The Headless Picture Within the Picture: seeing the possibilities … And a like-new Canon 600mm f/4L IS II lens « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Headless Picture Within the Picture: seeing the possibilities ... And a like-new Canon 600mm f/4L IS II lens


I spent a good hour on the phone with Apple Care as my Macbook Pro was acting strangely; the screen was blacking out periodically and I was having some password issues 🙂 Apple’s Jennifer was great and everything is running perfectly right now. Knock on wood.

I did have time for a half mile swim on Wednesday.

1DX Mark II Oil Spatter

I took 2023 images of the sky with my 1DX II yesterday afternoon and am still firmly convinced that the only thing that could possibly cause what I am seeing is oil spatter on the sensor. You can learn more here. More than a few folks around the world are having the exact same problem yet all that Canon does is deny and stall. And repeatedly offer to clean the sensor yet again … Stay tuned for lots more on this topic soon.

Brand New Listing

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II Lens

BAA record low price!

Mike Newman is offering a Canon EF 600 F4/L USM IS II USA lens in like-new condition for the record-low BAA price of 9,398.00. The sale includes the the lens trunk with key, the trunk strap, the lens strap, the front lens cover, the rear lens cap, the original warranty card, a three year New Leaf Service Contracts protection plan (transferrable for a $25 fee), and insured ground shipping via Fedex to US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made. Photos are available upon request.

Please contact Mike via e-mail or by phone at (706) 829-8060 (Eastern time).

Weapon of Mass Destruction

The 600 II is the state of the art super-telephoto for birds, nature, wildlife, and sports. If I can get it to a location, it is my go-to weapon. It is fast and sharp and deadly alone or with either TC. I’ve seen photos of this lens; it is absolutely pristine. With a new one going for $11,499, you can save a cool $2101 by grabbing Mike’s lens right now. artie

Amazing 5D Mark IV Sale!

5D Mark IV Still on Sale!

Right now you can purchase a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with the BG-E20 Battery Grip for the crazy low price of $3199. I am not sure how long this Black Friday sale will last …

Blog regular Bill Hill was so excited when he read of this sale that he forgot to use my affiliate link. 🙂 He wrote, “I still think the 5D Mark IV sale is is too good to be true. I will believe it when it arrives. Thanks for the heads up.

Note: Bill went for the one with the free battery grip and the free Canon PIXMA PRO-100 Wireless Professional Inkjet Photo Printer.

The Streak

Today makes one hundred twenty-five days in a row with a new educational blog post! This one took almost two hours to prepare. With all of my upcoming free time (or not …), the plan right now is to break the current record streak of 480 … Good health and good internet connections willing.


Booking.Com came through for me twice again recently with both the DeSoto Fall IPT and next July’s UK Puffins, Gannets, and Bempton Pre-trip room reservations. And all the rates were great. If you’d like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and you will earn a $25 reward. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

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. Those might include system, camera body, accessory, and lens choices and decisions.

This image was created down by the lake near my home at Indian Lake Estates, FL on the morning of Tuesday, November 28, 2017. I used the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 400mm) and my favorite vulture photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2 stops off the sky: 1/1600 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. AWB. Clear skies at 8:15am.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: -5.

Center AF point/AI Servo/Expand/Shutter Button was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was on the base of the vulture’s left wing just left of where the head would have been if it were visible.

The DPP 4 screen capture for the straight-out-of-camera RAW file for Black Vulture banking left

The DPP 4 Screen Capture

Though the data on the histogram does not appear to go well into the fifth (highlight) box, note that with the cursor on the brightest WHITEs in the far wing the RGB values were R=253, G=245, B=226. In fact, I was exposing far to the right in an effort to reveal maximum detail in the BLACKs.

Note that the image is nowhere near level and that I would need to deal with the white buildings on the far shoreline. I moved the Color fine-tune dot a bit towards BLUE and away from RED, moved the Highlight slider to -1, and the Shadow slider to +2.

This is the optimized version of Black Vulture banking left

Be sure to enjoy an enlarged version by clicking on the image.

The Image Optimization

After converting the image in DPP 4 I brought the image into Photoshop and leveled it using the Ruler Tool (my personalized keyboard shortcut R) to draw a line parallel to the far shoreline and then Image > Rotate > Arbitrary (my personalized keyboard shortcut Command + /). I hit OK to rotate the image 3.03 degrees clockwise. Then I executed a fairly substantial crop and used John Haedo Content Aware Fill to fill in the single skinny triangle on the left frame edge.

Then I used the Patch Tool (my personalized keyboard shortcut P), the Spot Healing Brush (J), Content Aware Fill (Shift + Delete), and a series of Quick Masks refined by Regular Layer Masks to eliminate the houses on the far shoreline. Last I used the Patch Tool to remove some floating vegetation from the blue water (in two spots). Then I saved my master file, cropped it to 1200 pixels wide, sharpened it with Unsharp Mask at 110/.3/0, and saved it as a JPG optimized to less than 395kb.

Be sure to click on the image to view the larger version and check out the amazing 5D IV image quality after the crop.

Your Call

Do you like the optimized version of today’s featured image? Be sure to let us know why either way. On a related note, would you have deleted this image? If yes, be sure to let us know why.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II) will teach you an efficient Mac or PC/Photo Mechanic/Photoshop workflow that will make it easy for you to make your images better in Photoshop (rather than worse). That true whether you convert your images in DPP 4 or ACR. See the blog post here to learn lots more and to read a free excerpt.

You can order your copy from the BAA Online Store here, by sending a Paypal for $40 here, or by calling Jim or Jennifer weekdays at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II)

The few things mentioned above (and tons more) are covered in detail in the BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II), an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. Learn more and check out the free excerpt in the blog post here. The new e-Guide reflects my Macbook Pro/Photo Mechanic/DPP 4/Photoshop workflow. Do note that you will find the RGB Curves Adjustment Color Balancing tutorial only in the new e-guide. Note: folks working on a PC and/or those who do not want to miss anything Photoshop may wish to purchase the original Digital Basics along with DB II while saving $15 by clicking here to buy the DB Bundle.

The two most recent and many of the older MP4 Photoshop Tutorial videos releases go hand and hand with the information in DB II):

  • The Wingtip Repairs MP4 Video here.
  • The MP4 Crow Cleanup Video here.

Folks who learn well by following along rather than by reading can check out the complete collection of MP 4 Photoshop Tutorial Videos by clicking here.

You can learn how and why I and other discerning Canon shooters convert nearly all of their Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 using Canon Digital Photo Professional in the DPP 4 RAW conversion Guide here. And you can learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair. Folks can learn sophisticated sharpening and (NeatImage) Noise Reduction techniques in the The Professional Post Processing Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly.

2017 in San Diego was a very good year ….

2018 San Diego 3 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART IPT #2: Sunday, JAN 28 thru and including the morning session on Wednesday, JAN 31, 2018 and a free morning session the day before the IPT starts: 3 1/2 days (+1/2!): $1699. Limit: 8: Openings: 7.

Meet and Greet at 6:30pm on the evening before the IPT begins; Saturday, Jan 27, 2018.

San Diego IPT #2: Shorter and Less Expensive!

Please remember: I go with one.

Join me in San Diego near the end of January to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches; Brandt’s (usually nesting and displaying) and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Wood Duck and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heerman’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Whimbrel, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seal (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lion; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the two IPT cards there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well. Please note: formerly dependable, both Wood Duck and Marbled Godwit have been declining at their usual locations for the past two years …


San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects. With annual visits spanning more than three decades I have lot of experience there….

With gorgeous subjects just sitting there waiting to have their pictures taken, photographing the pelicans on the cliffs is about as easy as nature photography gets. With the winds from the east almost every morning there is usually some excellent flight photography. And the pelicans are almost always doing something interesting: preening, scratching, bill pouch cleaning, or squabbling. And then there are those crazy head throws that are thought to be a form of intra-flock communication. You can do most of your photography with an 80- or 100-400 lens …

Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter?


Though the pelicans will be the stars of the show on this IPT there will be many other handsome and captivating subjects in wonderful settings.

The San Diego Details

This IPT will include four 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, three 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, three lunches, and after-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility. Dinners are on your own so that we can get some sleep.

A $599 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “Arthur Morris) to us at BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. Or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, will be due on 11/1/2016. 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. Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail.

If In Doubt …

If in doubt about using the BAA B&H affiliate link correctly, you can always start your search by clicking here. Please note that the tracking is invisible. Web orders only. Please, however, remember to shoot me your receipt via e-mail.

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.


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 :).

11 comments to The Headless Picture Within the Picture: seeing the possibilities … And a like-new Canon 600mm f/4L IS II lens

  • avatar Martin

    Bosque was great last week but only at the crane pools.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Martin,

      If I am understanding you correctly that means that once the sun is up for 30 minutes there is nothing to shoot for the rest of the morning; is that correct?

      with love, artie

  • avatar Noel Heustis

    As a complete beginner at flight photography here are my thoughts on being in that situation and what I’m learning from today’s blog. If I were in that situation, I wouldn’t have taken the shot because I would have thought “oh the bird is flying away from me…and there are a bunch of buildings in the background…look for something else”. I would have missed a learning opportunity. After looking at the raw and the optimized images, all that bird had to do was look back and it would have been an amazing shot. The focus point would have been very close to the head (which can’t be easy to do). The preparation of being on sun angle, pushing your exposure to get the max detail out of the blacks in this bird, and following the action with your focus point where the head would have been is all you could possibly do to create a pleasing image. In hind sight, the buildings were easy to remove and didn’t present much of a problem; the leveling was not a problem; and you were able to crop for a very pleasing composition. I haven’t yet tried for a banking shot like this, but now I will. Yes there were possibilities there where I probably wouldn’t have looked. Thanks for sharing the images and the process.

  • avatar Arrow Myers


  • avatar David Policansky

    Artie: I wouldn’t have deleted the image but it’s not one of your best. I don’t like not being able to see the bird’s head. I do like the composition and background. Do you lose a lot of data (file size) when you rotate an image?

  • avatar Joe Randle

    Great focus on Black Vulture body… but would have deleted the image… no head visible… this photo is void of character… Sorry again Artie…
    Have A Great Day…

  • avatar Arrow Myers

    I like the image because even though the head is not visible, it seems to work. Any advice for Bosque del Apache? I am headed there tomorrow

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Arrow,

      Thanks. Good luck at Bosque. Do you have our Site Guide? You should 🙂 You can get one via e-mail this afternoon by ordering now here. From what I am hearing you want to be at the Crane Pools in the pre-dawn …

      with love, artie

      ps: please let me know how you do in NM 🙂

    • avatar David Policansky

      Arrow Myers and Artie: I hope it’s OK for me to reply to the Bosque question, having just been there. The North Loop isn’t as good as it has been recently because the old east-west part of the loop on top is closed and the new, longer loop has bad light except in late afternoon and the birds aren’t as close. The geese have been blasting off far from the flight deck and landing at the south crane pool, which has had abundant cranses at dawn and duck. Bosque always is wonderful; enjoy.

  • avatar Jon

    I would have deleted this image Artie. The reasons being I do not find it pleasing, the head is missing, that may be novel but it is the first thing that occurs to me….. where is the head – so what kind of bird is it – can’t tell.
    On a lesser note I don’t like the position of the left wing over the reeds/grasses

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Jon. If you’ve ever seen a Black Vulture you would know what the bird is 🙂

      with love, artie