The Great Potential of Digital Capture; Can This Barred Owl Image Be Salvaged? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Great Potential of Digital Capture; Can This Barred Owl Image Be Salvaged?


This post marks 117 straight days with a new educational blog post. With so many folks getting in the habit of using our B&H and Amazon links why quit now? To show your appreciation for my efforts here, we do ask that you use our B&H and Amazon affiliate links for all of your B&H and Amazon purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store. We sell only what I use and depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

You can find the following items in the store: Gitzo tripods, Mongoose M3.6 and Wimberley heads, plates, low feet, and accessories, flash brackets, , Delkin e-film Pro Compact Flash Cards, LensCoat products, and our unique line-up of educational materials including ABP I & II, Digital Basics, Site and Set-up e-Guides, Canon and Nikon Camera Users and AF e-Guides, and MP-4 Photoshop video tutorials among others.

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This blog post took 1 1/2 hours to create. Enjoy!


This over-exposed Barred Owl image was created in relatively harsh sunlight at 10:21am on Jim Neiger’s pontoon boat on Lake Blue Cypress on Friday morning past with the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (hand held at 350mm) and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. ISO 800. 1/640 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode was correct until the sun came out as the bird flew…. AWB.

Central Sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF on the owl’s neck was of course active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Bad Luck

Just as this Barred Owl took off and flew low across a small river, the sun came out at full strength from behind a dark cloud. I had been set up for cloudy dark flight at ISO 800, 1/640 sec. at f/5.6. There were lots of blinkies on the water and more than a few on the bird itself. When I saw the image on the computer I was not sure that it could be salvaged. The good news was that it was sharp on the eye so I converted it 2/3 stop darker in DPP, brought it into Photoshop, and went to work.


This is the optimized version of the original image capture above. At times, folks forget the great potential of digital RAW captures….

The Image Optiimization

The image optimization here was fairly straightforward. After converting the image 2/3 stop darker with the Highlight slider set to (-1), I brought the image into CS-6 and cropped it. Then I fine tuned the tonality and cleaned up the image. I started with a Levels Adjustment on its own layer, added some BLACK to the BLACKs and NEUTRALs in Selective Color and tweaked the Gamma in an Exposure Adjustment Layer, that new trick thanks to a tip from BPN moderator Bill Jobes here. Then NIK 50/50 at 67% opacity on the bird alone along with a small Contrast Mask.

River and background clean-up was as usual done with the Clone Stamp Tool (S), the Spot Healing Brush (J), the Patch Tool (P), and a flopped Quick Mask of the upper left corner that was moved (V) to the upper right corner (Q, B, Q, Control J, Control T, Flop Horizontally, Enter, V) and then fine-tuned with a Regular Layer Mask. When I was done I realized that I had overdone the contrast a bit so I ran my Reverse S Curve to tone things down just a bit. Image salvaged.

Digital Basics

Are you tired of making your images look worse in Photoshop? Do you have no clue as to how I optimized the images above? Everything above plus tons more is detailed in my Digital Basics File, an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete digital workflow, dozens of great Photoshop tips, the use of Contrast Masks, several different ways of expanding canvas, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, Using Adjustment Layers, Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro basics, my killer image clean-up techniques, Digital Eye Doctor, creating time-saving actions, and lots more.

The DPP RAW Conversion Guide

After seeing the accurate colors that I get from my DPP RAW conversions, Japan in Winter co-leader Paul McKenzie switched to DPP conversions and Denise Ippolito is considering doing the same. Now that is amazing…. To learn why I use Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) to convert every image that I work on, click here.


Learn the details of advanced Quick Masking techniques in APTATS I. Mention this blog post and apply a $5 discount with phone orders only. Learn advanced Layer Masking Techniques in APTATS II. Mention this blog post and apply a $5 discount with phone orders only. Buy the pair, APTATS I and APTATS II and we will be glad to apply at $15 discount with phone orders only.

BirdPhotographers.Net; It Ain’t Just Birds/Honest Critiques Done Gently

Learn more here. I learn something new on most every visit and one of the best ways to improve it to critique the images of others while having your images critiqued as well. Plus, you get to see lots of great images on a daily basis.


All images created on Lake Blue Cypress. Copyright Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Lake Blue Cypress Osprey Heaven Full-Day In-the-Field Hand Holding Workshops via Customized Pontoon Boat

Two 3+ hour shooting sessions on a beautiful cypress lake teeming with Osprey; Barred Owl almost guaranteed. Red-shouldered Hawk and Pileated Woodpecker likely. Be sure to follow the link to Jim’s gallery below.

2 great leaders: Captain Jim Neiger and Arthur Morris.

Available dates: April 8, 9, 11 & 12, 2014.

Here are the Full Day rates:

1 photographer: $650.
2 photographers: $500 each.
3 photographers: $450 each.
4 photographers: $400.

Each full day booking includes a delicious healthy lunch at my home. Overnight lodging at my home is available cheap on a limited basis for folks who would like to do more than one day. Please inquire via e-mail.

So far one photographer signed up for Saturday, April 12; join us and enjoy a $150 savings.

One or two photographers may hire the boat on a private basis by paying the full day rate for 4: $1600.

Because of the late date payment in full by personal check is due now. Please e-mail for additional details of info.

Check out Jim Neiger’s Osprey Heaven/Lake Blue Cypress Gallery here and you will be amazed as to the quality of the flight and action images and the possibilities.

Here’s what BPN member David Salem had to say about a day on the lake with Jim Neiger in Pane 1 here:
We met our friend Jim Neiger on his boat at Lake Blue Cypress and had a blast shooting hundreds of Osprey and many other species including some great shots of Barred owls. I highly suggest booking a trip with Jim on the lake as he knows the lake real well and the birds even better. It was a trip that I will never forget with literally hundreds of Osprey flying around starting their nesting season. A sight to see!! I will be posting some pics from the lake soon.

Gatorland Short Notice Saturday Full-Day In-the-Field Workshops

Saturday March 29 and Saturday April 4, 2014. 7:15am till 10:15am & 4:00pm till dusk. Lunch, image review, and Photoshop session included. Limit 6. Small groups are likely: $399. Both: $749.

The cost of your Gatorland Photographer’s Pass is not included.

Gatorland is so good right now that I am going back the next two Saturdays (March 29 & April 4). The Snowy and Cattle Egrets are in way early and there are many in full breeding plumage. Here’s the story: last week there were about two dozen photographers at Gatorland on Saturday past. Aside from two decent photographers–I can tell by where you are pointing your lens…, nobody had a clue as to how to make a good image…. Yesterday it was even worse; pretty much no one had a clue. Most folks just stand in one spot and point and shoot. Without regard for light angle or background. Join me on this, the 3rd Gatorland Short Notice Saturday Full-Day In-the-Field Workshop and you will learn to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. A big part of the above is that you will learn how and why you must work in Manual mode 90% of the time at Gatorland. That is exactly what Jim Weerts learned on Saturday past.

At lunch we will review my images, take a look at five of your best images from the morning session (for those who opt to bring their laptops), and process a few of my images in Photoshop after converting them in DPP. That followed by Instructor Nap Time. Last Saturday all 3 folks had a great time and learned a ton. And the weather for this coming Saturday is looking good.

Payment in full via credit card is due upon registering. Please call Jim or Jennifer at 863-692-0906 to register. Ask for me if you have any questions.

Last Saturday’s Gatorland Kudos

Via e-mail from multiple IPT veteran Peter Hawrylyshyn:

Artie, Just wanted to say thanks. I really enjoyed the Saturday IPT at Gatorland. It was a great one-day refresher course on composition, lighting/sun angles, exposure settings, birds in flight, and fill-flash, … I also learnt a lot watching your workflow and new processing tips over lunch. I thought you’d post that great Black-crowned Night-Heron that you found for us on your blog. I guessed wrong. Peter

Note. I will be devoting a whole post to that bird soon; have not had time to process them yet….

Via e-mail from Jim Weerts:

Thanks, Artie, for your kind hospitality, the Gatorland adventure, and sharing your expertise! I did indeed fall into it and for that I’m most appreciative. My father told me a long time ago that when I retire, I must retire to something else! Well, photography has filled the bill for me and the challenge to keep learning is the best part of it. You certainly pushed me hard last weekend and I hope to keep up with this adventure including with your blog. I did review the “Working in Manual Mode” material on your blog and will focus on this more as time allows.

The best part of the week-end included learning to look for the distractions in the background, understanding the wind direction and what it presents, and lining up my shadow with the target. Using Manual mode is a new favorite particularly with the changing situations like lighting, background and birds or wildlife. Learning new techniques with the 5D MK III (like rear focus and changing AF points), plus adding more knowledge about some of the rear buttons on the camera all added to the experience. Previously, I had not been able to make any changes on the fly that finally happening now, thanks to somebody teaching me how to do that! Beyond all of this, seeing the subject in new ways and new dimensions just opens up more fun! Thanks my new friend, for so much! I loved it! And “Thanks” for your talents! Jim Weerts

Note: Jim just signed up for the Holland IPT!

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