Huge Late-registration BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour Discounts Made Public. And If My Life Depended on Making One Great Flight Shot … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Huge Late-registration BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour Discounts Made Public. And If My Life Depended on Making One Great Flight Shot ...

What’s Up?

The weather has finally turned gorgeous here at ILE. Friday morning down by the lake was so-so and after a slow start Saturday offered many excellent chances under clear skies with a developing east wind. With the Nikon 500 PF with a D850 on it, the 500 PF — the subject of today’s blog post — shined and I created a slew of great flight shots of landing Black Vultures and an Osprey landing on nest atop a utility pole. In the last sequence it was carrying a fresh-caught (with the head still on!) bream for its three large, nearly-fledged chicks. Images and story here soon. I enjoyed my 50- and 100-length swims on Friday and Saturday afternoons respectively (88 lengths to the mile).

As the weather looks perfect for this morning, Sunday, May 19, 2019, I will be heading down to the lake at about 7am. I am continuing to experiment with Nikon single point AF vs. D9 AF and Grouop AF. I will of course share what I have learned here on the blog when I am absolutely sure of what I am learning.

Huge Late-registration Instructional Photo-Tour Discounts Made Public

I an effort to fill a very few remaining slots, I am offering a $3,000 late registration discount on the UK Puffins, Gannets, and Red Kite IPT (one slot) and a $4,000 late registration discount on the Galapagos Photo Cruise of a lifetime (one or two slots) — the world’s very best Galapagos photo trip. We do the three world-class landings twice each: North Seymour, Hood, and Tower … Join us. Click here and scroll down for the trip details. Please e-mail with questions.

FlexShooter Pro Updates

We’ve now sold six of the 20 FlexShooter Pro heads that we will be receiving next Monday or Tuesday. Folks are encouraged to place their orders asap by phone: 863-692-0906. Your card will not be charged until your head ships. Once folks have a chance to play with a friend’s FlexShooter Pro or run across me in the field with my 600 VR, I expect sales to boom. Think that I am full of it? Do you remember when everyone used Gitzo tripods? Today, all that you see in the world of nature photography are Induro tripods. Folks always gravitate to gear that is better, well made, more efficient, and less expensive …

I do have one barely used FlexShooter Pro head, the one with the very slightly smaller knob (11/16″ vs 7/8″) for sale. If I had not mentioned the difference in the size of the knobs, nobody would have noticed. In any case, if you would like to save $50, I’d be glad to sell it for $549.00. Phone orders only: 1-863-692-0906 Saturday or Sunday afternoon or any weekday. I will be sharing the info on the BigFoot lens feet here soon. Basically, we have BigFeet for most Canon big glass; the BigFeet for Nikon big glass are being re-designed and manufactured as we speak.


BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Money Saving Reminder

If you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H, would enjoy free overnight shipping, and would like a $50 discount on your first purchase, click here to order and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If you are looking to strike a deal on Canon or Nikon gear (including the big telephotos) or on a multiple item order, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve currently has several D850s in stock along with a Nikon 600mm f/4 VR. He is taking pre-orders for the new Nikon 500 P and the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera body.


Many IPT folks have been using the Booking.Com link below to get great rates and save a handsome $25.00 in the process. If you too would like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and to earn a $25 reward on your first booking. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.


I enjoyed another great inexpensive AirBNB on the recently concluded 2019 Fort DeSoto Sandbar Secrets IPT. For the past year, I have been using AirBNB for all of my travel lodging needs. Everyone on the Fort DeSoto Spring IPT stayed at AirBNB properties in Gulfport. Airbnb lists more than 4.5 million homes across 200 countries; you’ll find spacious, affordable options for every occasion. With Airbnb you will travel with confidence as reviews from past guests help you find the right fit. Once you do, their secure messaging makes it easy to coordinate with your host. And Airbnb support teams are available 24/7. And this morning, I made a 17-day reservation for an Airbnb condo for San Diego, 2020. I am staying with Rick again: his place has lots of room, a full kitchen, two bedrooms, and great WiFi. All for a lot less than the price of a chain hotel.

Yikes. I almost forgot the best part: Airbnb rates average less than half of even the least expensive chain hotels and motels. If you would like to save $40 on your first booking sign up by using this link: Airbnb. Airbnb does charge clean-up and service fees that make short stays less attractive bargains than long stays.

Those who prefer to stay in a motel or hotel are invited to use the link above to save $25.00.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers 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. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This image was created near Santiago, Chile on the way to the Falklands last December. I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens with the Nikon D5 with Dual XQD Slots. Matrix metering plus about 1/3 stop as framed: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6. NATURAL AUTO WB at 9:49am on a cloudy day.

Nikon Focus Peaking fine-tune value: -1. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Center Group (grp)/Continuous (C in Nikon/AI Servo with Canon) AF was active at the moment of exposure. The array was centered right on the bird’s neck. The left-most AF point caught the base of tghe bird’s bill.

Inca Tern in flight with fish

If My Life Depended on Making One Great Flight Shot …

If my life depended on making one great flight shot, what hand holdable (for me) lens would I want in my hands? As part of the deal, understand that the birds are fairly large and the distances to the subject are not great.

Today, Sunday May 17, 2019, I have no doubt about my answer. I would opt for the Nikon 500mm PF lens. But I would go with the D850 instead of the D5. Why the 500 PF? Confidence is often difficult to explain. The 500 PF feels great in my hands, Nikon AF is superb, and this lens is light enough to make tracking birds in flight fairly easy for most folks including me. While I have — as you saw in the blog post here — done just fine recently with the tripod-mounted 600 VR on the FlexShooter Pro, I find that hand holding and tracking and framing the images of birds in flight is always at least a tad easier and yields more consistent results when hand holding.

The final reason? For the past year, nearly all of my favorite flight images have been made while hand holding the 500 PF/D850 rig.

Why Not the SONY FE 100-400 OSS with the a9 or the a7R iii?

Right off the bat going with the SONY 100-400 and the a9 with its light weight, incredible AF system, no blackout, and 15 frames per second in AF-C might seem the obvious choice. But I have never been thrilled with a9 image quality. Image quality with the a7R iii is superb but the AF and frame rate are somewhat lacking when compared to the a9. In addition, the 500 PF offers an extra 100mm of reach at f/5.6. Adding the FE 1.4X teleconverter to the SONY zoom gets you out to 560mm but the
cost is steep: one full stop of ISO. And right now I simply lack confidence in the SONY gear. A good deal of that is due to the fact that I have had a lot more field time and practice with the Nikon gear.

What will be in one year? I have no clue.

Patrick Sparkman uses his a7R iii with the SONY FE 400mm f/2.8 OSS lens for more than 95% of his bird photography, most often — about 80% of the time, with the FE 2X teleconverter in place. He uses his a9 mostly as a back-up body and ocassionally in pure flight situations. As I wrote in the My General SONY Conclusions … section of the blog post here:

There is a huge pool of nature and bird photographers who, as Jim Miller has discovered, for whom the SONY stuff above might be their very best option. By miles. Why? It is lightweight — what a pleasure it is to head into the field with just a single, hand holdable rig — and with a bit of instruction, it is easy to learn to use. And 560mm of reach is not chicken liver. Right now it is my firm belief that SONY gear is well up to the task of delivering sharp quality images, all while you are having more fun than ever before. And are creating outstanding images.

If you decide to try or switch to SONY, please e-mail for advice and please remember to use a BAA affilate link.


If your life depended on making one great flight image, what rig would you use? Be sure to note the system, the lens, and the camera body.

Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. All of the images on this card were created on the 2018 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT

The New, Expanded 2019 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT. Seahouses, Bempton Cliffs, and the Dunbar, Scotland Gannet boat to Bass Rock! Thursday June 27 (from EDI) through Tuesday, July 9, 2019 (on the ground; fly home on Wednesday July 10.): $9,999. Limit 5 photographers/Openings: 1

Please e-mail to learn about the very large late-registration discount

Join me in the UK in late June and early July 2019 to photograph Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, Razorbill, Shag, and Northern Gannet, Red Kite, and more both in flight and at close range. We will also have great chances with Arctic and Sandwich Terns, both with chicks of all sizes; Black-headed, Lesser-Black-backed, and Herring Gulls, many of those chasing puffins with fish; Black-legged Kittiwake with chicks; plus Grey Seal. There will be tons of great flight photography. As on all IPTs, if you pay attention, you will learn a ton, especially about sky conditions and the relationship between light angle and wind direction and their effects on flight photography.

Why go all the way to Machias Seal Island off the coast of Maine, endure a two-hour boat ride, and have to photograph Atlantic Puffins from a cramped blind usually in bright sun (and well off sun angle) when you can hop a red-eye flight from Newark, NJ and be in Edinburgh, Scotland early the next morning. First we drive down to Bridlington for easy access to Bempton Cliffs where our primary targets will be Northern Gannet in flight. We will also get to photograph Razorbill, Northern Fulmar, Herring Gull, and Black-legged Kittiwake. While in Bridlington we will spend one afternoon visiting a Red Kite feeding station that should provide lots of flight photography action.

While in Bridlington we will staying at the White Horse Inn in Cranswick, about twenty minutes from Bempton Cliffs. After 3 1/2 days of photography there, we drive down to Seahouses in Northumberland to the two lodges that will be our home base for a week. After a short boat ride each day we will have hundreds of puffins posing at close range all day, every day — usually in ideal cloudy-bright conditions. While we are in Seahouses we will do six puffin/seabird trips, all weather permitting of course; last year we did not miss a single landing. In five years we have averaged losing less than one half day per year to bad weather. We land at Staple Island in the mornings and then sail over to Inner Farnes for our afternoon sessions. In addition, we may enjoy a session or two photographing nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes at eye level from a rocky beach in Seahouses.

In Seahouses, we stay 7 nights in gorgeous, modern, upscale lodges with Wi-fi. They are beyond lovely with large living areas and lots of open space for the informal image sharing and Photoshop sessions. The bedrooms are decent-sized. Each lodge has one double bedroom and two twin bedrooms. (See the single supplement info below.) At the lodges we cook our own breakfasts each morning and prepare our own lunches to be brought on the six puffin boat trips. For dinners we will alternate cooking in the lodges with fine dining at several excellent local restaurants. We stay two nights at the Marston’s Inn in Dunbar. We will enjoy a fine-dining Thank You dinner at the Dunbar Hotel on the Tuesday evening before we fly home.

On the morning of Monday, July 8, 2019, the plan is to sleep late, pack, and head up to Dunbar Harbor, Scotland for lunch and an afternoon gannet boat chumming trip: flight photography until you cannot lift your camera. The next morning, Tuesday July 9, we will enjoy our second gannet boat chumming trip (both weather permitting). On both trips we will enjoy great views of the huge gannetry at Bass Rock. Included will be two nights lodging at the Pine Martin by Marston’s Inn in Dunbar. Very early on the morning of Wednesday, July 10, we will drive up to Edinburgh Airport so that everyone can make their flights home. No moaning please. You will need a flight that leaves at 8:30am or later. Not too much later is generally best.

Images and card design copyright: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART. All images were created on the 2017 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT

The Details

This IPT is all-inclusive except for your airfare and alcoholic beverages. All ground transportation, lodging costs, meals, your National Trust membership, and all boat, entry, and landing fees are included. Weather permitting, we will enjoy three and one-half days (at least six sessions in all) at Bempton Cliffs, an afternoon with the Red Kites, six full days on the puffin boats, one amazing afternoon gannet chumming trip, and one spectacular morning gannet chumming trip.

IPT Details

If you are good to go sharing a room–couples of course are more than welcome, heck, we actually need two couples — 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 February 28, 2019. 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.

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

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 or running your credit card. Whenever purchasing travel insurance, be sure to read the fine print carefully even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.

I truly hope that you can join me on this exciting venture.

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.

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.


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

23 comments to Huge Late-registration BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour Discounts Made Public. And If My Life Depended on Making One Great Flight Shot …

  • Hey Art,
    Hope all is well-how well does the 500 mm 5.6 Nikon lens AF with a 1.4x extender-I thinking of it with a D500 body-Thanks in advance.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Great for static stuff. Not as good as the bare lens for flight.

      Please use one of my links. They are still severely back-ordered.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Pete

    Artie, I am using the 5d mkiv, 400do ii with the 1×4 and 2x tc, fairly lightweight and hand holdable!
    Still 8lb+ though with the battery grip!

    Thats a great shot of the Inca tern!

  • avatar Adam

    After shooting with a friend’s gear, I have to agree with you that the Nikon 850 and 500 pf are the best hand holdable, longer reach combination currently on the market. A question I would pose is how well will it perform with a TC? For many of my wildlife shots I am shooting at FL of > 500mm + and adding a TC one is functionally shooting at f/8 with this lens.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I have made some good flight images with the 500 PF, the TC-E14, and the D850 but do understand that whenever you add a TC to any lens that initial AF acquisition and tracking accuracy and sharpness will all suffer to some degree. There is no free lunch. That said, I have made many sharp images of static birds at 700mm with the 500 PF. I usually work at f/9 with that combo.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Barry Barfield

    After using Canon 1DX and 5D4 with 100-400 ii (and occasionally with 1.4iii extender) and the 500f4 lens – I have to have a shoulder reconstruction soon due to some old injury on my 70 year old body. So looking for some lighter gear in preparation, I have the new Olympus OMD-E-M1X with the 40-150 F2.8 and the 300 F4, both occasionally with 1.4 ext. Initial use shows the images are good where the subject is a reasonable size in frame. Being in Australia, I shoot lots of small birds that are very shy and difficult to approach. Too small in frame and the fine detail is lost – my Canon gear was better in that scenario. Get closer if possible and the images are really better than expected in a micro four thirds sensor. Tracking and AF is good on this body and the whole rig with a 35mm equivalent of 600mm at F4 is VERY hand holdable – put the 1.4 ext on and you have 840mm at F5.6 – Crazy stuff! All the best Artie.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes, the times they are a’ changing. Good luck with the surgery and let us know how the new combo does with birds in flight.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Brian E. Small

    To me the obvious follow up question to your post is why the 850 over the D5? My understanding is that the AF is slightly to more-than-slightly better on the D5. I only have the 850 so I don’t really know.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Same reasons that I never used my 1DX II. I like more pixels and the ability to crop. AF on the D850 is a lot better than I am 🙂

      with love, artie

      • avatar Brian E. Small

        Makes perfect sense……………and I, like you rarely used my 1DX II……….I liked the 5D Mark IV so much better even though the AF performance wasn’t as good.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Not quite as good but not bad (for Canon AF …)


          • avatar Brian E. Small


            So as you know, I’m still new to Nikon but now getting much more comfortable with the gear. Currently I only own the D850 body…………….I have been contemplating either buying a used D5 or waiting for the not-that-far-off D6. But in all honesty, I’m not sure I’d use either body all that much (and they ain’t cheap)……………..perhaps with the exception of low light situations.


            I don’t really like to shoot the D850 above ISO 800 and so I think one of those bodies would be ideal for circumstances that require ISO well above that.

            Cameras with smaller image files give the appearance of having less noise than high MP bodies but that apparent gain is misleading … I do not fully understand the reason why. I will see if I can get Patrick Sparkman to chime in here 🙂 In addition, if you master the NeatImage techniques in the Professional Post Processing Guide that I did with Arash Hazeghi noise become pretty much a non-issue even at the higher ISOs …

            But the D5 is “only” 20 MP and the D6 is expected to be 24 MP or so…………………and like you said in your previous response to me, I too like to crop and I like having a lot of pixels so I love the D850.

            Me too 🙂

            So my questions for you are……………..when do you use the D5 and why? you find the D5 AF significantly better than the 850 AF?


            I sold my D5 many months ago because I almost never used it. I found the D850 AF pretty much as good as the D5 AF. At least I could not discern any significant differences. Perhaps folks with fast reflexes, superb hand-eye coordination, and lots of strength and stamina would see a significant difference …

            with love, artie

  • I really like my Canon 7Dmk2 and Canon EF 400mm f5.6L for flight photography – the body for the frame rate, and the lens for the lightweight handhold capabilities. It has served me well for years, and hopefully for more years to come!

  • avatar frank sheets

    If I were to go on another trip of a lifetime and my life depended on coming back with the best possible flight photo, I would not leave home without my A9 and 400mm GM 2.8 and 1.4 converter(s). I will say I would want that combo in my hands well in advance to get my shoulder, arms, and back in shape to hand hold for any length of time (and I’m getting there, even at 70). Although I have not used any Nikon gear to compare, the A9 focusing system is crazy good and with the speed of the 400mm gm (both its focus acquisition and being 2.8 (f/4 w/ the 1.4) I can maintain quick shutter speeds at reasonable ISO’s. I will say however that the a9 sensor is pretty darn good at higher ISO’s (not as good as the a7RIII) if you keep your exposures right. With the focusing capabilities of the a9, the fast frame rate, and the focus acquisition speed of the 400mm GM 2.8 (with converters) I would debate that there just might not be a better system out there currently. Each to there own however. Also, as perhaps Patrick can attest, the 400mm with a 2X converter is a great, relatively light, 800mm portrait lens with IMO superb IQ.

    Is a 400mm GM 2.8 in Artie Morris’s future? Tempting, isn’t it.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Whoa. 6.4 pounds is a lot too heavy for most folks. And yes, I know that the lens is back- heavy which helps with hand holding. For comparison, the 500 PF weighs only 3.21 pound, 1/100 of a pound more than half the weight of the SONY 400 f/2.8.

      With current camera bodies from the same manufacturer noise will always be more apparent with smaller files than with larger files, but for me with less mega-pixels in play that is not a real gain.

      So not for me right now but who knows.

      with love, artie

  • avatar James Saxon

    My past go to flight photography setup was either the Nikon d500 or d850 with either the 200-500 Nikkor or Sigma 150-600 for the extra 100mm of focal length. Lately I have been using an Olympus OM-d E1 Mark II and either the 40-150 f2.8 and 1.4 tc or the 300 f4 with the 1.4 tc. For me this is the lightest combination, greatest focal length and adequate frame rate. Learning the Olympus menu system is a chore but achieveable. I am 71 and my back tells me the gear has to get lighter for me to continue enjoying this hobby. Would still like to try the 500 on the 850.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks James. How does the Olympus OM-d E1 Mark II with the 300 f4 and the 1.4 tc?

      with love, artie

      ps: I’ve got you by at least one year 🙂

      • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        ps: to James. I did quite well with the 200-500 for flight and lots more but for flight alone the 500 PF kills it (but is still exceedingly difficult to obtain).


  • avatar William Dix

    Congratulations Artie. That Inca Tern shot is a real winner. The 500PF is indeed a delight to hand-hold, and with my aging shoulder just now recovering from long rehab, I was thrilled to get my new 500PF several days ago after a 6 month wait. For BIF, Nikon’s 3D has been my preferred AF setting for quickly grabbing and following erratic birds in flight. So when I gave the new lens a first try, I was dismayed to find that with the 1.4 TC mounted, Nikon has disabled the 3D setting. I don’t know why since it works fine with my old 500f4 and Sigma 150-600. In any event, you (and others) have created fine BIF images with the GRP setting, so that gives me hope. I guess that will become my new standard for flight shots.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Bill and mazel tov on the new lens. And continuted succes with the shoulder rehab 🙂 I use only Group for flight … What you are saying about no 3D with the TC and the PF does not make a lot of sense to me but I am not well versed on that. Is 3D where all the AF points are lit up and the active one dances around the frame?

      And yes, I would highly recommend Group (but now only for flight not static …

      with love and see you on BPN,

      with love, artie

  • Indeed that’s a great flight shot Guru. Congratulations.

    More so, you handheld the combo of D5 + Nikkor 500mm f/5.6, wow! You cannot be 60+ Guru (or may be the regular swimming exercise keeps you that strong)! In any case, great great feat.

    Best regards.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Quazi. 70+ and my hand holding skills are deteriorating rapidly (not that they were ever very good …). I will be 73 this coming June 14 🙂

      with love, artie

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>