Galapagos Gear Bag featuring my favorite new kit … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Galapagos Gear Bag featuring my favorite new kit ...


I was busy on Friday (when I worked on this blog post) but as darkness approached I was not quite sure what I had gotten done 🙂 I did enjoy my easy half-mile swim. With one day to go I have not packed a thing. I fly to MIA midday on Sunday and then continue on to Guayaquil to meet the Galapagos IPT group. If you would like to join me next time, likely in August 2019, please shoot me an e-mail.

On Saturday I spent most of the day packing. I have two 50.0 pound checked bags (with my lens hoods, my Induro GIT 304L, my Mongoose, and a ton of other photo gear in them), my 43.5 pound Think Tank Roller, my Think Tank Urban Disguise Laptop bag filled with 17.5 pounds of stuff, and my Xtra-hand vest (at a mere 12 pounds …). At the last moment I decided to stick my lightweight Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens into the rear pouch of my vest, being sure to pad it well. I will use it on the one or two landings where landscape photography is our main focus. The car service will be here at 7:30am on Sunday. I am scheduled to land in Guayaquil a bit after 7pm local time.

The Streak

Today marks fifteen days in a row with a new educational blog post. This blog post took about two hours to create.


I finally updated the IPT page to properly reflect the recently completed trips. If you doubt that I am really slowing down do click here to see the meager IPT schedule. Right now there are only two US-based IPTs on the schedule. Best news is that I turned up the missing registrant for the Fort DeSoto IPT so that will run. Do consider joining us if you would like to learn from the best.

Photographers Wanted

If you would like to learn to be a better bird photographer, consider joining me on the Fort DeSoto IPT in late September. Scroll down for details. With just one person signed up, you will be enjoying practically private instruction. And you can tack on the In-the-Field/Meet-up Workshop Session on the morning of Tuesday September 26, 2017 for free.

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.

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Galapagos Gear Bag Overview

In recent months, having forsaken the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens for most air travel, my basic kit has looked like this: Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens,, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, and the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. And I can add in the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens fish eye for super-wide coverage (and for fun) if I have room.

The 500 II

I have done this trip with either the 300mm II or the 400mm DO II as my big glass, usually to be used on a tripod with either the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III or the Canon Extender EF 2X III. But recently I have been going to the 500mm II, — much lighter, smaller, and easier to travel with than the 600 II — as my big lens. With the 2X TC it gives me a much more comfortable 1000mm to work with. That really fits my style better than either 800 or 600mm as my max. I carry the lens either by the wide lens strap on my shoulder or by the CR-X5 low foot that I use (there is plenty of room for me to grip that). I carry the tripod in my opposite hand. For long walks I can put the 500 iI over my head and carry it bandolier style.

The 100-400 II

I rarely make a trip with without what is probably my favorite and certainly my most versatile lens, the 100-400mm II. It gives me more than enough reach for tame birds and animals, and there are plenty of those in the Galapagos. I can add the 1.4X III TC when I need additional reach, and it serves as a fabulous telephoto macro lens from medium sized subjects and extreme close-ups. Lastly, since I am hand holding it most of the time it offers me a ton of freedom. On this trip, the plan is to to lots of video …

The 400 DO II

While both the 500 II and the 100-400 II counterfeit the focal length of the the 400 DO II, I am taking the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens
for several reasons. It is great on panga (zodiac) rides, it is easy to hand hold, and it does great with either TC. On selected landings I can go light by taking this lens and leaving the 500 II on the boat. On such occasions I might go to 100% hand holding on a landing or two. Or not …

The 24-105mm

The Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens will be in my X-trahand vest on every landing. I use it often for scenics, for photographing the group in action, and for mini-landscapes and plants as well.

The Circle Lens

I have gotten in the habit of taking the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens along on trips whenever the chances for cloudy conditions exist. Mostly because it is a difficult but fun lens to work with, and because I enjoy the challenge of finding and making new and different images with it.

Camera Bodies

It should come as no surprise that I am taking three Canon EOS 5D Mark IV bodies. The 5D IV is my very favorite nature photography body as it offers high quality image files, superb crop-ability, a fast-enough frame rate for me, and most importantly, AF with all AF points and all AF Area Selection modes available at f/8. As in the 500mm f/4L IS II or the 400mm f/4 IS DO II with the 2X III TC or the 100-400II with the 1.4X III TC. Yikes. I almost forgot its delightfully small size, light weight, and quiet operation.

I am not taking my Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with its never-ending oil spatter on the sensor problem. I am in the process of being a good consumer and am attempting to have Canon USA replace it with a brand new one that I will sell. If that fails, I will try to get B&H to either replace it with a new one (to be sold) or refund my original purchase price. If that too fails I will sell it cheap.


I am making this trip with two Canon 1.4X III TCs and two 2X III TCs. Why? They are so valuable to me that I simply cannot afford to be without one should a failure occur. In addition, I often have one 1.4X TC on my big lens and another on the 100-400 II.

Questions Welcome

If you have a question about any of my gear choices above, please feel free to leave a comment. Do you disagree with any of my choices? What would you be brining to the Galapagos? Why? Understand that I will be offline for the very great part of two full weeks from August 8 through 21.

Delkin Flash Cards

As always, I will have an ultra-dependable 128gb Delkin e-Film Pro Flash Card in each camera body so that I never have to change cards in the field, thus reducing the risk of losing a card…. Please note the new lower prices here. I do have a few extra 64gb cards in a Delkin CF Memory Card Tote, mostly to protect against operator error ….

Singh-Ray 77mm Filters

I regularly travel with my two Singh-Ray 77mm Warming Circular Polarizers and both a Singh-Ray 5-stop and 10-stop Mor-Slo Neutral Density filter. All but one of the circular polarizers is fitted with s Xume ring. See below for details. I can screw the one without the Xume ring onto my 24-105 when needed for rainbows or ???. With the opposite Xume ring on my 100-400 II, I can mount any of the filters in nothing flat to get a slower shutter speed either for blurs or for video. The ND filters help you avoid tiny apertures and the accompanying problems of dust spots.

With the intermediate telephotos I always use the Xume magnetized mounting system; this system makes it easy to mount the filters in just a second rather than having to struggle to get them properly threaded. (See more on these below). Do not use the Xume system with your wide angle lenses as it will cause serious vignetting at the wider settings. I will also have the Singh-Ray 3-stop and 5-stop 52mm Mor-Slo Neutral Density filters with me to use in the 500 II and the 400 DO II.

For info on the 52mm filters, the drop-in filter holders, and the blend blur effect, click here and here.

Click on the logo link above to purchase and use the code artie10 at checkout to receive a healthy 10% discount.

Singh-Ray Filters

Singh-Ray filters have been used by the world’s top photographers for many decades. Singh-Ray is and has been the name in quality filters. I own several of the 77mm filters so that I can attain slow shutter speeds in bright conditions. No other filter manufacturer comes close to matching the quality of Singh-Ray’s optical glass that is comparable to that used by NASA. And they continue to pioneer the most innovative products on the market like their ColorCombo polarizer, Vari-ND variable and Mor-Slo 15-stop neutral density filters. When you use their filters, you’ll create better, more dramatic images and, unlike other filters, with absolutely no sacrifice in image quality. All Singh-Ray filters are handcrafted in the USA.

Best News: 10% Discount/Code at checkout: artie10

To shop for Singh-Ray’s most popular solid ND filter, the 10-Stop Mor-Slo Glass Filter liter (for example), click on the logo link above, click on “Neutral and color Solid Neutral Density Filters (glass), then click on “Mor-Slo™ 5, 10, 15 and 20-Stop Solid Neutral Density Filters (glass),” choose the size and model, add to cart, and then checkout. At checkout, type artie10 into the “Have a coupon? Click here to enter your code” box and a healthy 10% discount will be applied to your total. In addition to enjoying the world’s best filter at 10% off you will be supporting my efforts here on the blog.

The 10- and 15-stop Mor Slo filters are great for landscapes with water and moving clouds. With the 10-stop, 1/125th becomes 8 seconds and with the 15-stop, 4 minutes.

Xume Stuff!

Here is how I use the magnetized Xume system with my intermediate telephoto lenses:

First I screw one XUME 77mm Lens Adapter onto the front of my 100-400 II and another onto the front of the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II.

Next I screw my Singh-Ray 77mm 3-Stop Resin Mor-Slo Neutral Density Filter, my Singh-Ray 77mm 5-Stop Glass Mor-Slo Neutral Density Filter, and my Singh-Ray 77mm LB Warming Circular Polarizer into their own individual XUME 77mm Filter Holders. Be sure not to screw the filters on too tightly to the Filter Holders. If you do, it can be a real challenge to remove the filter when you need it for a wide angle lens. Light pressure is fine.

The lens adapters stay on the lenses. The ND filters and the polarizer stay screwed into their own filter holders as noted above. The filter/filter holder combos are stored in the lovely labeled leather pouches that come with each Singh-Ray filter purchase. The three of them fit perfectly into the small upper left zippered pocket of my Xtrahand vest. When I wish to mount a filter onto the front of one of my intermediate telephoto lenses I simply remove the lens hood, grab the filter that I need, and pop it securely into place in less than an instant. Ah, it’s the magnetic thing!

Be sure to replace the lens hood so that you do not accidentally dislodge the filter by whacking it against some shrubbery when you are walking about. To remove the filter simply remove the lens hood, pop the filter off instantly, place it back in its leather case, and stow it. With the Xume system there are no more tears. You do not have to screw and unscrew the filters onto the front of the lens. There are no more jammed threads. The Xume lens adapters and the filter holders are precision-machined to guarantee fast and secure filter attachment every time.

It is an elegant system but I can recommend it only for intermediate telephoto lenses: when used with short lenses and short zoom lenses some serious vignetting will occur at the wider focal lengths. As noted above, you must use the Xume system when working with the 10-stop ND so that you can snap the filter in place after setting the focus without messing up either the framing or focus as you might if you needed to screw the filter on.

If you own only one lens and two filters I would recommend the XUME 77mm Lens Adapter and Filter Holder Starter Kit. It contains one lens adapter and two filter holders.

The next step up is the XUME 77mm Lens Adapter and Filter Holder Pro Kit. It offers two lens adapters and four filter holders. That one was perfect for me.

If you need Xume stuff for front element sizes other than 77mm please use this link; you will find two pages of good stuff!

For info on using the 10-stop ND with the Xume rings see the Stationary Helicopter blog post here.

Think Tank Rolling Bags

I will be using the larger of my two Think Tank rolling bags, the Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag. I used the slightly smaller Airport International™ LE Classic on the recent Bear Boat trip. As I have not packed yet, I am not sure if the both the 400 DO II and the 100-400 II will go in my Think Tank bag , or if one of them will be relegated to the large back pocket of my vest. Either way, this bag will surely be well over the 40 pound US limit … The 70-200 f/4 will likely make the trip in one of my two checked bags. Nearly all countries in the world give you slack as far as the 40+ pounds goes on the way back to the US. I have only been hassled for excess carry-on weight once in more than three decades of flying around the world…. I hope that I do not give myself a kine-ahora.

Think Tank Urban Disguise Laptop Shoulder Bag

I use and love this amazing bag as it has tons of room and enables me to bring tons of extra stuff.

Please click on my Think Tank affiliate link here to earn a free gift when you purchase a Think Tank product.

If In Doubt

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7 comments to Galapagos Gear Bag featuring my favorite new kit …

  • avatar Catherine Costolo

    Great post , Artie. I love all the information.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. Do consider joining me in 2019. You can do the whole trip with just the 1-4 II 🙂

      with love, artie

  • avatar Chicago Jeff

    Artie – how about leaving the 100-400 and 500 at home and taking the 200-400?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I have done that before and done well. But with the 1-4 II I can make many of the landings with just a single (lightweight) lens …Do see the blog posts from after I got back to learn lots more.

      With love, a

  • avatar Jake

    Hi Artie, I hope your trip is a great success. I cannot wait to see more amazing galapagos images.
    How visible are the oil splatters on you 1dx mkii when using apertures native to usual bird photography (i.e up to f/11)?
    Have a great trip,

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. It was 🙂 DO consider joining me in 2019. At f/11 things are starting to get bad. I am still trying to have Canon replace my 1DX II with a new one …

      with love, artie