A Single Image That Explains Why I Switched from Canon to Nikon; No More Sharp on the Feet! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

A Single Image That Explains Why I Switched from Canon to Nikon; No More Sharp on the Feet!


The morning began as the worst pelican day ever but with thin high clouds and patience we wound up doing quite well as some really handsome birds flew in to the lower shelf, right where I had put the group. When it clouded over completely we headed to the Harbor Seals but after a few minutes the sun came out and ruined things. The group outvoted me so we headed to Santee Lakes for the afternoon; I had wanted to do more pelicans and cormorants and Santee was terrible the last time I visited but lo and behold, we had a great afternoon capped off by five tame Wood Ducks, four drakes and a hen.

There are two openings on the spoonbill IPT. Click here for complete info. If anyone would like to join me shooting spoonbills for 1 1/2 days, February 19 (full day) and February 20 (morning session only), please get in touch via e-mail.

Nikon Part Help Needed

If you can find me one of these in stock anywhere: Nikon BL-5 Battery Chamber Cover for MB-D12 Battery Pack, please contact me via e-mail immediately. US suppliers only please. 🙂

The Streak

Today makes one hundred eighty-four days in a row with a new educational blog post! 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 480 … Good health and good internet connections and my continuing insanity willing.

New Listing

BIRDS AS ART Record Low Price!

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM Lens (the “old five”)

IPT veteran John Johnson is offering a Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM lens in excellent condition for the BIRDS AS ART record-low price of $3549.00. The lens was recently cleaned and checked by Canon. The sale includes the rear lens cap, the lens trunk, the tough front lens cover, a forest green camo LensCoat and Hoodie (softfrontlens cover), and insured ground shipping via major courier to US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact John via e-mail by phone at 1-216-533-6148 (Eastern time).

The 500mm f/4 lenses have been the world’s most popular telephoto lenses for birds, nature, wildlife, and sports for many decades. I owned and used and loved my “old five” for many years. If you don’t have the cash for the 500 II and can handle the additional 1 1/2 pounds, then this is your best super-telephoto option. Most everyone can produce sharp images with this lens and a 1.4X TC. Folks with good to excellent sharpness techniques can do the same with a 2X TC. With the new 500 II selling for $8,999 you can save a neat $5299.00 by grabbing John’s lens now! artie


Booking.Com came through for me twice again recently with both the DeSoto Fall IPT and next July’s UK Puffins, Gannets, and Bempton Pre-trip room reservations. And all 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. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This image was created on January 29 at La Jolla, CA with the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens (at 240mm) and the blazingly fast professional digital camera body, the Nikon D5 DSLR camera body with dual XQD slots). ISO 3200: 1/1600 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AWB at 9:03am in the shade of the nesting cliff.

Center Group (grp)/Shutter Button AF. Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Brandt’ Cormorant, incoming with nesting material

A Single Image That Explains Why I Switched from Canon to Nikon; No More Sharp on the Feet!

I tried for this image with Canon gear many 100s of times. I experimented with various AF custom Case settings. No matter what I did, the best I could do was to get images that were sharp on the incoming bird’s feet. With the birds flying right at you at about 40mph, Canon AF could simply not keep up. I never had a single sharp on the eye result. Patrick had one or two sharp with his Canon gear. With the 200-500 and either the 5D or the D-850, most of the images are sharp on the eye barring operator error.

How I Did It

I came up with this technique in short order. I hold the 200-500 lens with the zoom set at 250mm, instructing my brain on which direction to turn the barrel to zoom out to 200mm. I scan the ocean for incoming birds, especially those carrying nesting material. Now here is the totally amazing part. I acquire focus on the distant bird with the lens at 250mm. With Canon this would simply be pipe dreaming. With my Nikon stuff, the system acquires focus quickly even though the bird is tiny in the frame. And it locks focus and holds on like a starving bulldog on a bone. On sunny days the birds are in the sun when I first acquire focus. I stay at 250mm and track them as they get larger and larger in the frame. When they hit the shade I begin to fire and if they are coming right at me I zoom out at some point.

An ACR screen capture w/ all values at my default settings for the D-5

The Exposure and the Ramifications

Patrick and I have pretty much pre-determined the exposure for the incoming cormorants in the shade: 1/1600 sec. at f/5.6 for the dark birds will be a bit under for the birds. But, as you can see in the ACR histogram in the screen capture below, these values will not toast the breaking waves. Both the RAW conversion and the image optimization takes care of the too-dark dark tones.

An ACR screen capture w/ all values at my default settings for the D-5

The RAW Conversion in ACR

First I increased the Exposure by more than a stop. Then I set the WHITE and BLACK points in ACR and then as I always do backed off a bit on each. Next was -36 on the Highlights to bring some detail into the breaking waves and +33 and the Shadow slider to open up the dark underwings. Plus 10 with Clarity and +15 on Vibrance finished things off.

The Image Optimization

Next was a crop. But the underwings were still too dark without much detail. I selected the bird and applied my 40/40 Nik Color Efex Pro recipe to that Layer. That really brought the image to life. Last was a quick and dirty layer of NeatImage noise reduction with Y set to about 50%.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II) will teach you an efficient Mac or PC/Photo Mechanic/Photoshop workflow that will make it easy for you to make your images better in Photoshop (rather than worse). That true whether you convert your images in DPP 4 or ACR. See the blog post here to learn lots more and to read a free excerpt.

You can order your copy from the BAA Online Store here, by sending a Paypal for $40 here, or by calling Jim or Jennifer weekdays at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II)

Your guessed it, everything mentioned above including making ACR conversions (and tons more) is covered in detail in the BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II), an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. Learn more and check out the free excerpt in the blog post here. While the new e-Guide reflects my Macbook Pro/Photo Mechanic/DPP 4/Photoshop workflow, folks using a PC and/or BreezeBrowser will also benefit greatly by studying the material on DB II. Do note that you will find the RGB Curves Adjustment Color Balancing tutorial only in the new e-guide. Note: folks working on a PC and/or those who do not want to miss anything Photoshop may wish to purchase the original Digital Basics along with DB II while saving $15 by clicking here to buy the DB Bundle.

The two most recent and many of the older MP4 Photoshop Tutorial videos releases go hand and hand with the information in DB II):

  • The Wingtip Repairs MP4 Video here.
  • The MP4 Crow Cleanup Video here.

Folks who learn well by following along rather than by reading can check out the complete collection of MP 4 Photoshop Tutorial Videos by clicking here.

You can learn how and why I and other discerning Canon shooters convert nearly all of their Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 using Canon Digital Photo Professional in the DPP 4 RAW conversion Guide here. And you can learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair. Folks can learn sophisticated sharpening and (NeatImage) Noise Reduction techniques in the The Professional Post Processing Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly.

Help Support the Blog

Please help support my (stupendous) efforts here on the blog by remembering to click on the logo link above each time that you shop Amazon. That would be greatly appreciated. There is no problem using your Prime account; just click on the link and log into your Prime account. With love, artie

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If in doubt about using the BAA B&H affiliate link correctly, you can always start your search by clicking here. Please note that the tracking is invisible. Web orders only. Please, however, remember to shoot me your receipt via e-mail.

Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

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.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above, and for everything else in the new store, we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store as well.


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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

16 comments to A Single Image That Explains Why I Switched from Canon to Nikon; No More Sharp on the Feet!

  • avatar Graham hedrick

    In the long haul, it makes no difference what camera you use. What is
    Important is that you take pictures. Just get over Art switching camera brands. Just go take pictures!!!

  • The change from Canon to Nikon was unusal to read about. Sometimes we must use the
    “Tools” to obtain the desired results. Whether your tool is a Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus or Sony, it is the one that provides the desired results.

    I have a number of professional bird photographers friends that are dedicated Canon users, but there is an increasing number of Nikon D5 / 200-500 1.4 TC users in Maine for birding. It is the tool that make your final product desireable. As we age, packing 40 lbs of gear on a bad back is not an enviable task (or option), hence the mirrorless tools.

    We applaud your final work as it is always first class. You must be comfortable with the tools that help you to create the final product. It is the one who presses the shutter that makes the image. No one ever ask what chisel Michaelanglo used in creating the statue of David.

    Thank you for your great images.

    Sincerely, Robert

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your kind words. As my shoulder is doing well I am getting the Nikon 600 🙂

      with love, artie

  • avatar Anthony Ardito

    Beautiful Cormorant picture! Just Great, I enjoyed it immensely! Glad things are working for you these days.

  • avatar Anthony Ardito

    Why is Arash ditching his Canon Gear? Does the Sensei Master Morris have some influence?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Arash has been thinking of switching for quite some time. He has a D5 and the 200-500 and will be getting his 600 f/4 soon …

      with love, artie

  • avatar Lee Schumacher

    I have been reading your blog for sometime and like many others was a bit surprised to see that you took the leap to Nikon. I am not a Nikon user (still with Canon) but wanted to share an experience I had in Yellowstone with a Nikon shooter 2 years ago. We were at Floating Island Lake taking photos of a small group of American Avocets. They are rare in Yellowstone. I never saw them before and one photographer who was there said he has been photographing in Yellowstone for over 20 years and had never seen them. I understand they are usually observed walking around the shoreline or wading in shallow water. However, these were all swimming and would periodically take off together and fly around the lake for awhile and then land in the water again. There were a lot of photographers mostly shooting canon big whites but the guy next to me was shooting what appeared to be a Nikon with a small lens which I assumed was an inexpensive short zoom. We struck up a conversation and I asked it he was getting any decent shots. I was thinking he probably didn’t have one good photo. We looked at the LCD display on his camera and I was shocked. Picture after picture of crisp clear photos of the avocets in flight. He would zoom in on the eyes and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It turned out that he was a very experienced Nikon user and was with his wife on vacation from Canada. He left all his expensive lenses at home and was using his traveling rig. He had brought both top of the line Nikon crop and full frame bodies that he was using with a Nikon AF-S FX 300 mm F4 PF ED. He was using an extender which I think was a 1.7x but cannot recall for sure. Anyway, to make a short story long I couldn’t get over the photos he was getting with such a small lens. I ran into him later while shooting a coyote and again his photos were outstanding with great fur and eye detail. I made a mental note that if I ever started using Nikon I would get this lens. I just wanted to pass this along and hope it proves useful while you explore the various Nikon offerings.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Lee, As you figured out, the stuff is good. But the operator still has to know how to operate 🙂

      with love, artie

  • I still think one of the best focusing body from Canon was the 1D Mark II. I got many straight on shots with the head in focus with that camera body. They changed something after that model. It wasn’t that it was as snappy as the new bodies, but it had a better lock in this type of situation.

  • avatar Bill Eaton

    I completely agree about Canon not be able to focus on birds flying straight at the photographer.I have tried to do this 100s of times with 7D II using 100-400 and 500 f4 and same lenses on 5D II.Virtually impossible.

  • avatar Lynn Gratz


    I have enjoyed your blog for a long time and have learned a lot…more than from many other photo sites. But, it really has become one long advertisement and I am really disappointed. I have not been able to find an ‘unsubscribe button’ …so will just mark these emails as junk.
    Thank you for all the info you have posted in the past.

  • avatar zhenb

    It’s interesting you increased the clarity of the image. I usually tend to decrease it to soften and slightly blur the background of an image and after that apply unsharp mask filter to compensate the resulting softness of the clarity effect on the bird’s feathers. Anyway thanks for sharing the image, it’s great.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Nice image, Artie. I find it hard to believe that someone couldn’t have got that with Canon gear but easy to believe that it’s easier with Nikon gear. I think the biggest weakness of Canon’s AF is with birds (or anything else) coming straight at the camera.

  • avatar Anthony Sakal

    I wish it weren’t so but it is. My Canon glass is taking a respite when it comes to photographing birds until Canon’s camera bodies catch up. The Nikon D500 does quite well and I’m waiting for a D850 but I still find the Canon 5DRs quite useful for birds who are not in flight. And for all the hullabaloo concerning the Nikkor 200-500 the proof is in the pictures. It seems to be a great flight lens; not for falcons, careening erratically at high speeds at a distance too great to shorten but for shots, such as large waterfowl, coming from a distance right into the lens where it does an admirable job. Most of us buy cameras based upon the lenses we wish to use. This is the first time I bought a camera first and looked for a lens afterward and I thank God that Nikon made the 200-500 and also has great prime telephotos as well. Canon simply has not made a camera that has the focusing advantages that Nikons have.

    I am ordering your workflow guide. In fact, I’m purchasing the pair. Photomechanic and the Macbook Pro make batch viewing and eliminations effortless.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your comment. I agree with almost everything. As for the speeding falcons, time will tell now that Arash is getting his Nikon D5 and a 200-500. He made great photos of peregrines with his Canon gear. I for one am predicting great things because as good as the Nikon AF is the skill, strength, and hand-eye coordination of the person holding the lens will still be a major factor.

      For me right now, I am just glad that I have a chance. 🙂