A Bit Crabby, But Not Shabby! And Monopod Follow-ups « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

A Bit Crabby, But Not Shabby! And Monopod Follow-ups


Fort DeSoto in fall is rife with tame birds. All the images on this card were created at Fort DeSoto in either late September or very early October. I hope that you can join me there this fall. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Clockwise from upper left to center: Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Caspian Tern, Great Egret, Sandwich Tern with fish, Willet, Black-bellied Plover threat display, Snowy Egret, 2-year old Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron, juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron.

The Fall 2022 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tours

Fall 2022 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tour #1

3 1/2 Days: Tuesday 27 September through the morning session on Friday 30 September 2022. $1899.00 includes three working lunches. Limit six photographers/Openings five.

Fall 2022 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tour #2

3 1/2 Days: 7 October through the morning session on Monday 10 October 2022. $1899.00 includes three working lunches. Limit six photographers.

Fall 2022 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tour #3

3 1/2 Days: Monday 31 October through the morning session on Thursday 3 November 2022. $1899.00 includes three working lunches. Limit six photographers/Openings: 5.

Fort DeSoto, located just south of St. Petersburg, FL, is a mecca for migrant shorebirds and terns in fall. There they join hundreds of egrets, herons, night-herons, and gulls that winter on the T-shaped peninsula. With any luck at all, we should get to photograph one of Florida’s most desirable shorebird species: Marbled Godwit. Black-bellied Plover and Willet are easy, American Oystercatcher is pretty much guaranteed. 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. And we will get to do some Brown Pelican flight photography. In addition, Royal, Sandwich, Forster’s, and Caspian Terns will likely provide us with some good flight opportunities as well. Though not guaranteed, Roseate Spoonbill and 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.

On this IPT, all will learn the basics and fine points of digital exposure. Nikon and Canon folks will learn to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, and SONY folks will learn to use Zebras so that they can be sure of making excellent exposures before pressing the shutter button. Everyone will learn how to approach free and wild birds without disturbing them, to understand and predict bird behavior, to identify many species of shorebirds, to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. Most importantly, you will surely learn to evaluate wind and sky conditions and understand how they affect bird photography. And you will learn how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it). The best news is that you will be able to take everything you learn home with you so that you will be a better photographer wherever and whenever you photograph.

There will be a Photoshop/image review session during or after lunch (included) each full day. That will be followed by Instructor Nap Time.

These IPTs will run with only a single registrant (though that is not unlikely to happen). The best airport is Tampa (TPA). Once you register, you will receive an e-mail with Gulfport AirBnB information. If you register soon and would like to share an AirBnB with me, shoot me an e-mail. Other possibilities including taking a cab to and from the airport to our AirBnB and riding with me. This saves you both gas and the cost of a rental car.

A $600 deposit is due when you sign up and is payable by credit card. Balances must be paid by check two months before the trip. Your deposit is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out with six folks, so please check your plans carefully before committing. You can register by calling Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand, or by sending a check as follows: make the 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, clothing, and gear advice. Please shoot me an e-mail if you plan to register or if you have any questions.


Clockwise from upper left to center: Long-billed Curlew, juvenile Tricolored Heron, Marbled Godwits, Great Blue Heron, juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, Wood Stork, smiling Sea Scallop, Ruddy Turnstone scavenging needlefish, Great Blue Heron sunset silhouette at my secret spot, and southbound migrant tern flock blur.

Up Early, Stay Out Late!

Obviously, folks attending an IPT will be out in the field early and stay late to take advantage of the sweetest light and sunrise and sunset colors (when possible). The good news is that the days are relatively short in early fall. I really love it when I am leaving the beach on a sunny morning after a great session just as a carful or two of well-rested photographers are arriving. The length of cloudy morning sessions will often be extended. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Spoonbills at DeSoto

Over the past years, Roseate Spoonbills have become regular visitors to Fort DeSoto Park. I know when and where to find them and can teach you to approach them successfully. Do consider joining me on a DeSoto IPT.

What’s Up?

I took an early 2.3-mile rope flow walk down by the lake and then scouted around looking for something to photograph. The whistling ducks did not return to the perches. There were lots of cranes, but I passed on them. I took an early swim and got a ton of work done on my 2021 taxes.

I was glad to learn yesterday that multiple IPT veteran Mike De Rosa and (non-photographer) wife Norma will be joining me on DeSoto #3.

Today is Friday 9 September. Until I head over to DeSoto for the first IPT at the end of the month, my days will be similar with lots of walking, swimming, and flow roping. And work. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took about 90 minutes to prepare and makes one hundred sixty-eight days in a row with a new one.

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!


Follow me on Instagram here. I am trying to feature both new and old images, especially images that have not appeared recently on the blog. Or search for birds_as_art.

BIRDS AS ART Image Optimization Service (BAA IOS)

Send a PayPal for $62.00 to birdsasart@verizon.net or call Jim at 863-692-0906 and put $62.00 on your credit card. Pick one of your best images and upload the raw file using a large file sending service like Hightail or DropBox and then send me the link via e-mail. I will download and save your raw file, evaluate the exposure and sharpness, and optimize the image as if it were my own after converting the raw file in Adobe Camera Raw. Best of all, I will make a screen recording of the entire process and send you a link to the video to download, save and study.

Induro GIT 304L Price Drop

Amazingly, we have two, brand-new-in-the-box Induro GIT 304L tripods in stock. They are $699.00 each (were $799.00) and the price now includes the insured ground shipping to the lower 48 states. Weekday phone orders only: 863-692-0906. Order yours here while they last.

Please Remember

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 β€” a Delkin flash card, or a tripod head β€” 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.

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 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 πŸ™‚

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.

Monopod Follow-Ups

In the comprehensive monopod blog post here I accidentally missed one important point (now below). In addition, it has been added to that post.

4- For best results when using the mono-gimbal head, you need a lens that rotates smoothly in the tripod collar. Many super-telephoto and telephoto zoom lenses do not rotate smoothly. With Sony, the 400 f/2.8 is a dream. The 200-600, on the other hand, is unusable on the monopod as the lens sticks badly in the tripod collar.

A Blog Comment from Joe Przybyla. And My In-line Response

JP: Hi Artie, lordy, lordy a blog post about monopods. Good information, well presented and your video shows how I have my camera, lens and monopod with head set up.

AM: Thanks, Joe. This is the third post on the subject πŸ™‚

JP: You mentioned it was difficult to add or take off a teleconverter when using the monopod, here’s how I do it. I know you wrote to take off a camera strap if using a long lens. If I remember correctly you use a Black Rapid strap that connects to the bottom lug on the camera. I use a strap attached to the top lugs on each side of the camera. When adding or removing a teleconverter I am standing. I remove the camera from the lens and let it hang by the strap which is around my neck. My left hand is holding the monopod and lens. Once the camera is hanging on the strap around my neck my right hand can add or remove the teleconverter and then attach the camera with my right hand while holding the monopod with my left hand. Also, with the camera hanging from the strap around the neck with the monopod supported by the crook of the left elbow both hands are free to remove the covers on the teleconverter.

AM: I am glad that that works for you. I absolutely hate any type of strap on a camera because they will often be a hindrance when you are trying to get to this or that button or dial, especially the shutter button.

JP: As you know from our conversations, I shoot flight at times with the monopod collapsed and attached to the camera. This would be when the bird has an erratic flight pattern or I have the monopod collapsed and I see a opportunity for a flight shot. The monopod and head do not add much weight to the camera and lens.

AM: There is a major difference in why we use a monopod. I am only using mine with big glass — for the most part the 400mm f/2.8. You are using it with lenses that weigh several pounds less. Though my monopod rig weighs only 1 pound, 13.7 ounces, the last thing that I want to do is add any weight at all to the big rig. Heck, when I walk with just the 200-600, I do not use a strap.

JP: I know you exercise a lot, try this. When watching television or sports have the camera and lens next to you. Every now and then take the camera and lens and lift it, hold it up, put it down, then lift it and hold it again. Do curls with that weight with both arms. That will help handholding. Being 79 years old I am not as strong as I could be, but I do this to help my handhold when needed.

AM: That is great advice. I have been doing so much handholding with both the 400 f/2.8 and the 600 f/4 that I am getting a bit stronger and better at handholding and keeping the bird somewhere near the middle of the frame.

JP: Using the monopod at Ft. DeSoto you will find that you will be able to quickly follow birds that move while staying on the light angle. Pick up the monopod and let the lens balance while quickly moving into position. Birds that move a lot, like Reddish Egrets or birds walking along the surf line are easily kept up with while staying on the light angle.

AM: While it is surely easier to move and stay on light angle when using a monopod than when using a tripod, handholding the lens alone is faster and easier still.

In closing, I will say that for me, the monopod will prove most advantageous when I am working with the 400 f/2.8 (and possibly with the 600 f/4) and doing birds in flight and in action. I do understand that for you the monopod is the best answer and that you use it nearly all the time with great success.

JP: Many thanks for all you have taught me with your books, videos and comments on my image posted on birdphotographers.net

AM: My pleasure, Joe, as always. with love, a

A Bit Crabby, But Not Shabby!

This image was created on 2 July 2022 at Huguenot Memorial Park, just northeast of Jacksonville, FL. I used the Robus RCM-439 4-Section Carbon Fiber Monopod, 65/Wimberley MonoGimbal Head-supported Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS lens with the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter (560mm), and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera). The exposure was determined via Zebras with ISO on the Thumb Dial. ISO 640. 1/2500 sec. at f/4 (wide open) in Manual mode. When evaluated in RawDigger, the exposure was determined to be 1/6 stop under. AWB at 3:46:55pm on a mostly cloudy afternoon.

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

Image #1: Royal Tern — flying with baby blue crab for chick

A Bit Crabby

As you have seen in past blog posts, the variety of prey items that the Jacksonville terns carry back to their young borders on being astounding. Today’s chick-snack is a baby blue crab (Callinectes sapidus). I used a long-handled net in my early teens to catch what we mistakenly called “blue-clawed crabs”. They hung out on the pilings of the docks in the area where the Kings Plaza Mall in Brooklyn was built. Great stealth was required to get even one in the net. Cracking open the crabs after boiling them and extracting the meat was a chore, but they were great eating (always with a dab into cocktail sauce — ketchup and horseradish with a twist of lemon.

I am greatly looking forward to using the 400mm f/2.8 on the monopod on the three DeSoto IPTs. I have a few ideas on how to safely put the monopod on the beach when I want to use the knee-pod, foot-pod, toe-pod, or lens hood on the beach techniques. The perspectives for each of these techniques gets lower and lower in the order that they are presented — from knee-pod (the highest) to lens hood on the beach (the very lowest). Learning to use each of these techniques will allow you to carefully control the view (if any) of the bird’s feet and the degree of in-heaven-ness in your images. Consider joining me in DeSoto to learn this stuff in the field.

Focus Distance

I love that a7Info accurately records the focus distance, in this case, 16.3 meters. This allows me to determine the depth of field for any image. I use the PhotoPills Depth of Field (DOF) Calculator here. entering the EXIF for today’s featured image revealed that the total DOF for today’s featured image is a healthy .27 meters, roughly 10.3 inches. That means that the zone of sharp focus will be from 5.15 inches in front of the point of focus to 5.15 inches behind the point of focus, i.e., the plane of focus being the bird’s eye. Was that enough to cover the whole subject in today’s featured image?

Learn more about Wolfram Sons’ great a7Info app on his website here. Though the a7Info download is free for both Mac and PC, I suggest that everyone who partakes click on the pink Donate with PayPal link to support his efforts. I need to check out his new program, ExifChart Version 0.40 -beta- and see what it offers. Did I forget to mention that Wolfram is quick to respond to any and all e-mails should you need some help? Just click on the Contact logo on the home page.

Image #1A: An a7INFO screen capture for the “Royal Tern — flying with baby blue crab for chick” image

But Not Shabby!

Many AF systems will grab the bird’s near wing in situations where the bird is flying from one side of the frame to the other. Though Tracking Zone missed the eye by a small fraction, it is obvious from the a7INFO screen capture that the system was tracking the bird’s face and eye. The image is, however, tack=sharp on the tern’s eye. My belief is that the system that records the AF position is not quite fast enough to keep up with the tracking in real time. I have had many instances where the AF point was on the sky, but the bird’s eye skin/eyelashes were razor/laser sharp.

All in all, I’d have to say that the Sony A1 autofocus performance with today’s featured image was not shabby.

Note: this image was created with a1 Firmware v1.20. The update to Firmware v1.30 improved bird face/eye AF significantly.

Questions and Comments

As always, all are invited to scroll down just a bit and leave a comment or ask a question.

Click on the image to better see the green eye-AF boxes in action.

Sony Alpha 1 Flight Photography AF Points!

The SONY Alpha a1 Set-up Guide and Info Group: $150.00 (or Free)

The SONY Alpha a1 Set-up Guide and Info Group is going great guns as more and more folks chime in with thoughtful questions and experience-based answers. As the a1 is becoming more readily available, more and more folks are getting their hands on this amazing body. By June 1, 2022, the group was up to an astounding 129 lucky and blessed folks. (More than a few folks own two or more a1 bodies!) Early on, we discussed the myriad AF options. I gave my opinion as to the best one for flight and general bird photography. The best news is that everyone in the group receives an e-mail that includes a .DAT file with my a1 settings on it, and explicit directions on how to load my settings onto your a1; talk about convenience! I am now offering a .DAT file compatible with firmware update 1.20. Your entry into the group includes a consolidated Sony a1 CAMSETA2 INFO & GUIDE. New a1 folks will now receive six e-mails instead of the previous 28! You will receive new e-mails as they are published. Simply put, this e-mail guide is an incredible resource for anyone with an a1.

All who purchase their Alpha 1 bodies via a BAA affiliate link — B&H or Bedfords — will receive a free Sony Alpha a1 Set-Up Guide and free entry into the Info & Updates group after shooting me their receipts via e-mail. (Note: it may take me several days to confirm B&H orders.). Others can purchase their guide here in the BAA Online Store.


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

6 comments to A Bit Crabby, But Not Shabby! And Monopod Follow-ups

  • Elle

    The link for Wolfram SOENS (not Sons) is still not working.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Elle, The link is working fine here. Perhaps you need to refresh your page. Or use Bob’s link as that is also working here.

      with love, artie

  • Bob Peterson

    The link you had for a7Info didn’t work for me. I found this using google https://www.soens.de/

  • Ryan Sanderson

    Hi Artie,

    I’m not sure about your specific depth of field program, but my understanding of depth of field relative to the plane of focus is that 1/3 of the sharply focused portion of the image is in front of the plane if focus (closer to the camera) and 2/3 of it is beyond the plane of focus, not a 50/50 split as suggested in your discussion of your tern image.


    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for commenting Ryan. You are correct when it comes to shorter focal lengths, but dead wrong as far as telephoto lenses where DOF is roughly 50-50. For today’s image this is pretty accurate:

      Depth of field in front 0.14 m (49.58%)
      Depth of field behind 0.14 m (50.42%)

      And typical of DOF with long focal lengths. I am pretty sure that this has been mentioned here before but it never hurts to repeat the various lessons.

      with love, artie

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