RawDigger, Black Subjects, and White Skies. I thought the Gila Monster was a Boat-tailed Grackle Pellet. But … And Introducing the Y-Perch « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

RawDigger, Black Subjects, and White Skies. I thought the Gila Monster was a Boat-tailed Grackle Pellet. But ... And Introducing the Y-Perch

What’s Up?

I shipped the Canon loaner gear back to B&H yesterday. With thanks. Then I ordered an R5, an RF 14X TC, an RF 100-500, and an extra battery from Steve Elkins at Bedfords. As they are almost impossible to get right now, I will need to be a bit patient. If you are interested in any of the above, I’d suggest that you place your order ASAP to be assured of getting one from Steve’s next allocation. Without an R5 in my hands, I will not be spending a lot of time on the BAA EOS R5 Camera User’s Guide. That should give me time to finish up the RawDigger e-guide this week.

I am continuing to do my two walks, my slow 1/2 mile swim, and my bursts every day. Today is Tuesday 5 January 2021 and with clear skies and northwest winds I will be taking the morning off from photography.

This blog past makes nineteen days in a row with a new blog post. This one took about 1 1/2 hours to prepare. Please remember …

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 very active. The 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 eleven months at the bottom of the page.

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.

Canon R5/R6 AF e-Guide Info

So far, 56 folks have sent PayPals for their copy of the Canon R5/R6 AF e-Guide. And 27 who used my affiliate links to purchase their R5 have e-mailed for and received their free copy of the guide. If you e-mailed or sent a PayPal and did not receive your guide, please LMK immediately via e-mail.

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far. Three folks wrote stating that they had a better way of setting up AF on their R5s. When I wrote back explaining why they were in error, two of them back-tracked. One stubborn guy is still doing it his way — less efficiently. Be sure to scroll down to read about my plans for a Canon R5/R6 User’s e-Guide. Understand that the info in the BAA Canon R5/R6 Autofocus e-Guide is so important that I opted to publish the AF guide immediately as the R5/R6 User’s Guide will take at least a month to finish.

BAA Canon R5/R6 Autofocus e-Guide

Twenty-one pages. 3,452 words. 28-DPP4 screen captures showing the R5’s vaunted AF system in action. Note: the AF system of the R5 is identical to the AF system of the R6.

You will learn:

1- The two most useful AF Methods for general bird photography and for birds in flight.

2- How to set up your R5/R6 AF Menus.

3- What boxes to check (and un-check) under Limit AF Methods.

4- How to change the AF Method quickly, easily, and efficiently. Note: the default way of doing this is clunky, cumbersome, and inefficient at best. One person replied that this tip alone was worth the price of admission.

5- The only setting that should be used for Initial Servo AF pt for Face Detection + Tracking.

I you are currently using multiple back buttons either for general bird photography or for birds in flight, what you learn in this guide will change your life. For the better.

Here are the first three paragraphs of this e-Guide:

From the moment I learned about the new Canon mirrorless bodies, I read about using two or three back-buttons to focus using different AF methods. The word on the street said that the way to go for birds in flight was to use one button to acquire focus with Zone AF or with Large Zone: Horizontal AF and then switch to another button to activate Face Detection + Tracking AF and then use the shutter button to make an image. My immediate thought was, “This is insanity! There has got to be a better way.” In short, there is a far superior way to set up AF on your R5 or R6.

Remember that I got away from any form of back-button or rear focusing many years ago after finally realizing that it is always easier to do one thing (press the shutter button), than it is to do two things (press a back button and then press the shutter button).

The default method of switching AF Methods with the R5/R6 bodies is cumbersome at best. It involves first pressing the grid button (my name) on the upper right back of the camera and then pressing the hard-to-access M-Fn button to toggle through the AF Methods. This method is so bad that it will not be mentioned again in this guide.

The guide is free to all who have ordered an R5 or an R6 using my B&H affiliate link or from Steve Elkins/Bedfords using the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout. Please send your receipt to me via e-mail. It will take me a few days to a week to verify the B&H purchases. Bedfords folks should expect their free e-Guides fairly quickly.

To purchase your copy of the e-Guide, please send a PayPal for $25.00 to birdsasart@verizon.net and be sure to include the words R5/R6 AF Guide in your PayPal e-mail.

Everyone who gets the guide will receive a free update no later than the first week in January.

Canon R5/R6 User’s e-Guide

I am working on a complete Canon R5/R6 User’s e-Guide. This will require a lot of research, a lot of time, and a lot of effort. I am hoping to have it complete by mid- to late January. As always, folks who use the BAA affiliate links to purchase their Canon gear will receive a substantial discount.

Understand that the info in the BAA Canon R5/R6 Autofocus e-Guide is so important that I opted to publish the AF guide right off the bat to help folks get started with their new camera bodies.

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).

128 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.

Folks who have used my B&H affiliate links or purchased their SONY gear are invited to e-mail for discount information.

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.

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 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order to save 3% and enjoy free 2nd-day air shipping. 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 on 22 DEC 2020 at Indian Lake Estates, FL. Working from my SUV, I used the BLUBB-(barely) supported Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and the 61-MP Monster, the Sony Alpha a7R IV Mirrorless Digital camera body. ISO: 1600. Exposure determined by Zebras with ISO on the Control Wheel: 1/320 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. AWB at 9:37am on a cloudy morning.

Tracking Expand Flexible Spot AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Boat-tailed Grackle male singing

Introducing the Y-Perch

I walked through the woods a few blocks from my house looking for a nice, tall perch. When I saw the Y at the end of this branch, and the worn wood with a bit of color, I thought I had a winner. Though this bird landed on only one of the two points of the Y, others have utilized both and posed with legs splayed.

Jim and I erected the new Y-perch perch along the edge of the lake more than two weeks ago. We placed it well in front of The Perch that we had repaired earlier that same day. I am hoping that if I am working one perch and a bird lands on the other, I will be able to re-position my vehicle quickly. The male grackles took to the Y-perch almost immediately. Other than a single Great Blue Heron that landed briefly on the Y-perch, I have not see any Ospreys, Anhingas, herons, or egrets land on either of the perches. Time will tell.

RawDigger screen capture for Boat-tailed Grackle male singing

RawDigger, Black Subjects, and White Skies

The rose-colored and red tones are the highlight over-exposure warnings. With this image, RawDigger showed 29 million over-exposed pixels. This included 28 million OvExp pixels in the two GREEN channels combined and one million in the BLUE channel. That is, however, exactly what I wanted, as all of the OvExp pixels are in the sky. With black or dark subjects on white sky days, it is usually necessary to blow out the sky completely in order to get the best exposure for the dark tones. Most importantly, note the zero UnExp pixels ensuring that noise in the dark tones in this ISO 1600 image would be kept to a minimum.

In the new guide, we teach you why the GREEN channel is almost always the first to over-expose. We teach you how to interpret the Max G values. And most recently, we teach you a simple way to evaluate your exposures using an adapted RawDigger histogram. And tons more, of course. I am planning on having the RawDigger guide ready for sale by next Monday. Folks who saved $10.00 by pre-ordering will of course receive a link to the final PDF.

This in-camera HDR Art Vivid image was created on 31 December 2020 on the pier at Indian Lake Estates. I used the handheld Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM lens (at 500mm) and the highly touted 45MP Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless Digital camera body. ISO 3200. Exposure determined using the in-camera histogram followed by a histogram/blinkies evaluation and some luck. The three exposures were bracketed around +2/3 stop: 1/160 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode. AWB at 5:24pm on a cloudy day.

1-point (moved well toward the bottom of the frame) AI Servo AF was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly. Click on the image to see a larger version.

What is it?

I thought the Gila Monster was a Boat-tailed Grackle Pellet. But …

In the Gila Monster in Central Florida? blog post here, I posted the image above and asked “What is it?”

When I posted the image, I was sure that it was a pellet ejected (regurgitated) by a Boat-tailed Grackle. After all, I see lots of similar pellets and lots of Boat-tailed Grackles on the pier. Just to be safe, I grabbed my copy of The Birds of North America, No 207, 1986, the species account for Boat-tailed Grackle. Under Drinking, Pellet-casting, and Defecation, I found the following: Although grackles swallow material such as sunflower seeds whole, pellet-casting not seen. That does not mean that the pellets were definitely not from the boat-tails … In my decades as a bird photographer I often often observed behaviors that have never been reported in the ornithological literature.

It did, however, give me pause. I have never seen any type of mammal on the pier. (Several folks commented that the mystery item was some type of scat.) So I thought, what other bird species that might eat berries or fruits — the pink stuff in the image, hang out on the pier. The answer: Fish Crow.

So I pulled out The Birds of North America, No 589, 2001, the species account for Fish Crow. Under Drinking, Pellet-casting, and Defecation, I found this: Not observed to cast pellets, but undoubtedly does so. When I do my morning and evening walks, I will be carry my binoculars instead of a lens and keeping my eyes open to try and determine who is the actual pellet-caster.

Kudos to IPT veteran and old friend Bill Lloyd who commented, I’m surprised no one so far has suggested pellet. Most people are aware of “owl pellets” but birds of prey and many shore birds regurgitate pellets, something that would be expected if you watched them feeding.

I replied, Those are not the only bird families that regurgitate pellets … with love, artie

I have often seen Long-billed Curlews and Willets coughing up pellets. And the same is true of several gull species. Much of the material in all of those pellets consists of indigestible bits of crab shells. I will be keeping a close eye on the grackles and crows on the pier at ILE.


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

5 comments to RawDigger, Black Subjects, and White Skies. I thought the Gila Monster was a Boat-tailed Grackle Pellet. But … And Introducing the Y-Perch

  • avatar Al C.

    Hey Art, I was able to use your code to get 3% off the RF 1.4x from Bedford. I should have it by the end of the week and get to use it on the RF 100-500. I am starting to really like the 100-500 after getting to use it more and more. Unlike many, the f7.1 aperture is not an issue for me at all as I have always like to stop down to f8 anyways.

    Note: some how I was reading this blog and my post got tied to your 1/3 blog post, so I am reposting to the correct blog post. Strange…


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Al,

      No worries 🙂

      It’s a good combo especially when the sun is out. Thanks for using the discount code.

      with love, artie

  • Hi Artie

    Well spotted, Artie the Crackle is good illustrative shot of this handsome bird, and it is doing something which elevates it’s standing, it lights up my bells. I to use vehicles as hides, and when the subject is difficult to get close to I use scrim netting over the window it works, the subject knows you our there but is more relaxed.
    Best and love

  • avatar Paul Burdett

    Hi Artie: Typo…note the zero OvExp pixels should read: note the UnExp pixels.
    Looking forward to the final version. Cheers.

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