Thirty Great Minutes in the Fourth Albatross Gulley: Part II. And Still More 100-400 II Versatility « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Thirty Great Minutes in the Fourth Albatross Gulley: Part II. And Still More 100-400 II Versatility

What’s Up?

Just exercise and NFL on Sunday. Please call or e-mail for San Diego IPT late registration info–just three slots left. Click here for San Diego and complete IPT info.

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Used Gear Business

If you contacted me in December about selling a used 1D X please get in touch again via e-mail. I have been searching for your e-mail for more than an hour without success 🙁 I do not like to leave folks hanging.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of 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: 416!

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, 416 days in a row with a new educational blog post. 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 of course appreciate your business.

This image was also created at The Neck on Saunders Island, The Falklands. Again I used the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 400mm) with my very favorite bird photography camera, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering – 1 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode. Note: 1/2000 at f/8 in the shade at ISO 400 does not make a whole lot of sense but the image was only about 1/2 stop under …

One AF point to the left of the center AF point/AI Servo/Expand/Shutter Button AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). The selected AF point was just below the bird’s eye. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Black-browed Albatross gathering mud for its nest, maybe …

Thirty Great Minutes in the Fourth Albatross Gulley … Part II

As I mentioned in Part I yesterday here, I was sitting near a tiny stream, the rivulet dripping down the hill from and unseen spring. As there has been a several-year drought in The Falklands, I am guessing that these small streams are more important than ever as each of the many thousands of Black-browed Albatross nests is constructed almost entirely of mud.

I have seen this behavior many times in the past. The bird collecting the mud grabs a beakful and tosses it backwards a foot or two towards the nest. The nest is usually six feet or so away. The funniest thing is that I have never seen the mud collecting bird ever move the mud any closer to the nest … I guess that they must at some point.

I was excited by this situation as the behavior is so interesting and the mud was relatively clean and so dark brown as to look almost black. Be sure to see the multiple choice quiz below after checking out the DPP 4 Screen Capture below and reading my comments there for a big clue …

The DPP 4 RAW Conversion Screen Capture for today’s featured image

The DPP 4 RAW Conversion Screen Capture and the Image Optimization

Note that despite a pretty good but not perfect exposure, I added 1/6 stop of light before converting the RAW file in DPP 4. After brightening the image a bit, the RGB values on the top of the bird’s head read 238, 238, 239. I moved the Shadow slider to -1 to darken the mud a bit. In a perfect world I would have moved the active AF point up one so that it fell squarely on the bird’s eye.

Mud clean-up was minimal as the mud — as mentioned above — was pretty good looking mud. I used the Spot Healing Brush for that clean-up. I applied my 25/25 NIK Color Efex Pro recipe to the whole image and then painted it in where needed on the bird using an Inverse (Hide-all or Black) Layer Mask. Once that was done I went back to the Layer and pulled the curve up a bit to further brighten the WHITEs. The I lightened the dark brow that gives the bird its name with a Tim Grey Dodge and Burn layer and did a bit of Eye Doctor work. Lastly I selected the bill and the mouth lining, applied a Contrast Mask, and boosted the Vibrance to 100%.

Everything above plus tons more is of course detailed in my Digital Basics File, an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete (former PC) 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. I am working on an all new Current Workflow e-guide that better reflects my Macbook Pro/Photo Mechanic/DPP 4/Photoshop workflow. It will include a section on ACR conversions and a simplified method of apply Neat Image noise reduction.

Multiple Choice Quiz

Which of these was most important to the success of this image:

a- the perfect head angle

b- the perfect exposure

c- the perfect head rotation

d-the inclusion of a portion of the bird’s wing and the side of the bird’s breast in the upper left corner.

e- all are correct

Please let us know why you made your choice.

Still More 100-400 II Versatility

As we have seen here very often over the last two years, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens is incredibly versatile. In addition to its great focal length range, the amazing four-stop IS system, and its excellence as a flight lens, its incredible close focusing ability is a huge plus. How quickly we have forgotten that the 400 f/5.6L and the original 100-400 focused only to about 11 or 12 feet … Today’s featured image would have been impossible with the older gear.

On more than a few outings in The Falklands I headed out with just the new 1-4.


DeSoto in spring is rife with tame and attractive birds. From upper left clockwise to center: breeding plumage Dunlin, dark morph breeding plumage Reddish Egret displaying, breeding plumage Laughing Gull/front end vertical portrait, breeding plumage Laughing Gull with prey item, Laughing Gull on head of Brown Pelican, screaming Royal Tern in breeding plumage, Royal Terns/pre-copulatory stand, Laughing Gulls copulating, breeding plumage Laughing Gull/tight horizontal portrait, Sandwich Tern with fish, and a really rare one, White-rumped Sandpiper in breeding plumage, photographed at DeSoto in early May.

Fort DeSoto Spring IPT/April 19-22, 2017. (meet & greet at 2pm on Wednesday April 19 followed by an afternoon session) through the full day on Saturday April 22. 3 1/2 DAYs: $1599. Limit 10. To save your spot, please call and put down a non-refundable deposit of $499.00.

I will be offering small group (Limit 3) Photoshop sessions on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning if necessary. Details on that TBA.

Fort DeSoto is one of the rare locations that might offer great bird photography 365 days a year. It shines in spring. There will Lots of tame birds including breeding plumage Laughing Gull and Royal and Sandwich Terns. With luck, we will get to photograph all of these species courting and copulating. There will be American Oystercatcher and Marbled Godwit plus sandpipers and plovers, some in full breeding plumage. Black-bellied Plover and Red Knot in stunning breeding plumage are possible. There will be lots of wading birds including Great and Snowy Egrets, both color morphs of Reddish Egret, Great Blue, Tricolored and Little Blue Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, and killer breeding plumage White Ibis. Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork are possible and likely. We should have lots of good flight photography with the gulls and terns and with Brown Pelican. Nesting Least Tern and nesting Wilson’s Plover are possible.

We will, weather permitting, enjoy 7 shooting sessions. As above, our first afternoon session will follow the meet and greet at 2pm on Wednesday April 19. For the next three days we will have two daily photo sessions. We will be on the beach early and usually be at lunch (included) by 11am. We will have three indoor sessions. At one we will review my images–folks learn a ton watching me choose my keepers and deletes–why keep this one and delete that one? The second will be a review of your images so that I can quickly learn where you need help. For those who bring their laptops to lunch I’d be glad to take a peek at an image or three. Day three will be a Photoshop session during which we will review my complete workflow and process an image or two in Photoshop after converting them in DPP. Afternoon sessions will generally run from 4:30pm till sunset. We photograph until sunset on the last day, Saturday, April 22. Please note that this is a get-your-feet and get-your-butt wet and sandy IPT. And that you can actually do the whole IPT with a 300 f/2.8L IS, a 400 f/4 ID DO lens with both TCs, or the equivalent Nikon gear. I will surely be using my 500 II as my big glass and have my 100-400 II on my shoulder.


DeSoto in spring is rife with tame and attractive birds. From upper left clockwise to center: Laughing Gull in flight, adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, copulating Sandwich Terns, Roseate Spoonbill, Great Egret with reflection, Short-billed Dowitcher in breeding plumage, American Oystercatcher, breeding plumage Royal Tern, white morph Reddish Egret, and Snowy Egret marsh habitat shot.

What You Will Learn

You will learn to approach free and wild birds without disturbing them, to understand and predict bird behavior, to identify many species of shorebirds, to spot the good situations, to understand the effects of sky and wind conditions on bird photography, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. And you will learn how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you are scared of it).

The group will be staying at the Red Roof Inn, St. Petersburg: 4999 34th St. North, St Petersburg, FL 33714. The place is clean and quite inexpensive. Please e-mail for room block information. And please call Jim or Jennifer at 863-692-0906 to register. All will need to purchase an Annual Pass early on Tuesday afternoon so that we can enter the park at 6am and be in position for sunrise opportunities. The cost is $75, Seniors $55. Tight carpools will be needed and will reduce the per person Annual Pass costs. The cost of three lunches is included. Breakfasts are grab what you can on the go, and dinners are also on your own due to the fact that we will usually be getting back to the hotel at about 9pm. Non-photographer spouses, friends, or companions are welcome for $100/day, $350 for the whole IPT.

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

Fort DeSoto Spring In-the-Field Cheap Meet-up Workshop (ITFW) on the morning of April 22, 2017: $99

Join me on the morning of April 22, 2017 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.

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 please remember that I am 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, 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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15 comments to Thirty Great Minutes in the Fourth Albatross Gulley: Part II. And Still More 100-400 II Versatility

  • I think answer will be e. Inclusion of the portion of the bird’s wing give a bit of 3D feel, which is why I choose e.

  • avatar David Peake

    I think D is the best answer. Head angle and rotation are all good but the story is in the mud on the beak and the way the subject is turning and reaching for the mud. The inclusion of the breast and wing indicates how much they turn and reach for this. so its an action shot.
    the ‘Less than perfect’ exposure is pretty good too. definitely usable anyway but not the main reason for the success of the image.

  • This is challenging my 3D thinking but if the head were rotated more (clockwise from the bird’s viewpoint?) the open mouth (beak) would be less impressive – you would see less or none of the upper open mouth.

  • avatar Tony

    Probably head rotation in relation to the focus plane. Even at f8 there will be narrow DOF because of how close you are to the subject. If the head was rotated differently part of the bill could have been not as sharp.

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    In my view, several aspects add to the success of the image. The angle of the head in relation to the sensor, the rotation of the birds head just a few degrees to the birds left, and the top left body of the bird. With that head rotation, you can see portions of the left side of the bill, adding depth to the image which makes it much better that had the rotation not allowed that view. With respect to the head angle, maybe my imagination, but it looks like the bird is just slightly facing toward you, which again, adds some depth. It took me a while to figure out what the top left was; the birds breast and wing. With that enlightenment, now the image finally makes sense. That also adds a dimension to the image which adds to its success. So, that leaves the exposure issue. I’m having a little trouble with this as I always do. At -1, your objective was to contain the the whites, which is good, but you still had to add a little light back to the image in DPP4. But did -1 also help darken the mud? To me, what is a big factor in this image is the dark background. So even though you claim the exposure isn’t perfect, perhaps it is. So, after all that, and sorry for the verbose response, ALL OF THE ABOVE. Interesting, I started with one and ended up with all.

    Thanks for the brain exercise this morning. It only took me about 30 minutes. Bottom line, love the image.

  • avatar Warren Robb

    Because the bird’s beak is open, perfect head rotation becomes the dominant factor in making this a memorable image, given good enough exposure and head angle.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Why? See my question below to James and Richard …


    • avatar Warren Robb

      I like that a portion of the inside of both mandibles is visible. Even a slight rotation in either direction would change the perspective, eliminating that quality.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    James and Richard, Good reasoning but try to explain why the amount of head rotation here is ideal. In other words, if the bird’s head was rotated so that the lower mandible was a good deal farther away from us than the upper mandible, how would that have affected the image?


  • avatar James Saxon

    C the head rotation because as stated above you fixed some of the exposure problems and the bird was slinging the mud.

  • I’m guessing c. Can’t be b or e since you said it wasn’t perfect (although it would be for me). Not sure that the included wing adds much. With all the detail preserved in the white feathers, you can appreciate the rotation and I think this adds a lot of interest.