Winging It With AF and An Enlightening Eye-opener… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Winging It With AF and An Enlightening Eye-opener...

The Streak Continues: 306

My 2013 tax return was sent to the accountant yesterday. I have received two of the four DPP 4.0 RAW Conversion Guide manuscripts via e-mail and will begin the fifth and final edit this weekend. Then I will ship it off to Arash so that he can create the PDF. I took a day off from swimming yesterday. This blog post, the 306th in a row, took me about 2 1/2 hours to prepare. It was published at 5:32am from my home in Indian Lake Estates, FL.

To show your appreciation for my efforts here, we do ask that you use our the 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 used, tested, and can 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.

The Friday Afternoon October 10 BAA In-the-Field Workshop meet-up is now sold out.

For information on the October Fort DeSoto IPT and the late registration discount please see the blog post here.


This image was created on the last San Diego IPT with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops as framed: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.

3 sensors up and 2 sensors to the left of the central Sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF fell on the inside of the bird’s mouth below the bird’s left eye and was active at the moment of exposure but was not tracking accurately. See my additional comments below.

Learn everything there is to know about the 1D X and 5D III AF systems including how to manage the various AF Area Selection Modes, when to use which one, and several ways to move the AF sensor around in the 1D X AF Guide and the 5D Mark III User’s Guide. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Double-crested Cormorant Yawning

World Class Cormorant and Pelican Photography

For the past few IPTs San Diego in January has offered some great opportunities to photograph both Double-crested and Brandt’s Cormorants in full breeding plumage. Not to mention the best Pacific race breeding plumage Brown Pelican photography on the planet. For lots more Brown Pelican images click on the blog posts before and after the noted post;you can find the before and after links just below the blog post titles. The link on the left takes you to the next post; the link on the right to the previous post.


This is a crop of the BreezeBrowser screen capture.

Winging It With AF/Sometimes you just have to take chances…

There are times when photographing action and flight, that you are pretty sure that the AF system will be severely challenged and will like fail to track accurately. Though this lesson has been extremely difficult for me to learn, I preach it often: when in doubt, press the shutter button! Why? At times the system might perform perfectly. At other times–as with today’s image–you may get lucky and be either pleasantly surprised or even amazed.

Examining the RAW file at 100% reveals that the sharpest focus was on the bird’s left eye rather than on the back of the throat, the spot below the active sensor. How does that happen? I was accurately focused on the bird’s right eye and the system was tracking smoothly and maintaining sharp focus. The bird suddenly lurched to its right and let out a yawn. Because of the speed of this motion and because of the lack of light and contrast in the back of the throat the AF system (fortunately) was not able to keep up and track properly. If it had, neither eye would have been sharp. With the bird’s left eye sharp and the right eye acceptably sharp a bit of Eye Doctor work on the latter (plus a bit of Quick Mask magic on the former) yielded a rather nice image.

I finally practice what I have been preaching for two decades: when unexpected action occurs, push the shutter button! And BTW, this is 100 times truer with digital than it was with film as once you are dealing with a given situation the cost of pushing the shutter button is $0.00….

To reinforce this lesson, see the “Against All Odds” blog post here.

The Image Optimization: An Enlightening Eye-opener

After converting this image in DPP 4.0 I first opened the bird’s left eye a bit with a warped Quick Mask. Then I sharpened and lightened the face and eyes after making my selections with the Quick Selection Tool. Total time in Photoshop: six minutes. Clean-up and smoothing of the dark splotch in the upper right corner was done with a soft 40% opacity Clone Stamp Tool and the Patch Tool. As usual.

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 very 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 learn about it and the more I learn about it the more I am impressed with it. Note: at present, DPP 4.0 will work only with 1D X, 5D III, and 6D images. Scroll down for the latest DPP/7D Mark II info.

Digital Basics

Everything that I did to optimize today’s image is covered in detail 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 (including Surface Blur settings), details on using all of my 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 II. 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.

Digital Photo Professional 3.14.41 Updater

The latest version of DPP is V3.14.41; it will support 7D Mark II files. It is currently available for download here. Click on Drivers and Software and then on Software. Then click directly on the Digital Photo Professional 3.14.41 Updater for Windows (or Mac), check the Disclaimer box, and then click on the Download arrow. When the file is downloaded double-click on it and follow the prompts. I just finished updating :).

Note: if you do not already have a previous version of DPP 3.whatever installed you will need to download the entire software suite to install DPP 3.14.41 from scratch.


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: 3)

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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8 comments to Winging It With AF and An Enlightening Eye-opener…

  • avatar Steve Rentmeesters

    Typo alert – iamge – Winging it paragraph 1

  • avatar Graham Hedrick

    Art, when do you think you will have your 7D mkII? Thanks as always.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Monday or Tuesday via Fed Ex from George Leep :). Have to return it on the 12th.

  • avatar Jim Amato

    Arthur. I have rejiggered my camrea with back button focus and use blinkies. Wow what difference with shooting everything now! Glad you have preached and posted about these two techniques. Next, I will work on the focus pattern to be more on target with focus points.
    Thank you. Jim Amato
    Nikon D7000

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      YAW. All good and glad to be of help. Please make it a habit to use our links :).

      later and love, artie

  • avatar Ruth Schueler

    Shana Tova and thanks for the information!