The Astonishing Snowy Owl Liftoff Original … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Astonishing Snowy Owl Liftoff Original ...

What’s Up?

With dead clear skies and a brisk west wind Thursday morning was a bust, as was my late afternoon silhouette session; heck, I did not even try. I did make a few nice head portraits while working in the last light with the crane family of four. It was clear and still on Friday morning, but there was not a lot about. I spent some quality time at the vulture tree, but was back in the house before 8:30am.

Today is Friday 24 December. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took about 90 minutes to prepare. and makes 44 consecutive days with a new one.

Please remember that you can find some great photo accessories (and necessities, like surf booties!) 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 who, like me, 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 when they shop online. As you might expect, doing so will not cost you a single penny, but would be appreciated tremendously by yours truly. And doing so works seamlessly with your Amazon Prime account.

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, 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 for your major gear purchases. Doing either often earns you free guides and/or discounts. And always earns my great appreciation.

Your Pick In-the-Field Sessions

The beauty of the Your Pick In-the-Field Sessions plans below are that I am free most days from now till mid-January. We can schedule sessions to coincide with the perfect weather forecast. They are ideal for central Florida locals or folks visiting the region for whatever reason. Interested? Get in touch via e-mail or better yet, try my cell at 863-221-2372. Please leave a message and shoot me a text if I do not pick up. Inquire for couples and group rates.

I was glad to learn that Joe Casey, visiting from Texas, has committed to an afternoon/dinner/overnight/morning combo In-the-Field session here at ILE right after X-mas.

Indian Lake Estates In-the-Field Sessions

Two hours of intensive instruction: $300.00. Add a working brunch with image review: $100.00. Sunset shoot: $100.00. Guest room lodging available. Mix and match.

Sunny mornings with east winds are best. Likely subjects include ridiculously tame Sandhill Cranes along with Black and Turkey Vultures, Crested Caracara, Limpkin, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, and more. Bald Eagle possible; chicks coming soon.

Lakeland or Circle B Bar Preserve

Two hours of intensive instruction: $325.00. Add a working brunch with image review: $100.00. Mix and match.

Sunny mornings with east winds are best at Lakeland. Likely subjects include point-blank American White Pelican, Anhinga, Limpkin, Common Moorhen, White Ibis, a variety of wintering ducks including Ring-necked and Wood Ducks, and lots more.

Cloudy mornings or afternoons (shooting session only) are best at Circle B Bar Preserve. Likely subjects include Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Common Moorhen, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Alligator, Wild Boar, and more. If you wish to mix and match, loving at ILE is available.

Sony Alpha 1 Bodies in Stock at Bedfords/free card offer!

Steve Elkins of Bedfords let me know late yesterday that he had several Sony a1 bodies in stock. If one of them has your name on it, please click here and be sure to enter the BIRDSASART coupon code check the box for free shipping to enjoy free Second Day Air Fed-Ex. Right now, in lieu of the 3% credit refunded to the card you used for your purchase, you will receive a Sony 160GB CFexpress Type A TOUGH Memory Card, a $399.99 value!

Brand New and As-Good-As-Ever Bedfords BAA Discount Policy

Folks who have fallen in love with Bedfords can now use the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout to enjoy a post-purchase, 3% off-statement credit (excluding taxes and shipping charges) on orders paid with a credit card. The 3% credit will be refunded to the card you used for your purchase. Be sure, also, to check the box for free shipping to enjoy free Second Day Air Fed-Ex. This offer does not apply to purchases of Classes, Gift Cards, or to any prior purchases.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would like to enjoy getting 3% back on your credit card along with free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex 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 check the box for Free Shipping. That will automatically upgrade to free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex. 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 a 1, 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.

Important Note

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small percentage when you purchase from Amazon after using any of the Amazon links on the blog (including the logo-link immediately above). My link works with Amazon Prime and using it will not cost you a single cent. Huge thanks, BTW 🙂

Please Remember Also

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 (still!) save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I lost about fifty thousand dollars in income due to COVID 19 — 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.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs 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. If you are desperate, you can try me on my cell at 863-221-2372. Please leave a message and shoot me a text if I do not pick up.

Composite of the nine-frame takeoff burst

All Nine Sharp But …

As seen above, I kept all nine frames in the lift-off sequence (for educational purposes). Each one was razor sharp on the owl’s eyes. That in part because of the great AF system of the Alpha 1, and in part because the bird was so far away (and so small in the frame), that depth-of-field was more than enough to cover the whole bird. But, most of the images had dune grasses covering the bird’s face and wings, and several frames had the bird intersecting with the white walkway railings in the background.

Only one frame, _A1B0180, had a chance … There are advantages to 30 frames per second!

This image was created on 29 November 2021 down at Westhampton Beach, Long Island, NY. Standing at full height, I used the no longer available GIT 304L/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter, and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera.. ISO 800. The exposure was determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear wheel: 1/3200 sec. at f/5.6 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 3:51:44pm on a sunny afternoon.

Tracking: Zone AF/C with Bird-Eye/Face Detection performed well enough to produce two sharp eyes. Click on the image to enjoy the high-res version.

Image #1: The Original for the Snowy Owl taking flight from dunes image

The Original

The JPEG above represents the full frame original capture from which the Snowy Owl taking flight from dunes PANO image was created. That image was featured in the Best Snowy Owl Image From My Northeast Trip? blog post here.

A single image, the one above, _A1B0180 Westhampton Beach — LI — NY, had the bird in the clear. But there were two serious problems:

1- There was very little room above the bird. The walkway railings and the shadow of the walkway were right above the bird.

2- The shadow of the bird on the dunes was way less than pleasing …

The Image Optimization

My first and main job was to cover the offending shadows and the walkway with a series of Quick Masks refined by Regular Layer Masks. I warped most of the Quick Masks in an attempt to have the background above the bird look as natural as possible. I snuck that work by most everyone but for Joe Usewicz who left this insightful comment:

Wonderful image. Truly wonderful. No need to crop. The colors, the eyes, the wings. Fantastic.

Regards to Photoshop: I’m trying to convince myself that there is a repeat section on the horizon behind the owl and to the right corner. Also some work at the left center section. But maybe not. If so, incredible touch.

Image #1A: This is a horizontally flipped version of the Snowy Owl taking flight from dunes PANO image

To Flip or Not to Flip?

Bob Turner wrote:

Today’s image of the Snowy Owl is OUTSTANDING! And I especially like the bird’s eye alignment/contact. There are no obvious signs of Photoshop tampering. However, I’d like to see this image with a horizontal flip. That is, Westerners typically read from L-R, vs Asians who read from R-L. That adjustment may be preferred, if you want my opinion.

I’ve heard this reasoning before. To tell the truth, it has never bothered me as to which way the bird is looking. And furthermore, birds do not read 🙂 IAC, I prepared a flopped version just for Bob. Do you have a preference?

Image #1B: This is a ridiculously huge, 3X2 crop, of the Snowy Owl taking flight from dunes PANO image

The Crop to 3X2

Several folks commented that they would like to see the image cropped higher. I made this one for them.

Consider That …

The flattened 8-bit TIF file for the original image is 142.4M. Each of the PANO versions are 17.3M. Thus, Image #1A represents only 12% of the original pixels. It gets even worse, or better. Image #1B is only 9.9M. Amazingly, it is only 7% of the original pixels. From where I sit, it looks amazingly good.

Can a sharp file from your camera stand up so well to such huge crops?

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. This week, two folks in the group ordered their third a1! I am envious. The group is now up to an astounding 99 lucky and blessed folks. Early on, we discussed the myriad AF options. I gave my opinion as to the best one for flight and general bird photography. The best news is that the all who wish can request an e-mail that includes a .DAT file with my a1 settings on it, and explicit directions on how to load my settings onto your a1; talk about convenience! (Note: I am now offering updated .DAT files).

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 group 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.


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

9 comments to The Astonishing Snowy Owl Liftoff Original …

  • Thanks for the “flip”, Artie.
    I would like to see it cropped tight too.

  • avatar Adam

    Great post. I like the original orientation and appreciate both the pano and tight crop. Incidentally, I was treated to a gorgeous young female snowy at a nearby lake today. She was perched on a pitched asphalt roof and it was a gray dark day but she was pure sunshine. The R5 performed flawlessly with every frame in tack sharp focus. Although I wasn’t blessed with any flight shots, the myriad of preening images I captured and communing in nature with the wind whistling and sounds of the waves lapping while watching this magnificent creature were simply magical.

  • avatar Pat Fishburne

    Art, I love the “ridiculously large 3×2 crop!” Since I was one of those who requested this — thank you! Happy Holidays!!

  • avatar Joe Usewicz

    Hi Artie,
    Even a broken watch is correct two times a day!

    Wonderful work.

    Merry Christmas!


  • avatar Robin Sparkman

    Hi Artie! Gorgeous bird and wonderful image! I like image #1A with the bird flying to the right. I guess I like birds that read.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. I love this 3×2 crop! And no, of course my camera (and its operator) could not produce such a fine image from so severe a crop.

    For what it’s e, I like the owl’s shadow.

    Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and all readers of this blog.

  • Owl flying right to left doesn’t bother me either. I still like the original optimized pano best. The pano space in front of the bird gives it motion. What great PS work on the grasses !

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>