Another BAA Masterpiece? And a Content-Aware Crop Tip « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Another BAA Masterpiece? And a Content-Aware Crop Tip

My Call

In Tuesday’s blog post, the few folks that commented correctly stated that the head of the juvenile Bald Eagle was completely lost in the bird’s right wing. Thus, the second image was the clear winner by default. With birds in flight images, the portion of the head can be as important as the wing positions and the flight poses.

The Fact$ of Life

Right now, the market for editorial sales of natural history images has virtually disappeared. The incomes of the world’s top stock photographers are down by at least 90%. Like me, most depend on income from photo trips, the sale of educational materials, and income from this or that affiliate program.

In 2001, BAA sold the publication rights to images for nearly one-quarter million US dollars. That amount dropped to about $20,000 by 2011, and in 2017, to slightly more than $2,000.00. We’ve stopped counting. IPTs used to fill within days. Now I am happy to go with one or two folks, but I’d much rather have you along. And so it goes. In 2009, I turned to creating educational blog posts, now to the tune of 4009. Yes, 4009 educational blog posts. So, please remember to use either my B&H or Bedfords affiliate links for your major purposes. It does not cost you one cent to do either.


Many folks have written recently stating that they purchased a Sony a1 from B&H and would like their free membership in the Sony 1 Info and Updates Group, a $150.00 value. When I check my affiliate account, their orders have not been there. When I let them know that they get credit for B&H purchases only if they use one of the many B&H affiliate links on the blog or begin their searches with this link, they are always disappointed. If in doubt, please contact me via e-mail and request a BH link. I am always glad to help and to guide you to the right gear.

B&H Simplified

To ensure that I get credit for your B&H purchases, you can always click here. The tracking is invisible but greatly appreciated. And, you can use your PayBoo card. You must use the website to order. Thanking me for the past 4000 educational blog posts could not be any easier and will not cost you one penny. Please shoot me your B&H receipt for major purchases.

Bedfords Simplified

Click here to start your search. Choose standard shipping, and when you get to the payment page, enter BIRDSASART in the discount code box and hit apply. You will be upgraded to free second day air Fed-Ex and receive 3% cash back on your credit card once your stuff ships. Either is greatly appreciated by yours truly.


My decades-long dream of spending time on Grimsey Island, Iceland, with the puffins — 13 days in this case!, will be realized this coming July. I am doing back-to-back trips as a participant. If anyone would like information on the world’s greatest Iceland/Atlantic Puffin trip this coming July, please contact me via e-mail.

What’s Up?

My Bonaire vacation continues to be both productive and restful. With an east wind on sunny afternoons, Steve and I have only been doing morning photo sessions. Steve and Meredith Schnoll and I enjoyed a stellar dinner at Mezzo, a local Turkish restaurant. The service was great and the food even better.

Today is Thursday 27 April. After parking in the prison lot, Steve took me to the pond at the sewage works. There were some flamingoes, more than twenty Black-necked Stilts, a pair of Southern Lapwings with chicks, a Least Grebe or two, many American Coots, and a host of migrant shorebirds including several White-rumped Sandpipers and a single Stilt Sandpiper. It took me more than an hour to figure out exactly where we needed to be. We are heading back the exact spot and with any luck it will be an epic morning.

This blog post took about two hours to prepare including the time spent on the image optimization. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day.

Thanks to the latest SONY A1 Group member, Norton Johnson!

Please remember to use the B&H and Amazon links that are found on most blog pages and to use the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout when purchasing your new gear from Bedfords to get 3% back on your credit card and enjoy free second-day air FedEx. Please, also, consider joining a BAA IPT. You will be amazed at how much you will learn!

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 earn 3% cash back 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.

I created this image on 26 April 2023 on Bonaire in the Caribbean Netherlands. I used the hand held Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM lens (at 24mm) and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 1000. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/1600 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. RawDigger showed that the raw file brightness was perfect. AWB at 7:51:13am on a sunny morning.

Tracking: Expand Spot (moved well down in the frame)/AF-C Bird/Eye Detection AF was active at the moment exposure and performed perfectly. Click on the image to view a hi-res version.

Image #1: American Flamingoes at Lac Bay Wetlands

My Favorite Flamingo Spot

American Flamingoes can be found at many locations on Bonaire. The mud hole at Lac Bay Wetlands is my favorite. Approximately 50 to 100 birds have fed there every morning that I have visited. Early on, birds fly in and out with some regularity. We set up on the road and stay beyond the yellow “keep out” rocks. The closest birds are less than 100 feet away. The flamingoes are very tall birds, reaching 5 feet in height with relatively short wingspans of 5 feet. They dwarf the pelicans that often feed in very close proximity to them, yet the wingspan of the pelicans is about 7 feet.

With the big white clouds, I turned to the 12-24 to create a habitat shot.

Image Questions

1- Why was ISO 1000 a ridiculous choice?

2- After looking at the image above, could you imagine making head and neck images of squabbling flamingoes that are 100 feet away?

This image was also created on 26 April 2023 at the mud hole at Lac Bay Wetlands on Bonaire in the Caribbean Netherlands. Standing at full height, I used the Robus RC-5558-3 Vantage Series 3 Carbon Fiber Tripod/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted BLUBB-supported Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens, the Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter, and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera). The exposure was determined via Zebra technology with ISO on the thumb dial. ISO 800. 1/1600 sec. at f/9 (stopped down 1/3-stop) in Manual mode. When evaluated in RawDigger, the raw file brightness was determined to be perfect. AWB at 8:19:12am on a sunny morning.

Tracking: Zone with Bird Face/Eye detection enabled performed amazingly well even at 1200mm. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a high-res version.

Image #2: Two American Flamingoes squabbling with an onlooker

The Original

The jpeg above represents the full frame raw file. I was thrilled to get both of the squabbling birds completely in the frame without clipping anything.

Working at 1200mm, I created dozens of images of squabbling flamingoes on each morning visit to the wetlands along Kaminda Lac Road. Why 1200mm? Isolation is the most obvious answer. Tracking Zone AF with the 600 f/4 GM, the 2X TC, and the a1 is beyond superb. Missed shots were due to my too-slow reflexes.

Before scrolling down, give some thought as to how you would optimize. I created two versions; you can see them below.

Image #3/Version I: Two American Flamingoes squabbling with one bystander

The Image Optimization

A key step during the raw conversion was upping the luminance of the BLUEs at the Color Mixer tab. Why? The BLUEs were rendered too dark while getting the correct exposure for the bright WHITEs at the base of the flamingo’s bills. Remember that WHITEs need one stop less light than middle tones to be properly exposed. So, when properly exposing for the brightest highlights, the blue water was rendered about a stop too dark.

This is one of the images that will be featured in the BAA Color Mixer Video Guide (coming soon).

Once I brought the image into Photoshop, I ran Topaz DeNoise/Clear on the whole image. To expand canvas on the right I used Content-Aware Crop. The ticket to success there was doing that in three steeps rather than one to avoid any obvious repeating patterns. Next, I cleaned up the o-o-f pink heads along the bottom of the frame edge with the Patch Tool as needed. Since I did not like the dark mangroves along the upper right frame edge, I covered those with a flopped Quick Mask of the upper left corner and modified that with the Warp command and then with the addition of a Regular Layer Mask. After working large and eliminating several dust spots and doing a bit of bill clean-up that included removing some bothersome specular highlights, I selectively sharpened the heads of the two birds on the right using the mask feature in Topaz Sharpen AI. Last, I executed a crop from left and from above to create Version I.

Be sure to scroll down to see Version II, the vertical crop.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II).

You can order your copy from the BAA Online Store here, by sending a PayPal for $40 here, or by calling Jim or Jennifer weekdays at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand. Be sure to specify Digital Basics II.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II)

The techniques mentioned above and tons more great Photoshop tips and techniques — along with my complete digital workflow, Digital Eye Doctor Techniques, and all my personalized Keyboard Shortcuts — are covered in detail in the BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II), an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. Note: folks working on a PC and/or those who do not want to miss anything Photoshop may wish to purchase the original Digital Basics along with DB II while saving $15 by clicking here to buy the DB Bundle.

Please note: the Divide and Conquer technique was inadvertently omitted from DB II. It is detailed in a free excerpt in the blog post here.

Folks who learn well by following along rather than by reading can check out the complete collection of MP 4 Photoshop Tutorial Videos by clicking here. Note: most of the videos are now priced at an amazingly low $5.00 each.

You can learn how and why I converted all of my Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide here. More recently, I became proficient at converting my Nikon RAW (NEF) files in Adobe Camera Raw. About three years ago I began converting my Nikon and Sony RAW files in Capture One and did that for two years. You can learn more about Capture One in the Capture One Pro 12 Simplified MP4 Video here. The next step would be to get a copy of Arash Hazeghi’s “The Nikon Photographers’ Guide to Phase One Capture One Pro e-Guide” in the blog post here. Today, I convert my Sony raw files in Photoshop with Adobe Camera Raw.

You can learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair.

Image #4/Version II: Two American Flamingoes squabbling

Your Call?

Which version do you like best, I, the horizontal crop that includes the head of the third bird, or II, the crop to a 2X3 vertical? Why?

Click on the image to better see the green eye-AF boxes in action.

Sony Alpha 1 Flight Photography AF Points!

The SONY Alpha a1 Set-up Guide and Info Group: $150.00 (or Free)

If you have been continually impressed by the quality of the Sony a1 images that you have been seeing on the blog, know that the SONY Alpha a1 Set-up Guide 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. By June 1, 2022, the group was up to an astounding 142 lucky and blessed folks. (More than a few folks own two or more a1 bodies! 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 everyone in the group receives 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! I am now offering a .DAT file compatible with firmware update 1.20. Your entry into the group includes a consolidated Sony a1 CAMSETA2 INFO & GUIDE. New a1 folks will now receive seven e-mails instead of the previous 28! You will receive new e-mails as they are published. Simply put, this e-mail guide is an incredible resource for anyone with an a1.

All who purchased their Alpha 1 bodies via a BAA affiliate link — B&H or Bedfords — will receive a free Sony Alpha a1 Set-Up Guide and free entry into the Info Updates group after shooting me their receipts via e-mail. (Note: it may take me several days to confirm B&H orders.). Others can purchase their guide here in the BAA Online Store.


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

14 comments to Another BAA Masterpiece? And a Content-Aware Crop Tip

  • Artie
    How do you know they were squabbling? Perhaps they were mating songs 🙂
    I am loving your habitat landscape photo and you are finally using the 12-24
    At f9 and 1600 you needed a higher iso.
    I am guessing you envisioned the crop when you either took the photo or afterwards in photo mechanic and i would like to see for my eye to have a little ccw rotation to it. Great capture and great to hear you are having fun.
    Always with love b

  • ISO 1000–maybe because the birds were so far away you didn’t need a shutter speed as fast as 1/1600 for a short 24mm lens which is easily hand held. And with the sun out there was lots of light.
    The vertical #4 is my favorite. Orange-pink against strong blue is a great color combo.

  • Sue Jarrett

    All 4 images are interesting and well made! Image #4 of American Flamingoes at Lac Bay Wetlands is just closer to the two squabbling but image #2 and #3 are good with a watcher!
    Image #1 American Flamingoes at Lac Bay Wetlands with ALL THOSE BIRDS is very interesting!

  • Paul Smith

    Definitely Image #4 V2.

  • David Pugsley

    The vertical crop is the winner for me. The lines created by the birds’ necks lend themselves to a vertical orientation and lead you right to the action of the heads. Love it.

  • (1) While theoretically you can hand hold A 24mm lens at 1/4 sec., that won’t stop subject movement, so I’m not sure ISO 1000 and 1/1600 sec. is ridiculous given a great sensor, Topaz DeNoise, and the chance of squabbling or flying birds. (2) Yes, I could imagine getting closeups, as 24mm makes the birds look twice as distant as they were. (3) But I wouldn’t have been at all sure I could get a result as great as your vertical twosome, a family jewel reminiscent of your best gannets.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      1- I had not thought of that. In the same situation, I would, however, cut the ISO and the shutter speed in half.

      2- Isolating the head was the biggest problem.

      3- Thanks for your kind words.

      with love, artie

  • Artie,

    Image #4 is my absolute favorite. I love the head position and against the beautiful blues.

    It has been a pleasure hosting you in Bonaire this week. We’ve learned so much and had a great time along the way.

    Looking forward to joining you in The Galapagos soon!


    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Mere, The great pleasure has been mine! You are surely the hostess with the mostest. And Steve is not far behind. How can I change him from a birder first to a bird photographer first? He has made some really nice images in the past few days. Now all that he needs to do is lose the bins!

      much love, artie

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