A Perfect Storm of Great Egret Perfection « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

A Perfect Storm of Great Egret Perfection

What’s Up?

After a somewhat blah sunrise on Thursday, the last morning of the Merritt Island IPT, we were looking at getting back very early. The only thing that can save us, I said, is a feeding spree near the tour road with the birds on our left and the sun on our right. Donna and Bev wanted to get back early to check out of their AirBnB and begin their 2-day drive back to Chattanooga. We stopped briefly at a small pond for some Black-necked Stilts and an unusually tame breeding plumage Glossy Ibis. A drop-dead gorgeous Reddish Egret flew in to tussle with a less handsome reddish but quickly flew off.

I looked down the road to our right and saw several parked vehicles and some flashes of white. We are outta here now! A short drive brought us to a huge feeding spree right next to the tour road with the birds on our left and the sun on our right. More than 100 Snowy Egrets and several other species were fishing and dip-feeding in a pond that was about 30 X 40 feet. A six foot American Alligator paddled around the pound making half-hearted lunges at a few birds. We were rooting hard for him to get breakfast but the gator was an abject failure as a hunter.

You will learn more about this incredibly difficult situation and the amazing end to the story in a future blog post.

Good friend Bill Schneider arrived at about 3pm for two days of SONY a1 Set-up and In-the Field Instruction. After we went through the menus and set up his camera, he practiced with it a bit by taking a few snaps around the yard. We headed to the refuge at about 3:30pm. It was partly sunny with a strong south wind. I did not expect to find much. We came around a curve near Sign 3 when I spotted what I thought was Snowy Egret taking shelter from the wing behind a mangrove. I almost did not stop but something did not look right. A second glance revealed that it was the odd heron/egret that has been visiting the refuge each spring for about five years. We stayed with the bird for close to an hour and had some great chances with a very strange and very beautiful bird.

After leaving the bird, again sheltered by a mangrove, Bill said, I want a nice spoonbill. We quickly found one feeding in small bay next to the road and stayed with it for about 30 minutes. We headed home, downloaded and looked at our images, and headed late for another great dinner at Dixie Crossroads Restaurant in Titusville. If you are not in the restaurant at 8:00pm sharp they send you home. Please do not ask me how fast I was driving up US Route 1. But we made it. 🙂

Today is Friday March 19 2021. The forecast for today is for mostly sunny with north/northwest winds all day. That is bad for morning bird photography. We will be headed out at 6:30 in hopes of a decent sunrise.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you have a great day.

This blog post took about two hours to prepare and makes eighty-seven days in a row with a new one. Please remember to use my B&H affiliate links or to save money at Bedfords by using the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout.

Please Remember

With income from IPTs now at 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, are invited to help out by clicking here to leave a blog thank you gift if they see fit.

Wanted to Buy

If you have a Canon EF Extender 2X III (teleconverter) that you would like to part with, please contact me via e-mail. I have an interested buyer.

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 second-day air 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 (remember those?) 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 Stick Marsh Site Guide Subscription Service

Th Site Guide Subscription Service is a new concept. I will send a short site guide no later than this coming Monday that covers the basics. It will include a map of the rookery area with specific instructions and wind and weather advice. There were some good photographers at Stick Marsh yesterday. Many are skilled at hand-holding 500 and 600mm f/4 telephotos lenses. But with all due respect, none of them can come anywhere near me when it comes to analyzing the photo opps at a given location. With the exception of the aforementioned Fred — I think his full name was Fred Vaughn, every photographer got to their favor spot and never moved. We moved around a lot and had great and different chances all day long. After each visit, you will receive an e-mail noting the best locations and anything knew that I learned.

To sign up for the Stick Marsh Site Guide Subscription Service, send a PayPal for $100.00 to us at birdsasart@verizon.net and be sure to include the words Stick Marsh. Or, you can call Jim any day at 1-863-692-0906 to pay by credit card. At some point, we will get this item in the BAA Online Store.

I fully understand that you can go to Google Maps, find the Stick Marsh, visit, and likely make some good or great images. You might think, I can do fine just without artie’s advice. But you would do a whole lot better with it.

Please contact me via e-mail to explore the possibilities of morning In-the-Field Instructional Sessions at Stick Marsh.

This image was created on 17 March 2021 at the Stick Marsh in Fellsmere, FL. I used the Induro GIT 404L/Levered-clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens with the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 1250. Exposure determined by Zebras with ISO on the thumb dial: 1/2500 sec. at f/5.6 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 7:56am on a clear morning.

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

Image #1: Great Egret breeding plumage spotlit angel pose

A Perfect Storm of Perfection

Everything came together for the creation of this image. We arrived at Stick Marsh early and got into perfect position. The light was gorgeous. I had noted the flight pattern of this particular bird returning to its nest and alerted the group. (Donna Bourdon got a very similar image.) I had checked the exposure, and the Sony Alpha a1 AF system performed to perfection. This was my favorite image from the IPT Stick Marsh visit. I will share my favorite spoonbill image and reveal the tiny flaw in that image in tomorrow’s blog post.

Some might say that the head angle in today’s “perfect” image is poor as the bird is looking away. They might be right, but without that very head angle I would likely not have gotten the wings-fully spread angel pose … In that situation, I could not have done any better.

Click on the screen Capture to see a larger version.

Image #1A: Raw Digger screen capture for the Great Egret breeding plumage spotlit angel pose image

The RawDigger (pink) Adapted Histogram

The Adapted Histogram here shows an absolutely perfect exposure with zero OvExp pixels and the GREEN histogram 2/3 of the way from the 8000 line to the 16000 line.

In the RawDigger e-Guide, you will learn exactly how to set up the Adapted “pink” RawDigger Histogram and how to use it to quickly and easily evaluate the exposure or raw file brightness of images from all digital cameras currently in use. RawDigger has been especially helpful to me as I have struggled with R5 exposures and learned my new camera body, the Sony Alpha a1.

Click on the screen Capture to see a larger version.

Image #1B: Active AF points for the Great Egret breeding plumage spotlit angel pose image

Sony Alpha a1 Astounds

To learn exactly how I set up my Alpha a1 for flight to achieve results like this, join the SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group.

SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group

The SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group is going great guns as folks chime in with thoughtful questions and experience-based answers. I learned a ton recently in group e-mail exchanges with Geoff Newhouse, Craig Elson and James Spillman. Like the R5, the a1 is an incredibly complex camera body. But the sad news is that if you are doing bird photography right now the Alpha a1 pretty much obliterates the competition with 51,000,000 gorgeous pixels and a science-fiction-like AF systsem …

All who purchase their Alpha a1 bodies via a BAA affiliate link receive a free subscription to the Sony Alpha a1 Set-Up and Info Updates group. This same service may be purchased by anyone with an a1 body via a $150.00 Paypal sent to birdsasart@verizon.net indicating payment for Alpha a1 Info Updates. New members will receive all back issues.

Click on the screen Capture to see a larger version.

Image #1C: Topaz DeNoise AI the Great Egret breeding plumage spotlit angel pose image

Topaz DeNoise AI

There was quite a bit of noise in the dark tones. Why? Because when we properly expose for the WHITEs, the dark tones are approximately 1 2/3 stops under-exposed. Click on the image to see how beautifully Topaz DeNoise AI on Auto cleaned up the background noise and sharpened an already sharp image beautifully and non-destructively. Confused? Read and study the section on Exposure Theory in the original soft cover The Art of Bird Photography.

Great Topaz News!

Folks who use the BAA Topaz link to purchase Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, or the Utility Bundle (or any other Topaz plug-ins), will receive a 15% discount by entering the ARTHUR15 code at checkout. If the stuff is on sale (as it usually is), you save 15% off of the sale price! To get the discount you must use my link and you must enter the discount code. Be sure to start with this link.

Those who purchase Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, or any other Topaz plug-ins using my link and then entering the ARTHUR15 code at checkout can e-mail to request a short Getting Started with Topaz e-Guide. Please include a copy of your Topaz receipt that shows the discount. Aside from the basics, the guide explains how to install the plug-ins so that they appear in the Photoshop Filter Menu.


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

5 comments to A Perfect Storm of Great Egret Perfection

  • avatar Jeff Walters

    Great shot. Did you enhance the green/blue around the eyes or is that straight as it was shot?

    Right out of camera. The lores of this species come in varying amazing shades of green.

    Curious minds want to know! So impressed with the Topaz AI Denoise. Does it work with the raw file or after a Tiff conversion?

    I am not sure whether or not it will process a raw file. I use it on my TIF files first thing after converting and cropping.

    And I am a little confused… You wrote the chapter on exposure and refer folks to it in The Art of Bird Photography.(I own 2 copies).

    Why so few?

    If you sir could get exposure right with slide films and older camera metering systems,

    at times …

    (and I know Zebras are the bees knees though I have never seen either one) why would an experienced Pro like yourself struggle with getting exposure right with your new Canon gear? Since digital offers more latitude in being slightly off on exposure and software nowadays can make corrections in exposure….I’m kind of lost; Confused. Is it just better to have it spot on right out of camera?

    Of course.

    Could you beg my pardon and explain this a little bit considering I would think Zebras would only confirm what your experience has already taught you or not? As you can tell I’m a little confused on this. Thanks for reading and caring and all of your good (no great advice) and tips. As always press onward towards the goal …

    You are welcome. Many folks ask the same question. With Zebras, with your cameras set up as detailed in the big SONY guide, you know you will get it right before you press the shutter button. You do not need to make a test exposure.

    Another way of looking at it is as follows: you can get from New York to LA by walking, by jogging, by bike, by car, by train, or by plane. All of them will get you there. One of those ways is obviously the fastest and the safest. Using Zebras to determine your exposures is simply the jet plane …

    with love, a

    ps: if you want to go by bike, that is your choice …

  • avatar Kathy Kunce

    Are you “retired” ( with the government)? Because you could collect s.s., withdraw RMDs from retirement accounts, etc. This would help you with money.

  • avatar James Saxon

    Love the photo of the Egret.

  • avatar David Pugsley

    Love the egret! What specifically does the green target indicate on the screen captures of the Sony AF points?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks, David. I am pretty sure that the green icon indicates Focus Location … But it may have something to do with the eye detection stuff …

      Save up for an a1 🙂

      with love, a

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