And every time I’ve held a rose It seems I only felt the thorns… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

And every time I've held a rose It seems I only felt the thorns...

This image of a displaying Roseate Tern was created at 4:46pm on June 3, 2013 on a hazy bright Great Gull Island afternoon with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X Digital SLR camera. ISO 800. Evaluative metering off the bright grey sky +1 2/3 stops: 1/1600 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode.

Two sensors to the right (yes to the right–see the original capture below) of the central sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus on right hand bird’s upper back active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see the new even larger version.

And every time I’ve held a rose It seems I only felt the thorns…

Roseate Tern exhibits a rosy blush on the breast at the height of breeding plumage. As I mentioned here before, it is most evident in soft light and is rarely noticeably at all on sunny days. It is quite evident in the image above, enhanced a bit by an increase in Saturation. See below for more on the optimization of this image.

I was looking for a quote relating to the word “rose” or “rosy” to title this blog post and came upon “But he that dares not grasp the thorn Should never crave the rose.” (Anne Bronte, English poet and novelist, 1820-1849.) That brought to mind one of my favorite-ever songs, “And So It Goes. (Music and lyrics by Billy Joel.) In haunting tones, the song begins like this:

In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes along

I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much
My silence is my self defense

And every time I’ve held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns

And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose

Click here to hear the song (sung by a very young Billy Joel). In case you have not figured it out by now I am a huge Billy Joel fan. What is your favorite Billy Joel tune?

The volunteer researchers on Great Gull Island (including me on my recent visit) get to deal with a few thorns of their own. The terns poop on you all day long as you go about your chores. If you let your guard down for a moment, they peck at your head often drawing blood. At times they will strike you on your shoulders, and when you bend over to mark a nest your butt is theirs (so to speak). But well worth it. Those rosy Roseate Terns are gorgeous.

The first Common Tern chicks hatched either yesterday or today and things will be getting really busy on GGI over the next few weeks as the peak of hatching approaches.

This is a screen capture of the BreezeBrowser Main View. Note that the selected AF point is illuminated in red. With Surround the 8 surrounding AF points are active.

BreezeBrowser Main View Screen Capture

Above is the BreezeBrowser Main View screen capture for today’s image. The illuminated red square shows that I moved the active sensor two to the right of the central sensor. Why to the right? I was photographing another tern on another rock. That bird was facing to my right. When I saw this bird nearby begin to display I simply focused on fired without caring about the composition. I did not have time to switch the AF sensor and I did not want to miss the image. See my comments on the image optimization below.

Note: in Breezebrowser you need to make sure to check Show Focus Points under View to activate this feature. To see the focus points in DPP check AF Point under View or hit Alt L. Regular readers know that I use and depend on BreezeBrowser every day of the year. It allows me to sort my keepers and deletes the rejects faster than any other browsing program. We use it on the main computer in the home office to catalog our images file-drawer style. And the companion program, Downloader Pro allows me to download my images quickly and conveniently. It automatically adds my IPTC data and the shooting location. I have it set up to create a folder named by the Month/date/year. The Breezebrowser/Downloader Pro combo saves me many hours each week. To learn earn more or to purchase this great PC only program, click here.

The Image Optimization

The image optimization was easy. After converting the RAW file in DPP I used several of the techniques that I learned in APTATS II to move the bird well left in the frame so that I wound up with a pleasing composition. Then I worked on the dark cap and the bill running my favorite 50-50 Nik Color Efex Pro recipe and reducing the opacity to 50% and following that up with a 15/65/0 Contrast Mask.

All of the above of course as described in detail 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 of expanding canvas, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, and Layer Masking and NIK Color Efex Pro basics.

1D X AF & DPP e-Guides

To learn everything that I know about the great 1D X AF system check out our 1D X AF Guide here. To learn how I convert all of my images in DPP check out the DPP Raw Conversion Guide here.

Help Keep Great Gull Island Open For Terns!

This spring crews are continuing to fight vegetation and to rebuild most of the blinds to be ready for the terns when they arrive. 31 of 34 blinds, many already in dire need of repair, were finished off by Hurricane Sandy. Crews are ready to help with both of these projects, but the GGI Project needs funds to purchase lumber and equipment. Contributions of all sizes are both welcome and appreciated AND are tax deductible! Please make checks payable to: AMNH, and send them to:

Great Gull Island Project/AMNH, Department of Ornithology, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West and 79th Street, New York, NY 10024

GGI’s best-ever dock, completed in 2010, was totaled by Sandy. The project is looking to FEMA for help but as above, any and all donations would be greatly appreciated. You can learn more about Great Gull Island here and visit the GGI Blog here.


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20 comments to And every time I’ve held a rose It seems I only felt the thorns…

  • Thanks so much Artie, I did read that posting when you first wrote it. Now wonder the song holds special memories for you.

  • avatar Jerry

    Its Still Rock and Roll to Me. Another one I like was a
    Elton John song that Billy sang when he toured with Elton John
    called Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
    Another song that would go along with your blog title is
    Every Rose has its Thorn by Poison. Yeah, they were not as
    good as Billy, but they still had a few good songs.

  • avatar Mark

    Who isn’t a Billy Joel fan? Love him. But have yet to see him in concert, a serious shortcoming I aim to cure.
    As to favorite song, hard to choose, but my children’s fifth grade teacher (they are 22-27 yrs of age now) used We Didn’t Start the Fire as a history lesson, and they would come home singing it every night. They knew who Ho Chi Minh was, and everyone and every event in the song. Pure genius on Billy’s part and on Mr. L’s (the teacher) part.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Your comment put a smile on my face. I used Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” as poetry with my 5th and 6th grade classes.

      The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they called “Gitche Gumee.”
      The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead when the skies of November turn gloomy.
      With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
      that good ship and true was a bone to be chewed when the “Gales of November” came early.

      The ship was the pride of the American side coming back from some mill in Wisconsin.
      As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most with a crew and good captain well seasoned,
      concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms when they left fully loaded for Cleveland.
      And later that night when the ship’s bell rang, could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?

      The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound and a wave broke over the railing.
      And ev’ry man knew, as the captain did too ’twas the witch of November come stealin’.
      The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait when the Gales of November came slashin’.
      When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain in the face of a hurricane west wind.

      When suppertime came the old cook came on deck sayin’ “Fellas, it’s too rough t’feed ya.”
      At seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in; he said, “Fellas, it’s bin good t’know ya!”
      The captain wired in he had water comin’ in and the good ship and crew was in peril.
      And later that night when ‘is lights went outta sight came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

      Does any one know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
      The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay if they’d put fifteen more miles behind ‘er.
      They might have split up or they might have capsized; they may have broke deep and took water.
      And all that remains is the faces and the names of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

      Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings in the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
      Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams; the islands and bays are for sportsmen.
      And farther below Lake Ontario takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
      And the iron boats go as the mariners all know with the Gales of November remembered.

      In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed, in the “Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral.”
      The church bell chimed ’til it rang twenty-nine times for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
      The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they call “Gitche Gumee.”
      “Superior,” they said, “never gives up her dead when the gales of November come early!”

      • avatar Mark

        Seems we have a mutual admiration society. Your reply made me smile. Every day I try, and usually successfully, to make my wife laugh. Laughing and smiling is the greatest weapon against anything dour. I will always remember fondly that day I spent with you and Denise in Staten Island during the seminar. You are just a smiley, funny guy. And so is Denise. Besides both of you being mega-talented. Sorry for being OT.

  • Artie, great image of a beautiful bird. A question if I may? Do sandwich terns exhibit the same rosy blush to the breast? Some weeks ago I observed one at Ft. DeSoto that had a very rosy breast. It was so evident I thought the bird may have gotten into something that stained it. Cheers.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks David. I really love this one too. Yes, sandwich exhibit the same rosy cast, also most evident on cloudy days.

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    I have not been a big fan of Billy Joel in the past, but I am becoming one. “My Life”

  • avatar David Policansky

    What a superb image! I’ve seen a few roseate terns but this is the first time I’ve ever seen the reason for their name. I mentioned previously the least terns here on Nantucket pooping on a pair of oystercatchers and their two chicks that were in their colony, but so far I’ve been spared. I guess I don’t bother them sitting still. The black-backed gulls also are nesting, and I have had a couple near misses! Both my wife and I picked Piano Man….

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Least Terns are not as aggressive as commons and Common Terns are not as aggressive as Arctics. Roseates are the least aggressive in defense of nest, eggs, and young. That said I am pretty sure that if you keep your eyes open you will at least notice the leasts flying at you as you get into position.

      • avatar David Policansky

        I have been driving in my Jeep, which seems to spook them less than walking because a few vehicles do go up and down the beach but very few people walk by (it’s a mile or more from the road over soft sand); then when they settle down I quietly get out and sit. I’ve only noticed them flying away briefly but will look more carefully.

  • avatar Jay

    Root Beer Rag. Of course, there’s also New York State of Mind.

    Love this shot of the tern. Not only for the blush, but also because the eye is so clearly defined. I’ve noticed that a lot of birds, with black heads, such as terns or black capped chickadees, the black eye gets lost within the black feathers of the head. In this photo you get the full shape of the eye.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks! I’ll have to check out Root Beer Rag…. NIK helps with the black eyes in black caps-the trick is not to over-do things. artie

  • avatar Mike from CT

    When I was in college Billy Joel played in the basement of our dorm, the “campus center”. Piano Man before it came out on vinyl!! After the show he said “Hey everybody we’re stayin’ at the Holiday Inn, Downtown Worcester, Come on over” So we went and partied with Billy Joel. That’s all I remember.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      That is a wonderful memory; thanks for sharing. I’ve always had the impression that he is a really nice guy as well as an amazing talent. Did you follow the recent link to the New York State of Mind video? Folks will enjoy the whole story here.

  • avatar Andrea Boyle

    My favorites are “We didn’t start the fire”, “Allen town”, “Goodnight Saigon” and maybe “Scenes from an Italian restaurant” I was living in New Your at the time of his big hits and ended up catching him in concert at Madison Square Garden in the 1980s. Amazing show! (I think he did it 7 nights) A group called Til Tuesday opened the show which featured a very young Amiee Mann singing a song called “Voices Carry”. Thanks for the way-back machine, Arty! Keep the photos comin’!

  • Great composition and pose . . . and interesting about the rosy blush. As for Billy Joel, nothing but ‘Piano Man’.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks David. See my thoughts on Piano Man here. It will always have a very special place in my heart. But Joel is about a lot more than that single great song.