(Not So) Blasting Highlights Intensity and Aperture Lessons… More Proof That the 7D Mark II « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

(Not So) Blasting Highlights Intensity and Aperture Lessons... More Proof That the 7D Mark II Does Not Suck

What’s Up?

On Wednesday, my planned late swim was cancelled by a thunderstorm so on Thursday I swam early in the day after doing my shoulder stretching and exercises. I spent a good part of the day stock-piling blog posts and working on Used Gear Sales stuff. The latter has taken up a lot of my time lately πŸ™‚ I did learn on Thursday that Doug Rogers sold his Vortex Razor 85mm Ultra High Definition Scope in mid-September and that Ed Hutchinson sold his Canon EF 100-400mm L IS USM lens, the β€œold 1-4,” his EOS 5D Mark III, and his old five, the Canon 500mm f/4L SI lens, all within a day or two of listing.

If anyone would like to join the Fort DeSoto Fall IPT for a day or two on a pro-rated basis, please contact me via e-mail. Scroll down for the IPT details and late registration info.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA 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: 315!

Today’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, 315 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-–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. 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 on the 2015 Fort DeSoto IPT with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (with the 1.4X TC engaged at 513mm) and the best-ever digital camera body value, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 100. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/400 sec. at f/11 in Tv mode. AWB.

65-point (Automatic selection)/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the gull’s bill and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial.

Image #1: Laughing Gull silhouette at f/11

(Not So) Blasting Highlights Intensity Lesson

In The Art of Bird Photography II (ABP II: 916 pages, 900+ images on CD only) in the section on Creating 11 a.m. Silhouettes I detail the suggested exposure compensation settings for true blasting highlights situations. The backlight in today’s featured images was somewhat muted; this allowed me to work with much less negative ECs and at wider than typical apertures than I would in true blasting highlights situations.

Images Question

Why ISO 100?


This image was of course also created on the 2015 Fort DeSoto IPT with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (with the 1.4X TC engaged at 519mm) and the best-ever digital camera body value, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 100. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/5.6 in Tv mode. AWB.

65-point (Automatic selection)/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF on the gull’s bill and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial.

Image #2: Laughing Gull silhouette at f/5.6

(Not So) Blasting Highlights Aperture Lesson

By comparing today’s featured images you can see that with the smaller aperture in Image #1, f/11, that the specular highlights are much more sharply defined than the specular highlights in Image #2 that was created wide open at f/5.6.

Which look do you like better? Why?

Please Don’t Ask Me…

Please don’t ask me why I was in Tv (Shutter priority) mode or why I chose 65-point Automatic selection AF. Neither make much sense but they worked quite well…

The Image Conversions and Optimizations

With two pretty much perfect exposures the RAW conversions in DPP 4 were quite straightforward. I warmed the image up a bit by raising the color temperature and then warmed it up a bit more with a Color Fine-Tune adjustment. All that I did in Photoshop was save the master files as TIFFs and then size (1200 pixels wide) sharpen (Unsharp Mask: 110/.3/0) and save the two JPEGs.

To learn why and how Arash and I use only DPP 4 to convert our Canon image files see the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide click here.


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: 5. Sunday morning ITFW free to IPT registrants.

Late Registration Discount: please call 863-692-0906 for discount info

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

22 comments to (Not So) Blasting Highlights Intensity and Aperture Lessons… More Proof That the 7D Mark II

  • avatar Richard Poire

    Actually a long time reader.

  • avatar Richard Poire

    I prefer the first on. The background highlights are more defined.
    Cool seeing through the birds nostrels.
    The f 11 f stop creates a sharper bokeh.

  • avatar Fintan

    Did you deliberately set ISO to AUTO ? and the camera meter decided on 100 win to the intense amount of light.

  • avatar Cheri

    Between the 2 images, My preference is for Image #1… I like the highlight details in the water. In both images you see the background thru the birds nostrils. Kinda Cool …

    ISO 100? Because you could? Given the lighting that you had, it looks like you had plenty to create a proper exposure without compromising sharpness.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Interesting images and questions, Artie. If that were a crow sitting on the post, I don’t think I’d guess that the background was water in either image, but a laughing gull makes it much more likely that the post is part of a pier with water behind it. I think I prefer #1–the only difference I can see is in the background–and I prefer #1’s background. I really don’t know why you chose ISO 100, except that if everything else is equal, lower ISOs are better for image quality than higher ISOs and ISO 100 is as low as at least my 7D II goes.

  • avatar Loren Charif

    I suspect I’m in the minority here, but I prefer #1; I believe it’s closer to what your eye actually saw at the time. #2 is a beautiful image, and would probably get a higher score in a competition (judges HATE highlights, specular or otherwise!), but it’s almost impossible to discern what the background is; in #1, it’s clearly water.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Please don’t ask me how much I care about the “judge’s opinions.” πŸ™‚ The words “rat’s ass” come to mind.


  • avatar Matt

    I like #1 better. The highlights ‘defined’ give more story to the image, birds on a post on a pier.(whether this is correct or not is irrelevant to me) Engulfs me and makes me think of the beach. While the second one is a very pretty image, it’s less storytelling for me.

    why ISO 100? because you didn’t need to be higher to expose for the background. 100 keeps the silhouette while changing aperture and SS gives you latitude for changing your background.

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    I may have forgotten to push the send button on my first attempt. If I posted twice, sorry.

    I like the second better. If I had not seen the first, I would have seen the second background as a cloudy sunset sky. Making that assumption, I like the mood of the second better. I usually am not a big fan of silhouettes with blown out reflections off bumpy water. Glassy water might be better. Just me.


  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    ISO 100 to reduce noise in the black silhouette? Since lower ISO’s have less noise.
    1- I like the unusual background
    2- With a less prominent background, I can concentrate on the bird more. So—-
    I like both equally but maybe lean toward #1 a little.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Nope on the noise. Otherwise thanks πŸ™‚


      • avatar Elinor Osborn

        I’ll give this another try. Here’s my thinking on #1—-
        You wanted f11 at zero EC, so both stay
        Changing to a higher ISO would have let in too much light, going above zero, preventing the silhouette from being black? However you could have gone to a higher shutter speed as you did in #2 to keep the bird black. And -1/3 in #2 to tone down the OOF water.
        So I guess I’m clueless

  • avatar Jeff Friedhoffer

    I prefer the first one, the background makes it more interesting to look at.

    Would be interesting to see both in print. I found when looking at the first one that I was squinting due to the brightness, while the second was easier on the eyes, not as bright.

  • avatar John Patton

    I like the second better than the first. The specular highlights in the first are too distracting; especially the brightest ones.