October 25th, 2014

Bathing Bird Strategies, Amazing 7D Mark II Confession/Screw-up? And IPT Updates

The Streak Continues: 329

Yesterday was another typical day of work at BAA for me. As is usual, I made time for my morning meditation, an easy swim followed by ten minutes of forced laughter, and an ice bath. I did sit for two hours in the doctor’s office for my 3 month check-up and blood work review. Dr. Oliver had recommended a series of additional blood tests. All but for one new tests that needs additional research, were perfect, including and especially the fibrinogen and homocysteine levels.

This blog post, the 328th in a row, took me about 2 1/2 hours to prepare. This blog post was published just before 7:30am from my home at Indian Lake Estates, F; I slept a bit late today.

Please help us out…

To show your appreciation for my efforts here, we ask that you use our the B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. B&H Is recommended for you major photography gear purchases, Amazon for your household, entertainment, and general purpose stuff. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially Gitzo tripods, Wimberley tripod heads, and the like. We sell only what I have used, have tested, and can 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.



If what you learned here on my blog about the Canon EOS-7D Mark II has inspired you to purchase this great new camera body, please consider using the logo link above to support our efforts here in bringing you the latest, greatest educational materials on daily basis.


marbled-godwit-flapping-after-bath-_36a2433-indian-lake-estates-fl

This image was created at Fort DeSoto Park at 8:51:19am on the very cloudy morning of October 21, 2014. I used the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens and a beta version of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II . ISO 1000. Evaluative metering +2 1/3 stops off the water: 1/1600 sec. at f/2.8 in Manual mode was perfect. Cloudy WB.

Center Sensor Surround/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the back of the bird’s head was active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Marbled Godwit, forward wing flap after bath

Bathing Bird Dilemma

When you see a bird, most any bird, dipping its head and breast into the water, they will almost always at some point rise up and flap their wings. On one hand you want to get close enough to fill 3/4 of the frame to create images with sheets of water flowing over the bird’s head and back with lots of dramatic splashes. On the other hand, you want to keep your distance and put the bird in the center of the frame to avoid clipping the wings when the flap eventually comes. Sometimes they can bathe for several minutes before flapping. After a while you will get a sense of when the flap is coming.

If you are working with a fixed focal length lens as I was, it is generally best to stay back so as to be able to capture the more dramatic flapping images. Again, you need to put the bird in the middle and give it lots of room so that you can catch both the forward and reverse wing flaps. If you are working with a zoom lens it is sometimes possible to zoom out just before the flap. With a short zoom lens like the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens with a 1.4X III TC (or even with the 2X III TC) hand holding for several minutes would not be a problem for most folks. With the a heavier zoom lens like the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens with Internal 1.4x Extender most folks will need to be on a tripod.

Best Advice?

Whether using a fixed focal length lens or a zoom lens and staying back it is amazing how often we get greedy and clip a wing tip or two. Best advice: stay well back.


marbled-godwit-flapping-after-bath-_36a2435-indian-lake-estates-fl

This, the third frame in a series of five, was the second of two keepers. It too was created t 8:51:19am. With the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens and a beta version of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II . ISO 1000. Evaluative metering +2 1/3 stops off the water: 1/1600 sec. at f/2.8 in Manual mode was perfect. Cloudy WB.

Center Sensor Surround/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the back of the bird’s neck just behind the head head was active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #2: Marbled Godwit, wings swept back flap after bath

Your Favorite?

Please take a moment to let us know which of the two images you like best. And why. Thanks! artie

The Image Optimizations

The optimization of both of today’s image was relatively simple. Both were converted in DPP v3.14.41.0. I conveniently copied the recipe for the first image and pasted it into the 2nd image to save time. First I selected the pink part of the bill and did some color work with both Hue Saturation (increase and darken) and Selective Color (removed CYAN and added MAGENTA to the REDs). This brightened the PINKs that looked really flat in the dull light. Then I selected the bird’s face and neck and ran a Contrast Mask to selectively sharpen that layer only. Last I selected the whole bird, again using the Quick Selection Tool, and ran a 30% layer of the much maligned Auto Contrast. Done deal.

The DPP RAW Conversion Guide

To learn why I use Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) to convert every image that I work on, click here. The current guide will teach you how to best convert all of your Canon images in all 3 point something versions of Canon Digital Photo Professional including the current v.3.14.41.0.

Coming on Monday: The DPP 4.0 Guide by Arash Hazeghi and Arthur Morris. The more that I use DPP 4.0 for my 1D X and 5D III RAW conversions–I remember those–the more I learn about it. And the more I learn about it the more I am impressed with it. Note: at present, DPP 4.0 will work only with 1D X, 5D III, and 6D images. I am hoping that at some point Canon will release a new version of DPP 4 that will support 7D II images.

Digital Basics

Everything that I did to optimize today’s images is covered in detail in my Digital Basics File–written in my easy-to-follow, easy-to-understand style. Are you tired of making your images look worse in Photoshop? Digital Basics File is an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete digital workflow, dozens of great Photoshop tips (including Surface Blur settings), details on using all of my image clean-up tools, the use of Contrast Masks, several different ways of expanding and filling in canvas, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro basics, Contrast Masks, Digital Eye Doctor, using Surface and Gaussian Blurs, Tim Grey Dodge and Burn, how to create time-saving actions, and tons more.

APTATS I & II

Learn the details of advanced Quick Masking techniques in APTATS I. Learn Advanced Layer Masking Techniques in APTATS II. Mention this blog post and apply a $5 discount to either with phone orders only. Buy both APTATS I and APTATS II and we will be glad to apply at $15 discount with phone orders only. Please call Jim or Jennifer at 863-692-0906 weekdays to order.


marbled-godwit-f200-percent-lapping-after-bath-_36a2435-indian-lake-estates-fl_0

This unsharpened JPEG represents a 200% view of the converted Image #2 RAW file.

Amazing 7D Mark II Confession/Screw-up?

At some point about three days ago when studying the complex 7D II menu items, I noted that Small Raw plus JPEG was set on My Menu 2. I was somewhat aghast :). I was sure that the first thing that I had done when I got the camera in my hands was to set RAW only. But I had my doubts…. As I worked backwards with the images from October 21 and 20 I saw that they were captured as Small Raw plus JPEG. As I continued, I was glad to see that all of the images prior to October 20 were full sized RAWs. I am somewhat chagrined that I did not catch this inadvertent error after the first day….

Exposing to the Right (ETTR) Eliminates 7D II Noise at ISO 1000

Note that at 200% there is virtually no evident noise with this ISO 1000 image. How could this be true if we had previously seen some noise with ISO 800 images? The answer is that the exposure for this image was pushed well to the right with some blinkies on the water. The best way to minimize noise at any ISO is to expose well to the right with a good amount of data in the rightmost histogram box. With subjects darker than the backgrounds a few blinkies on the BKGR never hurt as they are easily recovered in DPP.

IPT Updates

Most IPTs are filling nicely. For complete IPT info and info on related programs please visit the IPT page here.


hooptie-card-shadle-aa

Images courtesy of and copyright Captain James Shadle (aka Froggie). All of the images here were created at Alafia Banks. Card creation and design by Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART.

The Hooptie Deux/Roseate Spoonbills and More Instructional Photo-Tour via pontoon boat. 4 1/2 DAYs: $3200. SUN FEB 22 thru lunch on THUR FEB 26, 2015/Strict Limit: 6 photographers/Openings 2.

Just two slots left. See the complete details by scrolling down in yesterday’s blog post here.


bosque-2014-ipt-card

Join Denise Ippolito and me for four great days of photography and learning at one of our soul places. Please click on the card to enjoy a larger version.

Bosque del Apache 2014 BIRDS AS ART/A Creative Adventure Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT). NOV 29 (afternoon photo session)-DEC 3 (morning session), 2014. Totaling 4 FULL-DAYS: $1449. Leaders: Arthur Morris and Denise Ippolito. Introductory Slide program: 7:00pm on Saturday 11/29. Limit 16/Openings: 2

Be sure to check out the Festival of the Cranes-related programs by scrolling down here.


bosque-creative-card-2014-1200-wide

Join Denise Ippolito and Arthur Morris for two great days of photography, fun, and learning at one of our favorite soul places. We will surely be taking you out of the box on this workshop. Please click on the card to enjoy a larger version.

Bosque del Apache 2014 A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART “Creative Photography Instructional Photo-Tour.” (IPT). NOV 24-25, 2014. 2-FULL DAYS: $729. Leaders: Denise Ippolito & Arthur Morris. Introductory Slide program: 7:00pm on Sunday 11/23.

Be sure to check out the Festival of the Cranes-related programs by scrolling down here.


palouse-2015-cardE

Card and design by Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART.

The Palouse A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) #2/Eastern Washington State. June 5-9, 2015/5 Full Days: $1699/Limit 12 photographers/Openings 2.


uk-puffins-card-ii-layers

Images and card design copyright 2014: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

The 2015 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT

June 29 through July 5, 2015: $5499: Limit 10 photographers/Openings 2. Two great leaders: Denise Ippolito and Arthur Morris.

Facebook

Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack!

Support the BAA Blog. Support the BAA Bulletins: Shop B&H here!

We want and need to keep providing you with the latest free information, photography and Photoshop lessons, and all manner of related information. Show your appreciation by making your purchases immediately after clicking on any of our B&H or Amazon Affiliate links in this blog post. Remember, B&H ain’t just photography!

…..

Amazon.com

Those who prefer to support BAA by shopping with Amazon may use this link:

Amazon Canada

Many kind folks from north of the border, eh, have e-mailed stating that they would love to help us out by using one of our affiliate links but that living in Canada and doing so presents numerous problems. Now, they can help us out by using our Amazon Canada affiliate link by starting their searches by clicking here. Many thanks to those who have written.

Typos

In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

October 24th, 2014

7D II ISO 3200 Spoonbill & Hooptie Deux FEB 2015 Breeding Plumage Roseate Spoonbill IPT Announced

The Streak Continues: 328

Yesterday was a typical day of work at BAA for me. As is usual, I made time for my morning meditation, an easy swim followed by ten minutes of forced laughter, and an ice bath. This blog post, the 328th in a row, took me more than 5 hours to prepare including the time spent on preparing today’s images and the two cards. Throw in another five hours planning the Hooptie ITP but heck, that’s on me :). This blog post was published just after 6:15am from my home at Indian Lake Estates, FL.

Please help us out…

To show your appreciation for my efforts here, we ask that you use our the B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. B&H Is recommended for you major photography gear purchases, Amazon for your household, entertainment, and general purpose stuff. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially Gitzo tripods, Wimberley tripod heads, and the like. We sell only what I have used, have tested, and can 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.



If what you learned here on my blog about the Canon EOS-7D Mark II has inspired you to purchase this great new camera body, please consider using the logo link above to support our efforts here in bringing you the latest, greatest educational materials on daily basis.


roseate-spoonbill-iso-3200-7d-ii-_36a8942-fort-desoto-county-park-pinellas-fl

This image was created at 7:13pm on the cloudy afternoon of October 11, 2014 on Day 1 of the recently concluded DeSoto October IPT. I used the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, with the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens and a beta version of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II . ISO 3200. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops as framed: 1/160 sec. at f/4.5 in Av mode. AWB.

Central sensor/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF on the bird’s eye and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Non-breeding plumage Roseate Spoonbill

ISO 3200 Spoonbill

After our great, hour-long experience with a single, rather gorgeous spoonbill, the group was thrilled when a flock of a half-dozen more flew in at dusk. If you missed “The EOS-7D Mark II Does Pink” blog post, which described our experience with that beautiful lone spoonbill, you can check it out here.

Working at an equivalent focal length of 960mm made it relatively easy to isolate a single bird while I was standing behind my tripod. If I had gotten down on one knee I would have introduced background birds into the image design; getting low is not always the best way to go.

This animated GIF represents the views at 200%.

The Image Optimization

In the animated GIF above, note the ISO 3200 background noise in the original and the compare that to the smooth background in the optimized image. After converting the RAW file in DPP v.3.14.41.0, I brought the image into Photoshop and ran a healthy layer of Filter > Blur > Surface Blur on the whole image. This of course destroyed significant detail on the bird so I added a Regular Layer Mask and painted away the bird at 100% working carefully at fairly high magnification along the edges. Lastly, I hit X, changed the opacity of my brush to 33%, and painted back in 1/3 of the noise reduction on the face while avoiding the edges.

It is very likely that you can do something similar with some type of third party NR (including and especially NIK Dfine which I have not tried yet). I plan on trying Dfine in the near future. IAC, NR properly applied to the background only makes high ISO noise a non-issue.

Note that the noise at ISO 3200 is not excessive and that as we have seen before with 7D II images, it appears smoother than noise in previous cameras.

In addition to the NR I selected and sharpened the face with the Quick Selection Tool and applied both a Contrast Mask and my NIK 25-25 recipe. Then, using Digital Eye Doctor Techniques I painted a Quick Mask of the pupil, put the selection on a layer, and darkened it by pulling down the curve. Then I selected all the pink feathers, again with the Quick Selection Tool, and applied my NIK 25-25 recipe to that layer.

The DPP RAW Conversion Guide

To learn why I use Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) to convert every image that I work on, click here. The current guide will teach you how to best convert all of your Canon images in all 3 point something versions of Canon Digital Photo Professional including the current v.3.14.41.0.

The DPP 4.0 RAW Conversion Guide by Arash Hazeghi and Arthur Morris will likely be offered for sale here tomorrow. The more that I use DPP 4.0 for my 1D X and 5D III RAW conversions–I remember those–the more I learn about it. And the more I learn about it the more I am impressed with it. Note: at present, DPP 4.0 will work only with 1D X, 5D III, and 6D images. I am hoping that at some point Canon will release a new version of DPP 4 that will support 7D II images. Do understand that if it comes to be that DPP 4 does eventually support 7D II image files that the NR in DPP v4.whatever will be much more effective than the NR in DPP v.3.14.41.0.

Digital Basics

Everything that I did to optimize today’s images is covered in detail in my Digital Basics File–written in my easy-to-follow, easy-to-understand style. Are you tired of making your images look worse in Photoshop? Digital Basics File is an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete digital workflow, dozens of great Photoshop tips (including Surface Blur settings), details on using all of my image clean-up tools, the use of Contrast Masks, several different ways of expanding and filling in canvas, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro basics, Contrast Masks, Digital Eye Doctor, using Surface and Gaussian Blurs, Tim Grey Dodge and Burn, how to create time-saving actions, and tons more.

APTATS I & II

Learn the details of advanced Quick Masking techniques in APTATS I. Learn Advanced Layer Masking Techniques in APTATS II. Mention this blog post and apply a $5 discount to either with phone orders only. Buy both APTATS I and APTATS II and we will be glad to apply at $15 discount with phone orders only. Please call Jim or Jennifer at 863-692-0906 weekdays to order.


hooptie-card-shadle-aa

Images courtesy of and copyright Captain James Shadle (aka Froggie). All of the images here were created at Alafia Banks. Card creation and design by Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART.

The Hooptie Deux/Roseate Spoonbills and More Instructional Photo-Tour via pontoon boat. 4 1/2 DAYs: $3200. SUN FEB 22 thru lunch on THUR FEB 26, 2015/Strict Limit: 6 photographers/Openings 3.

Meet and greet on the evening of SAT 21 FEB. Two great leaders: Captain James Shadle (Nikon) and Canon Explorer of Light Emeritus Arthur Morris.

Roseate Spoonbill is one of if not the most sought after avian photographic subjects in Florida. They are generally hard to find and somewhat difficult to approach. They are relatively easy to find at Alafia Banks—heck, you can’t miss seeing them, but even there they can on some days be somewhat difficult to approach. On some days we may be able to get ridiculously close to them. The huge incentive to get out to Alafia Banks in mid-February is the chance to photograph this species at the height of its spectacular breeding plumage….

Weather permitting there will be nine boat trips: 5 mornings and 4 afternoons! Mornings to Alafia Banks for spoonbills and Brown Pelicans (with lots of flight photography with the birds likely carrying nesting material), cormorants, ibises (both Glossy and White in breeding plumage. Many of the White Ibises will be sporting their spectacular, distended, red, naked (un-feathered) throat pouches—typically larger in the females. In addition we will get to photograph egrets including Great and Reddish, both in full breeding plumage, shorebirds, and more. There will be lots of flight photography opportunities. Afternoon trips either to Alafia Banks for spoonbills and more or to a more sheltered inland rookery location for a variety of nesting birds. In the event of horrific weather artie will either take the group to Fort DeSoto or will conduct an image review/Photoshop session. This IPT includes five lunches that will be followed by small group image sharing and review and some over-the-shoulder Photoshop instruction.

Important Notes

We stay in Brandon, FL for this IPT. From our hotel there it is is only about 20 minutes to the dock. The plan is for all nine sessions to be by boat. For the Alafia Banks segments, Captain Shadle provides light weight chest waders as much of the photograph will be done while we are standing in fairly shallow water behind our tripods. We help you get in and out of the boat with your gear. This is likely not the best trip for folks with balance problems. Note however that some folks may opt to stay on the boat. They usually have lots of chances for flight photography of spoonbills and other species but are almost always pretty far away from the spoonbills that land.

I recently saw a similar trip advertised two months too late for breeding plumage spoonbills (and two months too late for most of the rest of the species in breeding plumage). 5 Days: $3200. With only four boat trips…. The Hooptie IPT represents an incredible opportunity and with 3 slots filled already the remaining three spots should fill very quickly. We hope that you can join us. Scroll down for registration info.


hooptie-card-artie-layers-cc

All of the images here were created at Alafia Banks in the month of February. Images copyright Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Card creation and design by Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART.

Hooptie IPT Registration Info

A $449 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. Your balance, payable only by check, will be due on 11/22/2014. If you cancel and the trip fills, we will be glad to apply a credit applicable to a future IPT for the full amount less a $100 processing fee. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check (made out to “Arthur Morris.”) You can also leave your deposit with a credit card by calling the office at 863-692-0906. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail.


fort-desoto-card

The Fort DeSoto Add-on Mini IPT will give us lots of chances to photograph a wide variety of species. Many of the birds at DeSoto are silly-tame.

Fort DeSoto Add-on Mini IPT: $349. Two shooting sessions: the afternoon of THUR FEB 26 and the morning of Friday FEB 27, 2015. Limit 12 photographers. One great leader: Arthur Morris.

Shorebirds, wading birds, terns, pelicans, gulls and more. Includes lunch on Friday and small group image sharing and Photoshop session on Friday. Payment in full for this one-day IPT is due upon registration either by check or credit card. If the former, please e-mail us immediately so that we can save you a slot.

2015 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT): FEB 1 thru the morning of FEB 5, 2015: $1799 (Limit: 8/Sold Out)

Please contact us via e-mail if you would like your name placed on the waiting list.

Coming Soon

More 7D II ISO 3200 will be featured in an upcoming blog post here soon.

Facebook

Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack!

Support the BAA Blog. Support the BAA Bulletins: Shop B&H here!

We want and need to keep providing you with the latest free information, photography and Photoshop lessons, and all manner of related information. Show your appreciation by making your purchases immediately after clicking on any of our B&H or Amazon Affiliate links in this blog post. Remember, B&H ain’t just photography!

…..

Amazon.com

Those who prefer to support BAA by shopping with Amazon may use this link:

Amazon Canada

Many kind folks from north of the border, eh, have e-mailed stating that they would love to help us out by using one of our affiliate links but that living in Canada and doing so presents numerous problems. Now, they can help us out by using our Amazon Canada affiliate link by starting their searches by clicking here. Many thanks to those who have written.

Typos

In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

October 23rd, 2014

You Wanted Canon EOS-7D Mark II Birds in Flight Images? You Got 'Em (Incoming) & Best-ever Hand Held Flight Photography Combo?

The Streak Continues: 327

Yesterday was a typical day of work at BAA for me. With help from daughter Jennifer, I am working on transitioning to my new Apple 15.4″ MacBook Pro Notebook Computer with Retina Display (Mid-2014). I worked with right hand man Jim Litzenburg getting six images ready to print for the upcoming Birds of the World exhibit in San Diego (see below). I always make time for my morning meditation, an easy swim, and an ice bath. After my swim yesterday I added ten minutes of forced laughter. (Studies have found that laughing exercise can raise the flow of blood in the body by as much as 22 per cent, as the heart and lungs work harder to supply oxygen to key muscles. As well as boosting blood flow, relaxed arteries also help regulate blood pressure at normal levels.)

It was good friend and healthy living guru Dr. Cliff Oliver who reminded me about forced laughter…. Visit Cliff’s site and check out the neat interview video done a few year’s back on New Zealand TV.

This blog post, the 327th in a row, took me more than 2 1/2 hours to prepare including the time spent on the image optimizations in DPP v3.14.41.0. It was published just before 7:00am from my home at Indian Lake Estates, FL.

Please help us out…

To show your appreciation for my efforts here, we ask that you use our the B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. B&H Is recommended for you major photography gear purchases, Amazon for your household, entertainment, and general purpose stuff. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially Gitzo tripods, Wimberley tripod heads, and the like. We sell only what I have used, have tested, and can 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.


laughing-gull-immature-in-flight-_36a2547-indian-lake-estates-fl

This image was created at Fort DeSoto Park in cloudy conditions on the morning of October 21, 2014. I used the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens and a beta version of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2 1/3 stops off the sky: 1/1600 sec. at f/5 in Manual mode was a slight underexposure. Cloudy WB.

Center Zone Shutter Button AF selected the central sensor and one additional sensor to its left. Both were active at the moment of exposure. The left hand of those two sensors was squarely on the bird’s face and covered both eyes (as originally framed). It is no wonder that this image was so incredibly sharp on the face. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Laughing Gull incoming

The 300II/7D II Combo for Hand Held Flight

The Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS II lens and the Canon EOS-7D Mark II may very well be the most lethal combo ever for hand held flight photography. Most folks including me are able to hand hold this combination for long shooting sessions. It may be too heavy for some folks. If that it the case they might consider the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens with a 1.4X III TC (or even with the 2X III TC when they need additional reach). Folks who need to go even lighter are steered towards the tiny but deadly Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens. With this one we’d recommend only the 1.4X TC. Both of the above with a new 7D Mark II of course.

So what’s so great about the 300II/7D II combo for hand held flight photography? Lots. First off, the equivalent 480mm focal length with lots of pixels on the bird gives you lots of reach and produces incredibly sharp, high quality images. Next, as I am learning quickly, the Zone AF Area Selection Mode with its new, five X five center zone seems to be a big improvement on previous iterations of the Zone AF Area Selection Mode… See more on the new Zone AF (and on iTR) below. And the ten frame per second frame rate is nothing to sneeze at.

Lastly please do not forget that many folks will enjoy the lighter weight of the 7D II as compared to the 1D X. Which is heavier boys and girls, the 7D II coming in at a svelte 2 lbs, 5 oz, or the much larger 1D x that tips the scales at 3 lbs, 6.5 oz? At one pound, 1 1/2 ounces heavier, the 1D X is a shade more than 47% heavier than the 7D II. Over the course of a long flight photography session, the 1D X would seem a ton heavier.


forsters-tern-incoming-_36a2509-indian-lake-estates-fl

This image was created at Fort DeSoto Park in cloudy becoming cloudy-bright conditions on the morning of October 21, 2014. I used the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens and a beta version of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops off the sky: 1/2500 sec. at f/4 in Manual mode. Cloudy WB

Center Zone Shutter Button AF had only the central sensor active at the moment of exposure. As originally framed the active sensor was right above the bird and hit nothing but the distant horizon line. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #2: Forster’s Tern incoming

The New (wider) Zone AF Area Selection Mode

With both the 5D Mark III and the 1D X I tried Zone AF but was not impressed. As I have long found it difficult to keep the central sensor only on the bird’s face, head or neck, I have always done my flight photography with more than just the central sensor active. With the two previously mentioned camera bodies, I tried Zone AF briefly but must not have been very impressed as I soon de-activated it on both the 5D III and the 1D X.

With the 7D II I have found the new (wider) Zone AF to be a great improvement, not just for flight but for lots of general bird photography as well. In two instances here the new AF system produced sharp flight images with the sensor nowhere near the bird. This is a reflection of several things: the new AF system; the new wider Zone AF Area Selection Mode; and the effectiveness of my custom-created Case 3 AF settings.

Please do not assume every single 300II/7D II image is sharp on the bird’s eyes and face. Most are sharp enough, many are insanely sharp, and some are not sharp. The latter due entirely to operator error, to not getting the sensor on the bird’s eye or eyes, face, or neck and panning smoothly with the subject as the system tracks the subject. That said, I firmly believe that this combo will prove to be the best ever for flight photography. At San Diego and other locations where the birds may be too close in flight to fit into the frame I will turn to the aforementioned Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens with or without the 1.4X III TC.


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This image was created at Fort DeSoto Park in cloudy conditions on the morning of October 21, 2014. I used the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens and a beta version of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2 1/3 stops off the sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/4 in Manual mode was a slight underexposure. Cloudy WB.

Center Zone Shutter Button AF selected the central sensor. It was active at the moment of exposure and covered the base of the bird’s left wing just past the bill as originally framed. This image is plenty sharp. Click on the image to see a larger version. You can see the original image below.

Image #3: Sandwich Tern incoming

Incoming

Like many other folks, I have always had a hard time producing consistently sharp images of birds flying directly at the camera. The 7D II with its new AF system seems to do an outstanding job in this difficult situation. I can’t wait to get to Bosque with a 7D II on a morning with a nice southeast wind….

Your Favorite?

Please take a moment to let us know which of the three flight images you consider best. And do let us know why you made your choice.




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This unsharpened JPEG represents the original image from which the optimized version above was created.

The Image Optimization

First I leveled the image by rotating it more than 3.5 degrees clockwise. Then I filled in the missing canvas using the John Haedo Content Aware Fill method. Then I moved the bird left in the frame using techniques from APTATS I and APTATS II and refined those layers with the addition of Regular Layer Masks. On the two tern images I applied my NIK 50-50 recipe to the bird only and fine tuned those with Regular Layer Masks. Lastly I sharpened the faces with a Contrast Mask (Unsharp Mask at 15/65/0).

The DPP RAW Conversion Guide

To learn why I use Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) to convert every image that I work on, click here. The current guide will teach you how to best convert all of your Canon images in all 3 point something versions of Canon Digital Photo Professional including the current v.3.14.41.0.

Coming on Monday: The DPP 4.0 Guide by Arash Hazeghi and Arthur Morris. The more that I use DPP 4.0 for my 1D X and 5D III RAW conversions–I remember those–the more I learn about it. And the more I learn about it the more I am impressed with it. Note: at present, DPP 4.0 will work only with 1D X, 5D III, and 6D images. I am hoping that at some point Canon will release a new version of DPP 4 that will support 7D II images.

Digital Basics

Everything that I did to optimize today’s images is covered in detail in my Digital Basics File–written in my easy-to-follow, easy-to-understand style. Are you tired of making your images look worse in Photoshop? Digital Basics File is an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete digital workflow, dozens of great Photoshop tips (including Surface Blur settings), details on using all of my image clean-up tools, the use of Contrast Masks, several different ways of expanding and filling in canvas, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro basics, Contrast Masks, Digital Eye Doctor, using Surface and Gaussian Blurs, Tim Grey Dodge and Burn, how to create time-saving actions, and tons more.

APTATS I & II

Learn the details of advanced Quick Masking techniques in APTATS I. Learn Advanced Layer Masking Techniques in APTATS II. Mention this blog post and apply a $5 discount to either with phone orders only. Buy both APTATS I and APTATS II and we will be glad to apply at $15 discount with phone orders only. Please call Jim or Jennifer at 863-692-0906 weekdays to order.


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San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects. With annual visits spanning more than three decades I have lot of experience there….

2015 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT): FEB 1 thru the morning of FEB 5, 2015: $1799 (Limit: 8/Openings: 2)

Meet and Greet after dinner on your own at 7:00pm on JAN 31
Just two slots left!

Join me in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red bill pouches; Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants in breeding plumage with their amazing crests; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heerman’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions likely; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the two IPT cards there are some nice landscape opportunities as well.

Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter?

This IPT will include five 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, four 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, five lunches, after-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions, and two fine dinners. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility.

A $499 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “Arthur Morris) to use at BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. Or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, will be due on 12/1//2014. If the trip fills, we will be glad to apply a credit applicable to a future IPT for the full amount less a $100 processing fee. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance. Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail.


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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.

San Diego Natural History Museum Program & The Birds of the World Exhibit

On Saturday morning, February 7, 2015 I will be presenting “A Bird Photographer’s Story” at the San Diego Natural History Museum to kick off the Birds of the World photographic exhibit that will feature the images of about a dozen of the world’s top avian photographers. This program,which is being generously sponsored by the Canon Explorers of Light program, will be free and open to the public. I am proud to say that both Denise Ippolito and I will have images hanging in the show. The exhibit opening is scheduled for later that same day, February 7, 2015. (Times TBA).

Folks on the IPT who wish to stay over and attend the program and the exhibit opening on Saturday are invited to join me for a photo session on Friday morning as follows:

Friday Morning Add-on Photo Session: February 6, 2015: $299.

This workshop includes 3 hours of in-the-field pelican photography instruction and brunch with image review and Photoshop instruction. For now, this session is open only to folks attending the IPT.

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Bosque del Apache 2014 BIRDS AS ART/A Creative Adventure Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT). NOV 29 (afternoon photo session)-DEC 3 (morning session), 2014. Totaling 4 FULL-DAYS: $1449. Leaders: Arthur Morris and Denise Ippolito. Introductory Slide program: 7:00pm on Saturday 11/29. Limit 16/Openings: 2

With yet another recent cancellation, there are now two openings on this long sold out trip.


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Join Denise Ippolito and Arthur Morris for two great days of photography, fun, and learning at one of our favorite soul places. We will surely be taking you out of the box on this workshop. Please click on the card to enjoy a larger version.

Bosque del Apache 2014 A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART “Creative Photography Instructional Photo-Tour.” (IPT). NOV 24-25, 2014. 2-FULL DAYS: $729. Leaders: Denise Ippolito & Arthur Morris. Introductory Slide program: 7:00pm on Sunday 11/23.

Lots of traditional goose and crane photography combined with out-of-the-box techniques

The creative IPT can easily be piggy-backed with several Festival of the Cranes events with artie and denise. See here for details.

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