Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
January 25th, 2021

Sun-ball Silhouettes. A One-Shot AF & an f/22 Diffraction Question. A Coming-or-Going Optical Illusion. And more!

What’s Up?

Photographically speaking, Sunday morning was an interesting one. I worked at the Vulture Tree for a while when the sun broke through, got some nice tight stuff on a sweet Anhinga with a distant, killer-green background working from the car at 1200mm, and had a Red-shouldered Hawk atop the new, tall perch. With the latter situations, I auto-bracketed (gasp!) the exposures. (Working with RawDigger will do that to you!)

When I got home, I had my brunch and created the RawDigger Adapted Histogram video. Several folks did serious reviews and copy edits of the last pre-publication version that was sent out last week. This coming week I will make corrections, put the finishing touches on the e-guide, and — with Jim’s help — get the RawDigger e-Guide by Arthur Morris with Patrick Sparkman into the BIRDS AS ART Online Store.

There was a nice sunset on Sunday evening and the wind from the east was perfect. I did not, however, do very well as the sun went down without the benefit of any light clouds or haze low in the western sky.

All are invited to leave a comment letting us know which of today’s two featured images they feel is the more dramatic. And why.

Kudos to old man Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for sending the Green Bay Packers home and advancing to the Super Bowl in two weeks. As a lifelong NY Giants fan, I had long hated pretty boy Brady for being too good and too good-looking. But I dislike the surly Aaron Rodgers even more, and was rooting hard for Brady and the Bucs. It will be Tom Brady’s tenth Super Bowl. John Elway is second with five appearances. Long-retired Buffalo QB Jim Kelly started in four Super Bowls and lost them all. 🙁

Concussion-healed quarterback Patrick Mahomes masterfully led his Kansas City Chiefs in their destruction of the still-hapless Buffalo Bills. Tight-end Travis Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill performed in their usual spectacular fashion. Hill had nine receptions for 172 yards, including a 71-yard slashing catch-and-run play deep in Kansas City’s own territory that set up a touchdown. And Kelce caught 13 passes for 118 yards including a short, KC-patented inside-shovel-pass for a touchdown in the third quarter. The Chiefs meet Brady and the Bucs in Super Bowl LV in Tampa on February 7. If Brady wins that match-up all discussion of the GOAT (greatest of all time) quarterback will be ended. Unless the young Mahomes keeps it up. 🙂

The forecast for today, Monday 25 January 2021, is for cloudy skies with south/southeast winds. I will surely be headed down to the lake early with relatively high hopes.

This blog past makes thirty-six days in a row with a new blog post. It took about three hours to prepare. Please remember …

Please Remember

With income from IPTs now at 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 very active. The 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 eleven months at the bottom of the page.

Levered-Clamp & FlexShooter Pro News

We have just zero Induro GIT 404L/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro heads in stock. Two dozen are being shipped from Hungary tomorrow. Best to place your order now to be assured of getting one from our next shipment.

We do have FlexShooter Pro heads in stock; B&H does not … The ballhead that acts like a (but is much lighter than) a gimbal-head, and that serves all purposes, has — as I predicted when I first used a FlexShooter head — taken the world of nature photography by storm. And it’s all on the level too!

RawDigger e-Guide pre-publication version

RawDigger e-Guide and Video Advance Copy Still Available — but not for long!

Save $10 Now

The RawDigger e-Guide and Video is almost finished. It will sell for $51.00. If you are anxious to get started with RawDigger, learn to mega-Expose to the Right, and wind up with the highest quality image files, you can save $10.00 and have a chance to review a recently updated pre-publication version of the guide by sending a PayPal for $41.00 to birdsasart@verizon.net with the words RawDigger e-Guide and Video Pre-publication Copy cut and pasted into the Subject line. The recent delay is the result of my recent conversations with Iliah Borg, the brains behind RawDigger. It is very likely that the Shock-your-World section will shock you.

In the new guide, we teach you why the GREEN channel is almost always the first to over-expose. We teach you how to interpret the Max G values. And most recently, we teach you a simple way to evaluate your exposures using an adapted RawDigger histogram. And tons more, of course. I am planning on having the completed RawDigger e-Guide ready for sale by this coming Wednesday. Folks who saved $10.00 by pre-ordering will of course receive a link to the final PDF.

134 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.

Folks who have used my B&H affiliate links or purchased their SONY gear are invited to e-mail for discount information.

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).

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.

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 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order to save 3% and enjoy free 2nd-day air shipping. 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 (remember those?) 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 22 JAN 2021 down by the lake at ILE. I used the Induro GIT 404L/Induro GIT 404L/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and the blazingly fast AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital camera body). AUTO ISO set 100. Multi-metering -3 stops: 1/6400 sec. at f/22 (stopped down 3 stops) in Shutter Priority (Av) mode. AWB at 6:44pm.

Flexible Spot (S) One-Shot AF!

Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Image #1: Osprey in setting sun

Sun-ball Silhouettes

I have been playing with this type of image for several decades. The first successful one was created at Anhinga Trail at sunrise. On film. I used a Canon 600mm f/4 lens with stacked teleconverters. The image — of a screaming Belted Kingfisher — graced the cover of Outdoor Photographer magazine. I am not sure why it took me more than 30 years to come up with Sun-ball Silhouettes, but I like it! I coined it at 6:42am today while searching my brain for a title for this blog item. 🙂

In any case, as I have mentioned here before, as the earth is spinning quite rapidly you need to move your tripod every thirty seconds or so to keep the subject properly framed by the sun. That is always an exciting venture. RawDigger showed significant over-exposure of the slightly-muted sun, but I could have done better. Working with Auto ISO limited me to a low of ISO 100. Had I been in Manual mode, I could have gained one full stop by setting ISO 50 and another one-third stop by upping the shutter speed to 1/8000 second.

Diffraction?

Working at f/22 is supposed to cause diffraction. I am not quite sure what that is supposed to look like, but I see no problems at all with the sharpness and/or image quality with today’s first featured image …

AF Question

Why did I go to One-Shot AF here???

This image was also created on 22 JAN 2021 down by the lake at ILE. Again, I used the Induro GIT 404L/Induro GIT 404L/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and the blazingly fast AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital camera body). AUTO ISO set 2000. Multi-metering +2 stops: 1/2000 sec. at f/8 (wide open) in Shutter Priority (Av) mode. AWB at 6:48pm.

Tracking Expand Flexible Spot AF-C performed perfectly (even though the active AF point was on the sky).

Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Image #2: Osprey taking flight just after sunset

A Coming-or-Going? Optical Illusion

I stayed on the Osprey after the sun set and upped my EC to +2 stops. (See more on that below …) IAC, this is the question of the day: is the Osprey flying away from us or toward us? Be careful as these can be very tricky.

BTW, how do you like them talons?

Image #2A: the RawDigger Adapted Histogram for the Osprey taking flight just after sunset image

The RawDigger Adapted Histogram

With the RED channel just inside the 8000-line, this image is right at one stop too dark. It is rare for an image to have a Max-R value that is higher than the Max-G value. In the RawDigger e-guide, we show that everybody under-exposes when creating silhouettes (without the sun in the frame). That in part to the fact that the RGB histograms on our cameras always show the RED channel as over-exposed with richly colored skies (whether it is or not). Also in this great guide, we explain when it fine to under expose at one ISO but not at another.

In the guide, you will — of course — learn how to set up the Adapted Histogram and use it to evaluate the exposures and raw file brightness for files from pretty much every dSLR and Mirrorless camera body in use today. It performs perfectly with my Canon CR.2 files from 2001, and with all of my Nikon NEF files as well. Like me, you will probably find that you were severely under-exposing everything, especially overall light-toned images that were created in low light. RawDigger has been a game-changer for me.

Typos

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

January 24th, 2021

Give Me Eight Good Minutes! A Like-New Canon EOS-1DX Mark III for sale. The Topaz AI One-Two Punch. And Creative (?) Fun With the Liquify Tool ...

What’s Up?

Saturday was a foggy, hazy, lazy, rather warm grey day in Central Florida. I went out briefly in the morning and then relaxed for the rest of the day. No bursts. No walks. No swim.

For the first time in recent memory, I finished this blog post the day before it was posted. The weather forecast for what is now Sunday 23 January 2021 is for mostly cloudy with a chances of sprinkles and light northeast winds.

The plan is that I will create the RawDigger Adapted Histogram video on Sunday morning.

This blog past makes thirty-five days in a row with a new blog post. It took more than two hours to prepare. Please remember …

Please Remember

With income from IPTs now at 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 very active. The 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 eleven months at the bottom of the page.

Canon EOS-1DX Mark III professional digital camera body

Used Gear Page regular Don Busby is offering a Canon EOS-1DX Mark III dSLR in like-new condition with less than 10,000 shutter actuations for a very low $5499.00. The sale includes the original box and everything that came in it including the 64gb CF Express Card, the CFexpress reader, and an extra battery. Also included is insured ground shipping via major courier to lower-48 US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Don via e-mail

The Canon 1Dx bodies have been solid performers under challenging conditions for many years. The autofocus performance of the 1Dx and 1Dx MkII had been lacking as compared to Nikon or lately Sony (A9) especially when it comes down to dynamic focusing using the whole sensor array or specific zones. on the 1DX Mark II, the Automatic AF area selection never did a great job of acquiring and tracking the subject; thus, that mode was pretty much useless for photographing birds in flight. Single-point AF or AF Expand (4 or 9 points) with the tracking sensitivity set at -2 often produced good results for me with flying birds, but the fact that you were limited as far as image design always bothered me. Nikon’s dynamic focusing and Sony’s tracking capabilities provided extra compositional flexibility. As a result, many bird photographers decided to leave Canon and switch to Nikon or a Sony a9 series body. I decided to stay the course with Canon for two reasons: my collection of great Canon lenses, and the fact that the development of sensor and AF technology is like an arms race: one day Nikon is ahead, the next day Canon is ahead. I was lucky enough to get the new Canon 1Dx MkIII camera body from Steve Elkins just in time for my trip to Alaska to photograph the bald eagles. It was the perfect place to test the improved AF capabilities of the new Canon flagship body, the EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR with CFexpress Card and Reader.

The 1Dx MkIII is a hybrid camera with an Optical Viewfinder (OVF) and Live-View shooting making it a mirrorless camera at the same time that it is a rugged dSLR. There are a ton of other great new features, but I focused primarily on testing the new enhanced AF system. I was especially interested to see if the new dynamic 191-point Automatic AF selection and the AF zones would perform better than the previous versions of the 1Dx. The conclusion is that even under difficult circumstances — the first two days with heavy winds and heavy snow) — the camera had no issue focusing on the subject and keep tracking it with the Automatic AF selection mode. I used the center point to acquire focus and as soon as it locked the focus on the bird, it did a great job keeping multiple AF points on the subject and tracking it through the frame and through the snowflakes. The same applied for the Zones — smaller AF areas with multiple AF points active. Even with busy backgrounds, the AF stayed locked on the subject. The AF modes have been reduced to 4 compared to 5 in the previous 1Dx models. I primarily used Mode 2 (Continue to Track Subjects, Ignoring Possible Obstacles) and Mode 4 (For Subjects That Accelerate or Decelerate Quickly) but was not able to see a significant difference between the modes. Even with trying the “Deep Learning” Automatic setting (Tracking Automatically Adapts to Subject Movement) I did not notice a significant difference. They all performed really well. The conclusion is that Canon has produced a camera that is now on-par or even better than its competitors with respect to AF performance. Although I did not test the mirrorless capabilities yet, other tests show that this function is also equal to or better than the Sony A9 performance, the only difference is that you can not use the OVF in mirrorless-mode with the 1DX III and have to use the display on the back of the camera (the rear monitor) instead. Due to the fact you have to keep the camera away from your eye, this is somewhat awkward for photographing birds in flight. I am very happy with the AF performance as compared to the previous Canon models and am looking forward to testing it further on Florida birds this coming spring. Clemens van der Werf

The 1DX III sells new right now for $6,499.00. Grab Don’s almost new body, save a $1000.00, and get an extra battery to boot! I remember how thrilled Clemens was with his then brand-new 1DX III in Homer. You can see some of his eagle images made with the 1DX iii in the Field-testing the New Canon EOS-1DX Mark III at Homer: World-Class Nature Photographer Clemens Van der Werf Shares the Skinny on Canon’s New Flagship Camera Body post here. artie

Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro

We have just one Induro GIT 404L/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro in stock. Two dozen are being shipped from Hungary this coming Tuesday. The ballhead that acts like a (but is much lighter than) a gimbal-head, and serves all purposes, is — as I predicted when I first used a FlexShooter — indeed taking the world of nature photography over by storm. And it’s all on the level too!

RawDigger e-Guide pre-publication version

RawDigger e-Guide and Video Advance Copy Still Available — but not for long …

Save $10 Now

The RawDigger e-Guide and Video is almost finished. It will sell for $51.00. If you are anxious to get started with RawDigger, learn to mega-Expose to the Right, and wind up with the highest quality image files, you can save $10.00 and have a chance to review a recently updated pre-publication version of the guide by sending a PayPal for $41.00 to birdsasart@verizon.net with the words RawDigger e-Guide and Video Pre-publication Copy cut and pasted into the Subject line. The recent delay is the result of my recent conversations with Iliah Borg, the brains behind RawDigger. It is very likely that the Shock-your-World section will shock you.

In the new guide, we teach you why the GREEN channel is almost always the first to over-expose. We teach you how to interpret the Max G values. And most recently, we teach you a simple way to evaluate your exposures using an adapted RawDigger histogram. And tons more, of course. I am planning on having the completed RawDigger e-Guide ready for sale by this coming Wednesday. Folks who saved $10.00 by pre-ordering will of course receive a link to the final PDF.

134 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.

Folks who have used my B&H affiliate links or purchased their SONY gear are invited to e-mail for discount information.

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).

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.

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 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order to save 3% and enjoy free 2nd-day air shipping. 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.



This image was created on 22 January 2021 while working away from my SUV at the Vulture Tree in the South Field at Indian Lake Estates. I used the Induro GIT 304L/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, Sony FE 1.4x teleconverter, and the blazingly fast AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital Camera Body. ISO 1250: 1/3200 sec. at f/5.6 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 9:22am on a sunny morning.

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

Image #1: Black Vulture braking to land

Give Me Eight Good Minutes

The first of 37 flight keeper images was created at 9:14am. The last, today’s featured image above, was created just eight minutes later. The wind was from the south at first, but switched to southwest about halfway through the session or I would have had a lot more good ones. I was a bit too close and a bit too old with slow reflexes and not the greatest hand-eye coordination or fine motor skills, so I clipped a lot of wings and heads. But I sure had fun.

And as I have been saying here repeatedly, If my life depended on making one sharp flight image, I would want a SONY a9 ii in my hands …

Wind Direction Question

Why would a southeast wind have been better for this image than the south wind?

Image #1A: Topaz Sharpen AI on the vulture’s head

The Topaz AI One-Two Punch!

Before adding canvas above, right, and below using the Crop Tool/Content-Aware Fill method, I ran the whole image through Topaz DeNoise AI. It cleaned up the noise in the sky and in the dark tones of the vulture beautifully. Then I selected the bird’s head with the Quick Selection Tool (W), put that on a layer, and brought the layer only into Topaz Sharpen AI. In the Comparison View, I clicked on Auto and saw the Stabilize was best. I reduced the Sharpness setting by one-third from 48 to 32.

Despite the fact that I am trying to use faster shutter speeds for flight, the fact that Stabilize is almost always the best mode chosen by Auto in Topaz Sharpen AI shows two things:

  • 1- My panning skills even on a tripod are less than ideal.
  • 2- I need to strive for Shutter speeds even faster than 1/3200 second.

Click on the image to view a larger version and to be able to read the fine print.

Image #1B: RawDigger Screen Capture Composite

RawDigger Screen Capture Composite

First note the 191 OvExp G (GREEN) pixels. Next check out the 800% view in the upper right corner. All of the over-exposed pixels can be seen as rosy-red OvExp warnings in the specular highlight in the vulture’s eye. The GREEN channel histogram pegged against the 16000 line indicates that same degree of over-exposure. In the RawDigger e-Guide we teach you that this is a perfect exposure. By mega-Exposing-to-the-Right we are opening up the dark tones of the bird as much as possible and attaining the highest possible level of shadow detail in every situation.

Click on the image to view a larger version and to be able to read the fine print.

Image #1C: Black Vulture Liquified

Creative (?) Fun With the Liquify Tool

Amazingly, I dreamed of creatively messing around with this image last night. First I tried Twirl (Filter > Distort> Twirl), but that was totally unsuccessful. Next I tried the Liquify Tool (Filter > Liquify). I played around a bit — often taking a step back (Command + Z) when I didn’t like what I had done — and wound up saving two different versions. Image #1C was my favorite. Like I or hate it, I’d love to hear from you.

If you are a high-end Photoshop user, you will find a great Adobe Liquify Tool tutorial here.

Typos

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

January 23rd, 2021

2 Sunset Family Jewels. Was Luck the Residue of Design?

What’s Up?

Friday morning down by the lake began clear and still. With no birds. No vultures. No cranes. No Cattle Egrets. No Red-shouldered Hawks. I scouted around a bit without any luck. Using the SONY 600 GM/1.4X TC/a9 ii set up on the tripod in the car with the Levered-clamp FlexShooter Pro of course, I took some bracketed images of a palm tree and another bracketed series of the top of the new perch. Just to learn more about fine-tuning my SONY exposures. What degree of Zebras will yield a perfect exposure in this light or that?

Just before quitting I decided to take one last peek at the Vulture Tree at the end of the South Field. A bird or two had flown in since my first visit, so I got out of the car and set up the Induro 404L with the SONY 600 GM as above at 840mm. I enjoyed virtually non-stop flight action — mostly with Black Vultures — as the wind picked up first from the south (good), before switching to west/southwest (bad). So I headed home for brunch.

With the warmer days this week, the pool was up to a very pleasant 82 degrees today. I love swimming without my wet suit top.

On Friday evening there was a clear sunset with the wind from the west; that is not good at all for the birds flying in to roost in the reeds. So I hung out by the three perches and had a ton of fun. After three weeks of zilch, an Osprey has fallen in love with the repaired perch. And the new large tall perch has some singing Boat-tailed Grackles. All in all it was not bad despite the less than ideal wind direction.

When I first found the new sunset location (since have named the Reed Roost), I knew that the possibility of making some really good images existed. I was right! 🙂 If you feel that one of today’s featured images is stronger than the other, please leave a comment letting us know which one and why you made your choice. You can also comment on any problems that you have with either image.

Today is Saturday 23 January 2021. The forecast is for partly cloudy and still with west/northwest winds developing as the day goes on. With a high of 77 degrees. 🙂 If it is not too foggy, I will be heading out early this morning.

This blog past makes thirty-four days in a row with a new blog post. This one took more than 3 hours to prepare. Please remember …

Please Remember

With income from IPTs now at 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.

Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro

We have just one Induro GIT 404L/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro in stock. Two dozen are being shipped from Hungary this coming Tuesday. The ballhead that acts like a (but is much lighter than) a gimbal-head, and serves all purposes, is — as I predicted when I first used a FlexShooter — indeed taking the world of nature photography over by storm. And it’s all on the level too!

RawDigger e-Guide pre-publication version

RawDigger e-Guide and Video Advance Copy Still Available — but not for long …

Save $10 Now

The RawDigger e-Guide and Video is almost finished. It will sell for $51.00. If you are anxious to get started with RawDigger, learn to mega-Expose to the Right, and wind up with the highest quality image files, you can save $10.00 and have a chance to review a recently updated pre-publication version of the guide by sending a PayPal for $41.00 to birdsasart@verizon.net with the words RawDigger e-Guide and Video Pre-publication Copy cut and pasted into the Subject line. The recent delay is the result of my recent conversations with Iliah Borg, the brains behind RawDigger. It is very likely that the Shock-your-World section will shock you.

In the new guide, we teach you why the GREEN channel is almost always the first to over-expose. We teach you how to interpret the Max G values. And most recently, we teach you a simple way to evaluate your exposures using an adapted RawDigger histogram. And tons more, of course. I am planning on having the completed RawDigger e-Guide ready for sale by this coming Wednesday. Folks who saved $10.00 by pre-ordering will of course receive a link to the final PDF.

134 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.

Folks who have used my B&H affiliate links or purchased their SONY gear are invited to e-mail for discount information.

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).

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.

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 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order to save 3% and enjoy free 2nd-day air shipping. 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.



The BAA Used Gear Page

The Used Gear page continues to be very active. The 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 eleven months at the bottom of the page.

This image was created on 20 JAN 2021 down by the lake at ILE. I used the Induro GIT 404L/Induro GIT 404L/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and the blazingly fast AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital camera body). AUTO ISO set 640. Multi-metering +1.7 stops: 1/2000 sec. at f/8 (wide open) in Shutter Priority (Av) mode. AWB at 6:45pm right at sunset with some haze on the southwestern horizon.

Bottom Center Zone AF-C got very lucky, in part by design …

Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Image #1: Little Blue Heron landing above reeds at evening roost

A New Approach to Sunrise/Sunset Exposures

As explained previously, if you are shooting sunrise or sunset silhouettes in Manual mode your exposure will be perfect only for a small section of the sky. Usually, that is the brightest part of the sky next to the muted sun but without the sun in the frame. As you point the lens away from the sun, your images will become more and more under-exposed. So I have switched from Manual mode to Shutter Priority (Av) mode with Auto ISO and the Exposure Compensation (EC) set to +1.7. That approach turned out to be a very nice compromise. Keep reading to learn what I mean by a “very nice compromise.” I may experiment with +2 EC.

The camera set-up for working seamlessly in Shutter Priority mode is covered in detail in the SONY e-Guide and will also be detailed in the BAA EOS R5 Camera User’s e-Guide (currently in production).

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1A: the RawDigger screen capture for the Little Blue Heron landing above reeds at evening roost image

The RawDigger Screen Capture

There is a lot to learn here. With 564,000 over-exposed pixels, you might ask, What kind of good exposure is this? Actually, this is a perfect exposure. With the sun barely muted by thin clouds, the highlights in this type of image must be over-exposed. If you were able to expose for the highlights in the disk of the sun, the rest of the image would be black. You would not even seen a hint of the flying bird. So we give up the highlights in order to create a very pleasing image. Compare Image #1A with Image #1 and you will see that I added some canvas above the sun. I did that easily with the Crop Tool/Content-Aware Fill method that is detailed in ABP II (along with many dozens more great Photoshop tips).

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1B: the RawDigger histogram for the Little Blue Heron landing above reeds at evening roost image

The RawDigger Histogram

That all three channels are pegged against the 16000 line indicates the complete over-exposure (“toasting”) of the highlights in the disk of the sun as well as some lesser degree of over-exposure in the most brightly lit water.

This image was also created on 20 JAN 2021 down by the lake at ILE. Again, I used the Induro GIT 404L/Induro GIT 404L/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and the blazingly fast AF King, the Sony Alpha a9 II Mirrorless Digital camera body). AUTO ISO set 1000. Multi-metering +1.7 stops: 1/1600 sec. at f/8 (wide open) in Shutter Priority (Av) mode. AWB at 6:47pm right at sunset with some haze on the southwestern horizon.

Bottom Center Zone AF-C got very lucky, in part by design …

Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Image #2: Cattle Egret landing above reeds at evening roost

Another Good One at 1200mm

Working the Reed Roost at 1200mm does not leave much room for error. The trick is to include a decent amount of reeds in the foreground and a decent amount of sky above the far shoreline to balance the composition. In addition, it is quite difficult to silhouette the incoming birds against a water-only background. If the bird or birds merge with the black of the far shoreline the image is simply not gonna work … And the same is true if the bird or birds get well down into the reeds!

So that I would have a better chance to include a decent-sized strip of sky above the far shoreline, I selected Bottom Center Zone rather than Center Zone. You can see how that worked out immediately below. You will see exactly how that worked out in item last below.

Do You Like the Subject on the Wrong Side of the Frame?

Why or why not?

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #2A: the RawDigger screen capture for the Cattle Egret landing above reeds at evening roost image

The RawDigger Screen Capture

Serious folks who have read this far should look at the thirds lines in the last box, the 8000 to 16000 (one full stop) box, you can see that the data in the RED channel made it to the first thirds line. The ideal target is the second thirds line or beyond (without going over the actual retail value …) So this image is about 1/3 stop too dark. Such images will process beautifully with very low levels of noise. Note that I ran Topaz DeNoise AI on both of today’s featured images. In the RawDigger e-Guide you will likely learn that you have been under-exposing all of your sunrise/sunset silhouettes (without the sun in the frame) by from one to two stops.

While preparing this blog post I just realized why that occurs: the RED channel on the camera histograms is way too sensitive to the rich reds in a richly-colored sky.

From where I sit, the compromise of going to Shutter Priority +1 2/3 stops with Auto ISO worked out quite well. Note that in the image with the setting sun in the frame the ISO dropped to 640. In Image #2– much darker overall — it rose to 1000. Had I set the EC to +2 Image #2 would have been perfect and Image #1 would have been more than satisfactory.

SONY AF Points

Was Luck the Residue of Design?

In a perfect world, the AF system would grab and track the incoming bird as it is set against a water-only background. And that is what I was trying to do. It is obvious by looking at both screen captures above that I failed: the system grabbed the reeds. I did have lots of images where that happened where the bird was not on the same plane as the reeds and thus was not sharp. But with many of the images, the birds were on the exact same plane as the reeds and were rendered sharp. I had considered that possibility during the session. So while a bit of luck was involved in getting two great poses sharp with no merges, my thinking had been spot on.

Typos

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