The Western Gulls were eating blood-filled who-knows-whats every afternoon. They would land with them, squeeze them till they burst creating a shower of what seemed to be blood, take flight, and eventually swallow them. This image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop off the sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.
Central Sensor–Expand AF area/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial.
The 5D Mark III is my go-to flight photography body. The new AF system is superb. Click on the image for a larger version.
EOS-5D MII–EOS-1D Mark IV Gear Strategy
Here is my current gear strategy:
Whenever possible I will use my EOS-5D Mark III for all flight photography whether with the 800mm f/5.6L IS or the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS with or without the 1.4XIII TC. 5D MIII AF is that good.
When working with birds at relatively close range I will use my EOS-5D Mark III with the 800mm f/5.6L IS lens as my everyday go-to rig.
When I need more reach I will use the EOS-1D Mark IV with the 1.4X III TC on the 800.
This tiny Pied-billed Grebe was photographed with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens, the 1.4X III TC, and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at +2/3 stop: 1/160 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode.
Central sensor (by necessity) AI Servo/Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.
Here I went to the 800/1.4X III/Mark IV combo for maximum reach.
How I Do It
In order to implement this strategy I will use one of the two options that I used in Morro Bay:
1- Head afield with the 5D III on the 800 on the tripod with the EOS-1D Mark IV in one of the large front pockets of my Xtrahand vest with the 1.4X III TC attached. When and if I need more focal length I will simply remove the 5DIII and mount the 1D IV.
2- Head afield with the 5D III on the 800 on the tripod with the EOS-1D Mark IV and the 1.4X III TC on the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens on my shoulder via a Black Rapid RS-7 strap. When I need more focal length I will simply switch the camera bodies.
Central sensor on the grebe’s neck/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.
Right after photographing the Pied-billed Grebe the sun came out and this Western Grebe swam into range. Being a much larger bird I simply took off the 1.4X III TC and held it in my left hand as I photographed.
This image was created with the hand held Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens, the 1.4X III TC (at 280mm), and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 250. Evaluative metering at +1 stops: 1/250 sec. at f/4.5 in Tv mode.
Central Sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus and recompose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.
Having the 70-200 along with both camera bodies and a 1.4XIII TC gives me a wide range of focal lengths that I can use to create bird-scapes like the one above. When I saw the Willets flying in I focused on the closet bird on the beach and let the showy sandpipers fly into prime position before making a series of images.
The Western Gull image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops off the sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.
Central Sensor–Expand AF area/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version. Click on the image for a larger version.
The 5D MIII AF system worked well for flight even with backgrounds other than sky as you can see here. Working in Manual mode is the key to success when the background might change from sky to hillside in an instant. The exposure at the moment the shutter was released here was probably about -1/3 stop as framed.
Central Sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF and recompose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.
My young co-leader Adian Briggs brought us to a rocky area along the coast. Over time we found both Black Turnstone and Black Oystercatcher. When he said the the birds would be approachable I went with the 5D III/800 combo and left everything else in the car. It turned out to be the perfect move.
Central Sensor–Expand AF area/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.
When we spent a few minutes tossing bread to the gulls in the shadow of Morro Rock I grabbed the 70-200 and the 5D III and went to work. It performed superbly even creating sharp on the eye images every time even at the wide open aperture.
The strategy above is my current strategy. If you meet me in the field tomorrow I might be doing something different. Why? I am learning more about my new camera every day and things may change rapidly.
By the way, I would expect that folks with either a 500 or 600mm f/4L IS lens who own both a 5D III and Mark IV might employ a similar strategy with their 2X teleconverters….
Which Image Do You Like Best?
Take a moment to let us know which image you like best, and why you like it.
The BIRDS AS ART 1st International Bird Photography Competition has been going great guns. Additional folks are getting in on the fun each day. And many folks who had previously finished their entries have been taking advantage of the extension by uploading even stronger images. Thanks to those who responded to my Hand of Man pleas; it is now one of our strongest categories. While each of the following categories has some very strong images there is still room for improvement: Small in the Frame/Environmental, Pleasing Blurs, Youth, and especially Captive (photographs of captive, zoo, pet, or rehab birds).
Important Contest News
While you may upload images until 11:59pm eastern time on April 30, 2012, the very last day for registering for the contest and for making eligible B&H purchases will be Monday, April 23, 2012. This will give us time to process your registrations and verify your B&H purchases and will give you time to upload your images successfully. Good luck to all.
Do save your e-mail receipts for eligible B&H purchases made after Monday, April 23 as you will be able to use them for entry into the BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Competition; details will be announced in several months. Please remember, only B&H purchases made using the product-specific BAA B&H affiliate links in the Bulletins or on the blog or the more general link here qualify. See additional details by scrolling down to item 2 here. If in doubt, simply start your B&H searches by clicking here:
Earn Free Contest Entries and Support both the Bulletins and the Blog by making all your B & H purchases here.
More and more folks are earning multiple contest entries with their B & H purchases. See here for details on that. Eleven great categories, 34 winning and honored images, and prize pools valued in excess of $20,000. Click here to visit the competition home page.
Below is a list of the gear used to create the images in today’s post. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.
Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2XIII teleconverter. I also use it a lot–depending on the situation–with the 1.4X III TC.
Canon EF 1.4X III TC. This new TC is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EOS-5D Mark III. Man, I am in love with this camera body. Both the files and the AF system are superb.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. The very best professional digital camera body that I have ever used.
And from the BAA On-line Store:
LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sales value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders And you will love them in mega-cold weather….
Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
CR-80 Replacement Foot for Canon 800. When using the 800 on a Mongoose as I do, replacing the lens foot with this accessory lets the lens sit like a dog whether pointed up or down and prevents wind-blown spinning of your lens on breezy days by centering the lens directly over the tripod.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
BreezeBrowser. I do not see how any digital photographer can exist without this program.