Is the combination of the Canon 600 IS II and the 2x extender viable for birds in flight photography? For the longest time I stirred away from the combination as it was only possible to keep the auto-focus on the central point on past body generations. In addition to the fact that I found the focus acquisition speed to be sharply less than with the 600mm + 1.4x extender. With the new Canon 1dx Mark II allowing for auto-focus on all focus points at f/8, I recently re-discovered the possibility during the February Florida Spoonbill tour.
The Spoonbill above is on its downward trajectory from the top of the mangrove trees to land on the beach. I really like the “C” shape of the wings with a nice overview over the wing tops. It reminds me of many of the Bald Eagle images I created last year in Alaska… For some reason, I went back to try the 600mm+2x extender combo during the last Spoonbill tour and the results took my breath away! First off, the focus acquisition is very fast thanks to the superior 1DX mark II pro body. Second, it is quite enjoyable to being able to move the focus points around. Note that I typically have the focus point surround selected and placed one spot up from the center when I am photographing landing birds. This is a good way to ensure you keep enough space in front of the flight direction of the bird. And third, the image quality remains very good with sufficient light.
Note how I do not hesitate to push the ISO pretty high in order to completely freeze the action. This is possible, thanks to shooting with a high end full frame, but not only. You will additionally minimize the high ISO noise with proper post processing technique. Shooting at an effective range of 1,200mm brings lots of reach, but it is true that it becomes harder to have the bird in the frame from such a long distance. Unfortunately, only practice makes perfect when it comes to quickly framing the bird from a long distance.
The image above was created towards the end of the morning shoot. The last key point when it comes to create bird in flight images with the 600mm + 2x extender combo is to use a sturdy tripod with a very fluid gimbal head. Jobu Design has done an excellent job for me across the years!
Also, I would like to thank everybody who voted for “Reach For The Sky”, one of the People’s Choice Award nominees at the recent BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. I regret to announce that the image did not make it to the top three. It was quite a nice run nonetheless!! 🙂
2018 Florida Spoonbills photography tour testimonials
“Thank you, Steven, for a wonderful experience. Your talent for teaching is almost as good as your spectacular photography. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with you and the birds. You made our first experience in shooting birds fun, exciting, and even successful! We’ll be back at our first opportunity.” — Nancylee M.
“Wanted to let you know how glad I am that I took your Spoonbill Workshop! Everything was so well organized. It was so nice that you spent time with everyone on the tour. The lunchtime editing was an eye opener. Can’t say enough about you and your first rate boat captain. I look forward to my next trip with you!” — Lynn L.
“I attended the spoonbill workshop and it was an incredible experience. You have multiple opportunities to photography this gorgeous bird. If you are thinking about taking this workshop, don’t hesitate you will not be sorry.” — Debra L.
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