Slice of Life… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Slice of Life...

What’s Up?

I am somewhere in South America. I hope that you are well. Jim and Jen are at the office most days to help you with your mail order needs and Instructional Photo-Tour sign-ups. I still need folks for San Diego, Japan, Galapagos, the Palouse, and the Bear Boat (Grizzly Cubs) trips. Among others 🙂 Please e-mail for couples and discount info for all of the above. Click here for complete IPT info.

I will have relatively decent internet access for all but 22 OCT thru 11 NOV while I am on the Sea Spirit. Best and great picture making, artie

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending IPTs and dozens of the folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear, especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

The Streak: 363!

Today’s blog post marks a totally insane, irrational, illogical, preposterous, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, what’s wrong with this guy?, makes-no-sense, 363 days in a row with a new educational blog post. There should be no end in sight until my big South America trip next fall. Or not… As always-–and folks have been doing a really great job recently–-please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. For best results use one of our many product-specific links; after clicking on one of those you can continue shopping with all subsequent purchases invisibly tracked to BAA. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated. Please remember: web orders only. And please remember also that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the new BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


This image was created on the 2016 San Diego IPT with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens with the mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/640 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. (Should have been ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/640 sec at f/5.6 as the RAW was about 2/3 stop underexposed.) AWB.

65 point/Automatic Selection/AI Servo/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure; see the DPP 4 screen capture below for the active AF point info. Click on the image to see a larger version.

DPP 4 Screen Capture of the full frame converted TIFF

Is This a Delete?

What would you do with this image? The two huge negatives are the second pelican and the cormorant’s head. And of course, the image could use some more room at the top. Scroll down to see the potential that I saw in this one.

Learning from the DPP 4 Screen Capture

First note the active AF points illuminated in red. 65-point Automatic Selection did a fine job of acquiring and tracking focus. Getting the head throws sharp and framing them properly are big challenges. The former because AF has such a hard time tracking the rapid movements of the birds and the latter because the shot goes from a vertical to a horizontal and then back to a vertical in about one second. One way to deal with the framing is to work wider then usual and then crop but the problem there is that it requires lots of discipline and we all get greedy by trying to frame tighter.

Note the RGB values with the cursor on the brightest white of the neck when I created the screen capture: 232, 231, 229. I had to move the Brightness slider to +60 to get my WHITEs where I like them. Noise Reduction via NeatImage as per The Professional Guide to Post Processing. That this is not the world’s sharpest image is surely due to motion blur which is accentuated by the pixel density of the 5DS R. That said the optimized image below is more than fine for web presentation and would print well for magazine usage (if it were still possible to sell a few images here and there…)


This image was created on the 2016 San Diego IPT with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens with the mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/640 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. (Should have been ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/640 sec at f/5.6 as the RAW was about 2/3 stop underexposed.) AWB.

65 point/Automatic Selection/AI Servo/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure; see the DPP 4 screen capture below for the active AF point info.

Brown Pelican head throw

The Image Optimization

After brightening the image during the DPP 4 RAW conversion I brought the TIFF into Photoshop and added canvas at the top by dragging a duplicate layer down using the Move Tool (V). I cleaned up the edge line by adding a Regular Layer Mask. Then I needed to do lots of fancy stepping to eliminate the extra bill tip and smooth out the background tonalities. As the Clone Stamp Tool was not working very well for this task I created a pretty big Quick Mask of the upper left and refined that too with a Regular Layer Mask.

Next I cropped to a tall skinny pano, the slice that brought the image to life. The top of the cormorant’s head and most of the extra pelican remained in the frame. I dealt with those with a series of Quick Masks that were refined again using a Regular Layer Mask and Transformed and Warped as well. I selected the bird carefully and after saving the selection put it on a new layer and ran my NIK 25-25 recipe (after adding some White Neutralizer). After flattening the layer I loaded the selection and then I applied a Contrast Mask to the bird only.

Everything above plus tons more is of course detailed in my Digital Basics File, an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete (PC) 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, the basics of Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro, Digital Eye Doctor techniques, using Gaussian Blurs, Dodge and Burn, a variety of ways to make selections, how to create time-saving actions, and tons more.

Learn the advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques that I used extensively to save this image in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair.

Lastly, again after flattening the last layer and re-loading the selection, I ran NeatImage Noise Reduction on the bird only.

The Final Image

Please leave a comment and let us know what you think of the final image. As you might gather, I love it and am quite proud of the vision and the processing.


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….

2017 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) JAN 11 thru and including the morning session on JAN 15: 4 1/2 days: $1999.

(Limit: 10/openings 8)

Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; Tuesday 1/10/17.

Join me in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches; Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including 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, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the two IPT cards there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well.

With gorgeous subjects just sitting there waiting to have their pictures taken, photographing the pelicans on the cliffs is about as easy as nature photography gets. With the winds from the east almost every morning there is usually some excellent flight photography. And the pelicans are almost always doing something interesting: preening, scratching, bill pouch cleaning, or squabbling. And then there are those crazy head throws that are thought to be a form of intra-flock communication.

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


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.

The San Diego Details

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

A $599 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “Arthur Morris) to us 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 9/11//2016. 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. 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.

Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, 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 would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above we, and for everything else in the new store, we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store as well.


Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack!


In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right 🙂

2 comments to Slice of Life…

  • avatar Jackie Milburn

    I love it! Magnificent save!

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Before I scrolled down from the first image I thought about it an immediately decided I’d try what you did; isolate the best part of the image. Then I scrolled down and saw that you did exactly that. I think it worked beautifully.