Is a 1/15 sec. Shutter Speed for Bird Photography Nuts? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Is a 1/15 sec. Shutter Speed for Bird Photography Nuts?

Change Your Life

Sign up for a Spring Fort DeSoto IPT. Details below.

Your Call?

Which of today’s featured 1/15 second images do you like best? Why?

My Call

I liked all of the images in the last blog post. My surprise favorite was Image #3, the Wet and Injured Brandt’s Cormorant. I love the bird’s incredible sapphire blue iris and the amazing plumage detail, revealed beautifully by exposing far to the right.

What’s Up?

I rested most of Sunday. The drive up to Morro Bay on Monday was uneventful but long, with several rest, food, and pitstops. Today is Tuesday 6 February 2024. First timer Mike Lavigne drove down a day early for a day of private instruction and brought his brand new Sony gear with him. I cannot wait to help him excel!

Wherever you are and whatever you choose to do, I hope that you too have a great day.

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.

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Save 15%!

If you’d like to try out a new lens or if you need a lens for a specific trip or project (or for an IPT), is the only way to go. To save 15%, simply click on the logo link above, arrange for your rental, and type in BIRDSASART15. If you type the gear you are looking for in the search box, it will pop right up. offers affordable insurance. You can decline it, opt for LensCap: Damage Only, or select LensCap: Damage & Theft. Then hit PROCEED TO CHECKOUT. After you enter all of your info but before completing your order, be sure to scroll down to Promo Code box and enter the BIRDSASART15 code to save 15%.

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%.

Remember, to save the 15% on your rental you must start your search by clicking on the logo above, or on this link:


To ensure that I get credit for your B&H purchases, you can always click here. The tracking is invisible but greatly appreciated. And, you can use your PayBoo card. You must use the website to order. B&H will reopen on Fri April 14. Thanking me for the past 4000 educational blog posts could not be any easier and will not cost you one penny. Please shoot me your B&H receipt for major purchases.

Many folks have written recently stating that they purchased a Sony a1 from B&H and would like their free membership in the Sony 1 Info and Updates Group, a $150.00 value. When I check my affiliate account, their orders have not been there. When I let them know that they get credit for B&H purchases only if they use one of the many B&H affiliate links on the blog or begin their searches with this link, they are always disappointed. If in doubt, please contact me via e-mail and request a BH link. I am always glad to help and to guide you to the right gear.

Bedfords Simplified

Click here to start your search. Choose standard shipping, and when you get to the payment page, enter BIRDSASART in the discount code box and hit apply. You will be upgraded to free second day air Fed-Ex and receive 3% cash back on your credit card once your stuff ships. Either is greatly appreciated by yours truly.

Bedfords Amazing 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, prior purchases.

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 3 February on the second 2024 San Diego IPT. Standing at full height, I used the handheld Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens (at 600mm) and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ) Shutter Priority +1.7 stops. AUTO ISO set ISO 400: 1/15th sec at f/0.3 (wide open). AWB at 6:39:32m well before sunrise. RawDigger showed the raw file brightness to be 1/3 stop too dark.

Zone/AF-C with Animal Face/Eye Detection performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a high-res version.

Image #1: Brandt’s Cormorants slow shutter speed pan blur

Pleasing Blur Strategy

After setting Tom and Jeanette up in shutter priority +1.7 stops at 1/15 second with AUTO ISO, I showed them how to pan with the cormorants that were flying out for breakfast. On some days they fly out in large groups. On Saturday past, they flew out in dribs and drabs. I explained that when trying to create pleasing blurs that the slower the shutter speed, the fewer keepers you will make but the greater your chances of winning an international photo contest. I also told them that to come up with a pleasing blur you should strive to pan fast enough with the bird to keep it back in the frame and to make as many images as possible each time that you acquire focus.

I created more than 370 images in 24 minutes that morning, and kept only seven. For me, Image #1, above, was the most successful by far.

A Guide to Pleasing Blurs

Learn everything there is to know about creating pleasingly blurred images in A Guide to Pleasing Blurs by Denise Ippolito and yours truly. This 20,585 word, 271 page PDF is illustrated with 144 different, exciting, and artistic images. The guide covers the basics of creating pleasingly blurred images, the factors that influence the degree of blurring, the use of filters in creating pleasing blurs, and a great variety of both in-the-field and Photoshop techniques that can be used to create pleasingly blurred images.

Artie and Denise teach you many different ways to move your lens during the exposure to create a variety of pleasingly blurred images of flowers and trees and water and landscapes. They will teach you to recognize situations where subject movement can be used to your advantage to create pan blurs, wind blurs, and moving water blurs. They will teach you to create zoom-blurs both in the field and during post-processing. Artie shares the techniques that he has used and developed for making blurred images of flocks of geese in flight at his beloved Bosque del Apache and Denise shares her flower blur magic as well as a variety of creative Photoshop techniques that she has developed.

With the advent of digital capture creating blurred images has become a great and inexpensive way to go out with your camera and have fun. And while many folks think that making successful blurred images is the result of being a sloppy photographer, nothing could be further from the truth. In “A Guide to
Pleasing Blurs,” artie and Denise will help you to unleash your creative self

This image was created on 3 February 2024 in San Diego. Seated on a walking path behind my lowered Robus RC-5558 Vantage Series 3 Carbon Fiber Tripod topped by a Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro, I used the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens with the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter, and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera.. The exposure was determined by Zebra technology with ISO on the Thumb Dial. ISO 6400: 1/15 second at f/5.6 (wide open). Cloudy WB at 5:35:04pm, 15 minutes after sunset. RawDigger showed the raw file brightness to be perfect.

Tradking Expand Spot/AF-C with Bird-Eye/Face Detection performed perfectly. Click on the image to enjoy the high-res version.

Image #2: Burrowing Owl perched on rock

In Ridiculous Low Light Situations

When working in near darkness with long super-telephoto focal lengths, using a remote release is pretty much a necessity once you go below 1/60 second. If your tripod is set up correctly, if you tighten the tripod head, and if the bird holds still for a moment, making sharp images at 1/15th second is as close to child’s play as you can get. You can, however, go slower than that and make some sharp images on occasion. Sony offers a variety of fancy-ass remote releases that most everyone complain about. I have been doing just fine with in-expensive Vello RS-S2II Wired Remote Switch for Select Cameras with Sony Multi-Terminal Connector.

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 Tours (IPTs)

Spring Fort DeSoto IPT #1: THURS 14 March through the morning session on SUN 17 March 2024. 3 1/2 Days: $1899.00 includes three working brunches. Limit six photographers.

Spring Fort DeSoto IPT #2: 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.

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 two and one-half to three 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 noon 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. Each of these IPTs 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.

13 comments to Is a 1/15 sec. Shutter Speed for Bird Photography Nuts?

  • The cormorant (singular) is the easy choice for me, not only against the owl but also the blurred cormorant pair in your previous post. For me, that one was overly blurred; this one, perhaps because of panning, is perfect. The vibrating x-ray-like sharpness in the primaries is amazing. Love the panned waves and color.

  • Monte Brown

    Artie thanks for the link on the Flex Shooter Pro, I will be buying one soon. Like both images but prefer the burrowing owl, the slightly differing colors in the background really add to the image. The image is tack sharp for the slow shutter speed even with the tripod.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks, Monte. The colors of the owl image were quite funky until I tried Average Blur Color Balance. I am pretty sure that at present that is detailed only in DB II.

      with love, a

      ps: be sure to watch the video on the Levered-clamp FlexShooter Pro page.

  • Adam

    Never saw a burrowing owl in SD, and though I wish you could have positioned lower and more “frontal”, it’s the preferred image of the two. Pretty amazing for 1/15th of a second. I normally like blurs and this one is ok, though the bright yellow stripe/lightness running through the upper 1/3rd of the frame and across the wing is distracting.

  • Maggi Fuller

    I don’t like blurs! So, image 2 is the one for me…. I love Owls and this is so like our “Little Owl” here in the UK, which certainly doesn’t burrow!

    David… haha, but leave her be or we’ll all start doing it tempting as it is!

  • Therese

    I like image #1 the best. It captures the energy and speed of the bird and at the same time it feels delicate; very poetic and ethereal. The wings draw me in for a closer look and the horizontal lines guide my eye across the photo.

  • sue jarrett

    Image #1 Brandt’s Cormorants is too dark and you can’t see the bird well. Image #2 Burrowing Owl is good and well to see it. The other images of many birds is interesting except with the dark bird in it.

  • David Policansky

    The burrowing owl is interesting and well made and I absolutely love it. Incredible sharpness and detail, especially considering the shutter speed, even though you used a tripod.

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