You Need a Clear Head at Sunrise on the Beach at Nickerson « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

You Need a Clear Head at Sunrise on the Beach at Nickerson

The Streak Continues: 271

This blog was published at 6:15am from my Mom’s home in Holbrook, Long Island, NY. It was early to bed last night. At the time of publication I have about three hours to shower, shave, and pack. Younger daughter Alissa is picking me up at 9:15am. Then my flight from ISP to MCO where I will be met by my right hand man Jim Litzenberg. Right now it is looking like an unprecedented ten weeks with no plane flights on the horizon until I fly to ABQ for a long stint at Bosque. Photographically, my New York week was phenomenal. This post makes 271 in a row.

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This image was created at 6:24am on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 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 Extender EF 1.4X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop as framed: 1/125 sec. at f/10 in Tv mode.

61-Point AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF selected 3 sensors forward of the bird’s tail and was active at the moment of exposure. That worked out to be on the same plane as the bird’s eye. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Amercian Oystercatcher in sunrise reflections

Getting Up Early

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday past I was in the Nickerson Beach parking lot no later than 5:15am, just about an hour before sunrise. If you want to take advantage of the remarkable sunrise colors like those in the image above and in yesterday’s featured image, you need to get up early. I enjoy doing pre-dawn blurs and as we will see in a coming blog post, creating images well before the sun comes up is a viable option, especially when wind against sun (SW, W, or NW on clear mornings) is a sure thing….

Shutter Speed and Exposure Info & Questions

I had been working in Tv mode trying to create some pleasingly blurred images of the distant skimmer flocks. Rather than switch to Manual or Av mode I simply raised the shutter speed when I saw several oystercatchers feeding on the wave-washed beach. I positioned myself to try and take advantage of the gorgeous sunrise light that was being reflected off the water. I did get lucky with the shutter speed of 1/125 second. What would have been a better option? And why?

As the feeding birds were staying at roughly the same distance from me I opted to stay in an automatic exposure mode. +1 stop worked out nicely as that left me with only a few easily recovered blinkies on the brightest reflections. Even at +1 stop the bird was rendered very dark in the original capture. Was it necessary to underexpose the subject in this situation? Why or why not? See Image Optimization below to learn how I dealt with the under-exposed subject.

Why should and would I have gone to Manual mode if the distance to the subject kept changing?

The Image Optimization

There were two post processing challenges with this image. The first was to remove the three dark lines of foam that intersected with the bird’s head. For those, I used a series of small Quick Masks that were fine-tuned by adding Regular Layer Masks. In backlit situations it is especially important to have a relatively clean background behind the bird’s head and neck. Heck, you might say that for all situations….

Next I had to deal with the under-exposed oystercatcher. I tried going to a pure silhouette but that did not work out too well so I took the opposite approach by lightening the subject. That needed to be done judiciously to avoid the image looking totally contrived. I started with some Eye Doctor work and that improved things a lot. Lightening the dark tones of the bird’s upperparts however did not work well so I discarded that layer but I knew that the white breast and underparts needed to be just a bit lighter. To do that I created a duplicate layer of the whole image (Ctrl A, Ctrl J), pulled up the curve (Ctrl M) significantly, added a Hide-All or Inverse Layer Mask, and painted in the effect where needed with a soft brush. All that was left was a bit of foam clean up with the Patch Tool. You can of course compare the before and after look in the animated GIF above.

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. Coming soon: the DPP 4.0 RAW Conversion Guide by Arash Hazeghi with Arthur Morris.

Digital Basics

Everything that I did to optimize today’s image is detailed in my 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, details on using all of my killer image clean-up tools, 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, Digital Eye Doctor, Tim Grey Dodge and Burn, how to create time-saving actions, and tons 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. Please call Jim or Jennifer at 863-692-0906 weekdays to order.


Antarctica/The Extended Expedition Voyage

Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and Falkland Islands: December 13, 2014 to January 10, 2015

Breathe deeply, bite the bullet, and live life to its fullest; we all get only one ride on the merry-go-round… Join me on this great trip. Click here for additional details.


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August 28th, 2014 | Category: 2014

5 comments to You Need a Clear Head at Sunrise on the Beach at Nickerson

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