You Be the Judge. And Improving Your Post-processing Skills Will Make You a Better Photographer. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

You Be the Judge. And Improving Your Post-processing Skills Will Make You a Better Photographer.


The Zebra Swallowtail did not return on Tuesday. I walked an easy 4.6 miles in three sessions. The left knee continues to improve. I was glad to learn that Will Craig sold his original Canon EOS 7D camera body in excellent condition (with fewer than 26,000 actuations) for $299.00 soon after it was listed in September, 2018. Please remember that the blog is designed to be interactive. Folks have been getting quite lazy in recent weeks 🙂 All are invited to judge today’s two featured images.

News on the Galapagos Front/Limit 12/Openings: 3

Right now I have nine folks committed to the 2019 Galapagos Photo Cruise. A friend who had committed to the trip learned that he and his wife might not be able to attend. Thus, I have room for a couple or for two same-sex roommates, and for a male single. If the archipelago is on your bucket list, please get in touch via e-mail asap with questions. If you might be registering with a friend or a spouse do ask about the two at a time discount. See the complete details here.


BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog 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 went out of business. And e-Bay fees are now up to 13%. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please scroll down here or shoot us an e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly — I offer pricing advice to those who agree to the terms — usually sells in no time flat. Over the past year, we have sold many dozens of items. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 100-400, the old 500mm, the EOS-7D and 7D Mark II and the original 400mm DO lens have been dropping steadily. You can always see the current listings by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange-yellow menu bar near the top of each blog post page.


For the past few months, I have been hearing folks use the word Airbnb, most notably, Amy Novotny. Out of curiosity I asked a few questions. What I learned amazed me. Join Airbnb and become part of a community that connects global travelers with local hosts across the world. Find a place to stay and discover things to do. Airbnb lists more than 4.5 million homes across 200 countries; you’ll find spacious, affordable options for every occasion. With Airbnb you will travel with confidence as reviews from past guests help you find the right fit. Once you do, our secure messaging makes it easy to coordinate with your host. And Airbnb support teams are available 24/7. Last night I made a reservation for an Airbnb apartment for my upcoming January San Diego visit: 13 nights with a full kitchen and two bedrooms.

Yikes. I almost forgot the best part: Airbnb rates average less than half of even the least expensive chain hotels and motels. If you would like to save $40 on your first booking sign up by using this link: Airbnb. Airbnb does charge clean-up and service fees that make short stays less attractive bargains than long stays.

Those who prefer to stay in a motel or hotel are invited to use the link below to save $25.00.


Several folks on the UK IPT used the Booking.Com link below for their Edinburgh hotels, got great rates, and saved a handsome $25.00 in the process. If you too would like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and to earn a $25 reward on your first booking. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

Money Saving Reminder

If you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H, would enjoy free overnight shipping, and would like a $50 discount on your first purchase, click here to order and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If you are looking to strike a deal on Canon or Nikon gear (including the big telephotos) or on a multiple item order, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve currently has several D850s in stock along with a Nikon 600mm f/4 VR. He is taking pre-orders for the new Nikon 500 P and the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera body.

This image was created at Harewood, UK with the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens (at 195mm) and my main Nikon D850. ISO 1000. Matrix metering +1 stop as framed: 1/4000 sec. at f/6.3 was perfect. NATURAL AUTO WB at 5:13pm on a clear afternoon.

Center Group (grp)/Continuous (AI Servo in Canon)/Shutter button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure; this image was created from a cropped and rotated horizontal original.

Focus peaking AF Fine-tune: zero. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Image #1: Red Kite top shot of dive

Image #1: Second-best?

While we had a great time photographing the kites at a feeding station (thanks to BPN-friend Mike Poole), photography was difficult at best. The birds dove without warning. They were fast and unpredictable. The light was harsh and most of the images had unpleasant shadows on the bird. This was the second image from that afternoon session that I optimized.

This image was created at Harewood, UK with the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens (at 195mm) and my main Nikon D850. ISO 1000. Matrix metering +1 stop as framed: 1/3200 sec. at f/6.3 was a bit hot. NATURAL AUTO WB at 4:52pm on a clear afternoon.

Center Group (grp)/Continuous (AI Servo in Canon)/Shutter button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure; this is just a small crop from below and from the left. The bird’s face was centered between the upper and right-most points of the array. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Focus peaking AF Fine-tune: zero. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Image #2: Red Kite in upside down dive

Image #2

Image #2 was first published in the July 1, 2018 blog post here.

You Be the Judge

On several occasions, I had the pleasure of being part of a multiple-professional-photographer panel that was judging a contest, often at a large nature photography convention or Expo. Each judge held a device with buttons marked zero to five. When a photo came up on the screen, we had something like ten seconds to view the image and make a judgement. Then you pressed the button to assign a score to the image. Five was the best, reserved for technically perfect images with impact, images that wowed the viewer. Zero was assigned to images if the judge thought that the image had serious technical flaws and little artistic appeal.

Please be the judge and assign a value of zero to five for each of today’s two featured images. Optionally, you may state your reasons if you like. And please remember, the blog is designed to be interactive. Folks have been getting quite lazy in recent weeks 🙂 The more folks who comment by posting a score, the more everyone learns (including me).

Tight head crop of the converted RAW file of Image #1

Click on the image to see a larger version.

A Tight Head-crop of the converted RAW file of Image #1

Here we can see that the image was relatively sharp. I found the specks of chicken on the bill and the shadowed side of the face to be distracting. The shadowed side of the face was still too dark despite a healthy move of the Shadow slider. And the sunlit side of the face was a bit too bright.

When you click on the image to see the larger version, note the appearance of what I call small-pixel noise and compare it with the optimized image below (after I ran NeatImage).

Tight head crop of the optimized master file of Image #1

Tight Head-crop of the Original

Above is a tight head-crop of the optimized master file of Image #1.

The Image Optimization

After converting the image in ACR, I brought the image into Photoshop. First I expanded the canvas on all sides and rotated the image about 20 degrees counter-clockwise to make the bird more vertical. I filled in the empty triangles using John Haedo Content Aware Fill. Next, working large, I cleaned up the two offending specks of chicken using the Patch Tool and Content Aware Fill. Then I painted a Quick Mask of the shadowed side of the face, put that on a layer, and ran my NIK 50-50 recipe. Next I created a Tim Grey Dodge and Burn layer (using an Action) and did the following:

  • Lightened the shadowed side of the face using a 10% Opacity brush.
  • Lightened the iris on the shadowed side of the face using a 20% Opacity brush.
  • Darkened both pupils with a 20% Opacity brush.
  • Slightly darkened the sunlit side of the face with a 10% Opacity brush.

Note: you switch the brush from lighten to darken by hitting X.

The shadowed side of the face looked pretty good but the sunlit side and the sunlit part of the bill still looked too bright so I selected those areas with the Quick Selection Tool (my shortcut W), placed it on its own layer, and changed the Blending Mode to Linear Burn. After I reduced the opacity of that layer to 15% it looked a lot better. Still working large I used the Quick Selection Tool (my shortcut W) to select both sides of the face, put that on its own layer, and ran a Contrast Mask (Unsharp Mask at 15, 65, 0) to sharpen up the face without actually sharpening it.

Then, working with the entire image, I selected the background with a single click using the Magic Wand (my shortcut M) and hit Shift > Command I to select the inverse, i.e., the bird. Then I followed the detailed instructions in the The Professional Post Processing Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly, applied some NeatImage noise reduction (Y = 70) to the bird only and a full measure (Y = 100) of NI noise reduction to the sky.

Improving Your Post-processing Skills Will Make You a Better Photographer

While the above may seem hopelessly difficult and time-consuming to folks just starting out in Photoshop, the whole image optimization took me about 12 minutes. See the BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II) to master all the steps above plus tons more. Learning to skillfully optimize your images can make you a far better photographer.

Note: On all IPTs, including and especially the UK Puffins and Gannets IPTs (see same below), there is ample opportunity to improve your Photoshop skills during almost endless informal and formal sessions.

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

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)

Your guessed it, everything mentioned above and tons more 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. While the new e-Guide reflects my Macbook Pro/Photo Mechanic/DPP 4/Photoshop workflow, folks using a PC and/or BreezeBrowser will also benefit greatly by studying the material on DB II. 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 and many of the older 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.

Though I have become more proficient converting my Nikon RAW (NEF) files in Adobe Camera Raw, I continue to optimize my Canon images in DPP 4. You can learn how and why I converted (and still convert) nearly all of my Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide here. And, yes, I still have many Canon images to work on. 🙂 The RAW conversions for all three of today’s featured images was straightforward once I entered my camera/ISO specific recipes (as detailed in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide). 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.

Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. All of the images on this card were created on the 2018 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT

The New, Expanded 2019 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT. Thursday June 27 (from EDI) through Tuesday, July 9, 2019 (on the ground; fly home on Wednesday July 10.): $9,999. Limit 10 photographers. Co-leader: Peter Kes.

Join me in the UK in late June and early July 2019 to photograph Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, Razorbill, Shag, and Northern Gannet, Red Kite, and more both in flight and at close range. We will also have great chances with Arctic and Sandwich Terns, both with chicks of all sizes; Black-headed, Lesser-Black-backed, and Herring Gulls, many of those chasing puffins with fish; Black-legged Kittiwake with chicks; plus Grey Seal. There will be tons of great flight photography. As on all IPTs, if you pay attention, you will learn a ton, especially about sky conditions and the relationship between light angle and wind direction and their effects on flight photography.

Why go all the way to Machias Seal Island off the coast of Maine, endure a two-hour boat ride, and have to photograph Atlantic Puffins from a cramped blind usually in bright sun (and well off sun angle) when you can hop a red-eye flight from Newark, NJ and be in Edinburgh, Scotland early the next morning. First we drive down to Bridlington for easy access to Bempton Cliffs where our primary targets will be Northern Gannet in flight. We will also get to photograph Razorbill, Northern Fulmar, Herring Gull, and Black-legged Kittiwake. While in Bridlington we will spend one afternoon visiting a Red Kite feeding station that should provide lots of flight photography action.

While in Bridlington we will be staying at the Lobster Pot by Marston’s Inn, just fifteen minutes from Bempton Cliffs. After 3 1/2 days of photography there, we drive down to Seahouses in Northumberland to the two lodges that will be our home base for a week. After a short boat ride each day we will have hundreds of puffins posing at close range all day, every day — usually in ideal cloudy-bright conditions. While we are in Seahouses we will do six puffin/seabird trips, all weather permitting of course; last year we did not miss a single landing. In five years we have averaged losing less than one half day per year to bad weather. We land at Staple Island in the mornings and then sail over to Inner Farnes for our afternoon sessions. In addition, we may enjoy a session or two photographing nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes at eye level from a rocky beach in Seahouses.

In Seahouses, we stay 7 nights in gorgeous, modern, upscale lodges with Wi-fi. They are beyond lovely with large living areas and lots of open space for the informal image sharing and Photoshop sessions. The bedrooms are decent-sized. Each lodge has one double bedroom and two twin bedrooms. (See the single supplement info below.) At the lodges we cook our own breakfasts each morning and prepare our own lunches to be brought on the six puffin boat trips. For dinners we will alternate cooking in the lodges with fine dining at several excellent local restaurants. We stay two nights at the Marston’s Inn in Dunbar. We will enjoy a fine-dining Thank You dinner at the Dunbar Hotel on the Tuesday evening before we fly home.

On the morning of Monday, July 8, 2019, the plan is to sleep late, pack, and head up to Dunbar Harbor, Scotland for lunch and an afternoon gannet boat chumming trip: flight photography until you cannot lift your camera. The next morning, Tuesday July 9, we will enjoy our second gannet boat chumming trip (both weather permitting). On both trips we will enjoy great views of the huge gannetry at Bass Rock. Included will be two nights lodging at the Pine Martin by Marston’s Inn in Dunbar. Very early on the morning of Wednesday, July 10, we will drive up to Edinburgh Airport so that everyone can make their flights home. No moaning please. You will need a flight that leaves at 8:30am or later. Not too much later is generally best.

Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. All images were created on the 2017 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT

The Details

This IPT is all-inclusive except for your airfare and alcoholic beverages. All ground transportation, lodging costs, meals, your National Trust membership, and all boat, entry, and landing fees are included. Weather permitting, we will enjoy three and one-half days (at least six sessions in all) at Bempton Cliffs, an afternoon with the Red Kites, six full days on the puffin boats, one amazing afternoon gannet chumming trip, and one spectacular morning gannet chumming trip. The trip cannot be finalized until I have at least six deposits as we will be renting a lovely 15-passenger bus with our own private professional driver who happens to be my web-master, Peter Kes, who is also a skilled photographer and my co-leader 🙂

IPT Details

If you are good to go sharing a room–couples of course are more than welcome, heck, we actually need two couples — please send your non-refundable $2,000/person deposit check now to save a spot. Please be sure to check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below. Your balance will be due on February 28, 2019. 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.

Please shoot me an e-mail if you are good to go or if you have any questions.

Single Supplement Info

Single supplement rooms in Bridlington and Dunbar are available for those who register early. The cost of the single supplement for those six nights is $600.00. Single supplement rooms at the lodge may be available on a limited basis but only if the trip does not fill with ten photographers. The single supplement fee for those seven nights is $700. If you would like your own room in Bridlington and Dunbar, please request it when making your deposit and include payment in full for the single supplement with your deposit: $2,600.00. The single supplement deposits are non-refundable as I will need to make the reservations well in advance.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for big international trips is highly recommended as we never know what life has in store for us. I strongly recommend that you purchase quality insurance. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to include things such as sudden work or family obligation and even a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check or running your credit card. Whenever purchasing travel insurance, be sure to read the fine print carefully even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.

Help Support the Blog

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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.

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.


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 :).

8 comments to You Be the Judge. And Improving Your Post-processing Skills Will Make You a Better Photographer.

  • avatar Ford Price

    Image #1 gets a 4 something about birds of preys eyes looking at the camera gives you the feeling of being the prey. Image #2 is a 3 to me, eyes away from camera make them not so mesmerizing.

  • Hey Arthur, Airbnb rules! Hope they gave you more the ten seconds to judge a photo contest. Image #1 gets a 2. Image #3 gets a 3. #1 is technically nice. The light is pretty harsh and the pose is Okay. Image # 2 is also technically nice. The pose is much more dynamic. If this was early morning/evening light with some clouds in the background with nice color is would be a even better frame and i would give higher scores to both. Great timing on both of these.

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    Image 1 gets 5 and image 2 gets 3. Having been 3 times, image 2 can be a dime a dozen shot in the cooler months when the light is lower in the afternoons when they are fed. Needs more luck mid summer because of harsh shadows. Image 1 is a very difficult shot to get – upper part of bird – and doing the wing-over and coming “right down the barrel”. Made my eyes water!

  • avatar James Saxon

    Image #1 gets a 4. Love the position of the bird in the frame and the diagonal composition. Very striking seeing the eyes and the position of the tail adds depth to the image.
    Image #2 gets a 4. Love the colors of the bird feathers and being able to see the underside of the wings but it doesn’t grab me like the first image. Without the first image this one may have scored higher.

  • avatar Arni Cheatham

    Hi Artie. Image 1 is a 5 for me. The wing detail gets my eye exploring for subtle details and the 100% crop is confirmation. It’s also appears nicely three dimensional.
    My first thought seeing image 2 was “too flat.”

    Photoshop and I have a tortured relationship but I am hard headed and persistent. And yes, it forces you to look in greater detail and bypass some images and improve others as you examine details.

  • avatar Larry Brown

    Both images get a 4. I like the 2nd image more because so much of the bird is visible.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. image 1 gets a 4 from me, image 2 gets a 3 for me. Why? I guess the purpose of your questions is to make us think about what makes a stronger impact, and I think for me the twisting pose and the eyes apparently on the camera have more impact than the second image. Also I prefer that in the first image the bird comes closer to filling the frame.

    No question that post-processing skills lead to better images; even my rudimentary skills sometimes allow me to make a significant difference.

  • avatar Warren Robb

    #1 – 3
    #2 – 4