Big Lens Flight Photography with the 1.4X III TC « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Big Lens Flight Photography with the 1.4X III TC

The Streak Continues: 229

This post was published just after 4:00am from Rockville, Center, Long Island, NY as we get ready for the last morning of the Nickerson Baby Beach Nesting Birds IPT. It is our first morning that might offer some nice sunrise colors…. This post, which took me about 2 hours to prepare, marks 229 consecutive days with a new educational blog post. With so many folks getting in the habit of using our B&H links and our Amazon logo-links, why quit now? April, May, June, and July have been fantastic as lots of folks are getting the message; using my affiliate links does not cost you a penny and helps support my efforts here. To show your appreciation, I do ask that you use our B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially Gitzo tripods, Wimberley tripod heads, and the like. We sell only what I have used and tested, and know that you can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know the tools that you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

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This image was created on the Nickerson Baby Beach Nesting Birds IPT with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 1000. Evaluative metering +3 stops off the white sky: 1/800 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AWB.

Central Sensor Surround/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the face of the front Laughing Gull was of course active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Flight Photography with the 600 II

I am not capable of shooting hand held flight with the 600 II for more than a few minutes. Working on the tripod with the Mongoose M3.6 makes it easy to survive long shooting sessions with little or no muscle strain. Most of the time I support the lens barrel near the front from below with my left hand; in addition, my left hand helps guide the lens so that I can easily track the birds in flight. Make sure that your tripod is tall enough so that you do not have to bend over to get your eye comfortably to the viewfinder….


This image was created on the Nickerson Baby Beach Nesting Birds IPT with the hand held Canon 500mm f/4L EF IS II lens, the Canon 1.4x EF tele-extender III, and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital Camera (Body Only) w/FREE Bonus Items – $160.75 Value! [expires 11/24]!. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +3 stops off the white sky: 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AWB.

Central sensor AI Servo AF was active at the moment of exposure but nowhere near the bird that was right near the upper frame edge. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

Because of its lighter weight and the fact that it is far less bulky than the 600 II, air travel is a lot easier with the 500 II.

Hand Holding the 500 II

Will du Plessis, who drove down from somewhere in Canada to join the IPT, was having trouble focusing with his 500 II/1.4X/5D Mark III so we switched rigs and I tried to figure out what the problem was. The lens would not attempt to focus at all so I checked for the #1 culprit. Will had inadvertently set AF Search to Off; this told the lens not to search to acquire AF. I was sure that this would solve the problem but as it turned out, there is a problem, most likely with the camera; the rig would acquire focus and then lose it quickly…. I was able, with some difficulty, to make a few sharp images hand held. I have one more test to do today to make sure that it is the camera and not the lens.

Hand holding the 500 II is a snap for me as compared to hand holding the 600 II. We were sitting so my rest position had my left forearm resting on my left knee. From there it was a simply matter of raising the lens a few inches to photograph the birds flying right at us into the north/northwest wind.


This image was also created on the Nickerson Baby Beach Nesting Birds IPT with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +3 stops off the white sky: 1/800 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AWB.

Central Sensor Surround/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the upper back of the skimmer as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Sitting Down on the Job

To better separate the incoming birds from the tall grasses of the nesting grounds we had the group sitting. Some were hand holding 300 IIs while others like me were working off a tripod. After trying my rig for a while Will is lusting for both a 1D X and a Mongoose M3.6. In addition, by sitting you increase the chance of having a fledgling Common Tern land right in front of you.

The 2015 UK Puffins and Gannets IPTs

Our first UK Puffins and Gannets IPT was so amazingly productive and so much fun that by the 2nd afternoon Denise and I had already decided to return in very early July 2015. In addition, we may run the first-ever Ireland Puffins and Gannets IPT the week before. If you are interested in receiving early notice for either or both of these great trips, please shoot me an e-mail with the words “2015 Puffins and Gannets IPTs” cut and pasted into the Subject line.


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Denise and artie hope that you can join them next spring in Holland and learn to improve both the technical and creative aspects of your flower (and street) photography.

7 1/2-Day/8-Night: A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART/Tulips & A Touch of Holland Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT)

Keukenhof—Delft—Amsterdam–Flower Fields—Kinderdijk
April 9 -April 16, 2015: $4995. Limit: 12 photographers/Openings 10. Four more to make the trip a go.

This trip needs 6 registrants to run so please do not purchase your plane tickets until you hear from us that the trip is a go.

Join Denise Ippolito, the author of “Bloomin’ Ideas,” and Arthur Morris, Canon Explorer of Light Emeritus, for a great trip to Holland in mid-April 2015. Day 1 of the IPT will be April 9, 2015. We will have a short afternoon get-together and then our first photographic session at the justly-famed Keukenhof. Our last day, Day 8, April 16 will be a full day of photography.

The primary subjects will be tulips and orchids at Keukenhof and the spectacularly amazing tulip, hyacinth, and daffodil bulb fields around Lisse and points north. We will spend one full day in Amsterdam. There will be optional visits to the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House and/or the Rijk’s Museum. Street photography and sightseeing will be other options. We will spend a half day at Kinderdijk where we will be photographing the windmills and doing some creative photography. We will spend an afternoon in the lovely Dutch town of Delft where we will do some street photography and shopping. There is an optional church tower tour/climb. We will also enjoy a superb fine dining experience in a traditional restaurant.

Other than the arrival date: April 9, Day 1, and the date of our last day of photography on April 16, Day 8, there is no set itinerary. We will check the weather and play everything by ear to maximize the photographic opportunities. We will try to do Amsterdam, Delft, and especially Kinderdijik, on cloudy days.

There are several huge pluses to this trip. First off, denise is an amazingly skilled and caring instructor. Both her creativity and her willingness to share and to help beginning and intermediate photographers are unmatched. And though artie has learned a ton about flower photography from denise, their styles and techniques do vary considerably. You will have a chance to be counseled by and to learn from both of them. While denise will hunt you down to help you, artie’s teaching style is more “the closer you stay to me, the more you will learn.” Both leaders consistently inspire the participants. And each other. The sky, of course, is the limit.

You will learn to create tight abstracts, how best to use depth-of-field (or the lack thereof) to improve your flower photography, how to get the right exposure and make sharp images every time, how to see the best shot, and how to choose the best perspective for a given situation. And you will of course learn to create a variety of pleasingly blurred flower images. If you bring a long lens, you will learn to use it effectively for flower photography. Denise’s two favorite flower lenses are the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens and the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. Mine are the Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro , the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM lens ,and the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, all almost always on a tripod. Often with extension tubes and/or either the 1.4X or the 2X (with the 300 II) teleconverters. Denise hand holds a great deal of the time. For flower field blurs denise uses the same lenses mentioned above along with her new 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III lens. Artie’s favorite is that same 70-200 often with a 1.4X TC but he uses both the new Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens and the 300 II as well. Both of us use and love the Canon EOS 5D Mark IIIfor all of our flower photography. The in-camera HDR and Multiple Exposure features are a blast.

One of the great advantages of our trip is that we will be staying in a single, strategically located hotel that is quite excellent. Do note that all ground transfers to and from Schipol Airport will be via the free hotel shuttle bus.

What’s included: Eight hotel nights. All ground transportation except for airport transfers as noted above. In-the-field instruction and small group image review and Photoshop sessions. All meals from dinner on Day 1 through dinner on Day 8. There is good food at the hotel and we will be dining there on occasion; whenever you order off the menu be it at the hotel or at another restaurant only the cost of your main course is included. On these occasions the cost of soups, appetizers, salads, sodas and other beverages, alcoholic drinks and wine, bottled water, and desserts are not included. Snacks, personal items, phone calls, etc. are also not included. The cost of bus or train transportation to and from Amsterdam (about $20 US), museum entry, and tower and church entry fees (optional) are likewise not included.

Beware of seemingly longer, slightly less expensive tours that include travel days and days sitting in the hotel doing nothing as part of the tour. In addition, other similar trips have you changing hotels often and needlessly. One final note on other similar trips: the instructors on this trip actually instruct. On other similar trips the instructors, though usually imminently qualified, serve for the most part as van drivers and van door openers.

A non-refundable deposit of $1,000 per person is required to hold your spot. The second payment of $2,000 due by October 30, 2014. The balance is due on January 15, 2015. Payments in full are of course welcome at any time. All payments including the deposit must be by check made out to “Arthur Morris.” As life has a way of throwing an occasional curve ball our way, you are urged to purchase travel insurance within 15 days of our cashing your check. Artie uses and recommends Travel Insurance Services. All payments are non-refundable unless the trip fills to capacity. In that case, all payments but your deposit will be refunded. If the trip does not run every penny will of course be refunded. Again, please do not purchase your air tickets until you hear from us that the trip is a go. We are very confident that it will.

All checks should be made out to “Arthur Morris” and sent to: Arthur Morris, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. Call Jim or Jen in the BAA office with any additional registration questions: 863-692-0906.

For couples or friends signing up at the same time for the tulip trip, a $200/duo discount will be applied to the final payment.

When you send your deposit check, please print, sign, and include the paperwork here.

If you have any questions on the trip please contact artie by e-mail or denise by e-mail.

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3 comments to Big Lens Flight Photography with the 1.4X III TC

  • Thanks for the reply, Artie. The Mongoose looks interesting. Will have to have a closer look.
    Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available in Germany.

  • Hi Artie,

    great shots as always. I like the gulls chasing the tern. Very interesting behavior very well captured.

    Do you use the 200-400 1.4 for flight shots a lot?
    I normally use the 600 as it gives me more reach (birds are shy here) but I find hand holding the 200-400 1.4x much easier despite it being only about 300g lighter. But it has a more compact build and maybe this helps.
    Will be photographing (very approachable) marmots in a few weeks and will probably do most with the 200-400 (easier to get a good background than with the 70-200/4) and will use it hand-held most of the time because it gives me more flexibility than with a tripod + Wimberley. And I love the zooming so much that I find primes more and more awkward.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Markus,

      I hand hold the 2-4 for flight at times but after a while it gets too heavy for me and I need to go either to the tripod or the 300 II. And after a while hand holding the 300 II is a strain…. You sound young and strong…. Yes, the farming versatility of the 2-4 is great when working with tame stuff.


      ps: you would be much better off with the Mongoose M3.6.