I Cease to Be Amazed … More Topaz AI Plug-in Tips « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

I Cease to Be Amazed ... More Topaz AI Plug-in Tips

I-Phone group-selfie courtesy of and copyright 2020: Alan Murphy. Click on the image to view a larger version.

Image #Zero: The hopeful raptor photographers on Friday morning.

From your left to right: Alan Murphy, Anita North (in ghillie sui with glasses), Bill Carpenter, and yours truly (in ghillie suit).

The back of the morning blind, the front of the afternoon blog, and the decoy owl on a pole are visible to our left of Bill.

What’s Up?

Despite limited success on our first cold-front day in Alan Murphy’s hawk blind at Smith Point, TX, the challenge and the potential were so great and the company so good that we decided to stay in Anahuac and forego three days in Rockport. Thursday morning was the first day of the cold front with the emphasis on cold. Though I had on my lined dungarees, a hooded sweatshirt, and my second heaviest parka, I froze as we were battered by the west/northwest wind (with gusts up to 30mph) right in our faces. We had a halfway decent chance or two on some American Ketrels but that was about it. We retreated to the nearby A and D Cafe, a local hole-in-the wall on Barbara L street, and enjoyed a fabulous lunch prepared by Marissa, the owner, waitress, and chef. The chips and salsa were great. We shared a plate of ground beef nachos followed by fish and shrimp tacos. It was my first restaurant meal since early March. We were the only patrons and Marissa wore a mask. During the afternoon session we had a one good chance on a young Cooper’s Hawk. Everyone got a few good images. At the end of the day, both Alan and his friend Bill Carpenter were amazed by the lack of birds and action and felt that with the winds forecast to shift to the north on Friday that we would finally have a great hawk flight with lots of photography action.

On Friday we got to witness migration live and in person. The winds had shifted to the northeast and conditions were dead-solid-perfect for a great morning of hawk photography. We saw large flocks of White Pelicans and Wood Storks deciding whether or not to cross the bay and continue on to Galveston. Some did. We watched kettles of Turkey Vultures and Broad-winged hawks along with a few other raptors do the same.We saw small groups of Snow Geese headed south high overhead. Lots of southbound migrant passerines including Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow-romper Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Pine Siskin, and Eastern Phoebe streamed along the bayshore or flitted in the surrounding bushes. But raptors again were few and far between. A single Coopers Hawk was interested in the owl and everyone but me got a few good images. The sun broke through just as the bird flew at the owl. I tried to change my exposure and never got off a single image.

We decided to pack up and turn tail on the hawks. Bill had to head home to get back to work. Anita, and Alan and I enjoyed another great lunch at A and D. We were thrilled to learn Alan Murphy’s life story. When we were done, I shared some images with Alan. He was quite amazed by many of them and, shared that he had been inspired early on by others. Words like that from someone as skilled, as accomplished, as talented, as successful, and as hard-working as Alan are quite meaningful to an old codger like me. We said our goodbyes and thanked Alan for his incredible generosity and for sharing his considerable knowledge with us. Bill was equally gracious. Not realizing that he was skipping lunch I did not get a chance to thank him again and say goodbye. Alan and the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory hawk watcher’s surmised that the hurricane-related rain along the east coast of North America had stopped the southbound raptors in their tracks.

On Saturday afternoon Anita and I enjoyed a somewhat slow afternoon at Anahuac NWR. Today is 31 October 2020. We will photograph on some of the oil-field roads around High Island in the morning and then head back to our AirBNB in Anahuac. We should be on the road by 10:30 am headed for a short afternoon of bird photography at Rockport. That trip is about four hours. When we leave Rockport we will be headed for the Santa Clara Ranch north of Rio Grande City, TX where we will be staying at the ranch for two days of photography. The last leg of our journey is about three hours …

Topaz on Sale!

Right now Topaz is offering price reductions on the Utility Bundle and the Creator Bundle. The former normally sells for $359.96. It is on sale for an amazingly low $199.95. Click here, scroll all the way down to the sale, and enter the ARTHUR15 code at checkout to save an additional 15%! The Creator Bundle usually sells for #279.97 and is now on sale for $249.99. Using the ARTHUR15 code at checkout brings the price down to $212.49!

Please Remember

With income from IPTs approaching zero, please, if you enjoy and learn from the blog, remember to use one of my two affiliate programs when purchasing new gear. Doing so just might make it possible for me to avoid having to try to get a job as a Walmart greeter and will not cost you a single penny more. And if you use Bedfords and remember to enter the BIRDSASART code at checkout, you will save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I am out at least forty to sixty thousand dollars so far due to COVID 19 (with lots more to come) — remembering to use my B&H link or to shop at Bedfords will help me out a ton and be greatly appreciated. Overseas folks who cannot order from the US because of import fees, duties, and taxes can always help out by clicking here if they see fit.

The BAA Used Gear Page

The Used Gear page continues to be red hot! It is BAA Used Gear Page is the place to sell your used photographic equipment. We will help you to get your gear sold quickly for 20 to 60% or more than what the big guys are offering … Doubt me? Check out the Recent Sales list for the past ten months at the bottom of the page.

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

Great Topaz News!

Folks who use the BAA Topaz link to purchase Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, or the Utility Bundle (or any other Topaz plugins) will receive a 15% discount by entering the ARTHUR15 code at checkout. To get the discount you must use my link and you must enter the discount code. Be sure to start with this link.

Topaz Stuff

As I said just a while back and have said often many times before, I should have listened sooner. If you, like me, are new to the Topaz party, please use this link to purchase. Right now I can wholeheartedly recommend both Topaz Sharpen AI and Topaz DeNoise AI. Though I have not yet worked with JPEGtoRAW AI or Gigapixel AI, I have installed both of these plug-ins and look forward to trying them on some I-Phone 11 images fairly soon. If you are thinking like me, consider the Utility Bundle that includes all four plug-ins mentioned above at a money-saving price.

Again, those who purchase Sharpen AI or DeNoise AI using my link, can e-mail to request a short Getting Started with Topaz e-Guide. I had a bit of trouble getting the two plug-ins installed and having them appear in the Photoshop Filter Menu. In addition, I will explain how to best learn about the two plug-ins by applying them on a Layer (in Photoshop). I amazed myself yesterday by completing this guide in the car on the way to and from Sebastian. Huge thanks to Anita for doing the driving. Please include a copy of your Topaz order when requesting the guide.

New and Better Bedfords Discount Policy!

You can now save 3% on all of your Bedfords photo gear purchases by entering the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout. Your discount will be applied to your pre-tax total. In addition, by using the code you will get 2nd day air shipping via Fed Ex.

Grab a Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III and save $14.99. Purchase a Canon EOS R5 and your discount will be $116.97. Purchase a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and save a remarkable $389.94! Your Bedford’s purchase no longer needs to be greater than $1,000.00 for you to receive a discount. The more you spend, the more you save.

119 sold to rave reviews.

The SONY e-Guide by Patrick Sparkman and Arthur Morris

The Sony Camera User’s e-Guide (and Videos)

Click here to purchase the guide with one Camera Set-up Video. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your camera body so that we can send you a link for the correct video.

Click here to purchase the guide with two Camera Set-up Videos. Be sure to e-mail us by clicking here to specify your two camera bodies so that we can send you links for the correct videos.

Click here to learn more about the SONY e-Guide.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would enjoy free overnight shipping, your best bet is to click here, place an order with Bedfords, and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If an item is out of stock, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The wait lists at the big stores can be a year or longer for the hard to get items. Steve will surely get you your gear long before that. For the past year, he has been helping BAA Blog folks get their hands on items like the SONY a9 ii, the SONY 200-600 G OSS lens, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, and the Nikon 500mm PF. Steve is personable, helpful, and eager to please.

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.

This image was created on 30 October 2020 at Anahuac NWR, TX. I used the Induro GIT 304/Levered-clamp FlexShooter-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens with the Sony FE 2.0x teleconverter and the blazingly fast Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital camera body). ISO 3200. Exposure determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/2000 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode. AWB at 6:07pm on a clear afternoon.

Center Zone AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed to perfection. Click the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Black-bellied Whistling Ducks landing

I Cease to Be Amazed …

I recently communicated with AEPi Beta Pi fraternity brother Marty Stein. We had not spoken in nearly 50 years. After I left a phone message, I e-mailed Marty. He wrote back, A. Morris. ICTBA! That was AEPi-speak for I Cease to Be Amazed!

I cease to be amazed by the SONY 600 GM/2X TC/a9 ii performance for birds in flight as well as by the high ISO performance. Who would have thought that creating sharp images of birds in flight at 1200mm in sweet light at high ISOs would ever be a reality? Not me for sure.

What’s Not To Like?

I really love the painterly quality of the background in this image. I like the image design and the two wing positions are pretty good. There is, however, one thing about the image that bugs me. If you see anything that bugs you, please leave a comment and we can see if we are on the same page.

Click on the screen capture to view the larger version.

Image #1A: Topaz DeNoise AI on the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks landing image at 100%.

Topaz DeNoise AI on the landing whistling ducks image at 100%

As part of my now regular workflow, I began with Topaz DeNoise AI on Auto on the whole image to clean the noise sharpen it up just a bit. It looked pretty good but by moving the Reduce Noise slider from 2 to 3 the background looked even smoother without destroying any detail so I went with that. Be sure to click on the image to enlarge it and note the complete elimination of noise especially on the background.

Click on the image to view a larger version.

Image #1B: Topaz Sharpen AI on the upper duck (selected) at 100%.

Topaz Sharpen AI on the upper duck (selected)

After running DeNoise AI on the whole image, I made a careful selection of the upper duck and applied Topaz Sharpen AI to the that layer only. Auto selected stabilize indicating that 1/2000 sec. was not quite enough to freeze the duck and did an amazing job of lining up the pixels to reduce the effects of motion blur. Lastly, I moved the Noise Suppression slider to zero.


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

26 comments to I Cease to Be Amazed … More Topaz AI Plug-in Tips

  • avatar Steve

    I know you said you like the background but I find it a little busy.

  • avatar Mark Jordan

    Hi Artie.
    How about the greenery behind the 1st duck?

  • avatar Kevin Hice

    Artie I am thinking the top ducks far wing really doesn’t show and intersects the near wing.Still a great image. Glad your having a great time.

  • avatar Jeff Walters

    Perhaps exposure a little dark? No mention of Raw Digger? But I think Neil Hickman hit it on the head. Stay Safe.

  • Well, the only nits I can pick are the bright legs on the rear duck (previously mentioned), and the dark background area in the far left of the frame. I don’t see anything else that bugs me!

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    The wing feathers on the leading duck are beaten up a bit?

  • avatar Hank Fowler

    Did the duck buy you lunch and put it on his bill? Ha…. The top bird’s right wing is not visible which lends to the image being slightly out of balance. Otherwise, the image is great.

  • Artie,
    My biggest concern with the duck image is that the duck to the far right has a less than optimal wing position. In my opinion, the wing position should match the duck on the left.

  • Could it be the back duck’s almost white legs and feet? My eye keeps going to them. But if that was the bug I bet you would have darkened them.

  • avatar Kathy Graff

    Artie, I think the duck in front has a blurry area on his body and open wing which reduces the amount of contrast on the duck’s body. When that happens to me, I’ve focused through a plant much closer to me than to the duck. And that can cause an out-of-focus area on the duck. Instead of a plant, it could have been a leaf blowing by? I don’t know but that area of the duck shouldn’t look blurred.

  • avatar ilene

    stay safe on your journey love ilene

  • avatar James Saxon

    Artie, sorry to hear about the lack of birds while with Alan. Have a great trip to South Texas and hopefully have better luck.

    I think the little bug is the lack of separation of the lead birds tail feathers from his feet. That is minor, love the colors in the image. Glad you got some good weather at ANWR.

    Have a safe trip and return in the Spring.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Jim for the comforting words. As a lover of what is, we had a ton of fun. And it was great meeting you.

      with love, artie

      ps: that was not what bugged me πŸ™‚

  • Sorry it was soooo cold Artie! But this past week I went to the Smokey Mountains sites and ran into lots of rain from that hurricane moving up south to north east. I wasn’t able to photo much or many at all. The rain keeps them away and makes it hard to open your window in the car or walk around! Glad you did so good!! Your photo is cute!!

  • avatar Adam

    Artie, your account of a relatively quiet day was especially appreciated and useful to hear. Days like this happen more often than not and I was reminded of this recently when I had traveled to my old stomping grounds in the mid-Atlantic. The eagles sat far out reach, the harriers were absent, waterfowl were non-existent, and the green herons were nowhere to be found. Even the gulls and omnipresent cormorants were missing. Apart from a couple images of swamp sparrows, the cupboard was bare. At least I had the opportunity to visit with my brother and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather (it’s freezing in the Midwest).

    With respect to the Whistling ducks, I agree the painterly background is lovely. I do find the bright green foliage in the middle of the lead duck distracting though you could try some selective adjustment of HSL to tone that down? Likewise, I go back and forth on the bright brown foliage to the lead duck’s left as it tends to draw the eye to it though it does provide a third element and anchor to the scene. I might try adding a bit of light on the ducks to try to separate them a bit more from the background too. It would be interesting to try to print this image.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Adam. It was a great day despite the lack of hawks. I am glad that you got to spend some time with your brother.

      Funny, I did not even notice the bright greens until your and Richard’s comment. Even now it does not bug me; we were so late in the day that the greens and the golds were intense.

      Thanks for the repost you sent via e-mail.

      with love, artie

  • Is the bug that the AF caught the near wings rather than the ducks heads/bodies? The background is beautiful with your Ai DeNoise control of it.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      AF was on the head of the lead duck which was quite sharp. So that was not what bugged me. I am surprised that nobody has noticed what to me is a glaring problem …

      with love, a

  • avatar Richard Curtin

    Artie, If that we’re my image, nothing would bug me. However…the lighter green behind the left duck does draw your attention a little.

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