Exquisite in the Snow & Super High Key Funky Exquisite & 5DS R 61-Point Automatic Selection AF « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Exquisite in the Snow & Super High Key Funky Exquisite & 5DS R 61-Point Automatic Selection AF

What’s Up?

Epcot parking: $20.
Epcot entry: $436.
Hibachi lunch at Japanese Restaurant: $136.
An afternoon with family: Priceless.

Despite the sticker shock, I spent the better part of the day with younger daughter Alissa, one of her two autistic sons, Idris–whom you met the other day, and Jen’s Maya (now 14), at Epcot. Maya is great with Idris. Mission Space (orange) was way better than the Space Shuttle simulation ride at the Kennedy Space Center but Test Track was everyone’s favorite. How do you describe a day filled with Idris saying constantly, “This is the best day of my life!”?

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks 125 days in a row with a new educational blog post. As always–and folks have been doing a great job recently–please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. For best results use one of our many product-specific links; after clicking on one of those you can continue shopping with all subsequent purchases invisibly tracked to BAA. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated. Please remember: web orders only.

Everybody’s Doing It…

Everybody’s buying and selling used gear on the BAA Used Gear Page. Sales recently have been through the roof. The sale of three of the twelve items that I posted to the Used Gear Page this morning are pending after only four hours.

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 13% 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 now on the the left side of the second yellow-orange menu bar at the top of each blog post.

Insane Price Reduction

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

Yet Another Lowest-ever BAA Price!
Price Reduced an insane $400 on 3-6-15.

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 $8,050 (was $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


This image was created on the 2016 Japan in Winter IPT with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2 2/3 stops off the snow: 1/1600 sec. at f/6.3. AWB; converted in DPP 4 with Click White Balance.

61-Point Automatic Selection/Shutter Button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The system selected three AF point that grabbed the right leg of the bird in the middle. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Red-crowned Cranes feeding

Exquisite in the Snow

Beautiful birds + soft light + a serendipitous musical arrangement of the three cranes + 3 pretty much perfect head juxtapositions = exquisite in the snow.

5DS R Frame Rate

When the stars, in the form of these three cranes, lined up perfectly I held the shutter button down for 7 frames. This one was perfect…

5DS R 61-Point Automatic Selection AF

In the A Fitting Finale/5DS R Strategy Pays Off & 61-Point Automatic Selection AF Revelation blog post here I wrote: “I have never been thrilled by the performance of 61- or 65-point automatic selection AF with previous Canon camera models. As noted in our Camera User’s Guides, there are situations where Automatic Selection AF can perform well. With the dancing or squabbling cranes you will often have one bird on each side of the frame. In the past, I tried Automatic Selection AF in these situations only to be disappointed. I tried again yesterday and noted that the performance of 61-point Automatic Selection AF was vastly improved with the 5DS R as compared to all previous Canon camera bodies. I was quite impressed watching the AF points jump around almost always to good places. And once I acquired focus in the center, it held pretty darn well even when I moved the bird to one side of the frame or the other. I wound up using it for most every image and even tried it for flight with pretty good results. All that in a relatively low light/low contrast situation.”

61-point performed superbly that whole afternoon. When I got home, I wrote Canon’s Chuck Westfall as follows:

I learned on the Japan trip that the 61-point Automatic Selection AF system with the 5DS R is far better than with any previous camera. Does that make any sense???

Chuck wrote back:

Yes, because the RGB exposure meter on the 5DS & SR has approximately 150,000 pixels compared to approximately 100,000 pixels for the similar component on the 1D X. This gives the 5DS & SR models slightly better performance when it comes to subject recognition. The 5DS & SR models also have a newer version of the subject tracking algorithm than the 1D X did. But moving forward, the new 1D X Mark II has them all beat (on paper at least) because its exposure meter has approximately 350,000 pixels and it is sensitive to IR (Infrared) in addition to RGB. And it has the latest AI Servo focusing algorithms. I look forward to getting your feedback on this aspect of the 1D X Mark II after you’ve had a chance to compare.


My perception that 5DS R 61-Point Automatic Selection AF out-performed all previous cameras did indeed have a basis in fact. And better yet, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II promises what will surely be the best-ever AF system by far. I have ordered mine and cannot wait to get my hands on it. In addition to the improved AF system, noise control at the higher ISOs is anticipated to be hugely improved as compared to all previous Canon dSLRs many of which were pretty darned good.


Image #2: Red-crowned Cranes feeding, a super High Key version of the opening image

Super High Key Funky Exquisite

To create this version I simply made a Levels adjustment. I moved the Highlight slider to the left until the white feathers of the birds blended totally with the now bright whites of the snow. Then I moved the Shadow slider to the right while holding down the Alt key to blacken the blacks. Lastly I adjusted the middle tone slider to taste. Voila.

Your Fave?

Please take a moment to let us know which is your favorite of today’s two images. And please let us know why you made your pick. Please remember that the more interactive you make the blog the more folks learn.


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 is unparalleled and 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. Our stay includes three ten course Japanese dinners; these sumptuous meals will astound you and delight your taste buds. There are many traditional hot springs mineral 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. An overnight trip to Rausu for Steller’s Sea Eagle and White-tailed Eagle photography on the tourists boats is 100% dependent on the weather, road, and sea ice conditions. Only our trip offers complete flexibility in this area. It has saved us on more than once occasion. The cost of 2 eagle-boat trips is included. If the group would like to do more than two boat trips and we all agree, there will be an additional charge for the extra trip or trips. No matter the sea ice conditions, we will do two eagle boat trips (as long as we can make the drive to Rausu; it snows a lot up there). We have never been shut out.In 2016 there was no sea ice but our guide arranged for two amazingly productive boat trips.

Lodging notes: bring your long johns for sleeping in the lodge. At the Snow Monkey Park, and in Rausu, 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.

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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 just learned that my account was suspended during my absence; it should be up and running by Monday at the latest.

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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 πŸ™‚

18 comments to Exquisite in the Snow & Super High Key Funky Exquisite & 5DS R 61-Point Automatic Selection AF

  • Well, the jumping AF points made me a bit nuts and probably always do on the 1DX. You go dizzy while looking through the view finder πŸ˜€
    The high-key is my fav in between the 2 images.

    Ciao Anette

  • avatar Tony Botelho

    I’m going with #1, all the way. It has a peaceful, easy feeling, that comes from the perfect composition, and exposure. I do like the contrast in #2, but that’s about it, I find it hard to look at for any length of time.
    That does sound like it was a “priceless day” at Epcot!

  • avatar Pierre Williot

    Mirror lockup: on the EOS 5DSr, one could set a delay between the mirror flipping up and the capture. The aim was to reduce the vibration of the camera generated by the movement of the mirror. This is not a standar mirror lockup like on the other cameras. Reading your descriptions it appears to me that you are not using this delay, still your pictures are very sharp. Are you suggesting not to use this mirror lockup function at all for continuous shooting?

  • avatar David Peake

    Hi Artie,
    The second image is my fav because of the graphic nature /disconnect of the heads and feet from the tails.
    It makes one look again as the brain has to interpolate from the information available in order to make sense of the image. And I like an image that makes me think.
    Some of the most expensive artworks were created with a few simple lines on a white canvas.
    I like it.
    Others MMV.
    Thanks for the info on your technique.
    As always.
    David Peake.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Ah, a man after my own heart. I entered both in the Nature’s Best contest… a

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    I like Image #1 – it’s sharper. I prefer to see the outline of the bird’s bodies. I agree with John Rowell regarding Image #2. It’s too much work to look at it, then figure out what is going on rather than just looking at the image and finding it very pleasing as I do with #1.

  • avatar Richard

    ” I simply made a Layers adjustment” Did you mean a levels adjustment?

  • avatar Pierre Williot

    With the 5DSr camera, what setup do you use for the mirror? Mirror lockup for how long? Or no mirror lockup?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      When I need Mirror Lock-Up with any of my cameras I simply go to Live View, the usually with the 2-second timer.


  • I’m also going with #1 as my favorite. It shows well how the bodies blend into the snow, while still subtly defining the entire bird. The second image completely disembodies the Cranes and is a bit too surreal for me. #2 is a good graphic for grabbing the eye, but doesn’t make it as a photo for me.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Hey Doug,

    The focal length or the size of the maximum aperture? a

    • Probably both.

      The way I’m thinking is, our eyes get a little worse as we age.

      There’s a Great Blue Heron right in front of me, but I’m staring at my shoes. Next to me is a 12 year old, also looking down at his shoes. At the same time, we both look up. Although we’re both looking at the same subject, my eyes might be a little slower in focusing on it…or maybe the first thing
      my eyes see is the wing and the 12 year old sees the head. But now, lets say your using a version 2 of a lens made in 2014. I’m standing right next to you, using the first version of the lens, made in 2004. We’re both using the same body. Using the same scenario as above (don’t ask me where I come
      up with this stuff πŸ™‚ )…could acquisition be quicker and/or more reliable for you cause you’re using glass that’s optically better?


      • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        Hey Doug,

        Instead of narrowing things down you have made them more complex but I will have a go at all.

        #1: barring any weird atmospheric phenomena like snow or heat shimmer focal length should have no effect on AF.

        #2: the wider the aperture or the effective aperture the quicker initial focusing acquisition. Adding any TC always slows AF.

        #3: AF should be quicker when Series II Super-telephoto lenses (and Series III TCs) are used with the newer camera bodies. That because of a variety of factors most importantly better electronic communication between the lens and the body…


  • My fave is the first one. I just like seeing the outline of the bodies more.

    Question…this might really sound stupid, but hey, its 3am and it popped into my head…

    Does AF selection have anything to do with the quality or the size of the lens? For example, AF might have an easier time selecting a point
    to focus on with a 300 2.8 II vs a 300 2.8 I…or maybe it has an easier time with a 600mm vs a 100-400?