Surviving the Cold Wet Blizzard; Was it Worth It? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Surviving the Cold Wet Blizzard; Was it Worth It?

And The Streak Continues…

After a morning of tree and scenic photography with too much sun, we returned to Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary in hopes of clouds as the wind direction was perfect. We got off to another slow start but the action developed quickly and stayed hot for several hours. How good was it? Denise Ippolito created 2,345 images in five hours.

This post marks 80 straight days with a new educational blog post, a record by far that should be extended for at least another day or so, or not. Or more…. It appears that our lodge has great internet. To show your appreciation for my efforts here, we ask that use our B&H and Amazon affiliate links for all of your B&H and Amazon purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store. We sell only what I use and 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.

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Today’s blog post took 2 1/2 hours to prepare. Enjoy. With more snow tomorrow we are sleeping in with breakfast at 8am,


The group and the leaders in the early morning remnants of the blizzard. From back left to right clockwise: Lex Franks, Malcolm MacKenzie, Srdjan Mitrovic, Debbie Franks, Paul McKenzie, Pat & Alan Lillich, Zorica Kovacevic, Denise Ippolito, and yours truly.

The Blizzard

Be careful what you wish for; you just may get it. We awoke on February 16 to ten inches of soft snow with a stiff northwest wind blowing the stuff sideways. We were all dressed and ready to leave when our guide announced that all roads were closed. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and then got dressed again to leave at 8:30 only to learn that our guide had gone scouting and “would be back in a while.” In the meantime the snow continued to pile up.

Finally at about 10:30am we got dressed for a third time and drove the 5 minutes to the Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary. There were three very distant cranes that were visible at times through the white out. The cameras could not focus. We hung around for several hours and the storm subsided just a bit. Red-crowned Cranes began to arrive in numbers. With the continued heavy snow getting autofocus to lock on was difficult. Properly exposed, the images on the rear LCDs looked just like the whiteout. But fun we had.

For hours. By about 3:30 most of us quit soaking wet and shivering cold. Paul and Alan & Pat stayed on and enjoyed another great hour.


This image was created on Day 4 of the Japan in Winter IPT with the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens (hand held at 45mm) and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2 1/3 stops at 1:03pm: 1/500 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode. AWB.

Central sensor/AI Servo/Surround Rear Focus AF on the nearest crane and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy the larger version.

The Pano

For the image above I created the lazy man’s pano, using a wide angle lens and then cropping. Absolutely perfect technique would have called for using the tripod-mounted 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, creating six or seven verticals, and stitching them together in Photoshop.


This Red-crowned Crane flight image was created during the Day 4 blizzard on the Japan in Winter 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 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2 stops off the white sky: 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. Color temperature: Custom Pre-set.

Central sensor/AI Servo/Surround Rear Focus AF fell squarely on the bird’s right ankle (the visible leg joint) 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.

White on White

Again, the properly exposed RAW file for the image above looked completely washed out. Many in the group could not believe that creating a work of art from the RAW file would be quick and easy. I will share the image optimization technique with you here soon.

Was it Worth It?

In your opinion, was it worth it staying out in the blizzard?


Images copyright 2012: Denise Ippoltio & Arthur Morris. Card design by Denise Ippolito. Click on the image to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

Holland 2014 7 1/2-Day/8-Night: A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART/Tulips & A Touch of Holland IPT. April 17-April 24, 2014: $4995 Limit: 12/Openings: 5

Act soon: this trip is a go and is filling quickly.

Join Denise Ippolito, Flower Queen and the author of “Bloomin’ Ideas,” and Arthur Morris, Canon Explorer of Light Emeritus and one of the planet’s premier photographic educators for a great trip to Holland in mid-April 2014. Day 1 of the IPT will be April 17, 2014. We will have a short afternoon get-together and then our first photographic session at the justly-famed Keukenhof. Most days we will return to the hotel for lunch, image sharing and a break. On Day 8, April 24, we will enjoy both morning and afternoon photography sessions.

The primary subjects will be tulips and orchids at Keukenhof and the spectacularly amazing tulip, hyacinth, and daffodil bulb fields around Lisse. In addition we will spend one full day in Amsterdam. There will be optional visits the Van Gogh Museum in the morning and the Anne Frank House in the afternoon; there will be plenty of time for street photography as well. And some great food. On another day we will have a wonderful early dinner at Kinderdijk and then head out with our gear to photograph the windmills and possibly some birds for those who bring their longs lenses. We will spend an afternoon in the lovely Dutch town of Edam where we will do some street photography and enjoy a superb dinner. All lodging, ground transportation, entry fees, and meals (from dinner on Day 1 through dinner on Day 7) are included. For those who will be bringing a big lens we will likely have an optional bird photography afternoon or two.

Click here for additional info or to register.


Join me for the 2014 Tanzania Summer Safari!

2014 Tanzania Summer Safari, 14-day African Adventure/leave the US on August 9. Fly home on August 24: $12,999.

Co-leaders Todd Gustafson & Arthur Morris. The limit is 12. Three photographers/van; you get your own row of seats. Our trip is a bit more expensive than the average safari for good reason. It is the best. We have the best driver guides with a total of decades of experience. They have been trained over the years by Todd and by me to drive with photography in mind. We have the best and most knowledgeable leaders. We stay in the best lodges and camps. We hope that you will join us for what will be Todd’s 35th African safari, and my 8th.

If you are seriously interested please e-mail me; I will be glad to send you the illustrated PDF with the complete itinerary and deposit info.

What else makes this expedition unique?

•Pre-trip consultation and camera equipment advice
•Award-winning photographers as your guides
•A seamless itinerary visiting the right locations at the best time of year
•Hands-on photography instruction in the field
•Specially designed three roof-hatch photo safari vehicles
•Proprietary materials for preparation, including free copy of “A Photographer’s Guide to Photographing in East Africa.”
•Post-safari image critiques

All-inclusive (double-occupancy) except for your flights to and from Kilamajaro Airport, bar drinks, soda & water (except at the Intimate Tented Camp where everything is free for our entire stay), tips for drivers and camp staff, personal items, and trip insurance.


Breathe deeply, bite the bullet, and live life to its fullest; we all get only one ride on the merry-go-round… Join me on this great trip.

Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

The Southern Ocean…

If you would like to explore the possibility of joining me on the Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris Antarctica/The Extended Expedition Voyage< trip: Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and Falkland Islands: December 13, 2014 to January 10, 2015, click here for additional information and then shoot me an e-mail.

The DPP RAW Conversion Guide

To learn why I use Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) to convert every image that I work on, click here.

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IPT Info

Many of our great trips are filling up. See especially info on the South Florida, Holland, and Nickerson Beach IPTs. Two great leaders on most trips ensure that you will receive individual attention, have all of your questions answered, and learn a ton including how to think like a pro, see the situation, and get the right exposure every time. In addition you will have fun, and make lots of great images. Click here for IPT details and general information.

17 comments to Surviving the Cold Wet Blizzard; Was it Worth It?

  • Was it worth it? To the many people who follow your posts, it was more than worth it! Thank you Artie for sharing all that you do, and showing that if you are not out there you won’t get the shot. 🙂

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks a stack Tony. Please remember that the best thanks is to visit the BAA Online store and/or to use one of our affiliate links 🙂

  • Alan Lillich

    Was it worth it? I could have gone home happy after that one day!

  • Ted Willcox

    Great group image. Spectacular flight image!! I love it!!

  • Gordon Lindsay

    I Like the group shot nice to recognise people in a blizzard Paul looks fully masked hiding from the snow very different from his normal trips to Africa.

  • Mark W.

    The second shot is superb….I get the shivers just looking at the first!!! BRRRRRRRRR

  • Hi Arthur, the pano and the lone crane in flight are superb…certainly worth going out and staying out in the inclement weather…when the weather turns nasty it is always a good idea to head outside with the camera 🙂

  • Artie, It was an amazing day of photography. One I won’t ever forget! The cranes are so beautiful and the snow adds so much! The second image is awesome and so is the last one! The group has been great :).

  • Artie, My thought on whether or not is was worth going out is simple: If you do not go out, you are guaranteed to get nothing; it you do go out, you may get something.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    As many who know me would suspect, I do not do much to protect the gear. The lenses with just a lens coat are normally fine in the snow. I did drape my extra expedition parka over the lens and put the hood over the camera body when I was not photographing. Folks used a variety of manufactured rain covers and RainCoats. I hate them all as they are too restrictive for me.

  • Conrad Bester

    Great tip in the group image, showing how to protect your gear with a plastic bag. 🙂

  • With those kind of conditions, what are you using to protect the camera body and lens? I think I count at least 4 different covers in the group photo.

    Thanks, Doug

    • BTW…2,345 images in five hours? Holy Moly! Was her
      finger frozen to the shutter button 🙂


    • Alan Lillich

      Denise, Pat and I used FotoSharp covers on the big telephotos. They are a great value, about $30, basically a tube with a velcroed slit along the side. This was mainly to cover the body when standing around. It is royal pain to get the viewfinder, the back of the camera, and all the buttons caked with snow. Once the birds arrived we pushed the back up to uncover the body. The bit of green you see by Paul’s head is a LensCoat cover. The bit of darker green on the right edge is a small jacket draped over a 300 hanging on the fence post. The plastic bags that Paul and Pat have are OpTech covers on Sigma 50-500 lenses, I think Zorica’s is on a Nikon 80-400.

      • Alan Lillich

        P.S. The dark green object in front of Malcolm is a banana-shaped hand-warmer/storage thingies. I’ve never seen one before, but it sure looked nice to have that day!