec. at f/9 at ISO 800. With the bird against the sky the exposure worked out to +1 as framed. With the bird set against the yellowish brown trees in the distance, the exposure worked out to the metered exposure, that is 0 EC or no exposure compensation. Understand that the exposure settings for each image were identical: 1/1000 sec. at f/9 at ISO 800. As the light on the birds was constant the correct exposure for the subjects were the same regardless of the background. Had I been working in Av mode at f/9 I would have needed to have been at +1 stop for the first image and then at zero for the image here. Changing the exposure compensation from +1 to 0 in less than an instant is simply not possible. That is why you need to learn to work in Manual mode whenever the background tonality might change.

Central sensor (by necessity) Expand/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the bird’s lower breast active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Manual Mode Misconceptions and Myths

One common Manual mode misconception is that when the light is changing from moment to moment that it is easier and better to work in Manual mode. This is definitely true when the background and the light are or may be changing quickly. But when the light is changing and the background is of uniform and constant tonality, working in Av (or Tv) is often simpler, better, and faster.

Let say that you are working at the beach and all of your subjects are on the sand and average to middle light in tonality. Most gulls and most shorebirds come to mind. Nothing is flying around. But the sun is peeking in and out of the clouds. As long as you understand exposure and the way that your camera’s meter works you may find it easier, more intuitive, and faster to work in Av mode: when the sun is out you make all of your images at 0 or +1/3 stop depending on your camera body. When the sun is behind a cloud you will set something like +1 2/3stops EC. For Nikon folks these values would likely be -1/3 or -2/3 stop when the sun is out and +1 stop or so when a cloud covers the sun.

This brings us to another Manual mode myth: “If you work in Manual mode you will always get the right exposure.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the statement is laughable. If you understand exposure it does not matter which shooting mode you are in. The fact is that Manual mode is Av mode is Tv mode as far as exposure is concerned. If you set your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture correctly in Manual mode so that you wind up with the right exposure and the analog screen in your viewfinder shows +2/3 stop, then you can simply work in Av or Tv mode and set +2/3 stop EC. As long as the framing and background remain the same the exposure will be identical.

Do not, however, forget the original premise above: When photographing subjects against backgrounds of rapidly changing tonality working in Manual mode is mandatory. If you attempt to work in any automatic mode against backgrounds of changing tonalities you will wind up with many exposure errors.


african-lion-cubs-by-stream-_y7o4612-mobile-tented-camp-mara-river-serengeti-tanzania

This image of a pair of playful African Lion cubs was created with the Todd-pod mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X Digital SLR camera. ISO 800 Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/5.6.in Av mode in soft morning light.

One sensor below the central sensor/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the face of the closest cub active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

In situations where I happen to be in Av mode and I am absolutely sure of the correct EC (exposure compensation), it is faster and easier to continue working in Av mode than it is to switch to Manual mode. That was the case here as I knew that +1/3 stop would be perfect. It was. As always, getting the right exposure has nothing to do with what shooting mode you are in.

Getting the Right Exposure: Shooting Mode Does Not Matter!

The key to getting the right exposure depends on your knowledge of exposure theory, on understanding how to get the right exposure, on understanding how your camera’s meter works, on understanding the quality and direction of the light, and on knowing how to evaluate your histogram, check for blinkies, and adjust your exposure accordingly. Getting the right exposure has nothing to do with what shooting mode you are in. Again, do not forget the original premise above: When photographing subjects against backgrounds of rapidly changing tonality or when light or dark subject size is changing, working in Manual mode is mandatory.

To learn exposure theory, to begin to gain an understanding of how to get the right exposure, and to learn to properly evaluate you histograms, check for flashing highlight alerts, and adjust your exposure parameters, we recommend getting a copy of The Art of Bird Photography (soft cover) with its classic treatment of Exposure Theory, and a copy of The Art of Bird Photography II (916 pages on CD only). See and study the section on Exposure Simplified in the latter. You can save $10 by purchasing the 2-book bundle here.


american-alligator-w-cattle-egret-bright-sun-_mg_8681-st

This American Alligator with a Cattle Egret in its jaws was photographed at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (hand held at 111mm) and the EOS-40D (now replaced for me by the Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital camera body ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1 stop as framed: 1/4000 sec. at f/5.6 in Av mode.

Central Sensor AI Servo shutter button AF as framed. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

When you have no clue as to what the situation might be, you are far better off being in Av mode than in Manual mode; you are never more than a few clicks away from the perfect exposure. See image next.

Av Mode

There are many situations where I find it best to work in Av mode. Most times when I am taking a walk with a long lens on my shoulder I set the camera to Av mode. If it is sunny, I set the ISO to 400. If it is cloudy, I set the ISO to 800. If it is cloudy dark I set the ISO to 800. I usually work wide open or close to it.

Why Av mode when taking a walk?

When I do not know what or where the subject might be and when I do not know if the subject will be in the sun or in the shade, I will always set Av mode so that I can quickly dial in something close to the correct EC and make an image or three. Note I: this is 100% dependent on having a thorough understanding of exposure. Note II: this same understanding is required to come up with the right exposure when working in Manual mode.

The classic example is as follows: I am at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. I hear a woman scream. I have the 70-200 f/4L IS in my hands and start running. I see a big gator on the dirt in the sun with a Cattle Egret in its mouth. I instinctively dial in -1 stop EC as the gator is black and in the sun and taking up a good part of the frame and the egret is brilliant white. I make several images each with a good exposure. I see that the gator is heading under the boardwalk. I know that I will not need as much minus EC as the action will now be in the shade. I push the shutter button half-way and dial back to -1/3 stop with two counter-clockwise clicks of the thumb wheel. I make a few more images each with a perfect exposure.


american-alligator-eating-cattle-egret-in-shade-_mg_8688-st

This same American Alligator with a Cattle Egret in its jaws was photographed at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm only a few seconds after the image above was created. Again, I used the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (hand held at 70mm) and the EOS-40D (now replaced for me by the Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital camera body ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop as framed: 1/160 sec. at f/5.6 in Av mode.

Central Sensor AI Servo shutter button AF as framed. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Had God been working in Manual mode not even he (or she) would have been able to make 14 the needed 14 clicks in the second it took this gator to slip from the bright sun into the shade of the boardwalk; if you are counting, that’s a difference of 4 2/3 stops….

If I had been working in Manual mode it would have taken 14 clicks of the shutter speed dial to come up with the right exposure. Nobody, not even the most obnoxious loud-mouthed Manual mode proponent could do quickly to get the right exposure when the gator slipped into the shadows.

While the above is an extreme situation it proves the point: when you are not sure what the situation will be Av mode is best. It allows you to come up with the right exposure quickly and easily, more quickly and easily than if you were working in Manual mode.

Similarly, as noted above in paragraph 3 in the Manual mode section, I often use Av mode when the light is changing and the background is of uniform and constant tonality.

Furthermore, if I happen to be in Av mode and I come upon a good situation where I am absolutely sure of the correct EC (exposure compensation) it is faster and easier to continue working in Av mode than it is to switch to Manual mode.

tulip-lingerie-_a1c9227-keukenhof-gardens-lisse-holland

This image was created at the Willem-Alexander Pavilion at Keukenhof, Lisse, Holland with the tripod-mounted Canon Telephoto EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM Autofocus lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter)
and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/20 sec. at f/13 in Av mode.

Manual Focus on the tip of the pistil and re-compose. Click on the image to see a larger version.

When photographing flowers in windless situations I find it easier and faster to work in Av mode than to work in Manual mode.

Av Mode Best for Flowers?

When photographing flowers in windless situations I also find Av mode best and more efficient than working in Manual mode. I found myself doing just that when photographing the tulips in Keukenhof Gardens, the Netherlands on last spring’s Tulip IPT.

I’d see and frame an image. Focus. Set Live View and the 2-second timer. Live View gave me mirror lock and the RAW RGB histogram. The 2-second timer assured sharp images at slow shutter speeds. Once I had fine-tuned the exposure I’d make a long series of images changing the aperture in one stop increments from wide open to f/22 or so. Once I had dialed in the right EC changing the aperture required only three clicks of the thumb wheel—the camera set the shutter speed each time. Had I been working in Manual mode I would have needed three clicks for the aperture and three more clicks the other way for the shutter speed. Where I come from six clicks is more work than three clicks. Working in Av mode made it fast and easy to crank out a series of images each with a different aperture….

Interestingly enough one image in a series would often stand out as clearly best.

Here is the principle that applies here: if the light and framing are constant and the only thing that you wish to change is the aperture it is faster and easier to work in Av mode. Can you do the same thing in Manual mode? Of course. But you will need to change more parameters than you would if you were working in Av mode. I prefer easier and faster :)

Tv Mode

As with Av mode, there are situations where working in Tv mode is far easier, far faster, far more intuitive, and far more efficient than working in Manual mode. For starters, one advantage of working in Tv mode is that it gives you absolute control of shutter speed.


snow-geese-pre-dawn-fly-in-_y7o8778-bosque-del-apache-nwr-san-antonio-nm

This Snow Geese fly-in image was created at 6:21am on the early morning of November 27, 2013 at Bosque del Apache NWR with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (at 200mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop as framed in Tv Mode: 1/13 sec. at f/8. Color temperature 8000K.

Tv mode +1/3 stop. ISO Safety shift. As described in the text below this is a simple recipe for creating pleasing blurs in the pre-dawn. Beginning and intermediate photographers would have a very tough time in situations like this if they were working in Manual mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo/Surround–Rear Focus AF as framed active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Tv Mode for Blurs

As regular readers know, I love creating pleasing blurs, often in pre-dawn situations with beautiful color in the sky. Trying to create sharp images in these situations is almost always a huge waste of your mega-high ISO time. Working in Tv mode in conjunction with either ISO Safety Shift or Auto ISO is the way to go. You simply pick a slow shutter speed that is appropriate for the EV (light) level and the distance to the birds, dial in the right EC—usually +1/3 stop to +2 stops depending on the colors and tonality of the predawn skies, and fire away. The camera will set the needed ISO. As it gets brighter, the only thing that you need to do is pick the shutter speed that you want and dial in the right EC.

Teaching this method in the dark at Bosque allows even beginning photographers to create some wonderful images on their very first try.

Folks working in Manual mode in this situation need to change the ISO, the shutter speed, and the aperture every minute or two as the skies brighten. This is relatively easy for experienced photographers but working in Tv mode as described above is much easier and much more efficient for many folks.
To learn more about creating pleasing blurs see “A Guide to Pleasing Blurs” by Denise Ippolito and yours truly. This PDF is sent via e-mail and would make a great gift for all aspiring photographers,


stellers-sea-eagle-landing-in-predawn-light-_90z6317-rausu-hokkaido-japan

This Steller’s Sea Eagle image was created on my first Japan trip with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +1 stop stop as framed: 1/500 sec. at f/5.6 in Tv mode.

I knew that +1 was right and I knew that I wanted a shutter speed of 1/500 sec. Tv mode was fast, simple, and perfect.

Central sensor/AI Servo/Surround–Rear Focus AF as framed active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Tv Mode When You Need a Minimum Shutter Speed

There are many situations where you want to be sure of having a minimum shutter speed, often when working in relatively low light and often when working from some sort of water craft. Unlike many flight photographers I do not subscribe to the theory that you need a minimum shutter speed of 1/1600 sec for flight photography. In many situations I would rather work at 1/500 sec. than choose a higher ISO. I have made many sharp flight images at 1/500 second.

The single rejoinder is that the background be of fairly uniform tonality. If the tonality of the background is constantly changing then as above, it is imperative that you work in Manual mode.

On my last Japan trip we were working with Steller’s Sea Eagles in flight in pink pre-dawn light. Both the ice and the sky were of about the same tonality—light middle, and I knew that +1 EC would give me a pretty darned good exposure most of the time. So I set Tv mode and chose 1/500 sec. I dialed in +1 stop EC and let the camera set the ISO and determine the aperture (which would always be wide open or close to it). I created many fine images that morning. And I have done the same thing often on Galapagos trips in similar situations. Fast, simple, and easy.


red-eyed-vireo-adult-_l8x0064-south-padre-island-tx

This image of a Red-eyed Vireo was created on South Padre Island, TX with the predecessor of the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the 500mm f/4L IS lens (now replaced by the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens), the 2X II TC (now replaced by the Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the full frame EOS-1Ds Mark II (now replaced by the Canon EOS-1D X). ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/160 sec. at f/9 in Program mode.

When photographing songbirds in relatively low, changing light with fill flash I like to work in Program mode and simple dial in the correct EC if needed. Doing so prevents the problems that you might encounter using Av or Tv and is much faster than working in Manual when the light is changing.

Fill flash with the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT, the Canon CP-E4 Compact Battery Pack (for faster recycling), and the Canon OC-E3 Off Camera Shoe Cord 3n a Better Beamer at -3 stops with the Mongoose Integrated Flash Arm.

Central sensor (by necessity)/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the bird’s upper back active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Program Mode

“Program mode?” you ask. “Are you nuts?”

There are actually two situations when I find that program mode is the best mode. When photographing family parties or friends’ weddings indoors with on-camera flash, I get fairly consistent results by setting the flash to -1/3 or -2/3 stops, working in Program mode, and dialing in EC as required; usually some plus EC for overall light subjects and scenes and some minus EC for dark subjects with a few bright highlights. Happy birthday!

The other time that I’d use program mode is when photographing songbirds with flash in low, changing light. First, I simply dial in the flash exposure compensation (on the flash not on the camera), usually about -1 2/3 stops for fill flash, set my ISO, dial in the right EC (as always depending my understanding of exposure theory), and begin making images. After I am set up the only thing that I need to change is the exposure compensation. If you are working in Manual mode you will spend most of your time changing two or more of the exposure parameters as the light changes.

I have not photographed many songbirds in recent years but would not hesitate to work in program mode when the right situation arises. I should be so lucky.

Which is The Best Shooting Mode?

I am hoping that by now that everyone realizes that there is no single best shooting mode for all situations. Study hard and learn to get the right exposure in all lighting conditions. Learn to use each of your camera’s shooting modes. And learn when it is best for you to use Manual, Av, Tv, or even Program. You will become a much stronger photographer.

Reflections, and An Invitation

Those of you who missed the celebration gallery from way back when moight enjoy it by clicking here and then clicking on the gallery link to view it.

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December 14th, 2014

Double Heart Attack Panic Mode...

What’s Up?

I started this blog post in the lobby of the Albatross Hotel at 11:45pm on Saturday, December 13, 2014. It is two hours later in Ushuaia than in Florida. I finished an published it at 5:33am from the same spot.

Along with the rest of my shipmates I will board the Ortelius on the afternoon of 15 DEC and disembark on the morning of 9 JAN. There is no wifi on the ship. That means that I will effectively and absolutely be without internet at least from 14 DEC through 9 JAN. At present I am further behind with answering e-mails than at any time since I have began answering folks’ photography-related questions about 25 years ago.

Please therefore refrain from e-mailing me at the usual samandmayasgrandpa e-mail address until I get back home on 13 JAN. You can reach my right-hand man Jim Litzenburg by e-mail here or reach Jennifer here as usual.

Important Blog Notice

I hope to have some time before getting on the ship to prepare a few new blog posts and to have them published during my absence with the help of either Jim or the invaluable Peter Kes, the BAA webmaster. In addition, my plan is to resurrect a collection of older but important educational blog posts and have them re-published during my absence. Please enjoy. Please consider signing up for an IPT. And please continue to do a great job of using my B&H and other affiliate links while I am gone.

Double Heart Attack Panic Mode…

I was sitting in the Delta club in Atlanta with about 45 minutes till boarding time for my redeye flight to Buenos Aires when I decided to read the “Important Pre-Departure” PDF that I had gotten from Gina Barton of Cheesemans’ several months prior. Better late than never, no? Panic #1 set in when I read the following “US citizens must pay the $160 reciprocity tax online before their flights to Argentina. Yikes! I called Gina and followed the link in the PDF to the website. I filled out the online forms and paid the fee. “You must print this with the bar code to secure entry into the country.’ Yikes. More panic. A Delta agent explained that I could e-mail the form to the printer.

I unplugged my Macbook Pro, brought it over to the computer, and forwarded the form with the bar code to the printer via e-mail. When I got back to the desk that I had been working at I opened my Mac and touched touch pad. Nothing. I hit the power on button. Nothing. Hit the touch pad again and again Nothing, nothing, nothing! I hit the power button again. Nothing. Panic city. No working laptop in the face of a month long photo trip to one of the great places on the planet. Not fun. I kept pushing the power button and finally the machine re-booted. Whew. As it came on it asked my why I had turned it off. Not!

Once the laptop was up and running I received the confirmation e-mail from the printer but was unable to follow the directions and get the thing to print. Several Delta counter agents pretty much blew me off when I asked for help with the printer until a handsome young Black man walked me to the machine and, after several tries, got it to print.

By that time Gina had gotten in touch with skilled travel agent Ana Craven and asked her to call me. My cell rang and I explained the situation to her. “You should have the reciprocity fee sticker in your passport,” she said, “from the South Georgia trip two years ago.” She described it to me in detail and I was able to find it. A very nice man sitting at the work station next to me showed me the reciprocity fee sticker in his Passport and stated that since mine expired in 2021 that I was good to go. Hooray. Double panic attacks abated.

Ana kindly volunteered to try to get my fee refunded and did that successfully on Saturday evening.

“I will not be allowed to enter Argentina.” “I will not have a working laptop for the trip.” And to think that at any time I all had to do avoid the panic was to ask “Is it true? Do I know that it is absolutely true?” (See the Work of Byron Katie here. Who would you be without your story?)

I slept about six hours on the nearly ten hour redeye flight, watched the wonderful movie, “The 100 Foot Journey” for the 2nd time, got a cab to the domestic airport, found a plug, and did some work. I was so tired that I fell asleep on the stool and nearly fell off it. I grabbed a salad and met some of the folks on the trip. Fifty of the hundred participants along with several of the leaders were on the afternoon flight to Ushuaia. I slept for nearly the entire 3 1/2 our trip. Both I and my bags arrived safely at the hotel at 8pm: 32 hours from door to door. Right now I am headed to bed.

From the Blog Post of November 24, 2012

I have been sharing the video linked to below with various shipmates in the lobby. Folks need to remember to be very careful in the Southern Ocean at all times….

Zodiac Misadventure Video

As I have mentioned, a cruise to the Falklands, South Georgia, and or/Antarctica can be physically demanding, grueling at times, and dangerous at other times. Marc Lombardi,a fine and creative photographer whom I met on the recent Cheesemans’expedition, sent me a great video. As I watched it the first time, my heart was stuck in my throat. Was this guy gonna make it onto the ship or not?

You’ll want to watch it twice so click here and then when you watch it a second time, check out my commentary below.

OK. Now the details. As I watched the video a second time (it is only 1 minute, 39 seconds long) I realized that I was the guy having all the problems. Yikes!

When you are getting on or off the video, the guidelines are:

1-Never do anything until the zodiac driver tells you to go.
2-If you do not feel safe when told to go, it is OK to abort.

There are small lengths of heavy duty ropes used as handholds around the gunnels of the zodiacs. As the zodiac approaches the gangway, the seaman on the bottom platform tosses a length of rope to either the zodiac driver, or, in rougher conditions, to the seaman in the front of the zodiac. He is always dressed in a survival suit… Then either the zodiac driver or the second seaman keeps tension on the rope to hold the zodiac in place. On rough days with lots of swell, the rope can be released and then re-tightened by the person holding it to keep the zodiac safely in position.

We had landed at the spectacular St. Andrews Bay early that morning and had planned on being ashore till 7pm. Though it did not seem to have gotten any windier, we were told, at about 4pm, that the swells were getting dangerously larger and that the captain had called off the landing; everyone needed to get back to the ship now.

OK, now that the scene is set, you can watch the video again by clicking here.

At about the six second mark, expedition leader Ted Cheeseman, our Zodiac driver that day, said “Go.” I felt the zodiac began to drop and not feeling safe, decided to wait for a more opportune moment. At the 7 second mark of the video you can hear a loud pop as the handhold rope broke. That was followed by Ted’s “Yooooh.” He pushed us away from the gangway, re-started the outboard, and came around for a second approach. At the 1:08 mark Ted said “Go” again but as the zodiac dropped about 5 feet at that moment I chose to stay aboard. At the 1:24 mark I mercifully made it onto the gangway followed soon thereafter by Denise Ippolito. Whew!

As I wrote in BAA Bulletin #422, “Kudos to expedition leader Ted Cheeseman for putting together the great itinerary and pulling it off. He made several major changes due to sea conditions and all were spot on. The Cheesemans’ staff’s greatest skill is in getting folks safely in and out of the zodiacs and onto shore even in condition where most other tour companies would call it a day. In addition all were knowledgeable and helpful, and trust me, at 66 I appreciated their help.”

Thanks a stack to Marc for sharing this great video. You can see some of his great photography here. Click here to see his trip gallery. Be sure to find his Silver Grebe photos! For more trip images, these created by his life partner Elise Spata, click here.


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Images and card design copyright 2014: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

The 2015 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT
June 29 through July 5, 2015: $5499: Limit 10 photographers/Openings 1. Two great leaders: Denise Ippolito and Arthur Morris.

Here are the plans for next year: take a red eye from the east coast of the US on 28 June arriving in Edinburgh, Scotland on the morning of Monday 29 June (or simply meet us then either at the Edinburgh Airport (EDI) or later in the day at our cottages if you are driving your own vehicle either from the UK or from somewhere in Europe. Stay 7 nights in two gorgeous modern country cottages.

There are 5 days of planned puffin/seabird trips—weather permitting, and 1 full day of gannet photography with 2 sessions on the boat.


uk-puffins-card-iii-layers

Images and card design copyright 2014: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

The Details

We will be staying in upscale country-side cottages that are beyond lovely with large living areas and lots of open space for image sharing and Photoshop lessons. The shared rooms are decent-sized, each with two roomy single beds and a private bathroom. See the single supplement info below.

All breakfasts, lunches and dinners are included. All 5 puffins boat lunches will need to be prepared in advance, taken with, and consumed at your leisure. I usually eat mine on the short boat trip from one island to the other. Also included is a restaurant lunch on the gannet boat day and a farewell fine dining thank you dinner. The cost of your National Heritage Trust is also included; that covers the twice a day landing fees.

Plan to fly home on the early morning of Monday 6 July or to continue your stay or travels.


uk-puffins-card-i

Images and card design copyright 2014: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version. Scroll down to join us in the UK in 2015.

Single Supplement Info

The single supplement is $1475. As we will be renting a third cottage the $1475 is due with your deposit and is also non-refundable.

If you are good to go please send your $2,000 deposit check now to save a spot. The balance will be due on March 29, 2015. 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. If you cancel and the trip fills, we will be glad to apply a credit applicable to a future IPT for the full amount less a $100 processing fee. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. Whether or not your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

We do hope that you can join us.

IPT Updates

Would you like to visit some of the great bird photography locations on the planet? Would you like to learn from the best? Click here and join us.

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

December 13th, 2014

Placing All My Eggs in One Very Good Basket

What’s Up?

If things go right this blog post should be published by Peter Kes in Switzerland well before I arrive in Argentina on Saturday afternoon. Thanks Peter.

Along with the rest of my shipmates I will board the Ortelius on the afternoon of 15 DEC and disembark on the morning of 9 JAN. There is no wifi on the ship. That means that I will effectively and absolutely be without internet at least from 14 DEC through 9 JAN. At present I am further behind with answering e-mails than at any time since I have began answering folks’ photography-related questions about 25 years ago.

Please therefore refrain from e-mailing me at the usual samandmayasgrandpa e-mail address until I get back home on 13 JAN. You can reach my right-hand man Jim Litzenburg by e-mail here or reach Jennifer here as usual.

Important Blog Notice

I hope to have some time before getting on the ship to prepare a few new blog posts and to have them published during my absence with the help of either Jim or the invaluable Peter Kes, the BAA webmaster. In addition, my plan is to resurrect a collection of older but very important educational blog posts (like today’s) and have them re-published during my absence. Please enjoy. Please consider signing up for an IPT. And please continue to do a great job of using my B&H and other affiliate links while I am gone.

All of the plans above are dependent on my being able to get online with a decent connection at the hotel in Ushuaia…. If not, happy new year!

Placing All My Eggs in One Very Good Basket

I am feeling very comfortable with my decision to leave the 200-400 with Internal Extender at home for the Southern Oceans trip. Most of the birds are very tame and in addition, I have the 1.6X crop factor of the 7D Mark II for those time when I am not able to get real close physically. The 300 II/1.4X III TC with the 7D II actually gives me more reach than the 300 II/2X III TC with either of my full frame bodies. Studying the images above will give you an idea of how good the 300 II is when working with tame birds. The images below were originally published on June 1, 2014.



If what you’ve learned here on my blog about the Canon EOS-7D Mark II has inspired you to purchase this great new camera body, please consider using the logo link above to support our efforts here in bringing you the latest, greatest educational materials on daily basis.


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This image was created at 7:21am on Friday past at Fort DeSoto with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop as framed: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6 in Av mode. AWB.

Five sensors to the left of the central Sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF as framed active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version. It’s great having all 61 AF sensors available with the 300 II/2X III TC combo.

Image #1: Breeding Plumage Laughing Gull looking back

The Amazing Canon 300mm F/2.8L IS USM Lens/Part II of a Series

On late April,2014, Jim drove me to Bradenton to explore the possibility of getting some prolozone injections in both shoulders and my left knee. We hoped to photograph at Fort DeSoto that afternoon but that did not work out. We got up very early on Friday and were out on the beach before sunrise. As had been typical at DeSoto for a while, there were very few birds around but the birds that we found were gorgeous, tame, and pretty darned cooperative.

I decided to go light with the 300 II and both TCs and to leave the tripod in the car hoping against hope that I would not miss my 600 II too much. Fat chance of that I thought. Our first gem was the beautiful adult Laughing Gull standing on a berm of clean sand with a beautiful blue Gulf of Mexico background lit by soft, early morning light. Lying down flat on the sand was the obvious choice and that is just what I did. Nature photography is all about seeing the good situations and then choosing the best perspective.


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This image was created at 7:38m with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop as framed: 1/1600 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AWB.

One sensor below the central Sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF right on the bird’s eye as framed was active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version. It’s great having all 61 AF sensors available with the 300 II/2X III TC combo.

Image #2: Short-billed Dowitcher beginning molt to breeding feeding on the edge of the surf

The 300 II/2X III TC Combo for Small Shorebirds???

Yes. Without being restricted by a big lens and a heavy tripod it is fairly easy to keep low and get into position just ahead of the shorebirds feeding along the edge of the Gulf. Set yourself down 15-20 feet from the edge of the surf just ahead of sun angle and let the birds work towards you. At many locations the 600 II/2X III combo would have the great advantage of reach that is needed in locations where the birds are not so used to people. But with Florida’s tame birds the 300 II/2X III TC has the big advantage of mobility. And framing and following the shorebirds as the move quickly along the water’s edge stopping only infrequently to stop and feed for a moment is a lot easier to do with a fairly lightweight hand holdable lens.


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This image was created at 8:12am on with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop as framed: 1/8000 sec. at f/2.8 in Manual mode. AWB.

61-Point AF activated a tight array of 4 sensors just behind the bird’s head/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF as framed active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #3: Reddish Egret dancing

Working With the 300 II Alone?

On our way back to the usual sand spit hotspot, we came across a beautiful breeding plumage Reddish Egret fishing in a small pool. Standing was the best plan here as I wanted to avoid having the either the far shoreline (trust me, it was not very far as the pool was a very small one) or the rather extensive reeds as obtrusive background elements.


reddish-egret-front-end-vertical-_y5o1705desoto-park-pinellas-county-fl

This one was made at 8:21am on Friday past at Fort DeSoto with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/2000 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode. AWB.

61-Point AF activated a single sensor at the back of the bird’s neck/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #4: Reddish Egret front-end portrait

Head-hunting With the 300 II/2X III TC Combo

When this gorgeous bird walked out of the pool I added the 2X III TC and approached slowly. It began walking to my right and was only able to create a few verticals. I had hoped to get close enough to create some horizontal head portraits but alas, the bird flew off. In retrospect, I would have been much better off working with Surround and selecting an upper sensor…. That’s another way of saying that I should have pointed the lens down to include more of the bird’s cobalt blue legs.


white-ibis-breeding-plumage-feeding-in-surf-_y5o1757desoto-park-pinellas-county-fl

This image was created at 8:26am while seated with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop as framed: 1/8000 sec. at f/2.8 in Manual mode. AWB.

One sensor to the left of the central sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF as framed active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #5: White Ibis feeding along the edge of the surf

Sitting With the 300 II/1.4X III Combo

It is much easier to move quickly and get down on the ground right on sun angle with the 300 II/2X III than with the 600 II on a tripod either alone or with a TC. My left forearm rests on my left knee making it easy to hand hold while following the foraging or running birds. Knee-pod images are coming soon.


american-oystercatcher-feeding-in-surf-_y5o1918desoto-park-pinellas-county-fl

This image was created at 8:42am with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 200. Evaluative metering at zero as framed: 1/2500 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode was a slight under-exposure. AWB.

Central sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF just caught the bottom of the bird’s black hood as framed was active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #6: American Oystercatcher feeding along the edge of the surf

My 300 II Revelation

By 9:45am we were done. I had created a jumbo jet’s worth of RAW files during our short morning session: 747 images. 123 keepers after the 1st edit. As we were walking back to the car I had my revelation: If I had brought the 600 II and my Gitzo 3532 LS tripod to the beach that morning I would not have done nearly as well as I did with the lighter 300 II. When working with tame birds the 300 gave me great versatility as a quick peek at the images here shows; I used the 300 II alone, I used it with the 1.4X II TC. And with the 2X III TC. But more importantly the biggest advantage that the 300 II has for me is that it allows me to be much more mobile. The freedom that comes with hand holding allowed me to stay on sun angle and get to the right spot quickly with less physical effort.

Who’d of thunk it??? I say often that the longest lens is not always the best tool for a given job. I am glad that I finally learned that lesson for myself. Please remember that Fort DeSoto is not Nickerson Beach :). The birds are a lot tamer in Florida.


fort-desoto-card

Fort DeSoto in spring can be bird photographer’s heaven. And most of the birds are stupid tame.

Fort DeSoto in Spring/Breeding Plumage IPT: April 24-26, 2015. 3 FULL DAYs: $1099. Limit 8/Openings: 7.

Meet and Greet at 8pm on Thursday, April 23.

Join me at Fort DeSoto at the height of the breeding season for many of our target species: Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, dark and light morph Reddish Egret, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. In addition, we will have a good shot at photographing a variety of arctic-bound shorebird species in breeding plumage. We should have good chances with a variety of courtship behaviors including courtship feeding, courtship displays, pre-copulatory stands, and copulation.

On this IPT you will the learn basics and fine points of digital exposure and how to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, how to approach free and wild birds without disturbing them, to understand and predict bird behavior, to identify many species of shorebirds, to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. And you will learn learn how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it).

At lunch (included) we will review my images–folks learn a ton watching me edit–why keep this one and delete that one. If you opt to bring your laptop, we will take a look at five of your best images from the morning session. We will process a few of my images in Photoshop after converting them in DPP. That followed by Instructor Nap Time.

A $499 non-refundable deposit is required to hold you spot. The balance, $600 will be due on February 7, 2015. Please click here to read our cancellation policy. Then please print, read, and sign the necessary paperwork here and send it to us.

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Support the BAA Blog. Support the BAA Bulletins: Shop B&H here!

We want and need to keep providing you with the latest free information, photography and Photoshop lessons, and all manner of related information. Show your appreciation by making your purchases immediately after clicking on any of our B&H or Amazon Affiliate links in this blog post. Remember, B&H ain’t just photography!

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Many kind folks from north of the border, eh, have e-mailed stating that they would love to help us out by using one of our affiliate links but that living in Canada and doing so presents numerous problems. Now, they can help us out by using our Amazon Canada affiliate link by starting their searches by clicking here. Many thanks to those who have written.

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 :).