Tips on Creating Effective Bird-scapes. And like it or not? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Tips on Creating Effective Bird-scapes. And like it or not?

Like it or Not?

All are invited to leave a comment letting us know what they like or what they do not like about today’s featured image.

What’s Up?

There was not much going on down by the lake in the morning. With a decent wind from the east/northeast and some nice color in the western sky, sunset photography was exciting. I got some more work done on understanding the permitting of the S-96 Rehabilitation Project at Stick Marsh. Today is Tuesday 14 December 2021. The forecast is calling for partly cloudy skies early with a north/northeast breeze; I will be trying again this morning. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took more than two hours to prepare — including the time spent on the image optimization and the screen capture, and makes 35 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.

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission on items priced at $1,000 or more. With items less than $1000, there is a $50 flat-fee. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They went out of business. And e-Bay fees are now up to 13%. If you are interested, please click here, read everything carefully, and do what it says. To avoid any misunderstandings, please read the whole thing very carefully. If you agree to the terms, please state so clearly via e-mail and include the template or templates, one for each item you wish to sell. Then we can work together to get your stuff priced and listed.

Stuff that is priced fairly — I offer pricing advice only to those who agree to the terms — usually sells in no time flat. Over the past years, we have sold many hundreds of items. Do know that prices for used gear only go in one direction. Down. You can always see the current listings by clicking here or on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange-yellow menu bar near the top of each blog post page.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II dSLR (with extras!)

BAA-friend and BPN member Ravi Hirekatur is offering a Canon EOS 7D Mark II in excellent condition for $597.00. The shutter count is 167,000; the body was recently cleaned and checked via Canon’s 18 point service and has not been used since. The 7D II is rated for 200,000 shutter actuations. The extras include the Battery Grip BG-E16 (a roughly $130.00 value), the Kirk L clamp BL-7DIIG (a roughly $80.00 value), and the Canon Remote Release Canon RS-80N3 (a roughly $50.00 value). The sale also includes the original product box, the front body cap, the battery charger, a total of two well-used Canon batteries LP-E6N, the manual, the camera connecting cord, and insured ground shipping via UPS to lower-48 US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Ravi via e-mail or by phone at 1-608-217-9593 (Central time).

Both Patrick Sparkman and I used and loved the 7D Mark II until about two years ago when we both committed to using full-frame Canon bodies. We both made some truly great images with it. Two of my three 2016 Nature’s Best honored entries were created with the 7D II, one still, and one video. One thing is for sure: the 7D Mark II is the greatest value ever in a digital camera body. artie

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV (WG) with extras!

BIRDS AS ART Record Low Price

Note: The WG designation indicates that this camera has both wireless and GPS capabilities.

Blog regular Elinor Osborn is offering a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV (WG) camera in near mint condition (with extras) for a BAA record-low $1396.00. The sale includes the original box, the front cap, the strap, the battery charger, 2 CD-s, 2 instruction manuals, the interface cable, a RRS B7D2-L camera plate (a $100.00 value), a Lexar Professional 1066x UDMA 7 64 GB 160 MB flash card, a LensAlign MK II kit (a $124.90 value), and insured ground shipping via FedEx to lower 48 US addresses only. The sale does not include a battery or the cable protector. Your item will not ship until I receive a bank (cashier’s) check and confirm its validity via a phone call to the issuing bank.

Please contact Elinor via e-mail or by phone at 1-802 586-9994 (Eastern time)

What can I say? The 5D IV was my favorite-ever Canon digital dSLR. I owned and used three of them while my 1DX II sat on the shelf in my garage for the most part. A new 5D Mark IV, with its 30.4MP full-frame CMOS sensor, sell new for $2399.00. If you have been dreaming of a 5D IV, grab Elinor’s camera body right now and save well more than $1K! artie

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens

Blog regular Elinor Osborn is offering a Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM in near mint condition (except for “On/OFF” written on the lens foot) for $1425.00. The sale includes the original box, the Lens Case LZ1326, the Lens Hood ET-83D, the lens strap, the instruction sheet and booklet, the front and rear lens caps, and insured ground shipping via FedEx to lower 48 US addresses only. Your item will not ship until I receive a bank (cashier’s) check and confirm its validity via a phone call to the issuing bank.

Please contact Elinor via e-mail or by phone at 1-802 586-9994 (Eastern time)

This incredibly versatile zoom lens — with its amazing .98 meter close focus — was my favorite Canon telephoto zoom lens ever. By far. It is easy to hand hold, great for tight portraits, for birds in flight, for quasi-macro stuff, and lots more. For flight, it is fabulous with an R5! The lens sells new for $2399.00 so you can save some hard cash by grabbing Elinor’s copy now. artie

Canon EF 1.4X II Extender (teleconverter)

Blog regular Elinor Osborn is offering a Canon EF 1.4X II Extender (teleconverter) in like new condition (except for “1.4X” marked on the lens cap) for $149.00. The sale includes the original box, the front and rear lens caps, the lens pouch, the instruction sheet, and insured ground shipping via FedEx to lower 48 US addresses only. Your item will not ship until I receive a bank (cashier’s) check and confirm its validity via a phone call to the issuing bank.

Please contact Elinor via e-mail or by phone at 1-802 586-9994 (Eastern time)

Regular readers know teleconverters are so important to what I do that I travel with back-ups for each one. I actually bring three 1.4X TCs on every trip! artie

Canon EF 2X II Extender (teleconverter)

Blog regular Elinor Osborn is offering a Canon EF 2X II Extender (teleconverter) in like new condition (except for “2X” marked on the lens cap) for $149.00. The sale includes the original box, the front and rear lens caps, the lens pouch, the instruction sheet, and insured ground shipping via FedEx to lower 48 US addresses only. Your item will not ship until I receive a bank (cashier’s) check and confirm its validity via a phone call to the issuing bank.

Please contact Elinor via e-mail or by phone at 1-802 586-9994 (Eastern time)

Regular readers know teleconverters are so important to what I do that I travel with back-ups for each one. artie

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.

I created this image on 8 January 2020 at La Jolla, CA. With the lens resting on a railing, I used the hand held Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens (at 470mm) and Sony a9 ii, now replaced for me by The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 800. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/800 sec. at f/7.1 (stopped down 1/3 stop) in Manual mode. As this was pre-RawDigger, this image was almost one stop too dark. AWB at 9:06am on a partly cloudy morning.

Lower Center Zone AF-C was active at the moment exposure and worked just fine. Be absolutely sure to click on the image to enjoy the hi-res version.

Image #1: Brown Pelicans and friends roosting on cliff

Brown Pelicans and Friends

I just love the Pacific-race Brown Pelicans in early winter on the cliffs at La Jolla. The variety of plumages and individual variations of the feathering and the soft-parts colors often boggles the mind. Most of the pelicans in this bird-scape are adults in full breeding plumage with their black breasts, black or dark chocolate brown hind-necks, and fire-engine red and olive bill pouches. There are several pre-breeding birds with white-hind necks along with one orange variant and a single young bird. The juvenile with brown upperparts and white belly is just to our left of the head-throwing adult in the upper right. all of the cormorants are Brandt’s. They breed on a dirt cliff just down the hill a bit. Last is the single Heermann’s Gull in the upper right.

Tips on Creating Effective Bird-scapes

Bird-scape, noun: An images of a single bird, a group of birds, or a large flock of birds in pleasing surroundings. AKA “habitat shots.”

#1: A pleasing environmental scene is often the key to success. I’ve always had an eye for the artistic patterns of the whitewash-streaked sandstone cliffs at La Jolla.

#2: Think intermediate telephoto zoom or super-telephoto lenses. Many folks think that a 24-105mm zoom lens is ideal for creating bird scapes. That may be when you are very close to huge flocks of birds (or birds on vast breeding grounds). Being above the scene helps when you are creating bird-scapes with short lenses; the higher the better. Longer lenses allow you to work with more distant groups of birds.

#3: When working with any telephoto focal length, it is generally best to focus on the closest bird or the birds in the front row. With more distant groups of birds, it is better to focus 1/3 or 1/2 of the way into the flock.

#4: The distance to the subjects that come when using longer focal lengths almost always provides sufficient depth-of-field. There is generally no need to stop down much unless you are working with small groups of birds at relatively close range. At a distance of roughly 100 yards, 470mm at f/7.1 provided more than 30 feet of depth-of-field coverage. Here, only the Heermann’s Gull in the upper right corner is unsharp.

#5: When working with zoom lenses, it is almost always best to frame the image a bit wider, rather than a bit tighter. Whenever you get greedy by framing too tightly, you wind up wishing that you had zoomed out a bit more. Zoom wider and crop after the fact.

#6: Except when creating pure pattern shots where huge numbers of birds completely fill the frame, strive to avoid cutting any birds off on the frame-edges.

#7: Pressing the shutter button when and if a single bird in the flock does something interesting will almost always result in a more interesting photograph. Special thanks to the head-throwing pelican in the upper right!

Click on the image to better read the fine print.

Image #1A: ACR slider settings for the Brown Pelicans and friends roosting on cliff image

The Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) Slider Settings

Whether you convert your raw files in Photoshop or Lightroom (both with ACR), in Capture One, or in DPP 4, the sliders are all similar; you can, therefore, learn a stack by perusing the settings above.

I began by lowering the color temperature from 5250 to 4950 to reduce the YELLOWs. Knowing that RawDigger had revealed that the raw file here was almost one stop too dark, guided me in setting the Exposure slider to +0.80. The White Point was set to half the speckle-value of +8. I moved the Black Slider to -5 so that the dark shadow under the rock shelf in the lower right corner lit up with under-exposed warnings. Why? I wanted my dark shadow to be black. The Highlight slider was moved well to the left to bring up the detail in the white hind-necks and the whitewash. The rest of the settings were as usual.

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.

4 comments to Tips on Creating Effective Bird-scapes. And like it or not?

  • avatar James Saxon

    This photo is not for me. The whitewash does nothing for me and I feel the composition with all the birds is cluttered. This is the first photo I can remember you posting that I haven’t liked. Sorry.

  • avatar Jeff Walters

    Calling Bird S__t whitewash is like Biden saying he doesn’t take a nap & inflation is all in our minds…oh and the borders secure. The shot shows the environment. If there wasn’t so much of it some would be tempted to take it out. Bird activity, bird hangout, bird behavior, bird life. Cool shot.

  • Gorgeous!!! The whitewash flowing over the rocks under the colorful birds makes this a unique, creative art image. I don’t care a bit if it’s whitewash, the flowing lines give the photo energy. I wouldn’t mind having the gull out since it’s not part of the subject but a crop from the top would take out the pointy rock top which is needed to complete the diagonal rock line which parallels the lower, curving rock line. A crop from the right would put the edge too close to the subject birds, take out the interesting cave and would make a square composition when the rectangular comp is a lot better.
    Thanks. It’s so helpful to have to think about these images.

  • Artie
    While i am not a real fan of looking at white wash from birds as in todays featured photos there is art in everything we see, it is how one looks at it no different then a pond filled with the green algae and ducks swimming along as one tries to clean it up but in reality it is part of nature. All of my photos i leave things where they are. My lightning shots over rivers or churches are one offs and nothing added i do not stack as some do. I love the brown pelicans there color and grace is beautiful
    So that said i am not a fan of todays images however there is ART as one sees it!
    Always with love b

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>