A Funny Hurricane Preparation Story, More 100-400 II Versatility, Little Known Punta Pitt, and a Hot Layer Masking Tutorial Tip « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

A Funny Hurricane Preparation Story, More 100-400 II Versatility, Little Known Punta Pitt, and a Hot Layer Masking Tutorial Tip


I prepared this blog post on Sunday morning to ensure against a power outage later today or tomorrow messing up the streak. I finished it at 10am and am planning to swim at 11:30 if there is no lightning …

As I type Jim, is assembling out new Weber barbecue in the living room so that we can cook if we lose power 🙂

Funny Hurricane Preparation Story

On Friday, Jim mentioned that he would like to get his car into the garage to protect if from the coming storm. I said, “I am pretty sure that we can do it.” Jim looked doubtful. I have a two car garage but one of the doors is solidly in place as we planned from the start when we had the house rebuilt about ten years ago that the far side of the house would be the BAA warehouse. We moved lots of boxes and rearranged lots of photo gear and Think Tank bags. And I put lots of lenses and camera bodies into the rear compartment of my Sequoia. Then I pulled my car out and Jim angle his car into the small spot that we had cleared in the “warehouse” portion of the garage. At that point I too was doubtful. But working very slowly with Jim directing me I was able to pull my car into the garage. When we were done I noted about 3/4 inch clearance between the left side of my car and the rear right corner of Jim’s little car, a black Hyundai Elantra. Clearance on the right side was perhaps 3/8 of one inch. I am done right now and am heading out into the rain to start letting water out of the pool as we will not be able to do that if we lose power.

The Streak

Today marks forty-eight days in a row with a new educational blog post. This one took about 90 minutes to prepare. With all of my upcoming free time (or not …), the plan right now is to break the current record streak of (I think) four hundred eighty something … Good health and good internet connections willing.

Everybody’s Doing It…

Everybody’s buying and selling used gear on the BAA Used Gear Page. Sales recently have been through the roof. 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 charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They recently folded. And eBay fees are now in the 13% range. 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 months, we have sold just about 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. Even the prices on the new 600 II and the 200-400 with Internal Extender have been plummeting. You can see all current listings by clicking here or by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the right side of the yellow-orange menu bar at the top of each blog post.


I could not secure the lodging that I needed for last year’s UK Puffins and Gannets IPT in Dunbar, Scotland, so I went from Hotels.Com to Booking.Com and was pleasantly surprised. I found the rooms that I needed with ease at a hotel that was not even on Hotels.Com, and it was a nice hotel that I had seen in person. And the rates were great. If you’d like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and you will earn a $25 reward.

Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.


I recently updated the IPT page. If you doubt that I am really slowing down, click here to see the meager IPT schedule. Right now there are only two US-based IPTs on the schedule. Best news is I now have two folks registered for the Fort DeSoto IPT so that will run. Do consider joining us if you would like to learn from the best.

Photographers Wanted

If you would like to learn to become a much better bird photographer, consider joining me on either the Fort DeSoto IPT in late September or the San Diego IPT in January, 2018. With four folks signed up, DeSoto will offer practically private instruction. And you can tack on the In-the-Field/Meet-up Workshop Session on the morning of Tuesday September 26, 2017 for free. Scroll down for details. Click here for complete IPT info and the current but abbreviated schedule.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of 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.

Please Don’t Forget …

As always–and many folks have been doing a really great job for a long time now–please remember to use the BAA B&H links for your major and minor 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 BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would of course appreciate your business.

This image was created on the 2017 Galapagos IPT on our Punta Pitt landing. I used the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens with the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (at 368mm) and my favorite Blue-footed Booby chick photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop as framed: 1/320 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode. AWB.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: -1.

I selected an AF point that was three to the right of the center AF point/AI Servo/Expand/Shutter button AF as framed. The selected AF point, placed just to the right of the chick’s eye, was active at the moment of exposure.

Blue-footed Booby chick resting at the nest near one of the adult’s feet.

Punta Pitt, San Cristóbal (Chatham) Island

Punta Pitt is not quite up there with Darwin Bay on Genovesa (Tower Island), with Española (Hood Island), or North Seymour, but it is not far behind them as a world-class nature and wildlife location. This year we had lots of nesting Blue-footed Boobies with chicks right on the paths, several very curious Chatham Mockingbirds, and even a few nesting Red-footed Boobies. All that in addition to the gorgeous red carpetweed landscape and the rugged rocky coastline. And the landing beach had lots of sea lions surrounded by beautiful cliffs with striated patterns for the geologically-minded.

Few Galapagos tours visit Punta Pitt but it is always on my Galapagos Photo-cruise of a Lifetime IPT itineraries. If you are interested in the late-July 2015 trip, please shoot me an e-mail.

Image Design Question

I debated executing a small crop from the top (about 1/8 inch or so as presented here). How might that have improved the image (and perhaps with a very small crop off the bottom)?

The Image Optimization

I optimized this image on Sunday morning as the rain was getting harder and the trees were beginning to rustle a bit. I converted the image in DPP 4, again without much fanfare after loading my 5DIV/ISO 800 recipe. Once in Photoshop I began with some Eye Doctor work judiciously lightening the iris and darkening the pupil using Tim Grey Dodge and Burn. Then I applied my NIK 30/30 recipe to the entire image. I fine-tuned that layer with the addition of a Regular Layer Mask; see the details on that below. Next I applied a gentle layer of NeatImage noise reduction, again on the whole image. For the brown feathers and the blue feet of the adult I further reduced the opacity to 10%. Last, I put the whole image on its own layer, applied a 66 pixel Gaussian Blur, and then hid the whole thing by applying an Inverse (aka Hide-All or Black) Layer Mask. Then using a visibility eyeball trick similar to the one detailed below, I painted the effect in only on the upper background making sure to stay well away from the two birds. Then I saved the TIFF and created the JPEG that I needed for this blog post.

Photoshop Screen Capture

A Hot Layer Masking Tutorial Tip

When I applied my NIK 30/30 recipe to the entire image, I knew that I would want to erase the effect on the background and might need to paint a bit of it away on various parts of the adult and the chick. Below is a great trick when you are working with a Regular Layer Mask and want to erase the effect from parts of the image. Here is how I did it.

  • 1- I clicked off the visibility eyeballs on all but the top layer.
  • 2- Working at 100% opacity, I hit B, D, X to erase the background. With the visibility eyeballs turned off, I was able to see exactly where and what I was erasing. To start, I used a relatively large brush to paint away the unwanted effect on the background. As I got closer to the bird I went to a somewhat smaller brush. You can see by the dark borders in places that there is not need to worry about being 100% exact.
  • 3- I clicked the visibility eyeballs back on and then toggled the visibility eyeball for the upper layer off and on to see the before NIK and compare it with the after NIK.
  • 4-The effect was a bit too much on the chick so again I clicked the visibility eyeballs off on all but the top layer. I reduced the opacity of the brush to 20% and painted it away in part all the while checking my work as I went. Then I reduced the opacity of the brush to 10% and painted away just a bit of the effect on the brown feathers and the blue feet of the adult.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II) will teach you an efficient Mac/Photo Mechanic/Photoshop workflow that will make it easy for you to make your images better in Photoshop (rather than worse). That true whether you convert your images in DPP 4 or ACR. See the blog post here to learn lots more and to read a free excerpt.

You can order your copy from the BAA Online Store here, by sending a Paypal for $40 here, or by calling Jim or Jennifer weekdays at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II)

Everything mentioned above is covered in detail in the BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II), an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. Learn more and check out the free excerpt in the blog post here. The new e-Guide reflects my Macbook Pro/Photo Mechanic/DPP 4/Photoshop workflow. Do note that you will find the RGB Curves Adjustment Color Balancing tutorial only in the new e-guide. Note: folks working on a PC and/or those who do not want to miss anything Photoshop may wish to purchase the original Digital Basics along with DB II while saving $15 by clicking here to buy the DB Bundle.

The two most recent MP4 Photoshop Tutorial videos releases go hand and hand with the information in DB II):

  • The Wingtip Repairs MP4 Video here.
  • The MP4 Crow Cleanup Video here.

Folks who learn well by following along rather than by reading, can check out the complete collection of MP 4 Photoshop Tutorial Videos by clicking here.

You can learn how and why I and other discerning Canon shooters convert nearly all of their Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 using Canon Digital Photo Professional in the DPP 4 RAW conversion Guide here. And you can learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair. Folks can learn sophisticated sharpening and (NeatImage) Noise Reduction techniques in the The Professional Post Processing Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly.

If In Doubt …

If in doubt about using the BAA B&H affiliate link correctly, you can always start your search by clicking here. Please note that the tracking is invisible. Web orders only. Please, however, remember to shoot me your receipt via e-mail.


Obviously folks attending the IPT will be out in the field early and stay late to take advantage of sunrise and sunset colors. The good news is that the days are relatively short in October. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

The Fort DeSoto 2017 Fall IPT/September 22 (afternoon session) through the full day on September 25, 2017. 3 1/2 FULL DAYs: $1649. Limit 8/openings 4.

Fort DeSoto, located just south of St. Petersburg, FL, is a mecca for migrant shorebirds and terns in fall. There they join hundreds of egrets, herons, night-herons, gulls, and terns who winter on the T-shaped peninsula that serves as their wintering grounds. With luck, we may get to photograph two of Florida’s most desirable shorebird species: Marbled Godwit and the spectacular Long-billed Curlew. Black-bellied Plover and Willet are easy, American Oystercatcher almost guaranteed. Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, and Tricolored Heron are easy as well and we will almost surely come up with a tame Yellow-crowned Night-Heron or two. We should get to do some Brown Pelican flight photography. And Royal, Sandwich, Forster’s, and Caspian Terns will likely provide us with some good flight opportunities as well. Though not guaranteed Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork would not be unexpected.

Folks who sign up for the IPT are welcome to join us on the ITF/MWS on the morning of Tuesday, September 26 as my guest. See below for details on that.

On the IPT you will learn basics and fine points of digital exposure and to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, how to approach free and wild birds without disturbing them, to understand and predict bird behavior, to identify many species of shorebirds, to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. And you will learn how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it).

There will be a Photoshop/image review session after lunch (included) each day. That will be followed by Instructor Nap Time.

The best airport is Tampa (TPA). Register soon so that you can be assured of a room at the IPT hotel.

A $500 deposit is due when you sign up and is payable by credit card. Balances must be paid by check after you register. Your deposit is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out with ten folks so please check your plans carefully before committing. You can register by calling Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand or by sending a check as follows: make the check out to: BIRDS AS ART and send it via US mail here: BIRDS AS ART, PO BOX 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. You will receive a confirmation e-mail with detailed instructions, gear advice, and instructions for meeting on the afternoon of Friday, September 22.


Fort DeSoto in fall is rich with tame birds. All of the images in this card were created at Fort DeSoto in either late September or early October. I hope that you can join me there this October. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

BIRDS AS ART In-the-Field/Meet-up Workshop Session (ITF/MWS): $99.

Join me on the morning of Tuesday September 26, 2017 for 3-hours of photographic instruction at Fort DeSoto Park. Beginners are welcome. Lenses of 300mm or longer are recommended but even those with 70-200s should get to make some nice images. Teleconverters are always a plus.

You will learn the basics of digital exposure and image design, autofocus basics, and how to get close to free and wild birds. We should get to photograph a variety of wading birds, shorebirds, terns, and gulls. This inexpensive afternoon workshop is designed to give folks a taste of the level and the quality of instruction that is provided on a BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-tour. I hope to meet you there.

To register please call Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand to pay the nominal non-refundable registration fee. You will receive a short e-mail with instructions, gear advice, and meeting place at least two weeks before the event.


BAA Site Guides are the next best thing to being on an IPT.

Fort DeSoto Site Guide

Can’t make the IPT? Get yourself a copy of the Fort DeSoto Site Guide. Learn the best spots, where to be when in what season in what weather. Learn the best wind directions for the various locations. BAA Site Guides are the next best thing to being on an IPT. You can see all of them here.

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 please remember that I am 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, 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.


Those who prefer to support BAA by shopping with Amazon may use the logo link above.

Amazon Canada

Many kind folks from north of the border, eh, have e-mailed stating that they would love to help us out by using one of our affiliate links but that living in Canada and doing so presents numerous problems. Now, they can help us out by using our Amazon Canada affiliate link by starting their searches by clicking here.


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 :).

4 comments to A Funny Hurricane Preparation Story, More 100-400 II Versatility, Little Known Punta Pitt, and a Hot Layer Masking Tutorial Tip