Black Skimmer Flight/So Many Lessons… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Black Skimmer Flight/So Many Lessons...


Today was mostly an off day but I did take an ice bath in the early afternoon. This blog post, which took me about 2 1/2 hours to assemble, is the 165th in a row. It was published just before 6:30am on Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charges a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few weeks we have sold nearly everything in sight. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the original 400mm IS DO lens have been dropping steadily. You can see the complete listings here. Do know that Steve Leimberg’s 400 DO sold instantly as predicted…. Todays items should sell quickly as well.

Price Reduction

Used Canon EF 100-400 f 4.5-5.6 L IS Lens

Price reduced a total of $300 on 6/22/2015!

Multiple IPT veteran Jack Panzeca is offering a used Canon EF 100-400 f 4.5-5.6 L IS lens in very good + condition for $699 including insured shipping via UPS Ground to US addresses only. The tripod collar has one small scratch. The sale includes the original tough fabric case, the original box, the front and rear caps, the lens hood, and the strap. Your gear will be shipped only after your check clears.

Please contact Jack via e-mail or by phone at 817 819 1756. Central Time Zone.

The 100-400 is a versatile intermediate telephoto zoom lens with 1,000+ uses. It makes a great starter lens especially for folks who do general nature and wildlife in addition to birds. I’ve sold 100s of images made with a 1-4 and denise loved hers for many years forsaking it only recently for the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. Jack’s 100-400 is priced to sell. artie

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This image was created on last August’s Nickerson Beach IPT with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops off the sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6. AWB.

61-Point Automatic Selection/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure and as you can see in the first screen capture below, failed miserably at getting an active AF point on the subject but yielded a sharp image anyway…. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Black Skimmer: adult returning to nest in beach grass

Black Skimmer Flight

With winds from the south or the west in the afternoons there are almost always lots of opportunities to photograph the skimmers in flight. Here I was sitting behind my lowered tripod in an effort to frame the birds just above the beach grass. Standing at full height for this image would have yielded a less intimate photo with a complete green background that would have been much more in focus (and much less pleasing) than the BKGR in today’s image. Do consider learning a ton about photographing beach nesting birds by joining me on the Nickerson Beach/JBWR(?) IPT this August. Scroll down for details.

dpp-4-scrn-capt-blk-skim title=

DPP 4 Screen Capture #1

61-Point Automatic Selection AF

Note that although 61-Point Automatic Selection AF seems to have failed miserably here–the active AF sensor (illuminated in red above) was nowhere near the bird, the resulting image was fairly sharp on the eye. I credit that in part to the great AF system of the 1D X and to my personalized Custom Case 3 settings that are designed to keep AF tracking accurately even when the active sensor (whether caused by AF system error as here, or by human error and frailties, as is often the case). To learn my Custom Case 3 settings and everything else that you need to know about AF with the 1d X, you are directed to our EOS-1D X Autofocus Guide.

Our User’s Guides for both the 7D II and the 5D III contain the same information. You can check them both out by scrolling down here.

DPP 4 Screen Capture #1

Note here that before any adjustments were made, with the cursor on what I accurately perceived as the brightest WHITEs,that the RGB values read 247, 232, 198. As this image was made late in the afternoon the RED value was too high for my tastes and the WHITEs were somewhat lacking in fine feather detail.

DPP 4 Adjustments

First I chose the RAW conversion recipe for “1D X ISO 400 “by going Edit > Read and paste recipe from file (as first suggested in a comment by someone here; many thanks!) Then I dragged the Fine Tune slider to the left away from the warm RED and YELLOW tones; though this is something that I do only rarely it worked like a charm here. Then I moved the Brightness slider to the left to -1.7, moved the Highlight slider one to the left to -1, and moved the Shadow slider one to the right to +1. Then Command D to convert.


DPP 4 Screen Capture #2

DPP 4 Screen Capture #2

Here we see the Before and After Preview windows in DPP 4. Note that DPP 4 easily eliminated all the vignetting, the darkened corners of the frame caused by using a super-telephoto lens at the wide open aperture. In addition, you can clearly see that my work on color balance was quite effective: though the light still looks sweet the RED and YELLOW color casts have been removed and the color looks much more natural. Note also the truer, bluer sky.


You can order your copy of “The Photographers’ Guide to Canon Digital Photo Professional 4.0” (aka the DPP 4 Raw Conversion eGuide) by Arash Hazeghi and Arthur Morris by clicking here.

The DPP 4 eGuide (PDF)

Learn how and why I and many other discerning photographers choose and use only DPP 4 to convert their Canon RAW files in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly. The latest version supports all of the newer Canon camera bodies and several older models including the EOS-7D and the EOS-1D Mark IV. The DPP IV Guide is the ideal companion to the 7D Mark II User’s Guide, a runaway best seller.


The strange thing is that when I lived in New York, I never knew about this amazing and consistently productive location.

Nickerson Beach/JBWR (possibly…)/Black Skimmer/Oystercatcher/migrant shorebird IPT: August 13-16, 2015. 3 1/2 DAYS: $1399.

Meet and greet on the evening of WED August 12. Limit 10/Openings 5.

Most of our seven photo sessions will be spent at Nickerson beach photographing the nesting Black Skimmers. In flight, sometimes battling. Carrying fish. Chicks of varying sizes from a very few just-hatched to lots of fledglings. It is likely that we will get to see some Great Black-backed Gulls preying on the juvenile skimmers. They swallow them whole. There will be lots of gulls to photograph as well as some Common Terns. Locally breeding shorebird species include American Oystercatcher–pretty much guaranteed, Willet, which is likely, and Piping Plover, which is probable but we need to get lucky with those to get close….

Save a space by calling Jim or Jen at the office and arranging to leave your deposit of $499. I hope to see you there.



If local conditions are ideal we may visit Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to photograph southbound migrant shorebirds on one or possibly two mornings. Even if we do not visit JBWR we should get some good chances with the migrant shorebirds at the beach, especially Sanderling and Semipalmated Plover. Red Knot and others are possible.


As you can see, the oystercatchers are quite tame at Nickerson. And we will get you up early and we will stay out late.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge In-the-field Instructional Photo Workshop/Scouting Session. August 12, 2015. Morning only: $250. Cheap!

The tide will be pretty good at the East Pond…. If I learn that conditions there are un-photographable we will do Nickerson Beach as a back-up. This will work either as an add-on for out of town folks coming for the IPT above or as a stand alone session. Either way, you will, as always, learn a ton. And we might even get some good images.


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11 comments to Black Skimmer Flight/So Many Lessons…

  • Great image Guru. I remember one of your outstanding shots of this gorgeous seabird skimming on water surface. Cannot erase that from memory.

    In that image also you showed the appropriate focusing point that made the shot so stunning.

    Thanks for sharing all these.

  • It’s nice to teach the teacher for a change 🙂 I wont be able to make Lake Kerkini but I am on the Farnes early part of next week, so it would be good to bump into you both there.

  • avatar Jim Amato

    Is there a Nikon tool like DPP 4?
    Does Nikon have such an item?

    Thank you. Jim Amato

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Jim,

      Yes. Nikon Capture NX 2. It will cost you though. DPP 4 is free for folks with a (qualified) Canon camera serial #. artie

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Wonderful image. I’m getting excited about the upcoming IPT at Nickerson! As for the AF point, I find similar at times with my 7D2. Sometimes I use the center AF point with spot AF, when I’m photographing small birds in busy backgrounds, and then a bigger bird flies by and I just fire away before I have time to change the settings. Even when the center AF point isn’t on the bird, and even though single point spot AF is the worst possible choice for flying birds, I sometimes get quite sharp images.

    • avatar Scott B

      David, I hope to see you at Nickerson!

      I shoot most of the time with Single Point Spot AF, but usually in wooded areas with my 7DII where I need pinpoint focus between leaves and branches. I am going to try Single Point AF more for my birds on the beach and see how things turn out.

      Perhaps Artie will break me of all my bad photography habits and maybe even give me some new ones during the Nickerson IPT.

      • avatar David Policansky

        Scott B: I look forward to meeting you and all the other participants. The lack of single point spot AF is a deal-breaker for me, and the main reason I never considered the 70D as a replacement for my aging 7D. I use it a lot (too much). But it gives you slower AF than any other mode and less ability to track moving subjects than any other mode. I’m not sure I’d use it much on a beach for any birds bigger than least terns and piping plovers, although it would depend on the situation. Artie will break you (and me!) of many bad habits and instill many good new ones if we listen to him. 🙂 He has made me a far better photographer than I was before.

  • “First I chose the RAW conversion recipe for “1D X ISO 400 “by going Edit > Read and paste recipe from file (as first suggested in a comment by someone here; many thanks!)”

    Any time Artie 🙂

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Much appreciated. I am here to learn too! later and love and thanks again, a

      ps: you suggestion saves me lots of time!

      pps: you should join denise and me at Lake Kerkini in Greece!