400 DO II/1.4X III/1D X Mark II Hand Held Flight Photography–How Did the Old Man Do? Well, I’d Say… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

400 DO II/1.4X III/1D X Mark II Hand Held Flight Photography--How Did the Old Man Do? Well, I'd Say...

What’s Up?

Until Wednesday, we had been fighting west winds against sun every morning. But on July 20, we had the best of the best possible conditions–an east wind with clear skies. We did not get what I expected, but we enjoyed one of the best Nickerson mornings ever. Stay tuned for the whole story…

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks a totally insane, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, what’s wrong with this guy?, makes-no-sense, 253 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. AND Please remember also that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the new BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.

Photoshop World 2016 Conference Specials

Be sure to check out the B&H Photoshop World 2016 Conference specials here.


This image was created on DAY II of the 2016 Nickerson Beach IPT with the hand held Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens, Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the rugged, blazingly fast, autofocus king, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with 64GB Card and Reader. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/6.3.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding).

Black Skimmers/midair squabble (vertical crop from a horizontal original + tiny clipped feather repair)

400 DO II/1.4X III/1D X Mark II Hand Held Flight Photography–How Did the Old Man Do? Well, I’d Say…

Contrary to the popular opinion held by some, it is much easier to photograph most birds in flight, especially in erratic flight, with a hand held intermediate telephoto lens than it is with a tripod-mounted super-telephoto lens. It is easier to track the birds and easier to swing the lens, provided that you can comfortably hold the lens for extended periods without straining from the weight of the outfit. For me the 400 DO II/1.4X III/1D X Mark II is right on the borderline as far as weight is concerned. Using some of the tips that I learned from Jim Neiger’s Flight Plan: How to Photograph Birds in Flight have made the chore of hand holding borderline heavy rigs a bit easier.


Images and card copyright Arthur Morris/BEARS AS ART 🙂

2017 Bear Boat Coastal Brown Bear Cubs IPTs: July 18-24, 2017 from Kodiak, AK: 5 FULL & 2 Half DAYS: $6699. Happy campers only! Maximum 8/Openings 3.

Join us in spectacular Katmai National Park, AK for six days of photographing Coastal Brown Bears. Mid-July is prime time for making images of small, football-sized cubs. The cubs, and these dates, are so popular that we had to reserve them three years in advance to secure them. There are lots of bears each year in June, but the mothers only rarely risk bringing their tiny cubs out in the open for fear of predation by rival bears. In addition to making portraits of both adults and cubs, we hope to photograph frolicking and squabbling youngsters and tender nursing scenes. At this time of year the bears are either grazing in luxuriant grass or clamming. There will also be some two- and three-year old cubs to add to the fun. And we will get to photograph it all.

We live on our tour operator’s luxurious new boat. At 78 feet long its 24 foot beam makes it quite spacious as well. And the food is great. We will likely spend most of our time at famed Geographic Harbor as that is where the bears are generally concentrated in summer. On the odd chance that we do need to relocate to another location we can do so quickly and easily without having to venture into any potentially rough seas. We land via a 25 foot skiff that has lots of room for as much gear as you can carry.

Aside from the bears we should get to photograph Horned and Tufted Puffin and should get nice stuff on Mew Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Harbor Seal, and Steller’s Sea Lion as well. A variety of tundra-nesting shorebirds including Western Sandpiper and both yellowlegs are also possible. Halibut fishing (license required/not included) is optional.

It is mandatory that you be in Kodiak no later than the late afternoon of July 17 to avoid missing the float planes to our boat on the morning of July 18. Again, with air travel in Alaska (or anywhere else for that matter) subject to possible delays, being on Kodiak on July 16 is a much better plan.

Barring any delays, we should get to photograph bears on our first afternoon and then again every day for the next five days after that, all weather permitting of course. On our last morning on the boat, July 24, those who would like to enjoy one last photo session will have the opportunity to do so. The group will return to Kodiak via float plane from late morning through midday. Most folks will then fly to Anchorage and to continue on red-eye flights to their home cities.

What’s included? 7 DAYS/6 NIGHTS on the boat as above. All meals on the boat. National Park and guide fees. In-the-field photo tips, instruction, and guidance. An insight into the mind of two top professionals; we will constantly let you know what we are thinking, what we are doing, and why we are doing it. Small group image review, image sharing, and informal Photoshop instruction on the boat.

What’s not included: Your round trip airfare to and from Kodiak, AK (almost surely through Anchorage). Your lodging and meals on Kodiak. The cost of the round-trip float plane to the boat and then back to Kodiak as above. The cost of a round trip last year was $550. The suggested crew tip of $200.

Have you ever walked with the bears?

Is this an expensive trip? Yes, of course. But with 5 full and two half days, a wealth of great subjects, and the fact that you will be walking with the bears just yards away (or less….), it will be one of the great natural history experiences of your life. Most folks who take part in a Bear Boat IPT wind up coming back for more.

A $2,000 per person non-refundable deposit by check only made out to “BIRDS AS ART” is required to hold your spot. Please click here to read our cancellation policies. Then please print, read, and sign the necessary paperwork here and send it to us by mail to PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855.

Your deposit is due when you sign up. That leaves a balance of $4699. The next payment of $2699 will be due on September 15, 2016. The final payment of $2000 is due on February 15, 2017. We hope that you can join us for what will be a wondrously exciting trip.

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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 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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6 comments to 400 DO II/1.4X III/1D X Mark II Hand Held Flight Photography–How Did the Old Man Do? Well, I’d Say…

  • avatar KW MCCULLOCH

    Amen David P.

  • avatar Rick

    Hi Artie – its odd that Photography Life have been having pretty much the same conversation, that super zoom lens don’t necessarily lead to better in-flight shots, and that its generally easier to track with a shorter lens and smaller image, provided you have the pixels. I concur. Are you colluding?!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      No collusion, but similar thoughts. I am totally against huge crops though.

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    Hi Artie:

    You were a little late today with your post. For a moment there I thought the streak had ended and I was a little worried about you. But, you didn’t fail and I was happy to see the post. I love the combo of the 400DOII, 1.4X, and my 1DX. Perhaps some day I will upgrade to the new 1DX, perhaps (and be assured I will go thru you for the purchase). Laurie and I have been in Montana since late July. Although the 600mm on either a 7DII or 6D plus a 1.4x are ready to go, as we wander the back roads of SW Montana, the 1Dx plus 400DOII is in my lap awaiting the unexpected which crops up from time to time. I have gotten a few good Red-tails and thanks to you and my participation in two of your IPT’s this last year, their is no comparison of the quality of the images I got last summer.

    Anyway, love the terns. My question would be whether you were actually holding the camera in portrait or did you crop this to the presented framing. If you were hand holding in portrait, I really congratulate you. If landscape, I still congratulate you on a great action shot.

    PS, Just purchased Neiger’s “Flight Plan”. Seems when I am out and about, flight photography is my most rewarding shooting when I get a good one.

    Be good and healthy, and as you say, “Later and Love”, Frank

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Frank,

      More than a little late… Lots coming on the 1DX Mark II in the next few weeks including some very surprising stuff. All good on the red-tails and the improvement in your photography.

      You missed the title of the featured image: “Black Skimmers/midair squabble (vertical crop from a horizontal original + tiny clipped feather repair)”

      I use stuff from Jim’s great guide pretty much every day. Most recently using the AF-On button for AF stop when working with shutter button AF to get a small subject well off center. Taught that to the more advanced folks in the group.

      Thanks much and later and love to you and to Laurie.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Artie: Thanks. Great image. What you say about hand-holding an intermediate telephoto for birds in flight, especially if you can hold it for long periods, is one of the main reasons I fell in love with your former “toy lens,” the Canon 400 f/5.6L. It is extremely light (2.75 pounds), sharp wide open, and autofocuses pretty darned fast. To say nothing about its being by far the least expensive way to get excellent image quality in a 400 mm lens. For birds in flight, its many drawbacks are less apparent than for any other use. If it weren’t for the amazing Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II, it still would be living on my camera.