How to Create Bird-in-Heaven Images « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

How to Create Bird-in-Heaven Images

What’s Up?

The temperature at 7:00am on Tuesday here at ILE was 54°. With a brisk wind from the north by slightly west, it seemed like the coldest morning of the year (even though we had 48° about two weeks ago). IAC, once I was out on the pier, I walked back to the car to get my Emperor Penguin expedition parka. The day began with 201 blurs, all of those on a walk-around with the 200-600 G lens and an a1. I chased Turkey Vulture blurs while my big lens sat halfway out on the pier doing nothing at all. Once the sun came up, I had one very good chance with one very handsome TV on The Perch. Then more TVs on the knoll, and then the crane pair from yesterday’s blog post walked back up on the knoll! I prayed for a repeat copulation, but alas, that did not happen.

With a stiff north/northeast wind and some nice sky color, conditions at sunset were excellent. I think that I got some special White Ibis silhouettes.

Today is Wednesday 12 January 2022. The forecast for this morning is for partly cloudy with a light north/northeast wind. You can find me down by the lake early. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took more than 90 minutes to prepare and makes 63 consecutive days with a new one.

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Sony Alpha 1 Bodies in Stock at Bedfords/free card offer!

Steve Elkins of Bedfords let me know recently that he had several Sony a1 bodies in stock. If one of them has your name on it, please click here and be sure to enter the BIRDSASART coupon code check the box for free shipping to enjoy free Second Day Air Fed-Ex. Right now, in lieu of the 3% credit refunded to the card you used for your purchase, you will receive a Sony 160GB CFexpress Type A TOUGH Memory Card, a $399.99 value!

Brand New and As-Good-As-Ever Bedfords BAA Discount Policy

Folks who have fallen in love with Bedfords can now use the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout to enjoy a post-purchase, 3% off-statement credit (excluding taxes and shipping charges) on orders paid with a credit card. The 3% credit will be refunded to the card you used for your purchase. Be sure, also, to check the box for free shipping to enjoy free Second Day Air Fed-Ex. This offer does not apply to purchases of Classes, Gift Cards, or to any prior purchases.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would like to enjoy getting 3% back on your credit card along with free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex Air 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 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and check the box for Free Shipping. That will automatically upgrade to free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The waitlists 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 a 1, 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.

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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. If you are desperate, you can try me on my cell at 863-221-2372. Please leave a message and shoot me a text if I do not pick up.

This image was created on 11 January 2022 down by the lake near my home in Indian Lake Estates. Working from the driver’s seat of my SUV, I used the BLUBB-supported Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera.. ISO 800. The exposure was determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear wheel: 1/800 sec. at f/8 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 8:32:13am on a sunny morning.

Tracking: Spot S AF/C with Bird-Eye/Face Detection performed perfectly. Click on the image to enjoy the high-res version.

Image #1: Turkey Vulture in suffused green heaven (1200mm)

How to Create Bird-in-Heaven Images

The trick to creating the bird-in-heaven look with a strip of out-of-focus color at the bottom of the frame is to find a situation where there is a small rise at least a few inches in front of the bird. When you focus on the bird, the foreground element, in this case the rise, will be rendered completely and pleasingly diffused. As the bird was on the far side of a small hill, the trick for me was to drive up the hill until I could see just the top half of the bird above the grass on the crest of the hill. Next, for this image, with the northwest wind, was getting the look-back head turn! I did that for this frame only and then the bird turned away from me and walked down the hill. One is all that it takes!

Image #1A: An Animated GIF showing the detail restored to the seemingly over-exposed bill tip

Before and After Saving the Whites

By exposing to the right to the max, you ensure getting maximum detail in the vulture’s dark and black feathers. Understand that the bill tip is not over-exposed — see the RawDigger screen capture at the bottom of this blog post. But while the bill is not over-exposed — the detail is all there in the digital file, we need to know how to restore that detail. The are several things to do in the raw conversion, and many additional steps to be done once the .TIF file is in Photoshop (or in Lightroom). You rarely need to use all of the techniques on a single image, but it surely helps to have them all at your disposal. All of them are detailed in the Saving the Whites (and lots more!) Video.

The Saving the WHITEs (and lots more!) Video image

The Saving the Whites (and lots more!) Video

My two biggest challenges when optimizing images are getting the BLUEs just right, and restoring detail to the WHITEs and highlights of properly exposed raw files. There are four things that I do to accomplish the latter. All are covered in detail in this 21+ minute video, along with a dirty trick to try if the first four do not work perfectly. Sit with me at my laptop as I teach you how to save the WHITEs. I begin with the raw conversions of two different raw files, first with the Snowy Owl image featured here, and then with Joe Usewicz’s spoonbill image that was featured in the Extraordinary Over-Exposed (?) Spoonbill/Saving the WHITEs Optimization blog post here.

In addition to learning how to save the WHITEs (in both images), you will learn how to expand canvas using the amazingly convenient Content-Aware Crop Tool, to set the White Balance (color temperature), to set the WHITE and BLACK points, see Digital Eye Doctor and RawDigger in action, learn to make a Color Range Selection, and lots more.

To purchase your copy of the Saving the Whites Video (and lots more!) video, you can send a PayPal for $37.00 to us at birdsasart@verizon.net, call Jim in the office at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand, or visit the item in the BAA Online store by clicking here.

After clicking on each image, check out the nice detail in the white face of the owl in the optimized version (Image #1), with the virtually absent detail in the face of the owl in the Photo Mechanic screen capture (Image #1A). As I have been saying here often for two decades, properly exposed raw files will often appear washed out with little detail in the highlights …

Image #1C: Tight crop of the face of the Turkey Vulture in suffused green heaven (1200mm)

Amazing Sharpness and Detail at 1200mm

I continue to be stunned by the sharpness, image quality, and fine-feather detail of Sony Alpha 1 images, even those created at 1200mm. Even when working off the BLUBB. Note: while the BLUBB is by far the most stable beanbag ever created, a good tripod and head will always be a bit more stable. But not anywhere as convenient when using your car as a blind.

Image #1A: RawDigger screen capture for the Turkey Vulture in suffused green heaven (1200mm) image

Dead-Solid Perfect!

Images where the G channel gets 2/3rds of the way from the 8000 to the 16000 line are perfect exposures. Images where the G channel gets right up to the line are dead-solid perfect. With 341 Ov-Exp pixels out of 51,000,000 this is a dead-solid perfect exposure. Note: if you magnify the image you can see that all of the Ov-Exp pixels are in the specular highlight in the bird’s eye.

RawDigger — not for the faint of heart …

Nothing has ever helped me learn to create perfect exposures to the degree that RawDigger has. I think that many folks are reluctant to learn that most of their images are underexposed by one or more full stops and that highlight warnings in Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, and your in-camera histogram are completely bogus as they are based on the embedded JPEGs. Only your raw files tell the truth all the time. Heck, I resisted RawDigger for several years … Once you get over that feeling, RawDigger can become your very best exposure friend no matter what system you are using. On the recent IPTs and In-the-Field sessions, we have demonstrated that fact. Convincingly.

The RawDigger (pink) Adapted Histogram

In the RawDigger e-Guide, you will learn exactly how to set up the Adapted “pink” RawDigger Histogram and how to use it to quickly and easily evaluate the exposure or raw file brightness of images from all digital cameras currently in use. RawDigger was especially helpful to me when I struggled with R5 exposures and when I learned my new camera body, the Sony Alpha a1.

RawDigger e-Guide with Two Videos

The RawDigger e-Guide with Two Videos

by Arthur Morris with Patrick Sparkman

The RawDigger e-Guide was created only for serious photographers who wish to get the absolute most out of their raw files.

Patrick and I began work on the guide in July 2020. At first, we struggled. We asked questions. We learned about Max-G values. We could not figure out why the Max G values varied by camera system. IPT veteran Bart Deamer asked lots of questions that we could not answer. We got help from RawDigger creator Iliah Borg. We learned. In December, Patrick came up with an Adapted Histogram that allows us to evaluate the exposures and raw file brightness for all images created with all digital camera bodies from the last two decades. What we learned each time prompted three complete beginning-to-end re-writes.

The point of the guide is to teach you to truly expose to the mega-Expose-to-the-Right so that you will minimize noise, maximize image quality, best utilize your camera’s dynamic range, and attain the highest possible level of shadow detail in your RAW files in every situation. In addition, your properly exposed RAW files will contain more tonal information and feature the smoothest possible transitions between tones. And your optimized images will feature rich, accurate colors.

We teach you why the GREEN channel is almost always the first to over-expose. We save you money by advising you as to which version of RawDigger you need. We teach you how to interpret the Max G values for your Canon, Nikon, and SONY camera bodies. It is very likely that the Shock-your-World section will shock you. And lastly — thanks to the technical and practical brilliance of Patrick Sparkman — we teach you a simple way to quickly and easily evaluate your exposures and raw file brightness using an Adapted RawDigger histogram.

The flower video takes you through a session where artie edits a folder of images in Capture One while checking the exposures and Max-G values in RawDigger. The Adapted Histogram video examines a series of recent images with the pink histograms and covers lots of fine points including and especially how to deal with specular highlights. The directions for setting up the Adapted Histogram are in the text.

If we priced this guide based on how much effort we put into it, it would sell it for $999.00. But as this guide will be purchased only by a limited number of serious photographers, we have priced it at $51.00. You can order yours here in the BAA Online Store.

Typos

With all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors.

1 comment to How to Create Bird-in-Heaven Images

  • avatar Steve

    >> I prayed for a repeat copulation, but alas, that did not happen. <<

    If YOU were praying for that, imagine what the male bird was thinking!

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