What to Do? What to Do? What to Do? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

What to Do? What to Do? What to Do?

What to Do? What to Do? What to Do?

You have traveled to Katmai National Park in hopes of photographing tiny Coastal Brown Bear cubs playing and nursing. But it was a very harsh winter that followed the poor salmon runs of the previous fall and there are no baby bears. And there are very few squabbling bears. And the salmon have not begun running in earnest yet. All that the bears are doing is eating grass. What to do?

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This Coastal Brown (Grizzly) Bear image was created at Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, AK with the tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop as framed: 1/320 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

One right and two down from the center sensor/AI Servo Surround Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

As you have seen before, this image illustrates why I love the 5D Mark III so much; using my favorite AF Area Selection Mode makes creating pleasing compositions child’s play because it is easy to move the surround AF points quickly and because the AF system is so sure. Learn everything that I know about this great camera and save $10 by clicking here. As you will see, the list of unfinished items has dwindled considerably. The guide is nearly complete. When I am finished, the price will go to $50.

What to Do?

You can find a large, beautiful bear in soft light, take about a dozen frames when the subject to imaging sensor is ideal, and then keep the best one or two images.

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This Coastal Brown (Grizzly) Bear image was created at Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, AK with the tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens, the 1.4X III TC, and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop as framed: 1/320 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

Central sensor (right on the bear’s eye)/AI Servo Surround Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

Here, I love the distant background, the big canines, and the bits of grasses.

What to Do?

Have the group sit low and tight as two bears graze closer and closer. Then catch one in the act of chewing.

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This Coastal Brown (Grizzly) Bear image was created at Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park, AK with the tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens, the 1.4X III TC, and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop as framed: 1/800 sec. at f/7.1 in Av mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

What to Do?

Stand at full height behind your tripod to avoid getting the dark stuff at the top in the frame. Put the central sensor on the bear’s neck as it angled toward you. When you like what you see, create about a dozen images. Unbeknownst to me my rapid-fire-when-it’s-good approach paid dividends by catching the big bear with a mouthful of grass.

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This Coastal Brown (Grizzly) Bear image was created at Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, AK with the tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens, the 1.4X III TC, and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop as framed: 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6 in Av mode.

Far lower left sensor/AI Servo Surround Rear Focus AF and recompose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

What to Do?

Go small in the frame, put the bear down in the corner of the frame, and take advantage of the soft light and the glorious meadow.

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This Coastal Brown (Grizzly) Bear image was created at Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, AK with the tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop as framed: 1/640 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

Two to the right and two down from the central sensor/AI Servo Surround Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

Again, the 5D Mark III’s incredibly wide AF array and my favorite AF Area Selection Mode were up to the task of creating a pleasing composition.

What to Do?

Find a bear eating grass among the wildflowers, take off the teleconverter to go wide, get down in the river to get close to the bear’s level and to bring the distant conifer-covered hillside into the frame, and quickly choose the AF sensor that will create the composition that you want. The open mouth and the tiny bits of grass are both pluses.

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This Coastal Brown (Grizzly) Bear image was created at Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, AK with the tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens, the 1.4X III TC, and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 50. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/4 sec. at f/8 in Tv mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround Rear Focus AF. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

What to Do?

It was dark. We were in the skiff. I was not too thrilled. When things look bleak learn to think pleasing blurs. As I saw the bear approach the big fire-blackened blog I went to my 5D Mark III’s C2 Custom Shooting Mode blur pre-set. Just a twist of the dial and I am ready for blurs. To learn to create and set your Custom Shooting Modes and save $10 for just a bit longer get yourself a copy of our 5D Mark II User’s Guide by clicking here.

Learn all there is to know about creating pleasing blurs with a copy of A Guide to Pleasing Blurs by Denise Ippolito and yours truly.

Which Do You Like Best?

Take a moment to leave a comment and let us know which of the six bear images you like best, and why.

September 2013 Bears Catching Salmon/Bear Boat IPT

If you would like detailed information on my next bear boat IPT in early September, 2013, please shoot me an e-mail. If you can join us, you will be taking part in one of the great wildlife experiences on the planet.

B&H Event Space Event of Note

Denise Ippolito and I will be doing a program on Creating Pleasing Blurs at the B&H super-store in Manhattan on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 from 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM. Best news: it’s free. Worst news: it has long been sold out. Hopeful news: if and when folks cancel, registration will be re-opened. You can check here. If you will be in the neighborhood, you can wait in line before the program begins in hopes of getting an open seat. Good luck!

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear used to create the images in today’s post. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lensI decided to leave the 800 at home for the bear boat trip and quickly fell in love with the 500 II for its light weight, great versatility, and four-stop IS. A complete review will be coming soon.
1.4X III TC The latest version of the 1.4X TC is designed to work best with the Series II Super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EOS-5D Mark III. Man, I am in love with this camera body. Both the files and the AF system are superb.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sales value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders ๐Ÿ™‚ And you will love them in mega-cold weather….
Gizo GT3532 LS CF Tripod. This one replaces the GT3530LS Tripod and will last you a lifetime. I’ll be commenting on this new model soon. In short, I like it.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
BreezeBrowser. I do not see how any digital photographer can exist without this program.

Delkin 700X CompactFlash Pro UDMA Enabled Cards

All of the images above (but for the elephant image) were catpured on Delkinโ€™s new 64gb 700X CompactFlash Pro UDMA Enabled Card. Learn more about these great cards by clicking here and learn why the more expensive 1000X cards are overkill for still photographers.

17 comments to What to Do? What to Do? What to Do?

  • avatar Bobby

    I love number 2 portrait Artie, with the the bear looking back over the shoulder. The body with the sensor plane, perfect head angle, both eyes lookin at ya. those canines chewin grass, and the amazing detail, and highlights of the fur across the top, and a sweet background make this an Excellent capture!
    Looks like your enjoying the new 500f/4 II on this trip.
    I always enjoy reading and learning from your updates, thanks for all the effort you put into sharing your expertise.

  • avatar Bill Eaton

    Number 4 is a wonderful shot but I keep going back to the close up portrait.The watchful glare as if to say thats close enough and the expression that conveys the awesome stature of this beautiful bear.

  • avatar Carol Nichols

    I have to agree with Denise that the #4 small in the frame image is my favorite. One of the most important things I have learned from studying the finalist images in the Birds As Art photo contest is the type of photo I like the most – photos of birds/wildlife that include the environment (such as the Small in the Frame and Hand of Man categories). It has given me direction in my photography which I was lacking before and for that I am very thankful!

  • avatar Julian Mole

    Hi Arthur,

    Nice blog subject and great suggestions for what to do when things aren’t ideal. Of the set it’s close between #4 and #5, but #5 just shades it for me – the wildflowers provide a nice forground setting and the low angle helps the bear have presence and also better shows the bear’s environment in the distance. It was interesting to see that #3 was taken off the light angle, almost sidelit, which is rare for you – any reason, other than the sun suddenly came out? Thanks for sharing these lessons, Julian.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Julian, and you are welcome. The sun in #3 was quite muted–the weaker the sunlight the more I am OK with working off the light angle. If I recall correctly, the sun was rather high here as it was early afternoon–the shadow seems to be below the bear for the most part. Seems that the sun was a bit from behind me and to the left.

  • avatar Jay

    Artie, you’re not going to get any sympathy from me. You’ve turned what probably started as a hobby into a career that takes you to some beautiful places to shoot amazing things. Yeah, some days nature doesn’t cooperate. As your post demonstrates, there’s still some amazing opportunities. My favorites are the first two photos. Shot two, because I really do like animal portraiture. I’m sure like many guest at a wedding reception, the bear’s probably not happy that you snapped the shutter while it had food in its mouth. Shot one, is just a nice shot of the bear. The greens in the background are a nice contrast. Shot four is also nice with the flowers.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I agree on the no sympathy angle :). The bears of Katmai are quite acclimated to people and are always unconcerned with the presence of humans moving slowly and staying together. Thanks for stopping by.

  • avatar Debbie Zilli

    I love to read this blog. I’m new to the dslr field and it has been many, many years since I shot with my old Olympus. Frankly, I’m a bit overwhelmed! I read in envy that one day I might just understand how to shoot wonderful pictures like these! My favorite is the fifth picture down. I love the colors, the white dots of the wildflowers and how even though there is only a slice of the photo in focus, you can still get a sense of the scenery behind.

  • avatar MJ Speingett

    i like the fifth one with the wildflowers, you made the best of a borderline situation, congrats, MJ

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Not sure that I would call a meadow filled with bears that few folks get to see or photograph in their lifetimes a borderline situation :).

  • avatar Mike

    Been their done that, four years ago I spent 6 days at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, in the rain with no salmon running. Shot about 4000 images of bears eating grass in the rain, I still had a blast and got some really nice images of bears and cubs. I like the fourth one down the best.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Great place and good fishing too. I am talking to David Coray about possibly adding a SSCr IPT after next fall’s bear boat trip….

  • The fourth one down is my favorite, I like the placement of the bear and the beautiful grass color.