Less Bird, More Green, or More Bird, Less Green? Still Learning After 38+ Years. And George Lepp on TCs « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Less Bird, More Green, or More Bird, Less Green? Still Learning After 38+ Years. And George Lepp on TCs

Your Favorite?

Which of today’s two featured images do you like best? Everyone is invited to leave a comment and let us know why they made their choice. Note: be absolutely sure to click on each image to view a larger, high-res version.

What’s Up?

The sun broke through the fog just before 7:30am on Sunday morning and disappeared behind a large cloud at 8:15am. I started with a Great Blue Heron on The Perch

in the fog. I was further blessed as the bird stayed on the perch for 15 minutes. Then I worked the crane family of four with the new, hard-to-get-your-hands-on Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II lens with the 1.4X TC and the a1.

Engaged in watching several NFL games on TIVO, I was very late getting down to the lake. Most of the Cattle Egrets and Little Blue Herons had already gone to roost, but I’m glad that I made it as I learned something new. With a fairly brisk wind from the southwest, the surface of the lake was rippled and ruffled. As a result, there was no color in the water. I had been spoiled by the dead calm conditions and the still water for the past week when the sky colors were reflected by the mirror-like surface of the lake.

There was not much action, but I had another good chance on the Mottled Ducks blasting off — I had one miraculously good one out of a burst of 25. And I got some nice stuff on Boat-tailed Grackle and White Ibis. That said, I created less than 200 images, far below average for a sunset session.

Today is Monday 3 January 2022. There is a small front passing by this morning as the forecast is calling for mostly cloudy with a brisk northwest wind and falling temps. I will almost surely head down to the lake for at least a bit. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took about 90 minutes to prepare including the time spent on the image optimizations. This post makes 54 consecutive days with a new one.

Special thanks to Jordan Cait who has been doing an awesome job of proofreading the blog recently and getting in touch via e-mail.

I am looking forward to working with multiple IPT veteran Shelly Lake on Tuesday morning in Lakeland for a Your Pick In-the-Field session. If you would like to join me for some In-the-Field instruction at either ILE or Lakeland in the next ten days or so, shoot me an e-mail or try me on my cell at 863-221-2372. Please leave a message and shoot me a text if I do not pick up. The details are below.

Please remember that you can find some great photo accessories (and necessities, like surf booties!) on Amazon by clicking on the Stuff tab on the orange/yellow menu bar above. On a related note, it would be extremely helpful if blog-folks who, like me, spend too much money on Amazon, would get in the habit of clicking on the Amazon logo link on the right side of each blog post when they shop online. As you might expect, doing so will not cost you a single penny, but would be appreciated tremendously by yours truly. And doing so works seamlessly with your Amazon Prime account.

Please remember that if an item — a Delkin flash card, or a tripod head — for example, that is available from B&H and/or Bedfords, is also available in the BAA Online Store, it would be great, and greatly appreciated, if you would opt to purchase from us. We will match any price. Please remember also to use my B&H affiliate links or to save 3% at Bedfords by using the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout for your major gear purchases. Doing either often earns you free guides and/or discounts. And always earns my great appreciation.

Your-Pick In-the-Field Sessions

The beauty of the Your Pick In-the-Field Sessions plans below is that I am free most days from now till mid-January and we can schedule sessions to coincide with the perfect weather forecast. They are ideal for central Florida locals or folks visiting the region for whatever reason. Interested? Get in touch via e-mail or better yet, try my cell at 863-221-2372. Please leave a message and shoot me a text if I do not pick up. Inquire for couples and group rates.

Indian Lake Estates In-the-Field Sessions

Two hours of intensive instruction: $300.00. Add a working brunch with image review: $100.00. Sunset shoot: $100.00. Guest room lodging available. Mix and match.

Sunny mornings with east winds are best. Likely subjects include ridiculously tame Sandhill Cranes along with Black and Turkey Vultures, Crested Caracara, Limpkin, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, and more. Bald Eagle possible; crane chicks coming soon.

Lakeland or Circle B Bar Preserve

Two hours of intensive instruction: $325.00. Add a working brunch with image review: $100.00. Mix and match.

Sunny mornings with east winds are best at Lakeland. Likely subjects include point-blank American White Pelican, Anhinga, Limpkin, Common Moorhen, White Ibis, a variety of wintering ducks including Ring-necked and Wood Ducks, and lots more.

Cloudy mornings or afternoons (shooting session only) are best at Circle B Bar Preserve. Likely subjects include Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Common Moorhen, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Alligator, Wild Boar, and more. If you wish to mix and match, loving at ILE is available.

Sony Alpha 1 Bodies in Stock at Bedfords/free card offer!

Steve Elkins of Bedfords let me know late yesterday that he had several Sony a1 bodies in stock. If one of them has your name on it, please click here and be sure to enter the BIRDSASART coupon code check the box for free shipping to enjoy free Second Day Air Fed-Ex. Right now, in lieu of the 3% credit refunded to the card you used for your purchase, you will receive a Sony 160GB CFexpress Type A TOUGH Memory Card, a $399.99 value!

Brand New and As-Good-As-Ever Bedfords BAA Discount Policy

Folks who have fallen in love with Bedfords can now use the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout to enjoy a post-purchase, 3% off-statement credit (excluding taxes and shipping charges) on orders paid with a credit card. The 3% credit will be refunded to the card you used for your purchase. Be sure, also, to check the box for free shipping to enjoy free Second Day Air Fed-Ex. This offer does not apply to purchases of Classes, Gift Cards, or to any prior purchases.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would like to enjoy getting 3% back on your credit card along with free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex Air shipping, your best bet is to click here, place an order with Bedfords, and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If an item is out of stock, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and check the box for Free Shipping. That will automatically upgrade to free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The waitlists at the big stores can be a year or longer for the hard to get items. Steve will surely get you your gear long before that. For the past year, he has been helping BAA Blog folks get their hands on items like the SONY a 1, the SONY 200-600 G OSS lens, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, and the Nikon 500mm PF. Steve is personable, helpful, and eager to please.

Important Note

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small percentage when you purchase from Amazon after using any of the Amazon links on the blog (including the logo-link immediately above). My link works with Amazon Prime and using it will not cost you a single cent. Huge thanks, BTW 🙂

Please Remember Also

Please, if you enjoy and learn from the blog, remember to use one of my two affiliate programs when purchasing new gear. Doing so just might make it possible for me to avoid having to try to get a job as a Walmart greeter and will not cost you a single penny more. And if you use Bedfords and remember to enter the BIRDSASART code at checkout, you will (still!) save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I lost about fifty thousand dollars in income due to COVID 19 — remembering to use my B&H link or to shop at Bedfords will help me out a ton and be greatly appreciated. Overseas folks who cannot order from the US because of import fees, duties, and taxes, are invited to help out by clicking here to leave a blog thank you gift if they see fit.

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. If you are desperate, you can try me on my cell at 863-221-2372. Please leave a message and shoot me a text if I do not pick up.

This image was created on 2 January 2022 at Indian Lake Estates. Working from the front seat of my SUV, I used the BLUBB-supported Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera). ISO 500. The exposure was determined using Zebra technology with ISO on the rear wheel: 1/250 sec. at f/4 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 7:29:28am just as the sun broke through the light fog.

Small Spot S AF-C performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a higher-res version.

Image #1: Great Blue Heron on The Perch

Less Bird, More Green

It is Hard to Believe …

It is hard to believe that after nearly 38 1/2 years of doing bird photography, there are still new lessons to be learned almost every day. On Sunday morning, I refined a BLUBB sharpness technique that I have been working on for a while. I am planning on doing a short video on that topic soon. Next, I discovered a new button setting that will improve the AF system of the world’s best bird photography camera body, the Sony a1. I will be sharing that with the a1 group this week via SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Notes e-mail #27. I am continually astounded by the complexity of the a1, and the degree to which it can be customized to best meet your needs.

Eagle-eyed Image Question

There is a small distracting element in Image #1 that was eliminated in Image #2. If you can spot it — it bothers the heck out of me, please leave a comment.

This image was created on 2 January 2022 at Indian Lake Estates. Working from the front seat of my SUV, I used the BLUBB-supported Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens with the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter, and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera). ISO 800. The exposure was determined using Zebra technology with ISO on the rear wheel: 1/320 sec. at f/5.6 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 7:37:28am, less than 10 minutes after the sun had broken through the light fog.

Small Spot S AF-C performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy a higher-res version.

Image #2: Great Blue Heron on The Perch

More Bird, Less Green

Add Green Whenever Possible …

I am not sure when I first wrote, Add green whenever possible. It might have been in the original The Art of Bird Photography, or in the digital follow-up, The Art of Bird Photography II (on CD). An electronic download of the latter is available here. If you do not own both of these classics, you can do yourself a lot of good by ordering the Two-Book Bundle.

In any case, I try to add green whenever possible. Note that in Image #1, made with the 600mm lens alone, I could have worked horizontally and still included lots of green. Twenty years ago I would have done just that so that the image might have sold for a two-page magazine spread … Unfortunately, creating image designs for specific book and magazine usages is a thing of the past. With Image #2, I needed to work vertically to include the tops of the reeds in the bottom of the frame. The soft, early morning light did not hurt either image.

SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group

The SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group is going great guns as more and more folks chime in with thoughtful questions and experience-based answers. As the a1 is becoming more readily available, more and more folks are getting their hands on this amazing body. This week, two folks in the group ordered their third a1! I am envious. The group is now up to an astounding 99 lucky and blessed folks. Early on, we discussed the myriad AF options. I gave my opinion as to the best one for flight and general bird photography. The best news is that the all who wish can request an e-mail that includes a .DAT file with my a1 settings on it, and explicit directions on how to load my settings onto your a1; talk about convenience! (Note: I am now offering updated .DAT files).

All who purchased their Alpha a1 bodies via a BAA affiliate link will receive a free subscription to the Sony Alpha a1 Set-Up and Info Updates group after shooting me their receipts via e-mail. (Note: it may take me several days to confirm B&H orders.) This same service may be purchased by anyone with an a1 body via a $150.00 PayPal sent to birdsasart@verizon.net indicating payment for Alpha a1 Info & Updates. Alternatively, folks can call Jim weekdays at 1-863-692-0906 to pay via credit card. New members will receive composite e-mails that summarize all previous discussions.

George Lepp on TCs

While creating the New Species: Fan-tailed Vulture! Why No Teleconverter? blog post here, I thought a lot about old friend and colleague George Lepp. George writes a great Tech Tips column for Outdoor Photography magazine, and like me, was a Canon Explorer of Light, one of the original fifty-five. Learn more about George here.

Anywho, I sent this to him via e-mail the other day:

Hey George,

I hope that all is well and that you have a great 2022.

I remember clearly you saying (or writing) that images made with TC will never be as sharp as images made with bare super-telephoto lenses. You’d say something very much like this, “Images made with a 1.4X TC will be 14% less sharp than this made with the bare lens along; those made with a 2X TC will be 28% less sharp.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject today. Have things changed?

With love, artie

George kindly responded (in part):


I stand by some of what I used to say, but the change is that the new lenses are so good that the small loss in sharpness will not be noticeable. I’m getting away with 2x extenders on my Canon RF100-500mm zoom because the high ISOs are so good and when I get the file into Photoshop and then Topaz Sharpen AI, no one can tell I was at 1000mm with a zoom and at ISO 1600 or 3200. Mirrorless in the new cameras is just so good. I’m using two R5 cameras and not planning on an R3. Maybe when the R1 shows up, I’ll look at it. The 2x and even the 2x and 1.4x together on the EF600mm f/4L MK III is professionally sharp, and I can do the cover of the magazine with no excuses! I did a Bald Eagle cover with that combo with the R camera for Outdoor Photographer two years ago. It’s all just gotten better and if you use good technique, there is no reason to not use 1.4x or 2x extenders as professional tools. Not to mention that at 45 MP you even crop to some degree and get away with it!

I’m pretty much retired. Not an Explorer of Light as of last July (they cut me loose), but they gave me status as a member of the Canon Legends Group so I still get some benefits on gear purchases and with CPS. I have no complaints. I was done with the social media so they replaced me with a younger person. It used to be that between the magazine (OP), photo stock, and work I’d do for Canon (lectures and workshops), I made a very good living. I’m still a pro, but now it is mostly “Pro-Bono”. I do work for local nature organizations. My next project will be a 4K video for a local nature center that has a pair of resident Trumpeter Swans on a small lake. I’ll document the life cycle from eggs to the cygnets being ready to fledge. I did it with stills two years ago. The two swans can’t fly (injuries), so they stay on the small lake that has plenty of food. When the young swans are about to fly, they are captured and taken to a lake in eastern Oregon where there is a resident wild flock of swans that will teach them what else they need to know. The trumpeters are very rare in the western states and this helps to rebuild the numbers.

All my best,

George D. Lepp


With all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Special thanks to Jordan Cait who has been doing an awesome job of proofreading the blog recently and getting in touch via e-mail.

17 comments to Less Bird, More Green, or More Bird, Less Green? Still Learning After 38+ Years. And George Lepp on TCs

  • I particularly like the George Lepp’s comment on using 2 TC with an eos R5.

    I did use two 2X with my R5 and the autofocus was still working properly …and the sharpness was incredible!!

    You can see the result here on a baby Least bittern :

    Of course distance is an issue but when you are not too far away they perform great!
    In the above image I think I was kind of 40 feet approx.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Yves,

      I used the 2X with the R5 and the RF 100-500. What lens for your image? It is a very nice photo. Did you make any frames with the bird lower and left in the frame?

      with love, artie

  • avatar Margaret

    I prefer number one (said in a small, squeaky voice).

  • avatar David Pugsley

    I prefer the comp of #2 – just a touch more intimate with enough environment.

    You removed the bit of perch that’s in shadow.

    Gotta love George – legend. I still have his 1D MkIII.

  • avatar Bob Simpson

    I prefer the former as a ‘habitat’ photo rather than the latter as a ‘bird’ photo. The Heron in the More Green appears to me to be in a much calmer pose, and this type of ‘habitat’ composition is more like what I might achieve with my 100-400 Zoom lens. If the Heron in the More Bird image was in a more relaxed pose rather than looking a bit alarmed, I might prefer that image. I prefer it as a ‘habitat’ photo rather than a ‘bird’ photo. I do like the magic light.

  • avatar James Saxon

    I prefer the second image with the bird more prominent in the frame. That color of the light is nice and soft which I really like. Very very nice image. Thanks for sharing.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Good morning, Artie. I much prefer image # 2; as your caption says, more bird, less green. As others have commented, the left and middle of the perch from the central knot up have been cleaned. But I confess I wasn’t bothered by the shadows and grass, so I’m wondering if I’m missing what really bothered you.

  • avatar Adam

    Yes, the left/front side of the perch were cleaned up. I go back and forth on the two photos and in the end prefer the first image as a better habitat capture.

    Appreciate the follow up with George and I am grateful that he has reached similar conclusions. For example, the 500 f/4 with a 2x tc was a horrible combination on my DSLR’s and it performs quite well on the R5 when atmospherics aren’t at play. Filling the frame (along with exposing to the right) are almost always better strategies and with the innovations in software and technology, the results can be amazing. As an aside this slightly humorous story illustrates an unintended consequence of using big lenses and TC’s…

    I was out shooting a snowy the other day who was ensconced on a nearby building tower. She was at some distance and I was using the aforementioned combination in some pretty awful light. A nearby sheriff’s deputy approached and asked if I could send her some of my images. She reasoned that anyone with such equipment must be capable and she wanted some “closer”, more “professional” photos akin to those her “friend” had. She pulled out her cell phone and started showing some low resolution photos which appeared strikingly familiar. I immediately recognized them as images which I had sent from a previous shoot to a UPS driver who had approached me a week earlier. I asked her whether her friend worked for UPS and she acknowledged yes. Was his name, “Dino” I prompted? She replied rather perplexed and awestruck, “How did you know?”. I explained that these were images of mine I had shared with the driver just before Christmas and that she too was welcome to enjoy these photos. We had a good laugh about the whole situation and not only did I not get arrested (PLM) but I was genuinely humbled by how many people are truly touched by these birds’ magnificence.

    Interestingly, I walked away from that experience with a tremendous sense of pride, gratitude, and purpose. It is not infrequent that when I am out on a shoot I perceive other non-photographers (and sometimes photographers) with some disdain as they are either distracting or they spook the wildlife. But what I have come to realize is that we have an opportunity to serve as ambassadors to raise awareness and hopefully inspire people to preserve the environment and these awesome gifts of nature. So as one of my New Year’s resolutions, I pledge to be kinder and more engaging with those I see on the trails and on the beaches and backroads. Happy New Years everyone!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Adam. The difference on our right of the perch was due to my moving the car. The black thing on the right side of the perch is what I removed. Joel and Elinor nailed that.

      And yes, it is always nice to be recognized, and to educate.

      with love, artie

  • I like them both but my most like is 2 because the Great Blue Heron is a little closer!!

  • Artie
    My thought is a stubby branch pointing to the back and you can see just a bit of it so you removed it because it draws your eye and the little bit of marsh grass in front. But the main was the stubby branch. Beautiful setting! I have put up perches here and it never fails after which always a tiny something i would have loved to change maybe twisting the perch a bit this way or that way or removing a branch.
    Always with love b

  • avatar Warren Howe

    There was a vertical leaf along the perch base, just to the left of the dark “eye” in the wood. The green was distracting…

  • The cattails hanging down on the perch trunk are gone. And on right side of the trunk, so is the small black spot opposite and a tiny bit above the knot in the wood a little below grass height on the trunk. That small black spot bothered me most.

  • avatar Joel Eade

    You cleaned up the left side of the perch where it intersects the far side of the lake by removing a small dark spot.

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