Suns of a Gun/Stacking Teleconverters (Extenders) with Series II Super-telephoto Lenses (and More…) « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Suns of a Gun/Stacking Teleconverters (Extenders) with Series II Super-telephoto Lenses (and More...)

Shooters Gallery Photography Program, Salem, CT

Tomorrow, October 20, 2013. Walk-ins Welcome

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This image of the setting sun was created near our Mobile Tented Camp at the Mara River, Serengeti, Tanzania with the Todd-Pod mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), a Canon Extension Tube EF 12mm II, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X Digital SLR camera. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/100 sec. at f/8 in Av Mode.

Focused on the edge of the sun with Rear Focus using contrast on the sensor with Live View and Live Mode AF. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Sun of a Gun/Stacking Teleconverters (Extenders) with Series III Super-telephoto Lenses

I love creating images featuring huge-in-the-frame suns and moons. Having gone to all full frame bodies it’s not as easy at it used to be…. The funny thing is that moon images out-sell sun images fifty to one.

When I created this image with stacked teleconverters (aka extenders or multipliers) I learned something. When I put the 1.4X III on the lens and the 2X on the camera body I could not focus on infinity, in this case the sun. The 12mm extension tube is needed because the newer 1.4TCs will not physically fit into the back of the 2X TCs as they used to with previous generations of TCs. The extension tube serves as a spacer so that you can stack the 1.4X and the 2X.

Back to the original problem: with the 1.4X on the lens I was unable to focus on the sun. Though I did not think that it would help I switched the order of the TCs putting the 2X on the lens and the 1.4X on the camera, voila, I was able to focus on the sun.

The sharpness at 1680mm (33.6X) is quite remarkable, due in part to excellent sharpness technique and the 600II’s great 4-stop IS system. Thanks to Markus Jais for inspiring this blog post with his questions in the comments section of BAA Bulletin #450 here.

Markus asked also about AF with stacked TCs. The current answer is that I am not sure. With some lenses stacked TCs would focus in bright sun in situations with decent contrast. I have not tried it with the Series III TCs and the Series II super-telephotos. I need to do some experimenting with the 300 f/2.8L IS II and stacked TCs. That combination should focus with a 1D X or a 5D III as it works out to f/8. The f/4 super-teles with stacked TCs works out to f/11; theoretically, AF should not be possible at f/11.

A few words about extension tubes:

Extension tubes are hollow spacers. Unlike teleconverters (aka extenders or multipliers), they do not have any glass elements so they do not affect image sharpness at all. With tame subjects, extension tubes can be used to get closer than the minimum focusing (MFD) distance of your lens. Doing so will of course increase the size of the subject in the frame. If you are working outside of the MFD, and extension tube will give you a small increase in subject size, usually in the range of 3-4 percent depending on many factors.

With the amazingly small MFDs of the latest lenses and the incredible sharpness that I get with the 2X III TCS I rarely need extension tubes any more to attain closer focusing. But I always have a 12mm tube and a 25mm tube with me, the former for stacking TCs, the latter when I do need to get closer.


This sunrise image was created at Little St. Simons Island, GA with the old 500mm f/4L IS lens (now replaced by the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens and stacked TCs with the EOS-40D.

ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop in Av mode. Manual focus by necessity; the 40D focused only to f/5.6.

Photographing Large Suns and Moons with 1.6 Crop Factor Camera Bodies

When comparing the two images that the sun in the image made with the 500 is larger than the sun in the image made with the 600. Why? The 40D is a 1.6 crop factor camera (due to the small size of the sensor. Denise Ippolito mourns the day that she sold her 40D. Though she tried some of the newer camera bodies like the 7D and the 50D, she still feels that the 40D was the best of the lot. By far. For beginning photographers on a budget finding a used 40D could provide a quality camera body with a very good AF system that creates excellent images files. All at a very low price. But hard to find.

Is It Real?

Is the second image real or was in created in Photoshop? Was the bird–I believe that it was a Royal Tern–added or was it in the image as it came out of the camera? Are the colors real?

Your Favorite

Take a minute to leave a comment and let us know which of the two images is your favorite. And be sure to let us know why.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

While I love my 24-105mm as a B-roll lens, I often wish that I owned and traveled with the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. It is miles sharper than the 24-105 and meshes perfectly with no overlap with the great 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II.

Right now B&H has an amazing deal on this great landscape lens–yikes, I need to borrow one for my upcoming Paines del Torres trip–$1,999.00 at check out. The regular price is $2,299.00. What are you waiting for. Please, please pretty please, web orders only by using our product-specific link above or by clicking on the logo-link below.

Shooters Gallery Photography Program

October 20, 2013. Salem, CT

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Artie Morris & Denise Ippolito
Date: Sunday – October 20, 2013: Time: 9:00am – 4:00pm
Location: Salem Gardner Lake Firehouse Hall, 429 Old Colchester Road, Salem, CT 06420
Admission Fee: The Artie Morris presentation from 9:00am until 10:45am is free and open to the public courtesy of Canon U.S.A. The presentation by Artie and Denise from 11:00am until 4:00pm is $40.00 (Lunch & morning coffee included)
Host Organization: Shooters Gallery Photography Group

9:00 to 10:45 – “Choosing and Using Lenses for Nature Photography… BIRDS AS ART Style” – Artie Morris (Sponsored by Canon U.S.A.)
10:45 TO 11:00: Break
11:00 to 12:00 – “Blooming Ideas” – Denise Ippolito
12:00 to 1:00 – Lunch
1:00 to 2:00 – “Refining Your Photographic Vision” – Artie Morris and Denise Ippolito
2:00 to 2:30 – “Pro Gear Handling Tips” – Artie Morris and Denise Ippolito
2:30 to 2:45 – Break
2:45 to 4:00 – “Creating Pleasing Blurs” – Artie Morris and Denise Ippolito

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BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Competition

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31 comments to Suns of a Gun/Stacking Teleconverters (Extenders) with Series II Super-telephoto Lenses (and More…)

  • Carol Fuegi

    I believe the bird was there in the shot – not added later because I have shots I’ve taken where, by good luck, I have captured birds against the sun when I have fired a burst – and the birds only appeared in one of the series

    I also believe that the colors are real.

  • Bill Tyler

    I’m deliberately responding before reading the other comments. I prefer the first image simply because the pink color in the second one appears false, whether or not it’s actually accurate. With different color, I’d prefer the second image because of the bird silhouette against the sun.


  • Paul

    2nd Image is real. Believe that the bird in the photo could well be a Magnificent Frigatebird (MF). Of course hard to tell but tail length and wing proportions seem to suggest MF.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Not much chance for that species in coastal GA. Everything looks good to me for one of the larger tern species. 🙂

  • Graham Hedrick

    Art, I just looked on the KEH website. They have a Canon 40D in stock.

  • HI Artie,

    Great information, I never think to stack TC’s. When you use an extension tube you loose the ability to focus on infinity but when you use it as a spacer between TC’s is this not true anymore? Also, the caption for the first photo shows an f4 lens with a 2x converter and a 1.4 converter stacked with an extension tube in between. Is my math wrong or would that be f/11, you wrote f/8?

    I like both photos but I prefer the first for the color and the tops of the trees. The second photo is nice and I really like how the reflection/atmosphere appears to create a ballon bottom.


    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Assuming that the sun, at 93 million miles away, qualifies as infinity it is possible but as far as I know only as described above. With the 2X on an f/4 lens with the 1.4X behind it the system should read an effective aperture of f/11. But with the 12mm tube in there the 1.4X does not report. I believe the same thing happens when you put an extension tube on the lens with a TC behind it; the lens will still read wide open as it will not note the presence of the TC. The best and strangest thing is that your exposures will still be spot on (assuming that you know how to get the right exposure in the first place :))

      • I had to try this out. You were right on (not that I didn’t believe you but I don’t have a 1D X), I put a 2x, a 12mm ext. and 1.4x and the lens read wide open. I did try the infinity focusing; it’s almost there but not all the way but I don’t think I’ll be shooting there anyway. This was an awesome tip, I feel like I have a whole new lens!

        • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          #1: No matter which TC you put on the lens it should not be reading wide open….

          #2: If you put the 2X on the lens with the 1.4X TC on the camera with the 12mm tube in between you should be able to focus on the well muted sun…. At 93 million miles that qualifies as infinity to me….

          • I should not let my fingers get ahead of my brain, I missed an important part of only using 1 tube and 1 extender. It all validates everything you had said earlier.

            The initial test was on a 70-200 f2.8L IS with a 2x, 12mm, and a 1.4x and my camera, a 5D2, which read 5.6..

            My wide open comment was regarding the 400/5.6 with a 12mm and 1.4x and it still read 5.6. If I changed the setup to a 12mm and the 2x it still read 5.6. I am also using Kenko tubes with the AF electronics. This surprises me because I expected it to pass through the information. I also wasn’t sure if the body would play into any part of this.

            Thanks again for all the information you provide!

            You are welcome. The above makes sense. Whenever you put an extension tube onto the lens the camera will show as wide open even with a TC behind it. Why? The tube cuts off communication between the camera and the lens. What is interesting is that the exposure will not be affected. And in the situations that you describe, you will always lose the ability to focus on infinity. Lastly, you are welcome artie

  • Hi Artie,
    thanks for explaining how to stack the extenders. Very helpful.


  • Doug

    I like both images but I like the first better, probably because of personal experience. It has more of a story for me. I can hear the soft whispers that come over the group as everyone settles in and enjoys a sundowner after a long day on safari. I like the color combination of the sun and sky and the transition in the sun from yellow to orange. I think because the sun is smaller in the frame the image is more about a state(of being or of mind), time, or place.

    The size of the sun in the second image make this one all about the sun. The contrast with the background is interesting as is the melting of the sun. The bird also adds some of that “state” sense to the image. I don’t think I’d like this one if it didn’t have the bird, I wouldn’t dislike it, it just wouldn’t move me.

    I think the 2nd image is all real. I think it would be hard to manipulate the colors in the image with that edge on the sun. The silhouette of the bird has the edge softness I’d expect with the blending of the color and black. If I’m wrong, kudos, masterfully done.

  • Artie,

    Yes, I did mean to say the smaller sun.

  • Mark A Jordan

    Hello Arthur. Love both shots. I have the 40d and love it too.

  • “Denise Ippolito mourns the day that she sold her 40D. Though she tried some of the newer camera bodies like the 7D and the 50D, she still feels that the 40D was the best of the lot.”

    That’s the magnetic portion of your statement re crop bodies. After that model both Canon and Nikon (after D90) deliberately killed the crop bodies by packing it with high pixel counts mainly to attract the Point & Shoot Users suddenly turned DSLR shooters. They need sales volume, Photographers’ needs have taken a back seat in this case.

  • I prefer the first image because of the pleasing colors, and the appearance that the sun is about to nest in the trees. The tri-color lower half of the sun is fantastic, coupled with the pleasing background color. I also prefer the smaller size of the first image which gives the photo depth.

  • Bill Richardson

    I agree on the 40D. Terrific camera. I regret the day I replaced it with the “improved” 50D which I soon sold. I have never found a light weight replacement for the 40D but hope the new Sony mirrorless system will be it. My 5D3 is my travel camera now and even it is a bit heavy. As for the sun, please advise people to always use live view. Once damaged, a retina never recovers.

  • Pete Sole

    Hi Artie,

    I’ve experimented shooting the sun and the moon with and without teleconverters with my Canon 500mm lens. The results under the right condititions have been terrific.

    With the 7D body (a crop body) and the 500mm F4.0 (or better), I don’t think it is necessary stack teleconverters. A 1.4 teleconverter is enough.

    Pete Sole’
    on the Central California Coast

  • David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. I like both images but I like the second one better, because it’s more interesting and unusual to me and it just pleases me visually. Getting the bird in front of the sun is terrific. I have no way of knowing whether you Photoshopped the image but I don’t see any reason why you had to have done so. I love images like that as well and recently entered a sunrise photo taken with a 400 mm lens on a crop camera into a photo contest. You have to be careful–as you know well–and not point and a camera and long lens at the sun when it’s more than about half a sun diameter above the horizon, and don’t look through the camera at the sun either when it’s well above the horizon.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      That is a good rule of thumb on dead clear days but when the sun is muted by clouds, fog, or atmosphere you can work with a much higher-in-the-sky sun. If you look away and see purple spots quit right then…. There are other tricks to photographing a bright sun; I believe in ABP II.

      • Artie, though I love what you do., the advice you just gave is not very responsible. Even with light being lost in the optical path through the camera, the amount of light coming from the sun through typical tele is enormous compared to what the eye can take. Think about it: the pupil opening is typically not more than 6mm in diameter, compared to 10+ cm with fast tele. Now your experience is probably sufficient and you know well when you can shoot the sun safely, but suggesting people to stop when they see purple spots is very dangerous. Actually such purple spots are signs of lesions in the retina and depending on their intensity they might be irreversible.

        • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Thanks for the good advice. I have seen the purple spots a few times and as far as I know have not caused any permanent damage. As a diabetic, I have my eyes tested thoroughly every year….

          Surely folks need to be careful about pointing a long lens at the sun. artie

  • Geoff

    Thanks for this informative post. I was actually shooting the moon the other night with the 600II and 2XIII and going between using the 7D and the 5D3 to see what was better. I was thinking about getting an extension tube to add the 1.4XIII into the mix but didn’t know if I needed the 12 or 25mm one. Now I know…so thanks again.

    I’m a bit confused though, is the second shot with 40D and 500 with only the 2xTC? Or is the 1.4TC also stacked in this image. Because if it is only the 2xTC then the effective focal length with the 1.6 crop is 1600mm. The effective focal length of the first image is as you stated 1680mm so the first image would show a large sun if shot from the same location with the same atmospheric conditions.

    The sun in #2 is larger in the frame so I can only guess that either the 1.4TC was also used or the image was cropped or the atmospheric conditions changed the size of the setting sun (if that is possible?).

    As to the other questions, I have no reason to doubt that the bird could be real and I have pictures of my own with the exact same colour of a setting sun so I have no reason to doubt the colours either.

    As to a favourite, I like the 2nd image best because of the colour, the addition of the bird and the effect of the sun “melting” into the horizon. But both are very nice.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Geoff. You are most correct. The second image must have been created with stacked TCs. I should have done the math…. I have noted the correct info in the post above and amended the text, so thanks a stack!

      ps: both are full frame.

      • Geoff

        The other possibility is that the 2nd image is setting into the ocean and the first is still higher in the air. So I think the sun does grow larger as it hits the horizon due to distortion in the light rays. So it also could be possible that the 2nd image was at 1600mm but just appears larger due to the sun’s position.

        • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Nope. That is an optical illusion as we compare the sun to the other stuff we can see like the trees in the first image or the strip of ocean in the 2nd image. artie