A Matter of Brilliance and Perspective « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

A Matter of Brilliance and Perspective

This image was created with the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Zoom lens (hand held at 78mm) and the Nikon D4 . ISO 5000. Matrix metering +1/3 stop: 1/160 sec. at f/5.

Image courtesy of and copyright 2013: Todd Gustafson

A Matter of Brilliance

As noted in the The Great African Bedspread Mystery blog post here, we returned to Seronera for a single night on our way to Ngorongoro Crater where we would be ending our safari. As we had driven down from our mobile tented camp along the Mara River in the Serengeti, our 5 vans headed out for our afternoon game drive at 4pm. Everyone had enjoyed their rest. We were photographing at a small Black-headed Heron rookery when we got a call that the Leopard family had been found. When we arrived there were probably 30 safari vans watching these powerful, graceful animals. (Early mornings are generally a lot less frenetic for cat viewing as the tourists sleep late and enjoy a sumptuous breakfast.) In any case, there was room for photography.

The mother and one of her young were moving through the grass and angling towards the road that we were on. The vans were jockeying for position. At one point our van was immediately behind the van that Todd was leading. The plan is that the person in the roof hatch directly behind the driver is the van leader, the only one who should be giving directions. I heard Todd say to the Leopards, “Get up on that fallen tree.” They did, but they tree was a tangled mess of branches and the animals were facing away. Then I heard Todd say to Othmani, “Moja kamoja (straight ahead).” Todd had the young driver move the van forward about 40 meters so that it was parked right next to a dead tree that was right by the road.

I learned later that Othmani had said, “Why stop here? There are no Leopards here and no other vans.” Todd responded by saying, “Trust me. They are gonna continue in this direction and they will climb this tree.” Though I did not hear this conversation I am no dummy so I instructed Salvatore to follow Todd’s van but I had him stop well back from the tree as they were really close to the dead tree. The light was fading fast.

Within minutes the two cats were at the base of the tree and within a minute of that had climbed up so that the mother could take a good look at the surrounding savannah. Todd made the image above and the image above with the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Zoom lens that he uses often to complement his Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR AF lLens.

The brilliance? Todd, who was born in Tanzania to missionary parents, has been on more than 30 Africa photo-safaris. He is an incredible spotter, often picking up distant animals even before the skilled drivers. And he usually knows what the animals are going to do before they do. Thanks to Todd for organizing this great summer safari and for sharing his knowledge and his gifts.

Simply put Todd is a brilliant safari photo-tour leader and a brilliant van leader.

If you missed the “Leopard and Internet Miracles” blog post, click here to see my all time favorite Leopard image of the mother in these photographs.

This image was also created with the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Zoom lens (this time hand held at 135mm) and the Nikon D4 . ISO 5000. Matrix metering +1/3 stop: 1/160 sec. at f/5.6.

Image courtesy of and copyright 2013: Todd Gustafson

Interestingly enough, this image was created only 23 seconds after the opening image. It does not take long to twist the zoom ring when you know what you wanna do….

A Matter of Perspective

Each of the three images in this blog post are photos of the same animals and were taken within a minute or two of each other. Yet each is vastly different. Todd’s two images, the two above, were created from a completely different perspective than my image below. Todd’s angle of inclination was steeper in each image than in my image as I was working from much farther away with much longer focal length. His angle of view changed as he zoomed in tighter in order to create his 2nd image. Working with the 600 my angle of view was much narrower.

I created this image on August 14th, 2013 with the Todd Pod-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop as framed: 1/125 sec. at f/4 in Av mode.

Central sensor (Surround)/AI Servo Rear Focus on the mother Leopard’s face and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image copyright 2013: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Your favorite?

Take a moment to leave a comment and let us know which of the three images is your favorite. And be sure to let us know why.

Tanzania Summer Safari 2014

Having been to Africa 7 times in all I must say that the recently concluded summer safari was my favorite ever. As you will see in the coming blog posts and Bulletins the entire two weeks consisted of one miracle after another. If you are seriously interested in joining us, do shoot me an e-mail. Todd, Denise Ippolito, and I will be co-leading. It will run in roughly the same time frame, beginning in early August and ending in mid-August. Dates TBA.

Sandhill Crane composite, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM. Click on the image for a larger version.

Bosque del Apache 2013 IPT: β€œThe Complete Bosque Experience.” NOV 26-DEC 2, 2013. 7-FULL DAYS: $3399. Co-leader: Denise Ippolito. Introductory Slide program: 6:30 pm on 11/25. Limit: 12/Openings 11.

Tens of thousand of Snow Geese, 10,000 Sandhill Cranes, ducks including point-blank American Wigeon and Wood Duck, amazing sunrises, sunsets, and blast-offs. Live, eat, and breathe photography with one of (if not the) world’s premier photographic educators at one of his very favorite locations on the planet. Top-notch Photoshop instruction. This will make 19 consecutive Novembers at Bosque for me. Nobody knows the place better than I do. Join us to learn to think like a pro, to recognize situations and to anticipate them based on the weather, especially the sky conditions, the light, and the wind direction. Every time we make a move we will let you know why. When you head home applying what you learned will prove to be invaluable. Includes all lunches and the Thanksgiving Buffet at the Crowne Plaza in Albuquerque. I hope that you can join me for what will be an unparalleled learning experience.

A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. Your balance is due 4 months before the date of the IPT and is also non-refundable. If the trip fills, we will be glad to apply a credit applicable to a future IPT for the full amount less a $100 processing fee. 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. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check (made out to “Arthur Morris.”) You can also leave your deposit with a credit card by calling the office at 863-692-0906. 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.

Snow Goose composite, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM. Click on the image for a larger version.


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23 comments to A Matter of Brilliance and Perspective

  • Thanks for sharing. I love leopards. All 3 shots are fantastic. I like the eye contact and the close-up of your shot with the 600.
    I also like the first image that shows the habitat. The tree is great.

    A safari with Todd sounds like the best way to do East Africa. Have to see if my bank account agrees with that πŸ™‚

    I saw 5 leopards in South Africa. The best sighting was a female very close. Unfortunately I had only a 4/300L IS with me and had to cut of the cat’s rear end. The 200-400 would have saved the shot. Nothing beats a great zoom in Africa.

    Good to know that at least Leopards are still doing somewhat ok in parts of Africa. Lions are seriously endangered now despite some good populations in some large National Parks.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Markus. Yes, Toddi is brilliant. The Leopard family is a famous one; Todd photographed the family well in FEBR last year when the cubs were tiny…. And we saw several very large (20-30) prides or lions in two locations.

  • ” Thanks Christian. I read often of the Golden Mean but am never conscious of it when I am photographing. If you are seeing it in my work all the time it must be coming from my some sense of image design that exists only in my subconscious. artie ”

    Yes … for that is the way the eye naturally sees [ Leonardo da Vinci , research on the eye ] . Easily tested by taking an image , selecting a spot you would like to ” Pop-Out ,” then folding the Image so that spot is about
    2/3 the distance from one side horizontally [ and/or vertically ] . It comes ” Alive .”

    • avatar Carol Nichols

      It sounds like this is what photographers refer to as the Rule of Thirds. Is that correct or is it more complicated than that?

      • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        It is somewhat similar but different. If you do an online search you can turn up a lot on the Golden Mean.

  • Your team is extremely fortunate. Leopards are highly elusive as a result, we spotted only 1 that was just partially viewable inside thick leaves at Masai Mara during peak season in 2011.

    However, we were amply compensated with various prides of lions, cheetahs and elephants. And of course thousands of wildebeests and zebras including one epic crossing of Mara river by the wildebeests.

    So, no regrets. If possible, hope to be there again next season.

    Happy safari to you all.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Quazi. You are correct. I am working on Bulletin #447 right now and have mentioned how blessed were were. BTW, we had all the rest too!

      Consider joining us next summer. artie

      • Thank you Artie. The opportunity to join you in a wildlife photography mission is like a dream come true. Let God bless us for harvesting that dream.

        However, Artie I have a burning desire to shoot the epic crossing of Mara river by the wildebeests and zebras/gazzelles etc. both in still and video next time. But that depends a lot on the region getting sufficient rainfall so that both Mara and Talek rivers contain enough waters with strong current. Only then the crossing gets electrifying with the Crocs feasting on the swimmers. It all happens at Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya.

        We saw scanty water in the rivers last time in 2011 and the herds crossed easily within minutes leaving the Crocs cursing themselves on the shores with empty stomach.

        Therefore, I’ll have to observe the rainfall first and subsequently make the decision. If you are kindly interested; I’ll be more than happy to keep you posted.

        BTW, I also immensely enjoy visiting Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya for the millions of Greater and Lesser Pink Flamingos and thousands of Great White Pelicans. Let alone numerous other exotic birds along the shores. A top view from Baboon Cliff of the lake below ornamented with Flamingos and Pelicans is probably a scene one will watch only in heaven.

        Best regards.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Thanks Quazi, We had one huge crossing. See in today’s Bulletin. One croc got a young Wildebeest.

          I did many safaris in Kenya with Todd but he has quit going there for political/safety reasons.

  • avatar Doug Schurman

    All three are fantastic. I like the third one best Artie. I like the subject being large in third one. The second one almost looks a little HDRish which in not my favorite. I love the perspective of seeing the eye of the second Leopard through the legs of the first one. I do feel like there could be a bit more contrast on the third one to make it pop slightly more.

  • Now it’s “LEOPARDS AS ART” Artie!

  • Excellent images. A lot to learn from them. Thanks for posting.

  • avatar Loi Nguyen

    Brilliant images! The key here is knowing the animals and anticipate where they are going to be. The first image is my favorite as it shows the leopards in their habitat well. The cloud and blue sky complement the tree and the yellow grass well.

  • avatar Dravidian Steele

    The first one is one of the best leopard images I’ve seen, if not the best. Such good use of a wonderful opportunity and perfect positioning. The golden light is superb and captured with such clarity, while the composition could not be better. The little tree in the background is the cherry on top of it all. If I had to be hyper critical I would point to the whites in the clouds which seem a little burnt out.

  • ” .68 ” … maybe a bit of a slang term on my part . It’s ” Golden Mean ” … All the action/movement in the image from a perspective point of view is a ratio of about .68 from the horizontal and vertical edges to it’s opposite edge . The position of Momma & the Cub in the ” V ” of the tree is the same … making it the natural eye focal point that the eye seeks , that ” Pops . ” I see it in your work ALL the time .

    Thanks Christian. I read often of the Golden Mean but am never conscious of it when I am photographing. If you are seeing it in my work all the time it must be coming from my some sense of image design that exists only in my subconscious. artie

    • avatar Ivan Turpin

      As a plastic surgeon, we are keenly aware of the Golden Mean or Golden Ratio. The aesthetic units in the human face closely follow these proportions; however, I think the ratio is actually 1.618 if I am not mistaken.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks Christian. Toddi will be delighted to hear what you have to day. Please explain the “.68 perspective” comment. artie

  • ” A Matter of Brilliance and Perspective ” … great words , Artie . The First one . Maybe one of the greatest Images I have ever seen . It tells a story of the Leopards , and their environment … the youngster and the adult relationship amongst an awesome .68 perspective tree filled with character … in a lush/warm-colors environment with lots of ” balanced ” Contrast . Thrilling !