How Slow Can You Go With the Rapids?

common-mergansers-on-rock-1-13-sec

This image was created with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 50. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/13 sec. at f/32.

How Slow Can You Go With the Rapids?

Each of the images in today’s blog post was created at LeHardy Rapids. Denise and I spent three of our four Yellowstone afternoons there; I guess that we liked the fast water :) With each image I used a slow shutter speed to blur the water to convey to the viewer a sense of the habitat that these two species occupy. For the Common Merganser image above I was able to use an extremely slow shutter speed so that the patches of whitewater would look like silk. With the 800′s great new 4-stop IS system I was able to render the birds sharp even at 1/13th sec. Quite remarkable.

With the American Dipper image below I knew that I could blur the water pleasingly at a much faster shutter speed. What’s with that? With moving subjects the degree of blur will–at a given shutter speed–be greater with subjects closer to the camera than with subjects farther away. In A Guide to Pleasing Blurs Denise and I cover the six factors that influence the degree of blurring. In detail. Knowing them can help you to create better images.

Serious students will have noted the vast difference in exposure compensation needed for the two images here. The first image was lit by bright sun and was overall dark blue water. I needed some underexposure to avoid blowing out the white breasts of the mergs. The second image was created in the shade and the scene averaged to nearly white. I knew that to render the water white and get some light on the dark bird I would have to add lots of light. So I did. If you are at all confused by the above you need to study the exposure simplified section in The Art of Bird Photography II (916 pages on CD only). Serious students will want to master exposure theory by studying the Exposure chapter in the original The Art of Bird Photography (in soft cover). Save $10 by purchasing the combo here.

american-dipper-in-rapids-1-30-sec-robt_w3c0590yellowstone-national-park-wy_0

This image was also created with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 50. Evaluative metering +2 2/3 stops: 1/30 sec. at f/5.6.

Shopper’s Guide

Here is a list of the gear that I used to create the two images above.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo 3530 LS Tripod
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head

If you are considering the purchase of a major piece of photographic gear be it a new camera, a long lens, a tripod or a head, or some accessories be sure to check out our complete Shopper’s Guide.

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9 comments to How Slow Can You Go With the Rapids?

  • I agree, Art. My curiosity was coming from my engineer side… ;-)

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Fabrizio, It matters not whether you “compensate” while working in Manual mode or in Av; all that matter is that you come up with the right exposure. With Nikon you would need a lot more minus for the first image and a lot less plus with the second one.

    I am actually glad that you still need half a brain to come up with the right exposure otherwise it would make things too easy. Now film, that was a challenge….

  • Dialling manual compensations is part of the fun of taking photographs. My experience with Nikon is consistent, with “white breasts” or such you have to manually compensate. No problems.

    Given that, I’m still appalled that with all the computing power of our beloved cameras, and big technology, neither Canon nor Nikon have implemented exposure software that is bird-aware.

  • I love the title. You did a great job with the amount of blur for each image. The mergansers sure were fun.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Elinor, You are right on both counts. Thanks for the catches. I will change them in the original post. I gotta quit doing these posts near midnight; I am a morning person!

    And thanks Robert.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks Patrick, I will change it in the original post. The question is, who loves their 800 more, me or you? :)

  • A great technique that I’ll certainly try.

  • “The first image [mergs] was lit by bright sun and was overall dark blue water. I needed some underexposure to avoid blowing out the white breasts of the mergs. The second image [dipper] was created in the shade and the scene averaged to nearly white. I knew that to render the water white and get some light on the dark bird I would have to add lots of light. So I did. Evaluative metering -2 2/3 stops:”
    Shouldn’t it be +2 2/3 stops?
    “With the American Dipper image below I knew that I could blur the water pleasingly at a much slower shutter speed. 1/30 sec. at f/5.6.” Since the mergs are at 1/13 sec. at f/32, didn’t you mean much higher shutter speed?
    Was this a test, or am I way off base?

  • avatar Patrick Sparkman

    Great creative use of the tools we now have available. BTW – you put “- 2 2/3″ in the second image for compensation and I think you meant “+2 2/3″

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