Bear Fur Fare: Which Version Do You Like Best? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Bear Fur Fare: Which Version Do You Like Best?

Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative Metering +2/3 stop: 1/250sec. at f/8.

Lens/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: -4.

Bear Fur Fare

Take a moment to study the three frames in the animated GIF above. One was processed from a single frame using my usual workflow. The second version was created from a four-frame AEB sequence in Photomatix Pro 4.1.1 with the Enhancer Grunge preset. The settings were tweaked a bit before processing the HDR image and then I made additional small changes in Photoshop. The third version was made using the High Structure preset in NIK Silver EFEX Pro to convert the single frame image to black and white. High Structure and Wet Rocks are my two favorite SIlver EFEX Pro presets.

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This RAW file for the image above was converted with ACR and optimized in Photoshop CS-5 using the workflow described in detail in Digital Basics (a PDF sent via e-mail).

The funny thing is that I had had an image like this in mind for several days. One morning a beautiful bear sat near the group with its back to us for about an hour waiting for a fish to come by. When I finally decided to make some images of his back the bear decided to get up and walk down the stream. He who hesitates…. I passed right by the bear in the image above late one evening just as the group was getting into the skiff to head back to the boat for dinner and sleep. I turned around and, created a few images, and then made them wait a few minutes as I created the AEB sequence for the HDR image below.

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Denise Ippolito inspired me with her great HDR grunge images of museum and prison interiors and old cars and derelict buildings. On my Galapagos trip, I tried creating some HDR images of wildlife. Since then I continue to have a ton of fun trying and learning. We are currently collaborating on a Grunge Guide. I created a five frame AEB sequence +/1 one full stop around the base exposure: ISO 800. Evaluative Metering +2/3 stop: 1/250sec. at f/8. The lightest image in the series was discarded. The main requirement for creating AEB sequences like this one is that the animal be completely still. Being on a tripod even with shorter focal length lenses is always best but I have had some luck hand-holding. (It’s a case of do as I say not as I do…)

If you would like purchase Photomatix and save 15% click here and be sure to enter birdsasart as the coupon code. You can download and use a trial copy of Photomatix before you buy. (It is fully operational; the processed images will have a visible watermark on them.)

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NIK Silver EFEX Pro makes converting images to B&W a snap and offers a variety of interesting presets that produce dramatic results. For the image above I used the High Structure preset.

You can save 15% on all NIK products including Silver Efex Pro 2, HDR Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro 3.0, and Viveza 2 by clicking here and entering BAA in the Promo Code box at check-out. Then hit Apply to see your savings.

Thanks to Denise for her help in coming up with the title for this blog post.

Which Version Do You Like Best?

Please take a moment to let us know which version you like best and which you like least: straight up, HDR Grunge, or black and white. Do share your reasoning with us. Please take a moment to read what you have typed to make sure that it makes sense. Thanks. πŸ™‚ And if you hate all images of bear fur there is no need to chime in here.

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. Eleven great categories, 34 winning and honored images, and prize pools valued in excess of $20,000. Click here for details.

Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
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:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sale 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 πŸ™‚
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.
BIRDS AS ART Camera Body User’s Guides. Why spend $2-5 grand on a camera and not learn to use it properly and efficiently?

24 comments to Bear Fur Fare: Which Version Do You Like Best?

  • Anjelique Arthur

    Gotta Say Silver Efex.

  • Mary Stamper

    I think I like #1 and #3 the best (straight and b&w), the reason is because it shows the contour of the body a bit. The HDR one looks flat, kind of like a rug. That’s a criticism that I personally have of many HDR pieces; the sense of distance away from the eye, even in cases like this where we are talking about mere inches, seems always to be sacrificed for extreme local details. I’m not saying that that tactic never works, but it is something that I often don’t myself, like.

  • Christopher Miller

    I like the straight up version best. The B&W version is very nice too, but the variation of color from light to dark in the original adds another layer of interest to me. I don’t like the HDR version because it looks too bright to me and it too lacks that color variation in the fur.

    Great to see you hear Christopher. Don’t be a stranger. πŸ™‚ artie

  • My favorite of the 3 is the single frame one, love the colors and the difference of the texture of the fur between the shadows and highlights. I didn’t like the HDR conversion that much with this photo.

  • Debby C

    My first question (to myself) would be: what am I going to do with these photos? Maybe I’d do a photo collage and have two of the 3 (say, the single frame and the BW next to a full picture of the bear), but comparing them 1:1 is a personal choice. I like the single frame because I can clearly see this is bear fur with the original color/texture. The HDR brings in more detail, especially at the top of the photo, so it’s interesting. The BW adds a very artistic look to the photo. But since it’s an abstract, I would have my intent in mind for how I would use the picture vs how much I liked either one. I like them all. πŸ™‚ Thanks for asking.

  • Jay

    All three images work for me, and viewing each separately I wouldn’t be critical. Rating them, my top two would be the Silver Efex and the single frame (which is first or second varies as I look that them, but I think I’m leaning toward the single frame at the moment). I would put the grunge HDR at the bottom only because I think the fur looks better toned down a bit.

  • Adam Felde

    B&W. Least favorite is the HDR.

  • I really like the B&W and the straight-up ones the best – the patterns of the fur with the highlights on them is fascinating to me. The B&W could be a photo of Aspen trees or birch trees, especially at high elevations where there is a lot of crookedness in the trees. Very fascinating to me.

  • Although i like all three, the grunge is my favorite. First, it seems to me to better portray the color of the bear.I realize that bears come in many shades, but like the warm tone on this version. But mainly I like seeing the pattern of the wet hair change as it goes from hanging down in the lower frame, to pointing toward the viewer, and then is oriented upward toward the back. The gringe does the best job (to me) of showing these differnt perspectives distinctly.

  • Eric Thomson

    It was a hard choice but I like the HDR version best.

  • I like the natural one processed thru ACR and your normal work flow because to me it represents the closest thing to the actual color and texture of the bear’s fur.

  • Charles Scheffold

    I’m pretty sure the B&W is my favorite, but without color it’s a lot harder to identify. Second favorite would be the HDR version because it brings out the detail in a similar way as the B&W does.

  • Esther Corley

    Absolutely the Grunge. It looks the most lifelike.

  • I like the single shot because the colors look more real. However the HDR has more detail.

  • David K.

    I like the original. Since you’re getting into HDR now, I’d also remark that I’m guilty of processing for a “3D rendered” look at times, but otherwise try to keep it realistic. Something about the “grunge” appearance bothers me (of any HDR, not specifically your example here – and it’s not that I’m a HDR purist). I think you could make a really fantastic HDR out of this image if you went for a bit more realistic tone mapping. But as long as you’re having fun, what does it matter? πŸ™‚

    I did create a straight up HDR with Enhancer Default in Photomatix and it did not do anything for me at all πŸ™‚ artie

  • Don Hulley

    Short and sweet. The original, B&W and not the HDR. Even not knowing the subject I that would still be my preference. HDR and wildlife, mmmm.

  • Stan Cunningham

    I’m in the minority as I don’t like the brighter colors of the grunge, and what I see with my eyes is more like the single image. I really like the b and w though, the best actually, as it shows the large amount of contrast. I’m going to have to buy that software as my attempts at b and w are feeble at best.

  • I like the grunge. I too have been playing with Photomatic. I have never though of myself as artsy, but with HDR I feel free to go crazy. Not everything I have done looks good in HDR, but when you get the look right, WOW. The bear fur his a good example. I wish I had though of it while I was in Alaska. I always get home looking at images and regret I didn’t make multiple exposures of the HDR candidates. Go figure.

    If you want to have fun and go nuts try Fractalius. You can try the blog search. To learn more about this great plug-in, check out Denise’s free Fractalius tutorials here. To purchase the plug-in which runs only on PCs, please use this link. To see the spectacular images in the original Bulletin feature on Fractalius, click here and scroll down. ps: See you in Homer! artie

  • The grunge is my choice. I like the colors and the way the fur at the top is more equal in exposure to the rest of the fur. In the other 2 photos that fur is more burned outβ€”not a fault, I just like the grunge fur better. In the grunge photo, I like the more even colors on the rest of the fur as well. In all the photos, I like the fur just below the middle of the photo because it looks like many rivers flowing north into their floodplain outlets. The fur above the middle resembles cactus somewhat. The grunge emphasizes this in both fur strips making this an interesting abstract.

  • Chris W

    I like the Nik b/w the best overall, but I like the detail at the top in the HDR image. The detail is lost in the other 2 images. What I would like to see is an HDR image without the grunge affect taken to SEP 2. This would then restore the lost detail at the top which is distracting. Thanks for showing how 1 image can be so different.

    YAW. Please explain what you mean by “taken to SEP 2.” artie

  • Charlie Young

    I prefer the HDR version because it shows all of the bear’s fur. The B&w version has the fur washed out at the top of the frame.

  • Marty

    I really prefer the black and white version. It really made me aware of the patterns and mosaic of the bears fur. Good for you getting that close….. I wudda had to change my shorts!!!!!

  • As in one of your posts last week, this is like asking which of my children I love most. Each has its own merits.

    That said, I think the Nik processed image is the weakest (I know…you didn’t ask that!), and the Photomatix would be #1 for me; the sharpness and range of color make it the most interesting for me.


  • Hi, Art. I really like all three (to my surprise) because they are so different. The original is beautiful. But the grunge adds something “electric” to the hair even tho it’s wet. And even the B&W is interesting of just the hair. Nice demo of the variations possible.