Five for Five; What Would You Have Done Differently? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Five for Five; What Would You Have Done Differently?

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This image of five Black Vultures on a branch was created on the morning of June 13 with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/250 sec. at f/16. Lens/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: 0.

Five for Five

Client-friend Clemens van der Werf drove up from Ft. Lauderdale yesterday for a morning of photography and Lens Aligning–more on the latter in a future post. We had lots of fun and got lots accomplished. I created this image off a BLUBB from the driver’s seat after re-positioning my Sequoia so that I could fit all five of the birds nicely into the frame. (See the original below). Getting five for five perfect head angles is sometimes an impossible chore and is almost always difficult…. Here I helped us out with a single sharp toot of my vehicle’s horn. Why do you think that I went to f/16?

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This is the original capture from which I created the optimized image that opened this blog post.

What Would You Have Done Differently?

After cropping, I cleaned up the perch with a series of Quick Masks and some Clone Stamp Tool work. Then I used Selective Color to add 40 points of BLACK to the WHITEs on a layer, added a Layer Mask, and painted out the birds as I only wanted the sky and the whitewash on the branch darker; I wanted to leave the whites on the birds bright. Then I painted a Quick Mask of the five heads, ran a Contrast Mask (Unsharp Mask at 13/60/0) on the layer, and then lightened the heads by pulling up the Curve (Control M for Curves on a Layer).

Everything above as detailed in Digital Basics, a PDF sent via e-mail.

Would you have done anything differently during the image optimization process?

Shopper’s Guide

Support both the Bulletins and the Blog by making all your B & H purchases here.

Below is a list of the gear that I used to create the images above. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our recently revised Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. My workhorse professional digital camera body. I own two.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

The BLUBB. I designed the Big Lens Ultimate BeanBag to be the very best support for your super-telephoto lens when working from a vehicle.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.

Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. These high capacity cards are fast and dependable. Clicking on the link below will bring you to the Delkin web site. There is lots of great stuff there. If you see a product that we do not carry let us know via e-mail; we will be glad to have it drop-shipped to you and save you a few bucks in the process.

I pack my 800 and tons of other gear in my ThinkTank Airport SecurityTM V2.0 rolling bag for all of my air travel and recommend the slightly smaller Airport InternationalTM V2.0 for most folks. These high capacity bags are well constructed and protect my gear when I have to gate check it on short-hops and puddle jumpers. Each will protect your gear just as well. By clicking on either link or the logo below, you will receive a free gift with each order over $50.

16 comments to Five for Five; What Would You Have Done Differently?

  • Hi, I think I would have kept some sky under the perch in the lower right corner as in the original, avoiding the corner merge.

    Hey Ken, That’s a matter of taste. In most cases I like having my diagonals enter from the corner of the frame. artie

  • Jamie

    Well the easy way to warm up and saturate the birds and cool down and saturate the sky is with Viveza from within Photoshop but, as you say, most folks are just using Photoshop or Lightroom. Couple of ideas would be to:

    a) process two raw files, one cooling down and saturating the sky and the other warming and saturating the birds (using the white balance slider to warm or cool) then blend the resulting images bringing in the appropriate parts of each. This would work but be excruciatingly painful for me!

    b) much easier in Lightroom using the appropriate sliders and brushing in the effects.

    Then you could edit in PS working your magic as you did on your image. I am not pushing Viveza as it is just another tool in my aresenal. It’s just that I have figured out how to use this tool as others have figured out how to use other tools like Lightroom or PS.

    For my images, which are mostly billfish and water related subjects, I like to create differentials between areas of warmth and cool, in and out of focus, high and low contrast, etc. These strategies seem to produce the best images for me. I shoot NEF RAW files, process the NEF’s in Capture NX2, then use PS for anything else needed (including any Viveza work).

    Keep the great photos coming!


  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Yes, as the birds were not in motion I went to f/16 to ensure enough d-o-f to make all of the sharp.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Jamie, Thanks. Remember that most folks do not have Viveza. And the last time I tried to use anchor points I was hopelessly confused…. How would you warm up the birds?

  • Justine Carson

    Re why you went to f/16, it looks like you were pretty much parallel to the branch but since there’s no foliage in the background, f/16 gives you a better chance at getting all parts of all five birds in good focus.

  • Jamie

    Sure thing Artie. I use Nik’s Viveza from within Photoshop, add a control point for just the sky color, then using the sliders I would a) reduce the brightness of the sky, b) reduce the contrast a bit, c) increase the saturation and d) reduce the warmth. Viveza creates a layer for each adjustment so the effect can be brushed in and further adjusted. Very quick and simple! Then if you wish to warm up the birds you would select the Viveza filter again, warm up the whole image then using the layer brush, brush in the effect only on the birds. Again very quick and simple!If the sky had clouds I would build up the structure in them a bit if needed.

    The effect can be seen on this image I shot of a sailfish in Costa Rica, except instead of sky I cooled and saturated the water then increased the warmth and saturation on the sailfish. Click here to see the image.


  • Is the perch not exactly parallel to the sensor plane? That’d explain the f/16 part…

    As for the optimization part… not much to add except I love the cartoon bubbles idea some comments earlier… this image is too funny to pass that by!

    Well if I nitpicked, maybe I’d add a few points black to the blacks too… I’d like the birds a bit darker… then again I haven’t ever seen these birds before so no idea about the real color.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Leaving the ugly broken stubs on the main perch branch is a personal choice….

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Gerald, Using Select Color to pick the sky invites all kinds of edge problems….

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Jamie and Mary, Would each of you please let me know here exactly how you would make your selections (birds and sky) and how you would then make the sky cooler and the birds warmer. (I do not use Lightroom.) Please be specific as I have no clue as how you would do what you suggested.

  • Mary Stamper

    I’d leave the perch as it is, and I like Jamie’s suggestion about creating more warm/cool contrast between the birds and the sky.

  • Vikram

    i might have left the perch as it is.

  • Jon

    I would have cropped the branch top right as you did but I would not have cropped the smaller branches on the main bough. To me there is nothing wrong with them they are perfectly natural and complimentary to the scene. With the smaller branches/twigs removed the image becomes a little too clinical to me.

  • Gerald Kelberg

    I might have used “select color” on the background and added in the branch before making the color change – rather than doing the colour change and masking it on the birds – getting all the edges on the birds would probably have taken me more time. Same process but different way of doing it.

    Best wishes, Gerald

  • Patty Corapi

    I would add cartoon balloons with really cool artieisms. LOL Don’t shoot me on thursday when I pass through your area.But seriously, I like the clean up. Only other thing would have been to mask in each bird in their perfect pose and blend it with your expertise if these guys aren’t doing exactly what you want each to do. Now how do you get 6 burrowing owl babies with 2 adults to all line up especially when they are so used to us homo sapiens that they ignore all our tricks? :-)) Glad to see you’re feeling better. Later.

  • Jamie

    Artie I love the image but since you asked, in a situation like this I would saturate and cool off the blue sky and warm up the birds just a bit more to expand the cool / warm contrast. I use this a lot on shots of billfish jumping behind the boat. It really sets the billfish apart from the ocean. I think you have the same thing going on here.

    Great shot!