DeSoto Spring Beauties/The Times They Have Changed « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

DeSoto Spring Beauties/The Times They Have Changed

What’s Up?

Though I just got home, I am beginning to pack my suitcases and one of my Thank Tank rolling bags for my upcoming trip to Homer, AK. I fly to Anchorage this coming Monday. I’ve been relaxing a bit, walking everyday and spending time in the pool, and working on identifying and reducing stress in my life.

Today is Thursday 15 February 2024. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, enjoy.

Please remember to use the B&H 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!

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 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.

ddc 728w

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I checked on renting a Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II lens for a week. The cost is only $122.00. LensCap: Damage Only coverage can be added for a very low $18.00. Going with LensCap: Damage & Theft would be $27.00. The shipping charge varies. They offer an interesting program called Lensrentals HD. By signing up for this shipping discount program ($99.00/year), you’ll get free Standard Shipping on all the orders you place.

Renting a Sony 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens for a week will cost you $536.00. The two coverage options come in at $76.00 or $114.00. Less your 15% discount when you enter the BIRDSASART15 code into the Promo Code box at checkout and enter the BIRDSASART15 codeine the Promo Code box at checkout to save 15%.

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Visit the Bedfords website here, shoot Steve Elkins an e-mail, or text him on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592.

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 20 April 2017 on a Fort DeSoto IPT. I used the no-longer available Induro GIT 304L tripod/Mongoose M3.6 Action head-mounted Canon 600mm f/4L IS lens with the 2X III teleconverter and the EOS 5D Mark IV dSLR. The exposure was determined by creating a test image and then evaluating the histogram (and Highlight Alert Warnings (AKA blinkies). ISO 400. 1/1250 sec. at f/9 (stopped down 1/3-stop) in Manual mode. When evaluated in RawDigger this morning, the raw file exposure was determined to be two full stops under-exposed! AWB at 9:13:50am on a completely sunny day.

Image #1: Royal Tern in breeding plumage

The Times They Have Changed

Seven years ago I was using the Mongoose M3.6 Action head. And I was still using Canon despite the fact that I had been let go (fired) as a Canon Explorer of Light after a great 19-year run. The 5D Mark IV had a frame rate of 7 fps and produced 30.4MP files (and still does). Compare that with 30 fps and the 51MP image files of the Sony a1 and you realized the tremendous changes that have occurred in the past 7 years.

I had never heard of RawDigger and thus, most of my images were one to two full stops too dark. Unless I got lucky. Zebras were only on safari and in zoos. Now, after studying my Sony images in RawDigger for several years I am routinely and consistently able to produce perfect and dead-solid perfect exposures.

In less than a year, I would learn of the original FLexShooter Pro and soon thereafter, of the huge advantages of the /Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro. I introduced both to North America and put them on the map. The latter is the world’s best tripod head for all lenses. By far.

Monte Brown — February 4, 2024 at 10:29pm

Artie, I have the Mongoose 3.6 head and really like it, if the camera falls over it is operator error. What is the difference between the Mongoose 3.6 and the Lever Clamped Flex Shooter Pro?

Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART — February 5, 2024 at 8:25pm

Monte. Thanks for your recent comments and questions. Both have been greatly appreciated. The Mongoose M3.6 Action head is a great head for super-telephoto lenses. I used one for more than a decade and we still sell a few each year. It is far lighter than the old standards, the Wimberley V1 and V2 heads.

With any system, folks should not be walking around with a big lens clamped on any tripod head. All of the manufacturers specifically deny liability should a clamp fail. In addition, it is much better for your shoulder health to carry the lens in one hand and the tripod in the other when walking any appreciable distance.

And now to get to your question -:). The Levered-clamp FlexShooter Pro is a ballhead that acts like a gimbal. Once you level the black ball, you can point the lens in any direction and it stays square to the world. The silver ball features a counter-balanced spring mechanism that enables you to point the lens anywhere and have the lens sit like a dog. The levered-clamp enables you to mount the lens in two seconds without fiddling and removing it in one second if a good bird flies by overhead. Last is the bi-directional clamp that enables you to mount the camera with a short lens attached in addition to all telephoto lenses and telephoto zooms.

with love, artie

ps: click on the link and watch the video as I probably left a few good things out!

This image was created on 17 April 2019 on a Fort DeSoto IPT. I used the handheld Nikon 500mm PF lens and the D850 dSLR. The exposure was determined by creating a test image and then evaluating the histogram and the Highlight Alert Warnings (AKA blinkies). ISO 800. 1/800 sec. at f/6.3 (stopped down 1/3-stop) in Manual mode. When evaluated in RawDigger this morning, the raw file exposure was determined to be one-half stop under-exposed. AWB at 7:21:35am on a mostly sunny morning.

Image #2: Laughing Gull in breeding plumage with tiny baitfish

DeSoto Spring Beauties

Both Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls are handsome birds in non-breeding (winter) plumage. As they are when in their juvenile and first-winter plumages. But in spring at the height of breeding (alternate) plumage, their beauty is dazzling. The former features gleaming, bright white underparts, snazzy jet-black crests, and bright orange bills. Laughing Gulls in spring sport wine-red bills and legs, jet-black hoods, white eye crescents, and red eye rings. Their beauty is greatly under appreciated and they are often neglected as photographic subjects. But never by me.

Note: By 2019, was trying Nikon. Though the AF was better than Canon dSLR AF, I would soon learn that Sony AF was far better. That superiority, combined with the Zebra technology that enables folks to determine the correct exposure in the viewfinder before making a single image, and incredibly high quality image files makes Sony (specifically with the a1), the best system presently available for bird photography.

Be sure to click on the composite to view a larger, high-res version. All images from 2023 Fort DeSoto Spring IPTs.

Clockwise from upper left around to center: Snowy Egret in breeding plumage with crest blowing; Osprey striking; Brown Pelican sunrise silhouette; Royal Terns copulating; Marbled Godwit striding; Royal Tern courtship feeding; Snowy Egret hunting; Laughing Gull in breeding plumage along flight; Reddish Egret in flight with killifish.

Unsolicited via e-mail from Pete Myers

I just spent 4 days in the field in a graduate course in bird photography taught by Artie Morris at Fort DeSoto. After almost 50 years of experience pointing cameras at birds from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego, New Zealand and beyond, I thought I was good enough. But what I learned from Artie in just four days has taken me to a whole new level. As he aptly puts it, “birds as art,” not simply bird photography. One of those 4 days was the most satisfying I’d ever experienced, anywhere. The IPT left me euphoric about what I’d learned, and frighteningly committed to recreating my portfolio with the techniques and insights he taught me.

Unsolicited via e-mail from IPT veteran Eugen Dolan

Arthur, Thank you very much for your overwhelming infectious enthusiasm that helped get me up on some mornings. Also, your ability to express yourself- and explain in great detail why you like or may not like an image – was very helpful in allowing me to better analyze my images. Eugen

Via e-mail from Jim Miller

I can’t stop thinking about how much fun the DeSoto IPT was, and how much I learned. There were so many things that suddenly made perfect sense after I had been confused for so long. Thank you very much for the wonderful trip, and for being a great teacher. As I worked through the raw files last week, I realized what a fantastic lens the 600 IS is. Thanks for the rental! Maybe someday I will be able to afford one. Some images for critique are attached. Thank you again, Artie. It was really wonderful to be with you and learn from you.

Via e-mail from Lee Sommie

I want to thank you for making the Fort DeSoto IPT; it was a fun and educational experience for me. I truly did not want the adventure to end. I now look through the viewfinder with an artist’s mindset. And the real bonus was making new friends with fellow students. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm for wildlife photography. I had a great time with you and look forward to more adventures on future IPTs.

Via e-mail from Muhammad Arif

I had a great time at Fort De Soto. Thank you for all the instruction, for your help and pointers; my photography has already improved tremendously, and I’ve never made such good bird photos before. I wish I could’ve joined you on Monday and Tuesday morning as well, but work got in the way. It was also nice meeting the folks on the IPT. Thanks again for everything and I hope to join you at a future IPT sometime again.

Fort DeSoto in spring is rife with tame birds, many in full breeding plumage. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Clockwise from upper left around to center: Laughing Gull landing on head of Brown Pelican, Laughing Gull in flight, Reddish Egret sunrise silhouette, Great Blue Heron with needlefish, Yellow-crowned Night Heron with ghost crab, Roseate Spoonbill, Sanderling in breeding plumage, and white morph Reddish Egret in glorious breeding plumage.

The 2024 Spring Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo Tour (IPT)

The Spring Fort DeSoto IPT: Wednesday 8 May through the morning session on SAT 11 May 2023. 3 1/2 Days: $1899.00 includes three working brunches. Limit six photographers. Openings: 5.

Fort DeSoto, located just south of St. Petersburg, FL, is a mecca for terns and gulls, wading birds, and shorebirds in springtime. Though DeSoto can be great any day of the year, spring is my very favorite time to be there as many of the birds will be in full breeding plumage. Simply put, DeSoto is the new Ding Darling. Migrant shorebirds are in abundance, and many are exceedingly tame. We should have great chances on Royal and Sandwich Terns and both white- and dark-morph Reddish Egrets. Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, and White Ibis are easy as well and we will almost surely come up with a tame Yellow-crowned Night-Heron or two along with some American Oystercatchers. We will enjoy lots of great flight photography, especially with the Brown Pelicans.

Act fast to explore the possibility of sharing an AirBnB with Jim Miller and me. Doing so would greatly reduce the cost of lodging for this great trip.

Again, Fort DeSoto in spring is rife with tame birds, most in breeding plumage. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Clockwise from upper left around to center: Laughing Gull in flight, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Sandwich Terns copulating, Roseate Spoonbill, Great Egret with reflection, breeding plumage Short-billed Dowitcher, American Oystercatcher, Royal Tern, white morph Reddish Egret, and Snowy Egret in marsh.

In Addition!

We should also get to photograph a variety of other shorebirds including Black-bellied, Semipalmated, Wilson’s, Snowy, and Piping Plovers, Willet, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Marbled Godwit, and most especially, Red Knot. On the May trip, many of the shorebirds will be in their handsome breeding plumages. In spring the T-shaped peninsula and the newly formed sandbar, Outback Key, are literally packed with avian treasures.

With just a bit of luck, we may get to photograph one of Florida’s most desirable species: Roseate Spoonbill. And we will surely get to do some Brown Pelican flight photography. With luck, they will have Laughing Gulls landing on their heads. And though not guaranteed, Wood Stork might well be expected. And we will be on the lookout for a migrant passerine fallout in the event of a thunderstorm or two. I almost forgot to mention — Laughing Gulls in breeding plumage are to die for!

You do NOT need a fast super-telephoto lens to do this trip!

Yes, Fort DeSoto in spring is rife with tame birds, most in breeding plumage. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Clockwise from upper left around to center: breeding plumage Dunlin, dark morph Reddish Egret displaying, Laughing Gull vertical front-end portrait, Laughing Gull with prey item, landing on head of Brown Pelican, breeding plumage Royal Tern displaying, Royal Terns — pre-copulatory stance, Laughing Gulls copulating, Laughing Gull head portrait, breeding plumage Sandwich Tern with fish, and a rare treat, a breeding plumage White-rumped Sandpiper.

What You Will Learn on a DeSoto IPT

  • 1- The basics and fine points of digital exposure; how to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure (or before if you are using SONY gear).
  • 2- How and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it).
  • 3- How to approach free and wild birds without disturbing them.
  • 4- Lots about bird behavior and how to use that knowledge to help you create better images.
  • 5- To age and identify many species of shorebirds including various sandpipers, plovers, dowitchers, and possibly yellowlegs.
  • 6- To spot good situations and to choose the best perspective.
  • 7- To see, evaluate, and understand the light.
  • 8- To design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system.
  • 9- And perhaps most importantly, to evaluate wind and sky conditions and understand how they affect bird photography.
  • 10- More than you could ever imagine.

You got it by now! Fort DeSoto in spring is rife with tame birds, most in breeding plumage. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Clockwise from upper left around to center: Roseate Spoonbill, immature Brown Pelican in flight, the heron/egret hybrid, American Oystercatcher feeding, immature Royal Tern on railing, Great Egret morning silhouette, Black Skimmer in surf, and underside head portrait of Great Blue Heron.

The Details

Morning sessions will run about two and one-half hours; afternoon sessions about two. There is never a set schedule on an IPT — we adapt to the conditions. On cloudy mornings with the right wind, we may opt to photograph till 11:30 or so and skip the afternoon session. That especially when the afternoon weather is looking iffy. We may opt to visit a great North Tampa rookery if conditions warrant that.

There will be a Photoshop/Image Review session during and after brunch (included) each of the three full days. That will be followed by Instructor Nap Time. This IPT will run with only a single registrant as I do not like disappointing anyone. The best airport is Tampa (TPA). Once you register, you will receive an e-mail with lodging information. Do know that it is always best if IPT folks stay in the same general area (rather than at home or at a friend’s place a good distance away). For folks who register soon, the is an excellent chance that we can share an AirBnb to reduce lodging and meal costs and maximize your learning opportunities.

Folks attending this IPT will be out in the field as early as possible and stay out late to take advantage of sunset colors. Doing so will often present unique photographic opportunities, opportunities that will be missed by those who need their beauty rest and those who need to get home for a proper dinner. I really love it when I am leaving the beach at 9:30am on a sunny morning after a great session just as a carful or two of well-rested photographers are arriving … We will be getting wet.

Your non-refundable $599 deposit is due now. Credit cards are OK for that. You can register by calling Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand. Once you leave a deposit, you will receive an e-mail with your balance statement and instructions for sending your balance check three months before the trip begins. If you wish to pay in full right off the bat, you can make your check out to BIRDS AS ART and send it via US mail here: BIRDS AS ART, PO BOX 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. You will receive a confirmation e-mail with detailed instructions, and clothing and gear advice two months before the trip. Please shoot me an e-mail if you plan to register or if you have any questions.

IPT veterans and couples or friends signing up together may e-mail for discount information. If you have any questions, or are good to go for one of these great trips, please let me know via e-mail or give me a call on my cell phone at 863-221-2372 for more info.


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

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