Zoom Blur Fun and How-to for the Non Blur Haters… What’s the Bad News About Really Small Apertures? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Zoom Blur Fun and How-to for the Non Blur Haters... What's the Bad News About Really Small Apertures?

What’s Up?

I worked very hard on Saturday on picking images for the San Diego exhibit. Denise Ippolito helped me with the final cuts, getting down to six images in each category. Talk about heart-wrenching work…. We still have two to finish. I enjoyed a long swim and several meditation sessions but skipped my ice bath.

Speaking of San Diego, we learned that two of our very favorite client/friends, Joe Barranco and sidekick Tom Wester will be joining us on the San Diego IPT. Both are quite affable. Tom is always helpful and knows a ton about all sorts of photography. Joe always has a big smile on his face. There are just two slots open so if you are thinking about coming please do not hesitate and risk disappointment. Click here for all IPT info.

This blog post took about 1 1/2 hours to prepare and was published at 5:34am on Sunday, October 4, 2015. Enjoy and learn.

Artie’s New Tripod

Interest has been huge. It looks as if we will be e-mailing the info to those who requested it on Monday. If that happens, I will likely post it to the blog mid-week to give those who e-mailed first crack at the stock.

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charges a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few months, we have sold just about everything in sight. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the original 400mm IS DO lens have been dropping steadily.

After a two-week lull, there have been several sales over the past few days:

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM lens (the “old five”) was sold by Dane Johnson for $4150 in early October 2015.
Sigma Zoom Super Telephoto 300-800mm f/5.6 lens (Canon mount) was sold by Beth Starr for $4,999 in early October 2015.
Canon EOS-1D X in excellent condition was sold by Patrick Sparkman for $3650 in early October, 2014.

You can see all of the current listings here.

Brand New Listing

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

Yet another Lowest-ever BAA Price!

Erik Hagstrom is offering a used Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens in excellent condition for $1525. The sale includes the lens hood (EW-88C), the front and rear Canon lens caps, the original lens case LP1219, the instruction manual, both US & Canada warranty cards, the original box (less the UPC code that was used for a rebate), and insured shipping via FED-EX Ground. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Erik by e-mail or by phone at 206-999-1507 (Pacific time).

The new 24-70 is a favorite of all serious landscape photographers. Erik’s lens is priced to sell immediately. artie 


This image was created from the skiff at Kinak Bay, Katmai National Park, AK on the 2015 Bear Boat IPT with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (starting at 200mm) and the rugged Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 50. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/4 sec. at f/29. I zoomed from long to short during the exposure.

Two rows down and one AF point to the right of the center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Gull flock on rock zoom blur

Creating Zoom Blurs

The text below is adapted from “The Art of Bird Photography II” (ABP II: 916 pages, 900+ images, each with a legendary BAA educational caption; on CD only.)

Creating impressionistic zoom blurs is fun, but is a lot more difficult than you might think.

To make zoom blurs, I usually choose a shutter speed of 1/4 or 1/5 second. I always lower the ISO; sometimes this is necessary to get down to slow enough slow speed. Even in really dark conditions it pays to get your lowest ISO to minimize the dust spotting that comes with tiny apertures.

First, zoom out to approximate final focal length. Then zoom in, use One-Shot AF or rear focus (often using the central AF point only). The spot that you focus will become the central point of the zoom blur. Then depress the shutter button as you zoom out fairly quickly to the pre-determined wide focal length. When you first begin attempting zoom blurs in a given situation, it pays to practice the zoom-out a few times before depressing the shutter button. Once you are all set, make lots of images by varying both the shutter speed and the rate of the zoom-out. I usually make several dozen images and if I am lucky, wind up liking one or two.

The Bad News About Using Small Apertures

For this image I wound up at f/29 even though there was not much light and even though I had set my lowest ISO. So what’s the bad news about f/29? Working at 100% it took me more than 20 minutes to remove many dozens of dust bunnies. I should have added either my Singh-Ray 3-stop or 5-stop Mor-Slo Neutral Density (ND) filter. Having the former in place would have gotten me to about f/10 while the latter would have gotten me down the f/5 (equivalent to f/7.1 at ISO 100). Either of these wider apertures would have reduced the number of visible dust spots by 80-90%. (Note; diffraction, whatever it is, is not a problem with telephoto lenses.)

Why No ND Filter?

So why did I not simply add one of my 77mm ND filters? As it was a dark and dreary day I decided to head out with just my 100-400 II/1D X rig with a 1.4X III TC in my fanny pack. No tripod. No vest. My ND filters of course were in my vest 🙂

Like It or Hate it?

Do you like today’s image? If yes, be sure to let us know why? If you do not like it, please let us know why. If you hate all blurs, let us know that you are an “all blur hater.” And do, of course let us know why. Please do not take the phrase “blur hater” personally; it is intended to be somewhat of an affectionate–perhaps sympathetic–term.

My Do Not Forget List!

Whenever I choose to leave one of my Singh-Ray filters at home on a big trip I always come to regret it. Quickly. So I recently added the following items to my “Do Not Forget Items to Bring on all Trips” packing list:

Singh-Ray 77mm Warming Circular Polarizer
Singh-Ray 77mm Mor-Slo 5-stop Glass ND filter
Singh-Ray 77mm Mor-Slo 3-stop Resin ND filter
Singh-Ray 5-stop glass 52mm filter to fit the Canon drop-in Filter Holder

I absolutely love the Singh-Ray 3-stop Resin and 5-stop Glass Neutral Density Filters. I use the 77mm versions of these filters on my 24-105, my 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS, and my new and beloved 100-400mm IS II lens so that I can create blurs on sunny days without having to stop down to f/too-many dust spots…. With a 5-stop glass ND in place I can easily get down to shutter speeds of 1/2 second and slower on clear, bright sunny days.

Important Corrected Ordering Info for Singh-Ray 52mm Drop-In ND Filters

Singh-Ray Filters

Singh-Ray filters have been used by the world’s top photographers for many decades. I always have my 77mm Singh-Ray Warming Polarizer in my vest in case of rainbows. And I now travel (as above) with various Singh-Ray ND filters so that I can create pleasing blurs even with clear skies and bright sun. See here for a great example.

No other filter manufacturer comes close to matching the quality of Singh-Ray’s optical glass that is comparable to that used by NASA. And they continue to pioneer the most innovative products on the market like their ColorCombo polarizer, Vari-ND variable and Mor-Slo 15-stop neutral density filters. When you use their filters, you’ll create better, more dramatic images and, unlike other filters, with absolutely no sacrifice in image quality. All Singh-Ray filters are handcrafted in the USA.

Best News: 10% Discount/Code at checkout: artie10

To shop for a Singh-Ray 77mm 5-Stop Mor-Slo ND filter (for example), click on the logo link above and then click on the “Neutral and color density” tab. Next, under “Solid Neutral Density Filters,” click on “Mor-Slo™ 5, 10, 15 and 20-Stop Solid Neutral Density Filters (glass), choose the size and model, add to cart, and then checkout. At checkout, type artie10 into the “Have a coupon? Click here to enter your code” box, and a healthy 10% discount will be applied to your total. In addition to enjoying the world’s best filter at 10% off you will be supporting my efforts here on the blog.

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A Guide to Pleasing Blurs

If you would like to learn the fine points of creating pleasing pan-blurs and in addition, would like to learn the many other techniques that Denise and I use to create our popular pleasingly blurred images, but can’t make an IPT, get yourself a copy of A Guide to Pleasing Blurs by Denise Ippolito and yours truly.


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13 comments to Zoom Blur Fun and How-to for the Non Blur Haters… What’s the Bad News About Really Small Apertures?

  • avatar Scotty K

    I am a fan of (and frequent attempter of, if that’s a word) zoom blurs and I do like this shot. I have found that a brief pause between pressing the shutter and beginning the zoom gives a little more definition to the central subject. This tends to strike a balance that somewhat appeases the “blur-haters.” Of course, doing so usually requires a slightly longer shutter speed that would not have been available under these conditions. All that being said, I love the shot, specifically the contrast between green foliage, white birds and gray water.

  • avatar Frederick

    I do like the image, but when you mention too many dust bunnies spoiling th image; I am curious to know your reasons for not cleaning the sensor more often?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Frederick,

      The dust bunnies that you see at f/29 are on the microscopic level. Many or most of those would be visible right after you had the sensor cleaned by Canon…. I just worry about the big ones that are seen between f/4 and f/8. We always recommend a good cleaning with a Lens Pen if you know that you will be working at small apertures. a

      ps: see the Lens Pen info link here to learn more.

  • avatar Frank Peelee

    Artie said “(Note; diffraction, whatever it is, is not a problem with telephoto lenses.)”

    Au contraire, mon amie. Diffraction is a fact of physics. It limits resolution at small apertures, and affects all focal lengths. Because it is related to the physical size of the aperture, long focal length lenses can be stopped down to larger f numbers (and that’s why shorter lenses don’t have f/stop numbers larger than, typically, f/16 or f/22), but when the size of the hole gets really small relative to focal length, diffraction rears its ugly head. It’s not a matter of lens quality, just simple (?) physics. Lens makers allow their lenses to be stopped down as much as possible allowing for diffraction, and that’s why longer lenses have smaller possible apertures. But objective testing shows over and over that most lenses deliver their finest performance at their optimum aperture, usually between 2 and 3 stops down from maximum aperture. Of course, with zoom blurs and pan blurs, you can ignore all of this without worry. Please don’t make uninformed blanket statements, because you have a lot of folks hanging on every word you say — for very good reasons.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your comments Frank. I am a firm believer in practical photography principles as opposed to theoretical photography principles. I have made lots of images over the year at very small apertures and have never had a problem. a few years back I asked George Lepp and it was he who said that diffraction is never a problem with telephoto lenses. So yes, it is likely that if someone examined one of my images made with the 300 f/2.8L IS II lens at f/32 with a microscope, they might see some evidence of diffraction (whatever it is).

      Again, I have never seen any evidence of it, none of the excellent photographers who I know have ever seen it, and Mr. Lepp says it ain’t so. I, therefore, am fine with my statement. In other words, I go by real life results rather than theoretical bs if you would.

      Bonjour, artie

    • avatar David Policansky

      Dear Frank Pelee: I think you meant “mon ami,” rather than “mon amie.” 🙂 As for diffraction, it is indeed a principle of physics, as you say. I’ve been warned about its bad effects on photographic images often, but–perhaps because I am capable of finding many other ways to degrade image quality–I have never ever noticed its effects. Perhaps if I were shooting landscapes on a tripod and making huge enlargements, I’d notice, but to date I just haven’t.


  • avatar Ted Willcox

    I like it!! Beautiful colours. It has a feeling of motion as if it was exploding out towards the viewer.

  • avatar Gary Axten

    Generally if I don’t have something nice to say I’d rather not say anything. However, you asked…

    I don’t hate all blurs, I like to be able to see something of the subject such as in your post here:
    I would be happy with that on my wall.

    However this one is not clear. It’s nice enough in an impressionistic way, the colours are nice,I’d just rather something recognisable.

    • avatar Mal

      I agree completely with Gary’s comments. In general, blurs don’t grab my attention but that Blackbird flock blur had me staring at it for several minutes in appreciation. It’s a cracking image and it has a very deliberate, professional, fine-art feel to it.

      The gull blur though has more of an accidental blur feel. Nothing in it was striking enough to make me stop scrolling down.

      And to weigh-in on the diffraction discussion, I’ve always found my f/22 landscapes a little softer than with larger apertures. Diffraction? Or the result of the inevitable decrease in shutter speed? I think mostly the former and partly the later.

  • avatar Helen Jones

    I love the shot, especially the colours and the streaks leading the eyes right to the gulls. Also just enough of the gulls to assume that’s what they must be.

  • avatar Don

    You are looking for the word diffraction not refraction…..when referring to telephoto lenses
    Refraction would occur with mirror lenses.