The BIG SECRET to becoming a better nature photographer revealed… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The BIG SECRET to becoming a better nature photographer revealed...

What’s Up?

As I typed this blog post it was just before 5am in Hokkaido on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 which is just before 3pm on Tuesday February 23 on the east coast. The whole group flies this morning from Hokkaido to Tokyo’s Haneda. After a 12-hour layover I fly with Donna Bourdon and Bev Still to Los Angles on a flight that leaves at 12:05am just after midnight on Thursday February 25th and gets into LAX the day before on Wednesday, February 24! After my 4-hour layover I take a red eye flight to Orlando arriving at 5am on Thursday morning, February 25. Whew. As on the way over, I will take things one breath at a time.

It looks as if two of the eight available slots for Japan 2017 are filled. Please shoot me an e-mail if you are interested or if you wish to learn about couple and IPT repeat customer discount information. I learned this morning that the sale of Phil Frigon’s Canon 200-400 with Internal Extender was finalized. You can see all of the current listings here.

Bird Photography Tips for the Serious Photographer Video

B&H Event Space: Arthur Morris and Denise Ippolito

Some folks have been having trouble accessing the full 1 hour, 38 minute, 19 second version both here and on Facebook and Twitter. The link here seems to work. If you have a problem, please leave a comment.

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks 114 days in a row with a new educational blog post. This post took me about 60 minutes to assemble including the time spent on the image optimization. As always–and folks have been doing a great job recently–please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated.

Selling Your Used Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They recently folded. And eBay fees are now in the 14% range. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few months, we have sold just about everything in sight. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the original 400mm IS DO lens have been dropping steadily. Even the prices on the new 600 II and the 200-400 with Internal Extender have been plummeting. You can see all current listings by clicking here or by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the right side of the yellow-orange menu bar above.

New Listings

Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS II Lens

South Georgia BAA group veteran Aravind Krishnaswamy is offering a Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS II lens in like-new condition for $4,749. The sale includes the front leather cap, the rear cap, the lens trunk and insured shipping via FedEx priority. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Aravind by e-mail or by phone at 408-341-9332 (Pacific time).

The 300mm f/2.8L IS II is astoundingly sharp both by itself and with either Series III teleconverter. It is relatively easy to hand hold for most folks and is great for birds in flight. It makes and ideal everyday super-telephoto for folks who like to go light and those who usually work with tame birds. artie

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS Lens with Internal 1.4 Extender

Thomas Kokta is offering a used Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS lens with Internal Extender in excellent plus condition for the insanely record-low BAA price of $8,450. The lens has only been used twice. The only blemish are (very) tiny marks where the lens plate was attached. The sale includes the lens trunk, the original leather front lens cover, the original box and packing stuff, and insured ground shipping via FED-EX Ground to US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Thomas via e-mail or by phone at 425-369-9775 (central time).

This is the world’s best lens for a trip to Africa. It kills also in the Galapagos and in South Georgia, the Falklands, and Antarctica. And I use mine a lot at Bosque and other dusty places where the built-in TC helps to keep your sensor clean. The lens sells new at B&H right now for $10,999. You can save $2549 by grabbing Thomas’s lens now. artie

Canon 500mm f/4L IS & 1.4X II TC

BPN Moderator Steve Maxson is offering a used Canon 500 mm f/4L IS USM lens (the old 500) and an EF Extender 1.4XII for a crazy low $3,875. Both are in excellent condition. The lens was recently cleaned and serviced by Canon and has a new focusing motor. There are some cosmetic chips in the paint around the tripod mount and some cosmetic wear in the paint where the lens hood attaches. This sale includes the lens trunk, the carrying strap, the front leather cover, the rear lens cap, a LensCoat, a Really Right Stuff lens plate, the soft case plus the front and rear caps for the TC, and insured shipping (USA only) via UPS Ground.

Please contact Steve via e-mail or phone 218 586-3414 (Central time).

The 500 f/4 lenses have long been the most popular focal length for bird, wildlife, and nature photography. I have owned various iterations of this lens for more than 15 years. I loved my old five. With the TC Steve’s lens is an astounding value. Grab it now or it will be gone. artie

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens

BPN Moderator Steve Maxson is offering a used Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens in excellent condition for $775. There is some cosmetic wear in the paint where the tripod collar attaches; the glass is perfect. This sale includes the front and rear lens caps, a third party tripod collar, a Really Right Stuff lens plate, the soft case, manual, original box, and insured shipping (USA only) via UPS Ground. The lens will not ship until your check clears or other arrangements are made.

Please contact Steve via e-mail or phone 218 586-3414 (Central time).

I used this lightweight intermediate telephoto lens in Norway for birds and for B-roll stuff. It is superbly sharp and extremely versatile. It would be a great buy either for a travel photographer or a beginning to intermediate bird photographer (who cannot at present afford the 100-400 II). artie


This image was created on a cold morning near Tsurui after we photographed the marsh river (image or images coming soon) on the Japan in Winter IPT with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens at “400mm” and the mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/11 in Av mode. Shade WB.

Four AF points down and one to the left of the center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF on bottom center of the leaf was active at the moment of exposure which is 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.

Leaf with frost on cold morning

Detail Shots: its all in the details…

Many factors went into creating a successful image here:

  • I chose my perspective so as to yield a distant background of frosty marsh and to maximize the backlight.
  • I opted to angle the camera to introduce a strong diagonal.
  • I selected an AF point that would make the leaf sharpest where I wanted it to be.
  • I made sure that AF was active at the moment of exposure so that the image would be accurately focused whether a small breeze came up or I shifted position slightly.
  • I chose an aperture that would get both the leaf and the frost on the edge of the leaf sharp. If I had it to do again, I would have gone with f/16 at 1/250 second…
  • I went to -1/3 stop to eliminate blinkies in the backlit frost.


The DPP 4 Screen Capture

More Fine Points

  • I moved the Shadow Slider to the right to +2 to open up the backlit leaf
  • I opted to execute an Original Ratio crop in Photoshop to eliminate the small dark smudge that crept into the upper left corner of the frame.

Learn why I used DPP 4 for all of my RAW conversions here.

A Philosophical Photography Question

Ask yourself, “How careful am I each time that I push the shutter button?”

The Big Secret to Becoming a Better Nature Photographer

The big secret to becoming a better nature photographer is learning to pay attention to small details…


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 2017 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.

Bus Travel to Monkey Park Hotel: 10 FEB: A 1/2 DAY of monkey photography is likely depending on our travel time… This traditional hotel is first class all the way. Out stay includes three ten course Japanese dinners these sumptuous meals will astound you and delight your taste buds. There are many traditional hot baths (onsens) on site in this 150 year old hotel.

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. A 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. 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.

Please Remember to use our Affiliate Links 🙂

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod heads, Gitzo tripods, Wimberley heads and plates, LensCoats and accessories, and the like. We sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and visiting the BAA Online store as well.


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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 🙂

4 comments to The BIG SECRET to becoming a better nature photographer revealed…

  • I agree that the Canon 200-400 with built-in 1.4X is the “the world’s best lens for a trip to Africa” and other places–why then, do you think the prices for used ones are “plummeting” as you reported just a few lines above. Doesn’t seem to make sense.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Actually it makes a lot of sense. When the 2-4 came on the scene the 100-400 II was nowhere to be seen. The 1-4 is quite versatile, offers amazing close focus that increases its versatility–see today’s featured image for example, is far lighter, and cost a fraction of what the 200-400 costs.

      The huge advantage of the 200-400 is the larger aperture: f/4 as compared to f/5.6 (and f/5.6 versus f/8 with a 1.4X TC in place with either lens). That especially in the low light conditions that you often encounter in the Southern Ocean locations: The Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica.

      An f/4 lens gives folks with the 200-400 all AF points at f/5.6 with current camera bodies and the internal TC engaged. At 560mm you are limited to the center AF point plus the four assist points in Expand. And as mentioned above, the 2-4 with its built-in TC has a big advantage in arid, dusty situations.

      The law of supply and demand is relentless. With more and more folks going to the 100-400 II there are more 200-400s for sale. artie

  • Wait a minute…are you trying to say that the big secret to becoming a better photographer isn’t buying the most expensive camera and lens and firing off 20 shots every time you press the shutter button?

    I’m floored 🙂