River Otter — On the Level

February 14, 2013

A river otter, both curious and protective of its territory, watches me from an icy lake. It was so cold, the water instantly froze on the toothy critter’s whiskers as it surfaced for a look. As with most otter images, this one includes a drab background but I love the dreamy texture of the water.

Sometimes it’s hard to level the horizon on a scene such as this so I just follow the advice of the famous bird photographer, Art Morris, and line up the animal’s eyes parallel with the bottom of the frame. Other images, including most landscapes, are easy to level as you just look at the horizon and make sure it’s plumb. Unfortunately, I often see landscape scenes that are tilted about 10 or 12 degrees, even on professional photography sites. My humble advice to new photographers is to remember to keep your images level unless you are going for an artistic statement.

I rarely worry about leveling in the field as I always crop my images a bit for composition so I just true the horizon at that time. I used to be obsessed with leveling the image in the field while I was making the shot but I was always off by a few degrees. This was especially frustrating back in the days when Canon Digital Photo Professional didn’t provide a post-processing leveling feature. I was so aggravated I wrote a letter to Canon. I kept it simple—something like, “Come on guys, how hard can it be to put a leveling feature in your program?” Eventually Canon relented to complainers like me and corrected the issue. Now whether I get it right in the field or not, my images always end up plumb with the world.

Please enjoy this icy-whiskered river otter and try to keep your next batch of pictures “on the level” to avoid scrutiny from the likes of people like me. 😉

Canon 1DMarkIV; Canon 500/4 L IS Lens with 1.4 TC II; 1/320 @ f/5.6; ISO 400; Aperture Priority; RAW Capture; Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod with Full Wimberley II; Converted, “Leveled,” and Processed in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP)

Thanks for Looking,



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5 comments on “River Otter — On the Level”

  1. Hmmm….what happens if the critter has his or her head at an angle, and the horizon is at a different angle? Then you get terrible shots like mine, which no “purist” would ever look at! Thanks for the portrait of Freezy!

  2. That’s a wonderful otter pose and all on the level!!!

  3. What a great shot of that otter. He has a very perturbed look in his eyes, as much as to say, Who in the heck do you think you are, watching me fish? Great shot Danny of the water as well. It looks so pres-tine. I hope you have a another great week, in the wild.


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