An Early Morning Strategy That Goes Against the Grain… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

An Early Morning Strategy That Goes Against the Grain...

And the Streak Goes On

The seminar in Boca Grande, FL, yesterday, sponsored by Canon USA Explorers of Light, was a huge success. We had 163 folks in the main room and about 20 more watching a simulcast in an adjacent room. Denise and I felt like rock stars. Jo Ann Crebbin, the organizer, sent us a thank you e-mail. She wrote, “You two have made me a hero.” I was of course exhausted after the seminar but am feeling somewhat stronger this morning with my throat still bugging me. We start the Venice Rookery portion of the South Florida Composite IPT in 1 hour…..

This post marks 64 days in a row with a new educational blog post, a record by far that should be extended for at least another week or two. Or not. 🙂 To show your appreciation, we ask that use our B&H and Amazon affiliate links for all of your B&H and Amazon purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store. We sell only what I use and depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

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Thanks and enjoy today’s blog post! This one took about 2 1/2 hours to assemble.

Less Than 2 Days Left to Enter! BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Competition!

With so many folks signing up at the last minute at the end of December and with so many folks having trouble uploading their images due to server overload, the deadline for entering the contest (registering and paying) was extended just before the end of the last year until January 31, 2014. There will be no additional extensions. The deadline for uploading your images has been extended until midnight Eastern time on February 10, 2014. Take advantage of this extension to have a crack at the great prizes.

Learn more and enter the BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Competition here. Twenty-five great prizes including the $1000 Grand Prize and intense competition. Bring your best.

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This Great Egret image was created on the Little Estero Lagoon IPT with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter) (hand held at 255mm), and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III . ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2 stops as framed: 1/640 sec. at f/4 in Manual mode.

Central sensor Surround/AI Servo/Rear Focus on bird’s eye and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: The Reflection

An Early Morning Strategy That Goes Against the Grain…

Most everyone loves warm early morning light. Especially with white birds set against still blue water backgrounds. With nice reflections. We had that exact situation on Monday, the last morning of the Little Estero Lagoon IPT. I made many images of Great Egrets with the sun on them, but my two favorites were of birds in the shade….

In the image above, made at 7:28am, the bird was standing in the shade of a stand of mangroves along a channel. The sun was up providing gentle back light. In the image below, made at 7:53am, the bird was in the shade of a large condo to the east. The background was the reflection of the distant condos far to the north, the same reflections we saw at smaller apertures in yesterday’s blog post, Lesson II On Seeing and Perspective Choice.

You can see a more traditional approach by scrolling down the Image #3, The Group.


This Great Egret image was created on the Little Estero Lagoon IPT with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops as framed: 1/500 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode.

Central sensor Surround/AI Servo/Rear Focus on the center of the bottom of the bill active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #2: The Head Portrait

The Soft Light Image Optimizations

Image optimization for the two images above was straightforward after I converted the RAW files in DPP. Note in each case that lots of light was added to the overall white images to ensure that virtually all of the data was in the rightmost box of the histogram. New folks can learn a ton by comparing the exposure compensation for the two images above to that of the image below. As I say often, when the overall scene averages close to white and the birds are in the shade or you are working on a cloudy day, the camera’s meter is stupid. With sun on the birds, the meter is a lot smarter. Note however that in all cases the photographer is as smart or smarter than the camera’s meter. At best, the camera can only tie you for the right exposure…. Think about that one for a while.

In any case, for both images I used the Quick Selection Tool to select the face and the bill, placed that on its own layer, ran Auto Contrast at 25% on that Layer, and then ran Vibrance on the layer at about +60. Lastly I added a Contrast Mask at 10/55/0. All to juice up the images a bit. All as detailed in my Digital Basics File, an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete digital workflow, dozens of great Photoshop tips, several different ways to expand canvas, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro basics, my killer image clean-up techniques, Digital Eye Doctor, and tons more.

The DPP RAW Conversion Guide

To learn why I use Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) to convert every image that I work on, click here.


This group shot was also created on the Little Estero Lagoon IPT with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter) (hand held at 105mm), and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop )should have been at zero) as framed: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.

Central sensor Surround/AI Servo/Rear Focus on pelican’s head and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #3: The Group

The More Traditional Approach

I do like this image created at 7:47am with early morning light on the subjects and the lagoon. Do note the different exposure compensations needed to come up with the correct exposure in the two vastly different situations.

Folks who have no clue as to what I am talking about with regards to getting the right exposure are urged to study the Exposure chapter in the original The Art of Bird Photography and the section on Exposure Simplified in The Art of Bird Photography II (916 pages, 900+ images, on CD only). Best deal? Save $10 on the pair by purchasing the two book bundle here.

Your Favorite?

Please take a moment to leave a comment and let us know which of the three images you like best. And why.


Bird Photography Hotspot: Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park. Learn more here.

Anhinga Trail/Everglades National Park Mini-IPT: Feb 1-2, (SAT/SUN), 2014. (Limit 12/Openings 5): $799. Introductory slide program: 7pm: FRI Jan 31. (Limit 12/Openings: 6):

Join Denise Ippolito and Arthur Morris for four great photography sessions at one of the top bird photography hotspots in North America. Morning sessions: 6:15am to 10:30am. Afternoon sessions: 3:00pm till 5:45pm. Lunch included. Informal image review and Photoshop sessions after lunch.

Jan 31 (Friday) Anhinga Trail/Everglades National Park Optional Add-on/Morning Only (Limit 12/Openings 5): $249

Includes lunch, and informal image review and Photoshop session. Call us at 863-692-0906 or e-mail to learn of the Late Registration Discounts for both the segments and the complete trip.

Because of our intense travel schedule that includes a trip to Japan I will not be running the traditional SW FLA IPT. In addition, in an effort to give some folks a chance to get a taste of our teaching and our passion for bird photography, Denise Ippolito and I have organized a series of short IPTs that may be combined into one wonderful experience or enjoyed piecemeal. Click here for complete details or to register. Please e-mail with any questions or leave a comment below.

A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. For the short segments that are less than $500 payment in full is due at the time of registration. Your balance is due 4 months before the date of the IPT and is also non-refundable. If the trip fills, we will be glad to apply a credit applicable to a future IPT for the full amount less a $100 processing fee. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance. Best to call Jim or Jennifer with a credit card in hand to register. Credit cards are not accepted for balances. Alternatively you can send a check for $500 made out to Arthur Morris to us at PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. Please include a note with your e-mail address and be sure to let us know what you are signing up for.

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IPT Info

Many of our great trips are filling up. See especially info on the South Florida, Holland, and Nickerson Beach IPTs. Two great leaders on most trips ensure that you will receive individual attention, have all of your questions answered, and learn a ton including how to think like a pro, see the situation, and get the right exposure every time. In addition you will have fun, and make lots of great images. Click here for IPT details and general information.

7 comments to An Early Morning Strategy That Goes Against the Grain…

  • avatar Henry

    The soft light falling on the head and back of the Egret really makes that image not to mention the awesome reflection and the ripples of water.

  • avatar Conrad Bester

    Image #1 of the egret with the reflection is fantastic. simple and peaceful.

  • avatar Ingrid L.

    All 3 images are awesome Artie, but my Fave is The Great Egret, #1, it has an ethereal quality to it, and in its simplicity it’s just breathtaking….I thought, what a great painting for my wall…hmmm

  • avatar stephen sheoskie

    I just bought a new azus laptop based on your recommendation from BH photo endorsing your blog for this choice. Thanks Artie

    Regards: Stephen Sheoskie

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    Image#1: The Reflection
    Exquisite!! My favourite. When I first saw this image, I said to myself, this one is going to be hard to beat. Why, because it is exquisite, which means extremely beautiful.

  • avatar Mark W.

    Images 1 and 2 are my favorites by far with image 2 being tops…gorgeous wwork

  • avatar Ron Fullelove

    Hi Artie,
    I like image 1 and 2 over #3.
    Like the reflection in #1 and the way the background is lighter than the bird. In image #2 I love the colour in the water, really nice and clean.
    (Typo on image 2, marked as image 1)
    With regards to exposing to the right, if for some reason you did not manage to do it correctly in camera or forgot, would you adjust the historgram in the RAW conversion ? And would you do it by increasing the exposure or fill light ? (I use ACR).
    Is there a disadvantage to doing it this way rather than getting it right in camera ??
    Best Regards,