Death and Life in Contrast… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Death and Life in Contrast...

The Streak Continues: 228

This post was published just before 5:00am from Rockville, Center, Long Island, NY as I get ready for the second morning of the Nickerson Baby Beach Nesting Birds IPT. I was in bed by 8:30pm last night and have been wide awake since just after 3:00am with dull aches in my left knee and my right shoulder. :). This post, which took me about 2 hours to prepare, marks 228 consecutive days with a new educational blog post. With so many folks getting in the habit of using our B&H links and our Amazon logo-links, why quit now? April, May, June, and July have been fantastic as lots of folks are getting the message; using my affiliate links does not cost you a penny and helps support my efforts here. To show your appreciation, I do ask that you use our B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. 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 and tested, and know that you can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know the tools that 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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This image was created on the first morning of the Nickerson Baby Beach Nesting Birds IPT with the hand held Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens , the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter) (at 168mm), and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/250 sec. at f/16 in Av mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the base of the bird’s bill was active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version.


Does the image above make you feel sad? Why or why not? Feel free to rate the degree of sadness that you feel on a scale of from 0 to 10 with 0 being not sad at all to 10 being sad to the point of tears. Don’t be shy about sharing your feelings.

Thanks to multiple IPT participant Dave Klein for finding this dead Common Tern chick and sharing it with me as we straggled and I struggled back to the car after a great first morning shooting session in the face of a 60% chance of rain forecast. We enjoyed foggy and cloudy bright conditions. And everyone learned a ton about exposure.


This image was also created on the first morning of the Nickerson Baby Beach Nesting Birds IPT, this one 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 Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2 stops: 1/250 sec. at f/10 in Av mode. Cloudy White Balance.

Central Sensor (by necessity)/AI Servo-Expand/Rear Focus AF on the chick’s neck was active at the moment of exposure. When you add the 2X TC to an f/4 lens with the 1DX or the 5D III you need to remember to hit the MFn button to switch to expand and benefit from having four additional AF sensors activated. You can learn everything there is to know about the 1D X and 5D III AF systems including how to manage the various AF Area Selection Modes, when to use which one, my Custom Case for photographing birds in flight and in action, and several ways to move the AF sensor around in the 1D X AF Guide and the 5D Mark III User’s Guide. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version. .

Fill flash at -2 stops with a Better Beamer on the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT with the Canon CP-E4 Compact Battery Pack for faster re-charging times. Mongoose Integrated Flash Arm with the Canon OC-E3 Off Camera Shoe Cord 3.

Life and Death…

The line between surviving and dying for the offspring of beach nesting birds is a fine one. In some years fish crows decimate both eggs and small chicks. And life is very tough for terns that do hatch. There are often several hungry siblings to feed. The adult tern parents are accosted by both Laughing Gulls and other terns while flying back to the chicks with fish. Laughing, Herring, and Great Black-backed Gulls are all willing and eager to gobble up chicks of all sizes. And I think that Ghost Crabs and feral cats take their toll as well. Death from exposure to hard rain and the accompanying cold claims many tern chicks and fledglings as well.

The Strongest?

Which of the two images here do you think is the more powerful one, “In Death” or “In Life?” Please let us know why you made your choice.

Hard to Believe

In yesterday’s blog post here, there was nothing significant done to either image in Photoshop. In fact, the second image is pretty much pixel for pixel as it came out of camera. Though I generally prefer the tight head portraits, in this case, I far preferred the wider environmental view. And I sort of like the out-of-focus bill of a second puffin…. I responded to many of the comments.


Denise and artie hope that you can join them next spring in Holland and learn to improve both the technical and creative aspects of your flower (and street) photography.

7 1/2-Day/8-Night: A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART/Tulips & A Touch of Holland Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT)

Keukenhof—Delft—Amsterdam–Flower Fields—Kinderdijk
April 9 -April 16, 2015: $4995. Limit: 12 photographers/Openings 10. Four more to make the trip a go.

This trip needs 6 registrants to run so please do not purchase your plane tickets until you hear from us that the trip is a go.

Join Denise Ippolito, the author of “Bloomin’ Ideas,” and Arthur Morris, Canon Explorer of Light Emeritus, for a great trip to Holland in mid-April 2015. Day 1 of the IPT will be April 9, 2015. We will have a short afternoon get-together and then our first photographic session at the justly-famed Keukenhof. Our last day, Day 8, April 16 will be a full day of photography.

The primary subjects will be tulips and orchids at Keukenhof and the spectacularly amazing tulip, hyacinth, and daffodil bulb fields around Lisse and points north. We will spend one full day in Amsterdam. There will be optional visits to the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House and/or the Rijk’s Museum. Street photography and sightseeing will be other options. We will spend a half day at Kinderdijk where we will be photographing the windmills and doing some creative photography. We will spend an afternoon in the lovely Dutch town of Delft where we will do some street photography and shopping. There is an optional church tower tour/climb. We will also enjoy a superb fine dining experience in a traditional restaurant.

Other than the arrival date: April 9, Day 1, and the date of our last day of photography on April 16, Day 8, there is no set itinerary. We will check the weather and play everything by ear to maximize the photographic opportunities. We will try to do Amsterdam, Delft, and especially Kinderdijik, on cloudy days.

There are several huge pluses to this trip. First off, denise is an amazingly skilled and caring instructor. Both her creativity and her willingness to share and to help beginning and intermediate photographers are unmatched. And though artie has learned a ton about flower photography from denise, their styles and techniques do vary considerably. You will have a chance to be counseled by and to learn from both of them. While denise will hunt you down to help you, artie’s teaching style is more “the closer you stay to me, the more you will learn.” Both leaders consistently inspire the participants. And each other. The sky, of course, is the limit.

You will learn to create tight abstracts, how best to use depth-of-field (or the lack thereof) to improve your flower photography, how to get the right exposure and make sharp images every time, how to see the best shot, and how to choose the best perspective for a given situation. And you will of course learn to create a variety of pleasingly blurred flower images. If you bring a long lens, you will learn to use it effectively for flower photography. Denise’s two favorite flower lenses are the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens and the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. Mine are the Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro , the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM lens ,and the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, all almost always on a tripod. Often with extension tubes and/or either the 1.4X or the 2X (with the 300 II) teleconverters. Denise hand holds a great deal of the time. For flower field blurs denise uses the same lenses mentioned above along with her new 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III lens. Artie’s favorite is that same 70-200 often with a 1.4X TC but he uses both the new Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens and the 300 II as well. Both of us use and love the Canon EOS 5D Mark IIIfor all of our flower photography. The in-camera HDR and Multiple Exposure features are a blast.

One of the great advantages of our trip is that we will be staying in a single, strategically located hotel that is quite excellent. Do note that all ground transfers to and from Schipol Airport will be via the free hotel shuttle bus.

What’s included: Eight hotel nights. All ground transportation except for airport transfers as noted above. In-the-field instruction and small group image review and Photoshop sessions. All meals from dinner on Day 1 through dinner on Day 8. There is good food at the hotel and we will be dining there on occasion; whenever you order off the menu be it at the hotel or at another restaurant only the cost of your main course is included. On these occasions the cost of soups, appetizers, salads, sodas and other beverages, alcoholic drinks and wine, bottled water, and desserts are not included. Snacks, personal items, phone calls, etc. are also not included. The cost of bus or train transportation to and from Amsterdam (about $20 US), museum entry, and tower and church entry fees (optional) are likewise not included.

Beware of seemingly longer, slightly less expensive tours that include travel days and days sitting in the hotel doing nothing as part of the tour. In addition, other similar trips have you changing hotels often and needlessly. One final note on other similar trips: the instructors on this trip actually instruct. On other similar trips the instructors, though usually imminently qualified, serve for the most part as van drivers and van door openers.

A non-refundable deposit of $1,000 per person is required to hold your spot. The second payment of $2,000 due by October 30, 2014. The balance is due on January 15, 2015. Payments in full are of course welcome at any time. All payments including the deposit must be by check made out to “Arthur Morris.” As life has a way of throwing an occasional curve ball our way, you are urged to purchase travel insurance within 15 days of our cashing your check. Artie uses and recommends Travel Insurance Services. All payments are non-refundable unless the trip fills to capacity. In that case, all payments but your deposit will be refunded. If the trip does not run every penny will of course be refunded. Again, please do not purchase your air tickets until you hear from us that the trip is a go. We are very confident that it will.

All checks should be made out to “Arthur Morris” and sent to: Arthur Morris, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. Call Jim or Jen in the BAA office with any additional registration questions: 863-692-0906.

For couples or friends signing up at the same time for the tulip trip, a $200/duo discount will be applied to the final payment.

When you send your deposit check, please print, sign, and include the paperwork here.

If you have any questions on the trip please contact artie by e-mail or denise by e-mail.

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6 comments to Death and Life in Contrast…

  • I found #2 to be the more compelling image as it conveyed a sense of fragility that the first image did not. First image did not move me in terms of sadness but rather struck me that there was a circle of feathers around the submerged bird that I interpreted as a metaphor for the circle of life. Also would like to comment on the post by Denny Pritchett regarding the mountain bluebirds to say that I agree w/ all the 10’s that he mentioned.

  • Denny Pritchett

    Probably a 5 out of 10. It seems the bird has met a natural end. I flew bush in Newfoundland and Labrador in the late sixties, and the waste of life that I witnessed during hunting season far out-weighed this. To fly hunters into the wild, and pick them up a week later, seeing the stacks of butchered moose and caribou left on the beach to rot, because all the hunters wanted were the trophy heads, that was a 10.

    I have been photographing mountain bluebirds during their cycle of reproduction near the foothills of the Rockies for 6 years. These birds nest in boxes built and installed on ranch fence posts, by volunteers. These birds were on the endangered list in Alberta till a movement to help them was started by one man, back in the fifties. They’re thriving now. However, one rainy day about 3 weeks ago I was visiting the area where I photograph the birds. I decided to drive up a side road I had never explored. On my way back to the road that contains the nest boxes, I saw an SUV parked beside one of my favourites, due to the good background available. As I drove over the rise, I saw a man standing by the fence. It seemed that when he saw me, he rushed into his vehicle and sped off, gravel flying. I drove to the nest box site, and realised it was gone. Looking around, I saw it lying about 10 yards inside the barbed-wire fence, inaccessible. I examined the post, and backing to which the box had been attached, and it was obvious that a force much greater than nature had ripped it off. The parents weren’t around, so I assumed it had been done earlier. The young were within a week of fledging. I looked around a bit more, then drove up the road in the direction the suv had gone. As I topped a hill, I saw the SUV again, stopped by another nest box. Again there was a man outside the vehicle, standing beside the nest box. I floored it, and he jumped in his vehicle again and sped off down the road and onto the main 4-lane highway. There wasn’t any damage that I could see, but I reported what I had seen to the volunteer group that was monitoring the nests all spring and summer. That was also a 10.

    • Deirdre Sheerr-Gross

      Thanks Denny… for standing up for the birds..

      When nature preys on itself.. to sustain itself… it is the way.

      When man destroys nature for the sake of his” ego… it makes me sick.

  • Aendru

    It is pointless to feel sadness about reality. So, on the sadness scale I am @ 0. Birth, life & death is the way of the universe.
    Both images convey a life stage & consequently are equally good. However, the second image conveys hope & possibility & I prefer it for that reason.

  • Julie Orr

    Seeing the aftermath, witnessing in real time, watching on a documentary….we understand logically that death is a part of life. But emotionally it is still hard to deal with. I try to see the big picture…but it’s not always easy. I root for the elk being pursued by the wolf in Yellowstone and the seal being charged by the killer whale, realistically knowing that the wolf and whale have to eat to survive. Heavy sigh……I sum it up just the way I tell my grandson when he asks the hard questions, “Because that’s the way God intended it to be.”

  • Just seeing a picture – 5/6
    Being there to see it – 7/8