Bempton Cliffs Part IV: It Ain’t Just Gannets! Dealing With Invisible Eyes. And a High Level Understanding Exposure Question « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Bempton Cliffs Part IV: It Ain't Just Gannets! Dealing With Invisible Eyes. And a High Level Understanding Exposure Question

Stuff

My work on my 2017 taxes is finished. All data and printouts are being sent to my accountant today. 🙂 Hooray! This blog post took 2 1/2 hours to create.

Both Fall Fort DeSoto IPTs are wide open — scroll down for more info. Details for the 2019 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT will be announced here soon. We will be visiting Seahouses for the puffins and other seabirds and both Bempton Cliffs and Dunbar (two boat trips) for the gannets. If you are interested in the pre-publication details, please shoot me an e-mail. Limit: 10 photographers.

News on the Galapagos Front/Limit 12/Openings: 3

Right now I have nine folks committed to the 2019 Galapagos Photo Cruise. A friend who had committed to the trip learned that he and his wife might not be able to attend. Thus, I have room for a couple or for two same-sex roommates, and for a male single. If the archipelago is on your bucket list, please get in touch via e-mail asap with questions. If you might be registering with a friend or a spouse do ask about the two at a time discount. See the complete details here.

BIRDS AS ART

BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.



Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They went out of business. And e-Bay fees are now up to 13%. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please scroll down here or shoot us an e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly — I offer pricing advice to those who agree to the terms — usually sells in no time flat. Over the past year, we have sold many dozens of items. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 100-400, the old 500mm, the EOS-7D and 7D Mark II and the original 400mm DO lens have been dropping steadily. You can always see the current listings by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange-yellow menu bar near the top of each blog post page.

Unsolicited, via e-mail, from Pierre Williot

I would encourage anyone who wants to sell some of their photographic equipment to contact Art. High-end photographic equipment can be difficult to sell. Art, with is widely read daily posts, will allow you to sell your equipment fairly easily for a reasonable price and commission. Please, seriously consider the price that he suggests as it can be hard to face the reality of the actual value of well loved equipment! Art is well aware of the current market for second-hand photographic equipment.

Used Gear Page News

After a month or so in the summer doldrums, sales on the Used Gear page have been red hot for the past two weeks:

Anthony Ardito sold his Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens in like-new condition for $999.00 in mid-August.
I sold my Canon 100-400 L IS II in very good plus (almost excellent) condition and in perfect working order for $1399.00 in late August.
Anthony Ardito sold a Canon EOS-1DX Mark II body (with extras) in like-new condition (less than 41,000 actuations)for $3,999.00 in late August.
Roger Williams sold a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM lens in like-new condition (but for a single faint scratch on the front element)for the “it’s-your-lucky-day” price of only $899.00 a week after it was listed.
Dane Johnson sold a Canon EOS 40D kit with the body converted to Deep Infrared by Life Pixel in near-mint condition for $549.00 in August, 2918 on the first day it was listed.
Jamie Baker sold his Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-20E III in near-mint condition for $299.00 in late August.
John Lowin sold a (men’s extra large) Xtrahand Magnum vest by Vested Interest for $229.00 within a day or two of listing it in late August, 2018.
Anthony Ardito sold his Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens in like-new condition for BAA record-low by far price of $449.00, his Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens in like-new condition for $1,499.00, his Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens in like-new condition for $1,099.00, his Canon Speedlite (flash) 600EX-RT flash in like-new condition for $399.00, his Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 lens (for Canon mount) in near-mint condition for $250.00, and his Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF mount in like new condition for $399.00, all with a day or two of their being listed.
Pierre Williot sold his Canon EOS-1DX Mark II in mint condition with less than 75,000 actuations (rated to 400,000) for $4,199.00 in late August.
Todd Koudelka sold his Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM lens (“the “old five”) in very good plus condition for the BAA record-low price of $3199.00.
Pierre Williot sold his canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM lens (the original 600 IS) in very good to excellent condition for $3999.00 in mid-August.
Todd Koudelka sold a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV in near-mint condition (but for a few tiny, barely visible scratches) for the BAA record-low-by-far of $2249.00 (was $2449.00) in early August.
Ron Gates requested that the listing for his Canon 70-200mm lens be removed and kindly sent me a check for 4% of the original asking price.
Julie Brown sold her Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS lens (the original version) in excellent condition for $2099 in early August.

You can see all the listings here.

Money Saving Reminder

If you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H, would enjoy free overnight shipping, and would like a $50 discount on your first purchase, click here to order and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If you are looking to strike a deal on Canon or Nikon gear (including the big telephotos) or on a multiple item order, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve currently has several D850s in stock along with a Nikon 600mm f/4 VR. He is taking pre-orders for the new Nikon 500 P and the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera body.

Via e-mail from Anthony Ardito

FYI, I got a D850 & a 200-500 from Bedfords using your BIRDSASART code at checkout. Plus, Steve Elkins gave me a discount and some nice XQD freebies. I have to thank you for that!

Booking.Com

Several folks on the UK IPT used the Booking.Com link below for there Edinburgh hotels, got great rates, and saved a handsome $25.00 in the process. If you too would like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and to earn a $25 reward on your first booking. 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 photographers 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 questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

PH-M-Razorbill

This image was created on June 28, 2018 at Bempton Cliffs, UK with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens, the much maligned Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-17E II, and my souped up Nikon D850. ISO 400. Matrix metering +1/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. Natural Auto WB at 6:23am on a clear morning.

One to the left of center Single Continuous (AI Servo in Canon) shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. Surprising, the selected AF point was on the black feathers of the bird’s neck …

Phase detection AF Fine-tune value: +1. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here. Click on the image to see a larger version and note that even then you cannot see the bird’s eye.

Photo Mechanic screen capture
Razorbill with chick under wing, Bempton Cliffs, England, UK
Image copyright 2018: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Invisible Eye

First note that the histogram is absolutely perfect, pushed well to the right in an effort to get as much detail as possible in the very dark feathers. As is often the case, even with a perfect exposure, the dark eyes in images of birds with very dark heads often come out of the camera invisible. This problem is exacerbated with birds that have black heads or faces along with some bright white feathers. Yes, like Razorbills and many species of terns, especially those of the genera (or genuses) Sterna and Thalasseus. The former includes Common, Roseate, and Forster’s Terns. The latter includes larger terns like Royal and Elegant.

eye-&-bill-Razorbill-with-chick-_MAI9458-Bempton-Cliffs,-UK

An Unsharpened Tight Crop of the Face and Eye of the Optimized Image

Opening Up the Too-dark Iris

In sunny conditions, the irises of Razorbill appear very dark bordering on black. When viewed in soft light however you can see that they are a middle-toned amber. To open up (lighten) the iris of the bird in today’s featured image, I used Tim Grey Dodge and Burn — I have that saved as an action. After opening it, I hit B + D + X (Brush, Default, Reverse default). Then I hit 2 to set the brush opacity to 20%. (Thanks to Denise Ippolito for that tip.) I lightened the iris to taste with several brush strokes. Almost forgot: I used a tiny Lighten brush set a 50% opacity to lighten the whitish ring around the pupil.

Sun Angle Question

How can you tell from the tight crop above that I was working slightly off sun angle?

A High Level Understanding Exposure Question

Simple question: why was the middle-toned amber-colored iris rendered much too dark in the RAW file?

Don’t know? Check out the diagram on the bottom of page 62 in the original (soft cover) The Art of Bird Photography. Though this book is based on film images, the information on Applied Exposure Theory (pages 58-63) is 100% relevant for digital folks. I urge all serious nature photography students to master the concepts in this section. Most folks have not …

Razorbill-with-chick-_MAI9458-Bempton-Cliffs,-UK

This image was created on July 1, 2018 at Bempton Cliffs, UK with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens, the much maligned Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-17E II, and my souped up Nikon D850. ISO 400. Matrix metering +1/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. Natural Auto WB at 6:23am on a clear morning.

One to the left of center Single Continuous (AI Servo in Canon) shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. Surprising, the selected AF point was on the black feathers of the bird’s neck …

Phase detection AF Fine-tune value: +1. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here. Click on the image to see a larger version and note that now you can just make out the eye. The vast improvement would be much easier to see if you were viewing the master file or a large print.

This is the optimized version of today’s featured image, Razorbill with chick under wing, Bempton Cliffs, England, UK
Image copyright 2018: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Bempton Cliffs: It Ain’t Just Gannets!

While the gannet photography (flight and otherwise) is superb at Bempton Cliffs there are several other species that are easily photographed (especially in flight). Those include Razorbill, Herring Gull and Black-legged Kittiwake, and Northern Fulmar. In addition, Wood Pigeon and several species of small passerines can be photographed around the visitor center by those who wish to try something different.

The Optimized Version

Above is the optimized version of today’s featured image. During the RAW conversion I opened up the Shadows just a bit after checking the WHITE and BLACK points. Both were close to perfect right out of camera. I also moved the Highlight slider a bit to the left for a bit of additional detail in the white feathers.

Once the image was in Photoshop I made a careful selection of the bird and the chick, feathered the selection one pixel, put that on its own layer, and applied my 40-40 NIK Color EFEX Pro recipe. Then I merged that layer, made a copy of the whole image, and ran a fast and dirty NeatImage noise reduction on the entire image with the Y slider at 55%. You can learn these advanced techniques only in the The Professional Post Processing Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly).

To soften the early morning light I reduced the contrast with my saved “Reduced Contrast Pre-set.” Last I painted a Quick Mask of the chick’s face and sharpened it with a Contrast Mask at 15, 65, 0.

DBII-cover

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

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)

Your guessed it, everything mentioned above and tons more is 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. While the new e-Guide reflects my Macbook Pro/Photo Mechanic/DPP 4/Photoshop workflow, folks using a PC and/or BreezeBrowser will also benefit greatly by studying the material on DB II. 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.

Though I have become more proficient converting my Nikon RAW (NEF) files in Adobe Camera Raw, I continue to optimize my Canon image in DPP 4. You can learn how and why I converted (and still convert) nearly all of my Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide here. And, yes, I still have many Canon images to work on. 🙂 The RAW conversions for all three of today’s featured images was straightforward once I entered my camera/ISO specific recipes (as detailed in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide). 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 (NeatImage) Noise Reduction techniques in the The Professional Post Processing Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly.


desoto-fall-card-b

Fort DeSoto in fall is rife with tame birds. All of the images in this card were created at Fort DeSoto in either late September or very early October. I hope that you can join me there this September. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Clockwise from upper left to center: Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Caspian Tern, Great Egret, Sandwich Tern with fish, Willet, Black-bellied Plover threat display, Snowy Egret, 2-year old Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron, juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron.

The 2018 Fort DeSoto Fall Weekend IPT/September 23-24, 2018: 2 FULL DAYS: $949. Limit 8/Openings 7.

If you would like to combine the above with the 3 1/2 Fall Fort DeSoto IPT, please e-mail for the substantial discount information.

Fort DeSoto, located just south of St. Petersburg, FL, is a mecca for migrant shorebirds and terns in fall. There they join hundreds of egrets, herons, night-herons, and gulls that winter on the T-shaped peninsula. With luck, we may get to photograph two of Florida’s most desirable shorebird species: Marbled Godwit and the spectacular Long-billed Curlew. Black-bellied Plover and Willet are easy, American Oystercatcher almost guaranteed. Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, and White Ibis are easy as well and we will almost surely come up with a tame Yellow-crowned Night-Heron or two. We may very well get to see and photograph the amazing heron/egret hybrid that has been present for three year. And we should get to do some Brown Pelican flight photography. In addition, Royal, Sandwich, Forster’s, and Caspian Terns will likely provide us with some good flight opportunities as well. Though not guaranteed, Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork might well be expected. And we will be on the lookout for a migrant passerine fallout in the event of a thunderstorm or two.

On the IPT you will learn basics and fine points of digital exposure and to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, how 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 choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. Most importantly you will surely learn to evaluate wind and sky conditions and understand how they affect bird photography. And you will learn how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it).

There will be a Photoshop/image review session after lunch (included) each day. That will be followed by Instructor Nap Time.

This IPT will run with only a single registrant (though that is not likely to happen). The best airport is Tampa (TPA). Once you register, you will receive an e-mail with the hotel information. Do know that it is always best if IPT folks stay in the same hotel (rather than at home or at a friend’s place).

Payment in full is due now. Credits cards are OK. You can register by calling Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand or by sending a check as follows: make the check out to: BIRDS AS ART and send it via US mail here: BIRDS AS ART, PO BOX 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. You will receive a confirmation e-mail with detailed instructions, clothing, and gear advice. Please remember that we will meet early on Saturday morning. Please shoot me an e-mail if you plan to register or if you have any questions.


desoto-fall-card-a-layers

Obviously folks attending the IPT will be out in the field early and stay late to take advantage of sunrise and sunset colors. The good news is that the days are relatively short in late September. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Clockwise from upper left to center: Long-billed Curlew, juvenile Tricolored Heron, Marbled Godwits, Great Blue Heron, juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, Wood Stork, smiling Sea Scallop, Ruddy Turnstone scavenging needlefish, Great Blue Heron sunset silhouette at my secret spot, and southbound migrant tern flock blur.

Early and Late

Getting up early and staying out late is pretty much a staple on all BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tours. Being in the field well before the sun comes up and staying out until sunset will often present unique photographic opportunities, opportunities that will be missed by those who need their beauty rest. I really love it when I am leaving the beach at 9:30am on a sunny morning after a great session just as a carful or two of well-rested photographers are arriving ….

Help Support the Blog

Please help support my efforts here on the blog by remembering to click on the logo link above each time that you shop Amazon. That would be greatly appreciated. There is no problem using your Prime account; just click on the link and log into your Prime account. With love, artie

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.

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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 :).

14 comments to Bempton Cliffs Part IV: It Ain’t Just Gannets! Dealing With Invisible Eyes. And a High Level Understanding Exposure Question

  • Hi Artie, I believe the answer to both questions is that you were exposing for the whites, which underexposed the darker tones/colors.

  • avatar Rob Stambaugh

    The overall image is properly exposed, but the camera’s dynamic range limits its ability to render visible detail in the darkest regions of this image, including the bird’s iris in this case. Same reason one does HDR, for example. There’s room to the left of the histogram, but that does not mean one sees as much detail in the darks as a higher exposure reveals.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Rob,

      You are correct, but still dancing dancing somewhat around the edges of the correct answer. I will share my thoughts at some point this coming week.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Eugen J. Dolan

    Simple question: why was the middle-toned amber-colored iris rendered much too dark in the RAW file?

    Looking at the page 62 on the 2008 edition of the Art of Bird Photography –
    The Histogram shows a correct “Middle-tone exposure”.

    The Last Paragraph on Page 62 says:
    When you spot meter the blackest blacks and subtract form 1 to 1-1/3 stops of light, you end up shooting in the range of correct exposure suggested for the Blackest subjects: From 1/2 to 1 stop Lighter than the correct middle-tone exposure. (the Accompanying Graph shows the “subjects” reflectivity from Brilliant whites to Blackest Blacks)

    So if this is “correctly exposed” for the Middle-tone exposure – Would it not then be 1/2 to 1 stops too dark for the eye? (the middle-toned amber-colored iris)
    This would be my best guess?

    You are thisclose to the correct answer, at least the one that I am looking for, the one that opened my eyes to exposure so many years ago in the dark ages of film. Here is where you took a mis-step: this image is NOT correctly exposed for the middle-tones. What is it correctly exposed for??? Once you get that, you will be there ..

    On Page 60 -” Dark or Fairly Dark subject on Dark Background- Shoot at -1/3 to -1/2 stop or -2/3 to -1 for large black subjects “.

    – in the above image you were at +1/3 (and the iris is still too dark). – So Now I am totally confused.

    I can understand that.

    Much help needed.

    Help is coming soon.

    thank you

    YAW. with love, artie

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. OK, I’ll play. First, I agree with Warren Robb about the reason we know you were slightly off sun angle. Second, on the eye and exposure. To start, at 6.23 am you were nearly 2 hours past the 4.30 am sunrise, which I think explains why the image looks as if it had been made in bright sunlight rather than early-morning soft light. So you had an incredible array of brightness from white to black with lots in between, which is an extremely challenging environment for photography. Add to that difficult mix a dark eye in a dark head and I think it’s pretty impressive that the eye is as visible as it is. At least with terns sometimes there’s a catchlight in the convex surface of the black eye, but with alcids and penguins it’s so tough. I’m not seeing that (or why) the iris was wrongly exposed, but I’m looking forward to your explanation.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The image was made in bright sun. The image was properly exposed as shown by the histogram. The question remains, why was the middle-toned amber-colored iris under-exposed …

      Anyone who has ABP should be able to come up with the correct answer in short order.

      And anyone who is serious about photography should be able to answer the question in less than one second 🙂 Should be.

      with love, artie

  • Here’s a guess; angle of the light on the eye didn’t reflect enough light to illuminate the color…

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Nope; not even close. But thanks for trying. And for those who do not know Ann, she is a very fine photographer …

      with love, artie

  • avatar Joel Eade

    I suspect the iris in the original raw file was rendered too dark because in the frame as a whole there is a large amount of middle and light tones in the rocks and the camera is attempting to meter the frame toward neutral gray which will make the dark tones even darker. You tried to help out with some positive exposure compensation but it wasn’t enough to bring the dark tones up. Had you added more you might have risked blowing out the light tones.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Joel,

      You are on the right track but you never quite got there … There is a simple answer that shows complete understanding …

      with love, artie

      ps: as the histogram shows, the RAW file was perfect; the WHITEs are pushed to the edge and there is lots of room to the left — that shows that the BLACKs are nowhere near being too dark …

  • avatar Warren Robb

    Artie, I think the sun was off your right shoulder which resulted in the slight shadow of the birds breast on the vertical rock wall. In this case the shadow adds to the image by defining what white parts are bird and what parts rock.

  • avatar Wilfred Marissen

    Hi Artie, I think the unsharpened eye picture was erroneously not used…

    Cheers, Willy

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks a stack Willy. The photo ID numbers were driving me nuts this morning. All should be fine now.

      with love, artie