Pushing the Shutter Speed Envelope « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Pushing the Shutter Speed Envelope

Harlequin Duck drake, head portrait. This image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X III TC, a 25mm Extension Tube, and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/8 sec. at f/14 in Manual mode. (1/8 sec. is not a typo….)

Central Sensor (by necessity) Rear Focus/AI Servo AF and recompose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Lens/TC/camera body Micro-adjustment: +4. For a greater appreciation of the image, click on the photo. Then click on the enlarged version to close it.

Pushing the Shutter Speed Envelope

I have been amazed by the new 4-stop Image Stabilization on the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS lens from the get-go. While spending two afternoons on the Barnegat Jetty recently with Denise Ippolito I decided to push the envelope and see what is actually possible with good sharpness techniques…. Here I was working with just about 30X magnification. I started making images at 1/60 sec. and then dropped down to 1/30 sec. With the duck just sitting there in lousy, lousy light I dropped that down to 1/15 sec. and finally made a half-dozen images at the ridiculously slow shutter speed of 1/8 sec. About half of all the images were sharp. The soft images were a result of either the bird moving during the exposure or having turned its head away just before I released the shutter.

Not sure why but I went back to my old-style sharpness techniques with my left hand pressing down on the base of the lens hood. After I focused and the bird held its position I held the shutter button down for 5-6 images at a time. (All with IS Mode 2.) From where I sit, this image is at least acceptably sharp. Do note that the near shoulder is totally out of focus due to lack of depth-of-field. Depth-of-field at 18 feet at f/14 with this set-up is about 1/10 of one inch. Or not much!

Do consider that there are many folks who feel that the Mongoose M3.6 does not offer enough support as good support as the Wimberley V2 with the 800 and a TC…. (Both are great heads for big glass. I prefer the lighter Mongoose while other prefer to stay away from side-mounting gimbal heads.

Why did I do it? I had nothing better to do and I am always looking to learn more about my gear. My only regret: I should have tried 1/4 second!

4-stop IS combined with amazing weight reduction are just two of the reasons that I am looking forward to the eventual release of the 500 and 600mm f/4L IS II super-telephoto lenses…. Learn more on these two lenses here.

Earn Free Contest Entries and Support both the Bulletins and the Blog by making all your B & H purchases here.

More and more folks are earning multiple contest entries with their B & H purchases. See here for details on that. Eleven great categories, 34 winning and honored images, and prize pools valued in excess of $20,000. Click here to visit the competition home page.

artie is traveling 🙂

artie is traveling in the Southern Ocean (Falklands, South Georgia, & Antarctica) and will unable to respond to your questions and comments until after his return on 26 January 2012.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear used to create the image in this blog post. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon 1.4X III Teleconverter. Designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
25mm Extension Tube. An extension tube allows you to focus closer than the minimum focusing distance of your lens.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. My two Mark IVs are my workhorse digital camera bodies.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sales value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders 🙂
Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
CR-80 Replacement Foot for Canon 800. When using the 800 on a Mongoose as I do, replacing the lens foot with this accessory lets the lens sit like a dog whether pointed up or down and prevents wind-blown spinning of your lens on breezy days by centering the lens directly over the tripod.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV User’s Guide. Learn to use your Mark IV the way that I use mine. Also available for the 7D and the Mark III here.

20 comments to Pushing the Shutter Speed Envelope

  • I’ve been meaning to tell you that because of ABPII, non-photographers who come to visit are quite amusing to observe when I see them notice the various branches stuck all around my deck feeders. What’s really funny is the fact that they don’t say anything. They just stare at them and walk on in the house. I think they probably figure I’ve gone ’round the bend. That was one of the many fabulous tips I got from ABPII.. So thanks for making me look like a crazy lady and getting some very nice shots!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      You are welcome. You will be my inspiration: I have been meaning to set up my backyard for about eight years now…

  • Ha ha.. very funny. Now if you could just come up with an “Old Fart” Edition. I would be happy!

  • Thanks for your reply, Art.. Yes I do have ABPII (wonderful!), but I hadn’t looked at it since I got the 500mm. Inserting the disc right now:) Thanks!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good plan and thanks for your purchase. We are working on a version that works telepathically but for now you actually have to read it :). There is a great search feature under “Find.”

  • Art.. I have a 500mm lens and normally keep it in IS1. I don’t think I’ve ever used IS2. Would that be beneficial with a 500 mm + 1.4 TC or the 2X, even though it isn’t a 4 stop like your 800MM? Shooting this winter has been challenging – not a lot of sun, it seems.
    PS I am pretty much in love with my Wimberley V2.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I have long recommended that folks use IS2 when working on a tripod…. For details see ABP II. Do you own that? I like soft light. For folks who do not like side-mounting heads, we recommend the Wimberley V2 with big lenses. I use the Mongoose M3.6 with all of my big glass to take advantage of its light weight.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Great image, Artie, but I’m a little puzzled by the use of IS AND a tripod at the same time. Why do you need IS if you’re using a tripod? Or would that be obvious if I’d ever used an 800 mm lens (which I have not)?


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I leave IS on and find it beneficial till I get down to shutter speeds of one second or longers.

  • avatar Robert Adamowicz

    Amazing…Mirror lockup?

  • Cheapo, the OOF bird you’re referring to is actually the shoulder of the subject. 🙂

  • avatar Charlie Young

    Amazing shot for such a long lens with such a slow shutter speed! The eye of the duck is tack sharp. Great photo,Artie.

  • avatar cheapo

    It’s a super pin sharp in the right places image to have achieved at those settings! Although it may not win many competitions due to the OOF/moving bird in the foreground.

  • avatar Mike Vanecek

    I have the bottom mount arm with the Mongoose 3.6. It adds very little weight and can be removed quickly if needed. I am one of those who are not comfortable with the side mount. See ‘ya next month in FL.