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BIRDS AS ART ON-LINE Bulletin #84 July 24, 2002

I first met Uwe Mummenhoff at the NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) Forum in Jacksonville, Florida in January 2002.  Uwe, president of Lowepro, is a sweet bear of a man, and when I asked him if it would be possible for him to send me a Road Runner AW to try out, he graciously agreed to do so.  I have been using flight attendant-type rolling bags to travel by air with super-telephoto lenses for as long as I can remember.  In most cases, I would destroy the typical bag within a year or two, so I have been through quite a few. The zippers on the standard, off-the shelf rolling bad simply cannot stand up to heavy, repeated use that I give them.  And the padding offered in these products is pretty much non-existent.  
Enter the Lowepro Road Runner AW.  This bag is designed as a rolling backpack, but with all the straps and harness removed, it is Lowepro’s largest legal carry-on and that is exactly what attracted me to the product in the first place.  I never take a photo backpack into the field with me, preferring instead to carry a tripod-mounted super-telephoto lens on my shoulder and use my customized X-tra Hand Vest (The Big Lens model) to carry an assortment of lenses, accessories, film, etc. into the field.  The construction on the Road Runner AW is heavy duty and the zippers are the sturdiest that I have come across.  The sidewalls, and the top of the case are all well padded.  The bottom seems pretty much indestructible.  Inside, you will find Lowe-Pro’s padded, Velcroed, customizable dividers. 

Cattle Egret, St. Augustine Alligator Farm IPT    Image Copyright 2002 Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
I rolled everything I needed right onto the breeding swamp boardwalk with the Road Runner AW
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens, 2XII TC, Canon Eos 1v, Fuji Velvia pushed one stop.  Flash as main light with Better Beamer FX-2.

I use only a few of these dividers to section off the big telephoto lens that I am traveling with. Lately, this has usually been the Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens, but the Road Runner AW is large enough for the 600mm f/4 lenses as well.  The rest of my lenses and camera bodies are stowed in woven woolen hats, similar to the watch caps that sailors wear in cold weather.  If I need to travel with both big lenses, the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS lens is either packed in a checked bag wrapped in a heavy bathrobe and additional clothing times (in a hard-sided Delsey case), or mailed or Fed-Xed to the location. 

On my recent Churchill trip I easily packed the following items in the Road Runner AW:  the Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens (without the hood, which was carefully packed in a checked bag after being stuffed with clothing), the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L lens, the Canon 28-135mm IS lens, the Canon 180 macro lens, two EOS 1v bodies, an Elan 7E body, the 1.4X and 2X II teleconverters (stacked together), and three extension tubes (two 25s and a 12, also stacked.)  Several camera body and other manuals, along with some pre-printed Fed-X (and assorted mailing) labels, were placed in the larger storage sleeve on the inside of the top cover, while airline tickets and travel documents were placed in the smaller (upper) one.   Amazing, but true.  And with all that, there was still room for twenty or so rolls of film had I wanted to just “fill in the open spaces.” 

The bag performed admirably, breezing through security and fitting easily into the overhead compartments of the all of the larger commercial jets.   And when the bag needed to be gate-checked on the Calm Air flight into Churchill, I was not nervous at all, secure in the knowledge that the equipment would be well protected by the amply padded Road Runner AW (and my trusty wool hats)!  Once at the motel, I removed my big lens from the Road Runner AW and mounted the lens hood.   The 5 IS was then placed in the Domke Long Lens bag (the old model), where it would remain until it was time to re-pack for the flight home.  (The Domke bag had been placed in a checked bag.)  At many of the locations that I visit, including Churchill, we work out of the trunk of a car or out of the back of a van.  When doing so, I really loved the fact that when I opened the bag, the (inside) cover straps were easily adjusted so that the top of the case tilted back in place while the contents of the case were easily accessible. 

For folks who do carry their gear into the field in large backpack, the Road Runner AW is very much a necessity.  In airports, or when photographing at locations like the St. Augustine Alligator Farm or Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park, the Road Runner AW can be wheeled smoothly along (rather than be carried on one’s back)!  I used the case in this manner on the recent Alligator Farm Instructional Photo-Tour.  When it began to pour, I simply zippered the bag closed and continued to photograph under my new umbrella set-up.  After the downpour, I checked and everything in the Road Runner was bone dry.   The “AW” stands for all weather…

Because it is relatively expensive as a roll-aboard, the decision to invest in a Road Runner AW is a more difficult one for folks who, like me, never strap on a backpack loaded with photography gear. In these instances, many of the features that make this case an excellent backpack will never be utilized.  But do know that the Road Runner AW is the largest, finest legal-sized carry-on available today.   The Lowepro Pro Roller I, which is strictly a roll-aboard, is large enough to take a 500mm f/4 lens, but does not have the additional capacity that I need. 


Me, with Lowepro Road Runner AW in Minneapolis Airport

Image copyright 2002 Linda East/BIRDS AS ART

To check out the specs, or to learn more about the Road Runner AW as a backpack, visit:


For several years, I have enjoyed carrying the 100-400 L IS zoom lens on my shoulder as a handhold-able, auxiliary intermediate telephoto lens.  It makes an adequate flight lens and its versatility is unmatched as it provides an incredible  range of framing options.  For quite some time, however, I have been having some problems with the lens.  Eager to capture a great close range action image,  I would grab the lens off my shoulder and attain focus in an instant.  Problem was, many times, as soon as I depressed the shutter fully, the LCD would black out as the camera and lens lost electrical contact.  The Av symbol would light up reading "00."  Needless to say, this became quite frustrating as the only way to get the lens to function was to un-mount and then re-mount the lens.  After that it would work sometimes...  The problem, which happened sporadically, seemed to occur more when I was using the Elan 7E than one of my EOS 1vs.  I ran my story by Canon technical expert Chuck Westfall some time ago.  He mentioned that the IS system drew quite a bit of current and that that might be the cause of the problem.  I lived with the situation for a while, but recently it became intolerable.

I switched to the older 300mm f/4 L IS lens and really became perturbed when the same thing happened with that lens.  Finally, I resolved to send both lenses to the Canon repair facility in Jamesburg, New Jersey and demand that the problem be resolved.  I tested the lenses on two different camera bodies, and each time I tried to fire the shutter, the LCD would black out.  I don't know why I though of it, but I decided to try fresh batteries in each body.  I put four fresh lithium double-As in the Elan 7 and a freshly charged nickel metal hydride battery (Ni-MH Pack NP-E2) in the 1v.  After that, both lenses performed flawlessly with each camera body as I stood there, chagrinned...


At the recent NECCC Photographic Conference in Amherst, MA, I had the pleasure of attending a slide program entitled "Sojourns in the Wild" that was presented by Gustav Verderber.  I was blown away.  I have seen slide programs by Wolfe, and Lanting, and Mangelsen; Gustav's program, in its entirety, was as good as any that I have seen.  The photography was excellent, especially the incredibly varied close-ups, and the accompanying music, by noted Celtic harpist, William Jackson, was a perfect fit.
Red Chiton    Image Copyright 2002 Gustav Verderber
To see more of Gustav's work, visit:
Many folks recently have been showing up on IPTs with digital cameras, which are fantastic teaching tools.  They offer almost immediate feedback, and, they allow the photographer to check to see that there exposures are right on.  The problem is that I am finding that many simply do not understand what a good histogram should look like.  You do not check exposure by looking at the tiny image on the back of the camera.  You press "INFO" and look at the histogram.  Below--to the best of  my understanding--and thanks mostly to Canon Technical Rep David Carlson, are the basics.  (Note, the directions, while specific to Canon histograms, can be adapted for other brand digital cameras and applied across the board.)  
1-There should be virtually no data in the (fifth) box on the right, the "white" end of the graph, except for possibly a tiny sliver in the first half of that last box.
2-You want the mountain for substantial amounts of whites in the fourth box.
3-You want the mountain for the middle-tones in the middle of the graph,  mostly in the middle box, with some of the middle-darks in the second box.  
4-It is OK for the very darks and the blacks to be in the first box, but ideally, the mountain should not touch the edge of the graph. 
It's that simple.  Whites to the right (but not in the last box), middles in the middle, and darks on the left.   If you have whites in the last box, dial in some minus exposure compensation.  If the mountain for the black data is up against the left edge of the graph, dial in some plus compensation.  If your middle-tones are too far to the right, subtract some light; too far to the left, add some light.  The Pocket Guide to Evaluative Metering, though based on film, will also give digital photographers a good understanding of where to begin with their exposure compensations.  The exposure guide will be more helpful to 1D users than to users of the D-30 or D-60 whose exposure systems are more forgiving than the 1Ds'.  For details on the exposure guide, visit:
Photographers interested in learning the basics of digital versus film image quality will enjoy this link: 
The highly recommended PSK 100 tool kit can now be ordered on-line at: 
For more info on the tool kit, see Bulletin 82 in the (up-to-date) archives at




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