Laziness, Turtle Soup, and the Moral of the Story… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Laziness, Turtle Soup, and the Moral of the Story...

The Streak Goes On…

I continue to feel pretty good today. I fly to Japan next Monday. Denise Ippolito and Paul McKenzie will be co-leading.

This post marks 72 straight days with a new educational blog post, a record by far that should be extended for at least another few days or so, or not. I am not sure how good the internet access (if any) will be in Japan. To show your appreciation for my efforts here, we ask that use our B&H and Amazon affiliate links for all of your B&H and Amazon purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store. We sell only what I use and depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

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Thanks and enjoy today’s blog post! With no images, this one took only a bit more than an hour to prepare.


When photographing at Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park I always bring my longest telephoto, currently the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens. I have the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens usually with the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III in place with the rig conveniently on my shoulder and easily within reach with a Black Rapid RS-7 strap. In my vest I routinely stow another Canon Extender EF 1.4X III along with a single Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter). (Note: because they are so important to the work that I do I travel with three 1.4X III TCs and two 2X III TCs.) As I preach often, never head into the field without a short zoom lens on your person. I have traditionally kept my Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens in one of the large pockets of my Xtrahand vest. Having just sold that lens I will begin keeping my new Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens in the vest.

On the morning of February 2, 2014, the 2nd morning of the Anhinga Trail IPT, I headed down the path with all of the above-mentioned gear in place. We had some good chances early on. With my vest packed with the 24-105, my tool kit, water, and on that morning, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens as well, I always try to remember to remove my vest and place it on the ground when working a good situation. I did that as I headed back towards the visitor center and as an afterthought, took the 70-200 off of my shoulder and placed it atop the vest that had been placed off the trail on the grass. As there was not much flying around I figured that it would be nice to travel light. As I go halfway to the big tree now on my left, a Black Vulture flew right at me into the east wind right down sun angle. I reached for my 70-200 but quickly realized that I had decided to leave it behind. Ooops. Then, as if to taunt me, the vulture circled and again flew right into the perfect flight photography zone….

Turtle Soup

The next afternoon marked the end of a long ten days of teaching and photography. Having not learned my lesson, I had already decided not to lug the 70-200. Then I decided after some hemming and hawing to leave the 24-105 in my SUV. I remember asking Denise, “Should I bring the 24-105?” She said, “Bring it.” I didn’t listen…. So I headed out with only the 600 II. We had yet another excellent afternoon with a clean Green Heron and a pair of very handsome preening Anhingas. It was just about sunset and I was messing around with a fishing Great Egret when I couldn’t help but see and hear a loud splash right in front of me in the slough. I called out to everyone within earshot, “A gator’s got something.” In the low light of dusk I strained to see what the prey was. At first I thought it was a large fish. Then the gator, about a 7-footer, climbed out of the slough with a huge Soft-shelled Turtle in its jaws.

Oh how I wished that I had not left the 24-105 in the trunk…. Even the 70-200 would have been OK with the 1.4X TC quickly removed. With only the 600mm, I was dead in the water as the gator and its prey were blocked by grasses on both sides. It was as Deirdre suggested later, “Turtle soup.” The gator’s chomps on the shell of the turtle were accompanied by loud cracking sounds. The turtle was trying to bite the side of the big reptile but its efforts seemed feeble at best. Then, remarkably, the turtle broke free and bolted towards the slough. The gator made a lightning fast turn with its jaws fully open and once again chomped down on the now hapless and helpless reptile. Deridre’s images showed later that the gator had the turtle completely within its jaws.

I mentioned to the group that the person who had made the best images of the encounter was a youngster of about ten who walked right up to the low fence and photographed the carnage with his cell phone….

The Moral of the Story

Here is the moral of the story:

If you are thinking about leaving a certain piece of gear behind always opt to bring it. If you don’t, you will almost always learn quickly why you should have brought it.

Here is another important lesson: the longest lens is often not the best lens for the job.

One final thought: it is often said that if God or whomever is in charge of such things gives you a lesson and you don’t get it, then God or whomever will keep giving you that lesson again and again until you learn it. Maybe I learned the lesson for good on the Anhinga Trail IPT. Or not….


Join me for the 2014 Tanzania Summer Safari!

2014 Tanzania Summer Safari, 14-day African Adventure/leave the US on August 9. Fly home on August 24: $12,999.

Co-leaders Todd Gustafson & Arthur Morris. The limit is 12. Three photographers/van; you get your own row of seats. Our trip is a bit more expensive than the average safari for good reason. It is the best. We have the best driver guides with a total of decades of experience. They have been trained over the years by Todd and by me to drive with photography in mind. We have the best and most knowledgeable leaders. We stay in the best lodges and camps. We hope that you will join us for what will be Todd’s 35th African safari, and my 8th.

If you are seriously interested please e-mail me; I will be glad to send you the illustrated PDF with the complete itinerary and deposit info.

What else makes this expedition unique?

•Pre-trip consultation and camera equipment advice
•Award-winning photographers as your guides
•A seamless itinerary visiting the right locations at the best time of year
•Hands-on photography instruction in the field
•Specially designed three roof-hatch photo safari vehicles
•Proprietary materials for preparation, including free copy of “A Photographer’s Guide to Photographing in East Africa.”
•Post-safari image critiques

All-inclusive (double-occupancy) except for your flights to and from Kilamajaro Airport, bar drinks, soda & water (except at the Intimate Tented Camp where everything is free for our entire stay), tips for drivers and camp staff, personal items, and trip insurance.


Breathe deeply, bite the bullet, and live life to its fullest; we all get only one ride on the merry-go-round… Join me on this great trip.

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The Southern Ocean…

If you would like to explore the possibility of joining me on the Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris Antarctica/The Extended Expedition Voyage< trip: Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and Falkland Islands: December 13, 2014 to January 10, 2015, click here for additional information and then shoot me an e-mail.

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9 comments to Laziness, Turtle Soup, and the Moral of the Story…

  • Steve Rentmeesters

    I am curious what was your thinking when switching from 24-104 f4 to 24-70 f2.8?

  • Henry

    Who is this Denise…..I’ve got to get to know her.


  • David Policansky

    I agree with David: Aleways listen to Denise. You can get lessons even if you have the right equipment in hand, at least, I can and do. Sometimes the lessons have to be repeated a few times for me to get them, and sometimes, despite one’s best efforts, the shot is missed. Artie, I’ve told you that photographing birds is like fishing. Missing a wonderful shot is like getting a great shot at a fish and having the wrong bait or fly, or breaking the fish off, or similar. Interesting and I guess encouraging that even you, who get so many amazing images every day, can still feel stung by ones you missed. Thanks for this great blog post.

  • Tom Lamb

    A great story we can all learn from. You talked about the items you carry in your vest when you’re out in the field. One item being your tool kit. I’d be interested in knowing what’s included in that kit.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Tom,


      It’s got a bunch of small screwdriver blades and the handle of course, various Allen and other wrenches and product specific small tools, and a pair of sharply pointed tweezers. I think that the original kit was from Techra Tools. I am not sure if they still sell it. There should be a link somewhere here…. artie

  • Always listen to Denise…:)

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      You got that right. Will you be joining us on the Bosque IPT? I hope that the dates work for you. artie