It’s no secret that I absolutely love international travel. For the past 30 years, I have spent 9 months of each year on the road. I have met some amazing people and seen fascinating and varied cultures in my travels. It reinforces my belief that we are all connected.
I became hooked on international travel in 1984, when I was asked to join the first US Everest Expedition allowed in through Tibet. I didn’t go to climb Mt Everest, or even to just stand on her flanks. I went to see the magical city of Lhasa. I had learned about such incredible places in school and had always wanted to see one with my own eyes. I was instantly hooked and I’ve been traveling the world ever since.
The Pantanal offers a wetland environment like no other on the planet. At 54,000 square miles you could hide the whole of the Florida Everglades in the center and never find them. It’s no secret that I love photographing wildlife and the Pantanal offers some of the best avian photography anywhere. While the Amazon rain forest may be larger, the Pantanal has a concentration of wildlife that allows you to see (and photograph) 100 times more birds and animals than you ever would in the Amazon. I chose the Pantanal for my “Travels to the Edge” TV show for this very reason.
You will have the chance to photograph capybaras and caimans and many of the 400 species of birds that live in the Pantanal. Nearly a quarter of these birds weighing in at over a pound (1.6kg) – which is a pretty big bird when you stop to think about it. We may even get to see Giant Otters (big as a grown man) and Giant Anteaters. If you’ve seen the episode of “Travels to the Edge” from this region you have some idea of what you’ll be in store for. But don’t worry, when it comes to the caimans, we’ll keep a respectful distance (this time).
Through traveling to photograph wildlife, I have been blessed with getting to know some of the most interesting and diverse cultures around the world. For this tour, I have scheduled visits to two working Brazilian ranches so we can get a taste of what it is like to pull a living from this land and call it home. To visit a country without getting to know the people is an incomplete story for me. There is so much to be learned from others who share this earth with us but have different perspectives and unique viewpoints. Seeing the challenges they face can bring a new perspective to our own lives.
And if you’re not hooked yet… on my previous trips I have stumbled across a very remote corner of the Pantanal where there is an incredible opportunity to see Jaguars in the wild. This particular group has become habituated to seeing people much like some of the lion troops you would see on safari in Africa and they no longer
instinctively retreat and hide in the dense forest. It may take a while to swallow your heart back down from the middle of your throat, but seeing a Jaguar in the wild is a experience you will never forget.
Along the Washington coast we have many species that migrate past our shores both above and below the water. For just 2 to 3 weeks in late April and early May, up to a million shore birds can be found near the town of Grays Harbor on their way to nesting grounds in the arctic. Some of the commonly seen birds include: Killdeer, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Wandering Tattler, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Surfbird, Red Knot, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Long-billed Dowitcher.
The birds will take a much needed rest in the mudflats of Bowerman Bay on their long flights from South America all the way up the Pacific Coast until the reach the Arctic where they will nest and prepare for the next generation. Your best chance at seeing the birds comes at high tide when the incoming ocean waters concentrate the birds on just a few points of land where they can still find food and safe harbor. This is a most remarkable region for birding because of its varied habitats: rocky seashore, sandy beaches, large estuaries, rivers, meadows and mountains.
You won’t be alone of course, like the tulip fields of the Skagit Valley which bloom just in front of the migration this phenomena attracts hundreds of bird watchers and nature loves alike. The town of Greys Harbor even sponsors a shore bird festival each year giving you some clue as to when you might want to migrate to the coast yourself.
On May 4th, 2012, the University of Washington officially honors a 150 distinguished alumni with their first-ever Timeless Awards and Art Wolfe has been selected. The Timeless Award is given to alumni based on their outstanding service and achievement since graduation.
Even though this weekend is predicted to be the best weekend of the year here in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest is ever changing and it shouldn’t be long until things change.
Rainy days are some of my absolute favorite days to photograph. Sure it would be a lot easier to shoot through fog to create that soft mysterious air to your images, but fog is unpredictable and typically rather temporary lasting only for an hour or so in the early morning. However rain in the Pacific Northwest is both predictable and persistent.
People are often surprised that I don’t run outside with my camera on a beautiful blue sky day. The clouds on an overcast day act like a huge softbox to soften the light, reduce contrast, and open up the shadows to details that would be completely lost on a bright sunny day. Falling rain diffuses and evens out the light even more. Some of my favorite images have been captured on gray rainy days.
You’ll need to check your lens frequently for spots but with a little care you can use the rain to your advantage. Use a tripod, polarizer, small aperture and long shutter speed to keep from recording individual falling drops of rain and maximize atmospheric softening. Additionally, the polarizer removes the shine from foliage for the richest colors possible. It’s rare that I don’t have a polarizer on the front of my lens. With standing water in your frame the falling rain will ripple the surface. The long shutter speed will blur movement the same way a waterfall can be rendered as a soft ethereal white drape over rocks.