Juvie Sanderling: Capture, Clean-up and Cropping Lessons

sanderling-fresh-juvenile-plumage-feeding-_9c0255-nickerson-beach-long-island-ny

I created this image while seated behind my tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X III TC and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/10 in Manual mode.

Lens/TC/camera body Micro-adjustment: 0.

Juvie Sanderling Capture Lessons

As regular readers know, wind against sun conditions on clear days make things very challenging for bird photographers. With the birds flying into the wind and away from the light flight photography opps are limited to banking birds and even when the birds land they will almost always face into the wind to avoid unnecessarily ruffling their feathers. Denise Ippolito and I were at Nickerson Beach, Long Island, NY on the morning of August 24th. It was clear right from the get go but with a stiff breeze from the west southwest photographing the skimming skimmers was simply a waste of time. With the tide dropping we noted decent sized flocks of Sanderling with a smattering of other species feeding on the wet sand left by receding waves. We lowered our tripods and sat along the edge of the surf. As Denise was working with the 500 and the 1.4X II TC while I enjoyed a much longer focal length we chose different locations on the beach.

Feeding shorebirds are not affected much by the wind so we had lots of opportunities to photograph the foraging shorebirds. That’s the good news. The bad news was two-pronged. First, most of the Sanderlings were worn, molting adults; they did not make very attractive subjects. Second, feeding Sanderlings run up and down the beach rarely pausing even for an instant to grab a tiny invertebrate morsel. A bird landed among a group of about 15 feeding birds and immediately caught my attention: it was a Sanderling in fresh juvenal plumage looking sleek and bright. The feathers of the bird’s upperparts exhibited a consistent checkerboard pattern.

I love shorebirds. And I love juvenile shorebirds even more. And I love birds in fresh juvenal plumage most of all so I concentrated exclusively on the silver, black, and white gem. For the most part it was a frustrating endeavor. I wound up keeping seven of more than 120 images of the bird with only two that made me really happy. This was pretty much par for the course with fast feeding shorebirds.

If you would like to learn more about ageing and identifying North American shorebirds be sure to order a signed copy of my Shorebirds; Beautiful Beachcombers from the BAA On-Line Store.

Juvie Sanderling Clean-up Lessons

Clean-up of the glistening wet sand was rather straight-forward using the Patch Tool along with a bit of Spot-healing brush work. Bill clean-up was accomplished in similar fashion but I also used a 50% Clone Stamp Tool. All as described in detail in Digital Basics (a PDF sent via e-mail that includes my complete digital workflow and dozens of great Photoshop tips).

Is the cleaned-up image level? How would you crop it? (Not that in the original capture the bird is centered.)

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This screen capture of a BreezeBrowser main view page shows that the central sensor was active when the image was made. (When using rear focus the active sensor does not show when “Show Flashing Highlights” is checked.) Note also the perfect histogram. You can learn why I use BreezeBrowser every day for sorting, editing (selecting the keepers), and storing my images by clicking here.

Juvie Sanderling Cropping Lessons

In an ideal world I would have had the central sensor on the bird’s neck; this would have placed the point of focus on the same plane as the bird’s eye. With the active sensor on the bird’s side it is a good thing that I was at f/10; the bit of extra d-o-f from wide open rendered the bird’s eye plenty sharp. (Note that with the 800/1.4X TC combo that only the central sensor is active.) Despite the Bubble Level in my hot shoe the image needed a bit of CW rotation. To determine the exact amount I drew a line with the Ruler Tool from the edge of the water drop to the edge of the reflection of the water drop. It needed about .9 degrees of rotation. (Note; when working on a sloped beach in soft sand it it hard to keep everything level even when occasionally glancing at the Bubble Level.)

I cropped know that I would be moving the bird back in the frame. The key was leaving only the very top of the reflection as everything below the center of the head was too distorted to do the image any good.

After cropping I expanded canvas right and used an APTATS II technique to drag the upper layer (and the bird!) back in the frame. Then I used the Eraser Tool to smooth the seam. You can learn this and similar techniques in Robert O’Toole’s APTATS II. (APTATS stands for Advanced Photoshop Tips and Techniques.)

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of he gear used to make the three mages in this post. 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.

Support both the Bulletins and the Blog by making all your B & H purchases here.

Remember: you can earn free contest entries with your B & H purchases. Eleven great categories, 34 winning and honored images, and prize pools valued in excess of $20,000. Click here for details.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon 1.4X III Teleconverter. The new 1.4X TC is designed to work best with the newer Series II super-telephoto lenses but it works just fine with the current lenses.
1.4X II Teleconverter. Most folks including me believe that the 1.4X II TC is as sharp as the 1.4X III TC.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. My two Mark IVs are my workhorse digital camera bodies.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sale value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders :)
Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head. (Note: Denise prefers the Wimberley head to the Mongoose.
CR-80 Replacement Foot for Canon 800. When using the 800 on a Mongoose as I do, replacing the lens foot with this accessory lets the lens sit like a dog whether pointed up or down and prevents wind-blown spinning of your lens on breezy days by centering the lens directly over the tripod.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
Be sure to check out our camera body User’s Guides here.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
BIRDS AS ART Camera Body User’s Guides. Why spend $2-5 grand on a camera and not learn to use it properly and efficiently?

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4 comments to Juvie Sanderling: Capture, Clean-up and Cropping Lessons

  • avatar Robert Kaplan

    Thanks Artie. I know I can always learn something from your blog and site. Your datailed explanations of exposure and post-processing are very helpful. I made it to Nickerson on 9/9. Skimmers were gone but saw many Sanderlings you shot.

    Hey Robert, I do think that the skimmers left earlier than usual this year because of the hurricane. That said, I have never been there in SEPT before; it’s just my gut feeling. artie

  • avatar EB

    The image seems rather unnatural to me due to the excessive cleaning. May be it was worth to leave some of the reflections?

    Obviously it was worth it to me to do the clean-up. Assuming that you are talking about bill shine rather than “reflections” I would say that had the bird turned its head maybe 1/2 of 1 degree more toward me all bill shine would have been eliminated. I have thousands of shorebird image where the bird’s bill is wet but there is zero bill shine. Some folks like bill shine I do not. One man’s “excessive” is another’s perfection. artie

  • I like the simple sophisticated look of this image. As you know, I am an avid student of your work and each of your images teaches me something.

    That is always the plan :)

    The explanation about using the ruler between the image and the reflection is neat and very instructive. I don’t remember it in Digital Basics, but I bet it’s there.

    You will find “Leveling with the Ruler Tool” on page 51 of the current Digital Basics. The trick of going edge to edge with reflections is one that is discussed often on BPN. Speaking of which, it is great to see you posting there.

    I am on my way to reading it again for the umpteenth time. Can you fray a PDF file like a book? I sure hope I don’t wear it out. Thanks Artie. Tommy

    YAW. Thanks for your purchase and for stopping by. I am looking forward to meeting and working with you in Homer in late October. artie

  • avatar Charles Scheffold

    Very nice capture, Artie – I like the water droplet and the way the right foot is angled. Beautiful bird. Also nice that you explained how you cleaned it up! thanks,
    Charles

    YAW & thank you Charlie. I am guessing that will not be making it to Nickerson this weekend (although this morning might have been interesting…) artie

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