Why Intentionally Underexpose? Fond Memories of Photographing Raptors at Cape May with Friends. And a Great Day with Alan Murphy at Smith Point, TX « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Why Intentionally Underexpose? Fond Memories of Photographing Raptors at Cape May with Friends. And a Great Day with Alan Murphy at Smith Point, TX

What’s Up?

We woke way-too-early on Friday. — headed for Anahuac, TX that afternoon, but took a 3+ hour detour to head to Grande Isle State Park in southern Louisiana in hopes of finding some decent bird photography. We arrived at about 6:30am in scattered thunder showers. When the rain stopped, we got out of the car only to be assaulted by zillions of large voracious mosquitoes. I am usually blessed by being immune to mosquito bites, but within minutes I had dozens of bites including one on my butt! How does that happen?

I took a scouting walk and did not see any prospects for bird photography, so we never even got our gear out. As we drove off the peninsula headed for Texas, we saw beautiful salt marshes set against a distant background of refineries. We hit lots of traffic on I-10 and then encountered some nasty thunderstorms and more traffic. We made it to our lovely old-ranch AirBNB in Anahuac, TX. Late on Friday afternoon, — with help from blog regular James Saxon — I made a scouting run to nearby Anahuac NWR. The forecast cold front was right on track.

When I walked to the car in the dark on Saturday morning it was cold with a nice 20mph wind from the north. Conditions for a big hawk flight at Smith Point were perfect.

We met Alan Murphy and his friend Bill Carpenter at 6:45am — in the dark as usual, and got set up in the hawk blind in our ghillie suits and ghillie head masks awaiting the onslaught of southbound migrant raptors. By that afternoon, both Alan and Bill agreed that they had never seen so few raptors on a day with perfect conditions. We did have a very few decent chances with Cooper’s Hawk and Northern Harriers, albeit in low light as the forecast clear skies that typically follow a cold front never materialized.

Alan’s usual cleverness continued to amaze me, as did his ability to identify distant raptors that were just specks in the sky to Anita and me. It was most gracious of Alan and Bill to host us for an enjoyable day.

On Saturday night we decided to drive 15 minutes to the town of Anahuac to get take-out burgers from the highly touted Crawfish Place and Bar. There were about sixty folks in the bar enjoying themselves. Anita and I were the only folks wearing masks … It took us 15 minutes to round up a waitress and order our food. We waited outside in the parking lot. Despite our several pleas, it took exactly one hour to get our food. We returned to our AirBNB. The food was delicious. The service? Not so good.

Nikon 500mm PF VR Lenses in Stock at Bedford!

Steve Elkins at Bedfords texted today to let me know that he just received a shipment of Nikon 500mm PF VR lens. If you have been hunting for one, get in touch with Steve and enjoy a handsome 3% discount on this great lens by using the BIRDSASART code at checkout. Steve’s contact info is below.

Topaz on Sale!

Right now Topaz is offering price reductions on the Utility Bundle and the Creator Bundle. The former normally sells for $359.96. It is on sale for an amazingly low $199.95. Click here, scroll all the way down to the sale, and enter the ARTHUR15 code at checkout to save an additional 15%! The Creator Bundle usually sells for #279.97 and is now on sale for $249.99. Using the ARTHUR15 code at checkout brings the price down to $212.49!

Please Remember

With income from IPTs approaching zero, please, if you enjoy and learn from the blog, remember to use one of my two affiliate programs when purchasing new gear. Doing so just might make it possible for me to avoid having to try to get a job as a Walmart greeter and will not cost you a single penny more. And if you use Bedfords and remember to enter the BIRDSASART code at checkout, you will save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I am out at least forty to sixty thousand dollars so far due to COVID 19 (with lots more to come) — remembering to use my B&H link or to shop at Bedfords will help me out a ton and be greatly appreciated. Overseas folks who cannot order from the US because of import fees, duties, and taxes can always help out by clicking here if they see fit.

The BAA Used Gear Page

The Used Gear page continues to be red hot! It is BAA Used Gear Page is the place to sell your used photographic equipment. We will help you to get your gear sold quickly for 20 to 60% or more than what the big guys are offering … Doubt me? Check out the Recent Sales list for the past ten months at the bottom of the page.

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

Great Topaz News!

Folks who use the BAA Topaz link to purchase Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, or the Utility Bundle (or any other Topaz plugins) will receive a 15% discount by entering the ARTHUR15 code at checkout. To get the discount you must use my link and you must enter the discount code. Be sure to start with this link.

Topaz Stuff

As I said just a while back and have said often many times before, I should have listened sooner. If you, like me, are new to the Topaz party, please use this link to purchase. Right now I can wholeheartedly recommend both Topaz Sharpen AI and Topaz DeNoise AI. Though I have not yet worked with JPEGtoRAW AI or Gigapixel AI, I have installed both of these plug-ins and look forward to trying them on some I-Phone 11 images fairly soon. If you are thinking like me, consider the Utility Bundle that includes all four plug-ins mentioned above at a money-saving price.

Again, those who purchase Sharpen AI or DeNoise AI using my link, can e-mail to request a short Getting Started with Topaz e-Guide. I had a bit of trouble getting the two plug-ins installed and having them appear in the Photoshop Filter Menu. In addition, I will explain how to best learn about the two plug-ins by applying them on a Layer (in Photoshop). I amazed myself yesterday by completing this guide in the car on the way to and from Sebastian. Huge thanks to Anita for doing the driving. Please include a copy of your Topaz order when requesting the guide.

New and Better Bedfords Discount Policy!

You can now save 3% on all of your Bedfords photo gear purchases by entering the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout. Your discount will be applied to your pre-tax total. In addition, by using the code you will get 2nd day air shipping via Fed Ex.

Grab a Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III and save $14.99. Purchase a Canon EOS R5 and your discount will be $116.97. Purchase a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and save a remarkable $389.94! Your Bedford’s purchase no longer needs to be greater than $1,000.00 for you to receive a discount. The more you spend, the more you save.

117 sold to rave reviews.

The SONY e-Guide by Patrick Sparkman and Arthur Morris

The Sony Camera User’s e-Guide (and Videos)

Click here to purchase the guide with one Camera Set-up Video. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your camera body so that we can send you a link for the correct video.

Click here to purchase the guide with two Camera Set-up Videos. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your two camera bodies so that we can send you links for the correct videos.

Click here to learn more about the SONY e-Guide.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would enjoy free overnight shipping, your best bet is to click here, place an order with Bedfords, and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If an item is out of stock, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The wait lists at the big stores can be a year or longer for the hard to get items. Steve will surely get you your gear long before that. For the past year, he has been helping BAA Blog folks get their hands on items like the SONY a9 ii, the SONY 200-600 G OSS lens, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, and the Nikon 500mm PF. Steve is personable, helpful, and eager to please.

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 at Smith Point near Anahuac, TX on the morning of 24 OCT 2020. I used the handheld Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens (at 474mm) and the blazingly fast AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital camera body. This relatively high ISO image was intentionally under-exposed about 1 1/3 stops. ISO 2000. Multi-metering at about +1 1/3 stops: 1/2500 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. ABW at 9:26am on a cloudy-dark morning.

Center Zone Continuous AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Northern Harrier looking back in flight

Why Intentionally Underexpose?

This relatively high ISO image was intentionally under-exposed to test a premise that I am working on after speaking at length with RawDigger creator Iliah Borg. For a low-light, under-exposed, high ISO image I was pretty pleased with the optimized image.

Fond Memories of Cape May

Being set-up under camo brought back fond and distant memories of photographing at a decoy owl in South Cape May Meadows with friends Kevin Karlson (NJ), Brian K. Wheeler (CO), Ned Harris (southern CA), Richard Crossley (NJ — born in the UK), and Jim Zipp (CT). Funny that three of those mentioned — plus yours truly (Brooklyn, NY) — were all from the NY/NJ/CT region and went on to somewhat notable careers as avian photographers, authors, trip leaders, and/or entrepreneurs of some sort. The fourth, Brian K. Wheeler, was — in the days of film — the world’s very best hawk photographer and the best in the world at focusing manually on raptors in flight. Brian painted the plates for A Field Guide To Hawks: North America (Peterson Field Guide Series Vol 35 by Clark, William S. & Wheeler, Brian K.) and authored or co-authored many other raptor field guides. Dear friend Ned Harris was a retired rocket scientist and a skilled an oft-published raptor photographer. I miss them all and wish them well.

Click on the image to view a larger version.

Image #1A: Topaz Sharpen AI on the head of the harrier (selected) at 200%.

Image #2: Topaz Sharpen AI in action

Here, I first ran DeNoise AI on the whole image. Next I selected the bird’s face and head and ran Topaz Sharpen AI on Auto. I reduced the Sharpness from 44 to 22 and reduced the Noise Suppression to 0.

RawDigger e-Guide and Video Advance Copy Available

Save $10 Now

The RawDigger e-Guide and Video is almost finished. It will sell for $51.00. If you are anxious to get started with RawDigger, learn to mega-Expose to the Right, and wind up with the highest quality image files, you can save $10.00 and have a chance to review a pre-publication copy of the guide by sending a PayPal for $41.00 to birdsasart@verizon.net with the words RawDigger e-Guide and Video Pre-publication Copy cut and pasted into the Subject line. The recent delay is the result of my recent conversations with Iliah Borg, the brains behind RawDigger. It is likely that the Shock-your-World section will shock you.

You will of course receive a link for the completed PDF when the guide is finished.

This image was created at Smith Point near Anahuac, TX on the cold morning of 24 OCT 2020. I used the handheld Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens (at 388mm) and the blazingly fast AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital camera body. Exposure was determined via Zebra evaluation with Exposure Compensation on the rear dial as detailed in The Sony Camera User’s e-Guide and One Camera Set-up Video. Multi-metering at + 2 1/3 stops: 1/2500 sec. at f/6.3 in Shutter Priority mode. Auto ISO: 200. ABW at 2:18pm on a variably cloudy-bright afternoon.

Center Zone Continuous AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #2: Cooper’s Hawk — immature in flight

The Best Bird of the Day

I saw this bird coming right at us and the owl just a foot above the top of the morning blind. I called out, “bird, low right” and everyone got on it. Hooray.

Why Shutter Priority Mode?

With the variably cloudy to sunny skies, working in Manual was a bit tedious. To make my life simpler, I went to Shutter Priority mode with the shutter speed set to 1/2500 sec. I used the Custom Key to switch the rear dial from ISO to Exposure Compensation and made sure that the ISO was set to Auto. When the sun was covered by a cloud, I went with + 2 1/3 stops as with Image #2 today. When the sun broke through, I dropped that down to 1 2/3 or 1 1/3rd stops of plus EC depending on how bright the sun was. With the birds always in the sky, this solution worked perfectly well. RawDigger confirmed that the raw file for Image #2 was perfect.

Click on the screen capture to view the larger version.

Image #2A: Topaz DeNoise AI on the Cooper’s hawk image at 100%.

Topaz DeNoise AI on the Cooper’s Hawk Image at 100%

Here, as part of my now regular workflow, I ran Topaz DeNoise AI at Auto on the whole image to clean it up and sharpen it just a bit. As this was a pretty good image to begin with, the improvement was not dramatic.


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 Why Intentionally Underexpose? Fond Memories of Photographing Raptors at Cape May with Friends. And a Great Day with Alan Murphy at Smith Point, TX

  • avatar Ryan Sanderson

    I would suspect you were testing the idea of ISO invariance and seeing if this would allow you to start underexposing so that you could get adequate shutter speeds for moving birds. Because you could bring up the exposure in post without any consequence to noise, you therefore could get adequate shutter speed.

  • avatar Jeff Walters

    I may be wrong but hasn’t John Shaw and others taught exposing to the right for some time?
    Like your shots and laughed at the diner story….Hope the next one has more fun for you and your travelling partner. Stay safe.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Jeff,

      Many — including me — have been teaching ETTR for decades. RawDigger takes exposing to the right to a whole new level. And in the guide, when it is finally done, we will explain exactly how to use RawDigger to learn to mega-expose to the right, for what ISOs that is mandatory, and for what ISOs it is optional.

      I looked back at James Saxon’s e-mail; I missed the part about calling in your order ahead because of the terrible service 🙂

      Thanks with love, artie

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>