The #1 Reason Not to Join a BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT). Or not… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The #1 Reason Not to Join a BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT). Or not...

What’s Up?

Denise and I woke way early this morning–Monday, July 4, to see four of the participants off to EDI, the airport at Edinburgh, Scotland. Two more depart at 7am. Four of the participants are staying on with us to do another afternoon on the gannet boat today and a hoped-for Bass Rock landing on Tuesday. The latter requires relatively calm sea conditions. I fly back to Orlando on Wednesday, July 6.

I started work on this blog post at about 4am on Monday morning. I hope to take a short nap when I am done.

Nickerson Beach Terns/Skimmers/Oystercatchers Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT): July 18-22, 2016. 4 1/2 DAYS: $1899. Limit 10/Openings 6.

Meet and greet at 3pm on the afternoon of Monday, July 18.

Please e-mail for repeat customer or couples discount info, or for info on a 3-day option.

With only four folks signed up, learning situations will abound. The primary subject species on this IPT will be the nesting Common Terns and Black Skimmers. The trip is timed so that we will get to photograph tiny tern chicks as well as fledglings. There will be lots of flight photography including adults flying with baitfish. Creating great images of the chicks being fed will be a huge challenge. In addition to the terns we will get to photograph lots of Black Skimmers courting, setting up their nesting territories, and in flight (both singles and large pre-dawn flocks blasting off). Midair battles are guaranteed on sunny afternoons. And with luck, we might even see a few tiny skimmer chicks toward the end of the trip. We will also get to photograph the life cycle of American Oystercatcher. This will likely include nests with eggs and tiny chicks, young being fed, and possibly a few fledglings.

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks a totally insane, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, makes-no-sense, 239 days in a row with a new educational blog post. And I still have dozens of new topics to cover; there should be no end in sight until my big South America trip next fall. As always-–and folks have been doing a really great job recently–-please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. For best results use one of our many product-specific links; after clicking on one of those you can continue shopping with all subsequent purchases invisibly tracked to BAA. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated. Please remember: web orders only. AND Please remember also that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the new BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


This image was created the gannet boat on Day 4 of the 2016 Puffins and Gannets IPT by Bill Hedges with the hand held Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens (at 70mm) and the still amazing Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 500. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode. AWB.

Image #1: Northern Gannet getting ready to dive.
Image courtesy of and copyright 2016: Bill Hedges

The #1 Reason Not to Join a BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT)

The #1 reason not to join a BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT): I would not learn much. There is not much about bird photography that artie could teach me. I am already a competent or even an excellent bird photographer. At least that is what most folks think…

Gannet Boat Thoughts…

When I woke early at Seahouses on Thursday morning I had hopes for a great day on the gannet boat: even though the wind was from the west, it was cloudy to the east. But as we drove up the A1 to Dunbar, the skies cleared and I knew instantly that unless we got some heavy cloud cover that it would be pretty much impossible to create the classic soft light images of kiting and diving gannets. Wind against sun is that bad if you understand why…

Both in the big van, and then again on the dock, and then again on the one hour boat ride to the gannets, I explained the difficulties of photographing the gannets in wind against sun conditions, and explained that the very best images would be of kiting gannets getting ready to dive with the light coming through their secondary feathers. Everyone listened. Once the action started, I found that working in Av mode at +1/3 stop (at ISO 400) when the sun was out provided a workable solution. When the sun went behind a cloud I would go to + 1 2/3 stops at ISO 800. Co-leader Denise Ippolito on the other hand worked in Manual mode as she almost always does and explained the fine points of her techniques to those who also opted to do the same. Our big problem was that the light was changing so quickly that most everyone got a few bad exposures.


Bill Hedges, apparently concerned about getting pooped on 🙂

Image copyright 2016: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

From various conversations with participant Bill Hedges, an IPT virgin

Bill Hedges, a Brit, is a retired self-employed IT consultant from Dorset, UK. After following the blog for three years he signed up for his first IPT because he wanted to learn, and because of the relative convenience of travel to a UK destination.

On Thursday evening, he said, I can’t believe it; I feel that my bird photography has improved 100% in three days.

I asked him to expound. He said,

When I arrived, I had been working in Av mode 99% of the time when doing bird photography and of course, half of my exposures with birds in flight were not good. After a chat with Artie at breakfast that first morning, and some in-the-field instruction from Denise later that day, I got it and resolved to shoot in manual mode from then on. By the end of the first day, I was working comfortably in manual mode and making consistently good exposures. I was getting at least some data in the fifth box with no blinkies on the bird. So simple.

One thing that I really wanted to learn was to see the good situations. I did that in short order too. Background, background, background, and see the distant background. Watch the frame edges. Watch out for unusually light or dark areas in the frame. In short, attention to detail. I learned about isolating a subject either with focal length or by changing my position. I learned the importance of getting close. Before the IPT I used to just snap away and then crop out all the background junk.

One fine point that I learned is the importance of seeing the puffin’s feet. That first day, most every image that I created had the puffin’s feet cut off by a rock. Not any more. And I learned a lot about flight photography, about the relationship between wind direction and the direction and the quality of light. And about the importance of choosing a location for flight photography; both Denise and Artie consistently put us in the exact perfect spots to succeed with the incoming puffins. As a result, I got some great images. In a week I learnt what might have taken me a year on my own.

Or not…

Regular readers here–even those who have never been on an IPT–know that I am often aghast when I see folks with five or ten or even twenty thousand dollars worth of photo gear in the field who have absolutely no clue as to how to make a good image. The location does not matter. I see it at Fort DeSoto and at the gator rookeries in Florida, on the beaches of Long Island, on the cliffs of LaJolla, at Bosque, and most recently, on the seabird islands off of Seahouses, UK. It is easiest to tell on sunny days when folks are pointing their lenses in pretty much every direction and working down sun angle only on rare occasion, that almost always by accident. But even on cloudy days there are dozens of clues as to who has no clue. I see folks that do not know how to hand hold their lenses. I see folks obviously working from the wrong perspective. I often see folks working obviously hopeless situations. And whenever I get a peek at someone’s rear LCD when they are reviewing an image, I usually learn that either they are not looking at the correct view–one that shows the thumbnail and both histograms and also flashing highlights or that they have no clue as to how to get the right exposure…

Whether you are a green bird photography rookie or an experienced nature photographer, do understand that you can and will learn a ton by joining a BIRDS AS ART IPT.


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

2017 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT
Monday July 3 through Monday July 10, 2017: $5999: Limit 10 photographers — Openings: 6). Two great leaders: Arthur Morris and BPN co-owner, BPN Photography Gear Forum Moderator, and long-time BAA Webmaster Peter Kes.

Here are the plans: take a red eye from the east coast of the US on July 2 and arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland on the morning of Monday July 3 no later than 10am (or simply meet us then 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 one of three gorgeous modern country cottages.

There are five days of planned puffin/seabird trips and one morning of gannet photography, all weather permitting of course. In three years we have yet to miss an entire day because of weather… In addition, we will enjoy several sessions of photographing nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes at eye level.


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

The Details

We will get to photograph Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, Razorbill, Shag, and Northern Gannet; Arctic, Sandwich, and Common Terns, the former with chicks of all sizes; Black-headed, Lesser-Black-backed, and Herring Gulls, many chasing puffins with fish; Black-legged Kittiwake with chicks. We will be staying in upscale country-side lodging that are beyond lovely with large living areas and lots of open space for the informal image sharing and Photoshop sessions. The shared rooms are decent-sized, each with a private bathroom. See the limited single supplement info below.

All breakfasts, lunches and dinners are included. All 5 puffins boat lunches will need to be prepared by you 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.

If you wish to fly home on the morning of Monday July 10 we will get you to the airport. Please, however, consider the following tentative plans: enjoy a second Gannet boat trip on the afternoon of Monday July 10 and book your hotel room in Dunbar. If all goes as planned, those who stay on for the two extra days will make a morning landing at Bass Rock, one of the world’s largest gannetries. We will get everyone to the airport on the morning of Wednesday July 12. (We may opt to stay in Edinburgh on the night of July 11.) Price and details should be finalized at least six months before the trip but you will need to be a bit patient. It would be ideal if I can get all the work done by the end of September so that folks can arrange their flights then.


Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version. Scroll down to join us in the UK in 2016.

Deposit Info

If you are good to go sharing a room–couples of course are more than welcome–please send your non-refundable $2,000/person deposit check now to save a spot. Please be sure to check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below. Your balance will be due on March 29, 2017. 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 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. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

Please shoot me an e-mail if you are good to go or if you have any questions.

Single Supplement Deposit Info

Single supplement rooms are available on a limited basis. To ensure yours, please register early. The single supplement fee is $1575. If you would like your own room, please request it when making your deposit and include payment in full for the single supplement; your single supplement deposit check should be for $3,575. As we will need to commit to renting the extra space, single supplement deposits are non-refundable so please be sure that check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for big international trips is highly recommended as we never know what life has in store for us. I strongly recommend that you purchase quality insurance. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to include things such as sudden work or family obligation and even a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check of running your credit card. Whenever purchasing travel insurance be sure to read the fine print careful even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.

This trip has sold out far in advance every year so do not tarry. I hope that you can join me.

Please Remember to use our Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, 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, and for everything else in the new store, 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 those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store as well.


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8 comments to The #1 Reason Not to Join a BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT). Or not…

  • David Policansky

    Lovely shot, Bill Hedges. Did you have/use/or miss a longer lens?

  • Patrick Sparkman

    Great capture Bill. Like Kerry, I love seeing the bones through the wings, and that little feather on a toothpick tail really adds. If you have the space around the bird, a counter clockwise rotation might give a nice diagonal effect to the wings.

  • Ted Willcox

    Great Image Bill, I like the way the bird has cocked his head.

  • Wtlloyd

    Wide-angle flight photography!

    “you gotta love it!” 🙂

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thought of you often. We had more puffins with fish than ever 🙂

      later and love, a

  • Kerry Morris

    AWESOME shot Bill-
    and with a 24-70!!!
    the face is super sharp too.
    Love the sun coming through the wings; it nearly looks like you can see the bird’s bones!
    Also, the lone feather sticking out of the tail is very cute!

  • Joel Eade

    Artie….you should have been higher or lower so the horizon wouldn’t cut through Bill’s head 🙂
    Looks like you had a fun group. Joel