The Adventures of Little Mr. Huffer « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Adventures of Little Mr. Huffer

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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, 1.4X III TC, and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop as framed: 1/640 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.

Left of 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.

This image was created just after I saw Little Mr. Huffer for the first time. It 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.

You be the Judge: Tight

Voting in the Tight category of the BIRDS AS ART 1st International Bird Photography Competition will be closed at 8am tomorrow, August 3. If you would like to chime in before the deadline, click here.

He’s Back!

After 12 days on the bear boat in Katmai National Park I returned by float plane to Kodiak, Alaska on Tuesday, July 31, continued on to Anchorage on the 4:53pm Alaska Airlines flight, caught my 8:30 American Airlines red-eye flight to Dallas, and working with a very tight connection, boarded my flight to Orlando at about 6:10am on August 1st. Jim Litzenberg, my right hand man, picked me up at MCO at about 10am and after stops at Publix and Junior’s Fish Market in Lake Wales, was home just a bit after noon. Though I slept a lot on the ANC-DFW and DFW-MCO legs I was a bit jet-lagged yesterday. I slept long and well and am back at work this morning, Thursday, August 2. Thanks to Peter Kes for posting the blog items that I had prepared in advance during my absence.

The Adventures of Little Mr. Huffer

I first saw the bear pictured in the opening image coming down the main river channel at low tide at Hallo Bay in Katmai National Park. He was huffing like mad at the two larger bears that were sleeping on small sandbars in the river. Even though it was a relatively small bear, we could hear him huffing from several hundred yards away. Though the literature suggests that huffing is a way that bears let off steam, a way to ease tension, in this case it did seem that it the huffing was a sign of aggression.

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This image of top student and IPT participant Clemens van der Werf was also created with the tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens, 1.4X III TC, and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -2/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/11 in Av mode.

Central 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.

Clemens and I were a bit away from the main group lying on the ground photographing the two large bears that were sleeping in the river. There is a lot to learn in this seemingly simple image above of a tall Dutchman lying on the ground with a long lens.

1-By choosing a Gitzo tripod without a centerpost (as I recommend), you can quickly get low by shortening the tripod legs and splaying them when you are afield without a Panning Ground Pod or a Skimmer Ground Pod II
2-Clemens has a ton of extra gear in the Vested Interest Magnum Xtrahand vest that you see behind him. Most days he had the 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, the 16-35L IS, both Series III teleconverters, and a Mark IV in the vest. Plus water and extra clothing.
3-Clemens uses the Hydrophobia Rain Cover by Think Tank.
4-Clemens loves his 5D Mark III.
5-Clemens has LegCoats on his tripod and a LensCoat on his 800.
6-Though the going can be sloppy at times, getting low offers wonderfully intimate perspectives.
7-Clemens uses the Advanced Sharpness Techniques espoused in The Art of Bird Photography II. Do you know the two things that he is doing here to ensure maximum sharpness?

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This Coastal Brown (Grizzly) Bear face portrait was created at Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, AK with the tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens, 1.4X III TC, and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero as framed: 1/640 sec. at f/5.6. Note that once I had confirmed the correct exposure in the opening image I simply stuck with it as the bear approached us.

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.

The white slash in the background is a snow bank on the distant conifer-covered hillside.

Well, aside from being feisty, Little Mr. Huffer was quite curious. After checking out the rest of the group as he made his way up the edge of the river he decided to check out Clemens and I. I created three images at this time. Two, including this one, were in sharp focus. The middle image was severely out of focus. Lousy camera? Nope: obviously operator error; it is hard to keep the sensor where you want it when lying flat and pointing your lens up at a bear.

Little Mr. Huffer’s blackish face mask and small size made him look very racoon-like.

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This image was also created from ground level with the tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens, 1.4X III TC, and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering + 1/23 stops as framed: 1/500 sec. at f/5.6. It got a bit darker after Little Mr. Huffer walked on past us so I opened up an additional 1/3 stop.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Here, Surround AF worked perfectly as the sensor below the central sensor held focus on the somewhat faint horizon line in what was admittedly a frantic situation. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

The image above is a composite as I replaced the left hand bear in the original image with the same bear from the next frame as that bear’s head was turned fully away in the base image. I simply painted a Quick Mask, put it on its own layer, brought it into the original and finessed and blended the edges with a Layer Mask. All as described in detail in Digital Basics.

After Little Mr. Huffer walked past us he ventured into the river towards the two large bears. There was an adult Bald Eagle perched on the sandbar near the sleeping bear that was on our left. Little Mr. Huffer wanted to play with the eagle so he ran toward it huffing all the way of course. The big bear did not like that at all and in an instant was after our cute little friend. The eagle flew up of course and decided to follow along perhaps thinking that the two bears might get a salmon. The big bear continued to chase Little Mr. Huffer for at least three or four minutes. We followed the fun until the two bears disappeared perhaps more than a half mile from where they started. All in all it was pretty hilarious.

We saw this same bear every day at Hallo, perhaps a half dozen or more times. Each time he was huffing and aggressively approaching larger bears. And each time he wound up being chased, often for great distances. He always put a smile on our faces.

Which Do You Like Best?

Take a moment to leave a comment and let us know which of the four images here is the strongest, and which one your found the most educational. Do let us know why.

Bear Boat September 2013

Please e-mail for details if you are a Happy Camper interested in joining me on my next bear boat foray for bears catching salmon. It will run in very early September, 2013.

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 🙂 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.

19 comments to The Adventures of Little Mr. Huffer

  • avatar Vincent Scarnecchia

    Clemens uses 3 points of support,splayed tripod, left hand under the lens near the ballhead, right hand on the camera and being prone for best view. This is what Artie would do. Highly educational

  • avatar Carol Nichols

    I love the first image and enjoy seeing a photographer seriously at work in the second image. I’m surprised that you did not remove the white slash in the third image as I am used to your clean backgrounds.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I toyed with the idea of removing the big white slash and may create a version without it….

  • I like all images but my favorite is the close up of the head (3rd shot). The eye contact is fantastic and it is just an amazing animal.


  • avatar Ted Willcox

    The first image. Great pose, Lovely background!!

  • avatar Charles Scheffold

    Welcome back! First image is my favorite.

  • avatar Jay

    All our great shots. The one that stands out the most to me is the portrait. It’s just a nice intimate shot. The opening shot does give a nice sense of the environment you’re in. While the final shot is a nice action piece, it loses something because of the direction of the chase (looking at too many backs). Of course, it probably would be a little disconcerting if they were all running towards you. That said, it is a great behavior shot.

  • The first image really is special, I like the raccoon face! Nice composite too!

  • avatar Arla

    All are great but I like the bear being chased. It’s different from most bear images and shows natural behavior. I can feel the action. The image would not be as interesting without the eagle. I photgraphed bears on the Alagnak last year… this brings back great memories.

  • avatar Moell

    Clemens is pressing his face to the camera firmly and is exerting downward pressure on the tripod foot of the lense with the three last fingers of his left hand while exerting equal downward pressure on the camera with his right hand.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good work. We cannot see exactly where his left hand is but you have the right idea.

  • avatar David POlicansky

    Hi, Artie. Great shots. I assume the 4 shots you’re asking about include the one of Clemens van der Werf. My favorite is the third shot, the close-up of the bear. It’s dramatic and detailed; perfectly exposed and focused with beautiful color. The famous photographer Michio Hoshino used to say “put the animal in its environment,” which the first shot does, but I still like the third shot better for its drama. None of the three animals is looking towards the camera in the one with 2 bears and an eagle, and so I like it less. The one of Clemens is interesting and very well composed, but it’s the least likely to be put on my wall. You mention one shot being severely out of focus but none of the 4 seemed out of focus at all.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The out-of-focus comment clearly referred to the three head portraits that I made “at that time.”

  • avatar Greg Payne

    Terribly interesting and I wish I could take off long enough to go on that trip. Maybe one day. My favorite image is the first for the way the background plays against the bear. I really like all the images and I can learn something from all the images.

  • It looks to me like he’s maximizing his defenselesness while shooting up the nose of a grizzly. I know from previous bulletins you keep a safe distance, but I’d want a quick-draw gun in a pocket of that vest, just in case.

    Do the grizzlies ever show aggression or threats towards the photographers?

    Wish I were there.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Clemens was actually photographing a bear well more than 100 yards away when I created the image of him. Our guide carries only pepper spray. I have been on eight trips and we have never come close to having to use it. And I have never seen a bear act aggressively toward a photographer.