On Episode 102 of The Edge of Innovation, we’re talking with world-renowned bird photographer, Arthur Morris, about his new camera and why he switched from Canon to Nikon to Sony!

Sections

Introduction
Switching From Canon to Nikon to Sony
Getting Familiar With A New Camera
A Day In The Life of Getting Used to a New Camera
The Beauties of Sony
A Photographer’s Morning
Memory Cards That Arthur Uses
Getting a Sharp Picture With A New Camera
Conclusion
More Episodes
Show Notes

A Day In The Life of a New Camera With Arthur Morris

Introduction

Paul: Welcome to The Edge of Innovation. Today I’m speaking with well-known, globally known, famous… anyway, in my book, he’s one of the best photographers that’s ever lived.

His name is Arthur Morris, and he is known for his bird photography as well as other things, but just has been a tremendous inspiration to me, personally, to be able to go out and take pictures. And we’ve interviewed him before, and we asked him to come back to talk about some new things that are going on in his life and with photography.

Welcome, Arthur.

Arthur: Howdy, Paul. How are you?

Paul: I am good, I am good. It’s delightful to be talking with you again.

Switching From Canon to Nikon to Sony

Paul: So, when we talked — well, I guess it was last year — you had just made a switch in technology from Canon. You were an Explorer of Light with Canon, which is like, their most prestigious photography recognition, and you now are in the Nikon camp, which seems like it’s an impossible transition to make, but you did that. Is that true? And how is that going?

Arthur: Life is funny. We have all kinds of twists in the road. But yeah, I switched to Nikon about a year and a half ago, and then last January, I started playing around with some Sony stuff.

Paul: Oh wow.

Arthur: So, right now, I’m using both Nikon and Sony.

And, by the way, thanks for your kind words during the introduction. And, yes, I was a Canon Explorer of Light for 18 years, and we went over all that stuff last time.

So, right, right. I’m unsupported except by myself, so Nikon doesn’t do anything for me; Sony doesn’t do anything for me, and I’m fine with that. We’re having a good old time.

Two days ago, I got a big box by FedEx. I purchased a Sony 600 millimeter lens for about $13,000.

Paul: Wow.

Arthur: And I’ve been playing with that for a couple of days.

Paul: How is it?

Arthur: Pretty damn good. They have a couple of great camera bodies, and I got one of the new ones, the A7R III, and I was having a little trouble making sharp images for the first day or two, but after looking at this morning’s pictures, I think I have that down.

Paul: What was the change? What was the issue?

Arthur: Oh, I don’t really know. Sometimes just getting familiar with the equipment and the autofocus. I saw right off the bat that, with Sony, I need to use a very small AF point and get it right on the bird’s face.

Paul: Okay.

Arthur: The camera I’m using is 61 megapixels, which is a huge file, biggest files I ever had to work with, probably, by 50 percent. But what folks don’t understand is that the more megapixels that are packed onto the sensor, the less forgiving the system is to any errors that you might make in focus or in keeping the lens still.

Paul: Interesting, well, because you’re gonna see all that micromovement, I guess, or that misfocus. Is that true?

Arthur: Yeah. If you’re slightly off in focus or the subject moves slightly, or the misfocus is gonna be more evident with the larger files than with smaller files.

Paul: Wow.

Arthur: One of the reasons I turned to Sony, the camera bodies are so much lighter. And the 600 that I’m working with is about two pounds lighter than the Nikon 600, and some of my frustration with Nikon — I mean, we spoke last year that for flying birds, for me — Nikon was a hundred times better than Canon, but there were advantages to Canon. Canon was much better when you used a teleconverter.

Either the 1.4 or the 2x Nikon, not so great, and pretty much useless with the 2x. So, I’m hoping to do really well with both teleconverters. And then, the Sony A9 has the world’s best autofocus for birds in flight.

I’ve been switching back and forth between Sony and Nikon, which really hasn’t been fair to Sony because I’ve used Nikon for a year and a half, and Sony for five minutes.

So, I’m gonna give it a good test from now till the end of the year, at least till the end of November, and just use the Sony stuff, and I’m pretty sure that as I get more familiar with it, that I’ll be able to reap more of the benefits.

Getting Familiar With A New Camera

Paul: So, by “familiar with it,” what’re you learning, or what’re you discovering that allows you to make better images?

Arthur: Well, you’ve heard the word “ergonomics.”

Paul: Mm hmm.

Arthur: So, each system, whether it’s Canon or Nikon or Sony, the ergonomics of the camera body are completely different, and to some degree, the lens, too, although the lens is much more similar.

The menu systems, the buttons on the cameras, handling the camera – The more familiar you are with your gear, the better you’re gonna do.

Paul: Okay.

Arthur: So, by switching back and forth, again, I haven’t become really accustomed to everything that’s new and different about Sony.

Paul: I see.

Arthur: So, by giving it a trial… You know, by the end of November, and possibly before, I’m gonna either sell all my Sony gear or sell all my Nikon gear.

A Day In The Life of Getting Used to a New Camera

Paul: Wow. So, now, let’s go through a day in the life of getting used to a new camera.

So, you got this new lens, and so, what do you do? I mean, it came yesterday, you said, right?

Arthur: There days ago, actually.

Paul: Three days ago. Okay, so take me through the last three days. Did you go shooting with it in the first hour?

Arthur: Not in the first hour. Came in the afternoon, and I’m lucky in that there’s almost always something to shoot down by the lake by my house.

So, the first morning, I went out, and I didn’t have any really good chances, and I was working from the car with a wonderful new tripod we have called the FlexShooter Pro, and I looked at the pictures, and I was sort of disappointed.

Paul: So, wait a minute. When did you look at the pictures? When you shot them, or…?

Arthur: No, when I get back in the house. I almost never check on the back of the camera. I wait till I get home, download the stuff in two minutes, and then go through it.

Paul: I think it’d be interesting for our listeners to go through this. So, you open the box. You got it. The next day, you went out to the lake, took a bunch of pictures?

Arthur: Yeah, I figured out what plate I would need, the mount, the big lens onto the FlexShooter Pro that goes on top of an Induro tripod. And that’s part of the problem. The plate is less than ideal.

Paul: I see.

Arthur: So, I need to get a low foot. In any case, I went out. I shot some from the car. I shot some from the tripod out of the car, and I wasn’t thrilled with the images, but part of the problem was I hadn’t updated Capture One to see the new Sony images from the A7R IV.

Paul: Okay.

Arthur: So, I did that. I did that yesterday. Went shooting again on Monday morning, and I did a little bit better, but I’m freaking out a little bit. Like “Oh my God, thirteen grand! I can’t even make a sharp picture!”

Paul: Yeah, I can imagine. Yeah.

Arthur: So, then, I realized that I needed to narrow down the AF point and use small Flexible Spot, to get what they call it exactly.

And I went out this morning, and I stopped down and little bit. Instead of shooting wide open at five-six, I was shooting at f/8, taking really great, taking really great care to keep the lens still, lock the tripod up a little bit, work at f/8, and get the AF point right on the bird’s face.

Paul: Okay.

Arthur: And I was very happy with today’s images. Actually, when when you guys called, I was just finished processing my first A7R III 600 image.

Paul: Oh, cool. Now, so, just for our listeners that don’t know… So, you went to f/8 so you got a little bit more depth of field, a little less criticalness of the focus, but you spotted it on the, the face of the bird, so you got good depth of field, maybe back a little bit and forward a little so that you’d have that focus, that critical focus.

When you did that, were you moving the autofocus dot around on the camera, or were you moving the camera?

The Beauties of Sony

Arthur: Well, one of the beauties of Sony, is the ease with which you can move the AF point around.

Paul: Okay.

Arthur: It’s controlled by a little joystick on the back that falls just under your thumb. And it moves quickly and easily. So, I was on the vulture’s face this morning, and if I wanted to change the image design a little bit, I just click one to the right, one up, and get a little bit better framing.

Paul: I see.

Arthur: That’s a beautiful feature. And then, another thing, when I used Canon with a 500 f/4 or 600 f/4 lens, I used the 2x teleconverter, the doubler half the time, and I did very well, and I can make sharp images with, down to a sixteenth of a second with the doubler, working either at a thousand millimeters or twelve-hundred millimeters. A big amount of magnification.

So, with Nikon, I bought the new 2x, made a very few sharp pictures, but it really has a problem focusing, and it pretty much has a reputation as being a clunker. I’ve been trying to sell it, and I can’t even sell it.

Paul: Interesting.

Arthur: So, that’s — So, you know, that was a big advantage for Canon over Nikon.

So, even, even with the 600 and the one-four, which is not nearly as extreme as the 2x, with Nikon, when you get away from the center AF points, you move it close to the edge, it, it sort of becomes blind.

Paul: Really?

Arthur: It won’t focus, no.

Paul: Wow.

Arthur: And that’s with the five-six lens. Like, Nikon makes this amazing lens, the 500 PF. It’s, sort of similar to the Canon DO lenses, made with lightweight lens elements instead of glass. And, if I do go to Sony – I mean, if I had to bet right now, especially after this morning, I’d say in three months I’m gonna be selling all my Nikon gear.

Paul: Wow.

Arthur: You know, with Canon, the lens I miss the most was the 100-400 II, because it focused down to a little over three feet, lightweight, versatile.

Paul: Interesting.

Arthur: Nikon has an 80-400, but it only focuses to seven feet, so it’s a minimum focus distance, more than twice that of Canon. You’re sort of in trouble when you can get really close to the birds.

Paul: Right.

Arthur: So, one of the nice things about Sony is their 100-400 focuses down, also, to point-nine-eight meters, a little over three feet.

Paul: Would you have ever thought 10, 15 years ago, if you’d be sitting around talking about buying Sony equipment and throwing away all your Canon or Nikon equipment?

Arthur: Nope.

Paul: I mean, it’s amazing to me to think that the company we used to buy Walkmans from is making cameras that a professional of your caliber can be delighted in.

Arthur: From my understanding, Paul, is that Sony — and I may be wrong in this, but I think it’s right — Sony has been making the sensors for all the Canon and Nikon digital cameras for years.

A Photographer’s Morning

Paul: Sure. So, now, I wanna go back and talk about – So, you got up this morning. What time did you get up to go shooting?

Arthur: To go shoot?

Paul: Yeah.

Arthur: Well, I didn’t get up to go shoot, but I got up at about a quarter to four. I slept about seven hours last night. And I finished working on a blog post that was really interesting. It talked about what goes on when you’re teaching, when you have whole slew of folks who could appear to give a rat’s ass about what you’re saying in the field —

You know, they know everything. They’re experienced photographers. And lots of good photographers don’t need a lot of help in the field. They come on an IPT to get to a great place. And just the fact that in general, the more questions folks ask, the more energized and involved the leader becomes. And if everybody goes off doing their own thing, less involvement from the leader.

Paul: So, you didn’t shoot today? You shot yesterday, though.

Arthur: Oh, no, I got up, I finished the blog, finished the blog in about an hour and a half, had my protein shake, and then, at about ten after seven, I drove down to the lake.

Paul: Okay.

Arthur: And I did the first half of my walk, about a mile. Then I got in the car and drove to the vulture tree, and there were lots of birds and lots of stuff to photograph. Not much flight but lots of perched birds. And I shot for about an hour and a half.

Then I packed the car up, put the lens on the seat. Got in the car to look for some cranes, which are a staple of Indian Lake Estates photography, and I drove about 20 feet, and three cranes flew right at me and landed right next to the road, 20 feet from the car. So, first, I tried handholding. And last year, about a year and a half ago, I fell in my home in a puddle caused by my swimsuit, and I had a complete and total tear of the infraspinatus muscle in my left in my left shoulder.

Paul: Ugh.

Arthur: I got a torn rotator cuff. I opted not to have the surgery, and I’m doing, basically, great, but handholding the 600, even the light Sony one, is a little problematic to me. If I turn my body sideways and I use what I call the Olympic-rifle-shooter posture, my elbow’s tucked in, I can do it, but I feel a little strain on my shoulder with, with the 600. So, better then to be on the tripod, and that’s what I did, and I got some super stuff.

Paul: So, how many shots did you take?

Arthur: I took about 300.

Paul: Okay.

Arthur: And that’s more than I would normally take because I was trying different stuff, you know, with new gear.

Paul: I see. Okay.

Arthur: And, also, you don’t wanna shoot too much with a 61-megapixel camera.

Memory Cards That Arthur Uses

Paul: Yeah, that’s right. What kind, what size memory cards do you have?

Arthur: I use Delkin 64 and 128 gigabyte.

Paul: Wow.

Arthur: Ultra too. For the first time in, in my life, I need to use the little cards — SD. But you need the ultra-fast for the Sony cameras, and you have no problem then with buffering or reading and writing to the card. So, that’s what I use. And I’ve been using Delkin flash cards pretty much since 2001, when I started digital. Super, super reliable, and they take care of me, and I take care of them.

Paul: Okay, so, you made some shots. You got 300 on cards. You make your way back and what do you do? What’d you do next?

Arthur: After I was done with the cranes, I, I take a little ride around just birding, ’cause I keep a list when I walk. Then I parked back by the pier and finished up my walk. I did about another mile and change. So, I did 2.8 miles altogether.

Came home, set the card into the reader, and peeked at a few of them in Capture One, and said, “Much better.” No need to panic and send the lens back. And one other thing on that, it’s funny when you’re using big lenses or big lenses with teleconverted —

This morning, I shot mostly with the 600 and the one-four, but I’ve counseled a bunch of friends over the years.

Getting a Sharp Picture With A New Camera

I remember in particular my friend Ned Harris. He’s from Tucson. And he had bought the new Canon 500 and the 2x teleconverter because he was inspired by the stuff that he saw me making at a thousand millimeters. And he got the lens, and he shot for a couple of days, and says, “Artie, I can’t make a sharp picture.”

And I said, “Stick with it, Ned. Just give it a few more days, and you’ll get it.” It’s just the way your body connects with the lens and holding the lens still.”

Paul: Interesting.

Arthur: And in a couple of days, he called back, and he said, “I got it. They’re all sharp.”

Paul: Wow.

Arthur: So, that may have been, in part, what happened to me. So many times we want some perfect quantitative answer, and it’s just not there.

Paul: Well, we want it immediately, too.

Arthur: Or sooner.

Conclusion

Paul: Well, we’ve had a good time here talking with Arthur Morris, world-renown bird photographer. It’s been such an inspiration for me to get to know you and your work and your books and your websites, and it’s been fantastic, and I appreciate you coming on now a second time, and we’ll look forward to your new journeys with Sony.

Arthur: It’s been a pleasure as always, Paul.

More Episodes:

This is Part 1 of 2 of our conversation with Arthur Morris! Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!

Show Notes:

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