Can Image Design Affect the Mood of a Photo? And a Rear Focus Lesson « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Can Image Design Affect the Mood of a Photo? And a Rear Focus Lesson

What’s Up?

I am somewhere in South America. I hope that you are well. Jim and Jen are at the office most days to help you with your mail order needs and Instructional Photo-Tour sign-ups. I still need folks for San Diego, Japan, Galapagos, the Palouse, and the Bear Boat (Grizzly Cubs) trips. Among others 🙂 Please e-mail for couples and discount info for all of the above. Click here for complete IPT info.

I will have intermittent internet access for the rest of my South American adventure. I get back home late on December 25, 2016. Best and great picture making, artie

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of the folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear, especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

The Streak: 391!

Today’s blog post marks a totally insane, irrational, illogical, preposterous, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, what’s wrong with this guy?, makes-no-sense, 391 days in a row with a new educational blog post. There should be no end in sight until my big South America trip next fall. Or not… 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. And please remember also that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the new BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


This image was created at La Jolla, CA with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the mega-mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/320 sec. at f/5.6. AWB.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF on the sea lion pup’s head and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

California Sea Lion pup on cliff

Setting the Stage for Learning with an Image Design Question

Why didn’t I move closer and replace the 1.4X III TC with the 2X III TC?

How Image Design Can Affect the Mood and Message of an Image …

I place the tiny sea lion pup in the very corner of the image in an attempt to create a forlorn mood and to portray a feeling of helplessness. Do you think that I succeeded? Why or why not?

Does the rock under the pup’s right flipper affect the mood and message of the image? If yes, in what way?

AF Question

Why did I need to use Rear Focus to create this image? (Note: if I had been using Shutter Button AF as I often do I would have needed either to switch to One-Shot AF or to use my AF-On button set to AF Off button trick to lock the focus.)

Your Call?

Would you have designed this image differently? If yes, how? Note that getting much closer physically was not an option.

One Last Image Design Question

Do you like the inclusion and placement of the large shape in the upper left corner? Why or why not?


San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects. With annual visits spanning more than three decades I have lot of experience there….

2017 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) JAN 11 thru and including the morning session on JAN 15: 4 1/2 days: $1999.

(Limit: 10/openings 6)

Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; Tuesday 1/10/17.

Join me in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches; Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heerman’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the two IPT cards there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well.

With gorgeous subjects just sitting there waiting to have their pictures taken, photographing the pelicans on the cliffs is about as easy as nature photography gets. With the winds from the east almost every morning there is usually some excellent flight photography. And the pelicans are almost always doing something interesting: preening, scratching, bill pouch cleaning, or squabbling. And then there are those crazy head throws that are thought to be a form of intra-flock communication.

Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter?


Though the pelicans will be the stars of the show on this IPT there will be many other handsome and captivating subjects in wonderful settings.

The San Diego Details

This IPT will include five 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, four 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, four lunches, and after-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility.

A $599 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “Arthur Morris) to us at BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 33855. Or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, will be due on 9/11//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. Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail.

Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

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 New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, 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 please remember that I am 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, and for everything else in the new store, 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 those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART 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 🙂

11 comments to Can Image Design Affect the Mood of a Photo? And a Rear Focus Lesson

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    Love this composition. Having the pup in the lower corner with all the space around it definitely gives it a feeling of loneliness. Tiny newborn in a big world!

  • avatar Neil Hickman

    I liked the image but wondered how you shot downwards while on tripod. Then I read the pup is on a cliff. I can not see this and still “see” the image as if shot from above. Would taking the extender off (and/or moving backwards) shown me the cliff?

  • avatar Carlotta Grenier

    I love this image,The baby seal’s placement, the little support rock by its flipper. To me the bigger rock on the left feels like a cradle the baby is trying to get to and as it also has 2 little rocks embedded the rock by his,her flipper looks like encouragement. To me this is a fantastic storytelling image

  • avatar Ron Gates

    Artie, I think you succeeded in creating the mood you were after. If I was to make any suggestion it might be to have moved the pup more toward the lower third area…a little more into the frame and/or zoomed out a little more if there was the ability to do that. You may have been as wide as you could go without including something that would break the mood. All in all, I think it’s a great image and as someone else commented, the large rock shape in the upper left balances the image, too.

  • avatar Jim Amato

    Pup looks like he/she is rock climbing on the way to a top peak.
    A different composition may capture the beauty or drama of the pup and the location/position.

  • avatar Brendan

    Its beautiful. I love the big rock in upper left – I think it adds texture/context/interest. Design-wise, I wonder if I might have preferred a wider view.

    When I first saw it without reading that the pup was on a cliff, I thought that it is lying on a horizontal rock in no danger, rather than precariously clinging to a cliff. My first thought looking at the image was “what an adorable inquisitive little seal.” Once I read that he was on a cliff, my thoughts changed to “Oh my, I hope he’s OK!” – My feelings about the seal and his/her danger changed dramatically, and interest/immediacy increased significantly.

    I wonder if a wider view might have made his cliff-hanging status clearer and made him even smaller, more precarious/alone in the frame, and might have been even stronger overall. Who knows what was right outside the frame, though, maybe it would have been a problem…

  • avatar Pat Fishburne

    Yes, the pup definitely looks to be in a precarious situation in this image — it wouldn’t have if you zoomed in and included less of the background.

  • avatar Lee prater

    What gorgeous images aurthur so beutifull

  • avatar Richard Lethbridge

    You didn’t use the 2x converter because you wanted to include the whole of the
    large shape in the upper left corner, which I like because it balances the composition
    and because to my mind it sort of resembles the head of a whale.

  • avatar Rob Stambaugh

    The pup against the rock is a beautiful contrast of texture and color. I might crop from the left for a square format, leaving just part of the large upper-left formation that provides visual balance. For me, the square crop brings a bit more intimacy and sheer-cliff feel while preserving the desired mood of forlorn isolation. The little rock under the flipper adds much to that mood, making us wonder whether the pup would otherwise slide away.