Learning to Think and See Like a Pro/The First of a Long Series « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Learning to Think and See Like a Pro/The First of a Long Series

The Streak Continues: 194

It is 4:04am in Pullman, WA as we get ready to head to the airport for our flights home. All that I can say is that the Palouse is a wondrous place and all four of us will be missing it sorely. Denise and I already have dates for the first BAA/A Creative Adventure Palouse IPT next spring. If you would like to be placed on the interested list, please shoot me an e-mail. Dates and details will be announced here soon.

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This post took 2 hours to prepare. Enjoy!


This 3-frame in-camera Natural HDR image was created a 5:11am on the clear morning of June 11 just as the sun fully lit the old barn. I used the tripod-mounted Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 28mm, and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop +/- two stops around the base exposure of 1/15 sec. at f/16 in Av mode. Live View and 2-second timer. White Balance: Shade. Should have been about 4500K to tone down the rich early morning light. AWB would also have been better.

Gitzo 3530 LS tripod with the Giottos MH 1302-655 (Tiny) BallHead. Wimberley P-5 camera body plate. Live View (for mirror lock-up) with the 2-second self timer.

AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the corner of the barn and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial.

Image #1: Old Barn with Wide angle

Learning to Think Like a Pro

We left the hotel at 3:40am and headed up to Steptoe Butte for another great sunrise. But the light clouds that had been appearing regularly on the eastern horizon did not show up. “We are out of here” I commanded before anyone even began to set up. We are gonna do some scouting to the north we might as well get started now. We will surely find something new while the light is nice. And, as you can see above, we did.

As there was a driveway that ran close to the old barn the obvious choice was to get low with a wide angle lens on a tripod. I quickly swapped my Mongoose for the Giotto’s tiny ballhead and went to work. At first only the upper half of the barn was lit by the sun. With 5 minutes of patience the entire barn was nicely lit by soft, early morning light.


Same gear as above with a bit more exposure: +1 1/3 stops at 5:13am.


As the sun rose higher in the eastern sky we noticed that our shadows had crept into the scene so I hustled back to the car, swapped the Gittos’ tiny ballhead for the M3.6 and got quickly back to work. With a longer lens I needed to get well back and did that by walking down the main road.

Note that the shadows of the 2 telephone poles that you see in the image above, one on the barn, one on the grass to our right of the barn, were removed from the first image. For the one on the barn I used Tim Grey Dodge and Burn at 30%. I covered the long shadow on the grass with a Quick Mask.

I tamed the too orange REDs with a Selective Color adjustment adding 100 points of CYAN and 10 points of BLACK to the REDs.

Digital Basics

Everything discussed above plus tons more is detailed in our Digital Basics File–written in my easy-to-follow, easy-to-understand style. Are you tired of making your images look worse in Photoshop? Digital Basics File is 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 and filling in canvas (including the John Heado Technique), lots of color balancing tips, Tim Grey Dodge and Burn, 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. Learn Advanced Layer Masking Techniques in APTATS I. Mention this blog post and apply a $5 discount to either with phone orders only. Buy both APTATS I and APTATS II and we will be glad to apply at $15 discount with phone orders only.


This 3-frame in-camera Natural HDR image was created at 5:20am that same morning with with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (at 90mm) and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop +/- two stops around the base exposure of 1/60 sec. at f/16 in Av mode. AWB. Live View with 2-second timer.

AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the nearest edge of the barn and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #2: Old Barn with Intermediate Telephoto

With the Intermediate Telephoto Lens

Immediately above is the image that I created when I moved back and went to a longer focal length with the 70-200. I still had to deal with the shadow of the telephone pole on the barn and did that again with Tim Grey Dodge and Burn.

Your Favorite?

Do you prefer the image made with the wide angle lens or the image made at 90mm? Note the difference in perspective. Whichever you prefer, be sure to let us know why.

The Challenge: Learning to See Like a Pro

OK, here is the big challenge. Take a close look at the barn; what additional images would you create? Do you see the shots? I see two great ones. But first I am giving everyone a chance to tell me what they see as interesting. Please be specific. And let us know which lens you would use to realize your vision. I will share my two with you in a not-too-distant blog post.


I hope that you can join us on this great trip. The vertical puffin image was created by David Tipling. The rest–almost all from the UK, are mine :).

UK Puffins and Gannets IPT July 2-9, 2014. 5 full days of puffins and two half-days of gannet boat photography: $4,999 USD. Limit 10 + the 2 leaders.

We have room only for 1 female roommate.

Fly to Edinburgh (say “ED-in-BUR-row”), Scotland on a red eye flight on July 1st arriving on the early morning of July 2 or certainly before 10am. UK folks who plan on driving please contact me via e-mail immediately.

There are direct flights to Edinburgh from both Philadelphia and Toronto. If you learn of any others please advise via e-mail so that I may share with all the interested folks. Fly home mid-morning on July 9. UK locals and our many European friends are of course welcome.

With the needed 5 deposits in hand, this trip is a go; you can buy your flights now :).

What’s included:

5 full DAYS on the best UK puffin boat; trips to 2 different islands–all dependent on decent weather, i.e, no major storms. Seabirds including scads of Atlantic Puffin both in flight and perched, Razorbill, Great Cormorant, Shag, and others likely. The trip is times to maximize the opportunities for photographing the puffins bringing fish back to the nests. All boat fares and landing fees are included. The boat leaves at 9:30am. We have two hours on the first island. We are then picked up and head to the 2nd island for a 2+ hour session. The weather is typically cloudy bright.

One late-afternoon (2 July) and one early morning (probably 8 July) trip on a gannet photography boat where the birds are fed and dive very close to the boat. Both are dependent on good weather but we do have some flexibility. Boat fares and the cost of the fish are covered. Each will consist of a one hour outbound ride, two hours of diving Northern Gannet photography (with 6 boxes of fish) and the one hour return trip.

The tentative, weather-dependent itinerary:

July 2: airport pick-up no later than 10am UK time. Lunch on your dime. Drive to hotel. Afternoon gannet boat trip/time TBD.
July 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7: Full Day Puffin Boat trips as noted above.
July 8: early morning Gannet Boat trip. Afternoon: Small group Image review and Photoshop sessions. Pack for the trip home.
July 9: early morning departure for Edinburgh Airport (EDI).

The itinerary is subject to change to ensure the best possible photographic opportunities.

A super-telephoto lens is not required on this trip. The 300mm f/2.8s are ideal. I will be bringing one along with my 200-400mm with Internal Extender, my 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, and a shorter zoom lenses. Plus three 1.4X and two 2X TCs, a Gitzo 3532 LS Carbon Fiber tripod, and my Mongoose M3.6. I may go tripod-less on the puffin trips at times…. Or not…. All photography on the gannet boat will be hand held. It is likely that the 70-200s will be ideal for the gannets.

7 nights lodging in an older but excellent hotel just a few minutes from the puffin boat dock with about a 70 minute ride to the gannet boat. Double occupancy will be the rule though we might be able to offer a single supplement at an exorbitant price. See the hotel info here.

All breakfasts and dinner (at the hotel) from dinner on July 2 through dinner on July 8. And breakfast on our get-away day unless we need to leave earlier than they serve to make our flights home…

Airport pick-up until 10am on July 2–this should not be a problem as there are lots of red-eye flights from the US to Edinburgh.

All ground transportation. Airport return on the early morning of July 9. We may be getting up very early on July 9th.

Two great leaders; Denise Ippolito and yours truly will provide personalized and small group in-the-field instruction. As usual, the closer you stay to us and the more questions that you ask the more you will learn. We will of course point out the best situations. You will learn to see these great situations for yourself, to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, to work in Manual mode, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. You will learn the basics of photographing birds in flight and how the relationship between light direction and wind direction impacts the photography of both birds in flight and perched puffins. And tons more.

We will be conducting informal, small group image review and Photoshop sessions after dinner. All are invited to bring their laptops. Image critiques of your five best images will be done after the trip upon request.

Early morning castle photography right near the hotel is an option for the early risers. In the event of inclement weather or stormy seas there is the possibility of bird photography along the coast. Early evening bird photography along the coast is also optional.

Not included: all lunches–for the most part we will need to pack lunches for the puffin trips, or you may opt to skip lunch. Your round trip airfare from home to Scotland. Booze, wine, and any other beverages other than coffee and tea at breakfast.

A non-refundable deposit of $2,000 USD is required to hold your spot so please check on flights and your schedule before committing. The balance will be due on 15 May so you may wish to pay the whole thing at once. Overseas folks may e-mail for wire transfer info. Our $15 wire transfer fee will be added to your balance.

Trip insurance is highly recommended as your deposit (less a $200 cancellation fee) will not be refunded unless the trip fills completely. I, and my family, use Travel Insurance Services.

After letting us know via e-mail that you will be coming, please send your deposit check made out to “Arthur Morris” to us as follows:

Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
PO Box 7245 (US mail) or 4041 Granada Drive (if by courier).
Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855

My friend David Tipling, with multiple BBC honored images and the author of dozens of photo illustrated books, helped with the planning and arrangements for this trip.

If you have any questions, please contact me via e-mail.

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8 comments to Learning to Think and See Like a Pro/The First of a Long Series

  • avatar Jim Kranick

    I like the third one too. The way the right corner of the barn tilts in on the wide angle shots bothers me.

  • avatar Leonard Malkin

    I like the third photo because the longer focal length presents a more pleasing perspective. With the first two, the wide angle (i.e. camera closer to the subject) makes the barn seem a bit distorted, the way a wide angle portrait produces a large nose.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. I like the third image better than the first. Interestingly, you seem to have left the shadow of the top of the telephone pole in both images, and on the third image, it’s visible on the roof as well. It doesn’t bother me at all. I like the look of the hill behind the barn to the right; did you make any images with more of that hill visible (and the barn smaller in the frame)?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      For the most part that is an illusion. The wood up there was very dark. IAC, the effect of the shadow was greatly reduced. artie

      ps: back to the culmination of The Work soon.

      • avatar David Policansky

        Thanks,Artie. In his concession speech Tuesday night, Eric Cantor, the majority leader in the US House of Representatives who lost his primary to an economics professor few had heard of, said “Suffering comes to everyone. Misery is a choice.” I wondered if he’d been listening to you.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          He has not been doing the work. Like misery, suffering is a choice that comes from folks believing their own un-questioned stories….

  • favorite is #2— great light, barn anchored to the ground, green more equal than the shaded and unshaded greens in #1. The perspective in #2 makes me feel more attached to the barn, more like I am there.
    Both of these would probably look good with Fractallus
    I might try—
    –a vertical of the vertical sheathing with a narrow strip of grass/weeds at the bottom
    –sliding door with the x and windows against it on the left in a horizontal
    –closeup of hinges, close up of sliding door hardware
    –the window in the gable end with a bit of the roof and trees filling the left 2/3 or so ( in a horizontal) to get the feeling of the open window letting the breezes/weather in
    –the cupola and 3 windows under and left of it in a vertical
    –just the gable end in a vertical

  • The one shot that I might look at is the side where the two doors are with the
    windows, which would be, what, the left side part? I just like the the lines
    of the wood, the x on the door. I think either of those shots would be cool.