A New Perspective… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

A New Perspective...

Barnegat Lighthouse in Heaven

This image was created on the first Barnegat Jetty IPT with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Autofocus lens and the Canon EOS-1D X digital SLR . ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/6.3 in Av mode. Central sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image optimization with NIK Color Efex Pro Detail Extractor (aat 100%) and Tonal Contrast at 50% (all erased from the out-of-focus sand at the bottom of the frame. See the converted image below for comparison.

A New Perspective…

When I am lying on a sandy beach photographing shorebirds with a long lens using either my Panning Ground Pod or my Skimmer II, I often have the opportunity to create the “shorebird in heaven” look. The foreground sand hides the bird’s feet but the out-of-focus sand provides a soft, lovely white border at the bottom of the image that makes it appear that the sandpiper or plover is floating on a cloud.

On the December Barnegat Jetty IPT I was right down at the edge of the water photographing the Long-tailed Ducks that were uncharacteristically close to shore. (See same by scrolling down in BAA Notes 1-5/13 here.) When I was done turned into the north wind to head up the berm to the beach. Since it was low tide a sweet scene appeared before my eyes: Barnegat Lighthouse in Heaven. I set up and called Denise and the group over to share my find. It was all a matter of choosing the right perspective but in this case I had done that by accident.

In “The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters,” a cool book of photography tips by Nikon-guy Joe McNally, he writes, “Get your camera in a different place.” Though he happened to be talking about making images from atop the Empire State Building, the same lesson can be applied to nature photography. And if you follow his advice you will often be getting wet, sandy, muddy, too hot, too cold, or too uncomfortable. Or worse.

NIK 15% Discount

As regular readers know, Color Efex Pro has drastically changed my digital workflow and little by little I have begun using Viveza to solve sticky image optimization problems and Silver Efex Pro fo fast, dramatic B&W conversions. You can save 15% on all NIK products (including Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, and Viveza) by clicking here and entering BAA in the Promo Code box at check-out. Then hit Apply to see your savings. You can download a trial copy that will work for 15 days and allow you to create full sized images.

This JPEG represents the converted RAW file for the image that opens this blog post. For me the biggest and most important improvement in the optimized (opening) image is the sky.

Which One?

Which of the two lighthouse images do you like best, the optimized image (top)or the understated original? And be sure to let us know why.

This Fractalius image was created from an image that I created on the first Barnegat Jetty IPT with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Autofocus lens and the Canon EOS-1D X digital SLR . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/2o0 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode. Central sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the bird’s eye and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

To see the original optimized Harlequin Duck image and some great stuff on image design, Rear Focus, image clean-up, NIK Color Efex Pro, and NIK Viveza, check out the images and the two animated GIFs in Two Drake Harlequin Duck Images; So Many Lessons here.


To create the image above (yes, it is digital art), I ran a tweaked version of Denise Ippolito’s Soft Fix Fractalius pre-set on a layer, added a regular Layer Mask, and revealed the eye.

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To purchase this fabulous and fun program and help to support two starving artists, please click on the link above. Sorry–Windows only. Denise Ippolito, Andrew McLachlan, and I are just starting work on a Fractalius eGuide so stay tuned.

BIRDS AS ART/A Creative Adventure Barnegat Jetty II IPT

We had so much fun at the jetty in the wild weather in December–see the following blog posts here, here, here, and here, that I am flying back to New Jersey for more. Since there were lots of Harlequins, Long-tailed Ducks, and Purple Sandpipers we decided to put together another small group. Do consider joining us. As for me, I can’t wait to get back.

BIRDS AS ART/Barnegat Jetty IPT II, Barnegat Light, NJ: 2 1/2 DAYS. JAN 18 (1:30pm), 19, and 20, 2012: $999. Limit 8/Openings: 6. Includes 5 photo-sessions, both lunches, introductory slide program, image review, sharing, editing, and Photoshop.

Note: On cloudy days we grab a quick lunch and spend most of the day photographing. 🙂

Join Denise Ippolito and Arthur Morris for a 2 1/2 Day Instructional Photo-Tour at the infamous Barnegat Jetty in Barnegat Light, New Jersey. You will learn how to get close to the ducks and shorebirds that frequent this famed winter birding and photography hotspot, how to get the right exposure every time, and how to see, understand, and tackle a variety of photographic situations. We should have some excellent chances with Harlequin Duck and Purple Sandpiper, the two headliner species. With any luck we should get to photograph most of these species: Long-tailed Duck (formerly Oldsquaw), Common Loon, Red-throated Loon, Red-breasted Merganser, Surf Scoter, Black Scoter, Common Eider, Brant, Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-bellied Plover, and Sanderling. Great Black-backed, Herring, and Ring-billed Gulls are also likely. Sunning Harbor Seals are possible. With the right winds we may have some good flight photography with the sea ducks.

Having at least a 500mm f/4 lens with a 1.4X teleconverter is recommended. Participants should be in good physical condition with a good sense of balance. $500 non-refundable credit card deposit by phone: 1-863-692-0906. Weekends OK.

Can’t Make the Whole Thing?

If you can’t make the whole thing, you can join what will likely be a small group as follows: Full Day with lunch: $400. Afternoon (1:30-dusk): $250. Call to arrange: 1-863-692-0906. Weekends OK.

Weekend Creative Nature Photography Seminar, Tampa, FL: February 23 & 24, 2013: $149 Limit: 50/Openings: 15

Join Denise Ippolito and me on the weekend of February 23-24 on the outskirts of Tampa, FL for a great weekend of fun and learning. Learn to improve your photography skills, your skill at designing images in the field, your creative vision, and your image optimization skills. Sunday critiquing session. Click here for additional details and the complete schedule.

Best to register soon as the seminar is filling up nicely.


On all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or leave a comment regarding any typos, wrong words, misspellings, or grammatical errors. Just be right. 🙂

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20 comments to A New Perspective…

  • David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Like the others, I prefer the optimized image. I looked at my own images of the lighthouse and thought about how it looked at the time, and the optimized image seems much closer to the original, in addition to being more interesting and pleasing. Of course, the lighthouse looked brighter and duller as the light changed. It occurs to me that you got lower than I did, although perhaps it’s just that you were using a longer lens. I would have been worried about getting sand in the lens if I’d got much lower. It’s hard to convey to people just how windy it was. Thanks again for calling it to our attention.

  • Mark

    Hi Art. Allow me to go OT for a brief sentence. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, and when I read your posts and it says be sure to comment, I’ve not been able to find where to do so until today, as the comments are at top and not bottom as I’m used to. But I digress.

    I attended one day of your Staten Island seminar before the NJ workshop and loved it. You and Denice are a dynamic duo when it comes to teaching and sharing. You are both extremely funny and even more so knowledgeable. I look forward to attending other sessions of yours.

    Great shot of the lighthouse.

    Thank you.

  • Carolyn Peterson

    I prefer the modified version due to the increase in cloud and brick detail. The color of the bricks in the modified version look a bit too red, but I don’t know the actual brick color. I like the idea of retaining the natural color. The natural blur of the beach foreground was a wonderful creative inspiration.

  • I was going to ask if a consideration was made in turning off the image stabilizer for the lighthouse pic until I saw the “best” image by clicking on the optimized version.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Not sure what you are referring to or why….

      • The details of the uppermost portion of the lighthouse in the re-sized (smaller) versions appear muddied until clicking the images for the larger version you offer. When I first viewed this “problem,” I thought of your 17 AUG 11 and 19 AUG 11 articles on architecture where you noted your experimenting with turning off the image stabilizer for better sharpness. There is obviously no sharpness issue with the lighthouse pics upon viewing the larger version. I had forgotten that you were considering turning off the image stabilizer only when you were in need of using significantly slower shutter speeds than normal for the buildings after re-visiting those articles. If it is possible to present your images here without changing their size, otherwise creating an unnecessary distortion from what you see in your editing process, I would recommend you do so. This will unfortunately require you to keep your largest images within the border constraints of your blog. Simpler is better. My favorite image you have created . . . http://www.birdsasart-blog.com/2011/10/28/for-your-critique-image-13/ (image 14) . . . would require you to enhance the width of your blog. ; )

        • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Both the smaller and the larger versions look sharp from here. I only turn IS off for really long exposures. I think that the one you are referring to was a six second exposure…

          • My next monitor will be better . . . an upgrade from HP w2338h. You noted your “grunge” work of the building was a compilation of multiple images ranging from 2.5 to 20 seconds utilizing Photomatix HDR editing software. It took me a half hour to find that work as I couldn’t remember when. Good memory on your part.

  • Ron May

    I prefer the first image. It has more detail in it and IMHO, this makes it better. The original is too washed out for me. I am in agreement with Antonio Mario and his thoughts on how this would look in black and white. Care to give it a go Art? I am sure that Nik’s Silver Efex Pro would do a great job on this one.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Ron. I am thinking that this might not work too well as a B&W but I will give it a try….

  • Vincent Scarnecchia

    I like the optimized image , it has better color and detail in the clouds- thanks Artie for sharing your expertise with us .

  • I love the top lighthouse image-you did a great job with that one!

  • Bill Carpenter

    I like the optimized lighthouse because of the sky and the brick detail on the lighthouse. Thanks for sharing so much of what you and others do. It really helps and inspires us want-a-be photographers.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your kind words and you are most welcome. I enjoy sharing and I enjoy showing off my stuff! 🙂

  • kati

    Does Denise share her Fractalius presets? I’d love to have her soft focus preset and additional ones that have been created.

    • Hi Kati,

      Thanks so much 🙂 I just committed to doing a Fractalius User Guide with Andrew McLachlan and Arthur Morris, I hope that we will have it ready by spring and it will include all of the great presets that we have each developed, including my “soft fix”.

  • Art,

    Great shot. The optimized version is the clear winner. Punchier, more dramatic sky is the main reason. The lighthouse wall has also much more detail and the colors are less muted.

    I dare say that this shot could be very interesting in B&W, perhaps with a little more contrast on the sky.

  • Jim Kranick

    I prefer the first (optimized) image. The lighthouse has more “snap” to it and the sky is more interesting with the whiter clouds and bluer sections of sky.