Tight or Wide? My Thoughts on Photographic Style and More « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Tight or Wide? My Thoughts on Photographic Style and More

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Osprey leaving nest. This image was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS L zoom lens (the older one) with the EOS-1Ds. Hand held at 100mm. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/1600 sec. at f/2.8.

For years, heck, for decades, my style has been to work clean, tight and graphic. Many of John Shaw’s flowers and the bird photographs of Rod Plank and Tim Fitzharris influenced my early efforts and I quickly fell in love with images that featured backgrounds of pure out-of-focus color. Images like that still float my boat to steal a phrase from my late friend Dr. Hugh P. Smith. (See “In Memoriam” here.)

Don’t get me wrong, I do love images that include lots of habitat. And I love environmental-type portraits with small-in-the frame birds and animals. But for me, the the surroundings need to be pleasing, even beautiful. When they are not, or when they are distracting, I do my best to eliminate the distractions usually by using long lenses and trying to work clean, tight, and graphic.

When folks post an image of a bird perched in a jumble of sticks where you can barely see the subject and defend their work by saying that they were only “photographing what was there,” I do try to make the point that what is there in nature does not always make a good photograph. As John Shaw has written, “The job of the nature photographer is to make order out of chaos.” When I find something in an image that is distracting and draws my eye from the subject, I simply state just that.

There are different strokes (and different styles) for different folks. Though I have strong opinions and often voice them I try my best to respect the opinions of others even when they are different from mine. I have put a lot of time (18,000 posts) and effort into doing critiques on BPN and have tried to lead by example. But I can only call things as I see them If I did otherwise I would not be being true to either myself, or to our mantra, “Honest critiques done gently.”

I love seeing great images whatever the style. Each of us needs to develop our own style based on our likes, dislikes, our skills and our equipment, our vision, and our personal experiences and preferences. Am I flattered that so many over the decades have emulated my style successfully? Yes, of course. But all that I have ever done is post my favorite images and comment honestly on the images posted by others.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on any or all of the above.

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This tight portrait of the head of a just fledged Osprey was created with the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X III TC and the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 320: Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode. From my SUV with the BLUBB.

I love both of the images in this blog post. Both feature the same subject, Osprey. One very tight, and one wide. Only one of them is in tile behind my kitchen sink.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear (or the current replacement) that I used to create the images above. 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 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2X III teleconverter. I also use it a lot–depending on the situation–with the 1.4X III TC.
Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon EF 1.4X III TC. This new TC is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. The very best professional digital camera body that I have ever used.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo 3530 LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
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 Leve.l You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am on a tripod and not using flash.
Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. These high capacity cards are fast and dependable.
BLUBB. The world’s greatest big lens bean bag. Designed by yours truly.

12 comments to Tight or Wide? My Thoughts on Photographic Style and More

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks for dropping by Justine. We are surely on the same page 🙂

  • Justine Carson

    The tight, clean close-up shot was what first drew me to wildlife photography. I loved being able to capture the fur or feather detail and, sometimes, get eye contact with the subject. I recently started to expand my photographic scope by trying to capture environmental wildlife shots — landscapes with animals as elements, really. Both are equally challenging — it’s as hard to find a couple of giraffes, for instance, in an environment that has all the elements of a good landscape photograph as it is to capture certain kinds of birds in good light with beautiful uncluttered backgrounds (most species of weavers come to mind). Now its hard to say which I find more satisfying. I think both types are necessary elements of a good wildlife portfolio.

  • I love them both. The juvenile”s eye is perfect.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks Charles. We posted at the same time 🙂 And thanks for your original comments.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Clear Ken, BLUBB = Big Lens Ultimate BeanBag. I like acronyms. If you lift the bag (without the lens on it) as you are raising the window, you should be fine. Did you get the sheet of directions?

  • I have been doing landscape photography for years as a hobby. Occasionally I take some wildlife shots when opportunities arise. But my wildlife pictures are not as good as my landscape ones. One day I was shopping for a Wimberley Head and found you as one of their references. I visited your website and have been stunned by so many of your great bird photos. Most of them are up close and tight shots without any distracting backgrounds at all. You inspired me.

    I am open to your style as well as style that captures the environment. I think it depends on what the emphasis is. I will say “go for it” if the environment is pleasing and integrates well with your bird/animal images. But I think finding a background with pure color is more difficult and challenging. To each his own. Take whatever pictures you think is pretty to you. Period.

  • Clear Ken: BLUBB standard for Big Lens Ultimate Bean Bag

  • Pat Fishburne

    Art: I love tight closeups and do a lot of them. But, your tight osprey is one of the best I’ve seen! I wish it were in my archives! The osprey-scape is lovely too – I particularly like the horizontal line across the picture because it anchors the trees. If it had just been a white background, it wouldn’t look nearly as good.

  • Hi Art:
    This may sound like a dumb question, but is Blubb, a numonic name or is it a name all to itself, or how did you arrive at the name Blubb. Do you have any directions for putting it on a raised window without stressing the window for it does weight about what, 17 lbs. I bought one and have yet to use it, as I am waiting for our snow to go away and for the birds to come back.


  • I agree with your thoughts. I find your first shot to be totally stunning, a true work of art. The silhouettes came out perfectly.

  • Art, I appreciate your comments and where they are coming from. There is obviously room for many styles and your tight shots are beautiful. I like both but often find more drama in an environmental shot or one showing action, behavior or artful poses or the like. The tight portrait shots are nice but don’t get my juices flowing. I just read your article on getting down low and by example like your sleeping bear shot. It is both close and environmental and has all the excellent attributes you describe above.

  • When it comes to wildlife, I’m a big fan of tight closeups. I think the tight and clean methodology appeals to many because it presents a view that isn’t often seen by the casual viewer. Even someone standing in the spot where you made the image would not have been close enough to see the fine detail you are able to present using an 800 + 1.4x (such as with the beautiful Osprey image you posted).

    Your points regarding environmental images are well taken and make perfect sense. Cleaner, neater, is better. I don’t know many who could argue against that.

    Of course no matter what you do someone will disagree – I’ve posted images on BPN that have been criticized for being too tight by some, but praised for the high level of detail by others. I guess you can’t please all of the people all of the time 🙂