September 15th, 2009

Birds As Art Notes, September 15 2009



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Brown Bear chasing salmon, Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park, AK
Image copyright 2009/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D MIII. ISO 640. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/5 sec. at f/36 in Tv mode.

Once I decided to try and create a pleasing blur, I should have reduced the ISO to 200: I would have been able to work at a wider aperture and spent less time on the dust spotting…. As always, when you are creating these intentionally blurred images, it is best to work in Tv mode so that you have complete control of the shutter speed. When I saw the multitude of dust spots on this image, I got out my Sensor Scope, small Lens Pen, and Rocket Blower and did a thorough cleaning. See here for sensor cleaning help and details:


The link provided to BAA Bulletin 298 in yesterday’s Bulletin was faulty. If you need to view the Bulletin on-line, you can find it here: We apologize for any inconvenience. You can find all of the back issues in the Bulletin Archives here:

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George Brunt and Brown Bear, Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park, AK
Image copyright 2009/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
For details and comments on this image, see the BPN Friends and Family post here:


After sending yesterday’s Bulletin (which included the image and caption above), I received an e-mail from subscriber who wishes to remain anonymous. I am publishing pretty much the entire e-mail exchange here below. It is on the long side but will make for some interesting reading. (In the interest of readability I have corrected numerous spelling and grammatical errors.)

JR: The behavior shown in subject photo above (and your defense of same) is irresponsible and inexcusable regardless of statistics, the guides’ experience, or anything else. Bears are wild animals. Bears and other wild animals are predicable and can’t read statistics. A wild animal perfectly content to be near someone 100 times or 1000 times may attack the very next time. We have no way of knowing why. Had something happened, it would automatically have been the bear that was blamed and likely destroyed. Wouldn’t you agree that there is no photograph worth running the risk of endangering the subject or the photographer no matter how small that risk? This did both. I doubt you will agree and I do not wish to engage in debate. I just thought it important for you to know that there was at least one divergent viewpoint to all those given on the blog and I ask you with all sincerity to simply think about it. Had there been a ranger present, do you think he/she would’ve condoned this? Sincerely, JR

AM: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Are you suggesting that George should have run away, or than nobody should be out in the wild photographing bears in the first place? Later and love, artie

ps: Photographers and float-planing day trippers have been visiting Katmai for more than 2 decades and enjoying close encounters without incident. Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend were killed and eaten there but if you know the story at all he was begging for it. As far as what would have happened had a ranger been present, I have no idea. They did, however, know about and tolerate Treadwell’s insane behaviors for years until he was killed….


JR: Thanks so much for the considerate and courteous response.


JR: I am assuming based on the background in the scene and the rig George is using that the bear was visible from a distance.

AM: Correct.

JR: In that instance, it is easy to move at the same pace to remain a respectable distance and not interfere with the animal’s buffer zone or “safe” zone. Of course, I do not know what is behind you as you are taking the photo.

AM: There are often bears behind the group.

JR: If the bear came out from cover suddenly and was on him before he had time to retreat, then of course I’m not suggesting he run away. You and I both know that would be the absolute worst thing to do. I am also not suggesting that none of us should be there.

AM: I would disagree. If you are anywhere near the bears, a hundred yards say, and you are not with an experienced guide who knows the individual bears, or if you wander into the wrong area out of ignorance, the wrong bear can run you down in less than ten seconds. By allowing folks into Katmai there is always a risk of getting attacked and eaten. Period.

JR: We all can enjoy the privilege of being out there taking photos and do so without endangering ourselves or the subject. Again, with his rig, there is no need to encroach so why allow it?

AM: You would really have to experience what is going on to understand what is going on. Chuck has been doing this for 20 years. He knows the individual bears. He knows the bad-tempered bears. Though I have not met one of them, he has told me that when a bad bear comes along he has the groups move away or leave. That was not the case here. And the bear approached George, not visa versa.

JR: What possible positive reason is there for not simply moving away?? Not run away and not wait and then run away but simply not allow the situation to come to be in the first place? What possible reason?

AM: The bears routinely approach us to within 5 to 20 yards. Routinely. Once they are that close and they decide to come even closer, leaving the area is not a good plan. You might be in one spot and have a bear go after a salmon and seem to be charging right at you when it is in fact headed for a salmon. Again, this happens in split seconds. And again, leaving the area at any speed is not a good plan.

JR: As to your “ps”, I repeat, the fact that it hasn’t happened is no defense against the possibility that it might and then it would be the bear that pays the ultimate price.

AM: Again, anyone in bear territory or anyone photographing bears in Katmai is of course potentially at risk no matter the distance that they keep from this or that individual bear. So you cannot have your cake and eat it. Either keep everyone out of the park, everyone, fisherman, campers, photographers, everyone, or else let the bears interact occasionally with the humans at close range in the company of a skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced guide.

JR: Bears are more important than photographs and I say that as a nature photographer who loves both nature and photography. I know the Treadwell story and do not condone or defend either what he did or that he was allowed to do it. His behavior was inexcusable.

AM: Agree.

JR: I would say that even if I agree with all of your points, which clearly I don not.

AM: Just as I do not agree at all with your points, being based on a single photograph and your never having been there.

JR: I think we (sic; you) should not publicize such actions to the general populace who may be neither as informed or considerate of the wildlife as the person portrayed.

AM: Sorry, but that is ridiculous. First, you are again forgetting that the bear approached George. Peacefully. Out of curiosity. George did not approach the bear. Second and most important, you cannot get up to see the bears without a competent guide. If you could, lots of folks would have already have been eaten. There are morons who get their arms ripped off by lions or bears at zoos, and some who have been killed at zoos. And I am talking about the general public, not the zookeepers.

JR: My overarching driving force is that more and more the natural world available wildlife is doing nothing but shrinking and when it comes to man vs animal, the animals rights always come second.

AM: If the rangers were shooting a bear or two each season because of the actions of photographers I would wholeheartedly agree with you, but zero bears shot because of the actions of photographers over the past 20 or 30 years is a pretty good record.

JR: It’s high time we begin to make more allowances for these creatures to not just exist but truly live.

AM: Then write your congressman and demand that Katmai National Park is permanently closed to all human visitation.

JR: I think that is one of our gifts of nature photography in that we hopefully inspire others to admire, preserve and protect our dwindling natural world and the creatures in it. Failure to do so will result in nothing to photograph at all absent farms and zoos.

AM: That is a nice speech but it has nothing to do with the reality of Katmai. And you can get eaten at a game farm as well as at the zoo.

JR: Enough, I’m getting too preachy

AM: Agreed.

JR: … and will lose my point more than make it.

AM: Again, with your never having been their your points and arguments are not scoring at all with me. In fact, they make no sense at all. I can see why you did not want to get into a debate.

JR: Again, I do thank you for your courtesy and willingness to listen.

AM: You are welcome. I will be running our conversations in a Notes soon. Would you like me to mention you by name and/or include your e-mail address? Later and love, artie


JR: Look, I don’t want this debate to go on forever.

AM: Interesting. Yet you keep on writing back…

JR: I knew going in that there was no way on earth I would get you to see my position but I wrote anyway because I felt it was important that you know not everybody is in your boat.

AM: I am fine with that but as I said, your arguments are weak and your points are pretty much indefensible.

JR: I understand fully that I am making assumptions not having been there.

AM: Agreed and already pointed out by me.

JR: I am not trying to portray myself as any kind of animal expert. I am not trying to denigrate the experience or character of anybody involved.

AM: Well, you have already stated that #1: I should not have allowed the situation to develop as it did. And #2: that it was wrong of me to publish that image. So I guess it depends on your definition of “denigrate.”

JR: I also realize that grizzly bears are not the awful beasts they are sometimes portrayed as being by people who don’t know any better.

AM: That is obviously correct.

JR: They are in fact rather well behaved and left to their own devices and treated properly prove to be no threat. I understand the wonderful record of Katmai and am thrilled by that.

AM: As the folks who visit are thrilled by being in their close proximity.

JR: My point and my only point which does not seem to be getting through is this: with experienced guides and the fantastic equipment now available it should be possible to get all the wonderful photographs anybody could want without getting in close proximity to the bear or any animal and thereby provide the opportunity for an unfortunate accident. That’s it and you still have not explained why anybody needs to be this close.

AM: Well, I have explained that in detail so I will not repeat myself here.

JR: As for publishing this…

AM: I will be publishing it so that folks can see your points. I asked whether you wanted me to include your name. A yes or no answer would be fine.

JR: …providing my e-mail address would be like me forwarding the whole thing to Defenders of Wildlife or the National Resources Defense Council and inviting their membership to chime in. Neither one of us needs our mailboxes full in that manner.

AM: Well, excuse me. When I say something or publish an image in a Bulletin, I am open to comments from 10,500+ folks (including you). It is interesting that you feel free to write me to express your opinion but then decline to have your e-mail address published along with the conversation. Quite interesting. Hey, while I am sure that many folks would be agreeing with me there would likely be some who would be agreeing with you. I did miss your original point. You are obviously free to send the image and the Bulletin to whomever you would like. Be sure however, to include your e-mail address. In your first e-mail you stated “I do not wish to engage in debate,” yet when I wrote you back you chose to reply and debate and you did that twice. But when I ask you questions you choose to ignore them. Later and love, artie

ps: I would appreciate hearing from you before 11 am today as to whether you would like me to use your name or not in the Bulletin. I will be stating that you asked not to have your e-mail address published (unless you reconsider and instruct me to do otherwise.) pps: I have probably spent close to an hour answering your e-mails…..


AM: Third try getting you to answer a simple question; I asked whether you wanted me to include your name. Yes or no would be fine. Do you want me to use your name or do you prefer to be anonymous?

JR: Sorry – no, let it rest – no name, no e-mail, no nothing.

AM: OK. I love folks with big mouths who have zero guts. Later and love, artie

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Kodiak with Katmai in the background from the float plane over Kodiak, AK
Image copyright 2009/Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
For the technical details on this image plus some excellent suggestions and reposts, check out the BPN thread in the Landscape Forum here: There is also a great aerial photography tip on focusing.

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