Patrick Sparkman Rocks La Jolla with the Nikon 200-500 (and the TC-E14 III)! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Patrick Sparkman Rocks La Jolla with the Nikon 200-500 (and the TC-E14 III)!


I will be away for almost a month while leading the 2018/2019 Falklands land-based IPT. I fly to Miami on the afternoon of WED 19 DEC and then catch a red-eye flight to Santiago, Chile. I should be back in the office on the afternoon of Monday, January 14, 2019. Happy new year! I should have good internet access until Friday December 21 and then again on the weekend of January 12/13. I will surely not be online from December 23-27 and then again from January 4-7. I may or may not have limited internet access at other times.

Jim and Jen will be in the office weekdays to help you with your online orders and with IPT registrations.


If you have any interest past or present in Bosque del Apache NWR, you can learn a lot by reading the comments in the blog post here and the BPN post here. And more recently, there is lots more on Bosque in the comments on the blog post here.

I was horrified (not really) to learn that the 10-year policy of actively managing the refuge against nature photographers continues with the closing of Harry’s Crane Pool (the north one) to create more “non-wetlands” habitat. The two crane pools have been the only consistently decent spot left on the refuge. Now there is only one very crowded one 🙂


  • The 2018 Fort DeSoto Early Winter IPT/Thursday December 7 through the morning session on Monday December 10, 2018: 3 1/2 DAYS: $1549. Limit 8/Openings: 5.
  • Falklands Land-based IPT DEC 22, 2018 thru JAN 5, 2019/Two Weeks: Sold out.
  • 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: 4) Introductory Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins: THURS, 6 DEC.
  • Please get in touch via e-mailfor San Diego late registration discount information. Scroll down for IPT details.

  • The 2019 Hooptie Deux/Roseate Spoonbill Boat 3 1/2 DAY IPT — FEB 16 thru 19, 2019: $2599.00. Limit: 5 photographers/Openings: 2.
  • The New, Expanded 2019 UK Puffins, Gannets, & Red Kites IPT. Thursday June 27 (from EDI) through Tuesday, July 9, 2019 (on the ground; fly home on Wednesday July 10.): $9,999. Limit 10 photographers/Openings: 9. This trip needs four to run. Co-leader: Peter Kes.
  • The GALAPAGOS Photo Cruise of a Lifetime IPT/The Complete Galapagos Photographic Experience. July 23 to August 6, 2019 on the boat. 13 FULL and two half-days of photography: $14,499. Limit: 12 photographers/Openings: 4.


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

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.

The 2018 B&H/BAA Bird Photography Holiday Contest!

Thanks to the generosity of the great folks at B&H, I am proud to announce the first-ever B&H/BAA Bird Photography Holiday Contest. The rules are simple:

1-Anyone can enter one or two of their favorite avian images that were created in 2018. As below, each image must be sent in a separate e-mail.
2-Image clean-up and repair is permitted.
3-Send you JPEGs in two separate e-mails only by clicking on this link: Contest Entry e-mail.
4-Please size your properly sharpened JPEGs as follows: 1200 high or wide less than 600 kb.
5-If you do not follow the instructions above to the letter your images will not be judged and you will not receive any notification.
6-There is one judge and you can guess who it is.
7-Here are the five prizes:

1st place: a $100 B&H gift certificate
2nd through 4th place: a $50 B&H gift certificate

All prizes will be awarded.

8- Entries my be submitted from now until January 16, 2019. Happy New Year! Please remember to do your holiday shopping at B&H using a BAA affiliate link or by clicking here or on any of the B&H banners in this blog post; many offer great holiday savings.

Good luck.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens (with a great and necessary extra)

Having quickly and completely fallen in love with my much more expensive Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens, I am offering my Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens in pretty close to near-mint condition for only 1299.00. The sale includes the original product box and everything that came in it, the crappy original tripod collar, the RRS Collar Foot Package for Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens (a $250 plus the shipping) value, and insured ground shipping via UPS.

Please contact me via e-mail or on my cell at 863-221-2372 (before next Wednesday, 19 DEC).

This is the lens that hooked me on Nikon and its great AF system. It is sharp and versatile and though AF is a bit sluggish away from the center AF point with a teleconverter, I made some great images with the TC-E14. Yikes. I almost forgot: this lens is inexpensive. If you are new to Nikon and you cannot afford the new 500 PF, this lens will be perfect for all bird and wildlife photographers. All of my Brown Booby images and all of Patrick;s images below were made with the 2-5. As the lens sells new right now for $1,396.95 you can save you a cool $346.95 by grabbing my almost like-new lens today. artie

This image was created by multiple IPT veteran and great friend Patrick Sparkman in La Jolla, CA on December 8, 2018. He used the the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III (at 700mm), and the Nikon D850. ISO 800: 1/1600 second at f/9.

Image #1: Black-bellied Plover in winter plumage
Image courtesy of and copyright 2018: Patrick Sparkman

Patrick Sparkman

Patrick and I have been great friends since we first met on a Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge IPT about 20 years ago (I think …) He lives in San Diego and I look forward to spending some quality time with Patrick and wife Robin (as I do every year) on my upcoming San Diego visit. Patrick helps me out all the time with technical issues, and area where I am a certified dummy. 🙂 One advantage of working with hand held intermediate telephoto lenses is that successfully stalking your subjects is far easier than when using a tripod-mounted super-telephoto lens. That said, Patrick is –thanks to Steve Elkins at Bedford Camera — eagerly awaiting delivery of his very own Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR AF lens. Oh, and by the way, he hand holds that too!

Notice …

Notice that Patrick worked a subject right on the edge of the rock in order to come up with a sweet Pacific Ocean background. Notice also the off-centered placement of the subject and the fact that the breaking wave is above the bird and frames the bird nicely. In one more second that wave would have become a serious distraction by cutting the bird in half …

This image was created by multiple IPT veteran and great friend Patrick Sparkman in La Jolla, CA, also on December 8, 2018. He used the the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens (at 380mm) and the Nikon D850. ISO 800: 1/3200 second at f/5.6.

Image #2: Brown Pelican incoming
Image courtesy of and copyright 2018: Patrick Sparkman

Another Breaking Wave …

Patrick had some bad luck with this otherwise spectacular image. He has a great wing position with both underwings well lit. The image is super sharp and the exposure is perfect. The inclusion of the distant cliffs sets the scene nicely. But the single breaking wave, the dark one that intersects with the pelican’s belly, is on the distracting side. While you have no control of such waves when doing flight the lesson when working along the surf with foraging or posing birds is to be aware of the waves presence and its effect on the background. We all worked hard on that concept on the recently concluded Fort DeSoto Early Winter IPT. And we will do the same on the upcoming San Diego IPT.

This image was created by multiple IPT veteran and great friend Patrick Sparkman in La Jolla, CA, also on December 8, 2018. He used the the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III (at 600mm), and the Nikon D850. ISO 800: 1/1600 second at f/8.

Image #3: Brown Pelican, carpet neck preening
Image courtesy of and copyright 2018: Patrick Sparkman

The Intermediate Telephoto Zoom Advantage in La Jolla

Intermediate telephoto lenses like the Canon EF 100-400mm II, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR, and the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm VR are deadly with the pelicans on the cliffs of La Jolla. It is easy for you to get into position and the flexibility of a zoom lens is a huge plus. You could do the entire San Diego IPT with any of those lenses. And if you to create some tight, detailed abstracts, simply add a 1.4X teleconverter and you are good to go. I will teach you to get close without scaring off the birds!

For Image #3, Patrick was able to zoom out from 700mm to 600mm (with the TC-E14 in place) in order to achieve perfect framing. There is no better background for a breeding plumage Pacific race Brown Pelican. Many years ago I nicknamed birds in this plumage stage “carpet necks.”

The Lesson

Nothing beats an intermediate telephoto lens for pelican flight, head throws, behavior, and interactions.

Your Favorite?

Which of Patrick’s three images presented here today is your fave? Why?

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.
Please e-mail for late registration discount information.

(Limit: 10/Openings: 5)

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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If In Doubt …

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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 :).

5 comments to Patrick Sparkman Rocks La Jolla with the Nikon 200-500 (and the TC-E14 III)!

  • I like the Pelican in flight. Waves reflect living environment & I like seeing the waves & the edge of the cliff. Thanks for sharing. Thank-you Artie for the feedback as well, as we can all learn from sound experienced advice. Artie your photos make us all jealous & give us inspiration to aspire to.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Jeff. Me thinks that envious is the politically correct term 🙂

      with love, artie

  • avatar Steve Dickson

    I like them all but my favourite is the Pelican in flight. I love the lighting on the bird and the dynamic of the waves…everything going in the same direction. I see what you mean Artie about the position of the breaking wave but it doesn’t put me off this image. Thanks for posting them. Great work Patrick.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Thanks for sharing Patrick’s fine work and for the lessons. I agree with Kerry Morris about image #3 for exactly the reasons given.

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    Patrick – All beautiful images. I especially love, love, love image #3. Amazing position of the birds head and bill. The look on the birds face is spectacular and I especially love the feather detail. All that, with the beautiful colors in the bird against the blue background.
    It’s a winner!