Two months ago, new owner
John Storrie agreed to customize a Magnum vest to
my specifications. John Stanford graciously
returned to the shop to make sure that everything
was perfect. The new vest would incorporate a
number of features that I suggested to eliminate
the very few problems that I had had with my
original vest. The result is the BIRDS AS ART/Big
Lens XtraHand Vest. Here are the changes that were
Copyright Benjamin R. Miller
The rear pocket of the "Big
Lens" vest is so large that you can put your shoes
in it if you need to! Note all the bulging vest
1-Zippers were added to the
upper front pockets so that small items would not
fall out inadvertently, and important items like
exposed film would stay put.
2-Both lower pockets were
super-sized to provide maximum stowage space. (On
the standard Magnum only one of these pockets is
super-sized; the other is large.)
3-Again, to prevent
inadvertent opening, the closures on both of the
front pockets were improved dramatically as
a-A second strip of Velcro was added, and both
strips were extended around the sides
of the pockets.
covers were re-designed so that the covers are
squared-off and completely overlapping.
c-A snap-shut strap was
added so that the pockets would never
open during transport (as long as the straps are
roll-up seat was re-done so that it is truly
waterproof. Now I can keep my butt dry when
sitting on wet sand or mud.
red handle was added so that I know
exactly where to grab the vest when picking it up.
padding was added to the shoulders so that
carrying those 12+ pound lenses would become
slightly more bearable.
I use my BIRDS AS ART/Big Lens XtraHand Vest:
Upper Left Front Pocket: Blower brush, absorbent
cotton and PEC*PADS, Lens Clens or Eclipse Optical
Cleaning Solution, extra double bubble, exposed
Behind Small Upper Left Front Pocket: Sun block
Upper Right Front Pocket: Small Parts Tool Kit,
Extra nickel metal-hydride rechargeable battery
pack for EOS 1v, three AA Lithium batteries for
flash head, exposed film.
Behind Small Upper Right Front Pocket: Sharpie
Marking pen and more sun block.
Lower Left Pocket: 10-15 rolls of Provia F 100
and the Canon 1.4X TC II. (The TC is transferred
to the space behind the large pocket for easier
access when working.)
Zippered Pocket below Large Lower Left Pocket: Two
25mm and one 12 mm extension tubes stacked.
Columbine. Copyright Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART.
Canon 600mm f/L lens and three extension tubes
easily accessible in the "Big Lens" vest.
Lower Right Pocket: 10-15 rolls of Velvia and the
Canon 2X TC II. (The TC is transferred to the
space behind the large pocket for easier access
Zippered Pocket below Large Lower Right Pocket:
Two rolls of Provia F 400. (Remember to take all
film out of your vest if it will be in your
checked luggage for air travel.
rear storage pouch: Walt Anderson Panning Ground
Pod, whisk broom, duct tape, 6 large heavy duty
plastic garbage bags with draw strings (in case of
rain), a Totes umbrella, and bottled water. There
is still lots of room for an extra sweatshirt or
set of rain gear.
Osprey. Copyright 2000 Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS
ART. 600mm f/4L IS lens, 2XII TC, EOS 1v body.
With my "Big Lens" vest, accessories are just a
FIELD TEST. I received my newly re-designed
vest in time for my trip to St. Paul Island in
Alaska’s Pribilofs. The vest passed with flying
colors—actually, gray was my choice for this
one. The improvements that were suggested to
keep the lower front pockets closed without any
extra effort worked perfectly. Just push the
pocket flap down gently and those suckers will
stay shut. Period. And the zippers on the
smaller upper pockets worked perfectly even in the
wet weather of the Pribs. I should mention that
with the mesh construction the XtraHand vests dry
very quickly even when they encounter a drenching
rain or get set down in grass saturated with early
absolutely love the re-designed shoulder pads.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the Canon 600 IS was not
rendered weightless, mind you, but the pads eased
the strain of carrying the lens considerably. The
pads are perfectly placed and angled so that the
lens rests squarely on them when you hoist your
rig onto your shoulder, and they are thick enough
to make a difference, yet not so thick as to be
cumbersome. Photographer/friend/health advisor
Cliff Oliver states that photographers carrying
large tripod-mounted telephoto lenses on their
shoulders should alternate shoulders every few
hundred yards to avoid a multitude of possible
problems… This is easier said then done,
especially when you have been carrying your rig on
the same shoulder for nearly two decades!
you John, and thank you John!
BIRDS AS ART/Big Lens XtraHand Vest is priced at
$349.95 plus shipping. (BIRDS AS ART is not
involved in the production or sale of any X-tra
Hand vests.) For additional details, or to order
your own XtraHand Vest, visit:
prefer, you can call John Storrie at 940-484-2222,
or e-mail him at
And please tell them that I sent you.
Merritt Island NWR
further notice, most areas of Merritt Island
National Wildlife Refuge (including Black Point
Wildlife Drive) are open only from 10 am until 6
pm daily. The new restrictive hours are in
effect because of heightened security at the
nearby Kennedy Space Center. While I am perfectly
willing to arrive three hours early for a flight,
I simply do not understand these restrictions:
terrorists shall be allowed on the refuge from
10am till 6pm but not when the light is good? It
seems as if this is just another case of locking
the barn after all the horses have escaped...