Hard to Believe « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Hard to Believe

You Be the Judge: Portraits

Voting in the Portraits category of the 1st BIRDS AS ART International Bird Photography Competition will be open until noon on Monday. If you would like to join in the fun and see a slew of great images, click here.

This image was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens, the 1.4X III TC (hand held at 185mm), and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at +1/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/5.6 in Av mode.

Two sensors to the right of the Central Sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Hard to Believe

We were in the skiff just a few yards from the rocky shore, close enough to go from the tripod-mounted 500 f/4L IS II to the handheld 70-200 f/2.8L IS II. I zoomed out so as to include lots of the rocky habitat. The image was perfectly exposed, yet–as you can see above–the light-toned rocks were way too bright and there were some very dark shadows. Both despite a perfect histogram. What to do? Nik Color Efex Pro to the rescue.

First, to restore the detail in the light-toned rocks I ran a layer of Detail Extractor with the Detail Extractor raised 10% points to 35. With that on its own layer, I added a regular layer mask, erased the effect from the bear, reduced the opacity of the brush to about 50%, and used the brush to darken the shadows that had been lightened too much and then I merged that layer with the one beneath it. Next I selected the bear with the Quick Selection Tool and ran Tonal Contrast at 50% opacity added Detail Extractor at 50% opacity. You can see the results below.

This is the master file that was created from the original capture above.

Note the greatly improved detail in the light-toned rocks, the lighter shadows, and the great detail and texture in the bear’s fur. See the animated GIF below for the direct before and after comparison.

Note also the bit of rock clean-up in the master file. See Layer Masking for Dummies” in Digital Basics to learn about both regular layer masks and hide-all layer masks. Digital Basics is an e-mailable PDF that includes my complete digital workflow and dozens of great Photoshop tips (including all of our clean-up tricks).


As regular readers know NIK’s Color Efex Pro 4 is now an integral part of my workflow. You can save 15% on all NIK products by clicking here and entering BAA in the Promo Code box at check-out. Then hit Apply to see your savings. You can download a trial copy that will work for 15 days and allow you to create full sized images.

Click here for a cool NIK tutorial.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear used to create the images in today’s post. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2XIII teleconverter. I also use it a lot–depending on the situation–with the 1.4X III TC.
Canon EF 1.4X III TC. This new TC is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. The very best professional digital camera body that I have ever used.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
BreezeBrowser. I do not see how any digital photographer can exist without this program.

5 comments to Hard to Believe

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    What a great improvement!!

  • avatar Jay Gould

    Thanks Mate, Vignettes like this demonstrably emphasize the usefulness of NIK software and how to tweak the various filters to bring out the best in your images. The simplicity of what you have shown us has a multitude of applications to a variety of images. Thanks for your continued sharing and teaching.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Jay, I should have mentioned how easy it is to use Color Efex Pro; all you need is a decent grasp of the use of layer masks.

  • avatar Leonard Malkin

    Nice shot with the 1D Mk IV. Did you know it’s been discontinued? Is this the end of the 1.3 sensor? Appreciate your comments.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes. It could very well be the end of the line. I have two in good working condition and thought about trying to get a third…..