Svalbard: It Ain’t Just Birds I/Which Is Your Favorite, and Why? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Svalbard: It Ain't Just Birds I/Which Is Your Favorite, and Why?

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This image was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens, the Canon EF 1.4X III TC (hand held at 245mm), and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Five frame auto-bracket +/- one stop at f/11 in Av Mode.

Lens/TC/camera body Micro-adjustment: +1. (After I had this particular Mark IV repaired and adjusted the micro-adjustment dropped from +5 to +1 with the TC in place.)

Patrick showed me a really neat trick for creating the auto-bracketed sequences that are used for creating HDR images. If you use Live View along with the self timer the camera will take all three or five images with a single press of the shutter button. This is a grunge-look HDR of a derelict coal mine. There is only one active coal mine now in Longyearbyen.

Svalbard: It Ain’t Just Birds I

Whenever I am afield in search of birds I make sure to keep my eyes open for a variety of other potentially interesting subjects. And I usually have a variety of lenses with me in my Xtrahand vest. (You can learn about this great vest by scrolling down here.) Sometimes I need to walk back to my vehicle to grab what I need. Often this is not possible. It is always important to remember, “It Ain’t just Birds!”

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This image was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens and the Canon EF 2X III TC (hand held at 400mm) with the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV . ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3 in Av Mode.

Lens/TC/camera body Micro-adjustment: -12. Just look at how sharp this animal’s eye is!

There were lots of free and wild Svabard Reindeer in Spitzbergen. They are relatively tame especially when compared to the caribou I have encountered in places like Nome, AK. Here the absolute key to making a good image was kneeling…. (See “Why Sit Down on the Job” here.)

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This image was created with the handheld Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV (hand held). ISO 800. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/125 sec. at f/11 in Av Mode.

Here again I came up with a brand new technique right on the spot. I used Live View with Quick Mode AF set, composed the image on the back of the camera, and fired. I could create images without having to get down on the ground and without having my eye to the viewfinder. With the IS version of the 100 macro I was able to stop down quite a bit and still produce sharp images at the resulting slow shutter speeds.

Which Is Your Favorite, and Why?

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

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.

Support both the Bulletins and the Blog by making all your B & H purchases here.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens. I had lots of fun working with the relatively new IS version of the 100 macro. As always the IS increases a lenses versatility immensely.
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–as above–with the 1.4X III TC.
Canon 1.4X III TC. This new Series III TC is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EF 2X III TC. This new TC is significantly sharper than the 2X II version.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. My two Mark IVs are my workhorse digital camera bodies.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo GT3530LS 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.
Wimberley P-20 Plate. This plate is perfect for virtually all intermediate telephoto lenses. We sell a zillion of them each year.
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.

Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. These high capacity cards are fast and dependable. Clicking on the link below will bring you to the Delkin web site. There is lots of great stuff there. If you see a product that we do not carry let us know via e-mail; we will be glad to have it drop-shipped to you and save you a few bucks in the process.

I pack my 800 and tons of other gear in my ThinkTank Airport SecurityTM V2.0 rolling bag for all of my air travel and recommend the slightly smaller Airport InternationalTM V2.0 for most folks. These high capacity bags are well constructed and protect my gear when I have to gate check it on short-hops and puddle jumpers. Each will protect your gear just as well. By clicking on either link or the logo below, you will receive a free gift with each order over $50.

Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. And this is the very best professional digital camera body that I have even used..

25 comments to Svalbard: It Ain’t Just Birds I/Which Is Your Favorite, and Why?

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    You can see my picks in the July 27 blog post here. artie

  • Arthur, Your pics are amazing……

    Elly, you look a lot like me! Actually, I think that my avatar appears here because Elly commented on this post on my Facebook post 🙂 artie

  • avatar Gordon Lindsay

    I like them all but the reindeer shot is the most engaging.

  • avatar Jay

    In some ways a difficult question, since we’re being asked to compare different images. I’d choose the reindeer, but more for the subject matter than for any other reason. Of course, the perspective on the shot helps (though each time I look at it, I keep wondering if you could have moved to the right a bit to give a slightly different angle and to have caused the deer to look at you a little differently – would have had a little less white in the eye). I do like the mine shot. While the colors are neat, I’m wondering if HDR is the best way to present this. What about black and white?

    I agree Jay that judging such different images is difficult. With the reindeer’s body angled a bit away from me, the head angle in the image–square to the back of the camera–is the ideal one for me. Had I been more to my right, the image created at this moment would not have been as pleasing. A B&W of the mine would be different and interesting but I most like the image for the grunged up colors. artie

  • I like the image of coal mine best, because of its rich structure and detail, its monochromatic color style and most important because of the message it transports: decay. The reindeer is just a reindeer and the flowers are just flowers – good craftmanship but by far not an outstanding artwork as the picture of the coal mine (at least for me).

    I am with you on the mine Christian! artie

  • avatar Don

    I like the coal mine best and if it was mine would look at turning it into B&W and printing it nice and big on a sheet of FineArt matte paper. Congrats.

  • avatar Jamie Douglas

    Big fan of the Svabard Reindeer.

  • avatar Ivan Turpin

    Artie, Being a novice I don’t appreciate all the subtleties in these pictures. But I personally like the reindeer with the great eye contact.— However, I like the mine but I would have preferred the HDR picture be taken from a 45 degree angle to the structures instead of straight on. I need to see more perspective and depth and would like some soft shaddows from the sun.

    Hi Ivan, Agree that the eye of the reindeer is special. Not sure about working at an angle to the mine…. There was no light when I made the image. If I get back up there I will try your suggestion. Would you have moved right or left? artie

  • All are great, but I like the derelict coal mine shot best. Love the tones and the grunge look too. The eye on the reindeer is pretty cool though!

    Andrew, you pretty much nailed it 🙂 artie

  • avatar John T.

    I like the caribou photo, the look on its face is very humorous. It looks as though it got caught doing something it wasn’t supposed to, it made me chuckle.

  • I liked the Caribou best but the old building was close behind. The reason I guess is that I just like animals best.

  • avatar Keith Reeder

    The Reindeer by a long way for me.

    The mine is too garish for my tastes – can’t help but think you could get a similar look simply by selectively going at a non-HDR version with a saturation Sponge tool in Photoshop (and it doesn’t appear to be the kind of scene that presents a significant dynamic range challenge that would need HDR); and the flowers are just… some flowers – pleasant enough, but nothing that grabs my attention.

    HDR is just a way for me to Grunge 🙂 artie

  • avatar Charlie Young

    I like the first photo best. It represents the “man vs. nature” theme we see a lot of out here in the western U.S. The five frame capture and added HDR treatment really brings out the structure and the surrounding landscape.

    Good analysis Charlie. artie

  • avatar Pat Dunnuck

    Think this is what David was talking about:

    This image was created with the handheld Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV (hand held at 400mm). ISO 800. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/125 sec. at f/11 in Av Mode.

    Hand held at 400 mm with a 100 lens????

    See below. artie

  • avatar Mary Stamper

    Really hard to compare these because they are so different, but I’m gonna go with the reindeer because I don’t care for the grunge look in general, and the flower shot doesn’t seem to be anything special, at least not to me.

    I like the eye of the reindeer. It’s sort of different that what one is used to, and it’s a lovely image.

    For the mine, I don’t like the way the detail level is the same all over the frame in that style of HDR. It is hard to get a notion of how the hills are structured without some visual effort. Maybe just me, though.

    I wish you would post the mine image with several different HDR treatments…grunge vs non grunge for example.

    Agree on the difficulty of comparing images that are so different. That said the flower was last with most folks (including me) 🙂 You don’t like the grunge look; I am not much for straight up HDRs. I would be glad to honor your request but I still have 8 zillion HDR grunges from the Galapagos trip to do 🙂 artie

  • avatar Andy

    I like them all, but the reindeer is my favorite. Love the way he is turning his eye back to look at you.

  • avatar George Cottay

    Even with the reindeer giving me the eye the coal mine is also my favorite. The fie details hold my interest while the off angles provide some tension.

    You and I and Becky below are on the same page 🙂 artie

  • avatar Dan Brown

    Hi Artie, I like the reindeer best because of the unusual eye contact! Gives an interesting character to the critter.

    Please elaborate on the HDR technique! You were able to shoot the bracketed images handheld?

    Hi Dan. Denise and I are working on an HDR Grunge Guide. We use mostly Photomatix with lots of tweaking. I have made some good handheld HDRs but this one and all with the 800 are tripod mounted. artie

  • I like the mine image best because it makes me wonder . . . and the color and composition are so good. The Reindeer is cool too, but he’s just a lying-down reindeer.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Ooops, sorry, Jim; I misread the captions; you’re right.

    [red face]


  • avatar David Policansky

    I like the reindeer the best, in particular I like the angle of the photo and the animal’s expression. I really am not a great fan of HDR, although I do like the mine image, espeically the unusual color. One of my favorite images (bought, not made by me) is a very HDR image of a total solar eclipse. You just can’t see the whole corona and solar flares in a photograph any other way, as far as I know. Of course I like the flowers, too, but it’s a rare flower photo that really grabs me. This one has nice colors and makes a nice pattern.

    (Jim: You misread the captions; the 100 f/2.8 macro was used for the flowers. The reindeer was taken with a 70-200 plus 2X TC, = 400 mm.)

    Note: Jim was right; there was a typo in the flower caption. I fixed it on 7/20. artie

  • I really like the color, composition, and subtlety of the flowers — very well done. I thought the mine could use a closer crop, and black and white treatment. Second choice is the reindeer, though it might have been better if you could have gotten around to the right a little further.

    Though I disagree, it should be “a little farther.” 🙂 artie

  • Artie –

    My favorite has to be the HDR image of the mine. Reason(s): 1. I like good HDR (not so much the cartoonish stuff) and, 2. It’s just a nice change from the other two…it’s out of the normal range for you 🙂

    Speaking of HDR, could you elaborate on the “Live View along with the self timer” method to fire more than three shots with one press for HDR?

    Thanks 🙂


    As it turns out the advantage of using Live View is that you get mirror lock. As long as you set the Self-timer the camera will create the 3 or 5 images with a single press of the shutter button. artie

  • I like the mine best, primarily because I think the HDR technique creates a new way to look at the old mine. From a purely aesthetic point of view, I also like what the HDR does to the image creating a poster-like effect.

    People might also be interested in the April 2009 National Geographic article on Svalbard. I picked it up by accident off the pile of unread magazines in my office. Along with the usual NG photographs, the article discusses some of the effects of climate change.

  • avatar Jim Kranick

    Really like the Reindeer but how did you get the 100mm 2.8L Macro to be “hand held at 400 mm?”

    Thanks Artie, I learn so much from your posts here. Enjoy your “cruse.”

    Thanks Jim. Brain typo fixed. artie