Backlit Skimmer Chick: Too Much, Not Enough, or Just Right? More Great Cheap Used Gear… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Backlit Skimmer Chick: Too Much, Not Enough, or Just Right? More Great Cheap Used Gear...


On Saturday I answered more than 100 e-mails. I sent an e-mail to the UK Puffins and Gannets IPT group catching up on last minute travel details and admitting a mistake as to our meeting time at the airport on Monday, June 30th. For some reason I thought that Denise and I landed at 7:00am rather than the actual 9:45am. Thanks to Denise who spotted my mind-set error.

Those who would like to join us in the early summer of 2016 on the next puffin trip are invited to shoot me an e-mail. Those who would like details on the Bears Catching Salmon IPT (late August into early September) are invited to do the same.

I did my core exercises, enjoyed a long but relaxing swim, and plan on an ice bath at about 6:00pm. This blog post, which took me about 90 minutes to prepare, is the 164th in a row. It was published at just before 7:00am on Sunday, June 21, 2015.

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To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you use our the B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. B&H is recommended for you major photography gear purchases, Amazon for your household, entertainment, and general purpose stuff. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod heads, Gitzo tripods, Wimberley heads and plates, LensCoats and accessories, and the like. We sell only what I have used, have 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. I just learned that my account was suspended during my absence; it should be up and running by Monday at the latest.

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Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charges a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few weeks we have sold nearly everything in sight. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the original 400mm IS DO lens have been dropping steadily. You can see the complete listings here. Do know that Steve Leimberg’s 400 DO sold instantly as predicted…. Todays items should sell quickly as well.

Brand New Listings

Used Canon EF 100-400 f 4.5-5.6 L IS Lens

Mike Lawie is offering a used Canon EF 100-400 f 4.5-5.6 L IS lens in excellent condition for $699 including insured shipping via UPS Ground to US addresses only. The sale includes the original tough fabric case, the original box, the front and rear caps, the lens hood, and the strap. Your gear will be shipped only after your check clears unless other arrangements (such as payment via PayPal) are made.

Please contact Mike via e-mail or by phone at 1-231-798-2474 Eastern time.)

The 100-400 is a versatile intermediate telephoto zoom lens with 1,000+ uses. It makes a great starter lens especially for folks who do general nature and wildlife in addition to birds. I’ve sold 100s of images made with my old 1-4 and denise loved hers for many years and as I did forsaking it only recently for the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. I still own my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; I am trying to talk denise into keeping hers for low light situations….

Used Sigma 105mm f2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens

Mike Lawie is also offering a used Sigma 105mm f2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro in mint condition for $425. The sale includes the original box, the front & rear lens caps, the lens hood, the hood adapter, and insured shipping via UPS Ground to US addresses only.

Please contact Mike via e-mail or by phone at 1-231-798-2474 Eastern time.) Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements (such as payment via PayPal) are made.

Though I have never used this lens I have heard only good things about it, especially with regards to image sharpness. I love the Canon version of this lens but this one is less than half the price.

Used Canon EF 100-400 f 4.5-5.6 L IS Lens

Dale Lorenzen is offering a used Canon EF 100-400mm f 4.5-5.6 L IS lens in excellent condition for $699–another record low BAA price. The black plastic lens hood has a few smudge marks on it. The sale includes the original tough fabric case, the original box, the instruction manual, the front and rear caps, the lens hood, the lens strap, and insured shipping via UPS or Fed-Ex Ground to US addresses only. Your gear will be shipped only after your check clears.

Please contact Dale via e-mail or by phone at 630-742-3309. Eastern Time Zone.

The 100-400 is a versatile intermediate telephoto zoom lens with 1,000+ uses. It makes a great starter lens especially for folks who do general nature and wildlife in addition to birds. I’ve sold 100s of images made with a 1-4 and denise loved hers for many years forsaking it only recently. Dale’s 100-400 is priced to sell. artie


This image was created last August on the Nickerson Beach IPT with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/125 sec. at f/10.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand (by necessity)/Rear Focus AF as framed and release. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Black Skimmer/backlit chick, Nickerson Beach, Long Island, NY

Skimmer Chicks and Backlight

In a typical years, there will be lots of Black Skimmer chicks of all ages from tiny to fledged in mid-August. Do consider joining me on this summer’s IPT; see below for details. If you cannot make my August trip, do know that Denise has a few openings on her second July Nickerson Beach workshop; check it out by scrolling down here. Her first workshop is sold out.

Though I love to point my shadow at the bird, there are times when doing the exact opposite can pay big dividends. If you know exactly where to be when at Nickerson Beach in the early morning, you can take advantage of some great opportunities. The funny thing is that the sun, my subject, and I, am almost always on the same line. Only the order differs…. In front lit situations, it’s the sun behind me, me, and then the subject, all on a straight line. For the strongest backlight, me, the subject, and then the sun should all be on the same line. Because of background considerations with the image above, I was working about 30 degrees off of direct backlight; note the angle of the shadow of the bird whose legs appear in the top left of the frame.

The Image Clean-up

After converting the RAW image in DPP 4, my main concern was with the degree of beach clean-up. Pristine beaches in beach nesting bird colonies are pretty much non-existent so deciding how much to clean and how much to leave was indeed a fine line in the sand….

I used my usual triumvirate of clean-up tools for the bulk of the work: the Patch Tool, the Clone Stamp Tool, and the Spot Healing Brush. Plus a few small Quick Masks refined by Regular Layer Masks on a few difficult areas. Then I selected the bird only (including the rim light) with the Quick Selection Tool and applied my NIK Color EFEX Pro 50-50 recipe, 50% Tonal Contrast and 50% Detail Extractor. That layer was also refined with the addition of a Regular Layer Mask; I painted away 50% of the effect on the shaded plumage areas but left at 100% to tame the rim light.

Too Much, Not Enough, or Just Right?

All are invited to leave a comment regarding the degree of clean-up. Would you have done more or less? Or no clean-up at all? Do let us know why you feel the way that you do.

Would you have left the bill of the adult on the left frame edge? Why or why not?

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, 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, Contrast Masks, Digital Eye Doctor techniques, using Gaussian Blurs, Tim Grey Dodge and Burn, a variety of ways to make selections, how to create time-saving actions, the Surface Blur (background noise reduction) settings as taught to me by Denise Ippolito, 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.


You can order your copy of “The Photographers’ Guide to Canon Digital Photo Professional 4.0” (aka the DPP 4 Raw Conversion eGuide) by Arash Hazeghi and Arthur Morris by clicking here.

The DPP 4 eGuide (PDF)

Learn how and why I and many other discerning photographers choose and use only DPP 4 to convert their Canon RAW files in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly. The latest version supports all of the newer Canon camera bodies and several older models including the EOS-7D and the EOS-1D Mark IV. The DPP IV Guide is the ideal companion to the 7D Mark II User’s Guide, a runaway best seller.


The strange thing is that when I lived in New York, I never knew about this amazing and consistently productive location.

Nickerson Beach/JBWR (possibly…)/Black Skimmer/Oystercatcher/migrant shorebird IPT: August 13-16, 2015. 3 1/2 DAYS: $1399.

Meet and greet on the evening of WED August 12. Limit 10/Openings 5.

Most of our seven photo sessions will be spent at Nickerson beach photographing the nesting Black Skimmers. In flight, sometimes battling. Carrying fish. Chicks of varying sizes from a very few just-hatched to lots of fledglings. It is likely that we will get to see some Great Black-backed Gulls preying on the juvenile skimmers. They swallow them whole. There will be lots of gulls to photograph as well as some Common Terns. Locally breeding shorebird species include American Oystercatcher–pretty much guaranteed, Willet, which is likely, and Piping Plover, which is probable but we need to get lucky with those to get close….

Save a space by calling Jim or Jen at the office and arranging to leave your deposit of $499. I hope to see you there.



If local conditions are ideal we may visit Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to photograph southbound migrant shorebirds on one or possibly two mornings. Even if we do not visit JBWR we should get some good chances with the migrant shorebirds at the beach, especially Sanderling and Semipalmated Plover. Red Knot and others are possible.


As you can see, the oystercatchers are quite tame at Nickerson. And we will get you up early and we will stay out late.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge In-the-field Instructional Photo Workshop/Scouting Session. August 12, 2015. Morning only: $250. Cheap!

The tide will be pretty good at the East Pond…. If I learn that conditions there are un-photographable we will do Nickerson Beach as a back-up. This will work either as an add-on for out of town folks coming for the IPT above or as a stand alone session. Either way, you will, as always, learn a ton. And we might even get some good images.


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10 comments to Backlit Skimmer Chick: Too Much, Not Enough, or Just Right? More Great Cheap Used Gear…

  • avatar Mal Graham

    I’m in the “just right” group. Most of the messy crapola is gone as well as the bright crapola that distracts from the bird but there’s still enough left to give a feel for the environment. I personally would have removed the adult bill without too much thought but seeing it in your shot makes me feel that’s the better way to go.

  • avatar Scott B

    Hi Artie,

    I saw my first Black Skimmer at Pea Island NWR in North Carolina this past week. That experience helps to put this image into better context, meaning that the fluffy little chick will grow to have a beak just like the adult on the left. It’s a good left-side lead-in for the eyes.

    In my opinion and practice, I would leave all of the debris in the image as it lends itself to sense of place for the chicks and nests, both of which are sometimes hard to spot by those looking for them, and even more for regular beach goers who see my images. That may be more “Birds As Education” over “Birds As Art,” which is what you are going for. That said, why remove debris, but leave the blurred legs above the adult Black Skimmer’s beak?

    They add context for me…. And I did leave some crapola 🙂

    Lately on the blog, you have been teaching folks that shooting wide open with a telephoto is enough to sharply capture a full object at a distance. Why use the f/10 over the f/8 that your gear would have pushed you towards with the 2x tele on f/4?

    #1: I was pretty close. #2: I like to stop down a bit from wide open with the 600 II/2X III TC for a bit of extra sharpness. Not sure what you mean by “would have pushed you…”

    Shooting at 1/125 sec seems risky for shorebirds just because they are fast movers.

    Not all birds of the shore are shorebirds…. Plus, this little guy was just sitting there. I can make them nearly all sharp at 1/60 sec. at 1000 or 1200mm…

    Thanks for sharing and I can’t wait to see more of these Black Skimmers (and other shorebirds) during the Nickerson IPT.

    It will be great to meet and work with you in August. We have room for a few more happy campers. We will see how conditions are at JBWR…. later and love, artie


  • To my eye there is no comparison the clean up was the way to go. I really like that you left the adults feet in the BG but undecided about the adults bill. Great tip on leaving the 50/50 at 100% on the edge of the chick and gaining all that detail in the rim lit edge. Only been to Nickerson twice but really enjoyed it.

  • avatar graham hedrick

    Art, sorry to disturb you. If you had to pick between a 1D mkIV or 7D mk11, what would you buy. Thank you for your guidance.
    – Graham Hedrick

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      It is a very close call depending on where you live, how tame the birds are, what lenses you own and use for birds, how often you use each teleconverter, which ergonomics you prefer, and what you do with your images. Right now the 1D IVs represent a great value.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie, and happy father’s day. I wouldn’t have done the cleanup, because I usually don’t, but I don’t object to it at all. I like the adult’s bill in the frame; it’s a nice touch that adds a lot. Not sure whether I’d have been smart enough to leave it instead of cropping it out….

  • avatar Craig Wesson

    Happy Father’s Day Artie !
    Craig and Lisa.