You Can’t Do This With a Fixed Focal Length Lens … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

You Can't Do This With a Fixed Focal Length Lens ...


I got to DeSoto early on Friday morning for my second pre-IPT scouting session. I found a nice flock of spoonbills and wound up getting so close that I ditched the 500 II and went with the 100-400 II hand held. On the way out of the park I found a nice low Osprey that I photographed with the 600 II and the 2X III-i TC. I met my group of four at 3pm sharp for the introductory session.

We had a great afternoon session with the shorebirds and wading birds, especially when we had some Great Egrets set against the reflections of the black storm clouds in the distance. I am already in love with the group and the group is in love with me. We head back out in twenty minutes — 5:40am. So I gotta go.

Great IPT News

An amazing eight folks have already committed to the new, expanded UK Puffins and Gannets 2018 IPT with the Bempton Cliffs pre-trip. And all have signed up for the pre-trip. There are just two slots left so if you are interested in joining us, please do not tarry. You can learn more about this great trip here.

The Streak

Today marks fifty-nine days in a row with a new educational blog post — Irma be damned! This one took about an hour to prepare. With all of my upcoming free time (or not …), the plan right now is to break the current record streak of (I think) four hundred eighty something … Good health and good internet connections willing.

Everybody’s Doing It…

Everybody’s buying and selling used gear on the BAA Used Gear Page. Sales recently have been through the roof. Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They recently folded. And eBay fees are now in the 13% range. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few months, we have sold just about everything in sight. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the original 400mm IS DO lens have been dropping steadily. Even the prices on the new 600 II and the 200-400 with Internal Extender have been plummeting. You can see all current listings by clicking here or by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the right side of the yellow-orange menu bar at the top of each blog post.


I could not secure the lodging that I needed for last year’s 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.

Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

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.

This image was created on my scouting visit to Fort Desoto Park on the morning of Friday, September 22. I used the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (at 504mm), and my favorite spoonbill photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/800 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. AWB.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: -1.

A single AF point that was two rows up and one to the left of the center AF point/AI Servo/Expand/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was on the bird’s neck where it meets the back just in front of and below the bend of the wing. Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Image #1: Roseate Spoonbill, post-breeding adult foraging

The Situation

I was standing in about six inches of water. I had lots of spoonbills right in front of me. Pink. And blue. I had the 500 II on a tripod with the 1.4X III and my 100-400 II on my shoulder via Black Rapid Curve Breath strap. Both of course with a 5D Mark IV. I was working at 700mm off the tripod. I knew from the first frame that I needed to get lower because the water was not a pure blue mirror. There was lots of floating junk on the surface. Jeez, I thought. Lowering the tripod and sitting in the water would require time and in addition, I would need to walk back to shore to ditch the 100-400 II … In the meantime, the flock kept getting closer and closer.

This image was created on the same morning, also with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens and the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (at 328mm) with favorite spoonbill photography camera body, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -2/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. AWB.

LensAlign/FocusTune micro-adjustment: +1.

Left Large Zone/AI Servo/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The system selected four AF points that painted the bird’s body; with the relatively distant, small-in-the-frame subject there was more than enough depth of field to cover the bird’s eye. Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Image #2: Roseate Spoonbill, young-of-the-year (hatch year) bird with marsh background

The Solution

Finally it came to me. Mount my 1.4X III-ii TC on the 100-400 II, leave the tripod standing safely where it was, get right on sun angle, and then sit in the water hand holding the 100-400 II. It worked like a charm. I was able to zoom in to create tight portraits like Image #1, or to zoom out a bit to include a strip of the distant marsh as in Image #2. And by zooming out I was far better able to include as much of the pink reflections as I wanted. I wound up creating 99 images at 700mm and had no great desire to keep any of them … All in all, these are lot more reasons to love the 100-400 II.

Your Favorite?

Which of today’s two featured images is your favorite? Be sure to let us know why. What do you like or dislike about each?


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.

Please register by sending me an e-mail and/or by calling me on my cell at 863-221-2372.

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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 You Can’t Do This With a Fixed Focal Length Lens …

  • avatar Jake

    Hi Artie, I prefer the first image because of the simplicity. I like the second image as well, but for me, the background is not really interesting enough to warrant the wider view, I really like the water droplet though. The reflections are nice additions to both images. Have a great time,

  • avatar David Policansky

    I agree with Pat Fishburne. Both wonderful images and a good lesson; thanks.

  • avatar Jack D Waller

    Lovely; You wouldn’t likely be sitting in the water where I am right now. We had frost the other day!


  • Hey Arthur, The second image is the one. The distant green background gives the image some depth. The bird looks nice back in the frame.

  • avatar Andy

    I prefer the first image. I like the bird’s angle, that the bg is all water, and that the bird has its bill down in the water.

  • avatar Pat Fishburne

    I like the first one best because the bird is doing something, not just standing still. I also like the red detail on the wings (which the second frame doesn’t show — perhaps it’s a different bird).