Screaming American Oystercatcher: Improved Protect & Defend Cloning « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Screaming American Oystercatcher: Improved Protect & Defend Cloning

The animated GIF above shows both the original capture and the optimized image. See the technical details and my final crop in the image below.

Screaming American Oystercatcher

Nickerson Beach, Long Island, NY. Standing on the edge of the surf at 8:03am on August 24, I was removing my TC–I had my camera in one hand and the 1.4X III teleconverter in the other–when a pair of oystercatchers landed near the pair that I had been photographing. All four birds began screaming right in front of me. Each was in the clear. I frantically got the teleconverter mounted and the camera back in place but by the time I was ready to go three of the four birds have calmed down. One was still displaying and in the clear. As I acquired focus and fired a small group of Sanderlings ran by behind my subject. Bummer.

Bill and beach clean-up was done using the Patch Tool and the Spot Healing Brush as detailed in Digital Basics (a PDF sent via e-mail that includes my complete digital workflow and dozens and dozens of great Photoshop tips and tricks. In the past I would have used Protect and Defend cloning to get rid of the offending background shorebirds but on my recent Long Island trip Denise Ippolito taught me an improved method based on the same principles. Let’s call it “Protect and Defend Cloning with Layers.” Read on to learn more.

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This image was created as I stood behind my tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X III TC and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1250 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. Central sensor/rear-focus AI Servo AF.

Lens/TC/camera body Micro-adjustment: 0.

Improved Protect & Defend Cloning

Note that the optimized image (above) was cropped from above, from below, and from the rear to effectively move the bird back in the frame.

“Protect and Defend Cloning with Layers” involves putting the whole image on one layer and then making a selection of the area that you wish to protect and placing it on its own layer. Though I am not quite sure why it works, I can assure that it worked quite well with this image and I plan on adding the technique to my workflow. If you would like a complete, detailed tutorial please e-mail Denise with the words “Protect and Defend Cloning with Layers Tutorial Please” cut and pasted into the Subject line. It’s free.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of he gear used to make the three mages in this post. 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 Shopper’s Guide.

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

Remember: you can earn free contest entries with your B & H purchases. Eleven great categories, 34 winning and honored images, and prize pools valued in excess of $20,000. Click here for details.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon 1.4X III Teleconverter. The new 1.4X TC is designed to work best with the newer Series II super-telephoto lenses but it works just fine with the current lenses.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. My two Mark IVs are my workhorse digital camera bodies.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sale value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders 🙂
Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head. (Note: Denise prefers the Wimberley head to the Mongoose.
CR-80 Replacement Foot for Canon 800. When using the 800 on a Mongoose as I do, replacing the lens foot with this accessory lets the lens sit like a dog whether pointed up or down and prevents wind-blown spinning of your lens on breezy days by centering the lens directly over the tripod.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
Be sure to check out our camera body User’s Guides here.
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.
BIRDS AS ART Camera Body User’s Guides. Why spend $2-5 grand on a camera and not learn to use it properly and efficiently?

22 comments to Screaming American Oystercatcher: Improved Protect & Defend Cloning

  • cheapo

    Don’t mind the ‘improvements’ here at all. The BG birds were distracting, and so OOF as to be actually annoying. A super image.

  • Bill Richardson

    Hi Denise. No problem, I just thought you might be interested in another way that saves both work and file size. I did figure out where you are having difficulty applying my method. Try converting the selection to a mask before cloning and that will work for you in exactly the same way you are doing now but with just one blank layer. Of course, both ways retain the untouched image layer.

  • Bill, As I have said to you in both email and online: your way does not work for me. I don’t want to have to modify the mask selection; it is the area outside the mask that I am concerned about. I am not going to respond anymore to this thread. You can simply do it your way. I want and choose to do it my way. I want the untouched layer in my workflow at all times.

  • Bill Richardson

    Hi Denise. You can use my technique and correct any selection errors by modifying the mask to reveal or hide the underlying layer or clone spot by painting the mask with black or white just as you are doing now. No need for a perfect selection. You have the same flexibility. Bill

  • Bill, I am not having a problem with the cloning. Here is the problem I am having with your technique: you need to make a perfect selection and you cannot be sloppy with your cloning. By using a duplicate layer you can make a good selection w/o killing yourself by having to make a great selection. And your original is still untouched since you have not cloned on it. You can easily clean up any sloppy cloning. The whole idea of my concept is to hide the selection and hide the cloning mistakes. Your way still does not work for me. Thank you. Denise

  • Bill Richardson

    Hi Denise. I don’t understand what you mean by revealing from the background layer??? (You do need to select the area to be changed, not the area to be protected) If you check the cloning tool box for sampling multiple layers, you will clone from the layer below the transparent layer. Your method hides the cloning overlaps but does not prevent them while adding signifigant file size. By using a selection on a transparent layer, you avoid the overlaps while not increasing file size signifigantly. And you have 2 layers rather than 3. Make your selection (selecting the area you want to change), add a transparent layer (which will then be active with the selection active) and proceed with your cloning, convert your selection to a mask by clicking on the mask icon, adjust your mask as desired. Your method certainly works but I am always trying to do things in more simple and with smaller file size. And thanks for the tutorial, I always like to exchange ideas.

  • Joel Haas

    What are the “narrow shadows” just off the bird’s tail, head and bill? They look like an artifact that I easily create by over sharpening.

    Hi Joel, I am not seeing them in the JPEG but I do not have a good eye for details. If present in the tail, they must be from over-sharpening as I did not do any work there. Around the head and bill they might have been caused by less than stellar selections. 🙂 I am good at making those! artie

  • Leonard Malkin

    Adding is adding and removing is removing, so removing birds from a background is OK but adding vegetation to a sky is not. I don’t mean to get all semantic but I don’t see a difference. When you “remove” the birds, you’re “adding” water in their place. When I fill a sky, I’m “adding” vegetation but “removing” sky. Still confused.

    Leonard, I will try just once more: If this does not work you will need to remain confused. In the image here, had the bird not been present, the background would have been all water….. You cannot draw a similar parallel when you wish to add leaves to a tree. artie

  • Bill, The only problem I am having with your method is I am not able to reveal anything from the background layer and since you are saying don’t use a duplicate layer your technique is not working for me. Am I missing something? Have you tried it your way as opposed to mine? Can you elaborate. Thanks

    Thank you Denise! artie

  • Bill Richardson

    Bill, It seems as if you have not read carefully and have not read Denise’s tutorial; you are missing the whole point…. With this method as described in detail in the tutorial you can clone stamp right to the edge of your subject without fear of cloning the subject and, with the use of a Layer mask, can fine-tune the edges. artie

    Artie, You can do the same thing by adding a selection to the blank layer. Of course that selection can be converted to a mask at any time–before or after cloning. Copying part of the image to another layer offers no advantage but simply and unnecessarily increases file size. Bill

    Bill, I am not understanding what you wrote. I have asked Denise for help. artie

  • Leonard Malkin

    Artie, it seems to me you’re getting into a morass re what can and can’t be removed for your contest. You will accept the oyster catcher photo even though you have removed birds which, in my opinion, destroys “the natural history of the scene at the moment of capture”. At the same time, you informed me that it’s unacceptable to fill in a bit of sky with vegetation to balance the composition of a photo where the bird is far removed from the fill. I’m not arguing, I’m just confused.

    No need to be confused. Adding is adding, removing is removing. Just to be sure, point me to your original questions. Thanks. artie

  • Mary Stamper

    I was tempted to ask the same question that Jay just has. However I didn’t, because I think it’s a matter of personal taste. Artie seems usually to like the backgrounds mostly clean and relatively blank. I don’t mind the original image, actually. But, let’s see what Artie has to say.

    Mary, See what artie had to say below. 🙂 artie

  • Jay

    I appreciate the explanation of the technical operations you undertook to create the final image, but I’m curious about your reasons for making these changes in the first place (my question differs from that of Mr. Downing, who raises a question about changing a natural event). I look at the first image and see the peeps in the background and think that this is a nice shot of the oystercatcher with the other birds. The birds in the back are blurred, so that they don’t distract from the subject of the image. In the end you wind up with a beautiful portrait, but the scene seems to be missing some depth that is provided by the sanderlings in the background. Thus, the long question I have is, why the choice to create the image this way?

    Had the original been framed a bit wider I would have considered the Sanderlings as a plus. But with the back of one bird and the tail of another cut off by the frame edge they became distractions to my way of seeing. I am the first to love pleasing juxtaposition-type images. In addition, or perhaps reason #1, is the the white reflection of the closest Sanderling under the oystercatcher’s neck and behind the bill was a big distraction to me. artie

  • John Storjohann

    Artie, that’s one heck of a clean-up job from the original image..and well done. I’ve received the PDF from Denise; haven’t had a chance to try it yet as I just got it, but it will be high on my list of techniques to try with my next shoot. Wonderful final image..and the subtle cropping makes it all the stronger; the pose and expression are wonderful, and you did a great job of bringing out the feather details in the head. Take care.

    Thanks John. Just the usual Digital Basics stuff on the blacks plus the clean-up of all the specular hightlights also from Digital Basics. Great to see you here and on BPN. You have been a great addition to OOTB–Out-of the Box. And Jay too! artie

  • Greg Downing

    With respect this while well done does change the natural history of the image in my opinion. The natural history is that the bird is feeding in a mixed flock with other birds right? That is the history and you changed it 🙂

    Gregory, It is a close call for sure. The oystercatchers were feeding on their own without at all interacting with the Sanderlings which were running up and down the beach. One second before and one second after I pressed the shutter button their were no birds in the background. You could look at the Sanderlings as just bad luck. Lastly, though it looks pretty good my Photoshop work would not stand up to close scrutiny as a contest winning image. Thanks for stopping by. artie

  • Bill Richardson

    Why use another image layer? I clone and heal on a separate blank (transparent) layer. Juat make sure to check sample underlying layers.

    Bill, It seems as if you have not read carefully and have not read Denise’s tutorial; you are missing the whole point…. With this method as described in detail in the tutorial you can clone stamp right to the edge of your subject without fear of cloning the subject and, with the use of a Layer mask, can fine-tune the edges. artie

  • Mary Stamper

    OK, let me guess…….

    you select the bird or the part that you want to keep to it’s own layer (above the original). Remember that the area around the bird will be transparent. Then you can use content-aware fill or some type of quick mask or cloning technique to blast over everything on the original image (lower layer) that you want to get rid of, without worrying if you get rid of parts of the bird itself. This makes a clean background, which will show through behind the top layer. Since the bird on the top layer is aligned to where the original bird was on the bottom layer, it will now show as a bird on a clean background.

    Just a guess……

    Not really sure as I am a bit confused…. We do use the Clone Stamp Tool once we are good to go. artie

  • Nick Sharp

    Denise – “Protect and Defend Cloning with Layers Tutorial Please”

    Good shot and the clean-up was done very nicely. Yes, I would like a copy of the tutorial that Denise suggested. Thanks.

  • Leonard Malkin

    Would the processed photo be eligible for your contest?

    From the rules: Digital Restrictions: Entrants are permitted to remove both major and minor distracting elements from an image so long as the natural history of the scene at the moment of capture is preserved.

    So yes, it would be allowed. Remember though that if the Photoshop work is sloppy…. artie

  • David Policansky

    What a great image. Did the original have more of the bird’s reflection in the wet sand?

    David, You are seeing the full frame original in the animated GIF, so nope. artie

  • Charles Scheffold

    Nice one – I like the ruffled feathers and the halfway raised leg. The expression is priceless.