Priceless Image Perfection? Was I happy choosing the 500 II over the 200-400 with Internal Extender? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Priceless Image Perfection? Was I happy choosing the 500 II over the 200-400 with Internal Extender?


As I prepare this blog post I am flying at 35,000 feet on my way to MCO. Online and plugged in. 🙂 It will be good to be home for a while. I have been on the road since August 10, almost a month.

This blog post took a solid three hours to prepare. It was published at 8:15am on Thursday, September 10, 2015. Please remember to use my B&H affiliate links, especially for your major gear purchases.

The Namibia and the Galapagos IPTs

Both of the above mentioned trips are off to great starts with 7 or 8 spots spoken for on the April 2016 Namibia trip and 5 or 6 deposits on the way for the 2017 Galapagos Photo-Cruise IPT. Learn more about the Namibia IPT here. And learn more about our next great Galapagos trip here. Denise Ippolito will be co-leading both of these great workshops. Lots of Happy Campers are on board already. And Bill Lloyd who recently joined us on the 2015 UK Puffins trip is signing up for both Namibia and Galapagos!

Why So Far in Advance?

Several folks have asked why we are asking for deposits for trips like the Galapagos Photo-Cruise (above) and the Bear Boat IPTs (below) so far in advance. We often hear, “2017????”

A Galapagos Photo-Cruise involves leasing the vessel for nearly $100,000, that after putting down a hefty deposit to secure the dates. So we must know that we can put x number of folks on the boat fairly far advance to avoid taking a bath of many tens of thousands of dollars. That’s why you often see phrases such as “this trip needs 9 to run by fill in the month and year….” By planning far in advance we generally have a good idea as to whether we can make our nut, that is, get to our break-even point. On the rare occasion that we do need to back out, the tour operator has time to fill the dates.

With the Bear Boat trips mentioned below the situation is similar but not identical. We cannot show up with a client or two and expect the outfitter to be happy with us. So we ask for nonrefundable deposits both to protect ourselves and the outfitters. In this specific instance are trying to put together back to back trips and need to know if we can make both a go, again mainly to keep the outfitter happy. Former colleagues of mine have learned that once you screw an outfitter badly that the well dries up pretty quickly and your business is no longer welcome. Denise and I strive to avoid that at all costs.

Many folks plan and budget for their photo travels well in advance. We have heard this all too often, “That is the perfect trip for me and I would surely sign up if I were not already signed up with A for their B workshop….” So just inside two years for most big trips seems to offer a fair balance for us and for most folks. Some folks are reluctant to sign up for a trip that is 22 months away. They often say, “How do I know where I will be in 22 months?” I say, “Yes, you are right and I feel the same way. But do understand that you do not know for sure where you will be in 22 days. Or even in 22 minutes. Or in what condition. :)”

The 2017 Bear Boat IPT(s)

Mid-July offers folks the very best chance to photograph football sized Brown Bear cubs at famed locations like Hallo Bay in Katmai National Park, AK. The sows almost never bring their tiny spring cubs out in the open in June or even early July; they are so small then that predation by other bears is likely. But by mid-month, these little cuties are often seen nursing and frolicking with each other. Though little in nature photography is guaranteed, mid-July offers the absolute best chance to photograph the small cubs with their moms. In order to get our mid-July dates we had to reserve out dates four years in advance. We can guarantee that you will see and photograph a great variety of Brown Bears, the coastal from of Grizzly Bear, at close range. They will be of different age classes and and come in a great variety of colors–the blondes are my favorites. They will be clamming and grazing on the luxuriant meadow grasses. In addition, we will get to photograph both Horned and Tufted Puffins and several species of shorebirds. Common Mergansers with chicks are possible. Wolf is a remote possibility.

If you would like to be put on the Interested List and receive early notice of the two great trips that we are planning, please shoot me an e-mail with the words “2017 Bear Boat Spring Cubs IPT” cut and pasted into the Subject line. Denise and I hope that you can join us. Dates and rates TBA.


This image was created on DAY 5 of the 2015 Bear Boat IPT with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering -1 2/3 stops as framed: 1/160 sec. at f/9.

Center AF point (by necessity)/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. This image is un-cropped. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Brown Bear (coastal grizzly) eating Pink Salmon

Priceless Image Perfection?

For me, today’s image–with the salmon’s gills splayed, its mouth wide open, and the bear’s teeth bared–is quite special. The image as presented is pretty much right out of camera. I did remove a brown thingie from the bear’s snout and a very few grains of sand and specular highlights. I would appreciate hearing as to whether you think this image is strong enough to be entered in the BBC and Nature’s Best contests? If I do enter it, I would prepare a version that matched the RAW file, that is, one without any clean-up.

As is almost always the case with bear photographs, my NIK 50-50 recipe did wonders on the bear’s fur. Remember, since we are properly exposing for the brightest silver and white highlights on the salmon, the bear’s fur will be about 1 2/3 stops under-exposed. We reviewed that concept numerous times on the Bear Boat IPT. It is covered in great detail in the chapter on exposure in the original “The Art of Bird Photography.” ABP is curre available in soft cover only.

So many choices…

Was I happy choosing the 500 II over the 200-400 with Internal Extender?

For the first day or two of the Bear Boat IPT, I was wishing that I had brought along the 200-400 with Internal Extender rather than the 500 II. Especially since multiple IPT veteran Phil Frigon had his along. But in retrospect, many of my very favorite images–including today’s featured image–were created at 1000mm (albeit at f/8). Even with the internal TC in place and an external TC added, the 2-4 gets you only to 784mm (again at f/8). Rounding that off to 800m still gives a tremendous advantage in reach to the 500 II/2X II TC combo by a factor of 100 to 64. Why? The size of the subject in the frame is proportionate to the square of the focal lengths. Why? Because the size of the subject in the frame is the area covered by the subject, and area is a function of length X width.

There were two 600 IIs on the trip. The difference in weight of the 500 II as compared to the 600 II is only 1.61 pounds, but it seems like a lot more when you are carrying the lens around all day. The difference in bulk, however, is astounding. The smaller 500 is easier to travel with, easier to carry in the field, and all around easier to work with. And I am able to hand hold it for short periods of time without much of a problem (especially when photographing from the skiff). The 600 II seems huge in comparison.

Lastly, the 500 II was a great fit with the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, always on my shoulder via a Black Rapid RS-7 strap.

With so many folks looking to go lighter and lighter, the 500 II makes a great choice and offers you 20X magnification with the 2X III in place and a full frame camera body. And the 7D II with the 1.4X III TC and the 500 II gets you out to 1344mm, nearly 27 X.

Was I happy choosing the 500 II over the 200-400 with Internal Extender? Yes, very.


Subject and focal lengths from upper left to right and then around to center.

Palouse Falls: 11mm; homemade kiddie race car: 105mm; barn siding pan blur: 798mm; Rolling fields diorama: 110mm; Crayola drums: 343 mm; Hay barn interior: 19mm; vintage gas station: 40mm; Dilapidated farm building: 13mm; Denise’s tree Infrared: 20mm.

Images and card design by Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART.

The Palouse ~ A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT)/Eastern Washington State. June 3-7, 2016/5 Full Days: $1699/Limit 12

The Palouse ~ A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT)/Eastern Washington State. June 10-14, 2016/5 Full Days: $1699/Limit 12

Double Header!

Maximize both your travel dollars and your learning experience by signing up for both IPTs.


Images and card design by Denise Ippolito/A Creative Adventure.

The Palouse IPTs

Rolling farmlands provide a magical patchwork of textures and colors, especially when viewed from the top of Steptoe Butte where we will likely enjoy spectacular sunrises and possibly a nice sunset. We will photograph grand landscapes and mini-scenics of the rolling hills and farm fields. We will take you to some really neat old abandoned barns and farmhouses in idyllic settings. There is no better way to improve your compositional and image design skills and to develop your creativity than to join us for this trip. Two great leaders: Denise Ippolito and Arthur Morris. Photoshop and image sharing sessions when we have the time and energy…. We get up early and stay out late and the days are long.

After 6 days of back-breaking scouting work in early June 2014 we found all of the iconic locations and, in addition, lots of spectacular new old barns and breath-taking landforms and views. On three additional scouting days in 2015 we discovered several more truly amazing locations. We will teach you what makes one situation prime and another seemingly similar one a waste of your time.

What’s included: In-the-field instruction, guidance, lessons, and inspiration, our newfound but very extensive knowledge of the area, all lunches, motel lobby grab and go breakfasts, and Photoshop and image sharing sessions when possible. There will be a meet and greet at 7:30pm on the evening before each workshop begins.

You will learn and hone both basic and advanced compositional and image design skills. You will learn to get the right exposure every time. You will learn to develop your creative eye. You will learn the basics of HDR (high dynamic range) photography. You will learn a variety of in-camera creative techniques. Most importantly you will learn to see the situation and to create a variety of top-notch images. Do see both of our blogs for lots more on that in the coming weeks. You will learn how the quality and direction of light combine to determine the success of your images. And–please don’t gasp–we will be working quite a bit with sidelight when creating landscapes. Lastly, we will be doing some infrared photography.

To Sign Up

A non-refundable $699 deposit is due now. The balance will be due on February 15, 2016. 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. Whether or not your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

With the spectacular success that we enjoyed in 2015 it seems quite likely that this one will fill up very quickly. Please let me know via e-mail that you will be joining us. Then you can either call Jim or Jennifer at 863-692-0906 during business hours or send us a check to leave a deposit; the latter is preferred. If by check, please make out to “Arthur Morris” and mail it to: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us via e-mail: artie or denise.

Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options. You can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to include things such as sudden work or family obligation and even a simple change of mind. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check. Whenever purchasing travel insurance be sure to read the fine print carefully even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.


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14 comments to Priceless Image Perfection? Was I happy choosing the 500 II over the 200-400 with Internal Extender?

  • Jeffrey Friedhoffer

    Looking forward to seeing your pictures from the trip, I really liked this one of the bear and the salmon, definitely should enter it into the BBC and natures best contests

  • Joe Subolefsky

    WoW I come here everyday expecting to see a top notch image but this one is clearly my favorite of the last few months! The exposed teeth and flared out gill plates pulled taut together with the almost matching pink of the fish and bears gums and the curled snout really put it over the top. Outstanding!

  • Therese Scheller

    Holy Moly, that is a fantastic image!

  • Gary Axten

    Great image. Are you not better off entering one that hasn’t been seen by the public before?

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Lady D, Maggi, and both Davids, many tanks. I like it too. a

  • David Peake

    Yep , you should enter that one for sure.
    It’s a cracker.

  • Maggi Fuller

    Absolutely…. go for it. Brilliant photograph.

  • Jerry Murray

    Nice photo. You got the bear’s teeth and paw pads/claws from the front paw and the salmon mouth/gills/red meat all in one photo. Its hard to get all that into 1 photo! Bears will typically pull the skin off towards the tail, so it is really a special photo to get that salmon head with so much detail.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. For whatever reason on this trip, they were mostly biting off the tails and the rear ends of the salmon…. The fish were pretty spent…. a

  • Max Warner

    The ” expand” function at f 8 works on 5D Mk III and I Dx, but how about 7D II and 1 D IV?

  • David Policansky

    Artie: That is an amazing image. Of course you should enter it. Now, you and I both know that the judging of photo competitions is very shall we say idiosyncratic, and we also both know that other people will enter amazing images as well. But for sure your image is strong enough to be a worthy contender. Go for it, and let us know how you fare.