Celebrating Forty Years of Bird Photography. And Puzzled « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Celebrating Forty Years of Bird Photography. And Puzzled

Celebrating Forty Years of Bird Photography

In mid-August 1977 I ventured out onto the mudflats at the South end of the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, New York. Using possibly the world’s worst binoculars, I spotted a large, tall, cinnamon-colored shorebird with a long, slightly upturned bill. The bird’s beak was alabaster-pink with a dusky tip. I was mesmerized. At that time, I had no idea that seeing that single bird would change the remainder of my adult life. I was 31-years old then, and that is exactly what happened. All for the best.

On August 7, 1983, after consulting several friends including and especially Peter Post, I purchased my first telephoto lens, the Canon FD 400mm f/4.5 telephoto lens. I had already owned the Canon AE-1 dSLR body. The next day, with the lens mounted on a cheap Slik tripod with a pan-tilt head, I made my way to the East Pond to create my first bird photographs. (On print film!) I had zero clue as to what I was doing. I remember being stunned that the birds I photographed that day were mere specks in the picture.

Anyhoo, today is August 7, 2023, exactly forty years since the day that I began photographing free and wild birds. The rest as they say, is history. To fill in some of the blanks, read (or re-read) the introduction to The Art of Bird Photography where I wrote, in part, “I shoot simply to make art, to make photographs that please me and inspire others with their beauty.” Not a lot has changed there. It struck me this morning to note that no fewer than seven of the folks that I mentioned in the acknowledgments, have died. Another one of my many blessings has been a long and relatively healthy life, due in great measure to my long-term friendship with Dr. Cliff Oliver of San Diego, CA. Not to mention that since 1994 I have been privileged to earn a living doing the thing that I love to do most: photograph birds and teach others to do that same thing.

The Art of Bird Photography

To celebrate my 40 years of bird photography, the classic The Art of Bird Photography will be on sale for only $20.00 for one week. Yes, the book is dated and, in part, obsolete as it includes chapters on Choosing the Right Equipment and Film Choice. The majority of the book that put me on the map in 1998, is, however, still very relevant for those who would like to improve their bird and nature photography. The info in the Making Good Exposures chapter covers exposure theory that to this day has not been mastered by at least nine out of ten nature shooters. The same could be said about the priceless information in the On Matters of Light chapter. The rest of the basics are also covered: Producing Sharp Images; Designing the Image; Getting Close; and Capturing Action and Behavior. he next week only, you can get a half-price copy of the bird photography bible by clicking here.


In the mid-1990s, I would run three Bosque del Apache Instructional Photo Tours (IPTs) late each fall. Each would fill with sixteen photographers. My Southwest Florida IPTs would consistently sell out with 12 photographers. Lots as changed since then. Both Bosque and Ding Darling are but shadows of their former selves; in no way, shape, or form, might they still be considered “Crown Jewels of the NWR system. The number of bird photographers has grown exponentially since 1995. The number of folks leading nature photography tours has seemingly grown at an even faster pace. Without going into any detail, it is safe to say that the quality of instruction on most of those trips has declined precipitously. In short, you get what you pay for.

So, what confuses me is the fact that for the past four years the number of folks signing up for and participating in BAA Instructional Photo-Tours has dropped by approximately 90%. The few folks who have attended have been beyond thrilled with the experience, all stating that they never dreamed that there was so much that they did not know and that they were stunned at how much their images improved in just a few days.

I’d love to hear from each and every one of you by e-mail to learn why you have not attended an IPT in recent years. Please click here to send me a short note. Perhaps I might be able to help.

JBWR/Nickerson Beach Sessions

As I am not flying to Ecuador for 2023 Galapagos Photo-Cruise of a Lifetime until 27 August, I made arrangements yesterday to visit Long Island leaving this Thursday (10 AUG) and returning the following Friday (18 AUG). Nickerson should be rife with Black Skimmer chicks and fledglings and lots of flight photography. Juvenile shorebird photography opportunities at my soul place, the East Pond, JBWR, will peak next week (for about three mornings). If you would like to explore the possibility of joining me for an inexpensive In-the-Field Session or two at either or both locations, please get in touch ASAP via e-mail or call or text me on my cell at 863-221-2372.

Via Text from Andrew Schonbek

Thanks for the great DeSoto IPT, Artie. It was an eye-opening experience in many ways. I have lots to work on and practice in the aftermath. Looking forward to learning more in the future. Andrew

Via Text from Stu Goz

Much love and respect to you. On the 3rd DeSoto IPT you shared a million dollars’ worth of insight for pennies.

Via e-mail from Stu Goz

Here’s cliche number one: I don’t write reviews.
Cliche number two: I’m making an exception in this one case.

I am writing this a week after my first IPT because I needed to let it all sink in properly – I needed to decompress. I’m probably not fully there yet, even now, but it’s time.

My biggest take-away is that Artie’s masterpieces are well-earned. There was never a time when I’ve seen someone work harder than he did. It was inspirational, humbling, and fascinating to watch him. Once he was in his element, the magic started immediately, and his passion was apparent for the duration of each session. My next takeaway is how unbelievably gracious, honest, and generous he is. Anyone who follows his blog already knows this (and if you don’t, you should), but Artie is an educator to the core. He is quick to explain his thought processes at any time, and leads by example.

After each session, we had a nice meal and discussed what made good photos good and bad photos bad. Enlightening. And sometimes sad. But so much better for it all. These days, more than any other time, it is the extra effort that separates the pros from the amateurs – getting low in the muck, as needed – knowing when to move, and when to stay, and doing it unwaveringly. I created so many images that I’m proud of. Artie has a great way of teaching without belittling, which keeps your mind open to his many lessons.

Artie, you are a national treasure, a never-ending source of inspiration, and a perfect mentor. I wish I could shoot right next to you every weekend.

I hope to see you again soon; your friend.

Stu Goz

All images from SEPT/OCT/NOV at Fort DeSoto.

Click on the image to enjoy a larger, sharper high-resolution version.

Clockwise from upper left to center: Piping Plover flapping after bath, juvenile Laughing Gull with feather, American Oystercatcher with sea urchins, Willet foraging in surf, American White Pelican juvenile swimming, skimmer/tern/shorebird blast-off blur, American White Pelican in flight, Black-bellied Plover stealing lugworm from Marbled Godwit, Roseate Spoonbill staring.

The Fall 2023 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tours

Fall 2023 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tour #1

3 1/2 Days: Tuesday 26 September through the morning session on Friday 29 September 2023. $1899.00 includes three working lunches. Limit six photographers.

Fall 2023 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tour #2

3 1/2 Days: Tuesday 17 October through the morning session on Friday 20 October 2023. $1899.00 includes three working lunches. Limit six photographers.

Fall 2023 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tour #3

3 1/2 Days: Tuesday 14 November through the morning session on Friday 17 November 2023. $1899.00 includes three working lunches. Limit six photographers.

Fall Bird Photography at Fort DeSoto

Fort DeSoto, located just south of St. Petersburg, FL, is a mecca for migrant shorebirds, terns, and gulls in fall. There they join hundreds of egrets, herons, and night-herons 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 there should be some quality 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.


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.

The Details

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 guaranteed). The best airport is Tampa (TPA). Once you register, you will receive an e-mail with Gulfport AirBnB/VRBO 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 for $50/day. 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 one month 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 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 on lodging.

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. On cloudy days, we may — at the leader’s discretion, stay out in the morning for a long session and skip the afternoon session. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility. And so that we can get some sleep, dinners will sometimes be on your own as well.


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

16 comments to Celebrating Forty Years of Bird Photography. And Puzzled

  • Astyork

    What a milestone achievement! Congratulations on forty years of bird photography and the insightful ‘Celebrating Forty Years of Bird Photography and Puzzled’ blog post. Your dedication to the craft shines through in every word and image. Thank you for sharing your journey and expertise with us.

  • Brian Patteson

    Congratulations Artie! As per your situation with registrations, my observation is that the number of photographers running workshops has also increased exponentially. Just as autofocus and digital pretty much ruined the image sales business, the workshop market is saturated, and a lot of You Tubers out there with their free lessons and also their B&H links…. Be glad you were ahead of the curve with all that. I’ll probably never attend an IPA, but I’ve gotten a lot of gear at fair prices by following your blog.

  • Walt Thomas

    Artie, the Blue Ridge Prkwy, the PA., Trnpk, our Interstate Hwys – While you are not of the same “material, concrete things” You are the same “directional road map” for all of us who have benefited from the input that you have offered for us to follow over the past 40 years. Like all “good hwy systems”, You’ve built new “on and off exits etc.” for us to follow as our digital world has grown. You are the first thing we turn to when searching for “answers” in our quest , what’s the best way to get from point A to point B in the photographing of this or that!
    Congratulations on your 40 years of diligence.
    Walt Thomas, Tucson, AZ

  • Jeff Walters

    Oh Happy Day, when that Godwit didn’t fly away!

    And look at you now! Went from a teacher to a world traveler who still loves to teach!

    Congrats and many more Happy days ahead.

    Stay true, we’re all still looking forward to your insights and art.

  • Michael Goodman

    Congratulations on 40 yrs Artie. Your work & teachings have had enormous impact not only on me but so many of us! Thank you so very much for who you are!

  • Artie
    Four score and Forty years ago dawned a new era! Happy Birthday 🙂

    Always with love b

  • Steven Pumilia

    Happy anniversary!

  • John Nelson

    Artie,Happy Anniversary……

  • Milinda Nonis

    Wow 40 years. Happy anniversary Artie. “Some legends walk among us, but they aren’t born, they’re built.” You are one of them.

  • Congratulations to you on your anniversary!

  • Congrats on the highly deserved 40th. I remember first hearing the phrase “alabaster-pink bill” at Freezeout Lake, Montana, in 1995! Gave away something like 40 boxes of books when we moved to Florida five years ago, but of course kept The Art of Bird Photography, Beautiful Beachcombers, and Bird Photography Basics.

  • Sue Jarrett

    Both of those images are interesting and cute with all the birds and other things showing flashing on the water and a cup of munch.

  • Warren Robb

    Congratulations on your 40th anniversary! I hope it continues to work well for you in the future.

  • Jay

    Happy anniversary.

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