It Doesn’t Matter … It Does Matter. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

It Doesn't Matter ... It Does Matter.


On Friday, I drove over to Tampa to have lunch with a friend so I figured that it made sense to drop down to DeSoto to photograph on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. I got an Airbnb room for Friday night for less than $50; that saved me about $80. Friday afternoon was not great but I did get some good photos near sunset at the local 7-11! The next morning started off very slowly and with the roads closing at 8:15am I decided to bail. I was gonna get home early but then I decided to try one of the alternate sites mentioned in the Fort DeSoto Site Guide so I headed there. Things started off slowly there too but soon I have tame shorebirds sitting on rocks with gorgeous blue water backgrounds. Photos from both of those situations will be coming here soon.

Please do take a crack at the Why Sit? questions below. The more folks who post a comment the more everyone learns, including me.

It is looking like four participants for San Diego right now. The 2019 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT is however wide open at this point.

News on the Galapagos Front/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 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.

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, an EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens in excellent condition for $449.00, and a 5DS body in excellent condition for $1399.00. He put more than $8,000 in his pocket 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.


For the past few months, I have been hearing folks use the word Airbnb, most notably, Amy Novotny. Out of curiosity I asked a few questions. What I learned amazed me. 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 along with a Nikon 600mm f/4 VR. He is taking pre-orders for the new Nikon 500 P and the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera body.

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 the last afternoon of the I-went-with-one Fort DeSoto Park IPT on the afternoon of September 26, 2018. While standing — I should have been seated –I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens (at 440mm) and my souped-up (9fps) Nikon D850. ISO 400. Matrix metering -1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. Auto0 WB at 6:27pm on a clear afternoon.

Center Group (grp) Continuous (AI Servo in Canon) shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure as originally framed. The the array was centered just to our right of the the bird’s chin. This is a small crop from the bottom and from our right.

Phase detection AF Fine-tune value: +2. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Willet flapping after bath
Image copyright 2018: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

It Doesn’t Matter …

It does not matter how much pain or discomfort you endured in order to create a given image. It does not matter how many miles you had to hike or how much gear you had to carry. It does not matter if you were injured or sick. All the matters is the final image.

Ed Dow and I began the afternoon at the St. Pete Beach pilings. It was hot. Then we decided to check out my #2 afternoon spot and stay out of the mud at my #1 afternoon spot. Ed headed down the beach to our right to go after a tame fishing Great Blue Heron. I saw this Willet taking a bath, dipping its breast in the water, so I headed to my left. After you see this behavior the bathing bird will — at some point — jump up out of the water and flap in place 95% of the time. It was hot and it was very still. I had made two mistakes while leaving the car: I had not put on my long-sleeved sun shirt and I had neglected to put on my ancient, derelict sun hat. As I stood in the beach wrack the no-see-ums began chewing on my arms and my head and face. Then, as I raised the 200-500, I felt some pain — a very sharp twinge — in my left shoulder, the one with the torn supraspinatus.

To minimize the pain of holding the lens up to frame the shot, I switched to the Olympic rifle shooter position with my body turned well to my right (rather than facing the subject) and with my left elbow tucked well into my left side for support. It still was hurting pretty good. The bird dipped its breast and dipped its breast and kept on dipping its breast. “When is this guy gonna flap?” I thought as the no-see-ums increased in numbers and became harder and harder to deal with.

Then the bird went into crazy shorebird bath mode: it jumped five feet to the right, landed upside down and splashed, jumped five feet back to the left, landed upside down and again, splashed violently. It did that about six more times. Its jumps and movements were so violent and unpredictable that though I tried, I never got off a single frame. My shoulder hurt more and more. The bird settled in and began normal bathing again. I got back on sun angle, framed the image, and waited more than five minutes with my shoulder hurting and the no-see-ums chewing. At one point I thought about heading back to the car and giving up. But I wanted the flapping shot …

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the Willet jumped up and flapped revealing its striking wing stripes. I fired off eight quick frames. Today’s featured image was and is my favorite, and. in the end, that is all that mattered …

Why Sit?

In the specific situation detailed above, what two advantages would I have had by sitting instead of standing? What would the two main disadvantages of sitting have been?

This image was created just a few minutes before today’s featured image. Again, I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens (at 250mm) and my souped-up (9fps) Nikon D850. ISO 400. Matrix metering -1 stop as framed: 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. Auto0 WB at 6:22 pm on a clear afternoon.

Center Group (grp) Continuous (AI Servo in Canon) shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure as originally framed. The the array was centered just to our right of the the bird’s chin. This is a small crop from the bottom and from our right.

Phase detection AF Fine-tune value: +2. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Willet right on sun angle with my shadow pointed at the bird, almost …
Image copyright 2018: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Point Your Shadow at the Bird

Many folks are confused when I say, “Point your shadow at the bird,” so everyone once in a while I will create a teaching image like the one above to make that point absolutely clear. I would actually fault myself above for having my shadow pointed about three degrees to our right of the target. Note also from the shape of my shadow that my body was pointed at least 45 degrees to the right of the bird as I approximated the Olympic rifle-shooter stance.

It Does Matter …

When the sun is out, working on sun angle does matter. It offers the very best chance to light the subject evenly and to avoid dark ugly shadows on the bird. Such shadows are almost always caused by the sun being blocked by various parts of the bird … For example, the left side of a bird’s face or breast might be in shadow because the opposite side of the head or breast blocked the sun.

At times I might have a reason to work a bit off sun angle. Most of the time I limit that to ten or fifteen degrees at most. And every five years or so on average, I create a sidelit image of a bird in full sun that I actually like. Without a doubt, the number one error made by the hundreds of folks I see in the field every month is their failure to work on sun angle. Ironically, number two is the failure to get lower. 🙂 Please note: none of the above applies when you are creating silhouettes — in those situations you want the bird’s shadow pointed right at you.

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

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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.

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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 :).

6 comments to It Doesn’t Matter … It Does Matter.

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    To add another thought to James excellent comments–The afternoon sun was high enough to put a shadow under the birds beak. If you were sitting I think that shadow would have showed up a lot more.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie, and thanks for opening the comments. I mostly agree with James Saxon. In addition, sitting would blur the background water because it would be farther from the bird and therefore more out of focus. But, as he says, maybe something distracting would then be in the frame, even if it were out of focus. Of course your shadow would get shorter if you sat so it wouldn’t spook the bird.

    I hope your shoulder is feeling better.

    I think the second image should have a different caption; it’s the same as the first image. For what it’s worth, I love the bird in the second image with the beautiful reflection. Maybe you got that on its own at 500 mm.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Dr. Fish,

      His answers were correct in part. Your explanation of a more pleasing BKGR is what I was looking for.

      I hope that you liked my shadow too 🙂 Here is the new caption title: Willet right on sun angle with my shadow pointed at the bird, almost …

      with love arite

      • avatar David Policansky

        I do like the shadow, Artie, mainly for pedagogical reasons. I like the bird for aesthetic reasons. I like the photographer for many reasons. 🙂

  • avatar James Saxon

    Advantage of sitting would put you at eye level with the bird and let you rest your elbows …

    Left forearm or elbow on left knee for me.

    across your knees with the camera and lens relieving the weight of holding the camera and reducing the pain in your shoulder.

    Yes sir!

    Disadvantage would be whatever the background was would be revealed. (Don’t know if the background was distracting.)

    See David Policansky’s answer.

    Your shadow may have spooked the bird.

    Like many of the birds at DeSoto, this one was completely OK with my presence. In addition, birds that are actively engaged in some sort of behavior (bathing in this case), are less likely to be spooked than birds that are just standing there.

    Thanks for commenting!

    with love, artie