Was It Real? Nope… Does that make me a criminal? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Was It Real? Nope... Does that make me a criminal?

What’s Up?

Saturday morning on the puffin boat landing was difficult with wind against sun conditions and much too much sun Though there was about 80% cloud cover the sun managed to be out about 80% of the time. Bummer.

Saturday afternoon was downright spectacular. I figured that the sun would be coming around to meet the wind late in the afternoon so I asked the captain if we could get a late boat back to Seahouses. That plan worked out perfectly so there were only a very few of us on the island until 5:25pm. We dodged two thunderstorms with just a few drops of rain and enjoyed both cloudy bright and gorgeous light. I did lots of flight with sunlit birds set against dark grey storm clouds. I photographed lots of puffins with fish, kittiwake chicks, ton and tons of Arctic Tern chicks, and both adult and young Black-headed Gulls bathing. And lots more.

If you are interested in joining Peter Kes and me for the puffins and gannets in 2017 please scroll down.

Nickerson Beach Terns/Skimmers/Oystercatchers Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT): July 18-22, 2016. 4 1/2 DAYS: $1899. Limit 10/Openings 6.

Meet and greet at 3pm on the afternoon of Monday, July 18.

Please e-mail for repeat customer or couples discount info, or for info on a 3-day option.

With only four folks signed up, learning situations will abound. The primary subject species on this IPT will be the nesting Common Terns and Black Skimmers. The trip is timed so that we will get to photograph tiny tern chicks as well as fledglings. There will be lots of flight photography including adults flying with baitfish. Creating great images of the chicks being fed will be a huge challenge. In addition to the terns we will get to photograph lots of Black Skimmers courting, setting up their nesting territories, and in flight (both singles and large pre-dawn flocks blasting off). Midair battles are guaranteed on sunny afternoons. And with luck, we might even see a few tiny skimmer chicks toward the end of the trip. We will also get to photograph the life cycle of American Oystercatcher. This will likely include nests with eggs and tiny chicks, young being fed, and possibly a few fledglings.

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks a totally insane, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, makes-no-sense, 238 days in a row with a new educational blog post. And I still have dozens of new topics to cover; there should be no end in sight until my big South America trip next fall. As always-–and folks have been doing a really great job recently–-please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. For best results use one of our many product-specific links; after clicking on one of those you can continue shopping with all subsequent purchases invisibly tracked to BAA. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated. Please remember: web orders only. Please remember that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


Image #1: I preferred the right wing position (our left) in this image to the right wing position in Image #3 (below)

The Exif for Images #1-4 are the same as for Image #5.

Was The Puffin Real or Was It Photoshopped?

In the Is This Puffin Real or is it Photoshopped? blog post here, I wrote:

Is This Puffin Real or is it Photoshopped?

Today’s featured image is another killer landing puffin with fish. Here is the question of the day: is this image real or is it a Photoshop creation? If the latter, please state your evidentiary case clearly. Was the head replaced? Was one wing replaced? Anything else or more than one?


Image #2: the problem with Image #1 was that the face was unsharp

Was It Real? Nope…

As you can see above, the image with the best wing position was not close to being sharp on the bird’s face. The feet, however, were pretty sharp…

Why not sharp? Operator error.


Image #3: the face and the fish here, as seen in Image #4 below, were razor sharp


But the next frame in the sequence was sharp on the head, very sharp in fact.


Image #4: this is a tight crop of the puffin’s face from Image #3

If Only…

If only all of my flight images could be this sharp on the face. Once I saw that I loved the wing position in Image #1 and that the face in Image #3 was very sharp, the obvious answer was to drop in the head from #3 onto the rest of the puffin in #1. I did the work as a Photoshop demo for the group. Easy peasy. I painted a Quick Mask of the sharp head with lots of extra stuff around it. I used the Move Tool to place in roughly in position. Then I reduced the Opacity of the sharp head layer to about 50% so that I could position the eye perfectly. Then I hit Command + T to open a Transform box. I rotated that to better match the head position of the original. Next I hit Control + right click and selected Warp from the drop down menu. After that I added a Regular Layer Mask and erased pretty much all of the extraneous stuff, leaving only the sharp head, bill, and fish. As I said, easy peasy.

Kosher or not Kosher?


Like yesterday’s featured image, this one was created on the morning of Day 1 of the 2016 Puffins and Gannets IPT with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (at 560mm), and the rugged, blazingly fast Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with 64GB Card and Reader. ISO 2000. Evaluative metering +2 1/3 stops off the grey sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/9. AWB.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). Click on the image to see a larger version. Micro-adjustment: +4.

Image #5: Incoming Atlantic Puffin with fish

The Finished Product

Above is the composited image with the head from Image #3 replacing the unsharp head in Image #1. All the tools that you need to be able to do your own similar repairs are detailed in Digital Basics.

So Whaddya Think?

Was what I did criminal or acceptable?


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

2017 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT
Monday July 3 through Monday July 10, 2017: $5999: Limit 10 photographers — Openings: 6). Two great leaders: Arthur Morris and BPN co-owner, BPN Photography Gear Forum Moderator, and long-time BAA Webmaster Peter Kes.

Here are the plans: take a red eye from the east coast of the US on July 2 and arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland on the morning of Monday July 3 no later than 10am (or simply meet us then at the Edinburgh Airport–EDI, or later in the day at our cottages if you are driving your own vehicle either from the UK or from somewhere in Europe). Stay 7 nights in one of three gorgeous modern country cottages.

There are five days of planned puffin/seabird trips and one morning of gannet photography, all weather permitting of course. In three years we have yet to miss an entire day because of weather… In addition, we will enjoy several sessions of photographing nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes at eye level.


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

The Details

We will get to photograph Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, Razorbill, Shag, and Northern Gannet; Arctic, Sandwich, and Common Terns, the former with chicks of all sizes; Black-headed, Lesser-Black-backed, and Herring Gulls, many chasing puffins with fish; Black-legged Kittiwake with chicks. We will be staying in upscale country-side lodging that are beyond lovely with large living areas and lots of open space for the informal image sharing and Photoshop sessions. The shared rooms are decent-sized, each with a private bathroom. See the limited single supplement info below.

All breakfasts, lunches and dinners are included. All 5 puffins boat lunches will need to be prepared by you in advance, taken with, and consumed at your leisure. I usually eat mine on the short boat trip from one island to the other. Also included is a restaurant lunch on the gannet boat day.

If you wish to fly home on the morning of Monday July 10 we will get you to the airport. Please, however, consider the following tentative plans: enjoy a second Gannet boat trip on the afternoon of Monday July 10 and book your hotel room in Dunbar. If all goes as planned, those who stay on for the two extra days will make a morning landing at Bass Rock, one of the world’s largest gannetries. We will get everyone to the airport on the morning of Wednesday July 12. (We may opt to stay in Edinburgh on the night of July 11.) Price and details should be finalized at least six months before the trip but you will need to be a bit patient. It would be ideal if I can get all the work done by the end of September so that folks can arrange their flights then.


Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version. Scroll down to join us in the UK in 2016.

Deposit Info

If you are good to go sharing a room–couples of course are more than welcome–please send your non-refundable $2,000/person deposit check now to save a spot. Please be sure to check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below. Your balance will be due on March 29, 2017. Please make your check out to “Arthur Morris” and send it to Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. 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 shoot me an e-mail if you are good to go or if you have any questions.

Single Supplement Deposit Info

Single supplement rooms are available on a limited basis. To ensure yours, please register early. The single supplement fee is $1575. If you would like your own room, please request it when making your deposit and include payment in full for the single supplement; your single supplement deposit check should be for $3,575. As we will need to commit to renting the extra space, single supplement deposits are non-refundable so please be sure that check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for big international trips is highly recommended as we never know what life has in store for us. I strongly recommend that you purchase quality insurance. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to include things such as sudden work or family obligation and even a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check of running your credit card. Whenever purchasing travel insurance be sure to read the fine print careful even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.

This trip has sold out far in advance every year so do not tarry. I hope that you can join me.

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To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, 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.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above we, and for everything else in the new store, we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store as well.


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

25 comments to Was It Real? Nope… Does that make me a criminal?

  • avatar Martine Ganpat

    Hi Artie,
    I think you are an artist. But you don’t need this “puzzled” images. You are good enough without.

  • avatar Jim Cash

    “Is it Kosher?” That is the question, Rabbi Morris!

    The answer is “It depends on how religious you are.”

    Personally, I think it’s a beautiful picture of a beautiful bird, & that’s why I would look at it, more so than to see an example of perfect camera operation & luck … I don’t think it’s a sin & I think that God is pleased with your lovely depiction of this flying work of art … (smile?)

  • avatar Janet D

    Image 3 is better than “not too bad”. Most of us would have been thrilled with it. And you had fun. So mission accomplished!

  • avatar Martine Ganpat

    It’s not criminal. But for me it’s not necessary as I take in consideration what you are capable of.
    Without these large adjustments you make amazing photos. You should be satisfied by that!
    For me as a starter and I think for many more photographers it is a challenge, to make a beautiful photo with the minimum of adjustments, than you are really an artist!!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Martine, I guess that I am not really an artist then. But wait, I am 🙂


  • avatar Ron Gates

    #3 “sounding a lot like God….” really? Artie, I’ve long admired your work. I still do. I wasn’t accusing you of anything “criminal” (your word). What I was doing was offering my opinion as your requested. I thought I offered a “gentle” critique. I didn’t call you names or defame you in any manner as some others have done a couple of times. I’ve only learned of those because you posted them and answered them. Personally, I doubt if you’ve done much, if any, of these major replacements beyond wing tips and eyes. I think we’ve all seen winning entries in Photoshop Magazine in “photo composite” categories where multiple frames have been combined to form an artistic entry. That’s not what this is. I look forward to meeting you and learning from you in October as part of the Cheeseman’s last trip to the South Georgia Islands.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Ditto. And thanks for your kind words. But you did say this: “It’s cheating.” That sounds like something God might say…

      • avatar Ron Gates

        You’re right Artie, I did say cheating. The comment was made in a general sense. I consider the act of building a better bird…or bear…or landscape…or portrait by replacing significant parts as creating something that wasn’t there. Enhancing color or cleaning up a blade of grass that sticks into the edge of the frame is acceptable to me. I’m not sure every photographer would disclose these editing practices as you have. The comment of cheating wasn’t directed at you. You clearly told us what you’d done.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Ron, Not to be a pain in the ass but you said “It reminds me of … It’s cheating.” By direct inference, the only thing that the “it” could be is the image in question…


  • 100% OK by me, Artie, the way you have done this one. Superb image.

  • avatar Martin Mikulas


    It was a great educational post that could be applied to other situations.

    Martin Mikulas

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Martin,

      Hope that you and Joan are well.

      later and love, artie

  • avatar Donna Bourdon

    Its kosher! Thanks for the repeat lesson. I love what a great teacher you are. Thanks for sharing your Photoshop tips.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Donna, Thanks. You can Bev should join us here again next year–we have learned so, so much. later and love, a

  • avatar Ron Gates

    It reminds me of the country song where a worker in an auto plants builds a car at home from parts he takes on in his lunch box everyday for a year or so. It’s cheating. When I look at a painting of a garden a understand the artist/painter decided to put things in or leave them out to fit the painting. When I look at a photograph of a bird…I expect to see a bird… not parts of several birds. Artie, you are an excellent photographer. Occassionally, you shoot a photo and part of it’s out of focus. It happens but don’t take the head off of a better bird and put it on one with good feet. When I see a bird in flight with something in it’s beak I expect that what’s there was the good fortune of the photographer to be in the right place at the right time and the skill and understanding of bird behavior to capture this action. The next time I look at one of your shots like that, do I wonder if it actually happened or you had another shot of a bird sitting on a rock with something in it’s beak and you took that beak and placed in on a flying bird that had nothing in it’s beak. I realize that people use filters and adjust lighting…dodging and burning to enhance their images. Will we soon be at a place where he look at a beautiful mountain scene and wonder if a mountain was added in the background or a different sky is added or a deer is put in the foreground. I admire your work. I’d love to shoot many of the images you have shown us but I’d like them to be real and not wonder every time if they’re composites.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Ron,

      Number 1: it’s the head of the same bird an instant later.

      #2: you never have to wonder because when I do something out of the ordinary I always let folks know.

      #3: You are sounding a lot like God…


      ps: wondering is your choice 🙂

      • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        ps: many others have gotten in trouble because they have added stuff to book covers and screwed around with contest entries. Not me :). It seems that you have long been in the dark there. I have long made it a habit to learn about the creation of various spectacular images and am often dismayed, not by what was done or how the image was created, but in the failure to disclose…

        • avatar Kerry Morris

          1. Artie was completely honest about it.
          2. ‘Monolith, the Face of Half Dome’ by Ansel Adams was created with the use of filters – not just his camera and film! Was that cheating? Adams considered himself an artist, not a photographer!
          3. As a ‘newbie’ I see that Artie seems to constantly be showing and reminding us about all the tools that are available for us to use in our photography. Photoshop and other such programs is one of those, just as fish eye, tilt-shift, ND and color filters, flashes, etc are tools of manipulation of the end product/image.

  • avatar Mike Moore

    I do this all the time in close up work as sort of a primitive form of focus stacking. Taking sharp bits from different shots and pasting them together. I do however try to always use sequential shots of the same individual. Pasting parts of different individuals together is just a little too Dr. Frankenstein for my tastes. As long as the goal is to create art and not accurately record every tiny detail of nature, I have no problem with it. I think we are long past the move from film to digital. Nothing in digital is “true to life.” Even out cameras process our images. That was true in the film era too, we just did not realize it.

    • avatar David Policansky

      Mike Moore: I used to do some of that stuff with film. It was not easy but it surely could be done.

  • avatar Janet D

    No, it doesn’t make you a criminal, especially given that you disclosed the manipulation. But for me, it takes the image from superb image to superb Photoshopping.
    Also, it kind of takes the fun out of it. It’s the thrill at the intersection of skill and luck, when one captures a perfect moment….that’s what makes photography addictive and fun.
    Just my humble opinion.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Jeez. To think that I had fun throughout the whole process…


      ps: Image #3 on its own is not too, too bad 🙂

  • avatar David Policansky

    As long as you don’t misrepresent it, no crime.

  • avatar Larry

    I have no problem with the repairs/enhancements, especially done so expertly. The only “criminality” would be submitting it to a contest or publication where that kind of extensive rework is prohibited. You are the artist and can do what you wish with the image to make it appear as you like. The other caveat would be if you were to sell a print. As a customer, I would want to know that it was modified in that way. Not that it would make a difference if I liked the image enough to purchase it, but simply for “full disclosure.”