My Thoughts on the 500 II vs the 600 II for the UK IPT. And the Mega-cooperative Murre « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

My Thoughts on the 500 II vs the 600 II for the UK IPT. And the Mega-cooperative Murre


As noted here previously, it was drizzling pretty hard on Thursday morning and even worse, the forecast was for two full days of rain — Thursday and Friday. After being unable to land on anywhere on Tuesday, the entire group was completely understanding — bad weather happens. We were critiquing the participants’ images when I felt it brighten outside, behind me. “Hold on a minute ,” I said, “I am gonna call Marta.” As things turned out we landed on Inner Farnes and enjoyed three hours of truly amazing bird photography — puffins in flight (hanging in the wind), puffins with fish, murres and Razorbills up the kazoo, and loads of ArctiC Terns in flight and with young and landing on folks’ heads.

Tomorrow we head up to Dunbar, Scotland, for a four hour Gannet “shoot till your arms fall off’ flight and diving photography session.

The Streak

Just in case you have not been counting, today makes 19 days in a row with a new educational 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.

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 afternoon of Day 2 of the 2017 UK Puffins and Gannets IPT with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and my favorite bird photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. AWB.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: -5.

Two AF points to the right of the center AF point/AI Servo/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was on the bird’s chin just below the gape.

Common Murre with baitfish

Mega-cooperative Murre

This murre landed right in front of us with a very nice fish and held it gently in place in search of who knows what for nearly 30 minutes. It posed and posed and posed. Whenever it mingled with a friend for a minute or two, it was soon off on its own to find a clear spot on the cliff. A clear spot where it could pose unobstructed for us.

If you have ever enjoyed a miraculously tame bird that posed for you seemingly forever, please do share and let us know the bird and the location.

500 II versus 600 II for the UK Trip

In prior years I have always taken the 600 II on the UK Puffins and Gannets IPT. This year, I dropped down to the 500 II. The 500 II is well lighter than the 600 II and it is far less bulky. Both of those factors make it much easier to travel by air with. For the landings, I pack the 500 II with a 5D IV mounted on it in the 3X Expandable Long Lens Bag to keep it safe on the boat trip. Then I remove the rig and secure the bag to a post near the landing and leave it there while I photograph. I have the 100-400 II on my right shoulder via a Black Rapid Curve Breathe Strap, often with the 1.4X III TC in place. I carry my Induro GIT 304L tripod in one hand, the big lens in the other. I grab the 500 II by the CR-X5 Low Foot.

With many of the birds being tame, being limited to 1000mm of reach (as opposed to 1200mm with the 600 II), is no big handicap 🙂 Lastly, I can hand hold the 500 II for flight for short sessions. I cannot do that with the 600 II …

If In Doubt …

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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.

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.

This IPT will run with only a single registrant (though that is not likely to happen). The best airport is Tampa (TPA). Though I have not decided on a hotel yet — I will as soon as there is one sign-up — do know that it is always best if IPT folks stay in the same hotel (rather than at home or at a friend’s place).

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.

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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.

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6 comments to My Thoughts on the 500 II vs the 600 II for the UK IPT. And the Mega-cooperative Murre

  • avatar Kent Downing

    Hi Artie-
    Thanks very much for today’s posting. Love the composition and careful positioning of the fish in the birds mouth. Wondering if you are finding the 5DMk4 w 100-400 II adequate – AF and Frame Rate – for various action/flight shots there in the UK or are you using the 1DXII ? Thanks as always 🙂

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Kent, YAW and thanks for your kind words. The 100-400 II is fine for action. Not many opps for flight at close range here. With my deteriorating flight photography skills, I found yesterday that the 70-200 f/4L IS with the gannets far our-performed the 100-400 II with the 1DX II. Not sure why and not a direct or fair comparison but, I was surprised.

      with love, artie

  • Hi Artie, I love today’s featured image. The fact that it is the bridled form (white stripe curving down from the eye) of the murre (guillemot to me) adds interest to the image overall. The head angle is great and the ‘fish angle’ is just perfect, the shiny scales on the fish’s side add a bit of interest to the otherwise plain fish. Do you think you are going to be missing the 14fps of the 1dx mk2 with the diving gannets tomorrow? Good luck with the rest of the trip.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Jake,

      Thanks for your kind words. I think that all murres show the brown curved line behind the eye. With the bridled form, that line is distinctly white. I did not miss the faster frame rate (well less than 14fps in AI Servo AF if you read the fine print). See lots more coming soon and see my reply to Kent above.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Rick

    Hi Artie – enjoying your blogs as always.

    regarding your comment on the 500 v 600. Do you only carry one camera body in the example you give, and do you take a monopod along with you?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      One 5D 4 on the 500 II, another one on the 100-400 II. And the Induro GIT 304L with a Mongoose M3.6. Never a monopod for me.

      with love, artie