August 17th, 2010

Birds As Art Bulletin #335


  • CANON 400mm f/4 IS DO vs the 500mm f/4L IS DO

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Waved Albatross, courting pair at nest, Punta Suarez, Hood Island, Galapagos
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
The Canon 800mm f/4L IS lens with the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1250 sec. at f/7.1 set manually.

I love trying to create successful juxtaposition images. The cocked head of the o-o-f bird make this one for me.


BirdPhotographers.Net is sporting a new skin (v-Bulletin Version 4.0.4). Check out the new look and the brand new front page here. My article on the 70-200 lenses should by up (with lots of great images) by the time you receive this Bulletin.

Here is some of the latest great stuff:

Head Angle Fine Points: learn the difference between a less than ideal head angle and an award winning head angle here. Be sure to scroll down all the way as there are many photo pairs. Learn as you scroll and then try your hand with the latest offering.

Check out Michael Zajak’s banking juvenile skimmer here in Avian.

Need help with an image? Post it in Eager to Learn.

Check out the winning images in the Out of the Box “Hit me with your best shot” contest here.

To see the world’s longest avian eye lashes take a peek at Hendri Venter’s Southern Ground Hornbill post.

There is tons of great learning going on at Deborah Harrison’s African Sunset post in the Wildlife Forum.

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Semipalmated Sandpiper, worn adult, Pike’s Beach, Westhampton Beach, Long Island, NY
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/4L IS lens with 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 640. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/320 sec. at f/8 set manually.

I created the image above from the image below. I placed the blue crab craw in what I thought was the ideal position in relation to the horseshoe crab egg nest that the birds were digging up but as you can see below, I failed. In the original below both the bird and the claw are in the center of the frame destroying the compositional balance.

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After doing some beach clean-up work I created Quick Masks of both the claw and the bird. I moved each out of the center of the frame to create a pleasingly balanced image. For the Quick Masking and Layer Masking work I used a variety of techniques from Robert O’Toole’s APTATS I and from APTATS II. All of the techniques used for the beach clean-up are described in detail in Digital Basics.)


Gustafson Photo Safari 15 day safari Tanzania Safari 2011
Dates: January 28, 2011 Leaving US/February 12 Returning $11,999 double occupancy

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Gustafson Photo Safari 10 day Migration Safari
Leaving US: February 1, 2011/Returning: February 12 $7,999 double occupancy

Over the years Gustafson Photo Safari has had requests for a shorter safari; a version that fits people’s increasingly busy schedules. We are listening to you!

Following the proven model of our classic 15 day safari GPS is now offering the “Migration Safari”. We have carefully selected 10 days that exemplify what an East African photo safari should be. These days coincide seamlessly with the full length Migration Safari. Fewer days doesn’t translate into fewer photo opportunities! The locations and timing were specifically chosen to minimize travel, thereby maximizing photography time in the field and relaxing time at the beautiful lodges.

Those who choose this safari will transfer directly from Arusha to Ndutu center of the Great Migration’s birthing season. Photo ops abound as we spend 6 nights at the classic Ndutu Lodge. From Ndutu we transfer to Ngorongoro Crater, one of Africa ’s premier game parks and a World Heritage Site. Experience 10 days of action packed safari photography in the most dramatic locations at the exact right time of year for only $7,999 double occupancy.

Request the 17 page full color PDF from

For more info on HD video visit

Todd’s great safari photo guide here: The Photographer’s Guide to the Safari Experience.


I kept a fairly extensive trip journal while cruising on the Beagle. I will be still posting day by day entries for the next month or so. Visit the Galapagos vicariously through my lens by clicking here.

CANON 400mm f/4 IS DO vs the 500mm f/4L IS DO

An e-mail from a subscriber:

Art, I would be grateful if you could help me out on a question I have on two particular Canon Lenses. I have a Sigma 500mm f/4.5 and I am thinking of upgrading to a Canon Lens. The two I have in mind are the 500 f/4L IS and the 400 f/4 IS DO. I know about the difference in the weight of both lenses and the 400 DO, the lighter, one would certainly be beneficial for me but what I am really interested in is the quality of the images. If one created images of the same subject in exactly the same conditions how would the 400 DO with a 1.4 converter compare with the 500 f/4 with regard to the quality of the images? I have seen some shots on your web site taken with the 400 and they are excellent and if in fact they are as good as one would get with the 500 then I cannot see any real benefit in buying the 500, especially when it comes to hand holding and carrying it for long periods of time. I hope that you can help me with this one. Best Regards, Bob

My reply:

Hey Bob, For me, image quality differences for the two prime lenses alone are negligible except possibly when using the 400 DO wide open. In that case at times the noticeable edge goes to the 500. Others would disagree claiming IQ with the 500 far superior. If that were the case I would not be using the 400 DO as much as I do; after all, I create photographs to sell ;). That said your original question is a stacked one: it is not fair to compare lens A with a 1.4X teleconverter to lens B without. Whenever you add a teleconverter to a telephoto lens the images will be about 14% less sharp than images made with the prime lens alone. That said, today’s super-telephoto lenses are so sharp even wide open that 14% less sharp is still critically and professionally sharp.

When comparing images made with the two prime lenses in question it would, in most cases, require a microscopic examination to see an advantage for the 500.

My images with the 400mm f/4 IS DO look (and are) excellent because:

  1. I am a good photographer.
  2. I am good with Photoshop.
  3. The lens is edge to edge sharp (stopped down one stop) with excellent color rendition.

The above are exactly the same reasons that make my images taken with the 500 look excellent 🙂

The big questions involve weight and your style of photography–hand holding vs. tripod.

If you will be hand holding the 400 you will be limited to the 1.4X TC for a max of 560 effective. With the 500, the 2X TC, and a tripod, you are at 1000 effective. This is a huge, huge advantage for the 500mm as the size of the subject in the frame is a function of the square of the focal length: 100 TO 31.36; the 500 used as above will give you an subject more than 300% larger in the frame (at the cost of using both a tripod and excellent sharpness techniques….

Best and later and love and great picture making, artie

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Blue-footed Boobies dancing, North Seymour Island, Galapagos
Image copyright 2010/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS zoom lens (hand held at 108mm) with the EOS-7D. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/640 sec. at f/10 set manually..

Here I went to a smaller than usual aperture in an attempt to render both birds acceptably sharp. This approach worked.


Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge/Nickerson Beach/Shorebird/Nesting Skimmer Photography-Tour (JBWR/NB IPT): August 22-24, 2010

. Slide program on the evening of August 21. 3-DAY: $1399. Limit: 6/Sold Out. Photograph and learn about migrant shorebirds, nesting skimmers, gulls, terns, and more. Three full days of photographic immersion. Please see terms and deposit info below.

BOSQUE del APACHE 2010 IPT: “The Complete Bosque Experience. ”NOV 20-26, 2010

. Slide program on the evening of Friday, NOV 19. 7-FULL DAYS: $3199. (Non-refundable deposit: $500; see details below.) Limit: 10/Openings: 3. Co-leaders: Robert O’Toole, Jim Heupel, and multiple BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year honoree Chris Van Rooyen of South Africa ( Live, eat, and breathe photography with one of (if not the) world’s premier photographic educators at one of his very favorite locations on the planet. Plus great co-leaders and top-notch Photoshop instruction. Please see terms and deposit info below.

SAN DIEGO IPT JAN 19-23, 2011. Slide program on the evening of JAN 18.

5 Full Days: $2399 (Limit 8/Openings 6) Brown Pelicans in spectacular breeding plumage with their bright red bill pouches, Wood and Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Western, California, and Heerman’s Gulls, Marbled Godwit, and lots, lots more. Please see terms and deposit info below.


Slide program on the evening of FEB 17. 6 Full Days: 2899. (Limit 10/Openings 7). Escape winter’s icy grip to enjoy a wide array of Florida’s tame birds: herons, egrets, Wood Stork, shorebirds, gulls, terns, skimmers, raptors, and more. Please see terms and deposit info immediately below:

Terms and deposit info:

A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to hold a spot in the above IPTs. Deposits may be paid by check, PayPal, or credit card. Payment in full (by check or money order only) is due four months before the start of each trip and is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out. You will be required to sign a statement of understanding to this effect. Travel insurance is of course highly recommended. 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 is Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to an infinite list from a sudden work or family obligation to a simple change of mind. My family and I use and depend on the great policies offered by TIS whenever we travel. You can learn more here: Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check or running your credit card. Travel insurance protects you against unexpected developments, injuries, or illnesses. We regret that we must implement this new policy but we have been plagued by last minute cancellations that make it impossible for others to participate and deprive us of essential income.

Important note: please print, fill out, and sign the registration and release forms and include them with your deposit check (made out to “Arthur Morris.” ) If you use a credit card to register, please fill out, sign, and mail the forms asap. Your registration will not be complete until we receive your paper work. You can find the forms here:

2010 & 2011 Galapagos Photo Cruise of a Lifetime IPTs/The Complete Galapagos Photographic Experience

: July 2010 & July 2011: two weeks on the boat (Limits: 12/both sold out).

If you are a happy camper and would like to have your name(s) placed on a waiting list or either the 2010 or 2011 trip or on the seriously interested list for the 2012 trip, please e-mail us at


. March 18-22, 2011 & March 24-28. 5-FULL DAYS: $3249. Limit: 12 (including the leaders/both sold out). Both of these trips sold out with long waiting lists within hours after being announced to the BAA Friends List. The Friends List consists of IPT veterans who fit in the happy camper category. If you have been on an IPT and would like your name added to the BAA Friends List, please e-mail me at and include a short note.

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