Nikon 600mm f/4 VR Sharpness Issues Resolved. Off to Roma, TX. And Anything New « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Nikon 600mm f/4 VR Sharpness Issues Resolved. Off to Roma, TX. And Anything New

What’s Up?

Me, very early on Sunday 7 APR. I need to pack today as I am being picked up at 4:45am on Monday morning to get to MCO (Orlando International Airport) in time to make my 8am flights to the Rio Grande Valley. After two days of setting up the set-ups, three folks will be joining me. If we kill, I will surely be running future IPTs there …

I swam 3/4 mile on Friday and intended to do the full mile (88 lengths) on Saturday but my late afternoon swim was interrupted by thunder and lightning so I hopped right on out of the pool after 50 lengths. The weather on Saturday morning was perfect as promised. I concentrated mostly on doing Ospreys from my SUV. I usually work off a BLUBB (big lens ultimate beanbag) when photographing from my vehicle, but doing flight is pretty much impossible. As there were lots of Ospreys flying yesterday, I went back to my ages old method of setting up my Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose combo inside my Sequoia. Adapting the method detailed on page 120 in the Using Your Car As A Blind section of the original softcover The Art of Bird Photography, I was able to do flight photography from the car without any major problems.

As I was searching for the page number, I could not believe how much of ABP II was still relevant considering that all of the images in the book are film-based images. The chapters on Choosing the Right Equipment, Film Choice, and Evaluating and Selling Your Work are all at least somewhat outdated if not irrelevant. The following chapters, however, are still very important (in varying degrees): The Autofocus Advantage, On Matters of Light — the first ever mention of sun angle, Producing Sharp Images, Designing the Image, Getting Close, Capturing Action and Behavior, North American Hotspots, and especially, Chapter Three: Making Good Exposures. I have long felt that the Applied Exposure Theory section in ABP (pages 58-63), is the finest treatment of the subject available anywhere. But it does require some serious study …

IPT Updates

There is still one slot open on the Fort DeSoto IPT. I now have three folks for the UK Puffins and Gannets trip; that leaves two (or seven) openings on what will be an amazing experience and will possibly be my last trip and almost surely the last of the amazing Dunbar gannet boats trips — Gordon is getting old. 🙂

I learned yesterday that one or possibly two folks will be signing up for the Galapagos trip this week. I may still have one or two openings: please shoot me an e-mail to learn about the huge late registration discount for this trip.

  • The 2019 Fort DeSoto Spring IPT/THURS 18 APRIL through the morning session on SUNDAY APRIL 21, 2019: 3 1/2 DAYS: $1549. Limit 8/Openings: 1. Meet and greet at 7PM on the evening of WED 17 APRIL. Free morning session on WED 17 APRIL.
  • The New, Expanded 2019 UK Puffins, Gannets, & Red Kites IPT. Thursday June 27 (from EDI) through Tuesday, July 9, 2019 (on the ground; fly home on Wednesday July 10.): $9,999. Limit 5 10) or photographers/Openings: 2 (or 7). This trip is a definite go.
  • The GALAPAGOS Photo Cruise of a Lifetime IPT/The Complete Galapagos Photographic Experience. July 23 to August 6, 2019 on the boat. 13 FULL and two half-days of photography: $14,499. Limit: 13 photographers/Openings: 3. Please e-mail to learn about the huge late registration discount for this trip.
  • The 2020 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) WED JAN 8, 2020 thru and including the morning session on SUN JAN 12: 4 1/2 days: $2099.(Limit: 8/Openings: 7)

Lessons From the Field/BIRDS AS ART Style is a 1 hour, 15 minute, 314 image,
click and play MP4 video

Lessons From the Field/BIRDS AS ART Style: $10.00

Click here to order or see the Save $10 Bundle offer below.

Lessons From the Field/BIRDS AS ART Style is a 1 hour, 15 minute click and play MP4 video. It is available here in the BAA Online Store, by phone order, or by sending a Paypal for $10.00 to As the file is a large one, be sure to upload it when you have a good internet connection.

The video features 314 of artie’s best images, educational and otherwise. Based on his 35 years of in-the-field experience, it covers all the basics along with many fine points. Are you making mistakes that give you no chance to create a great image? Learning to avoid those and learning to think like a pro will make you a better photographer. If you purchase and study the video, it will surely prove to be the best ten dollars you’ve ever spent on photography.


birds as art: The Avian Photography of Arthur Morris/The Top 100:

Save Ten Bucks!

Order the Lessons From the Field MP4 video and add a copy of the birds as art: The Avian Photography of Arthur Morris/The Top 100 (via convenient download — normally sells for $20.00) for an additional 10.00.

Order the bundle for $20.00 by clicking here.


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

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.


Many IPT folks have been using the Booking.Com link below to get great rates and save a handsome $25.00 in the process. If you too would like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and to earn a $25 reward on your first booking. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.


I have been using AirBNB for all of my travel lodging needs. Everyone on the Fort DeSoto IPT is staying at an AirBNB property in Gulfport. Airbnb lists more than 4.5 million homes across 200 countries; you’ll find spacious, affordable options for every occasion. With Airbnb you will travel with confidence as reviews from past guests help you find the right fit. Once you do, their secure messaging makes it easy to coordinate with your host. And Airbnb support teams are available 24/7. And this morning, I made a 17-day reservation for an Airbnb condo for San Diego, 2020. I am staying with Rick again: his place has lots of room, a full kitchen, two bedrooms, and great WiFi. All for a lot less than the price of a chain hotel.

Yikes. I almost forgot the best part: Airbnb rates average less than half of even the least expensive chain hotels and motels. If you would like to save $40 on your first booking sign up by using this link: Airbnb. Airbnb does charge clean-up and service fees that make short stays less attractive bargains than long stays.

Those who prefer to stay in a motel or hotel are invited to use the link above to save $25.00.

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.

Unsharpened 100% Photo Mechanic Screen Capture of Turkey Vulture head portrait

Nikon 600mm f/4 VR Sharpness Issues Resolved

That’s What I’m Talking’ About!

My 600 VR was returned very quickly from NPS. They “restored it to factory specifications.” I re-focus fine-tuned the lens alone and with my main TC-E14. The AFC tests looked fine. Test images made in the field with the bare lens looked fine, but images made with the TC in place were still not look sharp. The TC had been sent in with the lens and it too was “restored it to factory specifications.” On a whim, I focus fine-tuned the 600 VR with my back-up TC-E14. When viewing the LensAlign target at 100% after the micro-adjustment it was obvious that the rig was sharper with the back-up TC. My main TC-E14 had been the problem all along.

In the unsharpened Photo Mechanic screen capture above, the eye is razor-sharp and the fine feather and skin detail is super-sharp and well-defined.

When you get in a sharpness funk and are thinking that the gear is the problem it is often the case that nothing looks sharp. But after going to the back-up TC I am once again confident in my Nikon 600 VR. And sharpness has never been an issue with the still difficult to get 500 PF.

It was difficult working with NPS repair. The only way to contact them is via a form on the web site. Even after I would log in to my NPS account, every page required me to fill in my e-mail address. There is no auto-fill. I wrote several times asking if there was anything specific wrong with the lens. Each time they would write, “Autofocus was repaired.” I am still trying to learn if the lens groups were mis-aligned or if there was another specific problem with the lens. Contacting NPS repair on Long Island by phone is — as far as I know — not possible. I will fill out their how are we doing survey …

This image was created on the morning of Thursday, April 3, 2019 from my vehicle at Indian Lake Estates, FL I. I used the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-(strangely mounted) Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, and the blazingly fast AF king, the Nikon D5 DSLR (Dual XQD Slots). ISO 800. Matrix metering at about -1/3 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/8. AUTO0 WB at 7:45am on a clear day.

Nikon Focus Peaking/FocusTune fine-tune value: +8. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Center Group (grp) Shutter Button AF as originally framed. The array was centered on the base of the bird’s lower mandible with the upper point right on the bird’s eye.

Turkey Vulture head portrait

Vultures at ILE

Though both Black and Turkey Vultures are common at ILE, it is not always possible to simply drive up and create tight head and shoulders portraits. On Thursday past I got lucky and found this bird on a not-too-tall sign at the base of the pier. Working off the tripod from my SUV, I created a series of about 20 images. All of them were sharp as were all of the Osprey and Sandhill Crane images made at 840mm with the 600 VR and my backup TC-E14. My main TC-E14 is being put to pasture. I will be sharing lots of vulture and Osprey images in future blog posts.

ILE will be one of the locations detailed in the upcoming BIRDS AS ART Middle of Florida Photography Site Guide by Joseph Przybyla and Arthur Morris. This e-Guide will be an illustrated compilation of several productive but little-known hotspots from one coast of Florida to the other.

Anything New?

If you notice a change from my usual 600 VR plus TC-E14 EXIF please leave a comment.

San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects, including and especially the Pacific race of California Brown Pelican. With annual visits spanning more than four decades, I have lots of photographic experience there … Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

The 2020 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) WED JAN 8, 2020 thru and including the morning session on SUN JAN 12: 4 1/2 days: $2099.(Limit: 8)

Introductory Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; WED JAN 7, 2020.

Join me in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches; Brandt’s (nesting with eggs and possibly chicks) and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heermann’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others are possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the IPT cards, there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well. Not to mention a ton of excellent flight photography opportunities and instruction.

Please note: where permitted and on occasion, ducks and gulls may be attracted (or re-located) with offerings of grains and healthy breads.

Learning Exposure, Whether You Like It Or Not

Whether you like it or not, we will be beating the subject of exposure like a dead horse. In every new situation you will hear my thoughts on the exposure situation along with my thoughts on both Nikon and Canon histograms and the subject of blinkies. Whether you like it or not, you will learn to work in manual mode and to get the right exposure every time as long as a bird gives you ten seconds with the light constant.And you will learn what to do when the light is changing constantly. What you learn about exposure will be one of the great take-aways on every IPT.

Though the pelicans will be the stars of the show on this IPT, there will be many other handsome and captivating subjects in wonderful settings. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

It Ain’t Just Pelicans

With gorgeous subjects just sitting there waiting to have their pictures taken, photographing the pelicans on the cliffs is about as easy as nature photography gets. With the winds from the east almost every morning there is usually some excellent flight photography as well. And the pelicans are almost always doing something interesting: preening, scratching, bill pouch cleaning, or squabbling. And then there are those crazy head throws that are thought to be a form of intra-flock communication. You will be guided as to how to make the best of all of those opportunities. And depending on the weather and local conditions and tides, there are a variety of fabulous photo chances available in and around San Diego.


Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter? Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

The San Diego Details

This IPT will include five 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, four 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, four lunches, and after-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility. And so that we can get some sleep, dinners will be on your own.

A $599 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “Arthur Morris) to us at BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 3385, or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, will be due on 10/11//2018. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail.


Variety is surely the spice of life in San Diego. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Getting Up Early and Staying Out Late

On all BIRDS AS ART IPTS including and especially the San Diego IPT, we get into the field early to take advantage of unique and often spectacular lighting conditions and we stay out late to maximize the chances of killer light and glorious sunset silhouette situations. We often arrive at the cliffs a full hour before anyone else shows up to check out the land/sea scape opportunities.

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

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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 :).

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