I Surprised Myself at the Last Second: My Japan Gear Bag. And the 2017 Japan in Winter IPT Announced. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

I Surprised Myself at the Last Second: My Japan Gear Bag. And the 2017 Japan in Winter IPT Announced.

What’s Up?

I began this blog post on Thursday past and am finishing it on my MCO to LAX flight on the way to my connecting flight to Tokyo. It is an amazing world that we live in: I am online on a jetliner at 30,000 feet via free GoGoInFlight passes from my Platinum AMEX card. Man, you gotta love it.

My last-ever Japan in Winter Tour is announced below. Please e-mail with questions and for couple and IPT repeat customer discount information. This trip has sold out well in advance in three of the past four years. The missing year? I did not go. This will be my last Japan in Winter IPT. I do hope that you can join me.

Used Photo Gear News

The sale of Phil Frigon’s Canon 200-400 f/4L IS with Internal Extender for $8995 is pending. Carl Zanoni’s three Series III TCs sold instantly for $279 each and I learned on Monday that the sale of one of his 1D X bodies is pending. Man, the place is hopping!

Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS II Zoom Lens with Internal 1.4X Extender

A New Lowest-ever BAA Price: $8799!
Price Reduced $651 on FEB 8, 2015.

Good friend and IPT veteran George Golumbeski is offering a used Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS zoom lens with Internal 1.4X Extender in excellent plus to near-mint condition with several extras, was $9450.00, now $8799. The sale includes all of the original items supplied by Canon including the lens trunk, the lens strap, the Canon E-145C Lens Cap (actually a lens hood made of tough synthetic fabric), the rear lens cap, the ET-120 Lens Hood, a 4th Generation Design CRX-5 replacement foot, the the original Canon foot and screws, a LensCoat (in digital camo), a Don Zeck front lens cover, and insured shipping via UPS Ground. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact George via e-mail or by phone at 1-973 216 3832 (Eastern time zone).

The 200-400 is a killer lens when you are working with tame birds or large mammals; can you say the Galapagos, Africa, South Georgia and the rest of the great Southern Ocean locations, Florida, or La Jolla? I have owned and used this lens since its release. artie

My Japan Gear Bag

I knew all along that the big decision for this trip would be whether to bring the lighter, smaller 500mm f/4L IS II or the bulkier, heavier, and longer 600 II. By the narrowest of margins I surprised myself by opting for the 600 II. Keep reading to learn why and more.

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens. I went with the 600 II for several reasons (and very much despite my right shoulder). Perhaps the great ART treatment I got from chiropractor/friend TJ McKeon on Thursday afternoon made me do it. In any case, we do not walk any great distances on the Japan IPT, at least in the spots were I will need the 600 for reach. That will be the case at the two crane sanctuaries, primarily Tsurui-Itoh where the extra reach really helps in the morning when the Red-crowned Cranes are flying in. I will also bring it onto the eagle boat along with my Induro tripod topped by a Mongoose M3.6. There is not much walking there either. 🙂 And I will likely use it for the Whooper Swans at times and for the ducks in the harbor at Rausu.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. This lens will be on my shoulder for most of the trip either with a 5DS R OR A 1D X via a Black Rapid strap. The 100-400 focal length fits beautifully with the 600 II. I will be using it as I always do for just about everything. That will include catch-as-catch-can flight and action, portraits, and as my main lens on a tripod for the Snow Monkeys. The close-focus there will be amazingly valuable… It was a pretty easy decision to leave the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at home as I can cover the missing 70-100 with the 24-105.

I am also bringing the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens. Many would think that it counterfeits the 100-400 II to some degree and it obviously does but there are lots of advantages that come along with its lighter weight (as compared to the 600 II) and its wider f/4 aperture (as compared to the 100-400II). I will use it for hand held flight for the two species of sea-eagles that we will likely get to photograph, for the Whooper Swans in flight, and for the Red-Crowned Cranes when they are landing close to us. I will likely bring up the hill for the Snow Monkeys so that I can enjoy 800mm of full frame reach if I need it. It’s light weight will be greatly appreciated on that hike. In addition, the 400 DO II offers a good measure of insurance should fate claim my 600 II.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. This all-purpose B-roll lens will be in my Vested Interest Xtrahand vest where it can be grabbed whenever it is needed or used on a tripod for scenic photography.

I am bringing the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens for scenic photography even though I am not very good with this lens…

Camera Bodies

I brought two of the mega-high megapixel Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR bodies and will be using them often with all of the lenses above including on the 600 II either alone or with either TC.

EOS-1D X. I will use my rugged pro body in very low light as it offers better high ISO control of noise and may use it for photographing action with the 600 II and the 2X III TC as the more powerful 1D X battery makes it better choice when I am working at 1200mm and need the fastest possible AF.


I am making this trip with the usual complement of TCs: three Canon 1.4X III TCs and two 2X III TCs. With my style of bird photography–tight, clean, and graphic–I cannot afford to be without both TCs in the event of an accident or malfunction–or loss. 🙂 Most common in the malfunction category would be that the locking pin sticks; when that happens, there is a risk of having your camera body hit the ground.

Questions Welcome

If you have a question about any of my gear choices above please feel free to leave a comment. Do you disagree with any of my choices? What would you be brining to Japan. And why?

Think Tank Rolling Bags

I will be using the larger of my two Think Tank rolling bags, the Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag. Everything above fit easily into my Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag on Saturday afternoon. It tipped the scales at 45 1/2 pounds for this trip; the legal limit for US flights is 40 pounds. Nearly all countries in the world give you slack as far as the 40 pounds goes on the way back to the US. As far as the extra 5 1/2 pounds, I have only been hassled for weight once in more than three decades of flying around the world. And never in Japan. I hope that I do not give myself a kine-ahora.

Please click on my Think Tank affiliate link here or on the Think Tank logo-link in the right column of each blog post page to earn a free gift when you purchase any Think Tank product.

Think Tank Urban Disguise Laptop Shoulder Bag

Both Denise Ippolito and I use and love this amazing bag as it has tons of room and enables us to bring tons of extra stuff. If you are forced to gate check your roller you can get more than a few items in this bag, especially if you are not a diabetic.

Please click on my Think Tank affiliate link here or on the Think Tank logo-link in the right column of each blog post page to earn a free gift when you purchase any Think Tank product.

Delkin Flash Cards

As always, I will have a 64gb Delkin e-Film Pro Flash Card in each camera body so that I never have to change cards in the field thus reducing the risk of losing a card…. Please note the new lower prices here. I do have a few extra 32 and 64gb cards in a Delkin CF Memory Card Tote, mostly to protect against operator error.

Vested Interest Xtrahand Vest

I use a custom-designed Vested Interest Xtrahand Magnum vest that John Storrie knows as the BIRDS AS ART Big Lens Vest. It is based on their Magnum vest and then customized to best fit my needs. In addition to carrying a ton of stuff comfortably in the field, it gives you a measure of protection should your roll aboard be gate-checked on puddle jumper or other flights.

If you do a search for “vest’ or “vested interest” on the blog it will take you to many mentions in both the blog and the Bulletins with lots of additional information. See especially here and here.

Click here to learn more about Xtrahand Vests. You can always call John at 940 484 2222 to discuss customizing your vest. If you think that you might order, be sure to have a tape measure in hand. Please let him know that we sent you.


Consider joining me in Japan in February, 2017, for the world’s best Japan in Winter workshop. Click on the card to enjoy the spectacular larger version.

Japan In Winter IPT. February 9-24, 2017: $13,999/double occupancy.

All lodging including the Tokyo hotel on 9 FEB, all breakfasts & dinners, ground transport and transfers including bus to the monkey park hotel, and all entrance fees and in-country flights are included. Not included: international flights, all lunches–most are on the run, and alcoholic beverages.

Please e-mail for couple and IPT repeat customer discount information.

This trip is one day longer than the great 2014 trip to allow for more flexibility, more time with the cranes, and most importantly, more time for landscape photography. Hokkaido is gorgeous. You will enjoy tons of pre-trip planning and gear advice, in-the-field instruction and guidance, at-the-lodge Photoshop and image review sessions in addition to short introductory slide programs for each of the amazing locations. Skilled photographer Paul McKenzie handles the logistics and we enjoy the services of Japan’s best wildlife photography guide whom I affectionately call “Hokkaido Bear.” His network of local contacts and his knowledge of the weather, the area, and the birds enables him to have us in the best location every day.


Amazing subjects. Beautiful settings. Nonstop action and unlimited opportunities. Join me.

The Logistics

Arrive Tokyo: 9 FEB 2016 the latest. 8 FEB is safer and gives you a day to get acclimated to the time change. Your hotel room for the night of the 9th is covered.

Travel to Monkey Park Hotel: 10 FEB: Short 1/2 DAY of monkey photography is remotely possible depending on our travel time….

Full Day snow monkeys: FEB 11.

Full Day snow monkeys: FEB 12.

13 FEB: Full travel day to Hokkaido/arrive at our lodge in the late afternoon. The lodge is wonderful. All the rooms at the lodge have beds. Bring your warm pajamas. Local onsen (hot springs bath and tubs) is available for $5 each day before dinner–when you are cold, it is the best thing since sliced bread. The home-cooked Japanese styles meals at the lodge are to die for, and the traditional and sumptuous Japanese-style meals at the Snow Monkey Park will astound you and delight your taste buds. What’s the best news? Only a small stand of woods separates us from the very best crane sanctuary. During one big snowstorm we were the only photo group to be able to get to Tsurui Ito; we had the whole place to ourselves in perfect conditions for crane photography!

FEB 14-23: Red-crowned Crane, raptors in flight, Whooper Swans, and scenic photography. Ural Owl possible. One 2-night trip to Rausu for Steller’s and White Tailed Sea Eagles on the tourists boats is 100% dependent weather, road, and sea ice conditions. Only our trip offers complete flexibility in this area. It has saved us on more than once occasion. An afternoon of duck photography in the harbor at Rausu is a strong possibility. The cost of 3 eagle-boat trips is included. If the group would like to do more than three boat trips and we all agree, there will be an additional charge for the extra trip or trips. Do understand that few if any tours offer at least one afternoon boat trip….

Lodging notes: bring your long johns for sleeping in the lodge. In Rausu and at the Snow Monkey Park, the hotel the rooms are Japanese-style. You sleep on comfortable mats on the floor. Wi-fi is available every day of the trip.

FEB 24. Fly back to Tokyo for transfer to your airport if you are flying home that night, or, to your hotel if you are overnighting. If you need to overnight, the cost of that room is on you.


Life is short. Hop on the merry-go-round.

To Sign Up

To save your spot, please send your $5,000 non-refundable deposit check made out to “Birds as Art” to Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. I do hope that you can join me for this trip of a lifetime. Do e-mail with any questions or give me a buzz at 863-692-0906.

Purchasing travel insurance within 2 weeks of our cashing your deposit check is strongly recommended. On two fairly recent Galapagos cruises a total of 5 folks were forced to cancel less than one week prior to the trip. My family and I use Travel Insurance Services and strongly recommend that you do the same.

8 comments to I Surprised Myself at the Last Second: My Japan Gear Bag. And the 2017 Japan in Winter IPT Announced.

  • avatar Andrae Acerra

    Artie – please excuse the off topic but I must comment IMMEDIATELY! I just received my Birds as Art – The Avian Photography of Arthur Morris (The Top 100) companion CD in the mail today. I am blown away. It is spectacular from the CD jacket (including the art work inside and on the CD) and, of course, all of your incredible photographs. One photograph is more stunning than the next. Wow!

    Honestly, if you have not ordered your CD – I do not know what you are waiting for. Once again, Artie, you have outdone yourself. Congratulations! Have a great time in Japan.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Andrae, Is that all you got to say?

      Seriously, many thanks on all counts. I am forgiving you for the off-topic comment 🙂

      later and love, artie

      ps: Andrae and her very nice friend from Chicago were with me on last summer’s Nickerson Beach IPT.

  • Nice gear bag for your trip. I’m on the fence on picking up a 5Ds R as my landscape/architecture camera but your work with the body is definitely pushing me to the side of picking one up.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Eric, When you see what Patrick has to say in tomorrow’s blog post, you will buy one for sure. Please do consider using my B&H affiliate link 🙂

      Best and great picture making, artie

  • avatar Bob

    which induro tripod are you using?

  • The link to the Urban Disguise doesn’t work. I was gonna post it, but I wasn’t sure if you meant to go to a specific bag or the entry point
    to pick a Urban bag.

    Hopefully the weather cooperates. If I remember correctly, last year you had a bunch of snow.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Fixed. The “shopping page” that you wind up on does not make much sense but it works. I have been after them to change it for months 🙂 Tanks a stack Doug. a