Working the Best Available Subject. a1 AF and OSS Systems at 1200mm. Leaf Removal. A Background Question. And a free and improved Divide and Conquer TutorialWorking the Best Available Subject. a1 AF and OSS Systems at 1200mm. Leaf Removal. A Background Question. And a free and improved Divide and Conquer Tutorial « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Working the Best Available Subject. a1 AF and OSS Systems at 1200mm. Leaf Removal. A Background Question. And a free and improved Divide and Conquer Tutorial

What’s Up?

I got to younger daughter Alissa’s home in Lake Ronkonkoma at about 9am and spent the day relaxing. Once the storm passed, it was a dry, beautiful, sunny, cool day, quite unusual for August on Long Island. At about 3:30pm, we headed to Cedar Beach for a nice swim in the Sound. Then Lissy made a great dinner of barbecued skirt steak and asparagus with killer-good sautéed mushrooms!

There are lots of Photoshop tips in today’s blog post. Be sure to scroll all the way down to read the new and improved Divide and Conquer tutorial and learn to remove unwanted branches. Today is Saturday 31 July and we are taking a ride up to New Hyde Park. It is an amazingly low 61 degrees this morning on Long Island! Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I 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 215 consecutive days with a new one. Please remember that if an item — a Delkin flash card, or a tripod head — 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.

Homer Bald Eagles Winter 2022

Yes, this is an expensive (but competitively priced) trip. The price of the boat and the price of the fish have risen astronomically since my last visit in 2020. The photography on this trip of a lifetime is beyond amazing. You can do the whole trip with either the Canon 100-500 or the SONY 200-600 along with any 70-200mm lens. Flight photography until 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. All in a variety of spectacular settings. If you are seriously interested in joining me for the world’s best Homer/Kachemak Bay Bald Eagle trip(s) — mid-FEB thru early MARCH 2022, please contact me immediately via e-mail for dates and details. I am looking for a roommate who will be doing all eleven days.

The East Pond

The East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens, NY was the place to observe and photograph North America’s southbound migrant shorebirds. It shined from 1975 through about 2010. Then, for reasons noted in the blog post here, the place pretty much went down the tubes due to high water levels. At present, it seems that the folks at Gateway have gotten their act together; conditions at the pond are reported to be excellent this season. I have a strong connection to the East Pond. I photographed my first shorebird — a Semipalmated Sandpiper, there in August of 1983. I’ve been visiting for 45 years and have spent thousands of hours on the pond.

If you would like to learn to identify more than a dozen species of shorebirds and photograph some of them on an In-the-Field Workshop in August, please shoot me an e-mail to learn the dates and details. The East Pond is best for photography for just three specific days in a calendar year … I will be there then. Here’s hoping that the East Pond will return to its former crown-jewel glory. See some good news below.

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 — I am out at least forty to sixty thousand dollars so far due to COVID 19 (with lots more to come) — 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 14 April 2021 on a Merritt Island IPT. While standing, I used the Induro GIT304L Grand Series 3 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod/ Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted-Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only). ISO 2500. The exposure was determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear wheel: 1/200 sec. at f/8 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 6:12pm on a partly cloudy afternoon.

Tracking: Flexible Spot AF-C with Bird-Eye/Face Detection performed perfectly. Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Image #1: Anhinga female perched on mangrove

The Best Available Subject

With hopes of a nice sunset, we set up with a clear view of the western sky. The color developed nicely, but few birds flew by our chosen location. What to do? A nice female Anhinga had been sitting behind us for about twenty minutes, so I put the 2X TC on the big lens and went to work, despite the very low light levels. I love the mottled green, brown, and grey background, especially to our right of the bird.

Image #1A: AF Point for the Anhinga female perched on mangrove image

SONY a1 AF at 1200mm

One of the many amazing things about the a1 is that the AF system performs incredibly well at 1200mm. The initial focusing acquisition is — of course — a bit slower (as that it a function of aperture) but it is still very fast; it detects the bird’s eye, acquires focus and locks on, and tracks as accurately as if you were using the bare lens alone. In short, it is astounding.

In addition, the OSS (Optical Stabilization System) on the 600 GM works incredibly well: 1/200 second here at 1200mm, and still super sharp. (OSS = IS with Canon and VR with Nikon). I’ve made some neat discoveries with regards to the OSS Mode settings on the lens and will be sharing that information with the SONY a1 Set-up and Info Group this weekend in e-mail #22.

SONY and artie

Switching to SONY, first with the a9 and the a9 II, and then with the remarkable a1, has enabled me (and others, like Mike De Rosa as seen recently in the blog post here), to create images of birds in flight and in action that I could not have even dreamed of when using Canon for 33 years and then Nikon for more than two. Most of the time I am using one of two AF methods that together, cover about 99% of the commonly-encountered bird photography situations. At present, I am experimenting beyond those … Learn more by joining the group!

From Long-ago IPT veteran Keith Kennedy via e-mail

Absolutely great information. I am calling Jim in a few minutes to order a couple of Delkin 128GB UHS-II cards. Your timely email has saved me a ton of money! Many thanks

In the same vein, via e-mail from John LeClair

Well, e-mail #21 alone was worth the price of admission!

From Pamela Viale, after receiving artie’s a1 settings along with detailed instructions on how to copy them to her SONY a1 via e-mail

This e-mail group has been an incredible boon to me! Thank you so much!

From Joe Barranco via e-Mail

Thanks for your great ideas on the A1 set up. I have been getting MANY more keepers doing things your way!

From Barbara White via e-Mail

Wow, I just gotta say – I learn so much from the SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info group! My camera is on my desk, and I’m always picking it up and changing something that I’ve read about in the e-mails.

Thanks, Barbara

From Janet Horton via e-Mail

Hi Artie, Mystery solved. Yes, I was able to replicate what you did. I forgot that you have to set self-timer using the upper dial. I am used to that being a MENU selection.

Thanks much, Janet

SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group

The SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group is going great guns as more and more folks chime in with thoughtful questions and experience-based answers. As the a1 is becoming more readily available, more and more folks are getting their hands on this amazing body. With two folks joining yesterday, we are now up to an astounding 67 lucky and blessed photographers! Early on, we discussed the myriad AF options. I gave my opinion as to the best one for flight and general bird photography. More recently, we have been in contact with folks at SONY sharing our thoughts, experiences, and frustrations with the EVF blackout problem.

All who purchased their Alpha a1 bodies via a BAA affiliate link will receive a free subscription to the Sony Alpha a1 Set-Up and Info Updates after shooting me their receipts via e-mail. (Note: it may take me several days to confirm B&H orders.) This same service may be purchased by anyone with an a1 body via a $150.00 PayPal sent to indicating payment for Alpha a1 Info Updates. Alternatively, folks can call Jim weekdays at 1-863-692-0906 to pay via credit card. New members will receive composite e-mails that summarize all previous discussions.

The Leaf Removal

Why remove the leaves? Because out-of-focus elements in front of the subject are exceedingly distracting.

When I pushed the shutter button, I knew that the leaves in the lower right corner would have to go. To eliminate them, I used the Divide and Conquer technique, along with either the Patch Tool or Content-Aware Fill. That was followed by a Gaussian Blur on the whole image. Next, I used an Inverse Layer Mask to hide the blur that was then painted in with a large soft brush (Hardness = 10%) on the background. I’ve recently added a new trick to this procedure. After I have painted in the blur, I hit X, reduce the size of the brush, increase the hardness to 60%, and paint the edges of the bird to make sure that none of the Gaussian Blur had bled over to the edges of the bird. You can note the softening of the background by comparing the BEFORE and AFTER views in the Animated GIF above.

Background Question

What are your thoughts on the background? Feel free to leave a comment.

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. Be sure to specify Digital Basics II.

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

The Photoshop Tools used with all of my clean-up techniques along with dozens of other great Photoshop tips and techniques — along with all of my personalized Keyboard Shortcuts, are 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. 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.

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. Note: all of the videos are now priced at an amazingly low $5.00 each.

You can learn how and why I converted all of my Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide here. More recently, I became proficient at converting my Nikon RAW (NEF) files in Adobe Camera Raw. About two years ago I began converting my Nikon and Sony RAW files in Capture One Pro 12 and continue to do so today.

You can learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair.

Divide and Conquer Tutorial

I recently discovered that contrary to what I had thought for years, Divide and Conquer is not included in DB II, I am sharing this technique below, adapted from the last update to the original Digital Basics.

Let’s say that you have a long branch in the background that needs to be removed. Best would be to use a Quick Mask, but in many instances there is simply not enough matching background material with which to cover the distracting branch. The Patch Tool is greatly preferred to the Clone Stamp as the Patch Tool blends texture while the Clone Stamp copies texture-less color. When it is impossible to patch a long branch in one fell swoop. If you try the Patch Tool on a small section of the branch, the result will be terrible smudging. What to do? Divide and Conquer. By cutting the offending branch into two or more parts as needed, you can create manageable sections. Loggers cut a big tree trunk into sections that can be much more easily handled than the entire trunk. To cut up your distracting branch, use the Clone Stamp at 20% Hardness. Note: if the tonality on one side of the branch is of a slightly different tonality or color than the other, be sure to work from both sides. Once you have cut the branch into manageable sections, you can use the Patch Tool (or Content-Aware Fill), to eliminate the remaining sections. My great preference is to use the former as the latter often leaves discernible edge-marks. The same technique can also be used if the offending branch covers part of the subject.


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

4 comments to Working the Best Available Subject. a1 AF and OSS Systems at 1200mm. Leaf Removal. A Background Question. And a free and improved Divide and Conquer TutorialWorking the Best Available Subject. a1 AF and OSS Systems at 1200mm. Leaf Removal. A Background Question. And a free and improved Divide and Conquer Tutorial

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