Nickerson & JBWR Beach Gear Bag Retrospective « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Nickerson & JBWR Beach Gear Bag Retrospective

What’s Up?

Not much. On the schedule for Thursday, August 25 was work, work, and more work, and a relaxing 3/4 mile swim. I spent too much time finishing another great Lee Child/Jack Reacher novel, “Worth Dying For.”

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending IPTs and dozens of the folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear. Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

If you missed the special edition Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR blog post yesterday, you can catch up here.

Anyone with an interest in the new camera should check out the round table video here. The panelists include my good friend, top Canon technical rep, Rudy Winston. You need to scroll all the way down to the bottom to find the video.

DPI-SIG Naples Speaking Gig

On the morning of Saturday September 10, I will be presenting “A Bird Photographer’s Story” at 9am in the auditorium at Florida SouthWestern State College located at 7505 Grand Lely Drive, Naples, Florida, 34113. Learn more here. If you live anywhere near SW Florida, I hope to see you there. Be sure to come up for a hug. Those who would like me to bring along a mail order item or two from the BAA Online store are invited to contact me via e-mail no later than a week in advance.

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks a totally insane, irrational, illogical, preposterous, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, what’s wrong with this guy?, makes-no-sense, 288 days in a row with a new educational blog post. There should be no end in sight until my big South America trip next fall. Or not… 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.

Nickerson & JBWR Beach Gear Bag Retrospective

As I never got around to publishing this before my trip to Long Island, I thought it would be interesting to see how my thoughts before the trip matched up with reality. My after the fact comments are below each entry in green.

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens. When I make a trip to Long Island without the 600 II you can take that as a sign of approaching old age and physical infirmity. Maybe next year I will visit with only the 500 II… You need relatively long focal lengths at Nickerson. That said I may venture out for an IPT session of two with just the 400 DO II.

The 600 II was my go-to lens both on the beach and at JBWR. I surely made more than 95% of the images that I created on this trip with the big gun, and probably half of those were made with the 2X III TC. You have seen many of the images made at 1200mm on the blog over the past few weeks.

The big lens with either my 1D X Mark II or a 5DS R mounted on it will be in a LensCoat 4X Expandable Long Lens Bag (with harness) for all of my trips to and up and down the beach. It will be stored with lots of additional stuff in the Wheeleeze that I store in my Mom’s garage. Click on the Beach Stuff tab on the orange-yellow menu bar above. Call the whole thing “shoulder love.”

The Wheeleeze was a godsend. Many of the boys and girls were extremely envious of how easy it was for me to get around with very little effort. Bummer that you cannot take it on an airplane. I did not use it at the East Pond where I opted to walk around with my 600 II rig on the lens strap on either shoulder and my TCs in a cheap fanny pack that also holds my keys in a separate zippered compartment.

Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens. I am bringing the 400 DO II home last year because it is great with and without TCs for birds in flight and in action. As above, if I decide to go light for a session or two it can serve as my big gun with either TC. In addition, working wider than you normally do often opens up additional chances to photograph bird behavior and birds interacting.

I brought the 400 DO II along in the Wheeleeze whenever we enjoyed wind and sun together conditions, as well as on cloudy days. I made some very nice flight images, especially this one.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. I will–on occasion–be using this lens as my on-the-shoulder (with a Black Rapid RS-7 strap) intermediate telephoto lens with either camera body. Though the 100-400 focal length fits almost perfectly with the 600, I have lighter weight plans for the mornings. See more on that below.

I wound up using the new 1-4 only once on a clear, wind against sun morning. I may not have taken a single image. After a long walk in search of a big sanderling flock, I wound up walking to the car to grab the Wheeleeze and the 600 II plus accessories…

The New and Somewhat Surprising Addition…

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 for the recent UK trip. I used it exclusively on the gannet boat. I loved the light weight and incredible sharpness so much that I bought the one that I borrowed from B&H. I will surely bring it down to the beach on my shoulder in the mornings (and maybe in the evenings as well) for skimmer and tern flock blurs (in place of the 100-400 II). I can always add the 1.4X TC if I need a bit more reach and the light weight will be a blessing.

Whenever there was a promising sky to the east, I did choose this lighter lens for the pre-dawn blurs. You can find my favorite–the top image here.

I am also took the (unfortunately) optional Canon Tripod Mount Ring A-2 for 70-200mm f/4L (IS & Non-IS versions) but I am not quite sure why as I cannot conceive of a situation where I will want that lens on a tripod. It is set up with a Wimberley P-20 plate plate that is perfect for all intermediate telephoto lenses including this one,the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS, and the 100-400 II.

As it turns out I was right, though I used the lighter 70-200 f/4L IS a bit, I never used it on a tripod.

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.

I only took this lens down to the beach a few times. There was one day that I very much regretted not taking it. You can see EMac’s great image with this lens in the blog post here.

Focal Length Coverage…

The beauty of the 24-105/100-400 II or 70-200 f/4/600 II combinations are 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…

As always, getting my gear up to Long Island would not have been possible without my favorite rolling bag. Note: I did ship the 600 II up and back via UPS Ground so that I could bring lots of extra gear in my roll-aboard.

Camera Bodies

I took my relatively new Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and my two
Canon EOS 5DS R bodies. 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 portraits.

As expected, I used the 5DS R more than the 1DX II. But near the end of the trip, I started using the 1DX II more an more, especially to take advantage of the high frame rate and the availability of all the AF points at f/8. There have been lots of posts illustrating these advantages.


I am traveling with two Canon 1.4X III TCs and one 2X III TCs. Why do I bring an extra 1.4X? For my style of photography I cannot afford to be without one 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….

Off the top of my head, I cannot remember making a single image with a telephoto lens on this with the prime lens alone; I use an depend on my series III TCs just about 100% of the time.

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.

Either I left the 52mm 5-stop ND home or I lost it somewhere. I need to look for it now that I am home. I wanted to use it to shoot some video on sunny days but could not find it. With the 5-stop ND in the big lenses you can avoid having to work with tiny apertures; thus, the video is much more pleasing with soft, out-of-focus backgrounds. I was bummed.

Best News: 10% Discount/Code at checkout: artie10

To shop for a Singh-Ray 5-Stop Mor-Slo Fliter (for example), click on the logo link above, click on “Neutral and color
Solid Neutral Density Filters (glass), then click on “Mor-Slo™ 5, 10, 15 and 20-Stop Solid Neutral Density Filters (glass),” choose the size and model, add to cart, and then checkout. At checkout, type artie10 into the “Have a coupon? Click here to enter your code” box, and a healthy 10% discount will be applied to your total. In addition to enjoying the world’s best filter at 10% off you will be supporting my efforts here on the blog.

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.

As noted above, without this large, legal, sturdy, rolling bag it would be pretty much impossible for me to travel by plane with so much gear…

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.

Large, light and roomy. Another must-have.

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 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…

Always dependable. I accidentally deleted a pretty good image so I sent the card to Delkin and they rescued it for me. Their customer service is pretty darned good even if you are not Mr. Famous Bird photographer. If you do need their help, feel free to mention my name in vain 🙂

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

I wore my vest to the beach about half the time, whenever I needed to bring along a bit of extra gear. With the Wheeleeze, I’d have been wearing it every single day as I will be doing in the Falklands and in South Georgia–coming to a theater near you soon.

My Palouse Gear Bag

Some might find it interesting to compare my Nickerson Gear Bag with my Palouse Gear Bag. You can find the latter here.


Palouse 2016 Horizontals Card

Why Different?

Announcing the 2017 BIRDS AS ART Palouse Instructional Photo-Tour

In what ways will the 2017 BIRDS AS ART Palouse Instructional Photo-Tour be different from the most other Palouse workshops?

There are so many great locations that a seven-day IPT (as opposed to the typical three- or five-day workshops) will give the group time to visit (and revisit) many of the best spots while allowing you to maximize your air travel dollars. In addition, it will allow us to enjoy a slightly more relaxed pace.

You will be assured of being in the right location for the given weather and sky conditions.

You will learn and hone both basic and advanced compositional and image design skills.

You will learn to design powerful, graphic images.

You will visit all of the iconic locations and a few spectacular ones that are much less frequently visited.

You will learn long lens landscape techniques.

You will learn to master any exposure situation in one minute or less.

You will learn the fine points of Canon in-camera (5D Mark III, 5DS R, and 7D II) HDR techniques.

You will be able to share a variety of my exotic Canon lenses including the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens and the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens, aka the “circle lens.”

You will learn to use your longest focal lengths to create rolling field and Urbex abstracts.

You will learn when and how to use a variety of neutral density filters to create pleasing blurs of the Palouse’s gorgeous rolling farmlands.

As always, you will learn to see like a pro. You will learn what makes one situation prime and another seemingly similar one a waste of your time. You will learn to see the situation and to create a variety of top-notch images.

You will learn to use super-wide lenses both for big skies and building interiors.

You will learn when, why, and how to use infrared capture; if you do not own an infrared body, you will get to borrow mine.

You will learn to use both backlight and side-light to create powerful and dramatic landscape images.

This trip will run with one participant.


Palouse 2016 Verticals Card

The 2017 BIRDS AS ART Palouse Instructional Photo-Tour
June 8-14, 2017. Seven full days of photography. Meet and greet at 7:30pm on Wednesday, June 7: $2,499. Limit 10/Openings: 9.

Note: I am committed to leading this trip with only a single photographer.

Rolling farmlands provide a magical patchwork of textures and colors, especially when viewed from the top of Steptoe Butte where we will enjoy spectacular sunrises and at least one nice sunset. We will photograph grand landscapes and mini-scenics of the rolling hills and farm fields. I will bring you to more than a few really neat old abandoned barns and farmhouses in idyllic settings. There is no better way to improve your compositional and image design skills and to develop your creativity than to join me for this trip. Photoshop and image sharing sessions when we have the time and energy…. We get up early and stay out late and the days are long.

Over the past three years, with the help of a friend, we found all the iconic locations and, in addition, lots of spectacular new old barns and breath-taking landforms and vistas. What’s included: In-the-field instruction, guidance, lessons, and inspiration, my extensive knowledge of the area, all lunches, motel lobby grab and go breakfasts, and Photoshop and image sharing sessions. As above, there will be a meet and greet at 7:30pm on the evening before the workshop begins.

To Sign Up

Your non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to hold your spot. Please let me know via e-mail that you will be joining this IPT. Then you can either call Jim or Jennifer at 863-692-0906 during business hours to arrange for the payment of your deposit; if by check, please make out to “BIRDS AS ART” and mail it to: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail: artie.

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. 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. Whenever purchasing travel insurance be sure to read the fine print carefully even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.

Please Remember to use my 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 please remember that I am 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, 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.


Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack!


In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right 🙂

9 comments to Nickerson & JBWR Beach Gear Bag Retrospective

  • avatar Bill Goodhew

    As I recall, some time ago you did a thorough comparison of the 600 vs the 500, and I seem to remember that in a close race the 500 came out ahead, primarily due to weight & price. So moving to it would sound sound practical.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The 500 II wins nearly all the time for most folks, except those like me who are really hungry for the additional reach no matter the cost 🙁


  • avatar Ryan Sanderson

    Hi Ryan,


    What considerations go into your choice of 5DsR/600ii/1.4XTC vs 1DX2/600ii/2XTC. It would seem to me that frame rate and perhaps higher ISO capability would be the only reasons you would want to go with the second combo, and I guess one could possibly make an argument about weather conditions.

    Yes to the above. And the fact that the 1DX II offers faster initial focusing acquisition possibly because of battery considerations… Common sense says that an image made with the 5DsR/600ii/1.4XTC and then cropped will have higher image quality than a 1DX2/600ii/2XTC image. And the former combo will enjoy both AF and ISO advantages. That said, here is one factor that I have long realized but never written about here: there is always a subconscious factor that overrules common sense. The brain thinks, “Having the big larger in the frame (with the 1DX2/600ii/2XTC) has got to be better.” In addition, bigger in the frame is comforting to the psyche and the ego.

    I’ve followed your blog daily and have seen the fine images coming from the 1DX2 combo, but sometimes I did wonder if the 5DsR combo would have been better.

    As above, me too. But then there is something new to consider that I just realized when writing about the new 5D Mark II body. I will be sharing that here on the blog in a few days.

    I’ve recently acquired a used 5DsR to accompany my 7D2. The 7D2 has not been used since I picked up the 5DsR


    and it’s gotten me to thinking about selling the 7D2 and picking up a 1DX as I could see an occasional use for me.

    Good plan.

    I don’t shoot video and with the 5DsR, I feel that any significant reach situations would be handled by the 5DsR. I don’t know that going for a 1DX2 for double the price of a used 1DX would be advantageous for me, especially since I’m only a hobbyist.

    I can never know what is “worth it” for someone else. I am blessed to be able to get the gear I need and want whenever I so choose. I will likely be getting my hands on a 5D IV sooner rather than later…



  • avatar Frank Sheets

    HI Artie,

    I am going to need a travel bag for the Galapogos trip, and hopefully others.

    The question of is which one. I want the most flexibility, so the Airport Security v. 2.0 is probably best, but I want to be sure it will hold both the 600 mm and 400 DOII plus bodies and other lenses and miss. as well. If I understand correctly the 600 may not be necessary for Galapagos, but still, need the flexibility for trips where I will want both the 600 and 400 DOII.

    Would you agree?

    Thanks in advance.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      It will. The truth is that your roll aboard will likely be overweight. The generous US limit is 40 pounds. I have routinely traveled around the world with the Think Tank bag weighing in at between 42 and 50 pounds. In all my years I have been hassled only twice for weight, once switching airports in London, and once coming out of Nairobi. In both cases I got on will all my gear. If you are forced to gate check on small planes, both of the Think Tank roll-aboards offer lots of protection due to the sturdiness of construction.

      Please remember to use my Think Tank link; it is on the right side of each blog post page.

      thanks and love, a

  • Art, a question about the Wheeleez… While being younger and having lighter equipment (the 150-600mm Sigma) I have neck and back pain and I’m less and less willing to carry it along. I switched to a mirrorless system in the past two years, I’m absolutely happy for other lenses, but clearly there’s no advantage with long guns. I don’t have problems in carrying the 150-600mm for a few kilometres, but for longer paths in the end I see myself leaving it in the car.

    I’ve recently thought of using a normal shopping trolley (I hope it’s the correct translation). It would be useless on a beach, but rather than a beach I’m thinking of gravel and paved roads where I usually hike. My greatest concern so far is that the small wheels of a normal shopping trolley, while would not create big concerns for dragging/pushing the trolley, would transmit lots of vibrations to my equipment – and this worries me.

    If I understand well, the Wheeleez has got bigger wheels and they are pressure-tires, so I presume they should perform well in absorbing bumps from the terrain. Have you / would you use the Wheelez on a gravel or paved road?