Canon 100-400mm IS L II/1D X for Flight/I Coulda Been Famous… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Canon 100-400mm IS L II/1D X for Flight/I Coulda Been Famous...

What’s Up?

Another good swim, a session of core exercises, and lots of catching up on unanswered e-mails. More of the same today.

This post took close to 3 hours to put together and was published from my home at ILE, FL at 7:46am.

Red Letter Day at BAA

Yesterday we signed up two folks for Palouse #1. Both Palouse IPTs are now sold out. We signed up a couple for the UK Puffins and Gannets IPT. One slot open now on that one. I signed up one more for the Spring Fort DeSoto IPT. And, most amazingly, I signed up three folks for the Galapagos Photo-Cruise IPT. Room now only for a single female roommate. I will be formally announcing the AUG Nickerson Beach Black Skimmers/JBWR and More IPT soon. Best advice: join denise and me at Bosque in November. 🙂

South Georgia October 2015

Do consider joining me in South Georgia next October for the trip of a lifetime. See here for the complete details.

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Register before the end of the month for the South Georgia trip and receive a $242 on your return airfare. Please e-mail for details.

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This image was created on the recently concluded San Diego IPT at La Jolla, CA with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 400mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop off the cloudy very bright sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual Mode. Rig on the Black Rapid RS-7 Strap.

Center AF point (manual selection)/AI Servo/shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best for flight photography). The active AF point just missed the tip of the bird’s bill but AF held with the sky background and because of my Custom Case 3 AF settings as detailed in our 1D X Autofocus Guide.

This is the original image capture.

I Coulda Been Famous…

Whenever I just miss a shot, I often say in jest, “I coulda been famous….”

I have said the following on IPTs so many times that I was sure I had written the words in The Art of Bird Photography II. A quick search of the PDF reveals that I had not. (ABP II: 916 pages, 900+ images on CD only.)

“If you are photographing birds in flight and the birds are banking (turning) and you find yourself clipping the wings top or bottom or both, simply turn the camera on end to vertical and strive to create an original vertical bank shot.”

Why? You can zoom in (if you are using a zoom lens), wind up with far more pixels, and greatly reduce the chance of clipping the wings. The technique does, however, require considerable practice and perhaps a bit of skill. Most vertical bank shots that you see have been created by cropping horizontal originals.

The problem here was that there was little wind and few flying pelicans on this year’s IPT. So there was no pattern of banking flight.

Had I been clairvoyant, I coulda been famous.


On the correct use of “coulda.”

From “On the Waterfront” on the IMBd website here:

Charlie: Look, kid, I – how much you weigh, son? When you weighed one hundred and sixty-eight pounds you were beautiful. You coulda been another Billy Conn, and that skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast.

Terry: It wasn’t him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, “Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson.” You remember that? “This ain’t your night”! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money.

Charlie: Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.

Terry: You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.


This JPEG represents the optimized image that was created from the original image that opened this blog post.

The Image Optimization

I began working on this image during my Sunday Photoshop session at the CNPA event. The RAW conversion was of course done in DPP 4. As detailed in APTATS II it is often possible to repair complete sets of clipped wingtips with a single layer. I realized that that would not be possible to do that with this image because the feathers were arranged so differently on the upper wing and the lower wing. I knew right off the bat that I would need to repair each primary individually. At CNPA I replaced only the first primary. Then I saved the image “In Progress.”

I finished the repair/wingtip replacement work last night. All in all that took well more than an hour. Was it worth it for me? Surely.

I painted a Quick Mask of the distal end of each missing primary and put that on its own layer. Then that layer was flopped vertically and moved roughly into position with the Move Tool (V). Next it was rotated as needed with Transform Tool, Warped via the Transform Command, and fine-tuned with the addition of a Regular Layer Mask. Tonality was matched fairly well with a Curves on a Layer adjustment (Control + M). Some individual feathers were sculpted or altered internally using the Clone Stamp Tool at varying opacities. I angled the bird more vertically in the frame using the Transform Tool. Throughout the process I added canvas as needed and filled it in using a variety of techniques.

I ran my NIK 50-50 recipe on the bird only after selecting it with the Quick Selection Tool. That was followed by a Contrast Mask to selectively sharpen the head, face and bill (but for the WHITEs on the bird’s head).

Digital Basics

Pretty much everything that I did to optimize today’s image 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, 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 techniques, using Gaussian Blurs, Tim Grey Dodge and Burn, a variety of ways to make selections, creating time-saving actions, the Surface Blur (background noise reduction) settings as taught to me by Denise Ippolito, and tons more.


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.


You can order your copy of “The Photographers’ Guide to Canon Digital Photo Professional 4.0” (aka the DPP 4 Raw Conversion eGuide) by Arash Hazeghi and Arthur Morris by clicking here.

The DPP 4 eGuide (PDF)

Learn how and why I and many other discerning photographers choose and use only DPP 4 to convert their Canon RAW files in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly. The latest version supports all of the newer Canon camera bodies and several older models including the EOS-7D and the EOS-1D Mark IV.


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 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.

It is not too late to join us!

Shorebirds, wading birds, terns, pelicans, gulls and more. Includes lunch,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. Call Jim or Jennifer at the office at 863-692-0906 to register.


Fort DeSoto in spring can be bird photographer’s heaven. And most of the birds are stupid tame.

Fort DeSoto in Spring/Breeding Plumage IPT: April 24-26, 2015. 3 FULL DAYs: $1099. Limit 8/Openings: 3.

Meet and Greet at 8pm on Thursday, April 23.

Join me at Fort DeSoto at the height of the breeding season for many of our target species: Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, dark and light morph Reddish Egret, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. In addition, we will have a good shot at photographing a variety of arctic-bound shorebird species in breeding plumage. We should have good chances with a variety of courtship behaviors including courtship feeding, courtship displays, pre-copulatory stands, and copulation.

On this IPT you will the learn basics and fine points of digital exposure and how to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, 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. And you will learn learn how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it).

At lunch (included) we will review my images–folks learn a ton watching me edit–why keep this one and delete that one. If you opt to bring your laptop, we will take a look at five of your best images from the morning session. We will process a few of my images in Photoshop after converting them in DPP. That followed by Instructor Nap Time.

A $499 non-refundable deposit is required to hold you spot. The balance, $600 will be due on February 7, 2015. Please click here to read our cancellation policy. Then please print, read, and sign the necessary paperwork here and send it to us.


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17 comments to Canon 100-400mm IS L II/1D X for Flight/I Coulda Been Famous…

  • avatar Jack Goodman

    Artie, Like you I spend a good amount of time photographing birds in the Everglades and other South Florida venues. During the past 5 years or so, the populations of most of the birds (blue heron, gwh,spoonbill and others) seem to me to have declined significantly. I have no figures to prove this, but it is just getting much harder to find and photograph the big birds of Southern Florida.

    I am wondering if this has been your experience too? And if so, do you have any idea why the populations might be declining?


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Jack,

      Actually I do not spend a lot of time in South Florida. More towards the middle of the state bird populations seem relatively stable. Seasonal variations in water levels can influence our perception of wading bird numbers. With some species, like Wood Stork, breeding populations have been moving northward for the past few decades, possibly because of global warming. If populations are indeed declining, the problems associated with our trashing of the planet–water pollution and shortages, air pollution, introduced chemicals, habitat destruction, human over-population, over-fishing, and the rest are surely root causes. artie

      ps: I’ve heard that there are very few GBHs at the Venice Rookery this year….

  • avatar Glen DeKlein

    You’re already FAMOUS !!!

  • avatar David Policansky

    That coulda been real, Artie, but maybe you shoulda zoomed out a little. 🙂 Brilliant reconstruction job.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks David. I’ve been lying in wait for someone to say that 🙂 If you zoom out you lose an awful lot of pixels on the subject…. That’s why it pays to pay attention and go vertical when the situation is right. Sometimes you need to lie in wait when you do that, i.e., you need to be patient….

      • avatar David Policansky

        Happy to oblige, Artie. 🙂 Turns out that until I figure out what’s wrong with my shoulder and fix it, I can’t go vertical; it just hurts. I was never much good at it anyway for flying birds.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          I hear ya. My shoulder has been acting up a bit lately. Vertical flight is very tough. Even when you get the bird large in the frame the image is often way off level…. a

  • avatar kw mcculloch

    “COULDA” been famous…I get the gist but just doesn’t apply in your case

  • avatar Cheryl Sewell

    Hi Artie. I saw you start this at CNPA. Previously, I had no idea this was even possible. Before i ever tackle such a task, I have to master adding more canvas. One step at a time. Inspiring work!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      :). In Digital Basics we teach you several ways to add canvas. This is a good place to start. a

  • avatar Lonnie Etheridge

    Great wing repair. And coulda is usually followed by woulda shoulda

  • avatar Jack Goodman

    Artie, a very craftsman like edit which clearly improves the photograph.

    On a philosophical note, does your editing the wing make this a “manufactured” photograph and not an “original”? How would you marketl it to a publisher?

    When does an “original” become a “manufactured photograph” because of Photoshop adjustments?


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good question. Here is the file name: Brown Pelican flight wingtips and VERT reconstruction _Y5O8573 La Jolla, CAA.tif

      If an editor can read, they are so notified :). My experience is that they never care so long as the image fits there needs. Contests are another story. The only contest that I know of that this could be entered in other than those that have digital creations categories is the BAA Competition…. artie

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thank you kind sir. I am most proud of it. a

  • Beautiful job, I don’t think you coulda done any better! Very nice!