Ancient Survivors


Critique Style Requested: Initial Reaction

Please share your immediate response to the image before reading the photographer’s intent (obscured text below) or other comments. The photographer seeks a genuinely unbiased first impression.

Questions to guide your feedback

Are you intimidated?

Other Information

Please leave your feedback before viewing the blurred information below, once you have replied, click to reveal the text and see if your assessment aligns with the photographer. Remember, this if for their benefit to learn what your unbiased reaction is.

Image Description

Constant winds coming off the slopes of the Brooks Range in Alaska buffet a Musk Ox pair near the Smith Mountains in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. This is a composite image, one each for the background/habitat and the second for the animals. I chose to process the composite image as B&W because the animals are not colorful but the environment is. My concern was that the colorful environment might distract the viewers attention from the animals.
I chose a telephoto lens to capture the alpha male and female. I chose a shorter lens to capture the environment. If you look closely at the color image you can see the herd at about 1/3 down from the top edge and 1/3 over from the left edge.
The telephoto view of the alphas is superimposed over where the herd was , behind the male’s back hump.
You can see they were very aware of me, even at the distance they were from me. They made some warning sound/gesture to the younger animals as they then ran off into the ditch behind them.

Technical Details

Canon EOS 5D II; Canon EF 200-400mm @ 400mm; f/16, 1/125 sec, ISO 400; Gitzo tripod, RRS BH 55; remote trigger

Canon EOS 5D II; Canon EF 28-70mm @ 70mm; f/11 @ 1/100 sec, -1 EV, ISO 100; Gitzo tripod, RRS BH II, remote trigger

Specific Feedback

Whatever you choose, positive or otherwise

Bob, I think it would be interesting to see both versions, the fully colored with the muskox, and the BW versions. I do very much like your BW rendition and you did a nice job blending these two images.

Thank you @Ed_Williams for your comment. I n response to your question about a color rendition. Sure, I will post it. After all, since I don’t shoot in B&W I had to have a color version to convert. Enjoy!


I prefer the B&W image. Most effective wildlife image. To my eye, the color detracts from the impact made by the animals.

Thank you @Larry_Greenbaum for your comments. I agree with both points. The reason you mentioned was why I chose to process in B&W.

When you make a composite image, the purist photographer inside me sees it as a art work and not photograph, that’s me any way.
You did a good job, I would prefer some more canvas at top and on RHS.

Bob: I wasn’t sure what the purpose of the second image was until I read your coments. In any event I do like the BW treatment of the composite. With color being absent, I am attracted to the formidable shape and size of the animals. My only nit would be to have a bit more canvas all around.

Thank you @JRajput for your comments. You may be correct. However, I thought that all photographs were art— some bad or poor art, some mediocre art and others fine art. If I were to have “more canvas all around” I don’t believe the herd would be visible therefore verifying this is not the classic, all too prevalent, plop something on top of a background shot

@Bob_Faucher, what would you think about trying to downsize/shrink the muskox a bit in the big scene?

@Ed_Williams WHY?

@Bob_Faucher, I think it would provide a better balance within your great scene if the muskox were not as huge.

I feel the same as @JRajput about composites. They and straight photographs (limited cloning allowed) are different kinds of art.

This one jumps out as a composite – the scaling (noted by @Richard_Sandor and @Ed_Williams) and DOF both feel artificial. Composite photographic art is highly dependent on craft, and in this case the color image shows numerous clone repeats in the lower half. The area behind the bull’s legs (and carried across the canvas to the right) appears sharper than the grass under their feet. The transition from the actual ground they were standing on is obvious. The same small plant occurs twice just to the right of the female’s front leg – from both the actual grass FG and apparently the same plant above it on the composited BG. That jumps out in the same way as a clone repeat.

@Diane_Miller @Richard_Sandor @Ed_Williams @JRajput @Larry_Greenbaum: thank all of you for you critical evaluation of this post “Ancient Survivors.” I have asked David to remove it from NPN’s site. David feels it would be better to retain the image so other members can benefit from your valuable feedback. Perhaps I can resolve the issues you noted in such detail and then repost, after addressing them, in the future.