Fatal Flaw? I Coulda Been Famous… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Fatal Flaw? I Coulda Been Famous...

This image was created at Nickerson Beach on Wednesday morning past while seated behind my tripod-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X Digital SLR camera. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/200 sec. at f/10 in Manual Mode.

Central sensor (by necessity) Expand/AI Servo/Rear Focus on the side of the bird’s breast just below the neck active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

So What’ the Fatal Flaw?

Does this image have a fatal flaw? Is there something about it that spoils it for me? If you think that it’s perfect, leave a comment and let us know. If there is a fatal flaw, do the same and let us know.

See below for info on the image optimization process.

Image Optimization

After converting in DPP I did the background clean-up with the Clone Stamp Tool on a Layer (as taught to me by Denise Ippolito). You can clone with impunity, add a Regular Layer Mask, and then fine-tune the spots where you cloned onto the bird. Bill clean-up was done with the Patch Tool and the Clone Stamp Tool while working large. Note the Eye Doctor improvements in the animated GIF above. I ran a 20% layer of my 50/50 NIK Color Efex Pro Tonal Contrast/Detail Extractor Custom Filter on the bird’s black hood and the orange bill, selected with the Quick Selection Tool. Then I did the same to the chick at about 50%. Then a 40% layer of Linear Contrast with my f/4 action.

All of the steps in the image optimization process mentioned above (and tons more) are described in detail in our in Digital Basics File, an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete digital workflow, dozens of great Photoshop tips including Digital Eye Doctor techniques, several different ways to expand canvas, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, and Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro basics.

Nickerson Baby Beach-nesting Birds IPT: July 23-25, 2013: $1099. Introductory slide program: Monday, July 22, 2013. Limit 12/Openings: 1. Co-leader: Denise Ippolito.

This IPT is now a go. Conditions at Nickerson are excellent. Join Denise and me on Long Island, NY this coming summer to photograph Common Tern chicks, baby American Oystercatchers, and just-hatched Black Skimmer chicks along with the adults. The opportunities will include chances to photograph a variety of breeding behaviors including courtship feeding, display flight and combat, and copulations. Car-pooling is recommended; if we opt to return to the beach before 5pm there is a $30/vehicle parking fee that is not included so it is best to share that expense. Parking in the morning is free.

Now that the trip is a go–we had been worried about the effects of Hurricane Sandy–I fully expect that this IPT will fill almost instantly. Payment in full is due by check upon registration.

IPT Info

For complete IPT info including schedule, cancellation policies, and the registration and release forms, click here.

New York City–On Location with Denise Ippolito & Arthur Morris May 25 – 26, 2013, 2-day Workshop-$495

Join Denise Ippolito and Arthur Morris for a two-day creative workshop in the Big Apple. This exciting adventure through the streets of NYC will begin with an informal get-together at our hotel on the evening of May 24th. This will give us all a chance to get to know each other before we hit the streets in the morning for our first exciting photo shoot. We will explore China Town, Little Italy, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station (tripod permit included) and much more during our two days together. The emphasis will be on street photography, seeing and capturing dynamic images, and expanding your creativity using a variety of in-camera techniques including HDR and Multiple Exposure.

Please contact me via e-mail for complete details and the itinerary.

Next Year In Holland

Despite a 100-year record cold spring with very few tulip fields in bloom this trip has been a spectacular success. The colors and variety of tulips at Keukenhof simply stun the mind and the senses. Denise and I are planning our Holland trip for next year: the Keukenhof Creative Tulip Photography IPT with a Touch of Holland. If you are a Happy Camper who is interested in joining Denise and me next spring, please shoot me an e-mail. Details will be announced soon.

We are currently fleshing out the details. The dates will be about the same, in mid April. In addition to the Keukenhof and the flower fields we will do an afternoon of windmills at Kinderdijk, a day in Amsterdam including a morning at the Rijks Museum and an afternoon visit to the Ann Frank House plus some street photography. We will do some street photography and fine dining in the little town of Edam. There will be about 7-9 days of photography in all. Those will include an afternoon option for a day or two of Purple Herons for those with long lenses.

Note: not surprisingly, early interest has been huge with several folks who want to sign up right now. The formal announcement of the dates and price is imminent.


On all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or leave a comment regarding any typos, wrong words, misspellings, omissions, or grammatical errors. Just be right. 🙂

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44 comments to Fatal Flaw? I Coulda Been Famous…

  • Sometimes shooting low, you shoot yourself in the foot!

    Both mom & baby are leg-less & a bit of foreground is messing up baby’s bottom. Would have been a killer if taken from a little higher up.

  • avatar Brian E. Small

    I’m guessing the fatal flaw in your mind is the head angle of the adult. I think you’d like it turned more towards the camera similar to the chick.

  • avatar Carl Mohr

    Artie: “Carl, where are you from?”

    Art, I live in Baltimore, MD. I have been an admirer of yours for years.
    I first saw you on the Canon photo TV show, standing in the water making bird photos.

  • Gentleman Arthur, the photo is estimable but I’m writing for other reasons. You wrote “worse comes to worse” in a comment above. The expression is “if worse comes to worst” which makes more sense, as I’m sure you’ll agree. I feel like a class-A jerk writing these words to you, but seeing as you make a point of asking for corrections like these, I figured I’d go bananas and give it a shot. Please know that I am sending you this message with respect and good humor…

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Jack, Thanks a stack. I love learning more about language. I have been saying if “worse comes to worse” for decades without thinking. Do note, however, that you are half correct. In a NY Times “On Language” piece by Ben Zimmer, February 4, 2011, he wrote:

      “Idioms are like barnacles on the ship of language. Oftentimes they long outlive their original intent, confounding generation after generation seeking clarity in the linguistic shreds that they’ve inherited. “If worst comes to worst” is a case in point: it’s a proverbial idiom that has been around for more than four centuries in English, and yet it’s been an irksome source of puzzlement for about three centuries of that life span.”


      “For contemporary usage, however, it doesn’t matter much which version holds a claim to originality. Both the worst/worst and worse/worst variants are perfectly acceptable in standard English. If worse/worst seems more logical to you, then by all means use that opportunity to make idiomatic language a little more reasonable. Just don’t think too hard about some other head-scratching idioms, like “head over heels in love” and “have your cake and eat it too.””

      You will surely enjoy reading the whole wonderful article here.

      Tanks again! artie

  • avatar Pieter van Kampen

    I agree, the picture is great, I was just looking for something. So it must have been some big bird came and ate the chick, just when you turned away…

  • avatar Chris C

    My Dad, an electrical engineer, used to quote this when programming… “No program is perfect,”
    They said with a shrug.
    “The customer’s happy–
    What’s one little bug?”

    But he was determined,
    The others went home.
    He dug out the flow chart
    Deserted, alone.

    Night passed into morning.
    The room was cluttered
    With core dumps, source listings.
    “I’m close,” he muttered.

    Chain smoking, cold coffee,
    Logic, deduction.
    “I’ve got it!” he cried,
    “Just change one instruction.”

    Then change two, then three more,
    As year followed year.
    And strangers would comment,
    “Is that guy still here?”

    He died at the console
    Of hunger and thirst
    Next day he was buried
    Face down, nine edge first.

    And his wife through her tears
    Accepted his fate.
    Said “He’s not really gone,
    He’s just working late.”
    — The Perfect Programmer

    To me, the picture is great! What’s one little bug? But, I still feel that maybe the flaw is not in the picture, but when the picture was taken, or some other thing beyond the image itself. Note, however, I am no great art critique… But I like the image…

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for sharing Chris. Please explain,”nine edge first.” artie

      • avatar Chris C

        It’s a term referring to the days of old, when disks were a punched piece of paper, similar to scantron tests, except instead of pencil markings, the machine would read the holes in the paper to execute commands (a very low density data, to be sure!).

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Thanks. Still confused by this:

          “Next day he was buried
          Face down, nine edge first.”

  • Gorgeous image. I thought long to come up with what you may be looking for. You have commented in the past that it is OK to have the legs of birds hidden as long as they would otherwise be within the frame. I think the image would be enhanced if at least part of the chick’s legs could be seen. Considering the position of the legs of the adult, its head angle appears to be facing slightly too far left. I’m wondering if you think the chick should be further right in the frame.

  • It may not be a fatal flaw, but I would like to see some interaction between the adult and baby. The baby has been fed, but the adult seems no longer interested.

  • avatar Pieter van Kampen

    Wow, you are the only photographer I know that allows let alone asks for comments on his photo’s!

    I am wondering whether the chick has moved a little. The exposure is excellent, but maybe the chick’s head was too fast for 1/200th sec?

  • I tried to visit your store and got the following message. What’s up?

    store.birdsasart.com uses an invalid security certificate.

    The certificate expired on 5/16/13 7:59 PM. The current time is 5/17/13 4:58 PM.

    (Error code: sec_error_expired_certificate)

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Bob, It is still safe to visit. We need to pay some $$ to renew some ridiculous meaningless certificate. Jim was off today. He will tend to it on Monday. Worse comes to worse you could call Jim on Monday. artie

  • I’m guessing that your “I Coulda Been Famous…” reference means that there was something spectacular just outside the frame that you couldn’t include (or see) in the exceptionally tight 1200mm FOV.

  • Would love to see the feet, but I don’t consider it fatal. The foreground ridge adds a bit of depth and environment to the image.

  • avatar George Cottay

    Since you are already famous the flaw, whatever it turns out to be, isn’t all that fatal.

    Guess One: The little bird seems a bit out of focus but perhaps that’s just because I’m zooming into a reduced image.

    Guess Two: Perhaps there was some great action right after the shot with the little bird having a meal.

    Guess Three: The birds could have created a better composition if the bill line pointed to the little bird.

    Guess Four: Right after you hit the shutter another bird came along to steal the meal.

  • avatar Bobby Perkins

    I tend to want to agree with Brooke, Head angle (or lack of), on the parent oystercatcher.

  • avatar Terry Jackson

    Yes I own both but want to tarvel light so will just take one with me

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      There are pros and cons either way. The 100-400 would be easier to travel with for sure.

  • avatar Faraaz Abdool

    “Fatal flaw” by definition applied to this circumstance is a flaw that cannot be fixed. So I’m going to say that your fatal flaw was missing the band on the adult’s leg that could’ve led to a major discovery about oystercatcher migration and breeding habits. That would’ve definitely made you famous. 😀

  • avatar Carl Mohr

    I agree with JeffR. I don’t care for either bird with their feet cut-off. Even if you think it’s OK, I think it detracts from the photo. IMHO. On my monitor, the blacks could be darker. Remove the bugger from the baby’s beak.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Carl, Where are you from? artie

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The “bugger” is the prey item that the adult just fed it, likely a small bit of sand crab. So I will not be removing that any time soon. Though I would of course prefer that both birds were standing on top of the ridge I am fine with that aspect of the image as is. But sometimes you do have to ask yourself, “What the hell does he know?”

  • The only issues I can see are:

    A. The foreground becomes indistinguishable from the background where the two join around the bird. This is less so towards the right-hand edge of the image…where there is some mostly-resolved sand particles…but for the most part…it is really rather difficult to separate the two except for where the birds intersect. This is the most serious issue I can see…and probably what I think you are referring to. It is the closest thing I can think of to a “fatal” flaw…

    B. The parent’s breast is hard to distinguish from the background…usually there is enough contrast, even with light birds on light backgrounds, to be separable. In this case…it is hard to separate the bird from the cleaned up background. Not sure this would be a “fatal” flaw…and the birds breast still IS slightly distinguishable from the background.

    C. There seems to be a darkish halo along the bottom edge of the parent bird’s bill. I suspect it is an artifact from editing out the darker blotch in the background. I am not sure I would call that a “fatal” flaw…it is still something that could be edited out, but it does kind of stand out.

    I am not sure if any of these are truly “fatal” flaws. Your work is so much better than my own, I honestly feel a little odd critiquing your work…it’s like trying to instruct a blackbelt master in martial arts when I’m a lowly yellow belt. ;P I do think issue A is the most likely to be the issue, though.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hard to distinguish A. from B. IAC, while there is no sharp definition of the bird’s breast it is distinguishable enough from here.

      With C you got me good. I was so tired and sloppy that I missed the large halo. I fixed the TIFF thank you very much and then replaced the offending JPEG.

      I still can’t distinguish A. from B. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting. I am a no-belt.

      • First, the new fixed version without the halo looks great!

        Second, sorry, I think my wording wasn’t great. For A, by “foreground”, I literally mean the forward ground, not the bird. The foreground sand and patches of plant life blends into the background sand in such a way that, aside from where the birds intersect the blending of the two, it is difficult to differentiate the two.

        If you don’t think that is an issue, then I have to say, I think the photo is, as always, exquisite. I particularly love the little feeding action of the chick…so cute! 😀

        As for B and C, they were the only other two issues I saw, and I was pretty certain they were non-issues anyway. I guess I’m just the type that hedges my bets. ;P I do have a calibrated monitor…but it is getting rather old. It’s an older Apple CinemaDisplay 30″, and I must have had it for at least seven years now. It is entirely possible it is just no longer delivering good IQ. I’ve had my eye on one of the NEC 27″ or 30″ screens with a 14-bit LUT for a while…guess it’s time to bite the bullet and get it.

        Last, so long as I have the chance, I thought I might ask you. I recently took a new job, pays very well, and they are making me work for it all! I’m going to be out in Connecticut, Stamford area, for about three months starting in a week. I’m curious if you have any birding hotspots you think I should visit while I am out there? I’ve never been there before, but it looks like there are a number of lakes and coastal bays and maybe marshes around that area that look like they might be good for birding. I just want to make sure I know the best places to go, so I can make the best use of my time while I am out there. Anyway, many thanks for any advice you are willing to offer! 🙂

  • avatar Richard Wozniak

    The bird’s breast is white. The background is white.
    The two whites merge.
    There is no way to separate them.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Perhaps you and Jon need to calibrate your monitors. THey look pretty well separated from this end. Thanks for commenting. artie

  • avatar Terry Jackson

    Hi Artie,
    I have a question.
    I shoot with a 5D Mark III and do mostly wildlife.
    I am heading to India shoot tigers.
    Do you prefer the 100-400 1:4.5-5.6 or the 70-200 1-2.8 with a 2x extender


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I’d give a slight edge to the 70-200 with TCs. Denise would go for the 100-400…. Do you own both of them?

  • avatar Brooke

    It’s the angle of the head of the parent oystercatcher. To be ‘perfect’ the bird’s head needs to be at a slight angle (I forget this moment just what the angle is) towards us.

  • avatar JeffR

    Hi Art, I wish the baby bird had legs. If you had only raised the camera up a tiny bit to see over the sand ridge, I would like it a lot more.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The bird does have legs and feet too. In order to see the feet I would have had to have been in a helicopter as the bird was right behind the ridge. But that does not bother me…. And I do like it a lot….

  • avatar Chris C

    I studied it, but didn’t really see any fatal flaw… Both birds appear in focus, the little bird is eating something… Was the flaw something which happened just before or just after the shot?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Maybe it is perfect. Or maybe not. If I answer your question then I admit that there is a fatal flaw so no can do. BTW, if the next person to comment gives the perfect answer I will withhold comment for a day or three.