Being Greedy Pays off for the First Time Ever … And the 100-400 L IS II versus the 400 DO IS II for Flight Photography. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Being Greedy Pays off for the First Time Ever ... And the 100-400 L IS II versus the 400 DO IS II for Flight Photography.

What’s Up?

On Monday I got lots more work done on my 2016 taxes. I did some stretching, some core exercises, and enjoyed my easy half-mile swim.

I was glad to learn that two more folks signed up for the Fall DeSoto IPT. We are up to four.

Canon 100-400 II On Sale

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens is on sale right now from B&H for only $2049!

The Streak

Today marks thirty-six days in a row with a new educational blog post. This one took an hour to prepare. With all of my upcoming free time, the plan now is to break the current record streak of (I think) four hundred eighty something … Good health and good internet connections willing.

Everybody’s Doing It…

Everybody’s buying and selling used gear on the BAA Used Gear Page. Sales recently have been through the roof. 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.


I could not secure the lodging that I needed for the UK Puffins and Gannets IPT in Dunbar, Scotland, so I went from Hotels.Com to Booking.Com and was pleasantly surprised. I found the rooms that I needed with ease at a hotel that was not even on Hotels.Com, and it was a nice hotel that I had seen in person. And the rates were great. If you’d like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and you will earn a $25 reward.

Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.


I recently updated the IPT page. If you doubt that I am really slowing down, click here to see the meager IPT schedule. Right now there are only two US-based IPTs on the schedule. Best news is I now have two folks registered for the Fort DeSoto IPT so that will run. Do consider joining us if you would like to learn from the best.

Photographers Wanted

If you would like to learn to be a better bird photographer in person, consider joining me on either the Fort DeSoto IPT in late September or the San Diego IPT in January, 2018. With two folks signed up, DeSoto will offer practically private instruction. And you can tack on the In-the-Field/Meet-up Workshop Session on the morning of Tuesday September 26, 2017 for free. Scroll down for details. Click here for complete IPT info and the current but abbreviated schedule.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

Please Don’t Forget …

As always–and folks have been doing a really great job for a long time now–please remember to use the BAA B&H links for your major and minor 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 BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would of course appreciate your business.


This image was created on our afternoon landing at South Plaza Island. I used the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 220mm) and my favorite gull flight photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering at zero off the water which was +1 2/3 off the bright gray sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AWB.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: -3.

Center AF Point/AI Servo/Expand/Shutter button AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was on the upper back just left of center. Be sure to click on the image to see a larger, somewhat sharper version.

Swallow-tailed Gull, adult in flight — dorsal view

Greedy Pays off for the First Time Ever …

I have written and said many times, “Universal advice for better flight photography with a zoom lens: zoom wider!” Our instincts tell us that the bigger the bird in the frame, the better the image and the more pixels on the subject we have to work with.” This type of thinking almost always results in clipped wings at best. On the afternoon landings at South Plaza we often have lots of opportunities for top shots, images showing the dorsal wing surfaces of gulls, frigatebirds, and tropicbirds as the fly into the cliffs in an attempt to land. With the often fierce winds many of their approaches are aborted. So if you see a bird come into the cliff to land and screw things up, you can be pretty sure that it will circle around and try again. These situations often give you multiple chances to create some flight photography magic.

The 100-400 L IS II versus the 400 DO IS II for Flight Photography

I started the afternoon hand holding the 400 DO II with the 1.4X TC in an attempt to photograph the backlit tropicbirds directly overhead. That turned out to be pretty much of an abject failure. In general, if you need to add the 1.4X TC you are much better off with the 400 DO than with the 100-400 as AF at 5/6 is always going to acquire more quickly than AF at f/8. That true no matter the light levels. But, and this is a huge but, the 400 DO is too heavy for many folks, often including me. And that is even more true with fast flying birds that change direction rapidly and often. With its smaller size and lighter weight (3.5 lbs. vs 4.13 lbs. out of the box), it is far easier to follow birds in flight, adjust to their flight patterns, and enjoy long photo sessions with the 100-400 II.

I was actually surprised when I did the research for this blog post that the difference is only 1.13 pounds as it seems a lot more than that. But, for most flight photograph sessions I remove the base of the lens foot with the P-10 plate attached. This gains me another 4.6 ounces bring the difference up to 1.59 pounds, a bit more than 1 1/2 pounds. In addition, the lighter weight and smaller size of the 100-400 II as compared to the 400 DO II made it easier to use on the pangas. I am glad that I took the 400 DO II for those special low-light fight situations, and for the times that I needed extra reach for flight with distant birds. And I realize that I am blessed to be able to own and travel with both of these great lenses.

Yikes, I almost forgot one huge advantage of the 100-400 II: the ability to zoom out for flight when needed. Note the 220mm focal length used for today’s featured image; with the fixed focal length 400 DO II I would have been dead in the water when that Swallow-tailed Gull banked. Summing up, the huge advantage of the 400 DO II is the extra stop of speed at f/4 that can save you a stop of ISO in low light or gain you a stop of shutter speed or allow you to go to a stop smaller aperture (depending on the situation). The advantages of the 100-400 II include its lighter weight, lesser bulk, close focusing, and focal length range.

Head Angle

Before you leave a comment noting that the bird is looking (and obviously flying) away, ask yourself this question: for this dramatic, frame-filling pose could there have been a better head angle?

Another Flight Photography Tip for Zoom Lenses

It is better to zoom out quickly to the anticipated focal length you will need (as I did to create today’s featured image) rather than try to zoom out slowly as you follow the bird in flight …

Your Call?

Feel free to leave a comment critiquing this image. If you don’t feel qualified, consider this: ask yourself: What do you like? Why? What don’t you like? Why? Could I have done anything in the field to make it better? Could I have done anything better in post-processing? You can learn and practice these skills by joining BirdPhotographer’s.Net.

If In Doubt …

If in doubt about using the BAA B&H affiliate link correctly, you can always start your search by clicking here. Please note that the tracking is invisible. Web orders only. Please, however, remember to shoot me your receipt via e-mail.


Obviously folks attending the IPT will be out in the field early and stay late to take advantage of sunrise and sunset colors. The good news is that the days are relatively short in October. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

The Fort DeSoto 2017 Fall IPT/September 22 (afternoon session) through the full day on September 25, 2017. 3 1/2 FULL DAYs: $1649. Limit 8/openings 4.

Fort DeSoto, located just south of St. Petersburg, FL, is a mecca for migrant shorebirds and terns in fall. There they join hundreds of egrets, herons, night-herons, gulls, and terns who winter on the T-shaped peninsula that serves as their wintering grounds. With luck, we may get to photograph two of Florida’s most desirable shorebird species: Marbled Godwit and the spectacular Long-billed Curlew. Black-bellied Plover and Willet are easy, American Oystercatcher almost guaranteed. Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, and Tricolored Heron are easy as well and we will almost surely come up with a tame Yellow-crowned Night-Heron or two. We should get to do some Brown Pelican flight photography. And Royal, Sandwich, Forster’s, and Caspian Terns will likely provide us with some good flight opportunities as well. Though not guaranteed Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork would not be unexpected.

Folks who sign up for the IPT are welcome to join us on the ITF/MWS on the morning of Tuesday, September 26 as my guest. See below for details on that.

On the IPT you will learn basics and fine points of digital exposure and to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, how to approach free and wild birds without disturbing them, to understand and predict bird behavior, to identify many species of shorebirds, to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. And you will learn how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it).

There will be a Photoshop/image review session after lunch (included) each day. That will be followed by Instructor Nap Time.

The best airport is Tampa (TPA). Register soon so that you can be assured of a room at the IPT hotel.

A $500 deposit is due when you sign up and is payable by credit card. Balances must be paid by check after you register. Your deposit is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out with ten folks so please check your plans carefully before committing. You can register by calling Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand or by sending a check as follows: make the check out to: BIRDS AS ART and send it via US mail here: BIRDS AS ART, PO BOX 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. You will receive a confirmation e-mail with detailed instructions, gear advice, and instructions for meeting on the afternoon of Friday, September 22.


Fort DeSoto in fall is rich with tame birds. All of the images in this card were created at Fort DeSoto in either late September or early October. I hope that you can join me there this October. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

BIRDS AS ART In-the-Field/Meet-up Workshop Session (ITF/MWS): $99.

Join me on the morning of Tuesday September 26, 2017 for 3-hours of photographic instruction at Fort DeSoto Park. Beginners are welcome. Lenses of 300mm or longer are recommended but even those with 70-200s should get to make some nice images. Teleconverters are always a plus.

You will learn the basics of digital exposure and image design, autofocus basics, and how to get close to free and wild birds. We should get to photograph a variety of wading birds, shorebirds, terns, and gulls. This inexpensive afternoon workshop is designed to give folks a taste of the level and the quality of instruction that is provided on a BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-tour. I hope to meet you there.

To register please call Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand to pay the nominal non-refundable registration fee. You will receive a short e-mail with instructions, gear advice, and meeting place at least two weeks before the event.


BAA Site Guides are the next best thing to being on an IPT.

Fort DeSoto Site Guide

Can’t make the IPT? Get yourself a copy of the Fort DeSoto Site Guide. Learn the best spots, where to be when in what season in what weather. Learn the best wind directions for the various locations. BAA Site Guides are the next best thing to being on an IPT. You can see all of them here.

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.

Those who prefer to support BAA by shopping with Amazon may use the logo link above.

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Many kind folks from north of the border, eh, have e-mailed stating that they would love to help us out by using one of our affiliate links but that living in Canada and doing so presents numerous problems. Now, they can help us out by using our Amazon Canada affiliate link by starting their searches by clicking here.


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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 :).

13 comments to Being Greedy Pays off for the First Time Ever … And the 100-400 L IS II versus the 400 DO IS II for Flight Photography.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Love the image. I have a recent image of a flying hummingbird from about the same angle and the head and eye aren’t even sharp and I still like it. (With hummingbirds, you have to get so close, because they are so tiny, and use a fairly wide aperture for a decent shutter speed, that it’s very hard to get the whole bird in focus.) The head angle on your bird is fine. You are lucky to own both the 400 DO and the 100-400 II. I can’t justify owning both and for me the 100-400 II is a much better tool.

    Someone asked about the 7DII versus the 5D4. I have used only the 7D2, but for me the lower price, better reach, and faster frame rate make it the choice for me, but no question the 5D4 has better image quality.

  • sorry I wrote 5D mk2 but meant 5D mk4, so I’m curious about the difference between the 5D mk4 + 100-400 + 1,4 ext vs 7D mk2 + 100-400

  • avatar Loren Waxman

    Lucky shot!!!

  • Hey Arthur, I like the diagonal composition here and the bird looks to be in very good condition. Wish it gave more of a look back to see more of that red ring around the eye.

  • avatar felix

    Hello art, I am a photographer from Albania where besides journalism I pay close attention to photography in nature. I was reading the discussions for Lent’s DO and many praise the series L ……. I have not yet photographed with 400 DO because I will do it in the ninth month along with Canon 1dx mk2 ….. But I did some proof With 70-200 L is 2 and with 70-300 DO … f4.5-5.6 …….. the difference in picture quality is enormous ….. it has nothing to do with the focus Or sharpness in quality …. but also with the construction of such a lens DO … as the lenses are very different from the L series …. for more depth is greater ……..
    Per Canon, “The EF400mm f/4 DO IS II USM is the first lens to offer a third-generation DO lens gapless dual-layered diffractive optical element. This new lens element structure prevents any decline in diffraction efficiency caused by the air layer used in previous designs. By making the two diffractive lattices adhere to each other, this removes the air gap, which could result in internal lens flare and the appearance in direct light of rings in images from the diffraction gratings on the lens elements.”

    I apologize if my English is not good.

    I’m not expected to take this lens in hand
    Best regards
    felix bilani

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Felix, You English is fine. I never get involved with or understand the technical stuff. I just make images and see if I like them 🙂

      with love, artie

  • Artie – love to go to Ft DeSoto but we’re in Yellowstone at that time. Maybe in the winter when it gets cooler in FL! gloria

  • How about the difference between the 5D mk2 + 100-400 + 1,4 ext vs 7D mk2 + 100-400?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi HJ, My memory is not that good and I rarely used the 5D Mark II … Results would likely differ greatly depending on the situation: sun or no sun? Tripod or hand held? Along with the skill of the photographer …

      with love, artie

  • avatar Jake

    Hi Artie, I am surprised how much I like this image, I really like how all the shapes line up and the corner to corner wings are great. I agree with you that this is the best head angle (that I can visualise at least) for this image. But head angles are head angles. I love the images from Galapagos that you have displayed so far,