Easy Eagle Pickings with Handheld Zoom Lenses « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Easy Eagle Pickings with Handheld Zoom Lenses

BIRDS AS ART Office Phone Out!

A tree fell on our phone lines while I was away. 863-692-0906 is currently down. If you need to get in touch with Jim or with me, please try my cell at 863-221-2372. If I do not pick up, please shoot us a text.

Ordering Used Gear from B&H

To order used gear from B&H using my affiliate link — they have a large selection, please start with this link, and then type Used Department in the search box. Then do a search for you item. Doing so will not cost you one cent extra and helps me out a ton. The prices, however, will be higher than on the BAA Used Gear Page (but they have a lot more stuff).

What’s Up?

On Sunday, Clemens and I had another good morning with the Swallow-tailed Kites in Deland. He needed to get home to take care of some stuff with selling his house so we split after the morning shoot. It was almost surely our last boat trip together.

With nine deposit checks in hand, and with good friend Ed Dow grabbing a single cabin, there are only three openings left on the 2023 Galapagos Photo-cruise of a Lifetime. The trip is now a go. If you have any interest in joining us, it would be best to get in touch via e-mail ASAP.

I was glad to learn that San Diego IPT veteran and good friend Carolyn Johnson signed up for the first Homer Bald Eagle IPT. She has a big Africa trip coming up in a few weeks. I advised her on Thursday that making a big trip with a single camera body would be a risky endeavor. So, on Friday, she purchased a second Sony A1 from Bedfords. Thanks, CJ! Speaking of Homer, I am looking for someone to do all three Homer Bald Eagle trips and driving the round trip from Anchorage to Homer and back with me. Toward that end, I am offering a ridiculously high discount of $4500.00, $1500 off each trip. The offer may not last long because there are only two slots left on the second IPT. If you are interested, or would like additional details, please contact me via e-mail

Today is Monday 25 July 2022. I have got a ton to do this week to get ready for my Auto Train trip next Sunday. Yikes! That is a scant six days from now. 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 and makes one hundred twenty-three days in a row with a new one.

Please remember to use the B&H and Amazon links that are found on most blog pages and to use the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout when purchasing your new gear from Bedfords to get 3% back on your credit card and enjoy free second-day air FedEx. Please, also, consider joining a BAA IPT. You will be amazed at how much you will learn!

The First DeSoto IPT

If you are interested in the first DeSoto IPT, 3 1/2 Days, Tuesday 27 September through the morning session on Friday 30 September 2022, know that I just reserved a three-bedroom AirBnB in Gulfport. Share it for four nights with many multiple IPT veteran Monte Brown and me and save a ton on lodging: $83.69/night/person for a whole home. AirBnB photos available upon request. If interested, shoot me an e-mail.


Follow me on Instagram here. I am trying to feature both new and old images, especially images that have not appeared recently on the blog. Or search for birds_as_art.

BIRDS AS ART Image Optimization Service (BAA IOS)

Send a PayPal for $62.00 to birdsasart@verizon.net or call Jim at 863-692-0906 and put $62.00 on your credit card. Pick one of your best images and upload the raw file using a large file sending service like Hightail or DropBox and then send me the link via e-mail. I will download and save your raw file, evaluate the exposure and sharpness, and optimize the image as if it were my own after converting the raw file in Adobe Camera Raw. Best of all, I will make a screen recording of the entire process and send you a link to the video to download, save and study.

Induro GIT 304L Price Drop

Amazingly, we have two, brand-new-in-the-box Induro GIT 304L tripods in stock. They are $699.00 each (were $799.00) and the price now includes the insured ground shipping to the lower 48 states. Weekday phone orders only: 863-692-0906.

Please Remember

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 earn 3% cash back 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.

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.

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If You Enjoy the Blog …

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 26 February 2020 on an Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) at Kachemak Bay, Homer, AK. I used the hand held Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II lens (at 165mm) and Sony a7R IV (now replaced, for me, by The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera.. The exposure was determined via Zebras with Exposure Compensation on the thumb dial. ISO 400: 1/250 sec. at f/8 (stopped down three stops) in Manual mode. AWB at 2:43:25pm on a cloudy afternoon.

Flexible Spot S/AF-C with performed well. Click on the image to enjoy a high-res version.

Image #1: Bald Eagle head portrait against snow background

165mm Head Portrait!

I remember sitting in the snow with just the 70-200 and inching closer to this bird, trying to make a head portrait with my intermediate zoom lens without a teleconverter. This one is full frame from top to bottom. As the bird’s eye’s were not level, I needed to rotate it six degrees and crop to a square to make it work.

The 70-200s with both TCs have been my most valuable lenses on my last three Homer IPTs. The are light, fast-focusing gather lots of light, and the eagles are that close. Working at f/2.8 in low light or at f/4 with the 1.4X TC allows for keeping the ISO settings low. Do note that the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 was intentionally designed not to accept either teleconverter. As noted previously, that seems positively insane to me as it wrecks the versatility of one of my favorite zoom lenses. With every other 70-200 f/2.8 that I am aware of, you enjoy 70-200mm at f/2.8, 98-280 at f/4, and 140-400mm at f/5.6. Not also that the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II lens obsoletes the Sony 100-400mm.

Here’s why: The new 70-200 f/2.8 II is amazingly small and light; it focuses much more quickly and accurately than either the old version of the 70-200 or the 100-400 GM; the zoom mechanism is infinitely better than the zoom mechanism of the 100-400. I would often joke that you need an oil filter wrench to zoom in and out with the FE 100-400 GM; You can zoom smoothly through the entire focal length range with less than a quarter turn of the zoom ring; In addition, the 70-200 II performs perfectly with either the 1.4X TC or the 2X TC; At 400mm with the 2X, it focus down to 33 inches; And of course, at f/2.8 it is a very fast lens when used on its own. Last but not least, it is an internal zoom — the length of the lens does not chance when you zoom in our out (as it does with many or all of the 100-400 lens. This alone is a huge advantage.

This image was created on 28 February 2020 on an Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) at Kachemak Bay, Homer, AK. I used the hand held Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens with the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter (at 741mm) with the Sony a7R IV (now replaced, for me, by The One, the Sony a1 Mirrorless Camera). ISO 400. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the Thumb Wheel: RawDigger showed that the exposure was perfect: 1/1250 sec. at f/9 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 3:09:51pm on a sunny afternoon.

Flexible Spot S/AF-C with performed perfectly by tracking and nailing the bird’s eye.

Image #2: Bald Eagle head portrait against dark charcoal rocks on the beach

200-600 with 1.4X TC and a7R IV

When viewed this image last night, I saw that it was created with the (still) formidable Sony Alpha a7R IV Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only) and was impressed with the sharpness and fine detail. When I saw this morning that the 1.4X TC was in place, I was stunned. I have recently been counseling a guy who cannot make any sharp images with is 200-600 and his a1. He states that that combo barely acquires focus. I told him that he surely has a bad copy.

I loved the a7r IV for static birds, macro, and scenic photography, but I and many I know felt that paired with the 200-600 is was less than ideal for shooting birds in flight. Other disagreed.

For those who cannot afford the difficult-to-get Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens the 200-600 is a viable option as their workhorse super-telephoto lens. Remember that Bedfords is your best bet for either of those. And please remember to use the BIRDSASART code at checkout for 3% back on your credit card and free second-day air FedEx.

For those bird photographers who cannot afford a Sony a1 Mirrorless Camera), understand that a used a7 R III, a9, or A9 II are all viable options for the inexpensive 200-600. The Sony a9 II Mirrorless Camera would be my first choice.

Background Preference?

Do you prefer the snow background in Image #1 or the charcoal grey rocky beach background in Image #2?

This image was created on 28 February 2020 on an Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) at Kachemak Bay, Homer, AK. I used the hand held Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens with the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter (at 741mm) with the Sony a7R IV (now replaced, for me, by The One, the Sony a1 Mirrorless Camera). ISO 400. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the Thumb Wheel: RawDigger showed that the exposure was perfect: 1/1250 sec. at f/9 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 3:09:51pm on a sunny afternoon.

Flexible Spot S/AF-C with performed perfectly by tracking and nailing the bird’s eye.

Image #3: Square crop of the Bald Eagle head portrait against dark charcoal rocks on the beach image

Crop Preference

Do you prefer Image #2, the original 3X2 version, or the same photo cropped to a square, Image #3? Why?

Your Call

Which of today’s three featured images is your favorite? Why? I have a clear favorite and will share it with you here soon.

Homer 2022 Bald Eagle Highlights and Handholding Compositional Tips by Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Enjoy and be inspired by just a few Homer Bald Eagle highlight images. Hand holding intermediate telephoto lens will always yield slightly different compositions. Learn more about that topic in this short (3:14) video.

All images from Homer or Kachemak Bay, AK

2023 Homer/Kachemak Bay Bald Eagle IPTs

IPT #1: MON 20 FEB 2023 through the full day on FRI 24 FEB 2023. Five full days/20 hours on the boat: $5500.00. Limit 5 photographers/Openings: 3.

IPT #2: SAT 25 FEB 2023 through the full day on THURS 2 MAR 2023. Six full days/24 hours on the boat: $6600.00. Limit 5 photographers/Openings: 2.

IPT #3: FRI 3 MAR 2023 through the full day on TUES 7 MAR 2023. Five full days/20 hours on the boat: $5500.00. Limit 5 photographers. Openings: 3.

Save $1,000.00 by doing back-to-back trips.

These trips feature non-stop flight photography as well as many opportunities to create both environmental and point-blank portraits of one of North America’s most sought-after avian subjects: Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Other reliable subjects will include Sea Otter, Glaucous-winged and Short-billed (formerly Mew) Gulls.

In addition, we should see Common Murre, Black Guillemot, Pelagic Cormorant, two or three species of loons, and a smattering of ducks including two species of merganser, all three scoters, Common and Barrow’s Goldeneyes, Bufflehead, Harlequin, and Long-tailed Ducks. Close-range photographic chances for these species will require a ton of good luck. Some of these species, especially when in flocks, can, however, often be used effectively when pleasing creating bird-scapes.

If we need to be out early, we will be the first boat out. If conditions are great, we will stay out. And when there is a chance for sunset silhouettes, we will be in the right spot.

We will be traveling through gorgeous wilderness country; landscape and scenic opportunities abound.

Also featured is a professional leader, often referred to as the world’s most knowledgeable bird photography trip leader, who is conversant in Canon, Nikon, and Sony. You will learn practical and creative solutions to everyday photographic problems. You will learn to see the shot, to create dynamic images by fine-tuning your compositions, to best utilize your camera’s AF system, and how to analyze the wind, the sky conditions, and the direction and quality of the light. This is one of the very few trips Homer trips available where you will not be simply put on the birds and told to have fun. You will learn to be a better photographer. But only if that is what you want.

You will learn to get the right exposure when it is sunny, when it cloudy-bright, when it is cloudy, when it is cloudy-dark, or when it is foggy. Not to mention getting the right exposure when creating silhouettes.

You will learn to make pleasing blurs working in manual mode and to create silhouettes working in Shutter Priority mode.

Most importantly you will learn to pick your best flight images from tens of thousands of images.

You will enjoy working with the two best and most creative boat captains on their sturdy, photography-spacious, seaworthy, open-deck crafts.

The second and third IPTs are the only Bald Eagle workshops that feature an incredibly helpful first mate.

Only five photographers (not the usual six), plus the leader.

Small group Photoshop, Image Review, and Image Critiquing sessions.

All images from Homer or Kachemak Bay, AK

What’s Included

One four hour or two two-hour boat trips every day (weather permitting), all boat fees and boat-related expenses (excluding tips), ground transportation to and from the dock and back to the hotel each day, in-the-field instruction and guidance, pre-trip gear advice, small group post-processing and image review sessions, and a thank you dinner for all well-behaved participants.

What’s Not Included

Your airfare to and from Homer, AK (via Anchorage), the cost of your room at Land’s End Resort, all personal items, all meals and beverages, and tips for the boat captain and/or the first mate.

Please Note

On great days, the group may wish to photograph for more than four hours. If the total time on the boat exceeds 20 hours for the five-day trips, or 24 hours for the second trip, the group will share the additional expense at a rate of $225/hour.

Some folks may wish to rent their own vehicle to take advantage of local photographic opportunities around Homer.

Deposit Information

A $3000 non-refundable deposit/trip is required. You may pay your deposit with credit card or by personal check (made out to BIRDS AS ART) and sent via US mail only to Arthur Morris. PO Box 7245. Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. Your balance, due 90 days before the date of departure, is payable only by check as above.

In Closing

I have been going to Homer off and on for close to two decades. Every trip has been nothing short of fantastic. Many folks go in mid-March. The earlier you go, the better the chances for snow. The only way to assure that you are on the best of the three trips is to sign up for all of them. Can you keep up with me? If you have any questions, or are good to go for one, two, or all three trips, please let me know via e-mail or give me a call on my cell phone at 863-221-2372.


With all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors.

11 comments to Easy Eagle Pickings with Handheld Zoom Lenses

  • avatar Nancy Fischer

    In my opinion, the gray background is better with the eagle, due to the contrast. Further, the crop portrait of the eagle is preferred.

  • avatar Anthony Ardito

    I like the white background better bc the head has just enough contrast to stand out while the white makes the overall image brighter and more enjoyable. #2 is dark, but very good indeed. It just lacks pop IMO. I do like the original 3×2 of #2 as it leaves space for the bird to “look”. Both #1 & #2 are superbly exposed.

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    I’m with Pat. Could not have said it any better.

  • Artie
    Do you prefer the snow background in Image #1 or the charcoal grey rocky beach background in Image #2?
    I love the straight on look in the Snow background and really hard to get it right in camera….can you say Zebras! I call him and angry Judge in a court of dumb……..
    I do like the Charcoal background that really brings out the whites and he’s eyes and I prefer the boxed crop it really works well here!
    Always with love b

  • avatar Sue Jarrett

    In Image #1 the Bald Eagle looks mad about something!! Ha Ha Ha!!

  • avatar Pat Fishburne

    No contest for me — I much prefer #2! I like the dark background, which makes the bird really stand out. I also like the sharp detail, particularly on the eye. I also like the crop on #2.

  • For portrait use, I much prefer #3 because it shows more the character of the subject. And the details in the iris of the eye is nice!

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    I like image #1 best, I like the pose, head on, I like the composition, the white background is fine with me!

  • I like the square crop, the eagle attitude especially emphasized by the square crop, and the dark background to show the crisp detail of the white feathers.

  • avatar Maggi Fuller

    Most definitely the second image with the bird against the charcoal cliff background. Far more impact. Whilst the first image is a great pose, the white head of the bird is lost against the snowy background.

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