Bald Eagle Gear (and a Whole New World) Revealed « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Bald Eagle Gear (and a Whole New World) Revealed

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As you might guess, the E stands for eagle, but the E looks a lot bigger than the eagle did as it sat atop the telephone pole….

Bald Eagle Gear (and a Whole New World) Revealed

Right after I got my 800, I tried to make a few images with the 2X teleconverter. Even with the Mark IV I had to focus manually as the pro bodies focus down to f/8 but not to f/11. I made quite a few images and the results were horrific; not a single image was anywhere near sharp. I did not realize at the time that the problem was a result of inaccurate (manual) focusing by yours truly. Recently I have been getting out each morning to photograph near my home for an hour or so. On Monday morning past, things were a bit slow so I decided to try something new, something based on a tip from early 7D User’s Guide purchaser Dave Hardcastle.

A pair of Bald Eagles sat on top of the telephone pole that you see in the image above. I set up the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with stacked teleconverters; the 2X goes on the lens and the nose of the 1.4X fits into the back of the 2X. I mounted one of my EOS-1D Mark VI bodies to the 1.4X. Next came David’s killer tip: while working in Live View I set the AF Mode to Live mode. The system focused very slowly but very accurately. When I saw how sharp the images were I was amazed. You can learn more about this technique and about using Live View for nature photography in both the MIV User’s Guide and the 7D User’s Guide. The MIV User’s Guide was just updated and the 7D User’s Guide update should be finished by the time I get to San Diego at about noon tomorrow; I will be speaking at Photo Expo West in Del Mar this coming weekend. Click here and scroll down for more info.

Using this technique will indeed open up a whole new world of long distance photography of static birds and animals. That reminds me, 800 X 2 X 1.4 X 1.3 = 2912mm effective (or equivalent) focal length, a tidy 58.24 magnification. While this was a one-time success I am optimistic that the results can be duplicated on a consistent basis. I’d estimate that I was about 70 yards from the bird….

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Gear as noted above. ISO 800: Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/11.

12 comments to Bald Eagle Gear (and a Whole New World) Revealed

  • Nice to see a writeup like this on the 7d with either 100-400 or the 70-200 plus 2.x. I used the 100-400 a lot while living in Africa but now use it less here in the Netherlands where light is poor most times. So i am considering the 70-200 L F/2.8 this time with my kenko pro dgx 1.4x and future 2x converters to make it a 400mm F/5.6 like the 100-400.

  • […] Bald Eagle Gear (and a Whole New World) Revealed « Arthur MorrisGear as noted above. ISO 800: Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/11. … 5 comments to Bald Eagle Gear (and a Whole New World) Revealed … BAA Gear Bag… […]

  • Ken

    Absolutely amazing what an 800 with 2x and 1.4 can do – But at f.11 – That’s great but most wildlife shots will be in less than ideal conditions as this one and as long as the bird or animal is still, but most wildlife is not dormant – and most people will have difficulty purchasing an 800 lens and necessary tripod – and according to dpreview, the Mark 4 has not proven to have it’s autofocus problem fixed from the Mark 111 – I had 2 Mark 111’s, one was replaced the other one sent away to be corrected with the mirron – I would have loved to have stayed with Canon but shooting moving targets, it is difficult – what I would like to see is the 800 with teh 2x and the 1.4 x work on a moving target with the Mark 4, I’m sure the 600 will work and be able to use a larger f stop, like f 8 – but that is a lot of magnification – An optional choice wuld be to find locations where the eagles are plentiful and start shooting them with different types of pose designs one has in mind – The eagle is a beautiful bird, you have a really beautiful shot – the detail is great – even the cropping is great after knowing it was on a telephone pole – the shot is very saleable – but I like to shoot birds in motion – will the 800 its converters and the Mark 4 do the job consistantly. – I sure hope so

  • Arthur:

    I tried this technique on the 50D and it works pretty good. The only problem I have now is camera shake, but a couple of shots of tequila should take care of that.

    Thanks for this great tip. Now I can take that $5,000 I was saving up for a 300mm f2/8 with a 2x converter and go to Europe next year :<))


  • Wouldn’t this technique also benefit from the fact the mirror doesn’t slap up causing vibrations which could cause blur especially at high magnification of slow shutter speeds. Cracking image by the way Artie.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Vibrations from mirror slap are only a problem in a fairly narrow range of shutter speeds, perhaps from 1/30 sec to 1/2 sec. At faster or slower shutter speeds those vibrations will not effect sharpness at all.

  • This photograph of the eagle is absolutely exquisite in every detail. Great shot.

  • Do you know if this technique (Live View with AF mode set to Live Mode) works with the Canon 50D? I have a 100-400mm lens, which I absolutely love, and a 1.6x teleconverter. It does not auto focus with the teleconverter and with my 50’s eyesight, it’s hard to manually focus. I’ve been looking at the Canon 300mm IS f/2.8 with a 2x teleconverter (which does auto focus), but it’s hard at this point to justify the $4K+ expense. If I can get the auto focus to work with the 100-400mm with either a 1.6x or a 2.0x, that would get me the range I’m looking for.
    BTW – I really appreciate your tips, insights and awesome images.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Andy, Assuming that the 50D has Live View and you can set the AF to Live Mode, it should work. You should do fine with the 1.4X TC (there is no 1.6X TC) and you will need to experiment with the 2X and let us know about the sharpness. I suspect that with a decent shutter speed and the tripod locked up that results should be very sharp. The optics are good, its just a matter of focusing accurately and avoiding equipment shake and vibrations.

      Thanks for your kind words and YAW 🙂

  • Wonderful shot and amazing quality for this setup. I really should get a 2x for my 4/500L. I have also played with the 7D live view AF and it is not great but with some subjects that have enough contrast (for example a Gadwall) it works ok.

    Is this an artificial nesting platform for the eagles next to the pylon? Do Bald Eagles also use it or mostly Ospreys?
    It looks like the pylon is not 100% safe against electrocution. The isolation does not seem perfect and wood is not 100% isolated either. On a rainy day when the wood is wet and the eagle is wet, it might get killed.


  • (of course, above I meant to write “… a different AUTOFOCUS technique…”)

  • Excellent tip. Actually, in live mode our cameras use a different technique than the usual one, that doesn’t work under a certain aperture. I have to try that on my Nikon D5000 (waiting for the D7000…). Of course this needs a super-ultra-good long lens handling technique, which I’m not sure is part of my skills…