The 400 DO II/7D II Combo: Saving the Best for Last (in more ways than one…) « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The 400 DO II/7D II Combo: Saving the Best for Last (in more ways than one...)


We left the cottages at 4:45am sharp as planned and arrived at Edinburgh Airport just before 7:00am, also as planned. After a short delay while returning our rental vans and a long delay at security, denise and I got to the gate for our 9:25 flight to Newark at about 8:55 only to find groups 1 & 2 were boarding. Whew. I slept off and on in a somewhat comatose state for the first five hours. I edited some image files and then worked on the two images for this blog post on the flight to EWR, UA 37. We almost landed 30 minutes early at Newark but with the runway in sight just below the pilot gunned the engines and circled for an additional 30 minutes stating that there had been a disabled plane on our runway. Oops. I had been there and done that.

We arrived on time at just about noon. After a coffee break Denise headed home while I prepared to enjoy the rest of my five hour layover: Jet Blue to MCO leaving at 5:00 pm scheduled to arrive at MCO at 7:43pm where the dependable Mr. Litzenberg should be waiting to grab me. I spent about 2 hours preparing this blog post, most of that during my layover. I plan on publishing this on the early morning of Tuesday, July 7th.

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This image was created on the last morning of the 2015 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT with the hand held Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops off the light-toned sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/4.5.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter button AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). As originally framed, the selected sensor was squarely on the bird’s face. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Atlantic Puffin with fish braking to land by nest.

The 400 DO II/7D II Combo: Saving the Best for Last (in more ways than one…)

Long-ago multiple IPT veteran William T. (Bill) Lloyd–it was great to see him again after so long–had offered to let me try his 400 DO II since day one of the trip. Several other lucky 400 DO II owners kindly offered to do that same. Finally, on the last morning of the trip, I succumbed. Bit time thanks to Bill. Co-leader Denise Ippolito had put most of our folks in a great spot from which to photograph the incoming puffins, many with fish. After putting the rest of the group in a pretty darned good spot myself with landing birds at closer range, I joined denise’s clan; she and I had rarely photographed together on the whole trip. There were smiles and high fives all around.

Conditions were dead-solid prefect with sky conditions ranging from cloudy bright to solid overcast. Denise was at 600mm on a tripod with the 600 II and a 1D X. I was at 640mm with the hand held 400 DO II/7D II combination. When I was editing my images on our United flight to Newark on Monday, denise said, “You really rocked ’em. When are you getting the 400 DO II?” I responded, “I will try to get one through Canon Explorers of Light before my Galapagos trip.” When I got the sensor on the bird’s face and the system was tracking, most every image was razor sharp on the eye. As I say here often, diminishing strength and diminishing hand eye coordination often prevents me from tracking flying birds smoothly…. My persistence often makes up for these short-comings.

With perfect sky and wind conditions the flight photography was so, so good that the folks who were hand holding complained of lower back and shoulder muscle strain. If you lowered your lens to rest for even a few seconds you usually paid a big price in form of a great missed opportunity. I photographed through the pain for nearly two hours before I quit to take a walk. It was then that I found a decent spot to photograph the incoimng murres. More pain. But heck, it was the last day!

In short, it was the very best day of puffin flight photography that I have ever had the privilege to enjoy.


This image was also created on the last morning of the 2015 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT with the hand held Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 640. Evaluative metering +2 1/3 stops off the white sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/4.5.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #2: Common Murre braking to land at cliff nest.

Exposure Fine Point Question

Serous students are invited to study the exposure data carefully and try this one on for size:

A: Why only +1 2/3 stops off the sky in image #1 but +2 1/3 stops off the sky in image #2? Please be specific.

Your Favorite?

Which of today’s two images do you like best? Be sure to let us know why?

2016 UK Puffins and More IPT

We hope to be announcing the dates details for this great trip soon. If you would like to have us save you a spot please shoot us an e-mail. We have three folks signed up already….

400 DO II

I look forward to getting my hands on this lens and giving it a thorough test with and without TCs. If what you read here motivates you to purchase this lens we would of course appreciate you using my B&H affiliate link and shooting me your receipt via e-mail so that I can attempt to have your order expedited. Please understand that there is a large backlog of orders and that I am hoping that the logjam is eased as happened recently with the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4L IS II.


The strange thing is that when I lived in New York, I never knew about this amazing and consistently productive location.

Nickerson Beach/JBWR (possibly…)/Black Skimmer/Oystercatcher/migrant shorebird IPT: August 13-16, 2015. 3 1/2 DAYS: $1399.

Meet and greet on the evening of WED August 12. Limit 10/Openings 3.

Most of our seven photo sessions will be spent at Nickerson beach photographing the nesting Black Skimmers. In flight, sometimes battling. Carrying fish. Chicks of varying sizes from a very few just-hatched to lots of fledglings. It is likely that we will get to see some Great Black-backed Gulls preying on the juvenile skimmers. They swallow them whole. There will be lots of gulls to photograph as well as some Common Terns. Locally breeding shorebird species include American Oystercatcher–pretty much guaranteed, Willet, which is likely, and Piping Plover, which is probable but we need to get lucky with those to get close….

Save a space by calling Jim or Jen at the office and arranging to leave your deposit of $499. I hope to see you there.



If local conditions are ideal we may visit Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to photograph southbound migrant shorebirds on one or possibly two mornings. Even if we do not visit JBWR we should get some good chances with the migrant shorebirds at the beach, especially Sanderling and Semipalmated Plover. Red Knot and others are possible.


As you can see, the oystercatchers are quite tame at Nickerson. And we will get you up early and we will stay out late.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge In-the-field Instructional Photo Workshop/Scouting Session. August 12, 2015. Morning only: $250. Cheap!

The tide will be pretty good at the East Pond…. If I learn that conditions there are un-photographable we will do Nickerson Beach as a back-up. This will work either as an add-on for out of town folks coming for the IPT above or as a stand alone session. Either way, you will, as always, learn a ton. And we might even get some good images.


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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

52 comments to The 400 DO II/7D II Combo: Saving the Best for Last (in more ways than one…)

  • First was blue skies and second was cloudy?

  • avatar Steve Rentmeesters

    In the first image there is a bluish sky compared to the gray sky of the second image. This indicates that there was less cloud / fog at the time of the first image. It also means there is more light at the first image, probably about 2/3 stop.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Not probably, exactly. Good analysis so far but nobody really answers the question which was:

      Why only +1 2/3 stops off the sky in image #1 but +2 1/3 stops off the sky in image #2? Please be specific.


  • Art, you refer to AI Servo Expand, do you mean AF Point Expand/AI Servo, I keep searching for AI Servo Expand in Canon’s instruction manual and the AF guide, nowhere to be found.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      In which AF Guide? When I talk about Expand, I am talking about one selected point with the 4 surrounding assist points, one above and below and one left and right. Surround is one selected point with 8 assist points active. Canon gives them some ridiculous names. All is clearly explained in our Camera Body User’s Guides and in the 1D X AF Guide. artie

      • Art, the guides I used are the Canon’s. Then it should be like the camera, AF Point Expand/AI Servo, you write it like the AI Servo is in Expand mode, not everyone has your guide(s), it would be simpler to go with what the camera shows.


        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          For me and for the folks who follow the blog my names and terms make a lot more sense than the convoluted Canon terms. If you have never tried one of our User’s Guides you might be in for a big shock 🙂 a

          ps: you should follow the blog daily as I have often shown screen captures and diagrams that illustrate both Expand and Surround….

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    So am I wrong in there being a lower ambient light level at the time of the murre photo? That’s the only explanation I can think of so far.

  • avatar Warren H

    The actual available light was 2/3 different, since the exposure on both photos were good and exposure was 2/3 greater on murre shot.

    What needs to be mentioned is that the murre shot, at that exposure, was still 2/3 stop higher than the puffin shot “compared to the sky” at that time. This means the meter was indicating the sky in both photos required the same exposure. So if the sky required the same exposure, but the murre needed 2/3 stops more light, why did that bird need more light? I think the murre was flying into the cliff, with the sun behind you and the cliff was casting a shadow. So the bird was in a shadow and needed more exposure, while the sky metered the same…

    I do have a questions for you… Why change the iso for the increased exposure? There was no apparent background, so changing the aperture to 5.6 or so would have made it easier to get sharp focus on a bird in flight and still should have a good background?


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good on the EV difference. After that, your thinking gets a bit convoluted 🙂 Also, there were no shadows….

      Your last question is confusing as well. I raised the ISO to keep the shutter speed at 1/2000 sec. with 2/3 stop less light….

      Let see how many folks understand it completely tomorrow after my clear concise explanation 🙂

      BTW, denise nailed the answer by phone in one second flat….


  • avatar Bernhard

    If the brightness in the sky is pretty much the same in both images, the expose should be the same as well: 1/2000 at f4.5. To get to that point, there are 2 possibilities:

    1) You “cranked up” the ISO for whatever reasons from 400 to 640, that is +2/3. To prevent from getting an underexposed image, you had to compensate +2/3 more.
    2) You thought the sky in the murre image was brighter thus added 2/3 compensation to get the same expose for the birds. To hold 1/2000 sec at f4.5 for the fast flying birds you compensated with ISO turning to 640.

    No. 2 makes more sense to me.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Nope, nope, and nope. Folks are confusing how WHITE the sky is in each image with how BRIGHT the sun is in each image…. As I asked below, “Can anyone answer this question: assuming (as I do) that the tonalities of the two birds are in fact identical, is the level of ambient light in each image identical? If not, how many stops is the difference?”


  • avatar Neil Hickman

    Sky in the first image has a touch of colour while in the second it is a total white-out.

  • avatar Steve Rentmeesters

    As usual my eye gets caught on the typo. In your exposure question “2 1/3 stops of” should be “2 1/3 stops off”. Question for you. If you can’t get the 400mm DO are you taking the 200-400mm as your long lens? Heavier, but also closer focusing for those tame animals.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good catch. Right now I am unsure as to whether I would bring the 300 f/2.8L IS II or the heavier more versatile 200-400…. Surely the latter would be best for many reasons, even better than the 400 DO for the Galapagos, but weight is becoming an overriding factor each day for many of us 🙂 a

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    Which one of the photos do I like best? The puffin, no question. From a natural history/behaviorial perspective, the fish in the beak tells me a lot. Why holding the fish, to feed young/ itself. The murre shot is a bird in flight. Wonderfiul capture, but otherwise just a flying bird. Technically, with the puffin image the saturation of the color of the bird makes for a more stunning image in addition to the contrast; brighter whites and deeper blacks.
    The contrast adds a punch that the murre image lacks. Only thing lacking in the puffin shot, a tilted head as is present with the Gannet. Would have added a bit more depth in the puffin photo. Both great, but still I like the puffin.

  • avatar Josh

    Hey Artie…fantastic images! I recently purchased the Canon 100-400 Mark II and I’m loving it. Any advantages to also having a 400 DO II for us 100-400 II owners? Outside of the f stop advantage I don’t see any additional benefits….reading everywhere that the image quality is quite similar in comparison. Thx again for all that you do here on the blog!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes there are advantages. Including the f/stop advantage. I am frantically scrambling to get a 400 DO to bring to the Galapagos as my long lens. Huh? 400 DO plus 2X III TC gets me to 800 with AF at f/8. Compare that to the 100-400 II plus 1.4X with AF at f/8…. That is a huge focal length advantage but only works for folks who are comfortable using the 2X and are capable of consistently creating sharp images with it…. a

      • avatar Josh

        Thx…I do utilize the 2X converter so that’s definitely something to consider. Hoping you’re able to have one in Galapagos…love to see what you’ll be able to produce with that lens. I remember you had the mark I version of the DO lens on a previous Galapagos trip and came away with some incredible stuff.

  • I would say that one was front lit and the other was back lit. I generally find about a one stop difference between the lit side and the shadow side.

  • avatar Dario A

    I really would love to know how you manage to nail the white balance every time. The colors in your photos look like the real world. do you use a grey card?


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      No grey card. Much too cumbersome. AWB for the murre was perfect.. The puffin image had a small color cast; click WB in DPP 4 took care of that…. artie

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    From the puffin’s colors and detail in the white feathers, I’d say there was more sun out in that photo. Therefore it needed less light added. The murre photo looks to me to be more overcast–duller colors and less detail in white feathers. So it needed more more light added. But maybe I’m way off.
    Love the puffins with bills full of fish

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Or maybe you are pretty close…. a

    • avatar Elinor Osborn

      Because the light got darker you had to open 2/3 stop on the murre to keep the whites from turning gray

      • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        Can anyone answer this question: assuming (as I do) that the tonalities of the two birds are in fact identical, is the level of ambient light in each image identical? If not, how many stops is the difference?


        • avatar Elinor Osborn

          Ambient light is darker in the murre photo. So you compensated by opening up an additional 2/3 stop on the sky.

          • avatar Elinor Osborn

            You kept the same shutter speed and aperture and increased the ISO by 2/3 stop letting in 2/3 stop more light.

            Perfect. Now you are in position to correctly answer the original question 🙂 a

          • avatar David Policansky

            Elinor: increasing the iso doesn’t let in more light. Only increasing the aperture or decreasing the shutter speed do that. Increasing the ISO brightens the image, either by increasing the sensor’s sensitivity or by boosting the gain.

        • avatar David Policansky

          Well, I said in my reply to you yesterday that it’s not. Less ambient light when you took the murre shot by 2/3 stop. I think because the sun was lower, earlier in the am. Look forward to seeing the real answer.

          • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

            While I do not like the “ambient light darker” phrasing, you are on the right path. How do you know that there was 2/3 stop less available light for the murre image than for the puffin image?

          • avatar David Policansky

            I know there was 2/3–actually 3/5–of a stop less light because you added 3/5 a stop worth of sensitivity (ISO), going from 400 to 640. And since both exposures were perfect, there must have been that much less light.

            No time for that much math 🙂 a

  • avatar David Peake

    I am still trying to understand how you would explain this to a student.
    I learnt to try and get the correct exposure for the subject, from the subject, so I am learning a different technique here.
    Metering off the bright sky means the camera meter is telling you something based on the sky while you want the correct exposure for the bird.
    The two images have different brightness in the sky hence the different compensation.
    The two exposures show the same shutter speed 1/2000, the same aperture F4.5. And ISO 400 , ISO 640 for image one and two respectively.
    The difference in exposure is 2/3 of a stop based on the exposure data.
    Interestingly the compensation difference is also 2/3 of a stop. That is + 1 2/3. And + 2 1/3
    So, image one , the sky is a bit deeper so the camera meter already says it needs a bit more exposure hence you have dialled in only 1 2/3 extra.
    The second image has the brighter sky ,so the meter is calling for less exposure and you have dialled in more compensation compared to what the metering is telling you to do so that you have the bird properly exposed to the right and the sky will probably be wall to wall blinkies.
    I,m loving image two the most.
    Both are great.
    Kind regards
    David Peake.

    • avatar David Peake

      Upon further reflection the camera meter must have been the he same for both exposures since the exposure difference equals the compensation difference. Therefore I have no idea why the different compensations. I feel like I’m close but can’t quite make the connection. Maybe it’s an “Artifactor”
      You wanted to keep 1/2000 and f 4.5 so you bumped the ISO because you knew the sky was different but the camera wasn’t telling you that.
      Therefore it’s more correctly called a Sm-Artie-factor. Definition, photographer intelligence > meter intlligence .

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I will only say that the sky in the second image is WHITER but it is surely NOT BRIGHTER…. Therein lies the key….

      BTW, the WHITE tones on the two birds are quite similar; this indicates that they would both require a similar exposure in similar lighting conditions…. a

      • avatar David Peake

        Kind of an aha moment.
        Embarrassed that you practically gave me the answer with the broadest of hints.
        So the brightness of the sky is the same in both images .i got that.
        Reason for the different compensation is the difference in the ambient light on the subject.
        I just couldn’t qiute put those two things together to get the proper explanation.
        Thanks once again for stretching my capacity.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Nope to ah ha…. The brightness of the sky is different. But yes, I have given lots of hints. Answer on Thursday but lots of thinking is going on. a

          ps: still a bit more stretching to do 🙂

          • avatar David Peake

            Do I wait for the explanation or try one last time?
            The 2 1/3 compensation was necessary to get the right exposure on the bird because the sky was a bit darker, but whiter.
            You increased the ISO to keep your aperture and shutter speed for flight.
            Final answer.
            DP. You can’t see it but fingers crossed.

            Close but the use of the word “darker” to describe the sky in the murre image is incorrect…. As in the explanation in Thursday’s blog post the sky was WHITER and there was less ambient light in image 2. Everyone needs to go here and study 🙂 artie

  • avatar Warren

    I believe the sky conditions were different. You are metering off of the sky in both, but the sky looks brighter in the second image. Therefore, I believe the sky was a bright thin cloud sky for the second photo, which required you to brighten it more, thus 2 1/3. The first photo may have been more overcast, so while stile bright, not as bright of a sky as the second photo. Thus only 1 2/3 stops brighter.

    Or am I way off….

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      You are on the right track but are 180 degrees off…. Remember, the meter gets dumber the closer in low light with a frame close to pure white…. a

      ps: see my BRIGHTER vs WHITER comment to David above….

      • avatar Warren

        So, more overcast means less light and you have to increase the compensation? What if the more overcast gives a darker, more grey background, rather than a white background?

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Wonderful images. Congratulations on the great conditions. Interesting how similar the wings of puffins and murres are, isn’t it? Both alcids, so shouldn’t be a surprise. I’m going to guess that you added 2 1/3 stops for the murre because of its dark head and dark feet, where as there are more light areas on the puffin’s head, as well as the fish, and you didn’t want them to blow out and thus added only 1 2/3 stops. Black and white birds are such a challenge, even if the black isn’t quite black and even if my answer is way off base.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. And yes to way off base 🙂 I was working in Manual mode and metering off the sky so the amount of dark tones and the birds has nothing to do with the correct answer. Each bird is dark with off white…. a

      • avatar David Policansky

        So, Artie, I don’t need to tell you I’m confused. So let me try reasoning from what you’ve told us so far. The puffin was shot at ISO 400 and the murre at ISO 640, but the exposures (duration and aperture) were the same for both: 1/2000 at f/4.5. So given that the exposures are perfect for both images, and the birds’ color tones are similar, there must have been less ambient light for the murre than for the puffin, hence the higher ISO for the murre; although the difference isn’t large. Why was there less light for the murre shot? You described both skies as “light-toned.” The only other variable I can think of is time of day (= sun angle), so I conclude that you took the murre shot earlier in the morning than the puffin shot.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Good job but as far as I know from 400 to 640 is two clicks, 2/3 stop…. a

          • avatar David Policansky

            Thanks, Artie. I just did the arithmetic. ISO 640 is ISO 400 plus 240, and 240 is 6/10, or 3/5, of 400. It wouldn’t surprise me to know that the camera’s clicks don’t correspond exactly to the ISOs (or stops or shutter speeds), but it’s so close that it doesn’t matter. 2/3 of 400 is 266.6666…

  • Stunning images as always. Guru, can we expect your reviews on the new 50 mp 5DS/5DSR DSLRs soon?