Old Friend Richard Crossley. Walking Sticks … Macro Techniques and Focusing Tips. Nikon 80-400 VR Versatility. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Old Friend Richard Crossley. Walking Sticks ... Macro Techniques and Focusing Tips. Nikon 80-400 VR Versatility.


Numbers have been down on my last two birding walk/drive-arounds but I’ve seen some great birds. On Thursday I had a fly-by drake Bufflehead, an ILE first for me and a rare bird away from the coasts. And last night driving back from my sunset walk there was a Great Horned Owl sitting on a neighbor’s antenna!

With seven folks now committed to San Diego, there is just one slot open. Only two folks are signed up for the Early Winter DeSoto IPT; there is cheap shared Airbnb lodging for a female or two available. Do consider joining us on that one or on another IPT — especially the Spoonbill Boat IPT — only two slots open — see below. You can see all the current offerings by clicking here. It was great to see that at least three folks have joined BPN recently after reading the blog post here.

Richard Crossley

On Thursday evening I was surprised and delighted by a call from old friend Richard Crossley; we go back at least 32 years. He and some other then-young Brits flew over each summer after their university years to wait tables in various Cape May, NJ restaurants. They — who included Richard and Julian Hough — would stay over for a night or two in the small apartment where Elaine and I lived in Howard Beach, Queens, NY (near Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge) before getting on a big jet and heading back to the UK. They would visit the East Pond at JBWR often and were glad to save some bucks by sleeping on our floor; but they always enjoyed my cooking!

Richard and wife Deb moved to Cape May at some point and Richard returned the favor often; Elaine and I spent many nights in our small motor home in the Crossley’s driveway in Cape May plugged in with a long extension cord that was placed through a slightly open window and ran into Richard’s living room! Richard was always a crack birder, able to identify flying specks from miles away.

Richard was a co-author of The Shorebird Guide (2006) along with Michael O’Brien and another old, good friend, Kevin T. Karlson — Kevin and I go back more than 34 years. Then Richard came up with a new concept for bird identification guides, the Crossley ID Guide series. The first, The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds (2011), was hugely successful. You can check it out by clicking on the logo link above. Several others followed. Richard and I talked about old times for well more than an hour.


BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog 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 went out of business. And e-Bay fees are now up to 13%. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please scroll down here or shoot us an e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly — I offer pricing advice to those who agree to the terms — usually sells in no time flat. Over the past year, we have sold many dozens of items. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 100-400, the old 500mm, the EOS-7D and 7D Mark II and the original 400mm DO lens have been dropping steadily. You can always see the current listings by clicking here or on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange-yellow menu bar near the top of each blog post page.

Money Saving Reminder

If you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H, would enjoy free overnight shipping, and would like a $50 discount on your first purchase, click here to order and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If you are looking to strike a deal on Canon or Nikon gear (including the big telephotos) or on a multiple item order, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve currently has several D850s in stock along with a Nikon 600mm f/4 VR. He is taking pre-orders for the new Nikon 500 P and the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera body.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers 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 September 10, 2018 with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens (at 400mm) with my back-up Nikon D850. ISO 800. Matrix metering plus about one stop: 1/40 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode (was still underexposed). Auto1 WB at 5:20pm on a sunny afternoon in shade provided by my house.

Live View with Manual focus with d-o-f confirmed by Focus Peaking (with 2-second timer)

AF fine tune is not in play when using Live View even if you are using AF as focusing is done by contrast off the sensor.

Walkingsticks — pair mating

The Situation

I noticed this pair of copulating Walkingsticks on the pool enclosure when I went for a swim. When I got out of the pool they were still in the same spot. I found a nice stick to be used as a perch, set up my 80-400 on a tripod, and mounted a Wimberley Plamp onto an old tripod in a spot in the shade that would yield a pleasing green background. Then I coaxed the copulating insects onto my perch stick, stuck that into the Plamp, and went to work. After 30 minutes the Walking Sticks were released unharmed into the woods next to my pool.

The Lesson: Focusing for Macro

After several unsuccessful (i.e., unsharp) attempts, I tried focusing in Live View with the image magnified; looking at the eye focusing was a snap. Enabling Focus Peaking allowed me to actually see the depth of field as I tried various apertures. Wanting to stay at ISO 800 I successfully went to some very slow shutter speeds by using the 2-second timer (along with Live View which raised the mirror).

Nikon 80-400 VR Versatility

So far you have seen lots of super-sharp images created on the Emperor Penguin expedition with the 80-400. I will be sharing some 500 PF images with you here soon; some included the use of the TC-E14 III and the TC-E 17. But like the Canon 100-400 II, the 80-400 is amazingly versatile: birds, bird-scapes, people portraits, scenics, and as here, as a quasi-macro lens. Note: with its far superior minimum focusing distance the Canon 1-4 is the clear winner in the last category.

Not unexpectedly, the Nikon 80-400 VR is routinely trashed online by the internet experts. I am pretty sure that the 80-400 VR that I am using is actually a newer version, an 80-400 VR II, but I am not positive of that. If you know for sure if that lens was or was not ever updated, please leave a comment. In any case, the images that I created with the hand held 80-400 at Snow Hill were as sharp as any images I have ever made with a telephoto lens. Note that the AFA Fine-Tune value for my 80-400 with my back-up D850 is a substantial +5. Those considering switching systems can learn a lot in the BPN Photography Gear Forum post, Upgrade or Jump Ship here. This comment made by the original poster shows what I am talking about above, The 80-400 also looks like is a no-go in terms of Image Quality. Nothing could be further from the truth; you gotta love the internet experts …

If you own an 80-400 VR please leave a comment and let us know how you like yours.

From left to to right clockwise back to the center: Brown Pelican, Roseate Spoonbill downstroke, Brown Pelican sunrise silhouette, Double-crested Cormorant pre-dawn blur, Roeseate Spoonbill flapping after bath, Brown Pelican taking flight, Roseate Spoonbill taking flight, Reddish Egret white morph breeding plumage in flight, and Reddish Egret dark morph breeding plumage in flight.

All images on this card were created by me on the Hooptie Deux at Alafia Banks on the February 2018 trip.

You can click on each card to enjoy a larger version.

2019 Hooptie Deux/Roseate Spoonbill Boat 3 1/2 DAY IPT — FEB 16 thru 19, 2019: $2599.00. Limit: 5 photographers/Openings: 2.

3 1/2 days on the boat including four morning photo sessions and three afternoon sessions via customized pontoon boat.

Price per day Reduced from the 2018 rates! Please e-mail for details on IPT veteran and couples’ discounts. Pro-rated options may be available …

We will be leaving the dock very early for the morning sessions (weather permitting) in hopes of photographing the pre-dawn American Crow and White Ibis blast-offs. All sessions are planned for the Alafia Banks Roseate Spoonbill Rookery. We might consider other options in the unlikely event of horrific weather. There will be lots of opportunities for flight photography of several species including and especially Roseate Spoonbill. Also likely for flight photography are nesting Brown Pelican, both morphs of Reddish Egret, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, White and Glossy Ibises, and Double Crested Cormorant. We should have some good chances with birds carrying nesting material. This IPT includes all boat and guide fees, in the field instruction, chest waders (feel free to bring your own of course to assure a perfect fit), and three working lunches on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. For the most part we will be standing in mid-calf to knee high water behind our tripods. We help you get in and out of the boat with your gear. This is likely not the best trip for folks with mobility or balance problems. Note however that some folks opt to stay on the boat to photograph. They usually have lots of chances for flight photography of spoonbills and other species but are almost always pretty far away from the spoonbills that land.

All images on this card were created by me on the Hooptie Deux at Alafia Banks

The Timing and Tides are Perfect!

I recently saw a similar trip advertised two months too late for breeding plumage spoonbills … The 2019 Hooptie Deux/Roseate Spoonbill Boat 3 1/2 DAY IPT represents an incredible opportunity to photograph Florida’s most wanted species. I do hope that you can join us. There will be a meet and greet at 7:00pm sharp on the evening of Friday February 15, 2019. All of the images on the card were made on the Hooptie Duex during the last two weeks of February, prime time for the spoonies in mega-breeding plumage. Many folks have written expressing interest so please do not tarry.

Please e-mail to hold your spot. Then you may either secure your spot by calling Jim or Jennifer at the office at 863-692-0906 and leaving the $500 deposit on credit card or sending your check for payment in full to us as follows with the check made out to:

BIRDS AS ART and sent here via US mail:

PO BOX 7245
Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855

If you call to leave your deposit you will be asked to mail your check for the balance no later than December 15, 2018.


Images courtesy of our guide; copyright 2017 Captain James Shadle (aka Froggie). All of the images here were created at Alafia Banks. Card creation and design by Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART.

Everybody Loves Spoonbills!

Roseate Spoonbill is one of if not the most sought after avian photographic subjects in Florida. They are generally hard to find and somewhat difficult to approach. They are relatively easy to find at Alafia Banks—heck, you can’t miss seeing them, but even there they can on some days be somewhat difficult to approach. On some days we may be able to get ridiculously close to them. The huge incentive to get out to Alafia Banks in mid-February is the chance to photograph this species at the height of its spectacular breeding plumage…. with long telephoto lenses. A 500 or 600 with a 1.4X TC is perfect for this trip.

Mornings to Alafia Banks for spoonbills and Brown Pelicans (with lots of flight photography often with the birds likely carrying nesting material), Double-crested Cormorants, ibises (both Glossy and White) in breeding plumage. Some of the White Ibises may be sporting their spectacular, distended, red, naked (un-feathered) throat pouches—typically larger in the females. In addition we may get to photograph egrets including Great and Reddish, both in full breeding plumage, shorebirds, and more. There will be lots of flight photography opportunities. Afternoon trips will most likely be back to Alafia Banks for the spoonbills with an option to visit a more sheltered inland rookery location for a variety of nesting birds. In the event of horrific weather artie will either take the group to Fort DeSoto or will conduct an extensive image review/Photoshop session. This IPT includes lunches on the full days with small group image sharing and review and some over-the-shoulder Photoshop instruction.

Help Support the Blog

Please help support my 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

If In Doubt …

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.


Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack.


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

14 comments to Old Friend Richard Crossley. Walking Sticks … Macro Techniques and Focusing Tips. Nikon 80-400 VR Versatility.

  • avatar MK

    Hi Arthur,

    Talking of jumping ship, just how much does the equipment matter? I’m guessing eother system is just fine but the problem is that people would sit and yap about theoretical advantages rather than get out in the field to practice. Mwhen uaing shutterdial.com I’ve stumbled across awesome photos taken with cameras and lenses from a decade ago and they were as good. So at least in theory everything that’s being sold today is better. Your thoughts ?

    And here’s wishing a wonderful Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. I am in the car on Long Island with my two wonderful daughters. You must be fairly new as I have always said that the gear does not matter one bit — the photographer makes the image. What is in their heart? In their mind? How proficient are they? How determined and dedicated? It just so happens that for me, Nikon is far better for flight photography. But Nikon falls short as far as AF is concerned when it comes to long lenses and teleconverters …

      with love, artie

  • avatar Guido Bee

    My only experience was with the old model 80-400 Nikkor. I felt is was OK for the money, but not half as bad as a lot of talk / reports on the ‘net said it was. I now have a 200-500 Nikkor and believe it is superior to the 80-400. That one (80-400) was sharp enough up to about 350mm, but not so hot at 400. At about F/11 things were fine, but wide open or at the extreme long end it left something to be desired. Also, not good with extenders. Given it was early in the VR development, I did not feel that feature was strong.
    All the best.

  • avatar James Saxon

    I love my 80-400 VR II lens. It is versatile and sharp. You are correct when you say the AFA fine tune has to be adjusted to each camera body. I use my lens for landscapes, birds, cars, motorcycles, etc. Since I purchased the lens right after they issued the newer version my 70-200 f2.8 has been on the shelf due to the greater zoom range.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Nikon always has made good glass; I’d expect nothing less than high image quality. By the way, I picked up (as in hefted, not bought) the newest Canon 600 f/4L IS III lens at the Canon booth at Bosque (Festival of the Cranes) yesterday and was amazed at how light it is; it’s about 6.7 pounds, nearly 2 pounds lighter than the version II. It’s still not light on the wallet, though, at about $13K.

  • avatar Bill Dix

    Artie, I had the old version of the 80-400, and was never totally happy with it. They released a new version, the Nikkor AF-S 80-400 f/4.5-5.6G ED VR, in 2013 or thereabouts, and in 2015 I swapped my old one for the new. It is much improved in AF speed and VR. It does not say “VRII”, but they claim it to gain 4 stops, compared to the old version that claimed only 2 stops. If yours says “AF-S”, it is the newer, improved model.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Bill. Do you know the exact designation of the original 80-400?

      with love, artie

      ps: mine is of course the new one.

      • avatar Bill Dix

        Artie, sorry I just got back to this blog to see your question. My old lens, purchased in 2009, was designated Nikon 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 D-AF VR.

        Have a happy lens-free Thanksgiving.

  • avatar Doug

    The image taken with the 80-400 looks sharp but Canon trumped it with the close focusing and superb build quality of the EF 100-400 ll. If Canon would only build a body comparable to the wonderful D850.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Doug.

      It turned out that Anita North’s 80-400 was damaged by her so my problems might have been a one-up …

      with love, artie

      ps: my 80-400 emperor images were at least as sharp as anything that I ever made with the 100-400 II.

    • Hi Doug. I’m a Canon user enthusiast nature & wildlife photog. However, I must congratulate Nikon as it enthralled its users with a prosumer 200-500mm long time ago. Canon is yet to match it with anything. Heard they’er working on a 200-600mm as they patented it few years ago but, nothing in reality as yet.

      That’s a huge frustration for photogs like me. However, I stick to Canon mainly due to its new Dual Pixel AF that I can use to my advantage sometimes.