Mommy, Why are Their Bills So Red? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Mommy, Why are Their Bills So Red?

Important “CBS This Morning” News Flash Update

Helen Hayes/Great Island Feature Re-scheduled.

The Helen Hays/Great Gull island feature that was slated to air this morning has–as per the e-mail below from CBS producer Alberto Moya–been tentatively re-scheduled to air tomorrow morning between 8:00 and 9am nationally on the “CBS This Morning” show. I do hope that it airs tomorrow; it will surely be worth waiting for. If it does not my understanding is that it will air this week.

E-mail from Alberto Moya:

Art – I apologize for the late heads up but my bosses have held up our profile of Helen and Gull Island. We’re going to try again for Wednesday’s broadcast. Sorry for the back and forth but that’s the way news works. Will keep u posted again tomorrow. A.

Important Bosque Festival of the Cranes Event Registration Notice

Registration for all Festival of the Cranes workshops, seminars and programs opens today only for Friends of Bosque members at at 9:00am MDT. That is 11:00am EDT. Please click here and read carefully to avoid missing out. Registration will be open to the public tomorrow, Wednesday September 3 at at 9:00am MDT (11:00am EDT). Please do not tarry as we expect all the BAA/A Creative Adventure sessions to sell out quickly, especially the early morning In-the-Field Workshops.

This Just In!

There are huge B&H discounts on most Canon lenses including and especially the super-telephotos. Click here to see the discounts and the amazingly low prices.

Here are some examples:

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens: $1000 off.

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens: $1000 off.

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens: $700 off.

Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Lens: $500 off.

Canon Extender EF 1.4X III: $50 off.

Canon Extender EF 2X III: $50 off.

The Streak Continues: 276

This blog was published just before 6:45am from my home in Indian Lake Estates, FL after another great night’s sleep. I will be here for the better part of the next ten weeks with no plane flights on the horizon until I fly to ABQ for a long stretch at Bosque. Then home for four days before heading to the Southern Ocean for a month on another great Cheeseman’s Expedition. Click here for info on this great trip and learn about joining the BAA group. This post, which took me more than 5 hours to prepare, makes 276 in a row.

As always, I would appreciate your using the BIRDS AS ART B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases, using our Amazon logo-link for all of your household purchases, and visiting the BAA Online Store for your tripod, tripod head, LensCoat, miscellaneous, accessories, and eGuide purchases as well.


This image was created at 8:11am in full sun on last year’s Short Notice San Diego IPT with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/4000 sec. at f/4.5 in Manual mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo/Surround Rear Focus AF as originally framed (see below) was 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. See image next for the original capture.

Mommy, Why are Their Bills So Red?

At the height of breeding plumage, the Pacific race of Brown Pelican sports bright fire-engine red bill pouches with the lower mandible often olive or yellowish green. In short, they are spectacularly beautiful. Creating simple portraits or interesting behavioral studies all with backgrounds of distant Pacific Ocean blue is one photographic opportunity that everyone with a long lens should enjoy once in their lives. I have been photographing San Diego’s pelicans for well more than two decades and can’t wait to get back. If you like to join me see the info on the 2015 San Diego IPT below.

Precious one, the pelican’s bill and pouch colors as well as the dark chocolate feathers on the back of their heads and necks are a result of hormonal changes that take place during the breeding season.


This JPEG represents the original image capture after the RAW conversion in DPP 4.0.

The Image Optimization

Image optimization was fairly straightforward. I converted the image in DPP 4.0 and fine-tuned the bill color with both color temperature and image color adjustments. The latter is new to DPP 4.0 and is pretty much identical to the HSL (Hue, Saturation, Luminance) tab in Photoshop. Once in CS-6 I toned down the REDs that I had juiced up during the conversion a bit by adding 30 points of CYAN to the REDs via a Selective Color adjustment. A crop from above and left eliminated most of the out-of-focus pelican in the background and the Clone Stamp Tool did the job on the sliver that remained. Next came some Digital Eye Doctor work and the application of a Contrast Mask (Unsharp Mask at 15, 65. 0) on the face only. Then I boosted the saturation and darkened the golden yellow feathers of the top of the head slightly. All selections were made with the Quick Selection Tool. Next I used the Clone Stamp and Patch Tools along with the Spot Healing Brush to clean up some of the whitewash on the rock.

Things were looking good but I realized that I needed a bit more room in front of the bird. To lay the groundwork for doing that I first expanded the canvas in front of the bird with the Crop Tool love handle. Then I selected the area in front of the bill with the seldom-used Rectangular Marquee Tool, put that on its own layer, hit Control T for the Transform Tool, and stretched the selection judiciously. Very judiciously. The last thing that you want to do is ruin the image quality by stretching too few pixels over too large an area. I finished by warping the rock so that it looked more natural.

Image Optimization Question

Would you have cleaned all the whitewash on the rock near the tip of the bill? Why or why not?

Image Creation Questions

#1: Why didn’t I simply point my lens to the right to eliminate the out-of-focus pelican behind the subject and have more room in front of the bird?

#2: Had I been able to get lower, how would that have helped the image?

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 and Arthur Morris. The more that I use DPP 4.0 for my RAW conversions the more I am impressed with it. I will be putting in several more hours of work today editing and adding to our new eGuide. Note: at present, DPP 4.0 will work only with 1D X and 5D III images.

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.


San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects. With annual visits spanning more than three decades I have lot of experience there….

2015 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT): FEB 1 thru the morning of FEB 5, 2015: $1799 (Limit: 8/Openings: 5)

Meet and Greet after dinner on your own at 7:00pm on JAN 31

Join me in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red bill pouches; Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants in breeding plumage with their amazing crests; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other species possible inluding Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heerman’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semiplamated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions likely; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the two IPT cards there are some nice landscape opportunities as well.

Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter?

This IPT will include five 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, four 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, five lunches, after-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions, and two fine dinners. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility.

A $499 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “Arthur Morris) to use at BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. Or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, will be due on 12/1//2014. 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. 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.


Though the pelicans will be the stars of the show on this IPT there will be many other handsome and captivating subjects in wonderful settings.

San Diego Natural History Museum Program & The Birds of the World Exhibit

On Saturday morning, February 7, 2015 I will be presenting “A Bird Photographer’s Story” at the San Diego Natural History Museum to kick off the Birds of the World photographic exhibit that will feature the images of about a dozen of the world’s top avian photographers. This program,which is being generously sponsored by the Canon Explorers of Light program, will be free and open to the public. I am proud to say that both Denise Ippolito and I will have images hanging in the show. The exhibit opening is scheduled for later that same day, February 7, 2015. (Times TBA).

Folks on the IPT who wish to stay over and attend the program and the exhibit opening on Saturday are invited to join me for a photo session on Friday morning as follows:

Friday Morning Add-on Photo Session: February 6, 2015: $299.

This workshop includes 3 hours of in-the-field pelican photography instruction and brunch with image review and Photoshop instruction. For now, this session is open only to folks attending the IPT.


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23 comments to Mommy, Why are Their Bills So Red?

  • Getting lower might have given a little more space under the bill tip?

  • avatar Deirdre Sheerr-Gross

    #1: Why didn’t I simply point my lens to the right to eliminate the out-of-focus pelican behind the subject and have more room in front of the bird?

    I would think this has to do with getting ALL of the Pelcan in sharp focus… DOF ..and concentrating on the plane of focus that would capture the most of the Pelican you were shooting at.
    Shooting at an f4.5, your DOF is pretty shallow… And wanting to get the bird, end to end sharply in focus… you’d want to select a mid-point on the bird, so you’d be maximizing the plane of focus across the whole bird…. So centering your auto focus on the pelican’s midsection..
    had you capturing the O-O-F pelican (which you knew you could deal with in Post-Proc).

    Great shot Artie… and nice sharp shot end to end…

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your kind words and your lengthy answer. Good try but nope, nope, and nope. The answer is in the technical data and the fact is that I screwed up….. Answer coming soon.

  • avatar David Policansky

    I definitely would not have cleaned up the rock. The guano is absolutely part of the picture IMO. As for getting lower, the only thing I can see is that the tip of the pelican’s bill would have had the blue sky as background instead of the rock, making for a cleaner image. The shadow of the bill still would have been visible. But talk about gilding the lily, it’s a great image as it is.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good point on the clean-up but the question had to go with cleaning up the whitewash by the tip of the bill. I did get rid of some of the whitewash on the right side of the rock….

      Good job on the bill against the blue sky. The fact is that I was as low as I could get. artie

  • avatar Carl Mohr

    I may have attempted to clean the entire rock. The whitewash is distracting.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks and agree. But a pelican on a rock without any whitewash might look too perfect….

  • Art,

    Although there probably aren’t a lot of people using the Canon 6D for wildlife shooting, it should be pointed out that DPP 4.0 also works with photos taken with that camera as well.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      You are most correct Bob. Thanks for the reminder :). artie

    • avatar David Policansky

      The Canon 6D is a surprisingly competent camera for wildlife photography. AF with the center point is accurate and fast, and it’s very much less noisy than the 7D, probably as good, if not better, than the 5D3. Of course, it has a slower frame rate and a slower top shutter speed, and a simpler AF system, so it’s not as good as the 5D3, but it costs a lot less.

  • avatar wu chang

    Just got off the phone with the local affiliate. They told me the promo was on their play list for each commercial break that featured CBS This Morning. They checked their morning edits and found the notice from the network that says the promo is to be run tomorrow September 3.

    The promo had Miss Hays wearing the hat in your post from previous blog post regarding GGI and the upcoming segment.

  • avatar wu chang

    The CBS lead in from the local news had the promo and said it was coming up in the first hour of CBS This Morning. The promo ran during each break.

    I did as you…..watched and kept waiting and waiting and waiting

    It appears the right and left hands are not on the same page/local vs network

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Wu is me. The Helen Hays/GGI feature did not air on Tuesday morning. artie

  • avatar Don Pugh

    The prices for Canon L lenses and the version III extenders at the B&H link aren’t a result of huge B&H discounts, they are Canon’s new retail prices.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for letting us know. Considering that B&H is selling older stock for the new prices might lead some folks to consider the new prices as discounted. I would of course hope that you and all the blog readers would use our B&H affiliate links for all of their gear purchases as they always offer great prices and great service.

  • #2: Had I been able to get lower, how would have helped the image?

    I’ll say to get the tip of the foot near the back.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Sorry Doug, that does not make sense to me…. IAC, that is not what I was looking for :). artie

      • That probably means I’m wrong 🙂

        See how the back foot goes behind the neck? I was thinking if you got lower you’d be able to see the whole foot…also assuming he’s not actually touching the neck.


        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          If any, the differences in the foot would be miniscule at most even if I had gotten 3 feet lower. But there would have been one big improvement. artie

  • avatar wu chang

    6:09am in St Louis,MO and the CBS This Morning promo says the GGI story will be featured as you related in your news flash announcement.