What is so special about this photo?

You may have already seen this, but I just received this via email, loved it and so the post.


If you look closely you will realize why this National Geographic picture (Week 4 of this issue) is so interesting. Click on the image to view its full size.

Can you guess?

Disclaimer: This photo is the sole property of National Geographic. The photographer is George Steinmetz and the image is called Larger than Life. I have written to him and have received his permission.

Thanks to Gary for raising the point about copyrighted photos.

Share this post with your friends!


  1. It is taking the photo from above the camels. The images we see are the shadows stretched across the sand.

  2. It’s a top down view, the sun’s shining from the bottom, and the camel shapes are their shadows.

  3. The large black camels are shadows of the small white camels – seen from the air of course. Neat photo.

  4. Couldn’t figure it out myself, but the comments on Digg said that it is actually the shadows of the camels. The photograph was taken from above. Looking at it again, it becomes quite obvious. Good one.

    By the way, nice Preview window.

  5. The shadows of the camels look bright. The legs on the shadows are pointing downwards when they would be expected to point upwards. Not all of the camels have bright shadows. In the lower left side of the image a bright shadow appears to be going through the body of the 5th camel from the bottom. The shadows of the rocks seem to be 180 degrees different than the shadows of the camels.

  6. It looks like the ‘shadows’ are the camels and the silhouettes are the shadows

  7. is it because they’ve taken the photo from directly above to make the shadows show on the ground in the way they do?

  8. It’s the perspective. Theimage is almost exactly shot \”straight down\”. The shadows are massively exaggerated by the angle of the sun

  9. Looks digitally altered to me: many of the camels appear identical, and they appear to be \”standing\” on a shape that also appears to be identical.

  10. Hi Josue, will wait for a few more comments (hopefully).

    I am sure someone will guess it, or else I will post 🙂

  11. It’s a satellite image. You know, like from outer space. Like, say 100 miles up. By remote control. With big-ass lenses and computer enhancment. Think Sputnik on steroids with a 1.3 megapixel camera and Verizon Wireless to beam the picture to your Verizon account and makes your cell bill really high. So high that this is the only picture you could afford to take which is too bad. I had ATT but I wanted a new phone but they told me I had to get a Cingular phone and I didn’t want that because what if the satellite wasn’t compatible so I guess the camels in the picture are better than nothing.

  12. Nice photo.

    kleenview said:

    In the lower left side of the image a bright shadow appears to be going through the body of the 5th camel from the bottom.

    That’s what I thought too. But remember, a camel has looonng legs. There’s quite a lot of space between its body and the ground. The shadow is not passing through its body, but under it.

  13. cmon bozos read the neighboring comments, if u can imagine urself, top view… sunrise/sunset … black camels r shadows… cmon… enuf guessing soo many guys hav figured it out… why bother!!!

  14. I loved the picture. Sorry to go off topic, but I have seen “Why search for this post when you can bookmark it?” buttons a few places.

    I was wondering is this a plugin for wordpress? I would love to put that in my blog. Any info would help. Thanks.

  15. There are two different colors of camels.

    At the bottom, just above the words ‘Her hakki’, I saw a camel casting a shadow, even though it’s bodt appeared to be in the shadow of another camel. Then I realized that it’s body was just that dark.

    I couldn’t find any reference to dark brown camels, so I assume it’s not another breed. Are they muddy?

    I think one poster was right about the water, you can see one camel taking a drink.
    I don’t see any horses.

  16. Someone is sitting on one of the camels. Third row down (the camel is really the only one in that row) and it looks like the camel is drinking

  17. dreams2text,

    I too am very surprised how I am still getting varied answers.

    But, now I want to see what else people can observe in that picture 🙂

  18. wohooo camels on skateboards!

    what is the secret about this picture?
    i can see that the camels are shadows……is that \”the secret\”?

  19. i thought it was a cave painting at first,but now im not sure, i could be an arial photo, or a digitally altered one… who knows

  20. […] What is so special about this photo? View the larger image. How creative. […]

  21. Actually, one of the camels in the bottom left corner looks like it’s standing on top of a shadow – the shadow should be on top of it.

  22. What a cool photo. I’d much rather be in the plane than walking across such an arid region of the world. I’ll concede it to the camels.

  23. The photo is taken exactly from the top of camels … so shadows are like 3D… it’s amazing… It’s early afternoon and the sun Shining so much that the skin of the camel become white or to say much clearly gold…
    (thats happens in Greece a lot)so that’s the odd about this picture…
    Thank you.

  24. […] Ok, maybe I should be asking what’s wrong with this post, more than the photo. In 63 replies, no one has mentioned that he’s using a very obviously copyrighted photo belonging to the National Geographic Society (NGS). Not only that, but he’s copied it to his own server, rather that posting a text link to where he found it, or to the NGS itself. And now it’s helping him earn money with all of the page views and the Goggle Ad Words. Wouldn’t that make it a commercial use since a revenue stream now is involved? What share of the income from his blog goes back to the photographer? None, I’ll bet. I’ll even bet that the same holds true as to whether he ever queried National Geographic about it’s use. More like – “Hey, Look what I found. It was on the internet, so it must be free and OK for me to use however I want.” At least he left the NGS logo intact. […]

  25. They’re not camels?

    Turtle crushing camels?

    There’s a donkey doing a camel somewhere there?

    As Nick said, one is a horse?

    :)) Nice one!

  26. a beautiful picture!! a pity that some thought only \”big deal\”–what other wonderful things are they missing out on? thanks for the post.

  27. You guys have all missed the point COMPLETELY. The fascinating thing about this photo is that the shadows are all painted on the ground. The photographer JUST HAPPENED to be cleaning the bottom of his zeppelin as 47 or so camels JUST HAPPENED to be in the exact right spots to line up with the paintings. My 6 year old niece could even figure this one out. And she’s only 5. Come on guys, get with it.

  28. It’s not a photo…it’s actually a photoshop trick. The sand isn’t really sand; It’s a piece of wood or photoshop wood..(see the wood grain). And the camels look like random shadow images. Also there are 48 camels in the \”photo\”…camels usual travel in packs of 2-20. All in all it still looks kinda cool.

  29. I figured it out. The distance between the trails is exactly the length of their shadows. It seams as if these camels are afraid of their own shadows.

  30. Got it. The seventh camel shadow from the top right appears to be smoking! 🙂

  31. […] Anyone of you saw this image before? I saw it at this blog through my friend’s blog and I was shocked and amazed when I first saw it. It’s a piece of art. You will understand why I say so when you click on it to see the full size of the photos. Do comment here and see if you know what it is. Disclaimer: This is a photo taken by George Steinmetz and I’ve gotten his permission to display on this blog. On top of that, this picture also belongs to National Georgraphic which can be found here. All copyrights belongs to the respectives owners, not me. If there is a need to remove it, please comment here and it will be done immediately. Bookmark:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  32. hey ajay
    i have seen this photo sometime back while having a coffe at Barista it was a wallpaper on a lady’s laptop.
    from the first glimpse i find it strange . i just noted that it has camel and shadow and nat geo logo i did google and find it at your blog

  33. Hello Prashant,
    When did you see this wallpaper?

    This post got really famous, and has been recommended by many 🙂

  34. The interesting thing about the photo is this. The picture must have been taken as the sun was setting to cast the shadows in the direction depicted in the picture. This would cause an unusually long outstreched shadow unless the camels were traveling along the side of a hill. In this picture, the sun was probably below the natural horizen (from sea level) and the sun’s angle is upwards towards the camels as they traversed the hillside. This also explains how the shadows of the two close camels don’t fall on each other.


    they are not shadows,they are hands

    everybody can see something different or maybe cannot see anything at all!!!

  36. I finally found this site to explain it to me…. thanx… duh… I have been working with photoshop for so long I was trying to figure out why someone sent this obvious painting to me…. too many shadows just looked like rubber stamped images… but NOW…. I can’t believe I was so asleep and stupid…. what a glorious optical illusion…. the mind manifested in a moment in time capturing the infinite variety of life’s eternal surprises. Many thanks to you all. And for those of you who said \”Big Deal!\” I can’t complain because that’s where I was when I first saw it. It’s okay… I was probably expecting to find Waldo or Osama.

  37. But what about the 2nd shadow – if you look carefully, there is a shadow immediately below each camel, how can that be?
    And the one that shows someone sitting on top whilst it is drinking – if you zoom in on it, it (the camel) doesn’t look any different from the others.
    Is it a hoax?

  38. It isn’t a hoax. That is what blew me away. When I finally looked at the larger picture of it I could finally make out that what we see as the camel is actually an elongated shadow and what looks like the shadow at the feet is actually the camel itself viewed directly down as in an aerial view. Marvelous play of light and texture and illusion and balance and order and movement and stop motion and obviously at some point… self observation. What this is similar to is one of those paintings where the water is reflecting the dock and you see the boats and people and the reflection but it is actually turned upside down and what you see is the same thing but blurred above in ripples and clear but upside down below… the optical trick is that we think the shadow or reflection to be the opposite of what is really taking place. Much like Quantum Physics: you don’t know if you are discovering reality and develop thoughts about or whether or not your thoughts about reality is what create it.

  39. as neat as it is in my opinion I personally think this is a composite! (can you say photoshop)

    Now why would I say something like that

    ok it is good job but look very closely

    look at the sun angles .. it changes between the camels (small changes and you might buy off on that) BUT

    look closer

    1) there are in fact TWO shadows of the camels… a very close one .. which could only be made with the sun high say 45 to 80 degrees … which matches with the back shoulders of the camel being lit up … And of course the added LARGE shadow which wold only be made if the sun was VERY LOW … . last I looked we don’t have 2 suns

    2) there is also one shadow with NO camel (If it is making that much shadow then it HAS to be receiving light…) yet he has other camels with shadows across them …

    3) look at the camel .. 2nd row from the bottom … 3rd camel from the left … it should have a shadow on it if the light blocking was that much to produce that shadow … sorry it has NOT shadow on it .. it should have one …

    there are other inconsistancies … can you see them?

    I think this was TWO pictures put together and yes it looks great but

    actually I would like to know if I am wrong but unfortuanately I don’t think so

Comments are closed.

Get more stuff like this
in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.