Fred First knows better. He intruded, without permission, into my “birds against the sky” franchise Thursday with a beautiful Photoshopped image of a raven against a brilliant, cloudlit sky. He also added some pithy comments about what he feels is my annoying habit of finding such photos wherever I go.

This, of course, means war. Guess Fred didn’t learn his lesson in Moon Wars, Parts Uno, Deux and Tres. Gotta teach the boy another lesson in how to take artsy-fartsy birds against the sky photos.

The first secret, of course, is to be willing to stop anywhere at anytime to capture such a photo. Amy has cowered in the passenger seat when I slammed on the brakes on a busy Interstate or along a winding country road because just the right shot appeared on the horizon. Don’t worry about oncoming traffic. They’ll avoid you. After all, you’re on a mission and nothing, not even the threat of an 18-wheeler hurtling toward you at warp speed can be allowed to divert your attention from the matter at hand.

The other secret is what we in the photo trade call “long, fast glass:” telephoto lenses with large aperture settings. My favorites are 400mm f2.8 and 600mm f4 Canon L series lenses coupled to a Canon EOS1Ds Mark II digital SLR. Set at maximum aperture (for fastest shutter speed), crank up autofocus and image stabilization and fire away.

Of course, when all else fails, I can do what Fred did. Take a photo of a bird against a blue sky and then paste it into an earlier photo of a cloudy sky.

This time I didn’t have to. But it always helps to have Photoshop in your bag of tricks.