My Favorite Namibia Image: Does It Get Any Better Than This? Only Two… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

My Favorite Namibia Image: Does It Get Any Better Than This? Only Two...

What’s Up?

I thought that I was well on my way to being back in the eastern time zone but after hitting the sack at about 9pm I awoke for good at 2:30am, which is 7:30am Namibia time. I answered lots of e-mails. I headed into town to do some food shopping and to order three new pairs of reading glasses. I went to Namibia with four pairs and destroyed three of them while I was there. The new frames are supposed to be a bit more rugged.

I took my first swim in weeks, worked on this blog post at about 6:30pm after a short nap, and took my first ice bath since before the surgery.

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks 177 days in a row with a new educational blog post… As always-–and folks have been doing a really great job recently–-please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. For best results use one of our many product-specific links; after clicking on one of those you can continue shopping with all subsequent purchases invisibly tracked to BAA. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated. Please remember: web orders only. Please remember that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


This image was created at Sossusvlei inside Namib Naukluft National Park, Namibia. I used the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens and the mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/4. Color temperature: Daylight.

Center AF point (Manual selection)/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF as framed and release. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Gemsbok and red dunes

Does It Get Any Better Than This?

Not for me. This is my very favorite image from the Namibia trip. Does it have a chance in a major contest? Not really. Maybe 20 years ago but not today. I love the magnificent animal, the red dune background, the sharpness, and the stunning early morning light.


Gemsbok are the largest species in the Oryx genus. They are widely hunted for their spectacular horns that average 33 inches in length. The only difference between males and females is that the horns of the males tend to be thicker with larger bases; the females have slightly longer, thinner horns. In life, they are spectacular.

Image Design Question?

All things being equal, should I have splayed the legs of my tripod and gotten flat on the ground?


From upper left clockwise to center: Black Skimmer head portrait, American Oystercatcher dining on surf clam flesh, Common Tern at sunset, Common Tern adult swallowing flatfish, Black Skimmer in flight, newborn Common Tern chick, American Oystercatcher with chick, fresh juvenile Common Tern (with fill flash), and Common Terns copulating.

Only Two…

Right now there are only two folks registered for the Nickerson IPT. You can call the office on Monday to sign up and enjoy practically private instruction at a great location with tons of birds and tons of flight photography.

Nickerson Beach Terns/Skimmers/Oystercatchers Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT): July 18-22, 2016. 4 1/2 DAYS: $1899. Limit 10/Openings 8.

Meet and greet at 3pm on the afternoon of Monday, July 18. Limit 10.

The primary subject species of this IPT will be the nesting Common Terns. The trip is timed so that we will get to photograph tiny chicks as well as fledglings. There will be lots of flight photography including adults flying with baitfish. Creating great images of the chicks being fed is a huge challenge. In addition to the terns we will get to photograph lots of Black Skimmers courting, setting up their nesting territories, and in flight (both singles and large pre-dawn flocks blasting off). Midair battles are guaranteed on sunny afternoons. And with luck, we might even see a few tiny chicks toward the end of the trip. We will also get to photograph the life cycle of American Oystercatcher. This will likely include nests with eggs and tiny chicks, young being fed, and possibly a few fledglings.

Nesting Piping Plover is also possibly. There will be lots of gulls to photograph; most years I am able to find a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls of varying ages in addition to the Herring, Ring-billed, and Great Black-backed Gulls. You will learn to identify and age the various gull species. There will likely be some Willets feeding along the surf and with luck we might get to photograph a handsome juvenile or two. In addition to the locally breeding shorebirds, we will likely get to see some southbound migrant arctic-and sub-arctic breeding shorebird species such as Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover, and maybe even Red Knot.


From upper left clockwise to center: Black Skimmers with tiny chick, Common Tern landing with baitfish for young, fledged Common Tern chick in dunes, American Oystercatchers/display flight, adult Common Tern with pipefish for chick, Common Tern fledgling in soft light, American Oystercatcher on nest with eggs, American Oystercatcher 3-egg clutch, battling Black Skimmers.

The IPT Logistics

The tour will begin with a meet and greet on the afternoon of Monday, July 18, 2016. That will be followed by our first shooting session at the beach. From Tuesday through and including all of Friday we will have two photography sessions daily. Our morning sessions will start very early so that we are on the beach well before sunrise. We usually photograph for about four hours. Then we will enjoy a group brunch. We will always have a midday break that will include a nap for me. That followed by our daily afternoon classroom sessions that will include image review, workflow and Photoshop, and a review/critique of five of your trip images. Folks are always invited to bring their laptops to brunch for image sharing. I always have mine with me but heck, I am a big show-off. Afternoon in-the-field sessions generally run from 5pm through sunset.

Breakfasts are grab what you can. Four brunches are included. Dinners (if at all) will be on your own as we will often get back to the hotel at about 9pm. There is a fridge in every room and a supermarket within walking distance of the hotel so nobody should starve. You will learn a ton during the nine shooting sessions, the four in-classroom sessions, and even at lunch. Early morning and late afternoon parking is free. If we want to head back to the beach early we will need to arrange tight carpools and share the $30/vehicle parking fee. Non-photographer spouses, friends, or companions are welcome for $100/day, $450 for the whole IPT.

Save a space by calling Jim or Jen at the office at 863-692-0906 and arranging to leave your deposit of $599–credit cards are accepted for deposits only. Your balance will be due on April 18, 2016. I hope that you can join me for what will be an exciting and educational IPT.

Please Remember to use our Affiliate Links πŸ™‚

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod heads, Induro tripods and ballheads, Wimberley heads and plates, LensCoats and accessories, and the like. We sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and visiting the BAA Online store as well.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and visiting the BAA Online store as well.


Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack!


In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right πŸ™‚

70 comments to My Favorite Namibia Image: Does It Get Any Better Than This? Only Two…

  • avatar Belinda

    Second attempt.
    Getting lower would have brought more of the background/skyline into the frame.
    If it was the sky, this is likely to have been burnt out.
    Or there was something higher up that you didn’t want in the image such as a vehicle, a road or maybe a McDonald’s neon sign?
    Or there is something behind the gemsbok which would be a serious distraction which lowering the camera position would have brought into view?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      No danger of sky. If there had been a strip of sky, it is not likely that it would have been burnt out because of the early morning light. No McDonald’s on that dune/only Burger King. Nothing behind the animal.


      ps: only kidding on the BK πŸ™‚

  • avatar Kent Downing

    Hi Artie-
    Beautuful image as is. If you carefully lowered your perspective, it would/might be possible to soften all the sand in line with the feet across the image, thus having the BOK in sharp focus and environment in soft focus. In addition the BOK would have a mostly uniform orange sand background. Not sure if you could preserve the dark band of fur across the BOK’s backbone ridge with the modified position. Thanks for making us all consider the fine points of a great image. Cheers Kent

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Kent,

      YAW. Putting the feet behind sand heaven would have spoiled this one for me, at least that is what I thought at the time (and still do). IAC, a moot point as the very cooperative animal moved on after a few images. a

  • avatar MR

    My feeling is that you didn’t want to move or make any type of noise because he/she was staring right at you and may have left the scene very quickly.

  • avatar ted thelin

    Hi Art, You are very close to the OOF forground which apparently is the top of a dune. Beyond where you are standing is a hollow low area. Getting the camera any lower would obscure the small area of in focus ground around the animal’s feet and create the illusion of the animal standing in fluff. I think the animal was standing on the top of a ridge also

  • avatar Ken Spears

    I’m thinking if you were much lower the dark brown across the Gemsbok back would not be visible and I believe that dark area really sets it off. It makes a great contrast and makes the Gemsbok stand out from the surrounding. This may be wrong but what a great shot!!!!! I really appreciate your willingness to share your technique.

  • avatar Richard Curtin

    Wow. Beautiful image. Here’s another guess. If any lower, you might have lost the beautiful dark brown outline on the back.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Never thought of that one. See you soon on the DeSoto IPT.

      later and love, artie

  • avatar Neil Caithness

    The sand is too hot to get down flat.

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    Any lower would have put the oof berm as the whole foreground this side of the animals feet, cutting them off (clipping them) some. There would have been no in focus sand at the feet. The in focus sand keeps the feet thoughtfully composed rather then clipped.

  • avatar David Peake

    it seems to me that the Gemsbok has its hooves buried somewhat in the sand.
    A lower camera position will cause the lower leg/hoof to be further obscured by the intervening foreground, so you didn’t take the lower camera position option.
    lovely image. look forward to the lens align tutorial.

  • avatar Richard Lethbridge

    You like the sandy background as it is; you didn’t want the red rocks to intrude.

  • avatar Dick Beery

    Maybe not a major award, but there is much more to photography than awards. Being out in nature, taking photos, seeing amazing wildlife. Sometimes I put my camera down and just enjoy and imerserse myself.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Agree. I enjoy all of those things but best of all I enjoy making good images. I do like to be in situations that offer the possibility of my creating an image that might be worthy of being honored in a major competition… a

  • avatar Chuck Carlsonk

    You are eye-to-eye with subject. Stay high to keep that angle and keep focus crisp

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    Yeh, took me a while, but I figured it out. I did not want to take it apart for fear I couldn’t get it back together!

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    Look forward to the tutorial. Duuuuuh! The LensAlign will not take up any space in your suitcase.

  • avatar Nigel Boon

    Oh well, let’s try this! I think if you got any lower the oof area at the bottom of the photo would have covered the rear feet/legs of the subject. That oof area is slanted and there is more of it on the left (rear of animal) than on the right. πŸ™‚

  • avatar John Willsher

    If you had been lower the animal’s right ear would have its body as background not distant out of focus dune so would not balance its other ear. Wish I had been there thanks for the image

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      YAW but that is not what I am looking for… Not sure though if you are correct or not on the ear business… a

  • avatar Belinda

    It looks to me like you were close to the top of a dune with the gemsbok on the other side and some distance away.

    I was not at the top of a dune.

    Had you splayed the tripod legs or in any other way tried to gain a lower view point, the top of the dune (which can be seen out of focus in the lower part of the frame) would have obscured the subject’s feet, or more, depending on how low you wanted to go!

    Apologies. I missed that. You were of course correct there.

    As for splaying the tripod feet, using a tripod in deep sand is hard enough, but splaying the feet in deep sand on the side of a steeply sloping dune is nigh impossible.

    I was on hard ground, and again, not on a dune.

    You could perhaps have tried lying down, but that would have risked a comical backwards toboggan ride on your stomach to the base of the dune not to mention the expensive grinding noise that accompanies getting sand in the focussing mechanism of your lens and/or camera controls.

    All of the above is based on your incorrect assumption πŸ™‚

    artie in green

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Pretty much all off base but thanks for leaving your comment. a

      • avatar Belinda

        Just as a matter of interest, how is my answer off base?

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          See above in green. I did miss the correct part of your answer as I was overwhelmed by the rest πŸ™‚ a

  • avatar Frank Sheets

    My thoughts, I very much like the lightness of the background light along the Gemsbok’s back compared to the rest of the background colors. You would lose that if you were lower. I have a technical question if you don’t mind that I have been wondering about. You previously mentioned you rented that 600mm. When you rent lenses like this, do you do any AF fine focus adjustments in the field if you find it necessary? Your images are always sharp, it seems, but fine tuning a lens can be necessary and I am curious how to deal with adjustments in the field. Maybe too anal here, but that’s me.

    As always, thanks. Another wonderful image.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Frank,

      Excellent question. I brought my LensAlign kit with me and MAed the 600 with my main 5DS R, with the 1.4X TC, and with the 2X TC. The lens alone and the lens with the 1.4X III TC were pretty close to perfect but with the 2X III TC I needed -18 to get sharp images. Without the micro-adjustment the lens was focus about 2 inches past the subject…

      Here is the best news, I will be running a Simplified LensAlign/FocusTune tutorial here surely within the next week.

      later and love, a

  • avatar KW MCCULLOCH

    Whatever was causing the fuzzy look to the lower aspect of the shot, especially on the left, if you lowered the lens’ position would have obscured more of the foreground and screwed up the composition

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. No on the tripod. Would have messed up the foreground and background with too much blur in fromt and no visibility of the background in back. I love the image.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Close but no cigar. Getting lower would have place the subject more pleasingly agains the red dune. So the BKGR would have been better. I am asking why I did not take that option. The clue to the answer is right in the image. a

  • avatar Cris Hamilton

    Great image, Artie. I think had you gotten lower, you would have been looking “up” at him and that wouldn’t have been as pleasing an image. In this case, you are at eye level, which gives one a more accurate, straight-on, image of him.

  • avatar Ron Gates

    The foreground is slightly blurred but becomes sharp closer to the animal. If you had been lower there would have been more soft focus in front leading up to the animal and possibly right up to its feet.

  • avatar Bob

    I guess I probably missed this but why the induro tripod??

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Where have you been Bob? Not on the blog πŸ™‚ Induro tripods are better than the Gitzo tripods, cost about 1/3 less, stand up much better to both water and saltwater, and their customer service and repairs (though rarely needed) put Gitzo service and repairs to shame.

      To replace a single Gitzo leg section often costs 2/3 or more of the price of a new tripod, and their service is horrific.

      Click on the Induro link on the right side of each blog post to learn more, or e-mail me with your height and lens to learn which Induro tripod is best for you.


  • avatar Tom Pfeifer

    Beautiful light and color on this scene Artie!
    Getting any lower would have likely obscured our view of the Gemsbok’s feet.

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    My first thought was that you had, in fact, splayed the tripod legs on the ground.
    The view to the animals looks that way to me – I love the angle and the sharpness of the Gemsbok against everything else makes it really stand out.
    is there a small berm or hill you had to shoot over (maybe you were slightly hidden by it)?
    was the ground too rocky or hot?
    were there fire ants?!!!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The legs were spread just a bit. The clue to the real answer is in the photo. And in your answer. How would the berm have effected the image?

      Not too hot or rocky and no fire ants πŸ™‚


      • avatar Kerry Morris

        You were on a hill leading up to where the Gemsbok was.
        the lens was at about ground level.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Nope πŸ™


          • avatar Kerry Morris

            Were you dealing with heat waves?

            Nope. And if there was heat shimmer, you are dead meat. And perspective would not matter πŸ™‚


  • avatar Peter Noyes

    Artie, Very nice picture. Thank you very much for sharing.
    Had you gotten lower you would have been looking up at the gemsbok and lost that beautiful red dune background from the sunrise which in itself must have been beautiful.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Peter but that is not correct πŸ™

      later and love, artie

  • avatar Rick

    There is something in the immediate fore ground that would have got in the way (I can see some blurring)

    Or you have wanted to get out of there in a hurry if needs be!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      With regards to your first choice, what do you mean by “would have got in the way.”


      ps: they are quite timid and docile around people.

      • avatar Rick

        Of your shot or your subject.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          You need to be much more specific πŸ™‚ a

          • avatar Rick

            Awe gee shucks Artie, you’re playing with us!! So what do we know? The extent of the bokeh indicates a narrow dof, therefore a wide open aperture. I would guess you are shooting slightly down hill. Any lower and you couldn’t have got the bok into focus? The blur in the immediate foreground would also suggest foliage, rocks or similar there.

            Again, you are on the right track but not coming up with the right answer πŸ™‚ If I had been flat on the ground it would have been easy to focus on the animal’s face…


            ps: I was pretty much on the same level as the antelope…

          • avatar Rick

            You could have focused on its face but not on its horns……?

            Nope πŸ™


  • Gorgeous image of a spectacular animal. I love the image just as it is. It shows very nicely how the disrupted colour-patterns in the Gemsbok pelage make it blend in with its “linear” and horizontal environment. That combination and distribution of colours is there for a reason! If you had got lower, the animal would have stood out more, but Nature’s genius would have escaped us. Thank you for sharing!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks a stack, Glen. But not my reason for not getting lower…


  • avatar Wtlloyd

    What about the one on the ridge? After you pulled that one off, I vowed to follow you around like a little dog the rest of the trip!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I like this one better πŸ™‚ But the one on the ridge was a better story πŸ™‚


  • The light is spectacular and the composition is very nice!
    But, to answer your question, maybe you could have tried to get as low as possible, without getting the sky in the frame. So that the Gemsbock is standing only in front of the darker red hill. But anyway, i would be more than happy to have an image like this on my HD!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Dario. That would have been true but there is a reason why I did not try to get lower. Folks can figure that reason out by looking carefully at the image… a

      • Hi Art


        Lovely shot of the Gemsbok. The early morning light makes it Magical

        I think the reason you did not get lower is .. I see some blurring at the rim of the horizontal axis of the photograph. I would think you were on a area which was lower than where the Gemsbok was standing. Getting flat would mean the area of the land which is higher will obstruct the view of the Gemsbok

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Closer. What part of the view?


          • Hi Art

            The lower part of the view. It seems to be more towards the left.

            Nope. You are missing my point πŸ™‚ On a note related to your comment, I found it very difficult to level this image for a variety of reasons… a