San Diego: It Ain’t Just Pelicans! And Luscious, Swirly, Earth-toned Water. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

San Diego: It Ain't Just Pelicans! And Luscious, Swirly, Earth-toned Water.


I had a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers right outside of my SUV on Thursday morning but was unable to create a single image. 🙁

There is still lots of room on the San Diego IPT. Couples and IPT veterans are invited to e-mail for discount info. Scroll down for details.

Trivia — part I

Who or what is Audrey II?

The 2019 Galapagos Photo Cruise/Limit 12/Openings: 3

Right now I have nine folks committed to the 2019 Galapagos Photo Cruise. A friend who had committed to the trip learned that he and his wife might not be able to attend. Thus, I have room for a couple or for two same-sex roommates, and for a male single. If the archipelago is on your bucket list, please get in touch via e-mail asap with questions. If you might be registering with a friend or a spouse do ask about the two at a time discount. See the complete details here.


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 many dozens of items. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the 5Ds and 5Ds R, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, the Canon 200-400 with internal extender, and the original 400mm DO lens have been dropping steadily. Most recently the price of used Canon 600mm f/L IS II lenses have been dropping like a rock with the introduction of the 600 II. 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.

September Sales

IPT veteran Mark Overgaard sold his Canon EF 200-400 f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender in excellent condition for $6,499.00, his EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens in excellent condition for $449.00, and his EOS 5DS body in excellent condition for $1399.00 in just days because he listened to my pricing advice.
Ron Gates sold a Canon EOS 7D in near-mint condition for $350 in mid-September.
Will Craig sold a Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lens in excellent condition for $674.00and a Canon EF Extender 1.4X III in near-mint condition for $329.00 about one week after they were listed in mid-September.
Will Craig sold an original Canon EOS 7D camera body in excellent condition (with fewer than 26,000 actuations) for $299.00 soon after it was listed in September, 2018.
Anthony Ardito sold a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV body in like-new condition (with extras) for $2,499.00 in early September, 2018.
Anthony Ardito also sold a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens in like-new condition (with extras including a 2X III TC) for $8,500.00 in early September, 2018.
I sold my Canon 1.4X III teleconverter for $329.00 in early September before listing it.
Amy Novotny’s Nikon TC-E-20 (teleconverter) sold the first day it was listed in early September for $249.00.
Richard Gollar sold his Canon EF 500mm f/4 L IS (the original IS model, the “old five”) in near-mint condition for $3399.00 in early September.

New Listings

Canon EOS 1DX dSLR

Multiple IPT veteran Mike Gotthelf is offering a Canon EOS 1DX in near-mint condition for $2299.00. The sale includes the instruction manual, the front cap, the strap, the charger and cord, one battery, the original box and insured ground shipping via major courier to US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Mike via e-mail or by phone at 1-978-407-0679 –Will be in Hawaii until 10/26, then Eastern Time Zone; will be able to arrange shipment while away).

Two 1DX bodies severed admirably as my workhorse digital camera bodies for several years. The original 1DX has a superb AF system and produces high quality image files. It is fabulous for photographing birds in flight and in action. Some folks wish that they had kept their 1DX bodies and not upgraded to the 1DX Mark II … artie

Canon EOS 7D Mark II dSLR

Multiple IPT veteran Mike Gotthelf is offering a Canon EOS 7D Mark II in near-mint condition for $799.00. The sale includes the instruction manual, the front cap, the strap, the charger and cord, one battery, the original box and insured ground shipping via major courier to US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Mike via e-mail or by phone at 1-978-407-0679 –Will be in Hawaii until 10/26, then Eastern Time Zone; will be able to arrange shipment while away).

Both Patrick Sparkman and I used and loved the 7D Mark II until about two years ago when we both committed to using full frame Canon bodies. We both made some truly great images with it. BPN’s Dan Cadieux (try a blog search) uses a 7D II with great success. And two of my three 2016 Nature’s Best honored entries were created with the 7D II, one still, and one video. One thing is for sure: the 7D Mark II is the greatest value ever in a digital camera body. Mike’s camera body is priced to sell. artie

Canon EOS 1D Mark III dSLR

Multiple IPT veteran Mike Gotthelf is offering a Canon EOS 1D Mark III in excellent condition (with a very few tiny scratches on the corner of the viewfinder housing) for the amazingly low, might-as-well-be-giving-it-away price of $449.00. The sale includes the instruction manual, the front cap, the strap, the charger and cord, one battery, the original box, the AC adapter, and insured ground shipping via major courier to US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Mike via e-mail or by phone at 1-978-407-0679 –Will be in Hawaii until 10/26, then Eastern Time Zone; will be able to arrange shipment while away).

Two EOS-1D Mark IIIs served as my workhorse camera bodies for more than 2 years. I created thousands of consistently sharp, saleable images with them. As with my two 1D III bodies, Mike never experienced any AF problems with his 1D III. This is a great price for a rugged professional digital camera body. artie


I just booked a whole house for the Hooptie/Spoonbill IPT for $79.75 a night! Join Airbnb and become part of a community that connects global travelers with local hosts across the world. Find a place to stay and discover things to do. Airbnb lists more than 4.5 million homes across 200 countries; you’ll find spacious, affordable options for every occasion. With Airbnb you will travel with confidence as reviews from past guests help you find the right fit. Once you do, our secure messaging makes it easy to coordinate with your host. And Airbnb support teams are available 24/7. Last night I made a reservation for an Airbnb apartment for my upcoming January San Diego visit: 13 nights with a full kitchen and two bedrooms.

Yikes. I almost forgot the best part: Airbnb rates average less than half of even the least expensive chain hotels and motels. If you would like to save $40 on your first booking sign up by using this link: Airbnb. Airbnb does charge clean-up and service fees that make short stays less attractive bargains than long stays.

Those who prefer to stay in a motel or hotel are invited to use the link below to save $25.00.


Several folks on the UK IPT used the Booking.Com link below for their Edinburgh hotels, 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.

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. Steve currently has several D850s in stock — your purchase includes a free 64gb XQD card and the XQD reader!). He also has two Nikon 180-400s in stock. And he is taking pre-orders for the new Nikon 500 P and the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera body as well as for the Canon 600 III. He already has two BAA blog orders for the new Canon six.

Photo Mechanic screen capture for today’s featured image

It Ain’t Just Pelicans!

While the Pacific race of Brown Pelican with their bright red grading to dark-olive green bill pouches are undoubtedly the stars of the show, there are lots more species to photograph on a San Diego IPT. Those include a variety of spectacular ducks including wood and ring-necked. But the Ruddy Ducks, somewhat somber in their winter dress, are quite beautiful in their own right.

The Original

The original here was more than one full stop under-exposed; note all the room on the right side of the histogram. I was likely trying to avoid going to ISO 1600. With cameras with densely packed pixels like the Canon 7D Mark II, the 5DS, the 5DSr, and the Nikon D850, the last thing that you want to do is to underexpose your RAW files as doing so creates noise. But no worries for me as NeatImage always comes to the rescue in spectacular fashion. I must say that with its amazing dynamic range, underexposed D850 images rarely show significant amounts of discernable noise (unless and until you go to 300 or 400%; at such high magnifications you will see what I call small pixel noise).

The ACR sliders for today’s featured image

The RAW Conversion

Click on the image to see the larger version where it is much easier to read the slider values. It is best to make almost all of the needed corrections during the RAW conversion rather than afterwards in Photoshop. Here, note especially the following:

  • Exposure: +1.05 to correct the underexposure.
  • Highlights: -39. I almost never go this high but needed to do so with this image to restore detail to the white cheek patch.
  • Shadows: +35 to open up the water, the duck’s plumage, and especially the dark crown.
  • Vibrance: +23 is an unusually high value for me; I wanted to bring up the colors in the water and the blue of the bird’s bill. In breeding plumage the bills of male Ruddy Ducks are a spectacular almost fluorescent blue.

This image was created on the 2016 San Diego IPT with the 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 Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 800. Evaluative metering -1 stop: 1/200 sec. at f/5.6 Cloudy WB. Fill flash at -2 stops with a Better Beamer.

Center AF point (by necessity)/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Ruddy Duck, adult male basic plumage: the optimized version

The Image Optimization

The first thing that I did after bringing the TIFF file into Photoshop was rotate the image one degree clockwise (by eye). Then I filled in the long skinny triangles using John Haedo Content Aware Fill and cropped to the original ratio to lose the white wave on the center bottom. Next I applied a 20% opacity layer of Auto Tone. Then I selected the face and head and ran my NIK Color Efex Pro 50/50 Detail Extractor/Tonal Contrast recipe mainly to open up the very dark crown feathers. That left the white cheek patch too gray so I refined that layer with a Regular Layer Mask. Next I selected the head again and ran a Contrast Mask on the face to selectively sharpen it. Then I cleaned up the water along with some specular highlights (both on the bird and in the water) using the Patch Tool and the Spot Healing Brush. Last I ran a quick and dirty layer of NeatImage Noise reduction on the whole image with the Y value set to 70. This eliminated the small pixel noise.

Luscious, Swirly, Earth-toned Water Question

Do you think that I lightened the water too much? If yes, would you like the water as dark as it is in the original image or somewhere in between that and the optimized version?

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II).

You can order your copy from the BAA Online Store here, by sending a Paypal for $40 here, or by calling Jim or Jennifer weekdays at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II)

Your guessed it, everything mentioned above (but for the new NIK recipe) and tons more is covered in detail in the BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II), an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. Learn more and check out the free excerpt in the blog post here. While the new e-Guide reflects my Macbook Pro/Photo Mechanic/DPP 4/Photoshop workflow, folks using a PC and/or BreezeBrowser will also benefit greatly by studying the material on DB II. Do note that you will find the RGB Curves Adjustment Color Balancing tutorial only in the new e-guide. Note: folks working on a PC and/or those who do not want to miss anything Photoshop may wish to purchase the original Digital Basics along with DB II while saving $15 by clicking here to buy the DB Bundle.

The two most recent and many of the older MP4 Photoshop Tutorial videos releases go hand and hand with the information in DB II):

  • The Wingtip Repairs MP4 Video here.
  • The MP4 Crow Cleanup Video here.

Folks who learn well by following along rather than by reading can check out the complete collection of MP 4 Photoshop Tutorial Videos by clicking here.

Though I have become more proficient converting my Nikon RAW (NEF) files in Adobe Camera Raw, I often continue to optimize my Canon image in DPP 4. You can learn how and why I converted (and still convert) nearly all of my Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide here. And, yes, I still have many Canon images to work on. 🙂 The RAW conversions for all three of today’s featured images was straightforward once I entered my camera/ISO specific recipes (as detailed in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide). You can learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair. Folks can learn sophisticated sharpening and (NeatImage) Noise Reduction techniques in the The Professional Post Processing Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly.

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: 7)

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 Grebes 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.

Help Support the Blog

Please help support my efforts here on the blog by remembering to click on the logo link above each time that you shop Amazon. That would be greatly appreciated. There is no problem using your Prime account; just click on the link and log into your Prime account. With love, artie

If In Doubt …

If in doubt about using the BAA B&H affiliate link correctly, you can always start your search by clicking here. Please note that the tracking is invisible. Web orders only. Please, however, remember to shoot me your receipt via e-mail.

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.


Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack.


In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

4 comments to San Diego: It Ain’t Just Pelicans! And Luscious, Swirly, Earth-toned Water.

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    I actually prefer the “mood” created by the dark colours in the first image. That mood was lost in the last image. However if I just saw the last image alone I would be calling it a “cracker”!

  • avatar Guido Bee

    I like the shot, but if it were mine, I’d have kept the water just a bit darker.
    All the best. Be well.

  • avatar Glen

    Audrey 2 was the name of the plant in the movie “Little Shop of Horrors”.

  • avatar Tim Clifton

    Could Audrey II be from the “Little Shop of Horrors”?