Variety is the Spice of Flight in San Diego! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Variety is the Spice of Flight in San Diego!

Got a Minute?

Check out the very fine collection of images here.

Your Fave?

After clicking on all three of today’s featured images to view the hi-res versions, you are invited to leave a comment letting us know which of the three is your favorite, and why you made your choice.

What’s Up?

My flight to Orlando yesterday was blessedly uneventful. It got in 15 minutes early and my bags and Jim were waiting for me when I got to bag claim. 🙂

When I learned of a massive dike re-construction project that is already underway, I had no choice but to cancel the two Stick Marsh IPTs as there is an excellent chance that the rookery will not survive the disturbance … All deposits are being refunded.

Today is Friday 3 December 2021. It is sunny and warm here in Florida, but it has been very cool in the evenings; the pool was down to 80 degrees this morning. It will be good to get back in the water later today. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took about 90 minutes to prepare and makes 24 consecutive days with a new one.

Please remember that you can find some great photo accessories (and necessities, like surf booties!) on Amazon by clicking on the Stuff tab on the orange/yellow menu bar above. On a related note, it would be extremely helpful if blog-folks who, like me, spend too much money on Amazon, would get in the habit of clicking on the Amazon logo link on the right side of each blog post when they shop online. As you might expect, doing so will not cost you a single penny, but would be appreciated tremendously by yours truly. And doing so works seamlessly with your Amazon Prime account.

Please remember that if an item — a Delkin flash card, or a tripod head — for example, that is available from B&H and/or Bedfords, is also available in the BAA Online Store, it would be great, and greatly appreciated, if you would opt to purchase from us. We will match any price. Please remember also to use my B&H affiliate links or to save 3% at Bedfords by using the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout for your major gear purchases. Doing either often earns you free guides and/or discounts. And always earns my great appreciation.

Brand New and As-Good-As-Ever Bedfords BAA Discount Policy

Folks who have fallen in love with Bedfords can now use the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout to enjoy a post-purchase, 3% off-statement credit (excluding taxes and shipping charges) on orders paid with a credit card. The 3% credit will be refunded to the card you used for your purchase. Be sure, also, to check the box for free shipping to enjoy free Second Day Air Fed-Ex. This offer does not apply to purchases of Classes, Gift Cards, and any prior purchases.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would like to enjoy getting 3% back on your credit card along with free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex 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 check the box for Free Shipping. That will automatically upgrade to free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex. 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 a 1, 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.

Important Note

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small percentage when you purchase from Amazon after using any of the links on the blog (including the logo-link immediately above). My link works with Amazon Prime and using it will not cost you a single cent. Huge thanks, BTW 🙂

Please Remember Also

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 (still!) save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I lost about fifty thousand dollars in income due to COVID 19 — 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.

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.

This image was created on 23 January 2019 at La Jolla, CA. I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens (at 500mm) and the Nikon D5 DSLR Camera (Body Only, Dual XQD Slots). ISO 400: 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. AWB at 3:41pm on a sunny afternoon.

Center Group/Shutter Button AF. Click on the image to enjoy a hi-res version.

Image #1: Ring-necked Duck drake in flight

Variety is the Spice of Flight in San Diego!

On a typical San Diego IPT, we get to photograph a dozen or more species of birds in flight. Though the Pacific-race Brown Pelicans are the stars of the flight show, there are many other attractive species that will provide ample opportunities to improve your flight photography skills with whatever system you are using being it Canon, Nikon, or Sony.

This image was created on 27 January 2019 at La Jolla, CA. I used the hand held Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens (at 244mm) and the Sony a9 (now replaced by the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital camera body). ISO 3200: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AWB at 8:15am in the shade.

Center Zone AF/C. Click on the image to enjoy a hi-res version.

Image #2: Brandt’s Cormorant braking to land at cliff nest

Brandt’s Cormorants

Dozens of Brandt’s Cormorants nest on a high cliff just yards below the level of the sidewalk. Photography there offers chances on a variety of interesting behaviors including nest building, gular panting, copulation, and courtship — the latter includes the spectacular drooped wing display. In addition, the birds are often flying in carrying gobs of red seaweed for the nests. Flight opportunities on the occasional cloudy days are spectacular.

As you can see by checking out the EXIF data for today’s images, you do not need a 600mm lens plus teleconverters to enjoy a ton of great flight photography in San Diego. Any intermediate telephoto zoom lens will be more than enough. My plan for this species this yea is to concentrate on flight with the new Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II lens, often with the 1.4X TC. The new 70-200 is expected to begin shipping on 16 December.

This image was created on 20 January 2019 at La Jolla, CA. I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens (at 500mm) and the mega mega-pixel Nikon D850 DSLR.. ISO 3200: 1/1000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. AWB at 9:41am on a rare cloudy morning.

Center Group/Shutter Button AF. Click on the image to enjoy a hi-res version.

Image #3: Pacific race Brown Pelican sub-adult in flight

Pelican Flight Photography

As with most flight photography, the more patient you are, the more great images of birds in flight you will make. The problem at La Jolla is the the breeding plumage pelicans with their chocolate brown hind necks, yellow faces, and the fire-engine red and olive-green bill pouches are so gorgeous that they are hard to resist. When the light and the wind are right, the trick is to forego the tight head shots, stand in the right spot with an intermediate telephoto lens, and be a bit patient … That is my plan for 2022. Join me and I can show you exactly where to stand!

San Diego, California: A Bird Photographer’s Paradise!

I’ve been visiting San Diego, California for more than 50 years, and photographing there for almost four decades. It truly is one of my favorite bird photography locations on the planet. The Pacific race Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches, are indeed the stars of the show, but there are lots of other great birds there that are relatively easy to photograph. Check out this five minute video to see the potential.

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking here.

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.

The 2022 San Diego Brown Pelicans (and more!) IPT. Monday 17 January thru the morning session on Friday 21 January 2022. Four full and one-half day: $2999.00. Deposit: $899.00. Limit: 8 photographers/Openings: 6

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, Northern Shoveler 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 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 may be attracted (or re-located) with offerings of grains or healthy bread.

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 SONY Zebras. 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. (Or two seconds with SONY zebras…) And you will learn what to do when the light is changing constantly. What you learn about exposure is one of the great takeaways 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, often with 70-200mm lenses! 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 other fabulous photo chances available in and around San Diego.


Did I mention that there are lots 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 three hour morning photo sessions, four one and one-half afternoon photo sessions, four working brunches that will include image review and Photoshop sessions. On rare cloudy day occasions, we may — at my discretion, stay out in the morning for a long session and skip that afternoon. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility. And so that we can get some sleep, dinners will be on your own as well. In the extremely unlikely event that Goldfish Point is closed due to local ordinance (or whimsy) — that has never happened in the past fifty years, I will of course do my very best to maximize our photographic opportunities.

An $899 deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “BIRDS AS ART”) to us here: 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, is due right after you sign up.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for both big international trips and US-based IPTs is highly recommended as we never know what life has in store for us. I strongly recommend that you purchase quality travel insurance. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to include things such as sudden work or family obligation and even a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check or running your credit card. Whenever purchasing travel insurance, be sure to read the fine print carefully even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.


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 landscape and seascape opportunities.


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

5 comments to Variety is the Spice of Flight in San Diego!

  • avatar David Barber

    I like the first image of the duck much better than the other two. Each bird is well-framed although I like the pose of the duck slightly better. I appreciate that look as it comes in for a landing, like it’s not sure it’s really got this landing thing down yet. What I really like about that picture is the fact that we can see something other than the bird. For me, the background makes that picture significantly more interesting that the plain while of the other two.

  • avatar James R Saxon

    No. 1 for me. I like the composition and colors in the image.

  • All three are great and the images in the link provided are outstanding! For me my favorite is #1. Maybe because it is a species I am more familiar with.

  • avatar Roger Smith

    From here is sunny San Diego, I hope the IPT participants have a great time. You are in for a treat. Artie is spot on, such a variety here. Just check e bird reports and you will get a sense for what you might encounter. Tomorrow I’m stalking a local spot for a short eared owl, fingers crossed. And for those visiting Santee Lakes, there is a nice new restaurant with a deck overlooking one of the lakes, grab a drink and review images together. Cheers.

  • All 3 of those cute with their wings out!!!

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