Wet Sand — A Bird Photographer’s Best Friend. And Working Wide with the Nikon 200-500 & the AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Wet Sand -- A Bird Photographer's Best Friend. And Working Wide with the Nikon 200-500 & the AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III


Amy and I were down at the lake on Friday and Saturday mornings. Both days, one of the crane parents was sitting peacefully on the shored up nest so we went off in search of some Osprey flight photography and did quite well. The 200-500 is great for the flying and landing Ospreys. While it is easier for me to hand hold the 80-400mm VR Lens than it is to hand hold the 200-500, I enjoy the extra 100mm of reach with the 2-5. Amy uses her 2-5 with her D-500. I use my D850 and on occasion, my D5. You can see some of Amy’s fine Osprey images here.

Though things are not 100% perfect yet, most folks should be able to access the blog today …

These Just In: Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR Lens and Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens Available!

Both the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR Lens an the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR are difficult items to find. Most folks have to wait months to purchase. If you would like to save a few bucks, please contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) immediately and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order.


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

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They went out of business. And e-Bay fees are now up to 13%. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please scroll down here or shoot us an e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly — I offer pricing advice to those who agree to the terms — usually sells in no time flat. Over the past year, we have sold many dozens of items. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 100-400, the old 500mm, the EOS-7D and 7D Mark II and the original 400mm DO lens have been dropping steadily. You can always see the current listings by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange-yellow menu bar near the top of each blog post page.

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. Patrick Sparkman saved $350 on a recent purchase!


Several folks on the DeSoto IPT used the Booking.Com link below, got great rates, and saved 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.

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.

The San Diego Site Guide

Whether you are visiting San Diego for photography for the first time or live in the area and have done the pelicans many dozens of times, you will learn a ton by studying the San Diego Site Guide. Why spend days stumbling around when you can know exactly where and when to be depending on the wind direction and sky conditions? In addition to the pelican primer, there is great info on the best beaches for the gorgeous gulls and Marbled Godwits, on the lower cliffs and the Green Patch, Lesser Scaup, and Wood and Ring-necked Ducks as well.

Learn more or purchase your copy here.

This image was created on January 29, 2018 on the second San Diego IPT with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens, the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, and the Nikon D850. ISO 800. Matrix metering +1/3 stop; 1/400 sec. at f/9 in Manual mode. AUTO0 WB at 4:26pm on what turned out to be a clear afternoon.

One down and one to the right Group (grp)/Shutter Button/Continuous (AI Servo in Canon) AF was active at the moment of exposure. The array was centered on the Godwit’s body.

Phase detection AF Fine-tune value: -8.

Marbled Godwit on wet sand

Wet Sand — A Bird Photographer’s Best Friend

Whenever you are at the beach with a telephoto lens, be on the lookout for patches of wet sand left by receding waves. These areas can be quite clean and free of shells and other debris and will often reflect colorful backgrounds. One of my favorite San Diego locations offers gorgeous sandstone cliffs that are reflected by the wet sand on sunny afternoons. Along with a bit of blue sky on occasion. Then all you need is a handsome gull, tern, or shorebird and you are good to go.

Working Wide with the Nikon 200-500 & the AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III

While I am usually at the beach with a 600mm lens on a tripod with a fanny pack full of teleconverters, I do on occasion like to head out with a shorter telephoto lens like the Nikon 200-500VR or the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens or in my past life, with the or the Canon EF 400mm DO IS II, almost always with a 1.4X teleconverter in my pocket or attached to the lens. In any case, when I am lacking my favorite ultra-long effective focal lengths it offers an opportunity to work wider and include more attractive habitat.

The 2-5 with the TC-E14 is surprisingly sharp. The one drawback with this combination is that AF performance suffers as you move the selected AF point toward the edges of the array. I have even made a few good flight images with the1.4X TC and the 2-5.

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.

2019 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) SUN JAN 20, 2019 thru and including the morning session on THURS JAN 24: 4 1/2 days: $2099.

(Limit: 10/Openings: 9.)

Introductory Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; SAT JAN 19, 2019.

Please see the Dancing Grebe Morning Add-On Info below

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 will 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. An 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.


This image was created in San Diego, CA with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the simply amazing, astounding, mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 500. Evaluative metering -2/3 stop: 1/2500 sec. at f/6.3 in Av mode. AWB.

61-Point (Automatic selection)/AI Servo/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when photographing moving subjects). Though the optimized image above was a healthy crop from the original the result was a high quality 148+ MB 16-bit file. Click on the image to see a larger version. The AF system selected two AF points, one above the other, between the two birds;the eye of the bird on our right is razor sharp.

Clarke’s X Western Grebe courtship rush

The Dancing Grebe Add-On. FRI JAN 25, 2019: $399.

Those registering for the 2019 San Diego IPT might wish to join me for the Dancing Grebe Add-On Morning as above. Please read the details carefully. You will need to wade at least mid-thigh deep with your tripod over an uneven bottom. Lightweight chest waders are advised. Long lenses are needed; a 100-400 will not cut it at this spot, even with a TC. Chances at this location (easily accessible from the IPT hotel), vary from day to day so there will be no guarantees. But when those grebes dance, it can be an amazing rush. We may also enjoy chances to photograph both species, Western and Clarke’s Grebes, at fairly close range.

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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.

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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 :).

8 comments to Wet Sand — A Bird Photographer’s Best Friend. And Working Wide with the Nikon 200-500 & the AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III

  • Robert Kaplan

    Have been away for awhile Artie but glad you’re still plugging away. I love my D500 + 200-500 combo. AFtuned it with my 1.4TC II. Needed a +17 adjustment but pretty sharp. But as you said AF speed suffers.

  • Really nice image today! I’ll have to try my 1.4 on my 200-500. I typically only use my TCs on my big prime. Thanks again for all your hard work on this blog.

  • Couldn’t agree with you more, Nikon 200-500mm is really an enthusiast bird photographer’s best friend around. When used with DX format body, the bare lens produces 750mm at the long end. Most of my friends have adopted the combo D500 + AF-S 200-500mm for bird photography.

    Wish Canon had something like that! Hapless guys like me are left with its 400mm or 100-400mm only.

    Thank you for the great post.

  • Sally Foster

    Artie. I have the Nikon 200-500 lens and the teleconverter. Some people were telling me it wouldn’t work well because the images wouldn’t be as sharp. I use the teleconverter on the 70-200m lens and it works well there. What have you found?
    Sally Foster

  • Hi Artie

    Both images our to my liking, but the Grebes displaying just wonderful. In the UK we have
    Great Crested Grebes when displaying they face each other paddling upright, the male offers
    the female a clump of weed its called The Weed Dance, ” Nature is so wonderful” I will send you a Image of them displaying if you like Artie

    Best and love


  • Tony Z

    Love both images, Artie.

  • I really like the Marbled Godwit image. It is one of the best I have seen.


    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Many tanks. I am all micro-adjusted and ready for Norway!

      with love, artie

      ps: Thanks for all of your Nikon help.