One Better? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

One Better?

The Streak Goes On…

We killed again today at the Snow Monkey Park…. I am finishing this post at 8:45pm Japan time on Monday February 25, 2104. That is 6:45am on the same day in Florida or in New York. I will be asleep well before 9pm :).

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This image of a Snow Monkey family huddled together was created on the February 25, 2014 at 12:26pm on the Japan in Winter IPT with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (with the internal extender in place at 345mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +3 1/3 stops off the snow: 1/125 sec. at f/14 in Manual mode. Color temperature 7,000K.

Central Sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF on the lowest monkey’s eyes and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

One Better?

Two years ago I created the image below. I liked it from the moment I saw it on the back of the camera. It made it to the final round of BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition judging.

On our first day at the Snow Monkey Park folks were asking, “When do we get that big pile of monkeys?

Just before lunch today there were three monkeys huddled together on the edge of the onsen (hot springs pool). They were facing into the pool. The problem was that there were about 8 photographers behind them piled in tight. So there was no shot from the other side of the pool. The three monkeys posed and posed. The gathered photographers were taking images of their backs with wide angle lenses. The three monkeys posed and posed and posed. Finally I could not take it any longer. I called out, “The shot is from this side of the pool. All that you are getting are the same close-up face images that you have been getting all morning. If you folks would move over here we could all do well.” Nobody listened at first. Then a tall gent from South Africa backed me up. One by one everyone joined us on the side of the pool with the monkeys facing the photographers. But by this time two or three of them were sleeping.

I was patient. I know that the potential for a great image was there. I waited and waited. Some folks gave up and moved on. Then a fourth monkey joined the pile. And they all slept. Then, two monkeys got into a fight on the hill behind us. The four monkeys woke up and posed perfectly. Everyone who stayed wound up thanking me 🙂

Please let me know which image you think is the stronger one, the new image above or the older image below? And to let me know why.


The original Snow Monkey Family Trio. Click on the image to see a larger version.

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23 comments to One Better?

  • avatar Ralph

    Definitely the older image.
    Groups of three almost always look better balanced than groups of four – uneven numbers look more balanced than even ones.
    There is direct eye contact with two out of three monkeys in the first image which is more engaging with the viewer and their faces are arranged in a pleasing curve.
    The monkeys in the second image are not only looking away but their eyes are not even all looking in the same direction (look carefully) leading to a sense of a lack of engagement.
    I would be tempted to crop out the pair on the right.

  • This choice is very nearly too difficult to make. If I couldn’t have both I would definitely be disappointed and miss the one I couldn’t have. If for some presentation reason I were looking for a ‘portrait format’ I would choose the 3 shot with the young one so preciously burrowed between it’s parents. Odd numbers of subjects are traditionally considered compositionally stronger than even numbers, but that is to put form over content. The 4 shot reminds me of the scene in Kubrick’s 2001 of the family group. The content dynamics are just as strong and the horizontal suits the group of four just fine. The total seven individuals are all too priceless to choose between. How much space do you have on your wall and what shape will work best?
    The newer camera technology with the 4 shot pleases me and perhaps the photographer’s already superb taste and technique are more evolved in the four shot, but it is still a ‘choice too far’ for me.

  • avatar Howard

    Well I see I’m in the minority here but I like this year’s better. I see more detail and their eyes are so clear. The white background in the 2013 shot is very bright and somewhat distracting whereas the exposure and tonal values in this year’s are spot on. Also the texture in their coats this year is much finer and realistic. However, I would be ecstatic if I could have shot both! Exceptional photography as usual.

  • avatar Ron Fullelove

    Hi Artie, great pictures, but I think the old one is the strongest, simply because the three monkeys are engaging with you (and us as the viewers) more than the new shot.
    I would be interested to know if the new shot at +3 1/3 off the snow means the snow is blown or not ? I am guessing it was, but you are not after detail in the snow. ?


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Ron. The light on the snow on the hillside behind the onsen was brighter than the light on the monkeys so I needed to add more light than usual to the reading off the snow to maximize the detail on the subjects. There are a smattering of blinkies on the snow but when I am creating high key images I am fine with pure white detail-less BKGRs. That said, the WHITEs in the optimized image file show RGB values averaging about 240. That means that I could try to bring up the detail but I have n interest in doing that; I like the studio portrait look. artie

  • avatar Craig Wesson

    I agree with the others. The trio has a very personal family felling to it. Much better in my mind!

  • avatar Alan Lillich

    The older image is the better by far:
    – The gradient from white BG to light adults to darker child.
    – And those tones framing the red faces and brown/green eyes.
    – Seeing the shoulders of the adults and just the child’s face.
    – The top and bottom ones looking at us with the middle looking pensively aside.
    – I’ve heard that odd numbers make more powerful images (from Juan Pons).

  • avatar Stephen Sheoskie

    I love the 1st image of the family all looking one direction, absolutely fine art, great job Artie !


  • avatar Jack Goodman

    The three monkeys is the better shot. The eyes make all the difference. They are incredible.

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    I like the trio best, I like the flowing curved line from one face to the other to the other. Also the young one looks so safe and comfortable.

  • The older one is much better. Its almost as if they are posing for a family portrait

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Thanks and congratulations. I have to agree with the others, the one of the three monkeys from a couple years ago is one of the best wildlife photographs I’ve ever seen, including all the ones of yours I’ve seen. Maybe it’s absolutely the best. The composition and facial expressions are perfect. And that the monkeys are looking at the camera helps as well. If you hadn’t made that image, I’d say those things about the new one, and indeed it is an amazingly fine image. But I don’t know how you or anyone else can equal, let alone top, the one from 2 years ago.

  • avatar Loi Nguyen

    The new image is lovely and I wish it were mine, but the old image is much betetr with the trio hurdling tight and looking straight at the viewer.

  • avatar Alex Furman

    Artie: Enjoying your postings from Japan. The picture from your previous trip (trio) is clearly my favorite. An intimate family portrait, stronger facial expressions, father and son looking at you in the eye, and the young one “nested” and protected by his elders.
    Keep those pictures coming.


  • avatar Kevin Hice

    Artie good morning or evening. The trio is definitely hands down the winner. Anytime you have a odd number is better the eye perceives even numbered objects. More intimate the family unit protecting the youngster. So close almost looks like one unit. As far as eye contact I think the trio is stronger.This photo is actually stronger as a family unit.

  • avatar Geoff

    In my mind, no question that the older one is way more intimate and a much more powerful image to me. The new one is very good but in comparison to the old one it just lacks composition, intimacy and that sense of family like the older one does.

  • avatar Deirdre Sheerr-Gross

    a Photo of three… a Family unit of one…

    Vulnerabe, intimate, …protected, safe.. secure…
    What we all hope for…

    Always have loved it..

  • What is beyond extraordinary?
    The photography of Artie Morris.

    Everyday I look forward to seeing and learning something about photography.
    The source is the genius of Artie Morris.
    I truly admire your photographic, communications, and importantly your blogging skills.

    Thank you for making a difference every day.


  • avatar Pat Fishburne


  • avatar Stu

    Both are outstanding. I think the new image is a bit stronger because the eyes of all four are looking in the same direction.

  • avatar Ar

    Both are appealing but the trio is phenomenal. It has more emotion.

  • I’ll always love the trio. No other image has ever affected me so strongly; a powerful reminder that I too am a naked ape.

    I also like the new image, but the lack of eye contact reduces it’s power.


  • My fave is still the one from two years ago. It’s just more
    intimate for me, especially with the young one and his mesmerizing(?)

    The first one is exceptional to. The feeling I get out of that
    one is a more traditional family portrait.