I’ll Be Busy at Sunset for the Next Three Months! And I have no clue as to how the a1 nailed the focus at 1200mm in a pretty much impossible situation … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

I'll Be Busy at Sunset for the Next Three Months! And I have no clue as to how the a1 nailed the focus at 1200mm in a pretty much impossible situation ...

What’s Up?

Most of the severe itchiness from the fire ant debacle is gone. The 30 welts remain, all greatly reduced in size. Each pustule has a raised, yellow center. It could have been a lot worse. Several decades ago my friend Carl R Sams put his elbow squarely atop a fire ant nest across from the Venice Rookery while lying on the ground to photograph a Green Heron in a tiny creek. His elbow swelled up to the size of a basketball and he wound up in the hospital. At least that is the story as I remember it …

Carl, and wife Jeannie Stoick, of Stranger in the Woods fame, have a great line of children’s books here. Your grandchildren might very well enjoy one or more of them. Please do not ask me why the Amazong logo-link shows $1.20 …

I watched lots of NFL games on Sunday; there were several barn burners. Can you say 49ers/Bengals, Browns/Ravens, or Tampa Bay/Buffalo?

barn burn·er: /bärn ˈbərnər/

noun: barn burner; plural noun: barn burners; noun: barnburner; plural noun: barnburners. An event, typically a sports contest, that is very exciting or intense. Often high scoring with a dramatic ending.

I did make it down to the lake for sunset 🙂

The forecast for today, Monday 13 December 2021, is for clear skies with a north northeast wind. With near ideal conditions, I will get down to the lake early. 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 (including the time spent on the image optimization and screen captures) and makes 34 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, or to 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 Amazon 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. If you are desperate, you can try me on my cell at 863-221-2372. Please leave a message and shoot me a text if I do not pick up.

This image was created on 11 December 2021 down by the lake at my home in Indian Lake Estates, FL. While standing two steps up on my Jacksonville IPT stepladder (Werner model S313P-2), I used the no-longer available GIT505XXL Grand Series 5 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted-Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only). Multi-metering +2.3 stop. AUTO ISO set ISO 3200. 1/1600 sec. at f/8 (wide open) in Shutter Priority mode. AWB at 5:28:32pm on a mostly clear evening.

Tracking: Center Zone AF-C with Bird-Eye/Face Detection performed perfectly by just catching the bill tip of the front ibis. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a larger higher-res version.

Image #1: Wading birds at sunset roost

It’s That Time of Year! I’ll Be Busy at Sunset for the Next Three Months (or more)!

The wading birds began returning to their annual winter evening roost about a week ago. But for San Diego and Homer, I will be heading down to the lake every evening about a half hour before the time of sunset as long as there is a chance for some color in the western sky. I am able to check the sky from my pool deck.

I’ve made things easier by working with my super-tall (no-longer available) GIT505XXL Grand Series 5 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod and my Jacksonville IPT stepladder (Werner model S313P-2). This combination makes it a bit easier to get over the reeds as I am about two feet taller than I would be if simply standing on the North Field. A strong wind from the northeast in the evening is perfect as the birds fly higher than thy do when it is fairly still (as it has been the last three nights). In a perfect world, I can enjoy a full half hour or more of exciting flight action. And I have a plan in mind to make may sunset outings even more productive …

Click on the image to view a higher-res version.

Image #1A: AF Points for the Wading birds at sunset roost image

Why So Difficult?

Distant birds landing in bullrushes present a huge challenge for any camera’s AF system. Why? The AF system will often grab the reeds. The AF system of the Sony a1 is head and shoulders above the AF system of any camera I have used previously. As there was no wind last night and the birds were coming in very low, I began experimenting with Tracking: Spot S. I have no idea how the a1 succeeded in tracking the tip of the ibises bill as seen in the screen capture above. But I am thrilled that it did.

SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group

The SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group is going great guns as more and more folks chime in with thoughtful questions and experience-based answers. As the a1 is becoming more readily available, more and more folks are getting their hands on this amazing body. With another photographer joining yesterday, we are now up to an astounding 99 lucky and blessed folks. Early on, we discussed the myriad AF options. I gave my opinion as to the best one for flight and general bird photography. The best news is that the first e-mail you will receive includes a .DAT file with my a1 settings on it, and explicit directions on how to load my settings onto your a1; talk about convenience!

All who purchased their Alpha a1 bodies via a BAA affiliate link will receive a free subscription to the Sony Alpha a1 Set-Up and Info Updates group after shooting me their receipts via e-mail. (Note: it may take me several days to confirm B&H orders.) 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. Alternatively, folks can call Jim weekdays at 1-863-692-0906 to pay via credit card. New members will receive composite e-mails that summarize all previous discussions.

Click on the image to better read the fine print.

Image #1C: RawDigger screen capture for the Wading birds at sunset roost image

The RawDigger Screen Capture

As Patrick Sparkman and I point out in the RawDigger e-guide, it is exceedingly rare for the RED channel to be farther to the right than the GREEN channel, even with richly colored sunrise and sunset images. The pink histogram for today’s feature image is one of those rare exceptions. Note that even at +2.3 stops this image was about 1/3 stop too dark. I define such exposures as very good.

RawDigger — not for the faint of heart …

Nothing has ever helped me learn to create consistency excellent or perfect exposures to the degree that RawDigger has. I think that many folks are reluctant to learn that most of their images are underexposed by one or more full stops and that highlight warnings in Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, and your in-camera histogram are completely bogus as they are based on the embedded JPEGs. Only your raw files tell the truth all the time. Heck, I resisted RawDigger for many years … Once you get over that feeling, RawDigger can become your very best exposure-friend no matter what system you are using. On the recent IPTs and In-the-Field sessions, we have consistently demonstrated that fact. Convincingly.

The RawDigger (pink) Adapted Histogram

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 was especially helpful to me when I struggled with R5 exposures and when learned my new camera body, the Sony Alpha a1.

RawDigger e-Guide with Two Videos

Dead-Solid Perfect!

As seen on the cover above, images where the G channel gets 2/3rds of the way from the 8000 to the 16000 line are perfect exposures. Images where the G channel gets right up to the line are dead-solid perfect.

The RawDigger e-Guide with Two Videos

by Arthur Morris with Patrick Sparkman

The RawDigger e-Guide was created only for serious photographers who wish to get the absolute most out of their raw files.

Patrick and I began work on the guide in July 2020. At first we struggled. We asked questions. We learned about Max-G values. We could not figure out why the Max G values varied by camera system. IPT veteran Bart Deamer asked lots of questions that we could not answer. We got help from RawDigger creator Iliah Borg. We learned. In December, Patrick came up with an Adapted Histogram that allows us to evaluate the exposures and raw file brightness for all images created with all digital camera bodies from the last two decades. What we learned each time prompted three complete beginning to end re-writes.

The point of the guide is to teach you to truly expose to the mega-Expose-to-the-Right so that you will minimize noise, maximize image quality, best utilize your camera’s dynamic range, and attain the highest possible level of shadow detail in your RAW files in every situation. In addition, your properly exposed RAW files will contain more tonal information and feature the smoothest possible transitions between tones. And your optimized images will feature rich, accurate color.

We teach you why the GREEN channel is almost always the first to over-expose. We save you money by advising you which version of RawDigger you need. We teach you how to interpret the Max G values for your Canon, Nikon, and SONY camera bodies. It is very likely that the Shock-your-World section will shock you. And lastly — thanks to the technical and practical brilliance of Patrick Sparkman — we teach you a simple way to quickly and easily evaluate your exposures and raw file brightness using an Adapted RawDigger histogram.

The flower video takes you through a session where artie edits a folder of images in Capture One while checking the exposures and Max-G values in RawDigger. The Adapted Histogram video examines a series of recent images with the pink histograms and covers lots of fine points including and especially how to deal with specular highlights. The directions for setting up the Adapted Histogram are in the text.

If we priced this guide based on how much effort we put into it, it would sell it for $999.00. But as this guide will be purchased only by a limited number of serious photographers, we have priced it at $51.00. You can order yours here in the BAA Online Store.


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

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