The First Step in Taming the Whites… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The First Step in Taming the Whites...

The Streak Continues: 223

It is just afer 5:00am in Amherst, MA as I publish this blog post and begin to put the finishing touches on my 3 hour Photoshop workshop that opens the 2014 NECCC Conference in Amherst, MA where both Denise and I are speaking. My programs are being generously sponsored by the Canon USA Explorers of Light group. Please stop by and say “Hi.” This post, which took me about 90 minutes to prepare, marks 223 consecutive days with a new educational blog post. With so many folks getting in the habit of using our B&H links and our Amazon logo-links why quit now? April, May and June have been fantastic as lots of folks are getting the message; using my affiliate links does not cost you a penny and helps support my efforts here. To show your appreciation, I do ask that you use our B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially Gitzo tripods, Wimberley tripod heads, and the like. We sell only what I have used and tested, and know that you can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know the tools that 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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This preening Atlantic Puffin image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (with the internal TC in place), the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter) (at 728mm), and the Canon EOS-1D X). ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop (in cloudy bright sidelight from our right): 1/200 sec. at f/13.

Central sensor (by necessity)/AI Servo-Expand/Rear Focus AF e bird’s eye was active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The First Step in Taming the Whites…

As stated here often, I try to bring my WHITEs into Photoshop with no RGB values higher than the mid-230s. That usually results in WHITEs that are bright WHITE with sufficient detail. You learn to do that in the field by watching the histogram carefully and making sure that you have no blinkies (flashing highlight alerts) on the subject.

Assuming that you have not severely toasted the WHITE highlights in the original RAW capture the very best way to tame the WHITEs is to get into the habit of checking the RGB values the moment that you bring the image into your RAW converter. In DPP, place the cursor on the brightest WHITEs (on the breast here) and look at the RGB values in the bottom left of the frame. There, you will see three 3-digit numbers separated by commas. You can move your cursor around a bit while looking for the highest set of numbers. For the image above that was 236, 238, 242. That translates to R=236, G=238, B=242, a bit higher than I prefer. To tame the WHITEs I moved the Brightness adjustment slider 2 clicks to the left to -.33 and moved the Highlight slider 1 click to the left to -1. That yielded RGB values of 231, 234, 237.

Converting the same image in Photoshop CS-6 I placed the cursor on the brightest WHITEs, again on the breast, and noted the RGB values on the left just below the histogram at the top of the Camera RAW 8.3 dialogue box. There I actually increased the Exposure to +20 to open up the BLACKs, moved the Highlights slider to the left to -29, and moved the Whites slider to the left to -12. Now my RGB values for the brightest WHITEs read 235, 236, 238.

If your image is under-exposed your RGB values will be in the 210-230 range; in those cases to produce bright WHITEs you will need to increase the exposure while checking the RGB values. Again, you want them to wind up in the mid-230s. Once you have done that, there are lots of ways to bring out the detail in the WHITEs once you have brought the converted image into Photoshop. Those are all described in my Digital Basics File.

Digital Basics

Digital Basics is 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, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro basics, my killer image clean-up techniques, creating time-saving actions, and lots more.

DPP V4.0

Canon recently released a new version of DPP, V4.0. It can be downloaded here. You will need to enter your 1D X or 5D Mark III serial number to start the download. I now have 4.0 on both of my laptops. While early reports are that it is significantly better in many areas than any previous versions, I was totally baffled by the interface. It bears no resemblance to any current version of DPP. Arash Hazeghi and I will be working on a DPP V4.0 RAW Conversion eGuide quite soon. It will require a separate purchase. V4.0 works only with 1D X, 5D III, 6D, and 1Dc images. Folks with older bodies (both pro-sumer and professional) will need to continue using previous versions of DPP. I recently updated to V3.11 and have been very happy with it. I was glad to note the addition of a Color Temperature slider: I had been suggesting that ever since I began using DPP about 2 years ago.

The currently available version of the DPP Raw Conversion Guide is ideal for folks (like me) who use V3.11 or prior. To learn why I now convert all of my images with DPP, click here.


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Do consider joining me for a once in a lifetime trip to the Galapagos archipelago in July, 2015.

GALAPAGOS Photo Cruise of a Lifetime IPT/The Complete Galapagos Photographic Experience. July 14-28, 2015 on the boat. 13 FULL and two half-days of photography: $12,499. Limit 14 including the leader(s)/Openings: 7.

My two-week Galapagos Photo-Cruises are without equal. The world’s best guide, a killer itinerary, a great boat (the Samba), and the best leader with eight Galapagos cruises under his belt. Pre-trip and pre-landing location-specific gear advice. In-the-field photo instruction and guidance. Jeez, I almost forgot: fine dining at sea!

The great spots that we will visit include Tower Island (including Prince Phillips Steps and Darwin Bay), Hood Island (including Punta Suarez, the world’s only nesting site of Waved Albatross, and Gardner Bay)—each of the preceding are world class wildlife photography designations that rank right up there with Antarctica, Africa, and Midway. We will also visit Fernandina, Puerto Ayora for the tortoises, Puerto Egas—James Bay, North Seymour and Isla Lobos for nesting Blue-footed Booby (most years), South Plaza, Floreana, and Urbina Bay, all spectacular in their own right. We visit every great spot on a single trip. Plus tons more. And there will he lots of opportunities to snorkel on sunny mid-days for those like me who wish to partake.

We will be the first boat on each island in the morning and the last boat to leave each island every afternoon. If we are blessed with overcast weather, we will often spend 5-6 hours at the best sites. And as noted above, mid-day snorkeling is an option on most sunny days depending on location. Note: some of the walks are a bit strenuous. Great images are possible on all landings with a hand held 70-200mm lens and a 1.4X teleconverter. I bring a longer lens ashore on most landings as that fits my style. I generally work with either the Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS or the Canon 200-400mm f/4 L IS with Internal Extender.

Do know that there is a NatureScapes Galapagos trip: one week for $8495. Thus, my trip represents a tremendous value; why go all that way and miss half of the great photographic locations?

The Logistics

Fly to Guayacil, Ecuador on July 12, 2015. Travel insurance/rest day: July 13 (We may or may not offer a photo outing on the 13th). Fly to the archipelago on July 14 and board the Samba. Get off the boat on July 28. Fly to Guayacil that afternoon. Fly home on the early morning of July 29 unless you are staying on or going elsewhere (or catching a red-eye flight on the evening of the 28th).

$12,499 includes just about everything: all transfers, guide and park fees, all food on the boat, transfers and ground transportation, your flights to the archipelago, and three nights (double occupancy) in a top notch hotel in Guayacil. If you are good to go, a non-refundable deposit of $5,000 per person is due immediately. The second payment of $4,000 is not due until 11/1/14. The final payment of $3749 per person will be due on 2/1/15. A $200 discount will be applied to each of the balances for couples or friends who register at the same time.

Purchasing travel insurance within 2 weeks of our cashing your deposit check is strongly recommended. On my past two cruises a total of 5 folks were forced to cancel less than one week prior to the trip. My family and I use Travel Insurance Services and strongly recommend that you do the same.

Not included: your round trip airfare from your home to and from Guayacil, beverages on the boat, phone calls, your meals in Guayacil, personal items, and a $600/person cash tip for the crew and the guide—this works out to roughly $40/day to be shared by the 7 folks who will be waiting on us hand and foot every day for two weeks. The service is so wonderful that many folks choose to tip extra.

Please e-mail for the complete itinerary and for additional info and images. Please cut and paste “Galapagos 2015 Info Please) into the Subject line.

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9 comments to The First Step in Taming the Whites…

  • Kathy Graff

    The amount of detail is truly outstanding. I feel as though I’m there looking at the bird up-close.

  • Sharon

    I really like this intimate portrait. The comp is a bit different than the norm with the preening behavior (the bill in feathers) placed on a third spot rather than the eye. It works very nicely!

  • Great shot and thanks for the reminder of the farne tips…

    Kind regards,

  • Ron Gates

    It reminds me of a coy, shy young lady. Very well done!

  • In a way, it reminds me of a sad clown. Maybe a touch of Denise using
    Fractalius in the form of a Emmet Kelley clown painting?


  • Catherine Cosstolo

    Absolutely perfect!

  • Great tip, today, Artie. Great image by the way. Great pose and details

  • David Steele

    I agree with Tim, what a stunning portrait. What draws me to this image is that it is very different to other puffin portraits – and even bird portraits in general.. The colors and composition enhance a beautiful pose, seen and captured at just the right moment.

  • Tim Harding

    That Puffin image is SPECTACULAR! Might be one of my all-time favourites.