Pelican Art? And a New YouTube Photography Video « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Pelican Art? And a New YouTube Photography Video

Still Trapped in Password Hell

I still do not have access to my samandmayasgrandpa e-mail address. I am trapped in a Catch-22 ATT/Yahoo password hell situation. It is a long story. I hope to have it fixed on Sunday evening or Monday. If you wish to join me at Nickerson Beach, at the East Pond at Jamaica Bay, or need to contact me for any reason, please text me at 863-221-2372. The office phone

What’s Up?

Conditions for bird photography were extremely challenging on Saturday morning. The wind was from the west southwest, blowing straight at the sun. A large cloud on the eastern horizon blocked the red sunrise light on the beach for ten minutes. When the sun finally cleared the cloud, there were few birds left on the beach due to too many bicycle riders, and the beach, was a mess with seaweed.

Then, I tried and failed on some backlit landing skimmers. My only successful image was that of a single backlit skimmer chick. I sat behind the tripod along the western colony ropes with the ground level 600mm f/4 GM lens/2X TC combo and going after backlit chicks for more than an hour. All in all, photography was very difficult, but I did make one very special image. Was working hard for two hours and getting one very good image worth it?

The afternoon was very windy and exciting and filled with skimmer fights and lots of chicks getting fed. It started off sunny, then I had some great soft light for an hour. Near the end, I was shooting the chick action at 1/500 sec. at f/5.6 at ISO 10,000. When I turned around there was a gorgeous sunset. I created some abstract snow fence images and a series of images that will be used to assemble a long-low-cloud stitched pano. My afternoon take was 2759 as yet un-edited images. I am expecting a keeper rate well below 5%. But after taking a quick peek on Saturday night, I can say that got some great ones for sure.

I was thrilled to learn that multiple IPT veteran Muhammad Arif will be joining us on the 2023 Galapagos Photo-Cruise of a Lifetime. That trip is now sold out.

Today is Sunday 7 August 2022. The forecast for the morning is for partly cloudy skies with a southwest breeze. In a perfect world, the eastern sky will be clear on the low horizon with some nice color. And that would be followed by lots of clouds to negate the wind-against-sun conditions. In the later afternoon, I am taking young daughter Alissa and grandson Idris to the Mets game at Citifield. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took about three hours to prepare (including the time spent on the YouTube video) and makes one hundred thirty-six days in a row with a new one.

So far, seven folks have been in touch about joining me at either Nickerson or JBWR in the coming weeks. See the details below. Carlotta Grenier is returning next Monday for another In-the-Field session. The first window for doing shorebirds at the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is

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!

Clockwise from the upper left corner back around to the center: Wilson’s Phalarope, JBWR; just fledged Common Tern, Nickerson; Black Skimmer, adult skimming, Nickerson; Black Skimmer killing tiny skimmer chick, Nickerson; American Oystercatcher foraging at sunrise, Nickerson; Common Tern chick swallowing baby bluefish, Nickerson; Short-billed Dowitcher, juvenile, double overhead wing stretch, JBWR; Black Skimmers, predawn flock blur, Nickerson; Black Skimmer, 10-day old chick, Nickerson.

Click on the card to view a larger version.

Nickerson Beach/East Pond JBWR composite

Nickerson Beach/East Pond at Jamaica Bay (JBWR) In-the Field Workshops

Both Nickerson Beach and the East Pond at JBWR offer some of the best midsummer bird photography on the planet. Hundreds of pairs or Black Skimmers and Common Terns along with more than a dozen pairs of American Oystercatchers breed at Nickerson each season so there are lots of chicks of all sizes and handsome fledged young to photograph. Provided that the water levels are low, hundreds of young shorebirds in their handsome fresh juvenile plumages stop by the pond each August on their way south.

Nickerson often reveals nature at it rawest, most basic level. Most days we get to photograph all sorts of dramatic behaviors ranging from skimmers and terns fishing and feeding (and tending) their you. There are often chances to shoot a variety of predatory encounters — gulls eating large skimmer chicks, skimmers eating skimmer babies, and Peregrine Falcons hunting. And rarely, if we are lucky, Peregrine Falcons catching! Consider joining me to learn a ton both about bird photography and the birds.

I am taking the Auto Train north on 31 July and will happily spend all of August on Long Island. I head south on 31 August and should be back home on 1 September (barring anything unforeseen). I am offering In-the-Field sessions at both Nickerson Beach and the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. If you are interested, please get in touch via e-mail or text me at 863-221-2372.

Whether you are a local or would like to fly in for several days of instruction — a sort of private, or small group. — at worst, IPT, LMK via e-mail so that we can work on a schedule that could possibly include both Nickerson and Jamaica Bay.

Photographing Pacific-race Brown Pelicans in La Jolla, CA

Check out this short (7:14) video to learn about photographing the gorgeous Pacific race-Brown Pelicans on the cliffs at La Jolla, CA. I share many of my favorite from several decades of visits. This year I will be staying in San Diego for five weeks from mid-DEC 2022 to late January 2023 and leading three Instructional Photo-Tour. Scroll down for details.

This image also was created on 21 January 2020 on a San Diego IPT. Again, I used the handheld Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens (at 600mm) and the a9 II (now replaced by The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ) The exposure was determined using Zebra technology with ISO on the Thumb Dial. ISO 1600. 1/500 second at f/6.3 (wide-open) now properly in Manual Mode. AWB at 5:10:56pm on a partly cloudy sunny afternoon. RawDigger showed the raw file brightness to be 1/3-stop too dark.

Flexible Spot (M)/AF-C performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a high-res version.

Image #2: Brown Pelican — rear view of head and neck — abstract

In the “You Must Always See the Bird’s Eye! Or Not?” blog post here, I wrote:

Though you cannot see the bird’s eye in any of today’s three featured images, all for me are excellent photos. To my artistic eye, however, one of the three stands head and shoulders above the others. I would call that one exquisite. Which one is your favorite? Please leave a comment letting us know which one you like best and why. And please remember, there are no wrong answers.

Five folks chose Image #1 as best. Two chose #3 as their favorite. Nobody mentioned Image #2. Here are my favorites, on order: 2, 1, 3. When I posted the image here in the Avian, the image garnered few comments and those were on the lukewarm side. While I agree that Image #1 is exquisite, it is the second image, now above, that really floats my boat.

Why? I love the soft light. I love the fine feather detail. I love the charcoal gray background. I love the image design with the bird slightly off centered to our right and looking fractionally to our left. I love the abstract nature of the photo. I love the halo of white and yellow feathers surrounding the darker tones. I love the splash of red bill pouch. And most of all, I love the rear view of the reddish brown crest feathers.

So, does it bother me that few folks like this one? Honestly, not at all. I love it to death and that is more than enough for me.

This all-new card includes images created on my JAN 2022 visit to San Diego. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

The 2022/23 San Diego Brown Pelicans (and more!) IPTs

San Diego IPT #1. 3 1/2 DAYS: WED 21 DEC thru the morning session on Saturday 24 DEC 2022. $2099.00. Deposit: $699.00. Limit: 6 photographers.

San Diego IPT #2. 4 1/2 DAYS: SAT 7 JAN thru the morning session on WED 11 JAN 2023: $2699.00. Deposit: $699.00. Limit: 6 photographers/Openings: 4.

San Diego IPT #3: 3 1/2 DAYS: FRI 20 JAN thru the morning session on MON 23 JAN 2023: $2099.00. Deposit: $699.00.

Please e-mail for information on personalized pre- and post-IPT sessions.

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) and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Ducks; 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 and California Sea Lions (both depending on the current regulations and restrictions). 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.

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.

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 exposure 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 so that you can 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 will be 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 those opportunities. Depending on the weather, the local conditions, and the 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

These IPTs will include four or five 3-hour morning photo sessions, three or four 1 1/2-hour afternoon photo sessions, and three or four working brunches that will include image review and Photoshop sessions. On rare cloudy days, we may — at the leader’s 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.

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.

Deposit Info

A $599 deposit is required to hold your slot for one of the 2022/23 San Diego IPTs. 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 three months before the trip.


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. On cloudy mornings with the right wind, we many opt to stay out for five to six hours and skip the afternoon session.


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

7 comments to Pelican Art? And a New YouTube Photography Video

  • Nancy Fischer

    To answer your rhetorical question, yes, two hours for one image is worth it. I think of all the hikes or swims I’ve been on with no camera, so I know it’s worth it – just getting to see, smell and feel what one does when out in nature.

    I love the Pelican video, especially the wide angle picture of yourself at a gallery of your “birds as art” exhibition. Where and when was that?

  • Virginia Hayes

    Image #2 – Brown Pelican Abstract is a lovely abstract. And the detail in those soft feathers is
    a sight to behold!

  • Artie
    You question working hard for 2 hours and getting one photo and was it worth it?
    You HAVE TO ASK! Was it worth it my answer 100% YES YES!! Even if you didn’t make one image to your standard it was worth it, being in the birds living room and watching there behavior and seeing the love all around you is by far worth it if it had been 10 hours it would be worth it! Million times better than sitting on a couch at home in your living room!
    Always with love b

  • David Policansky

    Is a new York in a special time zone? Here in Massachusetts it’s Sunday August 7. Terrible weather for bird photography here this am. Clear and a stiff southwest breeze.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      My brain typo as been fixed. Is new York a different city than New York?

      Be sure to see the next two blog posts that deal with those exact conditions.

      with love, artie

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