Honest Opinions Sought… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Honest Opinions Sought...


I went out to Lake Blue Cypress with Clemens van der Werf and his lovely wife Adri. With a west wind and mostly sunny skies it was a tough morning but we worked hard and did find a few good situations. Then it was back to my house for a great lunch of low carb eggplant & haddock parmigiana (made with Romano cheese). That along with a big salad with coconut oil dressing. We ate well and everyone enjoyed it tremendously. Especially the chef. 🙂

Then it was a nap and Masters golf on TV, an afternoon and evening of r & r. This educational blog post, the 94th in a row, took 1 1/2 hours to prepare and was published at one minute after midnight on Sunday.

St. Augustine Short Notice IPT

With just three folks signed up, this trip represents a great opportunity to learn a ton in a great setting. See here for complete details.

South Georgia

Like penguins? Please click here to learn about joining the BIRDS AS ART group on the great Cheesemans’ South Georgia Expedition next October.

New Used Gear Listing

Canon EF 24-70 f2.8L II USM Lens

Dave Bourgaize is offering a used Canon EF 24-70 f2.8L II USM lens in excellent condition for $1499.00. The sale includes front lens cover and rear lens cap, EW-88C lens hood, original Canon bag, and insured shipping via UPS Ground to US addresses. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made. Please contact Dave by e-mail or by phone at (310) 748-9547 (pacific time zone).

I own and use the 24-70II. It is much sharper edge to edge than the lighter, more versatile Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. I consider the 24-70II a must for serious landscape photographers. As it sells new for $1899 Dave’s price is lower than any I have seen for this lens in excellent condition. It should sell immediately.

Used Photography Gear

You can see all the current listings here.


This image was created at Lake Blue Cypress with the hand held Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (at 400mm) and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 1250. Evaluative metering -1 stop off the green BKGR: 1/800 sec. at f/4 Manual mode. AWB.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter Button AF as framed originally (see below) was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). The active AF point was nowhere near the subject. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Pileated Woodpecker flight pano

Honest Opinions Sought…

Considering that the active AF point was active but was nowhere near the bird this image is actually pretty sharp. At ISO 1250 image quality is suspect at best. Not to mention a relatively large crop. And the fact that the bird is angling slightly away…. All that said I sort of like it.

What do you think?

If you do not like the image, just say so, but please remember there is no need to be nasty. More coming soon on civility on the blog. 🙂


This is the original frame. Note that the center AF point was both active at the moment of exposure and was nowhere near the subject at the moment of exposure.

The Image Optimization

As the dark tones were a mess, I used lots of both luminance and chrominance noise reduction during the RAW conversion in DPP and followed that up with a good dose of Filter > Blur > Surface Blur that I painted away at 50% on the bird using a Regular Layer Mask. Then a bit of Eye Doctor Work, a Contrast Mask to selectively sharpen the whole bird (after selecting it with the Quick Selection Tool), and the pano crop.

All as detailed in the DPP 4 Raw Conversion Guide, Digital Basics, APTATS I, and APTATS II.


Images and card design copyright 2014: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

Just One Slot Left!

The 2015 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT
June 29 through July 5, 2015: $5499: Limit 10 photographers/One opening due to a recent cancellation. Two great leaders: Denise Ippolito and Arthur Morris.

Here are the plans: take a red eye from the east coast of the US on 28 June arriving in Edinburgh, Scotland on the morning of Monday 29 June (or simply meet us then either at the Edinburgh Airport (EDI) or later in the day at our cottages if you are driving your own vehicle either from the UK or from somewhere in Europe. Stay 7 nights in two gorgeous modern country cottages.

There are 5 days of planned puffin/seabird trips—weather permitting, and 1 full day of gannet photography with 2 sessions on the boat.


Images and card design copyright 2014: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

The Details

We will be staying in upscale country-side cottages that are beyond lovely with large living areas and lots of open space for image sharing and Photoshop lessons. The shared rooms are decent-sized, each with two roomy single beds and a private bathroom. See the single supplement info below.

All breakfasts, lunches and dinners are included. All 5 puffins boat lunches will need to be prepared in advance, taken with, and consumed at your leisure. I usually eat mine on the short boat trip from one island to the other. Also included is a restaurant lunch on the gannet boat day and a farewell fine dining thank you dinner. The cost of your National Heritage Trust is also included; that covers the twice a day landing fees.

Plan to fly home on the early morning of Monday 6 July or to continue your stay or travels.


Images and card design copyright 2014: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version. Scroll down to join us in the UK in 2015.

Single Supplement Info

The single supplement is $1475. As we will be renting a third cottage the $1475 is due with your deposit and is also non-refundable.

If you are good to go please send your $2,000 deposit check now to save a spot. The balance will be due on March 29, 2015. Please make your check out to “Arthur Morris” and send it to Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. If you cancel and 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. Whether or not your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

We do hope that you can join us.


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31 comments to Honest Opinions Sought…

  • avatar Joanne Wuori

    Hi Artie– I like this very much–the backround, the wings, the sense of motion. And–hand holding a 200-400! You have to have strong and steady arms. I am learning a lot from the blog–keep up the good work.

  • avatar Steve Rentmeesters

    This is a great image. I don’t care about the infractions against the “rules” it’s the over all effect in the end. I like how the bird is framed in the spring green leaves.

  • avatar Denny

    Artie, I need to qualify my comments on your image; I post my images on a site for critique that states they do not differentiate between shots taken in the wild, under difficult conditions, and shots taken-in a zoo, for example, of a bird or animal in captivity. The difficulty level is not factored into it, it’s the overall quality of the shot, no matter where it was taken. We have debated this subject to death, and the result is that we, the enthusiast wildlife photographers, who go out day after day slogging through whatever’s necessary to get a shot of that elusive bird, or animal, post far less images on that site than we used to. Not that we have a holier-than-thou attitude, but let’s face it, we’re talking different genres of photography really. So, what I’m trying to say is; factoring in the difficulty level, this is a good shot.

    Hope that all makes sense to you.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I agree that your original comments need to be qualified. See my questions and comments for you below.

      Put me in the group that feels that the difficulty factor should have nothing to do with how an image is rated or judged. It is your choice as to whether or not you want to post images. You should try BPN….

      In general I find that when folks preface their remarks with “Not that we have a holier-than-thou attitude…” that they pretty much have a holier than thou attitude and that surely seems to be the case here. But it sort of fits with your “this image is not worthy of your expensive gear comment….”


      ps: as I said from the start, I like the image despite it image quality shortcomings.

  • avatar Denny

    Hi Artie, first I’d like to say I really enjoyed the videos on Youtube; they inspired me to start watching, and studying, your “Art of Bird Photography II” program.

    As to the woodpecker image, I think it’s a good shot under the circumstances, but as you’ve explained, it’s the type of shot that requires a fair bit of post processing. It’s like many wildlife shots we get under difficult circumstances, but want to record the moment anyway for posterity. It’s interesting that you would choose this shot to ask our opinions on, with all the great shots you take day in and day out. You want honesty, and politeness? It’s not worthy of your skills and knowledge, and the thousands of dollars worth of top line equipment used to capture it, imo. No offence intended; if it were shot by me with my cheap outfit, I might say it was a good shot, but not for you, comparatively speaking.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Glad that you liked the videos.

      Yes, it required a fair bit of processing. So what? It is not as if I changed junk into gold…

      Not sure why you find it interesting that I chose this one to ask folks about. My goal was for folks to learn a thing or two and to spark an interesting discussion….

      Yes, I asked that folks be honest and polite.

      Your next comment leaves me scratching my head. How are you or anyone else able to determine the worthiness of an image? And what in the world does how much your gear costs have to do with the quality and/or the effectiveness of an image?


  • avatar Ingrid Liem

    What a gorgeous image Artie, I love the red and blue against the green bkgd. I’ve always wanted to photograph a pileated myself, but no success so far, firstly the bird is rare here, secondly I don’t have the skills even if it appears in my backyard today. But now a question for you, I have also noticed on some of my images, the active AF point was nowhere near the bird – as seen in DPP 4 on my computer – yet the image was sharp where it shouldn’t have been, I don’t understand this. Does it have something to do with the characteristics of the AF Case you were using, 1/2/3/4/5, or 6 (if the 7D2 has them that is), and because of AI Servo, it was impossible to pinpoint exactly where the active AF point was on that frame at the time of capture? What is your explanation for this?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Ingrid. I am glad that you like it. I like it too despite its shortcomings. Yes, my custom AF case has something to do with getting sharp images when the active AF point is nowhere near the bird. I know exactly where the chosen AF point was: in the middle of the frame. This is likely what happened: I go the AF point on the bird just long enough for the system to acquire focus and start tracking. Then as I could not keep the AF point right on the bird the system switched to the AF point right below the center point and continued to track. I tried my best to keep the AF point on the subject but was unable to do that. But, i pressed the shutter button just as I lost the subject, that is, when the AF system no longer had any active AF point on the subject. But because of my custom case settings the system kept tracking just long enough for me to create a sharp image while NOT trying to focus on the background. Again, just for a second….

      Does that make sense? Do understand that is is much more difficult, nearly impossible for me in most cases, to track a bird in flight against a background other than sky. And when the bird is either a small bird or is small in the frame, that chore becomes that much more difficult.

      later and love, artie

  • avatar Jeff

    Thanks so much for your blog which is a generously provided treasure trove that you share with us! IMHO, the bird itself is gorgeous, and the capture is a feat in itself. The back ground is so-so because it is distracting in its unevenness. Questions please: When you say “Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter Button AF” are you saying for the focus point you used AF expansion (4) or (8)? From some of your prior blog posts I had the impression you switched to back button AF exclusively. Are you sometimes using back button and shutter button for AF or have you switched entirely to shutter button autofocus? Thanks again!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for stopping by Jeff and for your kind words. AF Expand is center plus the four surrounding. AF Surround is center plus the eight surrounding. All as per my various camera User’s Guides. You need to subscribe and visit every day 🙂 That way I do not have to re-type this: about 5 months ago I started going to shutter button AF in pure flight situations. Liked it so much that now I use it about 80% or more of the time…. So yes, I switch back and forth. Sometimes I get caught with my pants down but to my mind the advantages of each are great when you need them. See the blog last few months and in the future for examples of each. artie

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Well, to me it’s not one of your better images and although I undoubtedly would have tried to take the shot if I’d been there, it wouldn’t be one of my favorites either. I have no problem with the bird’s attitude (head angle) and like many of the others, I love the wing position. And it’s quite sharp enough (well done on that!). But it’s not easy to pick up in front of the busy background. It’s interesting that you got it in front of the dark hole in the background instead of in front of the green foliage; knowing your skills and attention to detail, I have to assume that was deliberate and probably a good decision. You’ve “put the animal in its environment,” as the late great Michio Hoshino liked to say. But it just doesn’t stand out or grab me, as so many of your images do.

  • avatar Gary Axten

    It’s very nice, the wing colours show great and contrast well with the head. Noise in the background isn’t a problem as long as the subject is clean as in this case.

    The crop is much better than the original which has a distracting lower left corner.

  • avatar Peter Noyes

    I looked at the bird and knew what it was immediately. I don’t see anything wrong with the background, but, then we’re all different. To me it is a very good picture of a bird I am especially fond of.

  • avatar Mike Quigley

    “Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter Button AF as framed originally (see below) was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding)” How do you know or tell when the AF point is active at the time of capture? Many times when i am shooting BIF I don’t always see exactly where it is because of the fast activity going on.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I am confused by your question…. Are you talking about when you are photographing in the field or when you are looking at a given image on your computer? artie

  • avatar Wayne Rundell

    Hi Artie,

    Anyone photographing birds, especially “birds in flight”, must realize the challenges of capturing an image like this. Difficult enough on a large and slow flyer, but exponentially more challenging on a smaller bodied bird that flies fast and erratic. The fact that your active focus point was not even on the bird proves how difficult this is…and you are one of the best in the business.

    I like the photo because it captures this Pileated doing it’s thing…surviving by flying about in search of food and not giving a hoot about posing for a camera. How can it get better than that? Capturing nature at it’s best in my opinion.

    Love your work!


  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    I LIKE it. Wings are in a beautiful spread shape. Bird looks sharp enough and because it is against a dark spot it stands out more than it would against the green. Colors are lovely. I enlarged it to 100% and didn’t find the luminance noise too bad on the background. Enlarging a lot more may not work? I like the crop to get that horizontal stick out on the left.

  • avatar Keith

    Would have been better with a weasel on his back.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      For sure, but the image quality of this image is light years better than the image quality of that image. Many light years in fact…. Is anyone sure that that is a real image?

  • avatar David Peake

    Hi Artie,
    First up, this image doesn’t really do it for me but….. Heaps of respect to you.
    Yesterday, inspired by your work I went out and bought a 2x TC. For my 70-200 L non is.
    Today I went out to the local park to see what I could do with it. Well let’s just say I need some practice.
    Looking at the results I,m gonna need some time to improve…. But often an image will grow on me if I go back and study it some more.
    It’s tricky to get a half decent frame even when you are carefull about exposure and focus . I might get a couple of frames out of several hundred.
    And each time I look back at your image it grows on me Maybe by tomorrow I will kinda like it too. With its wings outstretched and the backward glancing ‘expression ‘ on its face it almost looks a bit like a cartoon character. Maybe the caption should read ” that guy pointing the long round thing at me ,… Makes me nervous … I’m outta here.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for stopping by. With flight one truly great one in a 100 is a very good day.

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    I like the crop but I think I would have gone harder on the background blur. However it could just be my new 5k iMac screen (Smirk! smirk!).

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Surface blur on the BKGR affects only the Luminance noise not the oof BKRG elements. For that you would use Gaussian blur but it is too difficult for me to do that without the effect leaking onto the bird….

  • I know you don’t use Lightroom, but I think if you use the radial filter in Ps, you’ll find it under Filter>Use Camera Raw as a filter, and invert it you’ll be better able to separate the bird from the background.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Do not, but am not seeing a problem with the degree of separation from the BKGR. That said, I am not sure that I am fully understanding what you mean by “better able to separate the bird from the background.” Do you mean the edge separation? artie