July 27th, 2013


  • Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens with Internal 1.4x Extender
  • Galapagos Photo-Cruise Report
  • Bucket List: the July 2015 Galapagos Photo-Cruise
  • The BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Contest
  • Fractastic
  • Affiliate Links
  • Used Camera Gear
  • IPT Info

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This image of a preening white morph Red-footed Booby at the height of breeding plumage was created on our afternoon landing at Prince Philips Steps, Tower Island with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (with the internal TC in place), the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter) (at 700mm), and the Canon EOS-1D X). ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/9).

Central sensor/AI Servo-Expand/Rear Focus AF on the center of the bird’s white neck active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Here I was trying to create tight head portraits at 784mm. Having the ability to zoom out a bit here to achieve perfect framing for this preening image saved the day. Note also the perfect head angle with the bird’s face perfectly square to the back of the camera.

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens with Internal 1.4x Extender

I had thought before the trip that I would use the new lens just a bit and that I would do fairly well with it. I was wrong on both counts. After the first day I so quickly fell in love with the lens that I used it almost exclusively for the next 14 days. And I created many dozens of family-jewel type images.

When I decided to bring the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens with Internal 1.4x Extender as my only big lens on our morning landing at Darwin Bay, it was with some trepidation; I had only used the lens very briefly at home in Florida before heading to the Galapagos. My two main concerns were lens handling and maximum reach. While I initially wished for a faster zoom ratio speed (more zoom with less twist of the zoom ring), I quickly learned to a: place my left hand on the zoom ring and b: anticipate and zoom to the approximate focal length that I wanted as I raised the lens.

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This displaying Blue-footed Booby image was created with the hand held Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (at 274mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X). ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop as framed: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF on the bird’s chin active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Being able to slide the TC lever so quickly and easily to get from 280-560 back to 200-400 makes working with this lens a dream. For this one I was able to get a bit greedy and still avoid clipping either wingtip. Note the 274mm focal length and the incredible sharpness at the wide open aperture here.

I did a good deal of photography with the lens as is (200-400mm) and lots with the internal 1.4X in place (280-560mm). There are several advantages to the internal TC: at about 1 second, set up is nearly instantaneous. For really skilled folks who store their TCs in a pocket without the front and rear caps, adding or removing an external TC might take as little as 10 seconds. Otherwise 30 to 60 seconds or even well more would be the norm for most. You can add another 10 seconds or so for those who turn the camera off and on to prevent dust from entering the system. With the internal TC dust is of no concern at all. After working with the lens for an hour or two, sliding the lever down to engage the internal TC became second nature. Additionally, there is no need to re-balance the lens in the clamp with the internal TC as there is when mounting an external TC.

In short, I quickly became familiar with all aspects of handling my new zoom lens.

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This image of two very young Blue-footed Booby chicks in the nest was on Isla Lobos with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (with the internal TC in place at 540mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X). ISO 400. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/320 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF on the left hand chicks forehead active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Notice the versatility: hand held and tripod-mounted, with and without the internal TC in place, and with both the internal and an external 1.4X combined; 200-784 all razor sharp is the bomb.

The next logical step was to add an external TC to the set-up with the internal TC in place as I did with the opening image here. This yielded a 392-784mm zoom range that was adequate for a great variety of shooting situations with the tame birds and wildlife of the Galapagos archipelago. Two of the four images in this blog post were created with the internal TC in place and an external 1.4X TC added to the mix. Having a focal length range of 200-784mm with a single lens is quite remarkable. Add in the incredible sharpness and 4-stop image stabilization and you have quite an amazing package.

Yikes. I almost forgot to mention that it is a killer flight lens. Though heavier than the 500 II and only a bit lighter than the 600 II (see here for complete details) the lens is much easier to hand hold than either because of its smaller size, its perfect balance, and its compactness. Being able to zoom in just a bit tighter or to zoom out as a bird flies towards you while at the same time offering 560mm of reach with the internal TC in place are all huge pluses for flight photography. And all of those factors double in importance when photographing action and behavior. Do understand that the weight of the lens may preclude hand holding it for lengthy shooting sessions for lots of folks (including me). At 7.98 pounds, it will always be easier to flight with a wide variety of intermediate telephoto lenses including both fixed lenses like the 300 f/2.8 L IS (5.19 pounds) or the 100-400 (3.04 pounds). See here for complete details and here for info on hand holdable Canon telephoto lenses.

There has already been lots of info on and images made with this great new lens on the blog and and you can expect lots more of both there over the next few months. I am so nuts about the 2-4 that I brought it with me to Long Island for the Nickerson Beach IPT and absolutely cannot wait to get it to Africa this coming August.

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This frigatebird flight shot was created with the hand held Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (with the internal TC in place at 420mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X). ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2 stops off the light grey sky: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF just above and to the right of the bird’s head active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Simply put, the new Canon 200-400 is a great flight photography lens.

Galapagos Photo-Cruise Report

Photographically, every thing on the 2013 Galapagos Photo-Cruise was just perfect. The birds, the iguanas, the sea lions, the colorful Sally Lightfoot Crabs, and the tortoises were all plentiful and as expected, ridiculously tame. And we enjoyed pretty much perfect weather as well. Cloudy-bright was the rule as is usual for the July/August time period. Our morning photo sessions averaged 5+ hours as we were ale to take advantage of the soft light. We enjoyed some fine snorkeling and the food was even better than the photographic conditions.

Our naturalist/guide came up with a new tortoise spot that was simply amazing: tame Galapagos Tortoises in a pond covered with a bloom of pink ferns. We got to visit the spectacular Tower Island twice and we made another schedule change that gave us an additional morning of tortoises and Darwin’s Finches.

Our only bit of bad luck was that we could not safely make the landing at Urbina Bay with all of our photo gear because of the large swells. So we missed out on the biggest, yellowest Land Iguanas and some very fine Darwin’s Finches photography. It was the first missed landing for me in eight photo-cruises.

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This immature Medium Ground Finch image was created on Puerto Ayora with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X Digital SLR Camera (Body Only). ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/125 sec. at f/9 in Manual Mode.

Central sensor Expand (by necessity)/AI Servo/Rear Focus on the bird’s eye upper breast active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Several of the more serious photographers on the trip really wanted to get to photograph some Darwin’s Finches. I rearranged the itinerary, hired a bus for the full day at my expense, and put the group right on the birds. We often had more than one bird on a perch at a time.

Bucket List: the July 2015 Galapagos Photo-Cruise

If visiting the Galapagos is on your bucket list and you are a happy camper who is serious about joining us on our July 2015 trip, please shoot me an e-mail and ask to be placed on the interested list. There simply is no better Galapagos Photo Tour. There is lots of interest so far with many folks wish that we were going in 2014….

The BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Contest

Arrangements for the BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Contest are going smoothly. The entry fee will be $25 for every ten images and you can enter as often as you like. B&H will be again be the major sponsor. You can earn free contest entries by making B&H purchases as long as you use one of our affiliate links. You will receive a single free contest entry with a purchase of $1,000 or more. Purchases of $3,000 or more will be good for two contest entries, of $5,000 or more for three entries, and of $10,000 of more for five competition entries. You can begin making your purchases now so long as you save your e-mail receipts. Additional details will follow. You can also start gathering your best images now. You can use one of the many product specific links in the Bulletins or on the blog or you can start your search by clicking here.

Warning 🙂

If you purchase a $13,000 lens and a $7,000 camera but do not use one of our B&H links you will not, no matter how much you beg and cry, receive any free contest entries.


1-Bird Portraits (whole bird or tight including body parts)
3-Small in the frame/Environmental
4-Pleasing Blurs
5-Action & Behavior
6-Hand of Man (the composition may include man-made elements) & Captive (including zoos and rehab birds)
7-Digital Creations (anything goes including the use of filters and effects)
8-Youth (high School or younger)

The image upload period will begin on September 1, 2013 and end on December 31, 2013. All images must of course feature a bird or birds in the frame. Once again our digital guidelines will be the least restrictive of those for any major contest. We will continue to require that RAW files be submitted for winning and honored images.

The complete list of sponsors and the prize pool will be announced in late August. There will be prizes awarded for 1st place, runner-up, and honorable mention in each category. The photographer whose image garners the most votes will be named the Bird Photographer of the Year and be awarded the Grand Prize. A change from last year is that the grand prize image will not also be awarded first place in a category.

Here are some prize teasers: the Grand Prize pool, which will go to the Bird Photographer of the Year, will be a check for $500 US and a $500 B&H gift card. LensCoat, Delkin, and Nature Photographer magazine will again be major sponsors. Those four will be providing across the board gift certificates to all winning, runner up, and honored images. Category winning prizes will include a Think Tank Airport International TM V2.0 rolling bag and a basic Xtrahand Magnum vest.

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Fractastic is the latest in a long line of eGuides published by BAA Books. Kudos to Andrew and denise.


A Creative User Guide for the Redfield Fractalius Filter

BAA is proud to announce–at long last–the recent publication of Fractastic, a creative user guide for the Redfield Fractalius filter. Fractalius is a Windows Photoshop plug-in. Mac folks will need to run Bootcamp, Parallels, or VM Ware to use Fractalius; they can learn more here. It is hard to describe what Fractalius actually does to an image but this is how the Redfield Company explains it: the Fractalius plug-in creates unusual, eccentric artworks in a single step. The effects are based on the extraction of the so-called hidden fractal texture of an image. You can also simulate various types of exotic lighting and high-realistic pencil sketches. Each individual image will react differently to the filter, so exact results are not guaranteed.

Denise Ippolito gave Fracting a huge boost in popularity about three years ago as moderator of the Out-of-the-Box Forum at BirdPhotographers.Net. One of those whom she introduced to Fractalius was Andrew Mclachlan who since wrote the popular “Ontario Landscapes – A Photographers Guide” for BAA Books. Denise came up with the idea of teaming up with Andrew to write and illustrate a Fract eGuide more than a year ago. The spectacular result: Fractastic.

In this fantastic eGuide the authors begin by explaining the usually mystifying Fractalius interface in clear, easy-to-understand terms. They even managed to make sense of the Colorize Mode button and the two large Asterisks at the top of the interface. The main body of the guide consists of more than two dozen intriguingly beautiful Fracted images with explanatory notes and screen captures of the settings that Andrew and Denise used to create their artistic works. You can use these settings to replicate the various effects that they have developed. Many of their creations are based on Fractalius pre-sets. The guide will teach you how to effectively apply many of the Fractalius pre-sets and how to create and save your own. The final section is an inspirational gallery of more than 35 superb Fracted images by Andrew, Denise, yours truly, and Cheryl Slechta who helped with the final proofreading.

You can purchase your copy of Fractastic for only $27 by clicking here, sending a Paypal for @$27 to us via e-mail being sure to note that you are paying for “Fractastic,”or by calling Jim at BIRDS AS ART at 863-692-0906 during regular business hours. A download link to Your eGuide will be sent via YouSendIt. Weekend and holiday orders will be fulfilled the next working day.

To purchase Fractalius, the plug-in program, please click here.

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Woodland Fract, Ontario. Image courtesy of and copyright 2013: Andrew Mclachlan

How Cool?

For whatever reason, oval shapes look great in images created with fish eye and widea angle lenses. Andrew, the author of “A Photographer’s Guide to the Ontario Landscape,” is currently working on an frog photography eGuide for BAA Books.

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Road, Puerto Ayora, Galapagos. Image courtesy of and copyright 2013: Denise Ippolito.

Seeing the Shot

On the bus on the way out of a great new tortoise spot, Denise said, “Oh, I wish we could stop here to photograph the road.” As fate would have it, we were able to re-visit the same site the next day; on the way out, we stopped.

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Great Frigatebird Fract, Tower Island, Galapagos. Image copyright 2013: Arthur Morris

Glow 100

I’ve got to admit, I am a big Glow 100 fan. Here I ran the Glow 100 Fract at 100%, added a Regular Layer Mask and revealed the eye, and then lightened the face with a Tim Grey Dodge and Burn. All as detailed in Digital Basics. Digital Basics is an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete digital workflow, dozens of great Photoshop tips including Digital Eye Doctor techniques, several different ways of expanding canvas, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, Quick Masking, Layer Masking and NIK Color Efex Pro basics, creating and using time-saving Actions, and tons more.

Affiliate Links

Support the BAA Blog. Support the BAA Bulletins: Shop B&H here!

Regular readers well know that I spend an inordinate amount of time each week preparing blog posts and the BAA Online Bulletins in order to bring you the latest free information, photography and Photoshop lessons, and all manner of related information and to share with you my favorite new images. I have long resisted efforts to charge a fee for each. Please Show your appreciation by making your purchases immediately after clicking on any of our B&H or Amazon Affiliate links below or on the product-specifics links in each post. in this blog post. Both B&H and Amazon offer world class service and the lowest prices you will find anywhere. And using one of our links will not cost you a penny more. When shopping at B&H be sure to place an item in your cart to see the often too-low-to show actual price. In many cases B&H is forbidden by the manufacturer from publicizing their lowest price!

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Used Camera Gear

Rich Wear

Rich is offering a Gitzo 1548 CF tripod and a Wimberly V2 Head, both in very good condition for $850. Pictures of these items are available upon request via e-mail. You can reach Rich via e-mail or by phone at 780-690-8868.

Walt Novinger

Walt is offering a used Sigma 300-800 f/5.6 EX DG APO IF HSM Autofocus Lens for Canon EOS, aka The Sigmonster in like-new condition. Used only 4-5 times: $6,000. The sale includes the original shipping box and the original soft lens case. Includes shipping in the continental US. You can call Walt at 1-442.222.4081 or by e-mail. James Shadle used the Nikon mount version of this lens to create many great images. Strong folks can save a bundle as this is a steal at $2,000 below list.


On all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or leave a comment regarding any typos, wrong words, misspellings, omissions, or grammatical errors. Just be right. 🙂

IPT Info

There is lots of room on the Bosque IPT and on the Holland tulip trip. Complete details on the late January/early February 2013 Florida Composite IPT will be announced in the next BAA Bulletin. It will give a select few folks the opportunity to spend 10 days with Denise Ippolito and me and will give lots of others a chance to get a taste of a shorter IPT with two great leaders at an attractive price. For complete IPT info, please click here.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sales value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders 🙂 And you will love them in mega-cold weather….
Gitzo GT3532 LS CF Tripod. This one replaces the GT3530LS Tripod and will last you a lifetime. Learn more about this great tripod here.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
BreezeBrowser. I do not see how any digital photographer can exist without this program.
Delkin Flash Cards. I use and depend on Delkin compact Flash Cards and card readers most every day. Learn more about their great 700X and 1000X cards here or about my favorite Delkin card here.

3 comments to BIRDS AS ART BULLETIN #445

  • I’ve won a salami? Great news – I’ve always wanted my own salami!

    And I never look into the mouth of a gift-horse. Never. Not I. I’m not the kind of person that constantly complains. You’ll never hear of my profound discontent. I just don’t hold a grudge. No. I’ll maintain a stony silence about your questionable business practices and the suspect methodologies by which you’ve conducted your silly salami contest. I’ll be as close-mouthed as these circumstances suggest, during my several upcoming interviews on national television.

    There is one little thing though. I must insist that my salami be very soft, with no discernible darkening around the edges. I do not accept hard salamis. The last salami I won in a photography contest was virtually inedible.

    To put the matter into words you might better understand, I want a mid-toned salami, not one of those -2 or -3 stop salamis you see hanging at the local deli.

    Moreover, if my salami were presented with 2 slices of fresh rye, a dollup of mustard, and an old but firm dill, you might entice me into eating instead of kvetching.

    -al h

  • Re: Invited comment on – 1 1/3 stops compensation on bird image.

    My guess: The average tonality of the frame area is darker than mid-toned. The manual metering would recommend an exposure that would raise that average up toward mid-tonality. The increased exposure would result in a brighter-than-proper rendition of the darker areas, and a possibly-excessive brightening of the highlights – perhaps even destructively. Hence the -1.33 stop compensation.

    Ok, do I win first prize or just one more dunce cap?

    Was it a trick question?

    Now you’ve made me nervous!

    I’m going to lunch.

    -al h

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      First prize. Too much black lightens the image and you will burn the whites for sure. Enjoy the salami!