Is It Too Cute? Is It Phony? Or Both? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Is It Too Cute? Is It Phony? Or Both?

Another Gatorland Short Notice Saturday Full-Day In-the-Field Workshop

Right Now, It’s Just Me!

Saturday March 22, 2014. 7:15am till 10:15am & 4:00pm till dusk. Lunch, image review, and Photoshop session included. Limit 6/Openings 6. A very small group is again likely: $399.

The cost of your Gatorland Photographer’s Pass is not included.

Gatorland is so good right now that I am going back this Saturday to try for tiny Great Egret chicks in the nest. Head portraits of this species in full breeding plumage are pretty much guaranteed even with an intermediate zoom lens. Nest building and flight likely. Here’s the story: there about two dozen photographers at Gatorland on Saturday past. Aside from one photographer from Slovakia and another, from the UK, wearing a blue and white checked shirt, nobody had a clue as to how to make a good image…. Most folks just stand in one spot and point and shoot. Without regard for light angle or background. Join me on this, the 2nd Gatorland Short Notice Saturday Full-Day In-the-Field Workshop and you will learn to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. A big part of the above is that you will learn how and why you must work in Manual mode 90% of the time at Gatorland. That is one of the things that Dana-see her e-mail below, and Chris Billman learned last Saturday.

At lunch we will review my images, take a look at five of your best images from the morning session (for those who opt to bring their laptops), and process a few of my images in Photoshop after converting them in DPP. That followed by Instructor Nap Time. Last Saturday all 3 folks had a great time and learned a ton. And the weather for this coming Saturday is looking good.

Payment in full via credit card is due upon registering. Please call Jim or Jennifer at 863-692-0906 to register. Ask for me if you have any questions.


These Great Egret breeding plumes (aigrettes) were photographed last Saturday 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-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops as framed in very soft light at 5:59pm: 1/400 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. Color temperature: AWB.

Central Sensor/Surround/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF as framed active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Consider joining me at Gatorland this Saturday morning for practically private instruction.

Gatorland In-the-Field Kudos

This via e-mail from Dana Campbell of Maryland who signed up virtually at the last second:

It was a wonderful day today! You taught me so much; I am still thinking about it all. I will now go back and read the archives, practice, and make some equipment changes/new purchases (Mongoose M3.6) soon. It was an honor and a pleasure to have met you and spent the day learning from you. You were so patient and generous sharing your knowledge and talent as well as a wonderfully nice and fun person! I hope to be able to join you again soon for an IPT. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Sincerely, Dana

UK Puffins & Gannet IPT

Details for this great trip have been finalized. Please e-mail me for complete info.


This post marks 110 straight days with a new educational blog post. With so many folks getting in the habit of using our B&H and Amazon links why quit now? To show your appreciation for my efforts here, we do ask that you 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.

Note: We almost never have Mongoose M3.6 heads in stock. We sell them as fast as we get them. We had three in stock the other day. Now we have none in stock…. The best way to ensure getting one of these great heads for your intermediate or super-telephoto lens is to call Jim now and place your order. You are then ensured of getting one from our next shipment. We will not of course bill your credit card until the item ships or drop-ships.

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This blog post took only 1 1/2 hours to prepare. Enjoy.


From last July’s Nickerson Beach Baby Beach Nesting Birds IPT with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender, an external Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (at the maximum 784mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops as framed: 1/200 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode. AWB.

Central Sensor (by necessity)/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF on the eye of the right hand bird and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Is It Too Cute or Is It Phony? Or Both?

I’ve tricked you before. Asked if there were any tell-tale signs of Photoshop hanky panky while presenting an image that was virtually untouched. So I ask again here, do you see any signs of poor Photoshop work? Or do you think that the image file here is an accurate representation of the original capture. If the former, please be specific. Be sure to click on the image to view the larger size as you do your sleuthing.


Nickerson Beach 2013 IPT images and card design copyright 2013: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. From upper left to right clockwise: skimmer blur, Sanderling flock with ocean and Long Beach, LI, NY in the background, backlit skimmer landing, Common Tern chick eating baby Bluefish, displaying American Oystercatcher, Common Tern brooding chick, young oystercatcher eating sand crab, newborn tern chick, adult Common Tern in flight.

Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Nickerson Baby Beach-nesting Birds IPT: 3-Full Days/July 15-17, 2014: $1199. Introductory meet and greet: 8pm, Monday, July 14, 2014. Co-leaders Arthur Morris and Denise Ippolito

Join us on Long Island, NY next summer to photograph Black Skimmers, Common Terns with chicks, American Oystercatcher families, and possibly some just-hatched Black Skimmer chicks. 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.

A $499 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. Your balance is due 2 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.

Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check (made out to “Arthur Morris.”) Though we prefer a check, you can also leave your deposit with a credit card by calling the office at 863-692-0906. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail


Nickerson Beach Summer 2013 images and card design copyright 2013: Denise Ippolito/A Creative Adventure. From upper left to right clockwise: Black Skimmers battling, Piping Plover goose-stepping, Common Terns copulating, Black Skimmer chick, skimmer aerial battle, adult oystercatcher sleeping on beach, juvenile oystercatcher striding, juvenile oystercatcher with prey item, backlit skimmer chick being fed at dawn.

Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Denise’s Card

As I mentioned above, the skimmers were both low in numbers and late nesting last July. Typically there would be lots of nests and more than a few small chicks on those dates. All of Neesie’s images above were made within 2 weeks of the IPT and the skimmer chicks in particular give a much more typical picture of activity in mid-July.

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19 comments to Is It Too Cute? Is It Phony? Or Both?

  • avatar Kylie Jones

    I will guess that this is a composite of two images of the same chick. The first image has the chick laying on its back, with one grain of sand on the tip of its beak. The second image is after the chick has struggled and righted itself, getting some sand on it in the meantime, but still with the grain of sand on its beak (and same smear at the edge of its eye). Second image placed in layer on top of first obscuring part of the first position of the single chick. I felt this yesterday when I read this blog, then looked again today and still feel the same, so that’s my guess. The bit of sharply-in-focus stick to the right and the amount of sand on the second position of the chick are left there to mislead us. The background looks suspiciously clear of anything, though could be from great composition, so I am not sure if anything further done here – if I had to guess I would say extra blurring/cleanup done in foreground and background to make it clean and clear of colour and debris, to draw the eye to the chicks. Cute chick.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      You are headed in the right direction…. Confused by what you say here: ” Second image placed in layer on top of first obscuring part of the first position of the single chick.”

      I never try to mislead you guys :). I will probably reveal all on Sunday or Monday the latest. artie

      • avatar Kylie Jones

        What I meant was that if the image was a composite, in the photo the chick on the right was made to look like its positioned closer to the camera than the chick on the left, as its fluffy butt is in front of one of the the other chick’s upraised leg. Hope that makes sense.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Yes a composite, but I am still confused by what you wrote :). See Sunday morning’s blog post…. artie

          • avatar Kylie Jones

            A good lesson in not making assumptions!!

            I felt that the chicks were one and the same. My supposed evidence was the grain of sand in the same spot on the bill, and the same smudge/weepy bit beside the eye (I was not put off by the changed spot pattern only because I hadn’t noticed). I knew one head had more sand on it, but instead of leaving that as a fact, I tried to work out HOW this could happen. I didn’t have any evidence of any other part of the chicks being the same, but I then used my imagination and jumped to the conclusion that it was a composite of the same chick from two different photos in two different positions because of the extra sand on the head of the chick on the right. The alternate and correct option was that the sand had been cleaned off one head. I also missed the other cues such as the chick’s expression being exactly the same on both chick heads.

            Its good for us to be able to separate out facts from speculation and clearly convey this to others, a helpful skill not only in identifying image changes but also in other parts of life like if we were called to give evidence of a crime etc.

  • avatar doug zoern

    Both, though I wouldn’t call it poor Photoshop work or phony.

    There was an adult tern in the background, slightly left of center. The top part of the tern would be cut off by the top of the frame. The bill ended behind the upper left leaf of the plant and extended up and to the left to the birds head. Draw horizontal lines from the tips of the two top leaves and the knees of the bird were between these lines. The left most leg was right above the left chicks head. The feet form an arch pretty much on the horizontal line extending from the tip of the bottom left leaf. The knees and feet formed a frowny face 🙁

    There was another adult tern cut off by the left margin of the image, a little lower down. The bill was about the same level as the knees of the above bird.

    I have my doubts about the chicks faces. The left check is so clean and the right chick has a lot of sand. I can’t see any artifacts for this though.

    The right chick was manipulated, it was rolled forward. The down along the back is off. Starting just to the right of the right most leg, the down rises too sharply and ends too abruptly, right above the shoulder. There also seems to be a halo around the head were space needed to be filled in. Maybe there was a little bit of a third chick showing that was removed.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Doug. Mostly wild guesses but towards the end you touch on some relevant stuff…. I will come clean so to speak on SUN or MON. artie

      • avatar Doug

        You know the truth but the tern speculation is based on visual clues I believe I see and some analysis.

        First, in your first Nickerson Beach Summer 2013 image collection above there is a picture of a tern on the nest right next to a plant very much like the one in this image.

        All of the points that I talk about being parts of a tern I see something that looks unnatural. Where I said there were knees I see two areas that look very circular – the eyes of the frowny face I mention. Just below that I see an elongated area that turns downward and the ends seem unnaturally rounded. This would be the mouth of the frowny face. Behind the leaf there is another short elongated area. All of these areas have a red or orange color cast. This just happens to be the color of the terns legs and bill. Tonight I checked myself by downloading the image and loading into Lightroom. I used the white balance dropper to read the colors and these areas do have a lower percentage of blue than the surrounding areas.

        The tern on the left margin is even more speculative but I do think I see discoloration in that area too and it seems to have shape and edges.

        Chances are I’m wrong. Chances are that anything anyone says are wrong, what was is a very tiny subset of what could have been.

        I Look forward to seeing the truth.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Not the same beach plant. The rest is imaginative speculation. I will be revealing all in tomorrow morning’s blog post. Thanks for trying! artie

          ps: I am still quite confused by what you write but understand enough to know that you are wrong about the two adult terns or about any other terns :). Please don’t take it personally. Part of this exercise is to show that once folks suspect Photoshop hanky panky they often see stuff that was in the original.

  • avatar Wayne Rundell


    I have played this game before and lost…hahaha!

    This time I can say without a doubt that the image has been manipulated. Both chicks have the same head minus some sand missing off the face of the chick on it’s back. A close look reveals the exact same eye and same pattern of feathers/down on the chicks heads. Even the remaining sand particles are a match to the other chick.

    I hope I got, I hope I got it, I hope I got it.

    Cute image regardless!

    Thanks for the fun,

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Wayne, You got, you got it, you got it. PK UK beat you by 8 hours but as both of these comments were up for moderation I held back on approving them for a day so that the others could have a chance to play. Way to go. artie

  • avatar Bobby Perkins

    Breeding plumes very artistic. Nesting birds too cute, love the feet. I’m gonna say no hanky panky as not the usual clean-up. I suspect in upcoming post you will “do the Hanky Panky”.

  • avatar Chris Houston

    If there is any Photoshop work done to it, it definitely doesn’t show (which I suppose would be the obvious intention). It’s a really nice photo.

  • avatar Sarah Mayhew

    Adorable! I think the little guy just fell over, no Photoshop manipulation. 🙂 The Egret feathers photo is beautiful and looks like a fireworks image!

  • I wanted to say the same as Gary…

  • avatar PK UK

    Left head is a cleaned up copy of the right, & ‘shopped in.
    The fur markings are identical even down to the little triangle of crossed hairs on the top-right of the head.
    Slight evidence of shopping on the fur at the bottom left (patch tool?) but very well done (as usual!)

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      You were the first to get me and you got me good! Good eyes and good thinking. I even moved the central marking on the left hand head (which of course is the same head as the right hand head) but I did not fool you. Here’s the kicker if you will, the head here did not appear in the original image. See Sunday morning’s blog post for the 2 originals…. artie

  • avatar Gary Axten

    I’ll go with untouched as there is a lot of extraneous debris you would have removed before any manipulation.