What to Do? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

What to Do?

Jet Lag Update

Again following the melatonin protocol that I described yesterday, I had another 8+ hours of great sleep with only one pit stop. I was remiss in not mentioning that after meeting Cliff Oliver on a Bosque IPT probably 18 years ago he helped me get on a new path and begin taking care of my health. Without his guidance I would surely be resting in a rotting wooden box somewhere. Of that I have no doubt as I had been doing a great job of killing myself with food for more than four decades. Learn more about my San Diego health guru Dr. Cliff Oliver by clicking here. Or like Cliff on Facebook and learn a ton about Wellness here.

The Streak

This post marks 99 straight days with a new blog post, a record by far that should be extended for at least another day or so, or not. Or more…. To show your appreciation for my efforts here, 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.

You can find the following items in the store: Gitzo tripods, Mongoose M3.6 and Wimberley heads, plates, low feet, and accessories, flash brackets, , Delkin e-film Pro Compact Flash Cards, LensCoat products, and our unique line-up of educational materials including ABP I & II, Digital Basics, Site and Set-up e-Guides, Canon and Nikon Camera Users and AF e-Guides, and MP-4 Photoshop video tutorials among others.

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This blog post took about 2 1/2 hours to prepare. Enjoy and learn.


This image was created at Itoh on the Japan in Winter IPT with the hand held Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (at 560mm with the Internal TC in place) and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2 1/3 stops off the snow: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. Color temperature: AWB.

Central Sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF on the top of the bird’s right thigh active at the moment of exposure; there is no way to tell whether or not the active sensor above the central sensor caught the end of the bird’s bill, but no worries, the image is very sharp on the head. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

What to Do?

You traveled all the way to Japan. You are in the right place at the right time with the wind behind you, blowing snow, and soft light. You are tracking an incoming crane and as the bird starts to land it beings to display. You are hoping that the bird lands clean, but as you press the shutter button you see that that is not to be. When you view the image on your laptop, you note that the image is not level, that it is slightly underexposed, and that parts of three other cranes are merged with the subject. All in all a pretty much worst case situation…. But, the display is gorgeous and the image is sharp.

What to do? Do you delete the image and move on?


This, the optimized version, was created from the original image above in Photoshop after the RAW conversion was done in DPP.

The Image Optimization

What to do? Get to work.

Lighten the image during the RAW conversion in DPP. Open it in Photoshop. Level and crop it. Fill in the long skinny triangle left along the upper right frame edge with the Clone Stamp Tool working small and being careful to avoid obvious repeats. (I tried the John Heado Content Aware Fill method but the filled in area lacked texture so I went to the Clone Stamp.) Eliminate the visible parts of the two cranes directly behind the subject using Denise Ippolito’s great Protect and Defend Cloning with Layers technique that is described on page 92 of Digital Basics. Again, be sure to work small and strive to avoid obvious repeats. Avoiding all snow flake pattern repeats is impossible. Those that are noted can be dealt with with the Spot Healing Brush (J). Get rid of the head of the larger crane on the right by again using Denise Ippolito’s Protect and Defend Cloning with Layers technique Cover the body with several Quick Masks that and fine-tune them with Regular Layer Masks. Clean up the snow/woods demarcation line with a 40% Clone Stamp Tool.

Make the image pop with a Levels Adjustment on its own Layer as described in detail in the “Keep It” blog post here. Sharpen, lighten, and brighten the colors of the head, face, and the black on the neck after selecting those areas carefully with the Quick Selection Tool. (Sharpen with a Contrast Mask, lighten via Control M–Curves on a Layer, and brighten the colors with a Vibrance Adjustment.) Lastly eliminate the slight BLUE cast in the snow with a Hue/Saturation on a layer adjustment (Control U) of the BLUE channel only (by moving the BLUE saturation slider to -100. Save and named. Create your JPEG.

The image optimization probably took close to one hour. Was it worth it?

Truth in Captioning

Whenever I do anything more than minimal clean-up I believe in captioning the images appropriately; here is the caption for this image: Red-crowned Crane landing display–parts of 3 cranes removed _Y5O7632 Hokkaido, Japan.tif. This image could not be entered in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition as they allow only “minor clean-up.” It could, however, be entered in the BIRDS AS ART International Bird Photography Competition. Judging of this year’s contest is currently underway.

Digital Basics

Are you tired of making your images look worse in Photoshop? Do you have no clue as to how I optimized the image above? Everything above plus tons more is detailed in my Digital Basics, an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete digital workflow, dozens of great Photoshop tips, the use of Contrast Masks, several different ways of expanding 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, creating time-saving actions, and lots more.


Learn the details of advanced Quick Masking techniques in APTATS I. Mention this blog post and apply a $5 discount with phone orders only. Learn advanced Layer Masking Techniques in APTATS II. Mention this blog post and apply a $5 discount with phone orders only. Buy the pair, APTATS I and APTATS II and we will be glad to apply at $15 discount with phone orders only.

The DPP RAW Conversion Guide

After seeing the accurate colors that I get from my DPP RAW conversions, Japan in Winter co-leader Paul McKenzie is switching to DPP conversions and Denise Ippolito is considering doing the same. Now that is amazing…. To learn why I use Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) to convert every image that I work on, click here.

IPT Info

Many of our great trips are filling up. With 5 Canadians and another couple recently signing up for our 4-DAY Bosque IPT, that workshop is filling up quickly. See also the info on the South Florida 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, read the light and the wind direction, 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.


If you’d like to learn from the two folks who created the images in the composite above do consider one of the trips below. Denise Ippolito’s images: Japanese leaf painting, skimmer in flight, curved Keukenhof paths with tulips, copulating terns, & pink dahlia. Artie’s images: Snow Geese snowstorm blur, crane landing silhouettes, Leopard with prey in tree, King Penguin, & vertical tulip.

A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tours (IPTs)/Two great leaders: Arthur Morris & Denise Ippolito.

Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART www.BIRDSASART-blog.com for the latest images, info, & education
Denise Ippolito/A Creative Adventure www.deniseippolito.com: get yourself out of the box!

Denise’s e-books: Bloomin’ Ideas, A Guide to Filters & Effects, The Softer Side of Macro, & more. Free Monthly Creative MiniMag: www.deniseippolito.com/magazine

Holland 2014 7 1/2-Day/8-Night: A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART/Tulips & A Touch of Holland IPT. April 17-April 24, 2014: $4995 Limit: 12/Openings: 5

We still have room for 5 more flower photographers on this great trip.

Join Denise Ippolito, Flower Queen and the author of “Bloomin’ Ideas,” and Arthur Morris, Canon Explorer of Light Emeritus and one of the planet’s premier photographic educators for a great trip to Holland in mid-April 2014. Day 1 of the IPT will be April 17, 2014. We will have a short afternoon get-together and then our first photographic session at the justly-famed Keukenhof. Most days we will return to the hotel for lunch, image sharing and a break. On Day 8, April 24, we will enjoy both morning and afternoon photography sessions.

The primary subjects will be tulips and orchids at Keukenhof and the spectacularly amazing tulip, hyacinth, and daffodil bulb fields around Lisse. In addition we will spend one full day in Amsterdam. There will be optional visits the Van Gogh Museum in the morning and the Anne Frank House in the afternoon; there will be plenty of time for street photography as well. And some great food. On another day we will have a wonderful early dinner at Kinderdijk and then head out with our gear to photograph the windmills and possibly some birds for those who bring their longs lenses. We will spend an afternoon in the lovely Dutch town of Edam where we will do some street photography and enjoy a superb dinner. All lodging, ground transportation, entry fees, and meals (from dinner on Day 1 through dinner on Day 7) are included. For those who will be bringing a big lens we will likely have an optional bird photography afternoon or two.

Click here for additional info or to register.

Nickerson Baby Beach-nesting Birds IPT, Long Island, NY: 3-Full Days/July 22-24, 2014: $1199.

Black Skimmers, Common Terns with chicks, American Oystercatcher & Piping Plover families; breeding behaviors including courtship feeding, display flight and combat, and copulations. Gulls and shorebirds.

UK Puffins IPT. Early July, 2014.

Details TBA. Please e-mail to be placed on the interested list.

Tanzania Serengeti Summer Safari: Leave US: August 9—return: August 24, 2014: $12,999.

Co-leaders: Arthur Morris & Todd Gustafson. Wildebeest/The Great Migration, cats, elephant, giraffe, zebra, birds & more. Please e-mail for brochure.

Swan Island Dahlia Farm IPT, Canby, OR, September 8-12, 2014: 5 FULL DAYS: $1699.

Leader: Denise Ippolito. 40 acres with 350+dazzling varieties of dahlias in a plethora of colors, shapes and sizes. Sharpen your technical skills and boost your creative juices. Daily assignments, image sharing, and Photoshop sessions.

Bosque del Apache 2014 A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART “Creative Photography Instructional Photo-Tour.” (IPT). NOV 24-25, 2014. 2-FULL DAYS: $729.

Leaders: Denise Ippolito & Arthur Morris. Introductory Slide program: 7:00pm on Sunday 11/23. This IPT is perfect for folks who want to learn to think outside the box, to create new and different images. Learn to unleash your creative juices at the wondrous Bosque del Apache, NWR in San Antonio, NM.

Bosque del Apache 2014 BIRDS AS ART/A Creative Adventure Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT). NOV 29-DEC 3, 2014. Totaling 4 FULL-DAYS: $1449

Leaders: Arthur Morris and Denise Ippolito. Introductory Slide program: 7:00pm on Sunday 11/29. Tens of thousand of Snow Geese, 10,000 Sandhill Cranes, ducks, amazing sunrises, sunsets, and blast-offs. Live, eat, and breathe photography with two of the world’s premier photographic educators at one of their very favorite photography locations on the planet.

Antarctica/The Extended Expedition Voyage: Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and Falkland Islands: December 13, 2014 to January 10, 2015.

Please e-mail for details.

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14 comments to What to Do?

  • Ron Fullelove

    Hi Artie, great work, very much worh it !!

  • John Haedo

    Artie, the capture is so fabulous that post processing almost seems an afterthought.

    Regarding Content Aware Fill, once you’ve made the selection you want to fill, the Select – Modify – Expand (by a few pixels) technique gives you a smoother blend but, as you already know, content aware fill doesn’t always give you the results you want. Sometimes trying it over again can help. Although much more laborious and delicate (the strength of the brush must match the texture of the adjacent pixels), well executed cloning as you applied gives you the most control and yields an excellent result as you demonstrated.
    Another tool I like to use is the content aware Patch tool – you select exactly the area you want to replace and the blend usually matches well with adjacent pixels.

    I’ve enjoyed all of your (and Denise’s) images and daily blogs. I really don’t know how you do it. Thanks for mentioning my name, I wish I could tour ’round the world with you guys!

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks John. You are right about CAF; sometimes it works great, sometimes it sucks 🙂 artie

  • Ted Willcox

    Well Worth It!!

  • Chris Houston

    That final image is great, and this will definitely make me look a little closer at some of the images I tend to ignore because of a merging bird or something else behind them. When you talk about a 40% clone stamp is that 40% Opacity? The clone stamp is something I need to work a lot more on mastering.

    Thanks for all you do on this blog. It really is inspiring to myself and I’m sure a lot of other people.

    • Chris Houston

      One other thing Artie – when I try to right click on any of your links like the link to the digital basics file or the link to the other blog post you referenced it won’t let me open that link in another tab anymore. It just gives me a box that says contact birdsasart@verizon.net instead. I’m a guy who opens all of my links in new tabs in Firefox so it would really be a big help if this wasn’t the case! Thanks.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your kind words Chris. Do you have a copy of Digital Basics? If not, and it sounds as if you do not, you need to get one.

      Yes, a 40% Opacity Cloone Stamp Tool is right.

      Setting things up to open every link in a tab wound up requiring too time and too much work. I am a guy who needs to work fast. Though it takes a moment more you might find it convenient to cut and paste the blog address into a new tab, go there, and click on the desired link. Sorry :).

      • Chris Houston

        Hi Artie – I do have a copy of digital basics but it’s been a while since I went through it. Sounds like I need to again.

        Sorry if I wasn’t being clear earlier. I wasn’t asking you to make every link open in a new tab. Right now on this blog post at least I can’t right click a link and copy the address for some reason. If I right click on any link I just got a popup window that says contact birdsasart@verizon.net instead of the normal right click window that would let me copy the address, open the link, etc. Any idea why that is the case?

        • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          That is happening because we went back to right-click protecting the images. You will need to find a work around. It might be a simple as selecting the text with your cursor and hitting Control C (if I understand you correctly).

          • Chris Houston

            Unfortunately that doesn’t work with a link because the address of the link isn’t presented. Is there some way to right click protect the image without doing it to links as well? I know other sites do it.

            I have asked Peter Kes. artie

  • Dave Klein

    Greetings Artie,
    Absolutely it was worth the effort to create the final image! Thanks for walking us through the steps you employed. The snow creates a special feel to these beautiful crane images. How fortunate for you and Denise to enjoy this magic both in Japan and at Bosque with the Sandhills last November. We are all amazed you have kept your blog streak going – thanks for the stellar effort and commitment to your readership! Enjoy some well-deserved time at home before the next adventure.
    Best regards,

  • Conrad Bester

    Very nice, all the editing was worth it. One more blog update tomorrow and it is 100! Thanks very much Artie for your dedication and valuable info that you share.