The Photoshop Phony Bathing Great Egret Revealed « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Photoshop Phony Bathing Great Egret Revealed

What’s Up?

Wednesday was (and is) my weekly fast day. The rest was business as usual. I did get some work done on the Current BAA Workflow e-Guide.

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: 27!

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, 27 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.

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. Learn to make sharp images with your f/4 super-telephoto and your 2x II TC. All of the birds are free and wild.

Next Weekend’s Gatorland Schedule

  • Saturday April 15, morning (early entry): 7:30 till 10:30am: $100. Lunch and Image Review: $75. Saturday afternoon till closing (late stay): $100.
  • Sunday morning, April 16, (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.

The Photoshop Phony Bathing Great Egret Revealed

In the “Which One is Phony?” blog post here, I wrote,”One of today’s featured images underwent a significant operation in Photoshop. If you think that you know which one it is, leave a comment and be sure to state your proof clearly. Please be specific when doing so.” Nobody figured out what I did and thus, there was no proof of anything. Several folks have offered proof of changes that were actually in the RAW file …

Sarah Sterling came close when she posted “I think it’s #2 as the reflections don’t match. The feathers are crossing (the bill) in different places.

I responded,”Wow, you are amazing. I totally missed that. I am 99% sure that your reasoning is correct. So what did I do?

She did not answer. (Many folks who reply or ask a question never check to see any additional comments or my answers.)

But after taking a close look at the animated GIF above, I noted that the 1% long shot was actually the winner. That the feathers did not appear to cross the bill in the same spot in the reflection was a result of the physics of light not to the fact that I had replaced the bird’s head with the same bird’s head from another frame with a very similar but not as dramatic a moment depicted. If you think that I am wrong, please let us know.

So What’s the Point?

My point is that when the creator reveals in advance what changes were made to an image in Photoshop, many folks are quick to point out the telltale signs that “prove” that repairs were made. But when they do not know what changes were made, it is rare that anyone detects the changes and it is not uncommon that folks mention changes to the image that were not made, commenting on features that were actually in the RAW file.

This Just In

On Wednesday evening, just in the nick of time, Gary Spicer posted this comment:

I think the image has had a complete head replacement above the water. The long head plume is missing in the reflection and the eye has 2 white spots in front of the eye above water and only one below the water. I also would think that there should be water splashes and droplets from the bill from a bird that had just dived below water, but I might be wrong. One last observation is the angle of the head compared to the angle of the diving body, not sure on that. Having said all that its been very well done and at first glance it looks like another one of your excellent shots. Regards Gary

I replied:

Well done on the head replacement. I am not sure that I agree with or understand all of your reasons but I still tip my hat to you. Let me know what you think when you see the animated GIF in tomorrow’s blog post. later and love and thanks, artie

The Image Optimization

I began by converting the original for today’s featured image in DPP 4. Then I copied the recipe to the head-source image and converted that too. Replacing the head was a snap. I painted a Quick Mask of the new head, put it on its own layer, and dragged it roughly into place on top of the other image. Next I reduced the opacity to 50%, lined up the two eyes, hit Command T to bring up the Transform box, and grabbed to love handles to rotate the new head. No warping was necessary. Next I added a Regular Layer Mask, erased the whole layer (B, D, X) hit X again, and painted in just what I needed. Lastly I had to do a bit of Clone Stamp Tool work along the top of the bird’s head where there was a bit of a mis-match. Total time to replace the head: 3 minutes, most of that time was spent fixing the mismatched top of the head.

Note in the before and after animated GIF that I eliminated the largest specular highlights and ran my 50/50 Nik Color EFEX recipe on the white feathers only. This image was cropped from the rear and from below using the Original Ratio feature. Maybe I’ve finally learned my lesson: I zoomed out to avoid clipping anything …

Learn why I convert all of my Canon RAW files in DPP 4 in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide. 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.

I am still 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.


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/Openings 2. To save your spot, please call and put down a non-refundable deposit of $499.00.

Call 863-692-0906 or e-mail for late registration discount e-mail.

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 Holiday Inn Express in St. Petersburg. (Write for a less expensive option). 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 Sunday, April 23, 2017: $99

Join me on the morning of Sunday April 23, 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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9 comments to The Photoshop Phony Bathing Great Egret Revealed

  • You did such a good job that I had no idea! But now that you have revealed the answer, I am curious, why didn’t you just replace the eye instead of the whole head?

  • avatar Sarah Sterling

    Glad I came close. Wish I could hang out here more often as I always learn something!

  • avatar Gary Spicer

    Fascinating Arthur, thanks for including me in your post. Makes you wonder how many times we could have been fooled by photos in the past, not yours obviously! Gary

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      YAW and thank you for your help. And yes, honesty is always the best policy as far as I am concerned. More to come soon 🙂


  • avatar Frank Sheets

    Good morning!

    In retrospect, “I should have know that!” No, not really. But the more I photograph birds the more I notice that when birds are preening or washing, they hardly ever have there eyes open or have covered their eyes with the membrane. So, your modified version, were it real, would have been a very unusual behavior. So, as I said, I should have known that.

    Have a great day!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      While that is often true, in the source image that was quite similar to the image that I worked on, the bird’s eye was fully open 🙂

      Thanks and later and love, artie

  • avatar Joel Eade

    It is very difficult to tell what was done to the image before you posted the reveal. One thing I am curious about: in the animated GIF the bird’s eye in the reflection seems be unchanged before and after. Did you perform your “eye doctor” work on the reflected eye prior to the head replacement or after?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Joel, Both the eye in the replaced head and the eye in the reflections are untouched from their respective RAW files. What can we learn from this: reflections can be very tricky.

      later and love, artie