One Tough Decision on the UK Puffins and Gannets Gear Bag… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

One Tough Decision on the UK Puffins and Gannets Gear Bag...

What’s Up?

On Saturday I started and finished packing for the UK Puffins and Gannets IPT. I worked on this blog post on Sunday morning on the way to Orlando Airport. I meet co-leader Denise Ippolito and two of the IPT participants at Newark Airport late this afternoon for our red-eye flight to the UK.

If you would like to join me for the puffins in July 2017, please scroll down and then shoot me an e-mail.

Nickerson Beach Terns/Skimmers/Oystercatchers Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT): July 18-22, 2016. 4 1/2 DAYS: $1899. Limit 10/Openings 6.

Meet and greet at 3pm on the afternoon of Monday, July 18.

Please e-mail for repeat customer or couples discount info, or for info on a 3-day option.

With only four folks signed up, learning situations will abound. The primary subject species on this IPT will be the nesting Common Terns and Black Skimmers. The trip is timed so that we will get to photograph tiny tern chicks as well as fledglings. There will be lots of flight photography including adults flying with baitfish. Creating great images of the chicks being fed will be a huge challenge. In addition to the terns we will get to photograph lots of Black Skimmers courting, setting up their nesting territories, and in flight (both singles and large pre-dawn flocks blasting off). Midair battles are guaranteed on sunny afternoons. And with luck, we might even see a few tiny skimmer chicks toward the end of the trip. We will also get to photograph the life cycle of American Oystercatcher. This will likely include nests with eggs and tiny chicks, young being fed, and possibly a few fledglings.

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks a totally insane, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, makes-no-sense, 232 days in a row with a new educational blog post. And I still have dozens of new topics to cover; there should be no end in sight until my big South America trip next fall. As always-–and folks have been doing a really 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. Please remember that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


Having access to a great range of focal lengths on a trip is a huge plus…. Images and card design copyright 2014: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

The Hard Decision…

My toughest decision for this trip was whether to bring the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II or the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II. (Yes, I am blessed and privileged to own both of those great lenses…) The 500 II is smaller, lighter, easier to travel with, and can be hand held in a pinch. But the 600 II offers larger in the frame reach to the tune of the square of the focal lengths, 36 to 25, so I succumbed.

UK Puffins & Gannet IPT Gear Bag

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens. After traveling on the light side last year, I am taking my 600 II. Many folks who have traveled to the UK for puffins feel that a 600mm lens is overkill. Some state openly, “All you need is a 70-200.” That may be true for them but it is not true for me.

I want my 600 so that I can do the incoming puffins in flight at f/4 (thus yielding some really fast shutter speeds), so that I can easily create tight head portraits (with and without TCs), and so that I can have the extra reach when needed. Most of the time I will have the big lens with either my 1D X Mark II or a 5DS R mounted in a LensCoat 4X Expandable Long Lens Bag (with harness). Call it shoulder love.

Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens. Though I left the 400 DO II home last year, I decided to take it this time in case I wanted to go light for the two puffin landings. With the 1.4X III TC, it will be a great hand holdable flight lens for the incoming puffins.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. I will be using this lens as my on-the-shoulder (with a Black Rapid RS-7 strap) intermediate telephoto lens with either camera body. The 100-400 focal length fits almost perfectly with the 600. I envision using it whenever I need to go wider such as when creating images of nests with multiple birds or simply group shots of puffins. It will also be great for hand held flight photography for puffins at close range. This being my third trip I know exactly where and when those situations will arise.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens I borrowed and micro-adjusted this lens with both bodes, tight and wide, with the 1.4X TC. I will be using it only on the gannet boat. This IPT (and next year’s as well) includes one morning gannet boat trip and one optional afternoon boat trip. The action is so fast and furious that folks using the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens were barely able to raise their rigs after the first hour or so… Well, at least everyone but me; I simply would not quit no matter how much the muscles of my neck and upper back hurt. With the smaller, lighter, and still very sharp f/4 version I should be good for the whole two hour session. Interestingly enough, this borrowed lens MA-ed out to zero or very close with both camera bodies and with the 1.4X TC added to the mix…

I am also taking the (unfortunately) optional Canon Tripod Mount Ring A-2 for 70-200mm f/4L (IS & Non-IS versions) for some castle photography. The Wimberley P-20 plate is perfect for all intermediate telephoto lenses including this one, the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS, and the 100-400 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 when needed. I have begun leaving the 77mm Singh-Ray Warming Polarizer on the 24-105 via the 77mm Xume ring.


Several of the images on this card were made with the hand held 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens, most with the 1D X and a 1.4X III TC in place. Images and card design copyright 2014: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version.

Focal Length Coverage…

The beauty of the 24-105/100-400 II/600 II combination (as above) is that these three lenses mesh beautifully. The addition of a 1.4X III TC to the 100-400 II and the 2X III TC to the 600 II gives me focal length coverage ranging from 24mm to 1200mm.

I packed my ThinkTank Airport SecurityTM V2.0 on Saturday afternoon; it weighed in at an even 44 pounds, four pounds over the generous US allowance…

Camera Bodies

In a leap of faith this year, I am bringing only two camera bodies. The trip is only ten days. Wish me luck…

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II. I will use this body a lot (but not exclusively) for flight photography where its 14 frames per second frame rate is unmatched. Included in this decision is the fact that for whatever reason the 1D X II drives the AF system faster than the 5DS R.

Canon EOS 5DS R. The mega mega-pixel 5DS R offers high quality image files with incredible fine feather detail. I will use this body often when I am on a tripod both for flight and for portaits.


Though I almost always travel with three Canon 1.4X III TCs and two 2X III TCs, As this trip is on the short side, I am bringing only two 1.4X TCs and one 2X TC to save weight. I will try to be extra cautious.

Why do I bring extras? For my style of photography I cannot afford to be without both TCs in case of accident or malfunction. Most common in the latter category would be that the locking pin might stick occasionally. When that happens, there is a risk of having your camera body hit the ground….

Singh-Ray Filters

Singh-Ray filters have been used by the world’s top photographers for many decades. As above I will have my 77mm Singh-Ray Warming Polarizer on my 24-105. I will have both of my Singh-Ray 5-stop NDs in my vest, the 77mm, and the 52mm in a spare drop-in filter drawer for the 600 II. If I get bored doing incoming puffins in flight with fish I just may try to do some pleasing blurs. Same on the gannet boat…

The 5-stop 77mm ND will help me out when doing videos on sunny days by enabling me to work with much wider apertures.

No other filter manufacturer comes close to matching the quality of Singh-Ray’s optical glass that is comparable to that used by NASA. And they continue to pioneer the most innovative products on the market like their ColorCombo polarizer, Vari-ND variable and Mor-Slo 15-stop neutral density filters. When you use their filters, you’ll create better, more dramatic images and, unlike other filters, with absolutely no sacrifice in image quality. All Singh-Ray filters are handcrafted in the USA.

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Images and card design copyright 2014: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. Click on the card to enjoy a spectacular larger version. I already have three folks signed up for my 2017 trip; scroll down for details to make sure that you do note miss the boat! Please e-mail with questions or for more information.

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. I will likely use the slightly smaller of the two, the Airport International™ LE Classic for my Southern Ocean trip. Except for the Singh-Ray polarizer, I everything above fit easily into my Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag on Thursday afternoon. It tipped the scales at 44 1/4 pounds; 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 4 1/4 pounds, I have only been hassled for weight once in more than three decades of flying around the world…. I hope that I do not give myself a kine-ahora.

Think Tank Urban Disguise Laptop Shoulder Bag

Both denise and I use and love this amazing bag as it has tons of room and enables us to bring tons of extra stuff.

Please click on my Think Tank affiliate link here to earn a free gift when you purchase a Think Tank Rolling Bag.

Delkin Flash Cards

As always, both my esteemed co-leader and I will have a 64gb Delkin e-Film Pro Flash Card in each camera body so that we never have to change cards in the field thus reducing the risk of a lost card. Please click here to purchase your Delkin flash cards. I do have a few extra 32 and 64gb cards in a Delkin CF Memory Card Tote, mostly to protect against operator error…

Xtrahand Vest

On trips like this one, my Xtrahand Vest is incredibly valuable. It enables me to bring a ton of extra gear onto the islands. It enables me to carry or store extra clothing as need be. It allows me to bring my lunch, lots of water, and my insulin and needles. This year I will even have a good pan-tilt head along most days as I plan on trying my hand with video…

I use a custom-designed Magnum Vest that John Storrie knows as the BIRDS AS ART Big Lens Vest. It is based on their Magnum vest. 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 info. See especially the blog posts here and here.

Once you call John you can discuss customizing your vest. Be sure to have a tape measure in hand. Please let him know that BAA sent you.

The Xtrahand Vest website:

John’s e-mail.

U.S. Only: 1 800 928 0157
Outside U.S.: 1+ 940 484 2222

2017 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT. Monday July 3 through Monday July 10, 2017: $5999: Limit 10 photographers — Openings: 7). Two great leaders: Arthur Morris and BPN co-owner, BPN Photography Gear Forum Moderator, and long-time BAA Webmaster Peter Kes.

Here are the plans: take a red eye flight from the east coast of the US on July 2 and arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland on the morning of Monday July 3 no later than 10am (or simply meet us then at the Edinburgh Airport–EDI, or later in the day at our cottages if you are driving your own vehicle either from the UK or from somewhere in Europe). Stay 7 nights in one of three gorgeous modern country cottages.

There are five days of planned puffin/seabird trips and one morning of gannet photography, all weather permitting of course. In three years we have yet to miss an entire day because of weather… In addition, we will enjoy several sessions of photographing nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes at eye level.

The Details

We will get to photograph Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, Razorbill, Shag, and Northern Gannet; Arctic, Sandwich, and Common Terns, the former with chicks of all sizes; Black-headed, Lesser-Black-backed, and Herring Gulls, many chasing puffins with fish; Black-legged Kittiwake with chicks. We will be staying in upscale country-side lodging that are beyond lovely with large living areas and lots of open space for the informal image sharing and Photoshop sessions. The shared rooms are decent-sized, each with a private bathroom. See the limited single supplement info below.

All breakfasts, lunches and dinners are included. All 5 puffins boat lunches will need to be prepared by you in advance, taken with, and consumed at your leisure. I usually eat mine on the short boat trip from one island to the other. Also included is a restaurant lunch on the gannet boat day.

If you wish to fly home on the morning of Monday July 10 we will get you to the airport. Please, however, consider the following tentative plans: enjoy a second Gannet boat trip on the afternoon of Monday July 10 and book your hotel room in Dunbar. If all goes as planned, those who stay on for the two extra days will make a morning landing at Bass Rock, one of the world’s largest gannetries. We will get everyone to the airport on the morning of Wednesday July 12. (We may opt to stay in Edinburgh on the night of July 11.) Price and details should be finalized at least six months before the trip but you will need to be a bit patient. It would be ideal if I can get all the work done by the end of September so that folks can arrange their flights then.

Deposit Info

If you are good to go sharing a room–couples of course are more than welcome–please send your non-refundable $2,000/person deposit check now to save a spot. Please be sure to check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below. Your balance will be due on March 29, 2017. Please make your check out to “Arthur Morris” and send it to Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

Please shoot me an e-mail if you are good to go or if you have any questions.

Single Supplement Deposit Info

Single supplement rooms are available on a limited basis. To ensure yours, please register early. The single supplement fee is $1575. If you would like your own room, please request it when making your deposit and include payment in full for the single supplement; your single supplement deposit check should be for $3,575. As we will need to commit to renting the extra space, single supplement deposits are non-refundable so please be sure that check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for big international trips is highly recommended as we never know what life has in store for us. I strongly recommend that you purchase quality insurance. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options you can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to include things such as sudden work or family obligation and even a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check of running your credit card. Whenever purchasing travel insurance be sure to read the fine print careful even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.

This trip has sold out far in advance every year so do not tarry. I hope that you can join me.

Please Remember to use our Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

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 New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, 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, and for everything else in the new store, 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 those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART 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 🙂

8 comments to One Tough Decision on the UK Puffins and Gannets Gear Bag…

  • avatar Ian unwin

    Was a pleasure to see you at work on your puffin trip. Didn’t realise I was stood at the side of you taking pictures of the oyster catcher chicks, until I heard your voice again on one of the you tube videos. It was my first visit to the Farnes it was great to see the birds, but also to hear your groups enthusiasm for the place. Even though the weather was typical English sun and rain in equal measures. I must admit I looked a few times and thought this guy is carrying some serious kit weight, hope you enjoyed your day as much as I did.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Ian, Thanks for your kind words. It was nice “meeting” you there :). Do consider joining me on next year’s IPT.


      ps: where do you live?

  • avatar John Koeniger

    I am considering a Cannon 400mm 2.8 with a 1.4 & a 2x tele extender.I would appreciate your thoughts.I own a 7D 2 and a 5D SR. Thanks John Koeniger

  • avatar Warren H

    I am interested in why you would take the 70-200 f4 when you have the 100-400. It does give you the extra focal length on the wide end (70-100), but that doesn’t seem that much for the hassle of carrying an extra lens. But I expect your experience may tell you otherwise. I also suspect that the fixed aperture may make shooting gannets a lot easier using manual mode. (No need to change exposure settings as you zoom and aperture changes.)

    Obviously, it’s worth the space and weight. Would love to hear your thoughts on it.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Warren, You actually have to read the blog post. Your question is answered clearly above.


      • avatar Warren H

        I did read everything but didn’t think it through. That shows how narrow-minded one can be. I was only reading why you chose the 70-200 f4 over the f2.8. I didn’t stop to think, oh yeah, the 100-400 is heavier than the 70-200 f2.8, so he needs the 70-200 f4 for the lightweight use shooting gannets.

        Thanks for making me think it through just a little better.

  • avatar Jon

    If you seriously want to travel light I would take the 1DX II and the 100-400, you won’t be short of anything, that’s what I did last year, I had the TC in my pocket and it stayed there -just so many things you can get with that combo on the Farnes. I took a tripod too and a rucksack with my butties and drink. When it rains just pop the camera in the sack. The possible changing light conditions would suit the 1DX well – no need to be concerned about image noise.
    I would save the longer lens for the kittiwakes, gulls, starlings and sand martins on the cliffs around Seahouses.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I am packing for our first day on the puffin boats and I am going seriously heavy 🙂