November 13th, 2009

Birds As Art Bulletin #305


  • ROBERT O’TOOLE’S APTATS II/Pre-Publication Discount Offer


One would hope that it would never be necessary to write the following, but two recent developments prove otherwise so here goes:

A photographer misrepresented images entered in a prestigious contest. When asked to produce the RAW files, he refused. His images were withdrawn from consideration. You can read the press release here and, if you have time, read the 115 very interesting responses that the BPN post of the press release elicited here: I applaud the NWRA for naming the photographer and for making an example of him as that is one sure way to encourage compliance. Also, many prestigious contests like the BBC WPOTY competition ask that you share the details of the situation of winning images. I recommend always being truthful in that regard.

Additionally, I learned that a NANPA member used of the landscape images of another photographer in contests and publications without permission or attribution. I will post the details on that one if and when I receive them.

It would not seem necessary to state that folks need to read and abide by the rules of any contests that they enter and that they should not be stealing other’s images or violating copyright laws. Boys and girls, you need to read and abide by the rules of any contests that you enter and know that thou shalt not steal other’s images or violate copyright laws. As I said, common sense photographic ethics.

On a related note there have been some valuable new posts in BPN’s General Photography Forum. These include Randy Stout’s “A Plea for Responsible Photography here: This thread is just getting started.

Also there is Bryan Hix’s “How Close is Too Close?” here:

I am proud that BPN is in the forefront on these important matters.

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Northern Flicker, near Indian Lake Estates, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens, the 1.4X II TC, and the EOS-1D MIII. ISO 1250. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/125 sec. at f/8 (wide open) in Manual mode.

My right-hand man Jim Litzenberg picked up Alan Murphy at the airport late Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday with met with the designer of Alan’s “Guide to Songbird Set-Up Photography.” We had hoped to get out on the Hooptie Deux with James Shadle on Thursday but the weather forecast called for high winds so that plan was nixed. (There were white-caps on the lake by my house!) Alan and I visited some local woods without much luck until we ran into a responsive Northern Flicker. The bird was attracted to our selected perch tree with a recording of its call. Alan was amazed at how cooperative the bird was as we were not in a blind and we were not covered up. Best news of the day? The book is on the way to the CD manufacturer and we will begin shipping them well in advance of the holidays. Thanks to all who have ordered one and congrats to the first 500 who saved the $10! See below for a warmer version.


I fly to San Diego on Friday the 13th for Photo Expo West (see below for details) and continue on to Albuquerque on November 19 for the sold out Bosque IPT. I am doing a program for the Enchanted Lens Camera Club in Albuquerque, New Mexico on December 1 (see below for details). After getting back to Indian Lake Estates on December 2, I fly to Islip, Long Island, NY on December 7th. I am doing a program on Long Island for the Nature and Wildlife Photographers of Long Island group in Bayshore on December 8th (again, see below for details) and will fly back to Florida some time before or after Christmas. All of these appearances are being generously supported by Canon USA.

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Northern Flicker, near Indian Lake Estates, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
In response to a suggestion by Aidan Briggs on BPN, I added a 10% warming Photo Filter. Pretty much everyone liked the warmer version better:


The e-mail conversation below that I had with Jenelle Flewellen is typical of dozens that I have each week.

AM: Hi Jenelle, re:

JF: I wonder if you could take a moment to help me with a purchase. I value your opinion and find myself totally lost in the world of ballheads.


JF: I have always loved photography, but since 2005, have turned into a lover of photography; wildlife and birds. I’m looking for a good ballhead, but don’t have a clue what to get.

AM: I do not recommend using a ballhead for intermediate telephoto lenses. I simply cannot live with ballhead flop.

JF: Money is an issue, but I do realize the benefit of investing in something good vs. a cheap setup that will only need to be replaced.

AM: That for sure but only after making it difficult or impossible to create good images and/or causing your gear to hit the ground.

JF: So, this is what I use/have and would like your opinion of what ballhead to purchase.

AM: Again, I do not recommend using a ballhead for intermediate telephoto lenses. I simply cannot live with ballhead flop and the ease of handling with either of the Mongoose heads is far superior to the performance of any ballhead.

JF: I’ve been reading about “plates” for a ballhead, and I’m not sure if a plate is necessary or if this comes with the ballhead purchase. I need help with all the pieces I would need.

AM: Whatever head you purchase you will need a lens mounting plate for each lens.

JF: My gear is: Camera: Canon 1D Mark III & Canon 30D, lenses (all Canon): 100mm-400mm IS; 24mm-105mm IS; 400mm f/5.6 L (non-IS), tripod: none, monopod: Manfrotto.

AM: Yikes. We recommend that all serious photographers use a tripod with their longest telephoto lens. It is the rare nature photographer who can consistently create sharp images with a monopod especially in the low light that we often encounter. We recommend the versatile relatively light weight Gitzo 3530 LS Carbon Fiber tripod for most folks.

JF: I have a cheap mount, but with the Mark III, it doesn’t fit securely and I’m always having to re-tighten – so I know this isn’t good.

AM: That’s why it is cheap. You mention that money is an issue but when you have at least $7,000+ worth of gear it does not make any sense to me to skimp on a tripod head.

JF: Please, any help would be appreciated.

AM: With your kit, here is what I recommend:

  1. The tripod above.
  2. The Mongoose M2.3 (if you will never be getting a longer, larger lens as seems likely)—do see my note below.
  3. Two Wimberley P-20 plates, one for the 100-400 and one for the 400 f/5.6.
  4. If you routinely use the 24-105mm at very slow shutter speeds and need to get it on a tripod only then do I recommend adding the Giotto’s tiny ballhead along with the Wimberley P-5 plate for the camera body.

(Note: The Mongoose M2.3 is unfortunately going out of production. We will be getting three of them very soon and have committed to purchasing the manufacturer’s remaining stock once they are assembled. At present we have several interested buyers. After all of the M2.3s are gone, the only two available options for folks with intermediate telephotos will be to purchase the larger more expensive Mongoose 3.5b or to find a used M2.3 on line. The latter will be near-impossible as the folks who use them love them; they are lightweight and very efficient.

You can find prices and info on all of the above at the BIRDS AS ART On-Line store here: We would of course appreciate your business as a thanks for the information that we provide. Our prices on all of the items above are as low as anyone’s. Later and love, artie

ps: In the great diabetes book that I am reading and living by (The Diabetes Solution by Richard K. Bernstein) the author writes, “You will likely receive very different advice from others; don’t listen to them, listen to me.” That’s pretty much how I feel 🙂 I have been doing this for 26 ½ years now….

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Turkey Vulture in flight, Indian Lake Estates, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 400mm f/4 DO IS lens handheld with the EOS-50D. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2 stops off the white sky: 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.

The image above is the optimized version that was created from the original image below. A careful comparison of the two images will reveal that the original (below) is soft rather than sharp. Focus is accurate, but all digital images as they come out of the camera are inherently unsharp as compared to images created on film. They need to be sharpened but only after being sized for final usage, be it an 800 pixel wide JPEG as here or a 30 X45 inch print. If anyone tells you to sharpen your master file (other than selectively sharpening portions of the image with a contrast mask), please tell them that I said that they were nuts. I re-wrote the entire section on sharpening in the updated, revised, reorganized version of Digital Basics:

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Though I was glad to get the whole bird in the frame in the original capture the composition was—of course—less than ideal. I used the “Composition Correction: Increase Space Near a Frame Edge/Advanced” tutorial in Robert O’Toole’s APTATS II to get the composition that worked best for me. It took about a minute (once I had studied the steps!) Soon I will own them.

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Seeing the differences in color, sharpness, and detail in the original image (left) and the optimized image (right) is difficult to impossible when you are viewing the two small JPEGs of the whole bird (scroll up please). But with the tightly cropped side-by-side images immediately above it is easy to see that the differences are huge. To create the optimized file I converted the RAW file in ACR, made a Quick Mask of and darkened the pupil, made a Quick Mask of and lightened the iris, made a Quick Mask of the face and then sharpened it with a contrast mask and increased the saturation, painted a Quick Mask of the whole bird and applied noise reduction, increased the contrast for the whole image (with my Curves action), and then replaced the bill tip (that had gotten too bright) with the bill tip from the original via a re-sized Quick Mask. I also darkened the blacks with my Selective Color action. All of the above sounds complicated especially to folks new to digital but everything that I did above is covered either in Digital Basics or in Robert O’Toole’s APTATS I CD. In Digital Basics you learn as if you were reading a recipe; the steps are written so that a fourth grader could follow them. In APTATS I (and in APTATS II), Robert utilizes step by step screen captures to ensure that you will be able to follow along easily. You can learn about APTATS I & II here:


I will be doing two different afternoon seminars for Delkin at Photo Expo West in Del Mar, CA (just above San Diego) on the weekend of November 14-15, 2009, one on Saturday (Lenses for Bird and Nature Photography) and one on Sunday (Pro Tips on Getting Close to Birds and Wildlife). My appearance is of course being generously sponsored by Canon USA. In addition, I will be doing a live demo each day after my programs. You can check out the details here: I hope to see many of you there.


I will be presenting “Lenses for Nature Photography BIRDS AS ART-Style for the Enchanted Lens Camera Club in Albuquerque at 7pm on the evening of December 1, 2009 at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church located at 114 Carlisle Blvd (at the corner of Central and Carlisle). You can find additional information here: and directions here: This program is free and open to the public.

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I will be presenting “Lenses for Nature Photography BIRDS AS ART-Style for the Nature and Wildlife Photographers of Long Island group in Bayshore on December 8, 2009 at Bayshore High School. After a short break I will present an optional Photoshop session for those who wish to stay on. For directions click here: This program is free and open to the public.

ROBERT O’TOOLE’S APTATS II/Pre-Publication Discount Offer

Robert and I sat at my dining room table for the better part of two full days editing the text for his great new Advanced Photoshop Tips and Techniques Simplified guide, APTATS II. For years I have been stating that I could never learn to use Layer Masks: paint with black to hide, paint with white to restore. It was all too confusing. But with Robert’s explanations and tutoring and my dogged insistence on hammering out text that would be clear, concise, straightforward, and easily understandable I have to say now, “I got it!”

Robert O’Toole’s APTATS II CD (Advanced Photoshop Tips and Techniques Simplified II). We are aiming for late-December, 2009 before the holidays…. Order now; save $5.00. See below for details.

APTATS II will include sample images for each tutorial so that you can easily follow along and practice. Dozens and dozens and dozens more screen captures will make your trip through each tutorial both pain-free and mistake-free. After working the sample images you can try each technique on some suitable images of your own. In short order you will own the techniques. Once that happens you will find countless new uses for the techniques. For me the great revelation that I garnered from APTATS II is that using Layer Masks (paint with black to hide, paint with white to restore) and Hide All Layer Masks is actually simple. And if you do make a small error while painting, you can simply hit X and paint to correct your error. (When using a Quick Mask you need to go back in History in order to correct mistakes.)

Here are the tutorials in APTATS II:

  • Composition Correction: Increase Lead Room Without Cropping/Basic
  • Composition Correction: Increase Lead Room Without Cropping/Intermediate
  • Composition Correction: Increase Space Near a Frame Edge/Advanced
  • Super-Fast Element Removal: Basic
  • Super-Fast Element Removal Plus Composition Improvement
  • Gradient Background Blur
  • Mask Blending for Mega-Depth-of-Field
  • Selective Highlight Detail Enhancement
  • Selective Noise Reduction and Sharpening
  • Selective Sharpening with Finely Detailed Edges
  • Average Blur Color Balance Trick

BIRDS AS ART is currently accepting pre-publication orders for Robert O’Toole’s APTATS II CD (Advanced Photoshop Tips and Techniques Simplified II). Unlike APTATS I, APTATS II will be a professionally designed, packaged, and burned CD. We are striving to have them here at BAA in time to ship them before the holiday season. APTATS II will sell for $30 plus $3.00 shipping and handling to US addresses. Shipping to Canada is $6.00. It is $8.00 for all foreign orders. Florida residents will need to add 7% sales tax ($2.10) on the cost of the CD only.

Now here’s the best news: you can save $5 by pre-ordering your copy of Robert O’Toole’s APTATS II now (only through BAA). You can send us a Paypal, call us at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand, or order APTATS II from the BAA On-line Store (with secure credit card data transmission) by clicking here:

(Note: Shipping charges with BAA On-line Store orders may vary by small amounts from those noted above.)


Cabby Bloss is offering a used Canon 600mm f/4 IS lens for sale. It’s been protected by a Lens Coat (included) for all but 2 of the months that she has owned it. Dust is visible when looking at the lens from the front but it has no effect on images. It’s been checked out by Canon and been given a clean bill of health. Sale includes original case, box, packing, lens hood and a circular polarizer. Price $6500 plus shipping. If using PayPal, add 2.5%. Call Cabby at 775.843.6937 or e-mail her at

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Heerman’s Gull, Coronado, CA
Image Copyright 2006: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens with the 2XII TC and the EOS-1Ds MII. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/100 sec. at f/9. Fill flash with the Better Beamer at -1 1/3 stops.

Heerman’s Gull is one of the guaranteed target species on the San Diego IPT. The bird was sitting on a sand berm—for some reason they plow them in most years at this location. The background was a boring gray so I lined myself up very carefully with a large blue rubber garbage receptacle in the distance and went to work. These are the types of pro tips that you ordinarily would not learn anywhere else but on an IPT.


San Diego IPT JAN 13-17, 2010 5 Full Days: $2395 (Limit 8/Openings: 3)

Slide program on the evening of TUES JAN 12. Payment in full is due now. We can accept your $500 deposit via credit card and will await the check for your balance. You may pay your deposit with either a personal check or with a credit card and a phone call (863-692-09060. To complete a valid registration, please fill out and complete the Registration and the Release & Assumption of Risk forms that can be found here: and Release Forms.pdf If you call with a credit card to register, please be sure to print, sign, and return the Registration and the Release & Assumption of Risk forms within ten days.

The gate at the Cave Store Cliffs has been unlocked for many, many months and my understanding is that the fence has now been removed as well. (Though I am not quite positive on the cause and effect here I do know that Scott Bourne had a show-cause order filed with regards to public access at this location.)

We will get to photograph killer breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with the red bill pouches at close range and in flight. Santee Lakes will yield close-up Wood Ducks and lots more; White Pelicans are likely there. LaJolla Shores Beach will yield Marbled Godwits in beautiful buff reflections and this spot and Coronado will give us chances on a variety of gorgeous gulls and several shorebird species as well. I selected dates that feature perfect tides for both our morning and afternoon coastal locations. And we will have extensive time for image review and Photoshop techniques.

100 Reasons to Register for the San Diego IPT You can view a gallery with my 100 favorite San Diego images here: Click on the first image to see and then click on next to view the images as a slide show. Scroll down to see the EXIF data for each image (including those above and below). Then send your deposit check 🙂 I do hope that you can join us.


Gatorland Photographic Instructional Workshops

Field Workshop February 20-21, 2010/March 20-21, 2010 / April 3-4, 2010 – extensive in-the-field instruction at East Central Florida’s best rookery location, Gatorland in Kissimmee, FL. Includes two-hour image critique sessions each day of images you created during the workshop. Field instruction includes isolating your subject, understanding light, proper exposure (exposing to the right), using depth of field to your advantage, fill-flash and lots more. CD with lesson plans included – no note taking required.

Field and Classroom May 14-16, 2010 – three full days covering everything the field workshop does plus extensive classroom instruction in image editing and optimization and presentations on photographic technique concentrating on rookery photography.

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Great Egret – Gatorland
Knowing where to be and when at Gatorland; plus understanding fill-flash technique, is key to making images like this. Let me show you how.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 600mm
1/1000 sec, f/6.3, Manual, Evaluative, ISO 800, Manual Flash

St. Augustine Photographic Instructional Workshop

April 15-18, 2010 – three and one-half days of extensive field and classroom instruction at the famous St. Augustine Alligator Farm with Robert Amoruso and Robert O’Toole. We will be using the Alligator Farm’s Education Center for meetings and equipment storage between morning and afternoon sessions. Weather is pleasant in mid-April and coincides with a point in time at the rookery when nesting, chicks, mating and nest building are all occurring – one of my favorite times of the year to be there.

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Great Egret – SAAF
Proper exposure in late afternoon light helps to achieve this image. Let me show you how.
NIKON D300, 200-400mm @ 650mm with TC
1/500 sec, f/6.7, Manual, Matrix-Metering, ISO 400, Manual Flash

Lake Clark National Park, AK Coastal Brown Bear Photographic Instructional Workshop

Join Robert Amoruso July 21 to 27, 2010 on a journey photographing Coastal Brown Bears in Lake Clark National Park on Cook Inlet in Alaska. We will photograph male and female bears; some with cubs sedging on the open plains, clamming and fishing. On each trip we have seen females nursing their young. The workshop also includes a day’s trip to a Puffin and Murres rookery island. Expert bear-savvy guides will transport us to our photography locations. Our headquarters will be the famous Silver Salmon Creek Lodge – after a day of photography warm yourself in the cozy lodge, enjoy fabulous meals and great company before retiring to a warm bed.

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The Heart of a Coastal Brown Bear
Proper exposure is key to rendering shadow details in bear image. Let me show you how.
Canon 1D Mark III, Canon 600mm
1/500 sec, f/5.6, Manual, Evaluative, ISO 800

As good as a group workshop can be, sometimes private one-on-one instruction is the ticket. My private workshops cater to your individual needs. In advance of the workshop we will discuss your objectives and how they can be met in a private setting. Then I design your workshop to meet those goals.

My private workshops generally include areas close to my home as I know them well but I can travel to other locations in Florida if you have a specific locale in mind.

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Snowy Egret Intentional Blur
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
MINWR & Viera Wetlands are my prime bird photography locations in Central Florida. During a private workshop with me, we will cover these locations and more.
Canon 1D Mark III, Canon 600mm with 1.4x TC
1/10 sec, f/5.6, Av, Evaluative, Exp comp: +2 2/3, ISO 800

Robert J. Amoruso, Wildscape Images, 12472 Lake Underhill Rd. No. 148, Orlando, FL 32828. Cell: 407-808-7417.


BOSQUE del APACHE 2009 IPT: “The Complete Bosque Experience.” NOV 21-27, 2009

Slide program on the evening of Friday, NOV 20. 7-FULL DAYS: $3199. (Non-refundable deposit: $500; see details below.) Limit: 10/Sold Out Co-leaders: Scott Bourne and Robert O’Toole. Live, eat, and breathe photography with one of (if not the) world’s premier photographic educators at his very favorite locations on the planet. Plus two great co-leaders and lots of Photoshop instruction.


Slide program on the evening of FEB 9. Slide program on the evening of FEB 11. 6-FULL DAYS: $2799. (Non-refundable deposit: $500.) Limit: 10/Openings: 1. Co-leaders: Tim Grey and Alfred and Fabiola Forns.

Imagine having Photoshop guru Tim Grey at your side to answer your Photoshop questions for 6 full days! Escape winter’s icy grip and join me in Florida in the land of ridiculously tame birds. This IPT will visit Little Estero Lagoon which has been fantastic for the past three years (and been getting better each year), the Venice Rookery, several killer Burrowing Owl nests on Cape Coral, and several spots on Sanibel including Blind Pass, the Sanibel Fishing Pier, and the East Gulf beaches (for Snowy Plover). If we have a foggy drizzly morning we may visit Corkscrew Swamp and Sanctuary. We have arranged for morning low tides at Little Estero and a setting full moon for our Saturday visit to the Venice Rookery :). For the first time ever, we will not be visiting Ding Darling NWR as photographic opportunities there have been diminishing steadily for the past decade. As you can see, I am teaching less and less, taking fewer folks, and lengthening the IPTs to allow for a slightly more relaxed pace with repeat visits to the best locations.

A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to hold a spot for each of the above IPTs. Deposits may be paid by check, Paypal, or credit card. Payment in full (by check or money order) is due four months before the start of each trip and is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out. You will be required to sign a statement of understanding to this effect. Travel insurance is of course highly recommended. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options, you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage, which expands the list of reasons for your canceling to an infinite list, from a sudden work or family obligation to a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. We regret that we must implement this new policy but we have recently been plagued by last minute cancellations that make it impossible for others to participate and deprive us of essential income.

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