Photographing Strongly Backlit Subjects with Flash. And lots more … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Photographing Strongly Backlit Subjects with Flash. And lots more ...

What’s Up?

The blog was down most of the day on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning as well for as yet unexplained reasons. Apologies. With some extra time I was able to get back to work on the Current Workflow Guide. The rest of the day was BAU with a nice walk, an afternoon swim, several meditation sessions, and a School for the Work Aftercare Session. Ah, I almost forgot to mention that Wednesday is a fasting day for me.

I was pleased to learn that Colin Haase sold his Canon EF 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens in like-new condition for a the BAA record-low price of $9,497 just minutes after I featured it in a recent blog under the heading “I Cannot Believe that this one has not sold yet …” That listing actually generated two interested folks. One of them wound up disappointed. What’s the lesson: get in the habit of checking the Used Gear Page frequently by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange/yellow tool bar at the top of each blog pose page.

I was also pleased to learn that Tony Zielinski from Toronto, Canada signed up for the UK Puffins and Gannets IPT. Details on that below.


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: 19!

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, 19 days in a row with a new educational blog post. As always–and folks have been doing a really great for a long time now–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 BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would of course appreciate your business.

Desperately Seeking …

I am desperately seeking at least one photographer for the full day at Gatorland on Saturday. It is an amazing value. A single full day with private or practically private instruction with yours truly that includes two (2) three hour photo sessions as well as a long working lunch that includes image review and Photoshop sessions for only $275. There is nobody signed up yet for the full day on Saturday. One each of the previous two Saturdays I have had only a single student. Read on for the complete details.

Gatorland In-the Field Instructional Meet-Up Sessions

Join me in Kissimmee, FL next weekend to photograph Great (with chicks in the nest) and Snowy Egrets in breeding plumage, Cattle Egret and Tricolored Heron in breeding plumage, Wood Stork, American Alligator (captive), and more. We should get to make lots of head portraits of all the bird species and to photograph them building nests, displaying, copulating, and flying. Learn to see, find, and make the shot in cluttered settings. Learn exposure and how to handle WHITEs. Learn fill flash and flash as main light techniques. All of the birds are free and wild.

Next Weekend’s Gatorland Schedule

  • Saturday April 8, morning (early entry): 7:30 till 10:30am: $100. Lunch and Image Review: $75. Saturday afternoon till closing (late stay): $100.
  • Sunday morning, April 9, (early entry): 7:30 till 10am: $75.

Cheap Canon lens rentals available: 600 II, 500 II, 400 DO II, or 200-400.

To pay for one or more sessions in full via credit card, call Jim or Jen in the office weekdays at 863-692-0906. You will be responsible for the cost of your Gatorland Photographer’s pass or passes. Please shoot me an e-mail if you have any questions.

Selling Your Used Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charges a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few months, we have sold just about everything in sight. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the original 400mm IS DO lens have been dropping steadily. Even the prices on the new 600 II and the 200-400 with Internal Extender have been plummeting. You can see all current listings by clicking here or by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the right side of the yellow-orange menu bar above.

Unsolicited, via e-mail, from Gerry Keshka

Hi Artie, I wanted to share how much I appreciate your Used Gear “service.” You have posted how you help sellers, but the other side of the equations is how much this service helps buyers. I have purchased three lenses (Canon 200-400, 500 f4 II, and 70-200 F2.8) all lovely experiences and I saved almost $5K over retail. Each of the sellers was delightful, willing to help me assess if the purchase was right for me by sharing their experience with the lens. Each lens was in the condition advertised (or better), and typically included several “add-ons” that would have cost several hundred dollars.

Unsolicited, via e-mail, from Sandra Calderbank

Hi Artie, I wanted to take a few minutes to thank you. I have sold two camera bodies on your BAA used gear site. Your friendly expertise and knowledgeable, trustworthy buyers have made this an extremely satisfying experience. Selling on BAA Used Gear page is the best transaction experience I have ever encountered. Thank you for all you do for our photography community. Sincerely, Sandra

Recent Successful Used Gear Sales
March has been an amazing month on the Used Gear Page!

  • Colin Haase sold his Canon EF 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens in like-new condition for a the BAA record-low price of $9,497 just minutes after I featured it in the blog under the heading “I Cannot Believe that this one has not sold yet …”
  • Steve Traudt helped a friend sell his Canon 500mm f4L IS USM lens in near-mint condition for $3899 in late March, a week after it was listed.
  • Mike Pace sold his Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II in excellent plus condition locally and is sending me a check for 2 1/2% of the original price.
  • BAA friend John Armitage sold his Canon EOS 1D-X in excellent plus condition for $2348 the day it was listed.
  • In early March long-time-ago IPT veteran Myer Bornstein decided not to sell his Nikon 500mm f/4G ED VR lens and kindly sent me a check for 2 1/2% of the original asking price, $4,999.00.
  • The sale of David R. Gibson’s Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens in excellent plus condition for $749 is pending.
  • Mike Kaplan sold a Canon EOS 7D Mark II in near-mint condition for $925 to a buyer who contacted him on day one when the body was listed in early March.
  • Sue Sanborn sold her Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens in near-mint condition for $4100 in early March. The value of this great lens has plummeted after the introduction of the 400mm f/4 IS DO II.
  • Sandra Calderbank sold her used Canon EOS 7D Mark II in excellent plus condition with less than 20,000 shutter actuations for $948 in early March.
  • Mike Pace sold his Canon EF 500mm f/4 L IS lens in very good condition for $4699 CAD to a Canadian only days after it was listed in early March.
  • Kenton Gomez sold his Canon EF 500mm f4L IS II lens in excellent plus condition for the BAA record-low price of $7349 in early March, 2017.
  • Multiple IPT veteran Jake Levin sold his Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS lens in very good-plus condition for the very sporting price of $2199 USD to a Canadian buyer less than a week after it was listed.
  • Owen Peller sold his Canon EF 400m f/4 IS DO telephoto lens — the “old 400 DO,– in like-new condition for $2,299 in early MAR, 2017.

New Listing

Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 L IS USM Lens

Leonard Malkin is offering a Canon EF 70-200mm f2/.8 L IS lens excellent condition for $899. This is the older, original Image Stabilized version. The sale includes the front and rear lens caps, the tripod collar, the zippered soft case, and insured ground shipping via major courier to US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made. Please contact Leonard via e-mail.

I owned and used this version of the incredibly versatile 70-200 for birds and wildlife and landscapes and Urbex for many years with both teleconverters. It was great indoors for events like granddaughter Maya’s dance recitals. A new copy of the 70-200 II currently sells for $1,899 so you can save a bundle by grabbing Leonard’s lens. artie

This image was created at Gatorland on the April 1, 2017 afternoon meet-up session with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and my very favorite bird photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -2 1/3 stops: 1/400 sec. at f/13 in Manual mode. AWB.

Fill flash at ETTL at -1 stop with the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT on the Mongoose Integrated Flash Arm via the Canon OC-E3 Off Camera Shoe Cord (2′).

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: -5.

Four AF points to the left and one up from the center AF point/AI Servo/Expand/Shutter Button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point rested just below the eye.

Image #1: Great Egret backlit

Photographing Strongly Backlit Subjects with Flash

Gatorland is one of my favorite places to photograph strongly backlit subjects while lighting the shadowed side of the bird with flash. Why? The birds are fairly close — this allows the flash to be effective, and because black (read “shaded”) backgrounds are not hard to find. Photographing backlit birds against black backgrounds accentuates the rim light. Photographing backlit birds against the sky or other light backgrounds? You lose all the drama.

The trick with the flash is to dial it up so that the WHITEs are properly exposed. You can check on the LCD; make sure that your LCD brightness is not on Auto. It should be on Manual at 5 or 6. On most of the recent Canon bodies you can find LACD brightness on the YELLOW 2 (wrench symbol) menu. This is one of the most common set-up errors that I encounter. In addition, be sure to check the histogram to see that there is data well into the fifth histogram box on the right. That as always.

Why No Better Beamer?

Why did I not use the Better Beamer in this situation?

Why ETTL +1

This is a high level flash question so you will need to read all of the EXIF carefully … Why did I have the flash at +1? There are several reasons that might or might not be true in part; I am looking for the single best answer.

The Image Optimization

After converting the RAW file in DPP 4 (see the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide), I brought the image into Photoshop. Compare Image #1 with the similar frame below to note the small but very effective image clean-up differences. I cleaned up the bill and the lores with my usual cadre of tools, the Spot Healing Brush and the Patch Tool. To tame the bright highlights and eliminate the stray feathers along the top edge of the upper mandible close to the head, I painted a Quick Mask of the cleaner part of the mandible, put it on its own layer, moved it into position with the Move Tool (V), added a Regular layer mask, painted away the whole thing (BDX), and then painted back in just what I needed (X). Voila! I did apply Neat Image noise reduction as the background, so severely underexposed, really needed it.

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.

Learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair. You can learn to apply Neat Image noise reduction in The Professional Photographers Guide to Post Processing.

With the blog being down on Tuesday and Wednesday I got back to work on the 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 applying Neat Image noise reduction.

This image, the next frame in a sequence, was created at Gatorland on the April 1, 2017 afternoon meet-up session with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and my very favorite bird photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1 2/3 stops: 1/400 sec. at f/13 in Manual mode. AWB.

“Fill” flash at ETTL at +1 stop with the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT on the Mongoose Integrated Flash Arm via the Canon OC-E3 Off Camera Shoe Cord (2′).

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: -5.

Four AF points to the left and one up from the center AF point/AI Servo/Expand/Shutter Button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point rested just below the eye.

Image #2: Great Egret backlit, flash did not fire

Flash Did Not Fire

For this frame the flash did not have enough time to re-charge and therefore it did not fire. This caused a huge underexposure with the WHITEs. To prevent this from happening you can set the Single. While it might be possible to come up with something use-able from this RAW file, my take is that lighting the shaded side of the bird with flash will almost always yield a superior quality image file.

Exposure Question

Why did I need the ambient exposure to be so dark at -2 1/3 stops as framed?

Want to Learn to Use Your Flash?

If you want to learn to use your flash, join me on Saturday at Gatorland. See above for the details. artie


uk-puffins-card-ii-layers

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: 5).
All who register will be urged to take advantage of the two day Gannet Add-on so please do not buy your flights until making your decision. See below for details.

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.


uk-puffins-card-iii-layers

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.

Great News on the UK Puffins and Gannets Extension

On the morning of Jul 11, 2017, those staying for the extension will sleep late and head up to Dunbar Harbor for lunch and an afternoon Gannet boat chumming trip: flight photography until you cannot lift your camera. One gannet boat trip is included in the IPT but everyone always wants more.

Then, as a possible mega bonus — we are scheduled to make a Bass Rock landing on the morning of Tuesday July 12, 2017. I am hoping to go two for two! If not, we do another chumming trip for flying gannets.

Included will be two nights lodging at the wonderful Dunsmuir hotel, two fine dining meals there, any additional meals, all boat, guide, and landing fees, and all transportation including the early morning transfer to the Edinburg Airport on the morning of WED July 12.

So far all five sign-ups are maximizing their travel dollars by signing up for the extension in part because I priced it cheaply at $1499 despite my greatly increased costs.


uk-puffins-card-i

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 TIS.



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

Typos

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

19 comments to Photographing Strongly Backlit Subjects with Flash. And lots more …

  • Image 2. you flash did not fire, because (probably) you have not set up flash C.Fn 2, so your flash fires only when fully charged. All my flashes are pre-set C.Fn 2 and fire even not fully charged. BTW, not sure how it works if you have set High-speed Sync.

  • Hey Artie

    No better beamer at close range because the light would’ve been concentrated to too small an area in the frame. With the bird being close, the flash was needed to light it evenly.

  • avatar Steve levrier

    Would it possibly have melted your flash head?

  • You were close enough to use the flash without the need for the greater flash distance provided by the better beamer.

  • avatar Phil Frigon

    Artie

    On the return date on the U.K. puffin trip you say we get back to the airport on early morning Wednesday July 13th. July 13 is a Thursday.

    Phil Frigon

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good catch Phil. We will be at the airport on WED July 12th 🙂 Actually, great catch. Duh!

      later and love, artie

  • avatar Tony Botelho

    I’m thinking that the better beamer might have been over-kill being so close to the bird. Not sure how far away the background was, but if it was close you also risk lighting up the background. On the other hand maybe none of this is correct and you just forgot to bring the beamer along.

  • avatar Guido Bee

    I agree with Rob and Krishna on the back lighting considerations and keeping the background dark. Since I am not a current Canon user, I’d wonder if the 1/400 sec would invoke something like the high speed synch provisions of some other flash systems and make it beneficial to be adding the plus 1 to the flash. Better Beamer may be too hot / bright at close ranges and affect the black background. Just a guess??
    Nice image.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Guido, You are right on when you mention High Speed Synch. That reduces the flash output so I dialed the flash up to compensate and render the bird white.

      So all that we are left with is why no Better Beamer?

      It had nothing to do with keeping the BKGR dark and nothing to do with over-flashing the bird …
      artie

  • avatar Rob Stambaugh

    Gorgeous image. My guesses: The objective was to exploit flash fall off, so the -2 1/3 is to darken the background (agree with Krishna). ETTL +1 is to expose for the back lighting. The Better Beamer would have given less fall off and risked lighting the background.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Rob,

      Also nope. The BKGR was about 30 yards away so no chance of it lighting the background …

      later and love to you both, artie

  • Artie…suspect you pushed the fill flash to +1 as the ETTL reading (pre-flash) of the backlight on the subject would’ve produced a weaker flash output, or not enough to properly illuminate the bird.

  • avatar Mike Cristina

    Artie, I’d be there in a second if I could. Everybody’s loss.

    Mike in CT

  • Why did I need the ambient exposure to be so dark at -2 1/3 stops as framed?
    Because you wanted the distant background to be black and also to avoid protecting the highlights due to back lighting.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I think that you mean over-exposing the highlights rather than protecting them.

      a