My Very Favorite Image From Two Mornings on a Swallow-tailed Kite Adventure … And More Topaz DeNoise Magic « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

My Very Favorite Image From Two Mornings on a Swallow-tailed Kite Adventure ... And More Topaz DeNoise Magic

A Focus Stacking Question …

As far as I know, none of the SONY bodies feature auto focus-stacking. If I focus bracket manually — Focus Peaking would make that relatively easy, is there a program that will auto-assemble the focus-bracketed series? If yes, which one is easiest to use?

Homer Bald Eagles Winter 2021

This is an expensive trip. The price of the boat and the price of the fish have risen astronomically since my last visit in 2020. But the photography is beyond amazing. Flight photography with any lens till you cannot raise your arms, creative set-ups, lots of snow, we hope (earlier in the season is best for that), and lots of opportunities for point-blank head portraits and talon shots. If you are seriously interested in joining me for the world’s best Homer/Katchemak Bay Bald Eagle trip(s) — mid-FEB thru early MARCH 2022, please contact me immediately via e-mail for dates and details.

What’s Up?

As noted yesterday, we did not do too well with the Swallow-tailed Kites on Friday morning. Saturday was worse. Lots worse … It dawned totally foggy with a northwest wind. The sun broke through at about 8:30am and the wind dropped a bit. But with wind against sun conditions, every kite was flying away from us and from the light. The few birds that came down for a drink were flying directly away from us. So you would figure, not so bad, enjoying a peaceful morning in a beautiful canal lined with tropical vegetation and tall trees, many of which are topped by 20-50 roosting Swallow-tailed Kites. If but that had been true. As it was a weekend and there were about eight photo boats. The problem was that on the boats that were closest to us, there were several folks who would not shut up, jabbering away as loud as possible, mostly preaching ridiculous photography tenets. I did some cell phone videos of the kites circling upwards but good photo chances were close to zero … We did learn that Thursday had been the best day for photography in twenty years. πŸ™‚ N.A.T.U.R.E photography: Not Always The Ultimate Recreational Experience …

Congrats to American Olympic swimmers Chase Kalisz (Gold) and Jay Litherland (Silver) for sweeping the Men’s 400 Meter Individual Medley in Tokyo last night (with GOAT Michael Phelps in the booth).

Today is Sunday 25 July 2021. I took my walk early to beat the heat and the afternoon thunderstorms. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, we hope that you too have a great day.

Remember that you can find some great photo accessories (and necessities!) on Amazon by clicking on the Stuff tab on the orange/yellow menu bar above. On a related note, it would be extremely helpful if blog-folks like me, who spend too much money on Amazon, would get in the habit of clicking on the Amazon logo link on the right side of each blog post. As you might expect, doing so will not cost you a single penny, but would be appreciated tremendously by yours truly. And it works seamlessly with your Amazon Prime account.

This blog post took about two hours to prepare and makes 209 consecutive days with a new one. Please remember that if an item β€” a Delkin flash card, or a tripod head β€” for example, that is available from B&H and/or Bedfords, and is also available in the BAA Online Store, it would be great, and greatly appreciated if you would opt to purchase from us. We will match any price. Please remember also to use my B&H affiliate links or to save 3% at Bedfords by using the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout. Doing either often earns you free guides and/or discounts. And doing so always earns my great appreciation.

Please Remember

With income from IPTs now close to zero, please, if you enjoy and learn from the blog, remember to use one of my two affiliate programs when purchasing new gear. Doing so just might make it possible for me to avoid having to try to get a job as a Walmart greeter and will not cost you a single penny more. And if you use Bedfords and remember to enter the BIRDSASART code at checkout, you will save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times β€” I am out at least forty to sixty thousand dollars so far due to COVID 19 (with lots more to come) β€” remembering to use my B&H link or to shop at Bedfords will help me out a ton and be greatly appreciated. Overseas folks who cannot order from the US because of import fees, duties, and taxes, are invited to help out by clicking here to leave a blog thank you gift if they see fit.

New and Better Bedfords Discount Policy!

You can now save 3% on all of your Bedfords photo gear purchases by entering the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout. Your discount will be applied to your pre-tax total. In addition, by using the code you will get 2nd day air shipping via Fed Ex.

Grab a Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III and save $14.99. Purchase a Canon EOS R5 and your discount will be $116.97. Purchase a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and save a remarkable $389.94! Your Bedford’s purchase no longer needs to be greater than $1,000.00 for you to receive a discount. The more you spend, the more you save.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would enjoy free second-day air shipping, your best bet is to click here, place an order with Bedfords, and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If an item is out of stock, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order to save 3% and enjoy free 2nd-day air shipping. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The wait lists at the big stores can be a year or longer for the hard to get items. Steve will surely get you your gear long before that. For the past year, he has been helping BAA Blog folks get their hands on items like the SONY a9 ii, the SONY 200-600 G OSS lens, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, and the Nikon 500mm PF. Steve is personable, helpful, and eager to please.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs (remember those?) and dozens of photographers 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

This image was created on 23 July 2021 aboard Clemens Van der Werf’s flats boat on Lake Woodruff in Deland, FL. While seated on a deck chair, I used the hand held Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 2000. Exposure determined (poorly) via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/1000 sec. at f/4 (wide open). AWB at 7:40am on a still, then cloudy morning.

Tracking: Flexible Spot AF-C performed perfectly by nailing the gator’s eye.

Image #1: American Alligator floating on calm morning

The Swallow-tailed Kite Photo Story

From what I understand — and saw for two mornings, hundreds of Swallow-tailed Kites roost in the tall trees lining one very popular canal adjoining Lake Woodruff. At about 8 or 8:30am, they take flight in number. Many circle overhead on thermals as things warm up. A few swoop down to the water to drink. A wind from the southeast would be perfect. Despite a southwest wind on Friday morning, we had a very few chances to photograph the drinking kites. With early fog and a northwest wind, we had zero chances on Saturday morning.

In any case, today’s featured image was my favorite from our two morning adventure.

This image was created on 23 July 2021 aboard Clemens Van der Werf’s flats boat on Lake Woodruff in Deland, FL. I used the hand held Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 2000. Exposure determined (poorly) via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/1000 sec. at f/4 (wide open). AWB at 7:40am on a still, then cloudy morning.

Tracking: Flexible Spot AF-C performed perfectly by nailing the gator’s eye.

Image #1A: Topaz DeNoise on the American Alligator floating on calm morning image

Under-Exposures Yield More Noise

Click on the image to enlarge it and see the unusually high levels of noise for an ISO 2000 a1 original. RawDigger showed that in the very low light levels, the raw file was almost one stop too dark. Now note the after image on our right and see how beautifully Topaz DeNoise Low Light on Auto cleaned up the noise without any destructive posterization and without effecting the edges while actually improving the sharpness.

Topaz DeNoise

Be sure to click on the screen capture to see the complete elimination of noise in the after image on our right. And note that if anything, the fine details are sharper than in the original.

As regular readers know, I run DeNoise on virtually every image that I process immediately after executing the crop with the Delete Cropped Pixels box checked. For images made in sunny conditions, I used Standard. For images made in low light, I use Low Light. You can check all four methods by using the Comparison View but I rarely do that any more as I am confident as noted above.

Great Topaz News!

Folks who use the BAA Topaz link to purchase Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, or the Utility Bundle (or any other Topaz plug-ins), will receive a 15% discount by entering the ARTHUR15 code at checkout. If the stuff is on sale (as it usually is), you save 15% off of the sale price! To get the discount you must use my link and you must enter the discount code. Be sure to start with this link.

Those who purchase Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, or any other Topaz plug-ins using my link and then entering the ARTHUR15 code at checkout can e-mail to request a short Getting Started with Topaz e-Guide. Please include a copy of your Topaz receipt that shows the discount. Aside from the basics, the guide explains how to install the plug-ins so that they appear in the Photoshop Filter Menu.

RawDigger e-Mail Conversation with Saul Furstein

am: Hi Saul,


SF: I have read your The RawDigger E-Guide and have watched the two accompanying videos. I understand the value of getting the correct exposure in camera.

am: Or not πŸ™‚

SF: I am confused. There was no mention of adjusting exposure in post-proocessing using software. Is there a reason that adjusting exposure with software is to be avoided?

am: Not at all. Exposing properly to the right gives you files with minimal noise and the most information. Doing so also yields cleaner, more natural color. I am pretty sure that it mentions that your raw files will often and usually should look washed out. So yes, we adjust the tonality of the image during post processing. Setting the Black (and white) points brings the images to life. And the Highlight Slider can be used to restore detail in the whites and highlights in properly exposed images.

Please LMK if you have any more questions.

Thanks with love, artie

RawDigger β€” not for the faint of heart …

Nothing has ever helped me learn to create perfect exposures to the degree that RawDigger has. I think that many folks are reluctant to learn that most of their images are underexposed by one or more full stops and that highlight warnings in Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, and your in-camera histogram are completely bogus as they are based on the embedded JPEGs. Only your raw files tell the truth all the time. Heck, I resisted RawDigger for several years … Once you get over that feeling, RawDigger can become your very best exposure friend no matter what system you are using. On the recent IPTs and In-the-Field sessions, we have demonstrated that fact. Convincingly.

The RawDigger (pink) Adapted Histogram

In the RawDigger e-Guide, you will learn exactly how to set up the Adapted β€œpink” RawDigger Histogram and how to use it to quickly and easily evaluate the exposure or raw file brightness of images from all digital cameras currently in use. RawDigger was especially helpful to me when I struggled with R5 exposures and when learned my new camera body, the Sony Alpha a1.

RawDigger e-Guide with Two Videos

The RawDigger e-Guide with Two Videos

by Arthur Morris with Patrick Sparkman

The RawDigger e-Guide was created only for serious photographers who wish to get the absolute most out of their raw files.

Patrick and I began work on the guide in July 2020. At first we struggled. We asked questions. We learned about Max-G values. We could not figure out why the Max G values varied by camera system. IPT veteran Bart Deamer asked lots of questions that we could not answer. We got help from RawDigger creator Iliah Borg. We learned. In December, Patrick came up with an Adapted Histogram that allows us to evaluate the exposures and raw file brightness for all images created with all digital camera bodies from the last two decades. What we learned each time prompted three complete beginning to end re-writes.

The point of the guide is to teach you to truly expose to the mega-Expose-to-the-Right so that you will minimize noise, maximize image quality, best utilize your camera’s dynamic range, and attain the highest possible level of shadow detail in your RAW files in every situation. In addition, your properly exposed RAW files will contain more tonal information and feature the smoothest possible transitions between tones. And your optimized images will feature rich, accurate color.

We teach you why the GREEN channel is almost always the first to over-expose. We save you money by advising you which version of RawDigger you need. We teach you how to interpret the Max G values for your Canon, Nikon, and SONY camera bodies. It is very likely that the Shock-your-World section will shock you. And lastly — thanks to the technical and practical brilliance of Patrick Sparkman β€” we teach you a simple way to quickly and easily evaluate your exposures and raw file brightness using an Adapted RawDigger histogram.

The flower video takes you through a session where artie edits a folder of images in Capture One while checking the exposures and Max-G values in RawDigger. The Adapted Histogram video examines a series of recent images with the pink histograms and covers lots of fine points including and especially how to deal with specular highlights. The directions for setting up the Adapted Histogram are in the text.

If we priced this guide based on how much effort we put into it, it would sell it for $999.00. But as this guide will be purchased only by a limited number of serious photographers, we have priced it at $51.00. You can order yours here in the BAA Online Store.


With all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors.

4 comments to My Very Favorite Image From Two Mornings on a Swallow-tailed Kite Adventure … And More Topaz DeNoise Magic

  • avatar Paul Smith

    Helicon and Zerene Stacker are considered to be the best focus stacking software.

  • avatar Jean-Louis Rousselle

    Good morning, there are many stand alone software focus stacking programs on the market. For my purpose, I simply use Ps which works very well. JL

  • avatar David Policansky

    Lovely image. I was in Costa Rica in the 1990s and stayed at a place overlooking Lake Arenal. Swallowtail kites were flying around everywhere, like swallows. I need to get back there.

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