24mm for Birds & Why a Light-toned Image Created in Soft Light Should Look Like Crap on the Rear LCD « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

24mm for Birds & Why a Light-toned Image Created in Soft Light Should Look Like Crap on the Rear LCD


Pretty much everything is sorted out for the upcoming sold-out UK Puffins and Gannets IPT. Our rental vehicles are all set as is our luggage transport truck. And the folks at the cottages are expecting us. Both denise and I are a lot more excited than we should be about getting back into the puffins.

I spent the rest of the day answering e-mails and working on a few images including the one featured in today’s blog post. I enjoyed a late swim followed fairly closely by an ice bath. This blog post, which took me about 1 1/2 hours to assemble, is the 166th in a row. It was published just after 5:30am on Wednesday, June 24, 2015. We fly to Edinburgh, Scotland on Sunday so it is getting time to start thinking about packing….

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charges a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few weeks we have sold nearly everything in sight. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the original 400mm IS DO lens have been dropping steadily. You can see the complete listings here. Do know that Steve Leimberg’s 400 DO sold instantly as predicted….

Brand New Listing

Used Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II Lens

Arash Hazeghi is offering a used Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II lens in like-new condition for $5400. The sale includes the lens hood, the rear cap, the lens strap, the Canon lens trunk (hard case) with keys, A LensCoat Real Snow camo cover, and a LensCoat front lens cover (a $120 value). All packed in original Canon box and sent to you via Fed Ex insured Ground shipping. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Arash by e-mail at e-mail or by phone at 650-353-1866 (Pacific time zone). Photos of the lens and sample RAW files can be provided upon request.

The 300 II is amazingly sharp and deadly. It can easily be hand held by most folks including me. It is sick sharp even with the 2X TC. It is versatile. And with or without the 1.4X III TC is is a superb flight lens. Unlike me, Arash takes very good care of his gear. artie


This image was created on last year’s Nickerson Beach IPT with the hand held Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens (as 24mm) and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. ISO 100. Evaluative metering +2 1/3 stops: 1/320 sec. at f/4. WB: 7500 K.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF on the nearest skimmer and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Black Skimmer flock in soft light

24mm for Birds

At times, I like to take a walk with a lens that I do not use a lot and see what I do. I guess that seeing this big flock of skimmers spread out on the beach with the lovely skies might have prompted me to grab the 24-70 II. In any case, I added lots of light to the exposure making sure to expose well to the right. As we preach here most every day.

Really Neat…

What is really neat about this image is that the foreground to sky ratio is almost perfectly 1 to 3. It’s funny that the standard advice, “Place the horizon either 1/3 or 2/3 of the way into the frame,” works well even when you are not totally conscious of it in the field.

Why a Light-toned Image Created in Soft Light Should Look Like Crap on the Rear LCD

It is always best to expose as far to the right as possible while avoiding significant blinkies to achieve the largest possible file with the most data while reducing noise. Then simply bring the image into Photoshop and adjust the tonality until you are pleased with the look.

The Image Optimization

After converting the image in DPP 4 as always, I brought the image into Photoshop. I selected the sky and put it on its own layer. I went into NIK’s Viveza where I increased the structure about 40 points, darkened the selection 20 points, and increased the saturation about 20 points. This left a dark line along parts of the horizon so I added a Regular Layer Mask, worked large, and painted away the dark line. Then I did a bit of clean-up on the left side of the image right near the surf line by removing parts of two skimmers that were clipped by the frame edge. Lastly I selected only the beach and pulled the curve up a bit to lighten it. I tried some of my NIK 50-50 on the sand but it brought up too much unwanted detail even when I reduced the opacity to 10% so I simply trashed that layer.

Digital Basics

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, how to create time-saving actions, the Surface Blur (background noise reduction) settings as taught to me by Denise Ippolito, and tons more.


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 DPP IV Guide is the ideal companion to the 7D Mark II User’s Guide, a runaway best seller.


The strange thing is that when I lived in New York, I never knew about this amazing and consistently productive location.

Nickerson Beach/JBWR (possibly…)/Black Skimmer/Oystercatcher/migrant shorebird IPT: August 13-16, 2015. 3 1/2 DAYS: $1399.

Meet and greet on the evening of WED August 12. Limit 10/Openings 3.

Most of our seven photo sessions will be spent at Nickerson beach photographing the nesting Black Skimmers. In flight, sometimes battling. Carrying fish. Chicks of varying sizes from a very few just-hatched to lots of fledglings. It is likely that we will get to see some Great Black-backed Gulls preying on the juvenile skimmers. They swallow them whole. There will be lots of gulls to photograph as well as some Common Terns. Locally breeding shorebird species include American Oystercatcher–pretty much guaranteed, Willet, which is likely, and Piping Plover, which is probable but we need to get lucky with those to get close….

Save a space by calling Jim or Jen at the office and arranging to leave your deposit of $499. I hope to see you there.



If local conditions are ideal we may visit Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to photograph southbound migrant shorebirds on one or possibly two mornings. Even if we do not visit JBWR we should get some good chances with the migrant shorebirds at the beach, especially Sanderling and Semipalmated Plover. Red Knot and others are possible.


As you can see, the oystercatchers are quite tame at Nickerson. And we will get you up early and we will stay out late.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge In-the-field Instructional Photo Workshop/Scouting Session. August 12, 2015. Morning only: $250. Cheap!

The tide will be pretty good at the East Pond…. If I learn that conditions there are un-photographable we will do Nickerson Beach as a back-up. This will work either as an add-on for out of town folks coming for the IPT above or as a stand alone session. Either way, you will, as always, learn a ton. And we might even get some good images.


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5 comments to 24mm for Birds & Why a Light-toned Image Created in Soft Light Should Look Like Crap on the Rear LCD

  • avatar Jeff Sielski

    Hi Art, Excellent image!! I agree, the beach is a very peaceful yet powerful place- I love it!!

  • avatar Graham hedrick

    I learned years ago not to trust the display. Instead, it’s the histogram for me. All my shots are washed out. In a matter of minutes, I have the image I am after using Lightroom!

  • Of all the places I’ve been and the IPT’s I’ve been on, Nickerson will always be number one in my heart.

    When my mom passed away she had this urge to see the ocean, but the best anybody could do was Lake Erie. When she came back she was so, and its hard to describe, but satisfied?

    I never understood it.

    Until I went on that IPT with you and Denise a few years ago. While everyone was photographing, I broke off from the group and just sat on beach taking in the ocean. I can’t explain it, but I think I felt what she felt. It was the strangest feeling. I was so happy inside. I could’ve died right there and it would’ve been ok. I know it sounds just a little strange 🙂

    My goal is to make it back in 2016 and hopefully make it more of an annual thing for remembrance. So if anybody out there is on the edge on whether to go or not, do it. The place is beautiful and you won’t forget it.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for sharing, Doug. Denise and I were talking the other day about how we each had this huge connection to and love of the ocean, especially the surf. Great smells and sounds and sights. My annual trips to Bosque are in part a remembrance of my late wife Elaine. And so much more. Bosque is another of my soul places and it is the same for denise. artie

    • Hi Doug, I remember that IPT very well. It certainly is special to be on the beach doing what we love- oh ya, the birds are great too 🙂 🙂