A Guide to Pleasing … Which One Do You Like Best? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

A Guide to Pleasing ... Which One Do You Like Best?

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This pleasing blur of a Coastal Brown Bear jumping off a stream bank hoping to land on top of a salmon was created Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park, AK on my recent Bear Boat IPT with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the 1.4X III TC (handheld at 98mm) and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 50. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/15 sec. at f/13 in Tv mode.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: -8.

A Guide to Pleasing Bear Blurs, and More

A careful look at the technical data for each of the three images will reveal that I almost always set ISO 50 when trying to create pleasing blurs and that I always work in Tv Mode; setting ISO 50 reduces dust spotting (by allowing me to work at relatively wide apertures) and working in Tv mode allows me complete control of the blur speed. When photographing lunging bears I almost always chose 1/15 sec. as my shutter speed whether using a short telephoto zoom or a long lens. You will find all of these tips plus tons more detailed in A Guide to Pleasing Blurs, the e-Book that I co-wrote and co-illustrated with Denise Ippolito. You can learn more about this great guide by clicking here. And you can click here to see Denise’s killer Blur Galleries; be sure to click on several of the galleries as her creativity is pretty much unlimited.

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This pleasingly blurred image of a Coastal Brown Bear lunging forward to jump on a salmon was also created at Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park, AK on my recent Bear Boat IPT with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the the 1.4X III TC (handheld at 280mm) and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 50. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/15 sec. at f/11 in Tv mode.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: -8. This was a big change from the previous +2 after my Mark IV was serviced by Canon.

You can get an idea of how fast these bears are by studying the image above. Even though 1/15 sec. is a relatively fast blur speed you can see the position of the bear’s rump when the shutter first opened on the right side of the frame. When they lunge for a fish it seems that they were shot out of a powerful cannon.

If anyone is competent in math, please see if you can follow along and let me know if I am in error. We can figure that the bear’s rump (as noted above) moved at least one meter in less than 1/15 of a second. That translates to 15 meters in one second, or more than 30 mph. (15 meters in one second works out to 54,000 meters in one hour. 54,000 meters is about 59,055 yards). That works out to 33.5 mph which is pretty consistent with what you will find on the internet. As acceleration is the increase in speed divided by the time the acceleration of this lunging bear would seem to be about 450 meters/second. That is quick by any standard.

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The image, which features a Coastal Brown Bear walking across a low tide mud flat covered with kelp and mussels was created at Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park, AK on the recent Bear Boat IPT with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 50. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/4 sec. at f/22 in Tv mode.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: -4, a big change for the +10 before this Mark IV was serviced by Canon.

For the image above I set the shutter speed to 1/4 second and panned with the walking bear in an attempt to create a pan-blurred background. I remember striving to match my panning speed with the speed of the bear so as to yield a relatively sharp head. If blurred too much, the heads of animals and birds may ruin otherwise pleasing images. Here I sharpened the bear’s head twice with strong contrast masks and in addition, used three quick masks to hide the bobble in front of the head thus giving the appearance of the head being fairly sharp.

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This vertical pan blur of a stand of fireweed was created at Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, AK on the recent Bear Boat IPT with the with the the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X III TC, and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 50. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/8 sec. at f/22 in Tv mode.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: 0.

I created the image above as we waited for a sleeping bear to wake up ๐Ÿ™‚ I am not a big fan of standing around doing nothing.

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This image was created at Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park, AK on the recent Bear Boat IPT with the with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 50. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/4 sec. at f/20 in Tv mode.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: -4.

I created the moving water blur above as we waited for a bear or two to enter the stream and begin fishing. The next time that you encounter low light or are a bit bored waiting for your subjects to come onto the scene, think blurs. With a copy of A Guide to Pleasing Blurs on your computer anyone can learn to make wonderful images with slow shutter speeds. And best of all, it is great fun.

Which One Do You Like Best?

Please take a moment to leave a comment and let us know which of the five images above you like best and why. And remember, there is a Pleasing Blurs category in the BIRDS AS ART 1st International Bird Photography Competition so get to work!

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of he gear used to make the three mages in this 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.

Remember: you can earn free contest entries with your B & H purchases. 11 great categories, 34 winning and honored images, and a $20,000+ prize pool. Click here for details.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
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 with the 1.4X III TC which is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
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.
CR-80 Replacement Foot for Canon 800. When using the 800 on a Mongoose as I do, replacing the lens foot with this accessory lets the lens sit like a dog whether pointed up or down and prevents wind-blown spinning of your lens on breezy days by centering the lens directly over the tripod.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
Be sure to check out our camera body User’s Guides here.
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.
A Guide to Pleasing Blurs. Everything that you wanted to know about creating pleasing blurs and more!
BIRDS AS ART Camera Body User’s Guides. Why spend $2-5 grand on a camera and not learn to use it?

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.

34 comments to A Guide to Pleasing … Which One Do You Like Best?

  • I like the one with the water splashes the best. The blurred splashes add more intensity to the overall action.

  • Dixon Soracco

    1 is just to much of a blur for my taste and 3 looks too processed, something is just not right about the image for me. I am enjoying 2 as the bears head pops out and I am okay not know ing where it is headed. Great color. Really enjoying the water as I like e flow and colors. The flowers are making me a bit dizzy, I said that in my last post about the sunflower and here it is again.

    Reall enjoy reading others thoughts. Thanks for posting

  • Doug

    I like Water the best, its just easy to look at. I keep looking back at how the colors blend and transition. If these were my photos this is the one I’d hang on my wall.
    I really like Lunging. It is intense and lively, chuck full of fast action. It tells a great story. If these were my photos this is the one I’d show everyone.
    I’m not sure what the story is with Jumping. If the background (stone or mud bank) had focus then the story would be about the jump. If nothing was in focus then I could look at it as an abstract. As it is it just strikes me as a missed shot.
    I like the colors in Fireweed but there is too much detail still available. My eyes hurt as I struggle to focus in on the details. I think if it were less contrasty or bright it would help me.
    I like Walking but I feel like part of the story is missing. Where is the bear going? Just how fast is it moving anyway? I love the way the head pops as the center of attention.

  • Sheesh…thanks, Keith!

  • “OT question โ€“ why do some postersโ€™ names show up in blue and others in orange?”

    Hover your cursor over the blue names, Loren – they’re the ones where someone has provided a website with their login details.

    2nd bear and water for me.

  • Esther Corley

    The 4th one, 2nd is the 2nd bear.

  • Artie, I like the second one best with the bear coming toward the camera. This is a great bear photo! Thanks for sharing. Best and love, Helen

  • Artie –

    OT question – why do some posters’ names show up in blue and others in orange?


  • In the bear series, it’s #2 by a mile, although I’d like to see the face a bit sharper with the rest of the blur as is.

    That said, the last two, of the flowers and water, are gorgeous, impressionistic candidates for wall hanging! Especially the flowers. Denise is right (as usual!). Stunning!


  • Jay

    My favorites would be the water blur followed by the fireweed. Both have an abstract feel to them that clearly represents that this was the intentional creation. Though the lunging bear is a good shot (I’d be thrilled to have that come out of my camera), the blurred images of the bear leave me with the feeling that these were just shots that didn’t quite work out, even though I know you were intending on creating blurred images. I think I’d feel stronger about the bear images if the eyes/face were cleaner. Then again, that may not be possible with this technique.

  • I love #2, it’s a killer shot. I also love the Fireweed-it’s a great blur!

  • Maggi Fuller

    Not keen on blurs generally, but the 2nd bear photo is great and I also like the Fireweed

  • Catherine Costolo

    Bear image #2 just blows me away! It really tells a story. I also love the fireweed!

  • Jay Gould

    #2 is powerful; #4 is simply lovely.

  • Hilary Hann

    Artie, a lovely and diverse selection of blurs to look at. I like the suggestion of trying some blurs whilst waiting for some action when out in the field photographing wildlife. I will definitely try this on my next trip.

    When I first looked at the 5 images, I selected #2. However, for creative images such as these, I use the following selection criteria; which one would I hang on my wall?

    The first one I would hang is #3, the bear walking across the mud flats. The lines and colour tones appeal to me here, with the sharp head. Like it very much.

    The other one I would hang is #5, the water blur, for the beautiful flow line and colours.

    The others are very nice (the fireweed is excellent but I’m not such a lover of pink), but those are the 2 which would suit me.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments and great seeing you here ๐Ÿ™‚ artie

  • Derek Courtney

    In general, I don’t find blurs too pleasing to my eye with the exception of water flows. Just personal taste I suppose. I agree with the majority that Image 2 is the most interesting of the lot with the water spray framing the head. So kudos on that. But the water is still the most (only) pleasing to me.

    For some, blurs are an acquired taste. In general they are very popular with contest judges :).


    PS: If we are all striving for perfection in our postings, “proof read” should more appropriately be written “proofread” ๐Ÿ™‚

    I do strive for that and try to avoid errors that would lead folks to believe that I was illiterate to some degree ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for catching my error/brain typo. I shall repair it. I can always use a good proofreader. artie

  • #2 & #5 are the ones I like the best. The spray of #2 and the colours and motion of #5.

  • No. 2 by a mile because of the beautiful water spray all around.

  • Eric Thomson

    Love the water. Great color and light. Fireweed blur is fabulous. Bear #2 is knocked right out of the park – great explosion of motion. Thanks for all you share!

    Eric, Thanks for your kind comments. Mon pleasir. artie

  • Sarah Mayhew

    I like #2 the best. The blurred water creates a great sense of movement and makes the bear appear to be bursting out of the water. The bear’s head is sharp enough to show good detail. My second choice is #5, the water is lovely.

  • I like #2 the best. I think it’s due to the sense of motion or something, but anyway, I like it the best.

  • Mary Stamper

    #2 is my favorite. Also like #3 and #5.

  • Donnette Largay

    I too like #2 best. Love the water spraying. But, some of the fun was taken away when the math came up. Between Lightroom, Photoshop, all the filters. etc. that I use.
    Now I have to go back to math class?

    Nope. We not force anyone to go to math class ๐Ÿ™‚ artie

  • For all the reasons already cited by others, Image 2 is the hands down winner. Fantastic shot.

  • Fernando

    Thanks Artie for teaching and explanation of each photo.
    Photo # 2 is that I like the movement of water droplets and the bear were very good!
    The pan in the # 3 well-defined head I also like, but I prefer # 2.

  • Peter Kes

    Sorry, forgot to mention: I like #2 best ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Another vote for the second shot. Brilliant!

  • Peter Kes

    Artie, Your estimates for the speed of the bear may be OK but your calculation for acceleration are way off base: the t0 speed counts in the calculation. If we assume that the bear was indeed standing still at the start of the exposure (as would seem to be the case as the rump registered on the sensor), that it was traveling at 20mph when the shutter closed, and that it moved about 1 meter, then the bear would have been accelerating at about 4gs, 40 meters/sec/sec. This is well within the realm of possibility as the bear has a good grip on the earth with those big claws when it launches. 4 G’s is about four times faster than a Ferrari accelerates over the first ten meters. If the bear was indeed traveling at 33mph then the acceleration would have been about 11.5G’s. This might be beyond the range of physics without additional aid….

    For the mathematically inclined the formula that you should have used is as follows: A = V squared/2 times D

    V is the speed in meters/second
    D is the distance in meters
    and A is the acceleration measured in meters/second/second

    Cheers, Peter

    Thanks a stack Peter! Love you, artie

  • Maryann Robinson

    I guess I stand alone in that I like the last one best. The colors are great!

  • Stan

    #2 and the flowers. I like the bear coming at you, and just the colors of the fireweed.

  • I like the second one best, first one just a little to much blur for me. The bottom image is blurred enough it is hard to tell what it is, water I guess or land and water??

  • I like two of them bestโ€”bear #2 with the sharp lines of spray is beautiful and conveys such a good feel of the power of the jump. All the white water surrounding it sets it off from the background when less attention to composition would have put the head against dark.
    The other winner is the water blurโ€”love the complementary colors of blue and gold with the gold framing the blue; and the long undulating lines. Next favorite is the fireweed because of the composition (framed by the green with the pink in the lower third of the frame) and the complementary colors of pink and light green.
    Bear #1 is next, I know it was impossible, but I’d like to see some sharpness on the face rather than on the fur near the rump.
    Legs are thin and body shape of bear #3 is shortened and looks too small for the head in my eyes.

  • Image 1 just looks like you just swung your camera around in time to catch a bear jumping into the water. I don’t care for it.

    Not. I was waiting on the bear to jump. I like it ๐Ÿ™‚

    But, I think Image 2 is a winner! The clearing of the spray around the head focuses eye right to the bear. Very cool.

    I agree with you there.

    The last two images are ok but I’ve seen many better pleasing blurs from you… IMHO, they don’t stand up to what I’ve come to expect from your blurs.

    Funny, Denise who knows a thing or two about blurs thinks that the fireweed blur is my best ever flower blur ๐Ÿ™‚ And I like the moving water blur too.

    Again, Image 2 is a real winner. You should submit to the BBC Contest next year!

    Thanks Adam for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. artie