Pelican Variety: The Spice of La Jolla « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Pelican Variety: The Spice of La Jolla


I was thrilled to learn that Greg Morris sold his Canon 600 II for $8,999.99 this week. In addition, Allen Dale sold his Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens (the original version) in very good to excellent condition for the BAA record-low price of $3399.00 in early May and Gary Meyer sold his Canon EF 24-105 f/4L IS Lens (the original version) in mint condition privately in early May for the BAA record-low price of $447.00; he kindly sent me a check for 2 1/2% as per the Items for Sale agreement..

Please remember that you can help support my efforts here on the blog simply by clicking on the Amazon logo-link on the right for even the smallest purchases; make it a habit!

All is good; no sympathy needed please

Ten days ago I felt some mild back pain on my left side as I got into bed early. I woke in three hours and realized that I was passing a kidney stone. The pain woke me at times that night and the next three as well. I arranged for a stone protocol CT scan. That showed a 5mm stone stuck in the ureter just outside the left kidney. Then, strangely, I had no pain for three days. I was fine when I fell asleep last Friday evening. I woke with severe pain at 1:30am and stuck it out for 2 hours. It got worse so I called 911 and wound up in an ambulance (as a patient) for the first time in my life. Treatment in the ER at Lake Wales hospital was quick and effective as I had my first ever shot of morphine. They sent me home at 8:30am with some muscle relaxants and pain meds. I used them only for 24 hours as I felt zero pain. I was scheduled to have the stone blasted at ORMC on Tuesday afternoon. On Monday Jim drove me up to Clermont for an X-ray and a visit to the surgeon. He looked at the x-ray and said, “I think that I see the stone in the same spot.” I said, “I’d much rather be sure. Please have your staff call the radiology lab and arrange for a second (far more accurate) CT scan. The tentative plan was for me to have the surgery on Tuesday afternoon unless the scan showed that I had passed the stone.

Jim and I stopped in Lake Wales for a nice dinner at L’Incontro. When I got home I got I checked my e-mail. There was one from the surgeon:

You passed your stone! It’s in your bladder. You will likely “spit” it out soon so the ureteral stone surgery is not necessary.

Apparently the morphine and the other drugs allowed the ureter to relax and the stone to pass (as had been suggested by Patrick Sparkman who has been there and done that).

I passed the stone on Tuesday morning and caught it in the strainer.

Important Request

As happens over time, folks become complacent. The blog is designed to be interactive, a place where you can learn rather than just look at pretty pictures. The more folks participate, the more everyone learns. In the Another Picture Within the Picture Quiz. An Exposure Question. And a Great New Workflow Tip blog post here, I asked,

In view of the fact that the histogram is not too, too bad — there is some data in the right-most (fifth) box — why are the chicks so badly underexposed?

Only Steve Wampler took a crack at it …


BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They went out of business. And e-Bay fees are now up to 13%. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please scroll down here or shoot us an e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly — I offer pricing advice to those who agree to the terms — usually sells in no time flat. Over the past year, we have sold many dozens of items. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 100-400, the old 500mm, the EOS-7D and 7D Mark II and the original 400mm DO lens have been dropping steadily. You can always see the current listings by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange-yellow menu bar near the top of each blog post page.

Nikon D850s Right Now!

D850s are at least 3 weeks back-ordered at B&H. I have helped several folks get a D850 in the past few days. Steve Elkins — see item next — has several on hand right now waiting for your phone call. From blog regular Gloria Matyszyk: My camera has shipped! Thanks for this great photography company connection!

Money Saving Reminder

If you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H, would enjoy free overnight shipping, and would like a $50 discount on your first purchase, click here to order and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If you are looking to strike a deal on Canon or Nikon gear (including the big telephotos) or on a multiple item order, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Patrick Sparkman saved $350 on a recent purchase!


Several folks on the DeSoto IPT used the Booking.Com link below, got great rates, and saved a handsome $25.00 in the process. If you too would like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and to earn a $25 reward on your first booking. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers whom I see in the field and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This image was created on a San Diego IPT on January 16, 2016. I used the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 286mm) and the EOS-1D X (now replaced by the blazingly fast Canon EOS-1D X Mark II.) ISO 800. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/250 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AWB at 10:27am on a rare cloudy day.

Two up from the center AF point/AI Servo/Expand AF was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was on the neck about two inches below and on the same plane as the bird’s eye.

Brown Pelican dark individual molting into breeding plumage

Pelican Variety: The Spice of La Jolla

For the past three decades year I have photographed the Pacific race of Brown Pelican at La Jolla, California. I have not gotten bored yet. First, because of the various of plumages: adult non-breeding, molting adult, full breeding adult, fresh juvenile, juvenile, and a variety of first and second year plumages. Even then there is tremendous variety in the different plumages caused in part by the timing of molt and in part by individual variation. In any case, learning about all the different plumages and photographing them is great fun. As for me, I cannot wait to get back.

As far as photography goes, you can throw in a practical kaleidoscope of backgrounds from pure, distant Pacific blue to green to CYAN water on cloudy days to shaded cliff BLACKS to pink/purple/blue pre-dawn skies and various shades of grays and browns.


If there is anything about this image that bugs you, please leave a comment. There is one thing that bugs me.

The San Diego Site Guide

Whether you are visiting San Diego for photography for the first time or live in the area and have done the pelicans many dozens of times, you will learn a ton by studying the San Diego Site Guide. Why spend days stumbling around when you can know exactly where and when to be depending on the wind direction and sky conditions? In addition to the pelican primer, there is great info on the best beaches for the gorgeous gulls, on Marbled Godwit, on the lower cliffs, Lesser Scaup, and Wood and Ring-necked Ducks as well.

Learn more or purchase your copy here.

San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects, including and especially the Pacific race of California Brown Pelican. With annual visits spanning more than four decades, I have lots of photographic experience there … Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

2019 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) SUN JAN 20, 2019 thru and including the morning session on THURS JAN 24: 4 1/2 days: $2099.

(Limit 10/Openings: 9)

Introductory Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; SAT JAN 19, 2019.

Please see the Dancing Grebe Morning Add-On Info below

Join me in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches; Brandt’s (nesting with eggs and possibly chicks) and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heermann’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others are possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the IPT cards, there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well. Not to mention a ton of excellent flight photography opportunities and instruction.

Please note: where permitted and on occasion, ducks and gulls will be attracted (or re-located) with offerings of grains and healthy breads.

Learning Exposure, Whether You Like It Or Not

Whether you like it or not, we will be beating the subject of exposure like a dead horse. In every new situation you will hear my thoughts on the exposure situation along with my thoughts on both Nikon and Canon histograms and the subject of blinkies. Whether you like it or not, you will learn to work in manual mode and to get the right exposure every time as long as a bird gives you ten seconds with the light constant.And you will learn what to do when the light is changing constantly. What you learn about exposure will be one of the great take-aways on every IPT.

Though the pelicans will be the stars of the show on this IPT, there will be many other handsome and captivating subjects in wonderful settings. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

It Ain’t Just Pelicans

With gorgeous subjects just sitting there waiting to have their pictures taken, photographing the pelicans on the cliffs is about as easy as nature photography gets. With the winds from the east almost every morning there is usually some excellent flight photography as well. And the pelicans are almost always doing something interesting: preening, scratching, bill pouch cleaning, or squabbling. And then there are those crazy head throws that are thought to be a form of intra-flock communication. You will be guided as to how to make the best of all of those opportunities. And depending on the weather and local conditions and tides, there are a variety of fabulous photo chances available in and around San Diego.


Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter? Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

The San Diego Details

This IPT will include five 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, four 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, four lunches, and after-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility. An so that we can get some sleep, dinners will be on your own.

A $599 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “Arthur Morris) to us at BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 3385, or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, will be due on 10/11//2018. 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. Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail.


Variety is surely the spice of life in San Diego. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Getting Up Early and Staying Out Late

On all BIRDS AS ART IPTS including and especially the San Diego IPT, we get into the field early to take advantage of unique and often spectacular lighting conditions and we stay out late to maximize the chances of killer light and glorious sunset silhouette situations. We often arrive at the cliffs a full hour before anyone else shows up to check out the land/sea scape opportunities.


This image was created in San Diego, CA with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the simply amazing, astounding, mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 500. Evaluative metering -2/3 stop: 1/2500 sec. at f/6.3 in Av mode. AWB.

61-Point (Automatic selection)/AI Servo/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when photographing moving subjects). Though the optimized image above was a healthy crop from the original the result was a high quality 148+ MB 16-bit file. Click on the image to see a larger version. The AF system selected two AF points, one above the other, between the two birds;the eye of the bird on our right is razor sharp.

Clarke’s X Western Grebe courtship rush

The Dancing Grebe Add-On. FRI JAN 25, 2019: $399.

Those registering for the 2019 San Diego IPT might wish to join me for the Dancing Grebe Add-On Morning as above. Please read the details carefully. You will need to wade at least mid-thigh deep with your tripod over an uneven bottom. Lightweight chest waders are advised. Long lenses are needed; a 100-400 will not cut it at this spot, even with a TC. Chances at this location (easily accessible from the IPT hotel), vary from day to day so there will be no guarantees. But when those grebes dance, it can be an amazing rush. We may also enjoy chances to photograph both species, Western and Clarke’s Grebes, at fairly close range.

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Please Remember to use my 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 please remember that I am 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, 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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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

17 comments to Pelican Variety: The Spice of La Jolla

  • The brown stuff on the rock in the bottom right sorta draws my eye, but it’s not a biggie in my book, still a cracking shot. Glad all is ok re the stone

  • avatar Bill Lloyd

    A little more separation of the bill from the breast would have been nice.

  • Is it the wet breast feathers? Image looks great to me!

  • Glad to know that everything is fine with you.

    Regarding the image. I think the highlight near the wings could be the one.

  • avatar Adam

    Hi Artie, it’s good to hear the stone has passed. As far as the pelican is concerned, you already discounted the crab and the background, so I would take a stab at either the right wing highlights or the head position? Cheers!

    • avatar David Policansky

      Adam: What is wrong with the head position?

      • avatar Adam

        Nothing per se but the head/neck appear a bit linear either from lens perspective compression or actual position perspective. A slight shift left might have produced a slightly more optimal look.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Right wing highlights and wing position are fine for me 🙂

      thanks with love, artie

  • avatar Jake

    Hi Artie,
    Great news about the kidney stone. Nice portrait of a pelican, it makes a change to see them against something other than sea blue. Is it the dark horizontal line in the bottom right corner that bugs you? Or could it be that the green to brown transition line cuts the head of the pelican in half?

  • avatar Tilo Samter BTHS '53

    It’s the blue feet! What was the quality of the light?

  • avatar Esther Corley

    I would appreciate your mentioning where you photographed the western grebes’ “running on the water mating dance”…I have made an acquaintance with a superb photographer who accompanied me in to Lake Hodges..they were doing it across the water, but too far for good photography. The hike in required me to use 2 walking sticks and even with those, it was a miracle I didn’t fall and break something, …after all I’m almost 87 years old!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      That’s the place. And yes, they are far away most of the time.

      best of luck,

  • avatar David Policansky

    Good morning, Artie. Good news on the kidney stone. I understand they can be about as painful as anything. On the blog, sometimes we–OK, I–don’t answer because I just have no idea. Your recent question about the under-exposed chicks was one such time.

    I love this image and nothing about it bugs me. Could the two orange rocks (or shells?) in the lower left be what bugs you?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi David,

      Thanks. The reddish shells do not bug me at all. They are actually regurgitated bits of Red tuna crab (Pleuroncodes planipes), which is actually a tiny lobster. They are a favorite food of all of the gull species. Folks can see the whole creature and learn more about it in the blog post here.

      with love, artie