A Harrowing Drive. The 200-600 Best for Pre-dawn Blurs « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

A Harrowing Drive. The 200-600 Best for Pre-dawn Blurs

San Diego IPT Late Registration Discount

If you are interested in joining me in San Diego to improve your photography by leaps and bounds and enjoy the phenomenal Brown Pelican photography this month, please shoot me an e-mail for IPT #3 late registration discount info. Though different every day, the photography has been consistently and astoundingly good.

Homer Late Registration Discounts

If you are interested in traveling to Homer, AK with me in FEB/MAR 2023 to photograph Bald Eagles, shoot me an e-mail for late registration discount info. Several folks are in the process of registering so do not tarry. The first IPT is looking sold out as I await the last two deposit checks.

What’s Up?

I made the long drive to the south end of Salton Sea and back to Pacific Beach in a single day. I left at 4am, and took I8 East to S-30 (Forrester Road) to the refuge. I had not been for nearly 30 years. The place did not smell as bad as it use to, but one must consider that I used to visit when it was a lot hotter. The single huge change is that nearly all of the roads that I drove three decades ago are now closed, adorned by the all-too-familiar blue and white flying goose signs: National Wildlife Refuge/UNAUTHORIZED ENTRY PROHIBITED/US DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR/FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE. The good news is that hunters at least have far more access than birders and bird photographers. I created a few earth-toned bird-scapes and discovered a new focusing technique that worked great for bird-scapes. I drove around a bit, stumbled upon a hunter-related Snow Goos blast-off that reminded me of the good old days at Bosque, and found-but-did-not photograph two distant Burrowing Owls nesting in dirt holes.

At 1:15pm, I decided to head back to my AirBnb via the northerly route through the mountains. I took 78 through the Anzo Borrego Desert into Julian, then 67 down into Ramona, and finally onto 52 West. It began to rain and fog over before I pulled into Julian and those conditions continued until I finally made it back to San Diego. The drive home included steep climbs, long, steep downhill sections, and seemingly a zillion sharp S-curved switchbacks. To say that the 4 1/2 hour trip back was harrowing would have been a big understatement. I was glad that I made it. My cards are still in my rental car as I work on this post.

Today is Sunday 15 January 2023. The forecast is for cloudy with a brisk wind from the west. These seemingly very poor morning conditions can offer some excellent pelican photography if you know where to be. I will be there. Most likely, alone. This blog post took about 90-minutes to prepare and makes two hundred ninety-two days in a row with a new, educational post just for you. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day.

It is looking as if Homer #1 and #3 will be sold out fairly soon. Please do not forget to use my B&H or Bedford’s affiliate programs for your new gear purchases.

My plan is to continue to post every day until the streak reaches one year and one day and then go back to posting every other day.

Please remember to use the B&H and Amazon links that are found on most blog pages and to use the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout when purchasing your new gear from Bedfords to get 3% back on your credit card and enjoy free second-day air FedEx. Please, also, consider joining a BAA IPT. You will be amazed at how much you will learn!

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 โ€” a Delkin flash card, or a tripod head โ€” 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 earn 3% cash back 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.

Induro GIT 304L Tripod

Out of production for more than two years, BAA just sold its last one. The good news? We have located two more new-in-the-box tripods. They will be available for shipping at the end of January. Best to order yours now to be sure that you get one. We will not run your card until your item ships. The 304L was my go-to tripod for more than a decade. Best to grab order yours right now to avoid being disappointed.

Bedfords Amazing 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 waitlists 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 on the right side of each blog post page). My affiliate link works fine with Amazon Prime and using it will not cost you a single cent. Huge thanks, BTW ๐Ÿ™‚

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. And the same is true in spades when ordering new camera bodies or lenses. My advice will often save you some serious money and may help you avoid making a seriously bad choice. 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 the 23 December on the first San Diego IPT. I used the the hand held Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens (at 200mm) and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ) The exposure was determined using Zebra technology with Exposure Compensation on the Thumb Dial. Shutter Priority +2.0 stops. AUTO ISO set ISO 250: 1/40 second at f/5.6 (wide open). AWB at 7:18:56am on a foggy morning that later became sunny. RawDigger showed the exposure to be 1/3-stop short of perfect.

Tracking: Zone AF-C with Bird Face/Eye Detection performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a high-res version.

Image #1: Brown Pelicans/landing greeting blur

Why the 200-600 for Pre-dawn Blurs?

Why would I choose the much slower 200-600mm f/63 G lens for pre-dawn blurs when I have two faster GM (Grand Master) lenses — the 400mm f/2.8 and the 600mm f/4 — to choose from?

There are many reasons:

1- First and foremost, faster lenses offer little advantage when you will be creating blurs and working with already low ISO settings as with today’s two featured images — ISO 250 for Image #1, and ISO 100 for Image #2.

2- The 200-600 is much easier to handhold.

3- You can zoom in or out as needed. Note the focal lengths used for today’s two images: 200mm for Image #1, and 600mm for Image #2.

My plan for this morning is to utilize the speed of the 70-200mm f/2.8 II GM and the 400mm f/2.8 GM lenses to create sharp flight images in low light conditions without having to jack up the ISOs too much. Different tools for different jobs.

On Listening to the Leader

I remember letting Anar Daswani know — she too was using the 200-600/a1 handheld rig — that by zooming out there was a good chance to create a decent story-telling image as the pelicans landed. Birds on the ground often distend their bill pouches as another bird lands. Some might construe this behavior as being aggressive, but I see it as more of a greeting. At times, the landing birds also distend their bills as if in conversation for a critique soon.

If I had the proverbial nickel for each time that I have made a suggestion to an IPT-participant only to have them ignore it completely, I would have a lot of nickels. If you have carefully chosen to spend your money on a trip with a leader that you respect, it might be a good plan to follow their advice. Or not.

This image was created on 25 December, the day after the first San Diego IPT. Again, I used the the hand held Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens (this time at 600mm) and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ) The exposure was determined using Zebra technology with Exposure Compensation on the Thumb Dial. Shutter Priority +2.0 stops. AUTO ISO set ISO 100: 1/30 second at f/7.1 (stopped down 1/3-stop). AWB at 7:16:26am before the sun came over the hills of La Jolla. Again, RawDigger showed the exposure to be 1/3-stop short of perfect.

Tracking: Zone AF-C with Bird Face/Eye Detection performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a high-res version.

Image #2: Brandt’s Cormorant pre-dawn pan blur

Your Call

A- I like Image #1 best because …

B- I like Image #2 best because …

C- I like them both.

D- I like blurs but I do not like either of these because …

E- I hate all blurs because …


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

10 comments to A Harrowing Drive. The 200-600 Best for Pre-dawn Blurs

  • avatar Barry Barfield

    I have followed your blog in Australia for years now, back when I was shooting Canon. Since going over to Sony A9ii and A1 bodies, I have never looked back since getting your guides on setting up my Sony’s, and much more recently – in getting Mark Smith’s guide on setting up my video settings on A1 – as you recommended.
    I could not have done it all without you guys spending the time and putting it out there for all to understand in plain English. Thanks again Art.

  • avatar Maggi Fuller

    Iโ€™m with Bob Iโ€™m afraidโ€ฆ. F, though I cannot say I hate all blurs, these two images are very disappointing and do nothing for me at all. Sorry.

  • avatar Todd Godwin

    I like B best because I like the simplicity of it. The lack of simplicy due to the presence of several birds in A.

  • Artie
    I am going with F- because i cannot say i don’t like blurs but todays images are just not doing if for me.
    I may like some however my goal is to make sharp images that really please me knowing i could not do better and i am no where near there even though some say omg your photos are amazing, until i see others. I then know i have lots to keep on learning and getting out, however sense i have been following your work i do love the morning sunrise silhouette or sunset and the burning sky, blurs may come who knows but first things first then i have the rest of my life to create Art ๐Ÿ™‚
    Always with love b

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your honesty, Robert. Perhaps blurs are an acquired taste as red wine and Brussels sprouts have been for me.

      with love, artie

      ps: I still hate lima beans!

  • avatar Anthony Ardito

    A – … because I don’t like it. Not a pleasing blur but rather an OOF image to me. Put it through some AI and it might transform.

    B – … because of the motion of the wings and the lines in the sky (of course I know it’s not the sky, but the water below, but who knows that?) Looks like sky on initial impression, but maybe it is, humm. Background makes the mind spin more than the subject. Not only does the bird show motion in a pleasing way but the lines do too.

    C – N/A see A & B above

    D – N/A see A & B above

    E – N/A also because I do like blurs as noted in A above.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. You have the captions swapped. Image 1 is the cormorant. My call is D. The cormorant seems ordinary to me and three reasonably sharp pelicans and a fourth with blurred wings seem as if you couldn’t decide whether to make a blur or a more traditional image.

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