Nemesis Bird. And 7D Mark II Not So Bad… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Nemesis Bird. And 7D Mark II Not So Bad...

What’s Up?

On Tuesday I did some more work on getting ready for the big South America trip and still had time to stockpile several additional blog posts. It was a good day in the office as Arden McCurdy and her sister Jacke signed up for the UK Puffins and Gannets IPT and Fern Trujillo, a retired NYC police detective, signed up for the 7-day Palouse IPT. I look forward to meeting and working with all three of them. And with you somewhere ๐Ÿ™‚ I enjoyed my 3/4 mile swim at 1pm and will get back to my exercise routine tomorrow.

5D Mark IV Comment

My loaner 5D Mark IV arrived late on Tuesday afternoon. I will be micro-adjusting it on Wednesday morning and hope to head down to the lake early tomorrow. I have been thinking a lot about the Dual Pixel RAW feature and must say–having never even used the camera–that I would be stunned if it turns out to be beneficial for bird photography… I hope, of course, that I am wrong.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending IPTs and dozens of the folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear, especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

The Streak

Todayโ€™s blog post marks a totally insane, irrational, illogical, preposterous, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, what’s wrong with this guy?, makes-no-sense, 307 days in a row with a new educational blog post. There should be no end in sight until my big South America trip next fall. Or not… As always-โ€“and folks have been doing a really great job recentlyโ€“-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. And please remember also that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the new BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


This image was created in Fort DeSoto in October, 2014 with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens with the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/8. AWB.

Center AF point/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). The selected AF point was on the middle of the bird’s upper back just this side of the centerline, pretty much on the plane of the bird’s eye. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Caspian Tern/winter plumage adult

Nemesis Bird

Caspian Tern has always been a tough species for me. They are a lot shyer than Royal Terns and tend to stay in small tight groups so that isolating a single bird in clean blue water is difficult at best. With today’s featured image I was able to isolate the bird in beautiful blue water but the water was anything but clean. Though I new it would be a pretty difficult clean-up, I decided to tackle the job. See more below.

Caspian Tern ID

Though superficially similar to royals, Caspians are a much larger, stockier species with a heavier bill. Though there is some overlap in bill color, most Caspians are usually much redder than the bills of the usually more orange-billed royals. In flight, the loud raspy call of the Caspians and their under-primary feathers, very dark out towards the end of the wings, make them easy to identify. In breeding plumage both species sport rich black crowns with the black running just below the eye. In winter plumage, white feathers molt into the black caps of Caspian Terns especially above and towards the bill leaving a dark stripe below and behind the eyes. Contrast that with the snazzy rear caps of Royal Terns as seen in the recent Winter Plumage Royal Terns blog post here.

7D Mark II Not So Bad

Note the extreme sharpness and the gorgeous colors. All that with an effective focal length of 672mm in a package that is hand holdable by most folks.

The Image Optimization

After converting the image in DPP 4, I leveled the image using the Ruler Tool and Image > Rotate > Arbitrary. I used Content Aware to fill in the canvas added after my crop. For the clean-up, I began working on each stick and bit of beach grass debris individually. After a while, I gave up and created a large Quick Mask of the water on the bottom right, put it on its own layer, dragged it into place with the Move Tool (V), warped the selection, and then refined it with a Regular Layer Mask. Much better. I made a Selective Color adjustment to bring the bill to a more natural red color. It is notoriously difficult to get the Caspian Tern’s bill color to match what you remember from life.

Everything above is detailed in my Digital Basics File, 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, the basics of Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro, Digital Eye Doctor techniques, using Gaussian Blurs, Dodge and Burn, a variety of ways to make selections, how to create time-saving actions, the Surface Blur settings that I use to smooth background noise, and tons more.

You can learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II; save $15 by purchasing the pair.


Fort DeSoto in fall is rife with tame birds. All of the images in this card were created at Fort DeSoto in either late September or early October. I hope that you can join me there this fall one way or another. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

BIRDS AS ART Fort DeSoto In-the-Field Meet-up Workshop (ITFW): $99

Join me on the morning of October 2, 2016 for 3-hours of photographic instruction at Fort DeSoto Park. Beginners are welcome. Lenses of 300mm or longer are recommended but even those with 70-200s should get to make some nice images. Teleconverters are always a plus.

You will learn the basics of digital exposure and image design, autofocus basics, and how to get close to free and wild birds. We should get to photograph a variety of wading birds, shorebirds, terns, and gulls. This inexpensive morning workshop is designed to give folks a taste of the level and the quality of instruction that is provided on BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-tours. I hope to meet you there.

To register please call Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours with a credit card in hand to pay the nominal registration fee. Your registration fee is non-refundable. You will receive a short e-mail with instructions, gear advice, and meeting place one week before the event.


Folks attending the IPT will be in the field early and stay out late to take advantage of sunrise and sunset colors. The good news is that the days are relatively short in early fall. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Fort DeSoto Short Notice Fall IPT/September 28 (meet & greet at 2pm followed by our afternoon session) through the full day on October 1, 2016. 3 1/2 DAYs: $1549. Limit 10/Openings: 6. Sunday morning ITFW free to IPT registrants.

Fort DeSoto, located just south of St. Petersburg, FL, is a mecca for migrant shorebirds in fall. There they join dozens of egrets, herons, night-herons, gulls, and terns who winter on the T-shaped peninsula that serves as their wintering grounds. With any luck, we should get to photograph two of Florida’s most desirable shorebird species: Marbled Godwit and the spectacular Long-billed Curlew. Black-bellied Plover and Willet are easy, American Oystercatcher likely. Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, and Tricolored Heron are easy as well and we will almost surely come up with a tame Yellow-crowned Night-Heron or two. We should get to do some Brown Pelican flight photography. And Royal, Sandwich, Forster’s, and Caspian Terns will likely provide us with some good flight opportunities as well. Though not guaranteed, Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork would not be unexpected.

Folks who sign up for the IPT are welcome to join me as my guest on the ITFW on the Sunday morning following the workshop. See above for details on that.

On this and all other IPTs you will learn basics and fine points of digital exposure and 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 and age many species of shorebirds, to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, to, 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 brunch (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 can take a look at a few of your 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.

As I already have one signed up for this workshop, it is a go. Hotel info will be e-mailed when you register. The best airport is Tampa (TPA). It is always best if IPT folks stay in the same hotel so if you are interested it would be a good idea to register now and make your hotel reservations as soon as you hear from us. We can, however, coordinate with local folks who opt to stay at home.

Because of the relatively late date, payment is full is due upon registration either by check or credit card. If the former, please e-mail us immediately so that we can save you a spot. If the latter, please call Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand to register. Your registration fee is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out with eight so please check your plans carefully before committing. You will receive a confirmation e-mail with detailed instructions and gear & clothing advice a fairly soon.

Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store ๐Ÿ™‚

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.


Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack!


In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right ๐Ÿ™‚

18 comments to Nemesis Bird. And 7D Mark II Not So Bad…

  • avatar Steve Dickson

    Hi Art,

    I use the 7D Mark ii along with the new 300 f 2.8 and the new 2x extender and just love it.
    I thank you for all the information you shared about this camera when it came out and for your guide which I purchased !

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Steve, You are welcome and thanks for your purchase of the 7D Mark II User’s Guide.

      Please remember that the very best way to thank me is to use my B&H affiliate links when you purchase new gear.


  • avatar Tom

    Arthur, when it came out, you loved the 7d2. Has it just been surpassed in your mind by the much better 1dx2 and the 5dsr? I’m still shooting with mine that I purchased through your B&H link and love it.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Tom,

      First off, thanks a stack for using my B&H link; it is greatly appreciated. Yes, I decided to go back to 100% full frame bodies and sold my two 7D Mark II bodies. I made lots of great images with mine and still firmly believe that it is the best-ever value in a digital camera body. The most important thing is that you are happy with it and with your images.

      later and love and see you on an IPT ๐Ÿ™‚


      • avatar Rick

        More pixels or more fps- that is the question!

        • Yep, that really is what it comes down to. I shoot things like dragonflies in flight, in addition t birds. So the FPS on the 7d2 w/o the price of a 1d camera is why I’m sticking with the 7d2.

      • My goal is to join you for an IPT before you retire! You are the BEST and I have learned so much from reading your blog since its inception. Do you think you will be doing a Fort Desoto In the fall of 2017? My wife and I are expecting our first daughter this year on October 17 or so, but in 2017…

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Hey Tom, Thanks for your kind words. I have no clue as to what will be up in 2017 so stay tuned to the blog ๐Ÿ™‚ Where do you live?

          later and love, artie

          ps: please remember to use my B&H affiliate links if you buy any new gear.

          • HI Artie, I am in Worthington, Ohio (Columbus area) but I have made several trips to SW Florida the past two winters as more of my relatives spend their winters there. I have yet to visit Ft. Desoto, but of all your IPT’s this one probably interests me the most, as I really love shorebirds. Have considerd Nickerson as well, but it’s hard t break away from work during the summer. Also, I just at watched the Facebook live interview you gave; it was great. And thanks for giving us a fairly deep insight into your life as a person, photographer and businessman.

            Thanks for your kind words Tom. I look forward to meeting and working with you on an IPT someday. I will likely do a spring IPT at DeSoto. Do also consider San Diego… later and love, artie

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Gorgeous image. You obviously can make gorgeous images with any decent camera, but I’ve always thought my 7D2 makes it relatively easy for me to do so, especially with the amazing 100-400 II and in good light. I like the term “nemesis bird.” Mine is the northern harrier. I have lots of great butt shots–at least I did before I deleted them. Caspian terns are rare enough here in Massachusetts that they aren’t even nemesis birds for me.

  • avatar Wtlloyd

    You leave us begging the question, “How do you level the image when there is no relatable horizon in the shot?”

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The wavelets need to be close to level. They were not in the original (not seen here). Also, the legs should be pretty much square to the world. If you are confused now wait till you see the Marbled Godwit with two sleeping Willets blog post. That one messed me up for days ๐Ÿ™‚

      later and love, artie

  • avatar Joe Subolefsky

    Artie had my MK IV a couple days now and was really wanted to try out the Dual Pixel feature as well but the fact is the focus has been so spot on I haven’t had the need. The only time it’s not been tack sharp is when I screwed up. That said it is far more forgiving then my 7DII. Very impressed so far even with extenders.

    I was really back and forth 1DXII,5Dsr or MKIV shot them all now and the MKIV seems to be the one that fits my style best.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good news. I should get out with mine tomorrow.


      ps: if you used my link, please shoot me your B&H receipt via e-mail.

      pps: Duh, you already did that. So thanks again!

  • avatar Jay

    Interesting what becomes a nemesis bird to different people. Where I am, you’re more likely to come across a caspian tern. That doesn’t mean my pictures are that great, but I can at least make the attempt.