The Gemsbok Answer. Bad Truck Luck. And lots more to learn from a single image… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Gemsbok Answer. Bad Truck Luck. And lots more to learn from a single image...

What’s Up?

I have had a bit of post-op distress that fits nicely into the TMI category. I just got off the phone with the surgeon, Dr. Parsons–the guys\ surely leads the league in bedside manner–and together we seem to have figured out a few things. I am looking forward to getting better slowly.

Still no jet lag and still getting lots done. Today, I had a fifth photographer sign up for the Japan IPT.

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks 179 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.


The Educational Gemsbok

The Gemsbok Why Not Get Lower Answer

In Saturday’s “My Favorite Namibia Image: Does It Get Any Better Than This?” blog post here, I wrote, All things being equal, should I have splayed the legs of my tripod and gotten flat on the ground?

The answer to that question was “No.” The question generated huge amounts of interest; with 62 comments as I prepare Tuesday’s blog post it was one of the most interactive blog posts ever. In today’s blog not only will you learn why I should not have gotten flat down on the ground but you will learn a ton more as well. All from a single image of a very large antelope.

The first to nail the correct answer was my very good and dear friend from Long Island, Tom Pfeifer. He invited me to his house for dinner probably close to 20 years ago when I spoke at his local Audubon Society meeting (with two trays of slides!) Tom is a skilled photographer. He wrote, quite succinctly, “Beautiful light and color on this scene Artie! Getting any lower would have likely obscured our view of the Gemsbok’s feet.”

In the image above, note the well out-of-focus ridge, or berm, below the grey line at the bottom of the image. Nothing would have made me happier that to have gotten flat on the ground thus eliminating the faint road and setting the animal completely against the spectacular red dune. But I quickly realized that getting lower would have hidden the Gemsbok’s feet and possibly its lower legs as well behind the out-of-focus berm.

With birds, we call this the bird in heaven look; it can be quite effective. But I am pretty sure that it would not have worked well in this situation.

Kudos to the others who came up with the right answer (or very close to it): Ron Gates (in part), Nigel Boon, David Peake, Elinor Osborn, and Ted Thelin (again, in part).

Bad Truck Luck and More Lessons

The faint road in the background was blurred enough so that it was not a problem. Not so the safari vehicle; talk about bad luck! I used two Quick Masks, one from the right of the truck and one from the left of the truck to cover the offending vehicle. Learn the basics of Quick Masking in Digital Basics (plus tons more). Learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking in APTATS I and II.

As I mentioned in a response to a comment in the original post, because of several angled lines in this image, it was a very difficult one to level; it fools our eyes big time. First I used the Ruler Tool to draw a line from hoof to hoof and then hit one of my personalized keyboard shortcuts, Command + / (to get to Image > Rotate > Arbitrary). Once it rendered, it seemed to be overdone so I went back the other way .5 degrees. I am still not sure if the final image in the original post, seen below for your convenience, is perfectly level.


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

A Compositional Note

Lastly, note the crop from below and behind to improve the composition; the animal in the original frame that opened today’s blog post is too centered.


Subject and focal lengths clockwise from upper left around to center.

Palouse Falls: 11mm; homemade kiddie race car: 105mm; barn siding pan blur: 798mm; Rolling fields diorama: 110mm; Crayola drums: 343 mm; Hay barn interior: 19mm; vintage gas station: 40mm; Dilapidated farm building: 13mm; Denise’s tree Infrared: 20mm.

Images and card design by Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART.

The Palouse ~ A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT)/Eastern Washington State. June 3-7, 2016/5 Full Days: $1699/Limit 12/Openings: 5

The Palouse ~ A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT)/Eastern Washington State. June 10-14, 2016/5 Full Days: $1699/Limit 12/Openings: 1

Double Header!

Maximize both your travel dollars and your learning experience by signing up for both IPTs.


Images and card design by Denise Ippolito/A Creative Adventure.

The Palouse IPTs

Rolling farmlands provide a magical patchwork of textures and colors, especially when viewed from the top of Steptoe Butte where we will likely enjoy spectacular sunrises and possibly a nice sunset. We will photograph grand landscapes and mini-scenics of the rolling hills and farm fields. We will take you to some really neat old abandoned barns and farmhouses in idyllic settings. There is no better way to improve your compositional and image design skills and to develop your creativity than to join us for this trip. Two great leaders: Denise Ippolito and Arthur Morris. Photoshop and image sharing sessions when we have the time and energy…. We get up early and stay out late and the days are long.

After 6 days of back-breaking scouting work in early June 2014 we found all of the iconic locations and, in addition, lots of spectacular new old barns and breath-taking landforms and views. On three additional scouting days in 2015 we discovered several more truly amazing locations. We will teach you what makes one situation prime and another seemingly similar one a waste of your time.

What’s included: In-the-field instruction, guidance, lessons, and inspiration, our newfound but very extensive knowledge of the area, all lunches, motel lobby grab and go breakfasts, and Photoshop and image sharing sessions when possible. There will be a meet and greet at 7:30pm on the evening before each workshop begins.

You will learn and hone both basic and advanced compositional and image design skills. You will learn to get the right exposure every time. You will learn to develop your creative eye. You will learn the basics of HDR (high dynamic range) photography. You will learn a variety of in-camera creative techniques. Most importantly you will learn to see the situation and to create a variety of top-notch images. Do see both of our blogs for lots more on that in the coming weeks. You will learn how the quality and direction of light combine to determine the success of your images. And–please don’t gasp–we will be working quite a bit with sidelight when creating landscapes. Lastly, we will be doing some infrared photography.

To Sign Up

A non-refundable $699 deposit is due now. The balance will be due on February 15, 2016. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. Whether or not your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

Please let me know via e-mail that you will be joining us. Then you can either call Jim or Jennifer at 863-692-0906 during business hours or send us a check to leave a deposit; the latter is preferred. If by check, please make out to “Arthur Morris” and mail it to: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us via e-mail: artie or denise.

Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options. Included with the Elite Option or available as an upgrade to the Basic & Plus Options. You can also purchase Cancel for Any Reason Coverage that expands the list of reasons for your canceling to include things such as sudden work or family obligation and even a simple change of mind. You can learn more here: Travel Insurance Services. Do note that many plans require that you purchase your travel insurance within 14 days of our cashing your deposit check. Whenever purchasing travel insurance be sure to read the fine print carefully even when dealing with reputable firms like TSI.

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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.


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8 comments to The Gemsbok Answer. Bad Truck Luck. And lots more to learn from a single image…

  • avatar David Peake

    Hi Artie,
    The levelling thing can be all sorts of fun.
    To my eye, I was thinking, the in focus sand area needs to be level across the image.
    This puts the Gemsboks feet slightly angled which is perfectly OK in nature. You would rarely find straight and level lines in a situation where there is no clear horizon in the image.
    I tried this and didn’t like it because it leaves the road shadow even more angled.
    Perhaps we could say that these slight flaws authenticate the image.
    And of course beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.
    It’s a great image.period.
    Doing my cheese mans booking today.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks David. I am too dumb to agree or disagree with the leveling stuff. And too tired. I do know that it will be great to meet and work with you on the Cheeseman’s trip!

      later and love, artie

  • avatar Lynda Blair

    I can’t speak highly enough about APTATS I & II. Saved many an image thanks to those!

  • Artie, not a tack sharp image, but here is that berm from desoto. I figured this out after you posted yours a few weeks ago.

  • Love the image and definitely some good info on editing the image. I run into some weird stuff like this when I am shooting birds on the beach (when on my belly). At Fort Desoto, there is a berm at the top of the beach at a different angle and distance that can make or break the image, depending on how you use it. Then I run into various layers of kelp and trash in as the image continues. It does offer more depth in the image, but sometimes it can really clutter it up and have you rotating your images back and forth to get some kind of happy medium.