January 11th, 2011

BAA Bulletin 355, Jan 11th 2011



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American Bittern in snowy marsh, Westhampton Beach, Long Island, NY
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1600 sec. at f/7.1 set manually.

Thanks a stack to Mike Lotito for calling me on my cell to alert me to the presence of this great bird Smile emoticon From my rental car with the lens on the BLUBB.


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Thanks to the brilliant Michael Tapes of both the Lens Align MII and this product shot.

As far back as Bosque my sharp images got even sharper…. With help from Peter Kes I began fine tuning the focus on my various lens/camera body combinations by calibrating the focus using the Lens Align Pro. Just yesterday I tried out the new Lens Align Mark II, cheaper, lighter, easy to travel with, and yes, better. If you have spent thousands on a super-telephoto lens it would seem foolish not to ensure the absolute best results.

Here is an adapted excerpt from today’s blog post: The Lens Align Mk II & the Lens Align Tutorial: Micro-adjusting Magic!

Ever since the introduction of digital camera bodies that feature micro-adjustments for individual lenses, folks–including me–have been searching for a quick, easy way to make those micro-adjustments. In the recent updates of the 7D and the Mark IV User’s Guides, I worked hard on developing a make-it-yourself cardboard rig that was a big improvement on the original version. But in reality, it does not offer the needed precision. And in addition to the extremely low cost, the rig took up lots of space–heck, it was huge, and using it was tedious work.

I had heard about Lens Align for some time, but a quick web check revealed that it was expensive. And performing the calibrations seemed to require somewhat of an extraordinary effort…. Well, Michael Tapes, the designer/creator/inventor of Lens Align has–with the recent introduction of the Lens Align MkII–drastically changed the playing field And by tethering your camera to a laptop computer the process itself is now not only simple and easy to do, but it is actually fun. Before I headed to New York I had a blast micro-adjusting all of my lenses. For the first few sessions Peter Kes was tutoring me via Skype!

I began writing this draft about two weeks ago after having used the original Lens Align Pro to do my initial micro-adjustments. On the afternoon of Monday, January 10, 2011, I broke open a Lens Align Mark II. As I took the pieces out of their plastic bags my original thoughts were “$79 for this flimsy set-up.” But I faithfully followed the directions and within minutes I had assembled a sturdy, jeez, practically rugged little kit that amazed me with its precise design. Michael Tapes should win some sort of Nobel prize for engineering and design ingenuity. Within minutes I had my 800mm rig tethered to the laptop to check on my previous micro-adjustments and to make sure that the tutorial was clearly written, error free, and as clear as the proverbial bell.

The new Lens Align MkII offers an inexpensive, accurate and repeatable methodology that allows photographers to test for potential front/back focus issues. The MkII maintains the high quality standards of the original LensAlign Pro and uses the same patent pending True Parallel Alignment™ (TPA™) Sighting System that is an exclusive feature of all genuine LensAlign products. TPA allows the user to establish exact parallel alignment between the camera’s sensor-plane and the focus target of LensAlign quickly and easily. A failure of almost all other AF adjustment products and procedures (including my incredibly crude efforts in the two most recent User’s Guide Updates) is their inability to ensure exact parallel alignment. It is however, an absolute requirement for accurate and repeatable AF testing and and for making accurate and repeatable micro-adjustments. The standard DOF focus display ruler that ships with LensAlign MkII is 10.5 inches and offers a choice of 2 different display patterns, one on each side.

And here’s the very best news: the Lens Align MkII costs only a fraction of the original Lens Align Pro and–with the slightly longer ruler, and the new ruler patterns, it performs even better. You can order yours right now for only $79.95 plus shipping: ~$6/US or ~$13/INT via Priority Mail. Please be aware that the shipping fees may vary a bit depending on your location or when you order through the BAA On-Line Store. International shipping charges will also vary by country depending on additional fees for customs, VAT, duties, or fees depending on their laws, rules or policies.

Folks ordering before January 15, 2011 will receive a free WhiBal G7 KeyChain Card. The WhiBal KeyChain Card sells for $18.95. (It won’t do much good for telephoto photography but heck, it’s free.)

You can find the complete tutorial here.

This blog post will be a continuing resource and will be updated as questions come in and are answered.

Thanks a stack to Peter Kes for helping me to get started with Lens Align. Thanks to former BPN member Arash Hazeghi for inspiring me to do this right and to teach others to do it properly. And finally thanks to Michael Tapes for Lens Align MKII.

I fully expect our stock of Lens Align Mark IIs to disappear almost instantly. If we are out of stock when you call please give us a day or two to get our next order :).

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American Bittern, close-up of neck feathers, Westhampton Beach, Long Island, NY
Image copyright 2011: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/11.

Notice that with the subject at point blank range I stopped down considerably as depth-of-field at a given aperture is reduced as the distance to the subject is reduced. Again from my rental car with the lens on the BLUBB.


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Though I lived in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area for nearly two decades as a birder and bird photographer (and for 46 years in all), I never made it to the famed Barnegat Jetty until last December (2009). Why famous? It is the best place in the Northeast to view and photograph a variety of sea ducks and wintering shorebirds most noticeably Harlequin Duck and Purple Sandpiper. When I got there, a 26″ snow storm sent me running back to my Mom’s home in Holbrook, Long Island, leaving the motel in Ship Bottom at 3am to drive through the storm. Yikes! I returned a week later and with Denise Ippolito as my guide created many wonderful images. The jetty is very long. And can be very dangerous. Denise, who spends many days each winter season on the jetty, knew right where the birds would be, took me right to them, and gave me more than a few tips on how to avoid killing myself

Denise Ippolito has written a fabulous Site Guide for the Barnegat Jetty. (I helped out just a bit.) The Barnegat Jetty Site Guide will help to ensure that your very first visit to this great bird photography location is both productive and safe. Denise explains the effects of the winds and the tides and the light on the photographic opportunities. She lets you know what birds you will find there and where and when you will find them. She shares her favorite conditions and her tricks for getting close. And she will keep you safe while you are there, the same way she kept me safe. A good portion of the guide deals with safety issues. Kudos to Denise for a job well done.

The Barnegat Site Guide (6190 words, 68 images) is available from BIRDS AS ART by e-mail as a PDF for only $22. You can call Jim with a credit card in hand at 863-221-2372, send us a Paypal to birdsasart@att.net, or purchase it through the store here.

Just for the record book, Barnegat is located on Long Beach Island less than 30 minutes from Manahawkin, NJ.

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Long-tailed Duck, alert swimming posture, Barnegat Jetty, NJ
Image copyright 2010: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4XII TC and the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/8.

To find out what caught this sea duck’s attention, check out “Do Birds Understand Death? Two Tales: One Old, One New” on the BAA Blog here. And be sure to read the comments….


Here is the gear that I used to create the images for this Bulletin:

Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens (My very best friend :))
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body (I only own and travel with two.)
Canon EF 1.4X II teleconverter (I never leave home without at least two of these.)

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo 3530 LS Tripod (Sturdy and light and will last you a lifetime.)
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head (I use it every day with my 800mm.)
Double Bubble Spirit Level (Make your life easy by getting it right in the field; just a glance and you are square to the world.)
Delkin e-Film Pro 32 gb Compact Flash Card (Fast and dependable. Everything I want in a flash card.)

If you are considering the purchase of a major piece of photographic gear be it a new camera, a long lens, a tripod or a head, or some accessories be sure to check out our complete Shopper’s Guide. You will learn to find the lowest prices, comparison shop, and help us to keep offering tons of great free info and images.

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