Ummm… I Meant to do That!


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Snow Geese: f/22 @ 1/13 second, ISO 800

Sometimes blurry is a good thing.  I enjoy making razor sharp images of birds and from a commercial point of view, that’s what most editors want. However, I love impressionistic and abstract art and there’s no reason why bird photography can’t be approached in the same way. We’re attracted to birds because of their beauty, but we’re also fascinated with their long migrations and graceful movement.  Sometimes it’s nice to show that movement in our photography. Just like impressionism and abstraction in drawing or painting, pulling off a well done impression in photography is difficult. It’s not often that a great image is made by accident. By choosing a small aperture, low ISO or a combination of both, you are dictating that the shutter speed will be slow enough that movement will be blurred.

In the above example I panned from left to right and made sure I moved the camera at the same speed that the geese were traveling. I also made sure that I did not move the camera up or down. By using this method I got a nice blur and retained enough detail so that we can still tell that these are Snow Geese. The same method was used for the Long-tailed duck below.

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Long-tailed Duck: f/18 @ 1/50 second, ISO 200

Often I will experiment with blur techniques when the light is too low to make sharp, conventional images without having to use noisy high ISOs. Most of these images end up in the trash can, but it’s fun to experiment and keep making images in less than ideal conditions. With enough practice your amount of keepers will increase. This Sabine’s Gull image was made on a very dark rainy day. I followed it down in my viewfinder as it hovered above the waves along a riverbank. I didn’t quite keep up with the bird and used a very slow shutter speed of 1/4 second which resulted in an even more abstract and painterly effect than the pan blurs.

Sabine's print
Sabine’s Gull: f/20 @ 1/4 second, ISO 200

Here are a couple examples where there was no camera movement. Instead I let the moving birds and wave action do the “painting”.

Canvasbacks, Aythya valisineria
Canvasbacks: f/22 @ 1/10 second, ISO 100

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Long-tailed Ducks: f/16 @ 1/4 second, ISO 100

Some of my favorite images have been made using these techniques, and I encourage you to give it a whirl. I am sure you’ll find that it brings more creative options and serendipity to your photography.

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~ by David Stimac on February 26, 2013.

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