What’s Your Take? Gull/Baby Puffin Predation? Extensive Clean-up or Not Quite Enough? Digital Eye Doctor Special « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

What's Your Take? Gull/Baby Puffin Predation? Extensive Clean-up or Not Quite Enough? Digital Eye Doctor Special

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.

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: 351!

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, 351 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 2016 UK 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 348mm) with the rugged, blazingly fast Canon EOS-1D X Mark II DSLR with 64GB Card and Reader. ISO 2500. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1600 sec. at f/9. AWB.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/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 gull’s breast well below and a bit behind the eye. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Lesser Black-backed Gull scavenging Atlantic Puffin chick

Gull Predation?

When I first saw this gull pick up the puffin chick I called out to the half of the group that was within earshot. I am not sure why but nobody who heard me came. Perhaps they were having too much fun photographing the incoming puffins in flight or perhaps they did not want to photograph gruesome. Heck, I love gruesome; predators gotta eat too.

Though the large gull species will kill any puffin chick that wanders out of its burrow and have been known to grab a baby puffin that was peeking out of its burrow by the head and kill it, I believe that what I photographed that morning was likely engaged in scavenging behavior rather than predation. Why? The puffin chick looked quite well dead when I saw the gull simply pick it up off the rock. There was no struggle.

What’s Your Take on Photographing Predation?

What’s your take on photographing predation? Is it something that gets you excited or do you turn away? Either way, please let us know why you feel the way you do.

Extensive Clean-up or Not Quite Enough?

The image clean-up that you see in the animated GIF above took me about 45 minutes. I am quite proud of the improvement. For those who would say that the rocks without the gull whitewash look unnatural I would respond by pointing out that that is exactly how they would look an hour after a good rain. I use my usual clean-up tools, the Patch Tool, the Spot Healing Brush, a bit of the Clone Stamp Tool, and several small Quick Masks refined by Regular Layer masks. Learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair. Learn about using all of my clean-up tools and tons more in my Digital Basics File. See below for more on that.

The question is, would you have eliminated the tiny gull feather from the crack in the rock below the rear half of the gull? Why or why not?

Digital Eye Doctor Special

The feathering on the gull’s face above and in front of its eye was pretty much a mess. In all, it was as much Digital Face Doctor as it was Digital Eye Doctor. For the clean-up of the feather’s on the face, I used the Clone Stamp Tool at reduced opacities varying from 50-80%. I also used the Clone Stamp Tool for much of the work involved in rebuilding the eye skin. I used Tim Grey Dodge and Burn to lighten the iris and the red eye skin and to darken the pupil.

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, and tons more.

Learn about NeatImage for noise reduction in The Professional Guide to Post-Processing.


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.

Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

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 🙂

10 comments to What’s Your Take? Gull/Baby Puffin Predation? Extensive Clean-up or Not Quite Enough? Digital Eye Doctor Special

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Late to this party because I was on the trip with you. And on that trip, there was some spectacular predation, when leopard seals were preying on king penguins that were somewhat trapped in the slush near shore resulting from 6 inches of snow. Easy pickings for the seals. Along with many others on the trip, I photographed that predation. It wasn’t easy to watch but it’s part of life (and death) and it happened. In addition, there was a lot of scavenging going on, which I photographed as well. But I won’t be putting any of those images on the walls, while I will put up some of the others I made down there.

    I would have not doctored the eye feathers on your image. Predation isn’t neat and clean, and the predator can get a bit messy, too. The messy eye feathers on the gull, FOR ME, add to the whole impression.

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    1. i know predation exists, but i prefer not to photograph it.
    2. the tiny feather doesn’t bother me at all. I’m focused on the bird with a mouthful of baby puffin. 🙁

  • I think the vast majority of people forget just how brutal nature is. Each predatory animal doesn’t care about how “cute” its prey is. It doesn’t care that what it is about to eat has a beneficial part in nature. It just wants to survive. And to do that, it has to eat.

    By taking photos of predation, you are able to tell a whole different side to nature vs cute fluffy bunnies.

  • avatar Larry Brown

    At the Alligator Farm in St Augustine a few years ago I managed to capture a gator taking a Cattle Egret. All over in about 3 seconds. An exciting moment.

  • avatar CRAIG WIESE

    I prefer the cleaned up version. Messy detail that was edited out detracts from the power of the image story. Getting food consumes (no pun intended) a large part of any critter’s day. I personally find images of that activity interesting.

  • avatar Ron May

    Predation is part of nature. You can choose to photograph it or not, but that doesn’t make it go away. Lest we forget, we are the dominant predator in the whole chain of life as we know it.

  • avatar Glen Fox

    If you photograph birds only because they are pretty subjects, then you would probably NOT photograph an act of predation. If you photograph birds because you love birds and find their behaviour interesting, then you would jump at the chance to document predatory behaviour. The images will have very different audiences. I’m in the latter camp.

    Your clean-up of the image is, as usual, very skilled and benefits the image. Leaving the feathers was consistent with the effects of “a good rain”. I am constantly in awe of your skills as an eye doctor. I presume the secret is to work large and to take small “bites”.

    Hope you are continue to feel well and are enjoying you journey. Shalom!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks and good on all counts Glen. I am one of the few who always roots for the predators …

      Later and love from Ushuaia, Argentina. artie