Bald Eagle Squabble/Interactive Photoshop Lesson « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Bald Eagle Squabble/Interactive Photoshop Lesson

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This image was created near Homer, AK with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the 2XIII TC (hand held at 238mm) and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops off the sky: 1/1600 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

Bald Eagle Squabble/Interactive Photoshop Lesson

The optimized image is above. The original capture below.

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This JPEG represents the original, the converted RAW file.

The adult and the immature (the dark bird) were squabbling over the codfish that we had put out for them on a spit. I had swapped out the 1.4XIII TC for the 2XIII TC so that I would have more reach when photographing single birds. Here of course I needed to zoom well out from my 400mm maximum focal length.

Obviously I did lots of work here in Photoshop; I spent about 30 minutes on the image. Leave a comment and let me know what changes I made (there were many!) and what Tools/techniques you think that I used to make them. Here is how we will play the game: each of you may comment on one change and how you think I implemented that change. Those who own and have studied Digital Basics will of course be on top of things. Then I will respond to each comment.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear (or the current replacement) that I used to create the images above. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2X III teleconverter. I also use it a lot–depending on the situation–with the 1.4X III TC.
Canon 2X III teleconverter. I use this with both the 70-200 and with the 800 (the latter while focusing in Live View as described in our Mark IV User’s Guide).
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. The very best professional digital camera body that I have ever used.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. These high capacity cards are fast and dependable.

35 comments to Bald Eagle Squabble/Interactive Photoshop Lesson

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Eric, Thanks for stopping by. Items in blue are active links 🙂 SO click on a blue ABP II to learn more. It stands for “The Art of Bird Photography II” 916 pages on CD only. In short it is the all-new digital continuation of the original “The Art of Bird Photography” (now only in soft cover). The latter has been the classic work on how to photograph birds since its publication in 2008. We recommend that you save $10 and purchase the two book combo if you would like to improve your nature photography (or learn from scratch).

  • Arthur I use a Nikon D300s with usually a 300mm manuel focus lense but not I have my 200-500mm 5.6 tammaron lense back and it is automatic focus lense. What is ABPII?

  • avatar Joe Moran

    You added 3/8 in. on right side of picture and filled it with content aware fill

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes Joe I needed to add canvas. But I never use Content Aware Fill to fill in from a void. I tried it a few times and it was horrible. I usually use warped Quick Masks followed by some Clone Stamp Tool or Patch Tool clean-up.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Yes Nancy, I did clean up those distant headlands. But for the most part I used the Patch Tool and a the Clone Stamp Tool at reduced opacity. The row of white buildings in the BKGR in the ORIG are the Lands End Condos.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Doug, Thanks and Yes. I warmed up the image first with a Robert O’Toole Average Blur Color Balance and then even more by dragging down the BLUE Curve.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Bill, Yes. I toned down both the sky and the water by adding BLACK to the WHITEs on Selective Color.

  • Spectacular action shot. Im still learning how to stop the eagles wings completely with the right light and perfect focus.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Eric, Lots of factors go into creating sharp action images. Do see the next post. What camera do you use? Do you have a copy of ABP II?

  • avatar Nancy Bell

    You removed all the white blotches in the background mountains, using the spot healing brush set to content aware.

  • I have a list of at least 12 things I’ve seen, but in the spirit of the game –

    I’m going to suggest that you’ve warmed the whole image a bit.

  • avatar Bill Tyler

    Since I can only comment on one item, it is clear that you’ve toned down the whites in the background quite substantially. There are a lot of ways this could have been done. The net effect is that the background has become much less distracting.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    No Pat, The image was leveled with the Ruler Tool and the birds were rotated along with the spit and the far shoreline 🙂

  • avatar Pat McPherren

    To my eye it looks like you did not straighten the entire image – the two birds appear to be in the same positions in both shots. I think you straightened everything but the birds and used a mask to leave the birds in their original positions.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Loren, No problema. I will address your comments on Sunday evening.

    Andrea, thanks for your purchase. You will become a Photoshop master quite soon with some practice and the help from Digital Basics; it is like a cook book written for first graders: easy to understand and follow 🙂

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Becky, Thanks. You will like the next post…. Carol, yes, I used a Quick Mask from our left.

    Bill, I tried the SHB with CA no the JPEG and was surprised at how well it did. So thanks.

  • avatar Andrea Boyle

    Dang…after 2 weeks of trying to buy Digital Basics on your web site (and being rejected by your store over my password) I finally suceeded last night, but haven’t had a chance to look at my purchase yet. I also noticed the leveling and wing tip removal but will not speculate at to the mechanics at this point.. Great improvement, though! I’m hopeful that I will be able to do the same kinds of changes down the road…

  • avatar Bill Richardson

    Removing the rock was easy using the healing brush set to Content Aware. I think the Content Aware setting in CS5 alone is worth the total cost of upgrading. It works great on edges where the healing brush previously just smudged everything.

  • My guess is that you copied from the rocks on the left.

  • Rules? What rules? I am just thinking how fabulous it is to be able to see that camera-frozen moment with birds that the naked eye cannot see/freeze. Being able to shoot a few frames in burst rocks!!

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Two points for Carol, one for following directions and one for noting that I removed that very distracting rock. Anyone care to suggest how I removed it?

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Loren, Please see my comment to Dan 🙂 You guys are just like me, not too good at following directions. I will comment on your list on Sunday to give others a chance.

  • OOPS…I did the same thing…more than one thing…sorry 🙁 Mea culpa 🙁


  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Don, The WHITEs were all under 236 but I did add a bunch of BLACK to the WHITEs to the whole image in Selective Color (and then used an Inverse or Hide-All Mask to reveal the effect where I wanted it). In retrospect, I may have overdone it a bit….

    More to follow.

  • avatar Peter F

    Did you use the white balance slider to reduce the blue cast in the original… to warm it up a bit?

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Gang, I will not respond to Dan’s list until Sunday so that the rest of you can play. He has some right and some wrong answers so feel free to chime in!

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Dear over-eager Dan, Thanks for stopping by. Not only could you not find Waldo you did not read the directions! And I quote: “Here is how we will play the game: each of you may comment on one change and how you think I implemented that change.”

  • I like the fact that you broke up the bubbly looking rock on the shoreline between the eagle’s legs. It looked odd and was distracting.

  • OOPS…Forgot to mention some sharpening/local contrast enhancements on the birds.


  • Well, after just a quick look, the two most obvious fixes were leveling and getting rid of the wingtip in the upper right corner. Leveling is easy in ACR using the leveling tool (not sure what it’s called officially). Losing the wingtip could be accomplished by a number of methods; you might have used the patch tool; I would use Content Aware Fill.

    It also looks like you pulled back some highlights on the mature bird’s head; most likely using the adjustment brush in ACR.

    You also either added some blur or got rid of highlights (or both) on the far mountains. Can’t tell, but it looks like the highlights on the opposite shore are buildings, so getting rid of them was a good thing 🙂

    Great shot! Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to do that IPT…gotta get my back fixed first. Too bad there’s not a patch tool for backs!

    Thanks for sharing, and for all you do for us mere mortal photographers, Artie!



  • avatar Don Nelson

    So is this just limiting the whites in raw conversion to no more than ~236? (using the eyedropper assessment)

  • Hi Artie, Cool behavior shot! Here’s my list of work

    Quick masked out the wing in the upper right
    Straightened horizon (ACR?)
    Cropped from bottom
    Added canvas on right
    Clone or Q.M. out the rock under the adult bird
    Clone or Q.M. out all of the light areas in the BG hill scene
    S curves layer overall, or general Hue/Sat layer and Selective color adding black and gray
    Sharpen the birds and gravel
    Noise reduction on BG (probable?)
    That’s all? (I can’t find Waldo!)

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Understood. Sorry Don, Though the WHITEs have been toned down a bit, there was no Linear burn on this one….

  • avatar Don Nelson

    And 1 is just the first answer, it does not imply you did this first…I’ll let someone else answer that

  • avatar Don Nelson

    1) Duplicate image Layer -> Blend Linear Burn, Opacity perhaps 10% , masked for showing only white of the adult head, and likely fish