Blurred of a feather
PhotoPlus : The Canon Magazine|October 2021
James Paterson conveys the motion of wildlife with beautiful blurs
James Paterson

THE MISSION

Shoot intentional motion blur in wildlife photos using camera and panning techniques

Time needed Two hours

Skill Level Intermediate

Kit needed

• Long lens

• Tripod

• Gimbal head (optional)

In wildlife photography the desire is usually to capture animals that are pin-sharp, but what if we try a different approach and aim for something more abstract instead? This is a technique we learned from UK-based wildlife photographer Ben Hall (for more inspiration by Ben, see page 28, and check out www.benhallphotography.com). The trick is to lower your shutter speed just enough to blur the movement of the animals, while still retaining areas of relative sharpness and legible shapes. The results can be stunning. Sure, things won’t be tack sharp, but in its place you get a wonderful sense of speed and motion.

You could try this technique out on any wildlife, but it’s especially suited to bird photography. Birds are almost always on the move, especially those that love water. This poses a challenge in terms of focusing, framing, and lens reach, but it’s worth it when you capture a moment that conveys the beauty of birds in motion. There are several approaches – we can keep the camera still and blur the bird’s movement, or we can pan with the moving birds and blur the backdrop. Or, and this is the most satisfying, we can aim to blur some parts of the animal, like the wings or heads while keeping other areas sharp. It takes time to get a great shot, and you might fill up an entire memory card for just a handful of keepers, but if you manage to capture a cracker then it’s well worth the effort.

ON LOCATION MOTION-BLURRED WILDLIFE

Get your EOS camera set up to capture beautiful blur in your animal photos

01 LOCATION

It’s fairly easy to find places where you’ll be guaranteed a variety of birds to capture. Large lakes, wetland reserves, and nature reserves are ideal. Birds and other wildlife are usually most active around sunrise and sunset, so the start or end of the day is the best time to head out with your camera.

02 TRIPOD

This project is all about striking a balance between motion blur and sharpness, so a tripod is crucial, for keeping the camera still to capture subject blur, or tracking the subject for panning blur. It also helps to take the weight of heavy lenses. A beanbag can also come in handy if you want to shoot from a very low position.

03 BIRD ACTIVITY

The real joy and challenge in this project is in observing the birds. The more you get to know their behavior, the easier it is to predict what will happen next. Watch them for a while and you’ll begin to see patterns of movement, places where they hover, wash, or feed. If you can predict where to point your camera things become easier.

04 CAMERA SETTINGS

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