There is nothing like experiencing a place for the first time. I have traveled all over Western Europe, but the closest I have been to the southeastern nations is Greece and Turkey. Now I am traveling to the native land of my good friend and long time assistant, Gavriel Jecan.
Other than as the home to vampires, gymnasts and despots, Romania remains unknown to most. We will travel to Gavriel’s ancient hometown of Brasov, nestled in the Carpathian Alps. Brown bears come down from the mountains and roam the outskirts of the city. We will be traveling just as the untouched forests in the Carpathians are turning golden, which will lend a great backdrop to the very traditional 12th century villages we will be passing through.
We will visit several orthodox monasteries, famous for their medieval murals, and we will engage the diverse peoples—Roma, ethnic Hungarian and German, as well as Romanian—all along the way. With Gavriel as our guide it will be like visiting a good friend, not like traveling with a standard tour guide.
Those who follow me know that I have traveled much of this world. One of the places that I have enjoyed going to most is Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. It has essentially been isolated from the rest of the world for the last 50 years. Despite this I have always been greeted by warm and friendly people.
Myanmar offers unlimited photographic opportunities and it is one of the easiest places to photograph people. The traditional cultures have remained fairly intact throughout the country. Working with guides and assistants with whom I’ve worked before, we will be visit monasteries where we will work with monks. To witness and photograph a Buddhist monk prayer session is an amazing and memorable opportunity.
Myanmar is going to change in a very short time. We’ve seen it start to embrace the outside world. Therefore, I want to lead a small group of people to Myanmar one last time to share the traditional locations I’ve grown to love. It will most likely be my last trip there. I hope you can join us next February, when leaving cold North America and Europe will be a nice break!
Celebrate and give back to your parks with the National Parks Conservation Association and the National Park Service for National Public Lands Day on Saturday, September 29. National Public Lands Day provides us the chance to give back to special places in our own backyard like Mount Rainier National Park. Join hundreds of other park supporters and help repair park trails, clean up campgrounds and picnic areas, and plant native vegetation.
National Public Lands Day is a great opportunity to help Mount Rainier and spend the rest of the day recreating or relaxing in the park. With free admission, feel free to bring a friend or make it a family outing, and enjoy the experience together.
RSVP: Please RSVP to Sean Smith so we can plan projects accordingly.
OTHER INFO: There will be free admission at the park that day. Parking will be available at the White River Campground. Please bring warm clothes and be prepared for weather changes as this work day will take place rain or shine! Sturdy work shoes are also needed, as well as gloves, lunch, and water. Sunscreen and a hat are also recommended. Please note that pets are not permitted on park trails.
Please join us!
Sincerely, Sean Smith
One of the things I enjoy most, besides taking photographs, is taking people along with me to some of my favorite locations. Sharing the experiences I love with others is very fulfilling. I’ve been taking small groups of people to some of the locations where favorite episodes of Travels to the Edge took place. As seen in one of those episodes, Japan in winter is simply magical. Much of the wildlife has been habituated to people, and therefore translates into amazing photographic experiences.
First we’ll visit the snow macaques that live in the mountains about two hours west of Tokyo. Here in an isolated steep cut valley with an amazing mountain lodge are three extended families of macaques, numbering around 50. Because they are the most northern primate on earth, they have the longest, luxuriant fur of any primates, particularly in the winter months. They come down from the pine and oak forests and for a couple of hours a day they hang around a natural hot spring. They have been habituated to people visiting them there, so you can photograph from within inches without interrupting their behavior, which is very animated and fun. It is a photographic bonanza.
After visiting the macaques, we will travel to the northern island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido reminds me a bit of Alaska, full of forests of birch, pine and fir with a back drop of beautiful volcanic mountains. There are also large lakes and wild running rivers, and hosts three species of bird wildlife that are extraordinary to photograph. The Japanese Crane has been symbolized in Japanese culture for thousands of years due to its grace and beauty. Giant whooper swans come in the winter months from nesting in Siberia. They have been fed by locals for years, helping them sustain thru the winter, as well as creating an easy and wonderful photographic opportunity for us! And often Steller’s sea eagles will swoop around the same area. They are massive black and white raptors that winter over on the icy shores of Hokkaido.
The days are short in February on Hokkaido, but the beautiful hues of sunrise and sunset are protracted allowing us hours to capture quite stunning images. After sunset we will have time for a hot bath at the lodge before eating a traditional Japanese meal. After dinner we will have time for lectures and critiques before calling it a day. With the abridged daylight, it really allows for a nice schedule to fit everything in and still have enough hours for a good night’s sleep! Since we travel in and out of Tokyo, you will get to experience the surreal and wonderful contrast that Japan has to offer, not only the very modern and bustling city, but the natural and beautiful countryside.
I invite you to explore this unique and rich habitat with us.
This is a reminder to be sure and get over to the Burke Museum and see the ICPA (International Conservation Photography Awards) show. They have had great turnout for the show this year. It is both beautiful in its presentation and valuable in its conservation message. Take the whole family. Kids totally get this. Photographers are also interacting with the Conservation Candids. This is an interactive Flickr gallery that anyone can contribute a like-minded image to. The Burke Museum even has prizes if you enter a photo.
I have been using a Phase One camera system for my Human Canvas images over the past couple of years. At 60 megapixels the detail and resolution is so sharp I can enlarge the final images to life size and beyond, critical for this body of work. I have always shot with it in a studio, where the camera was mounted 16 feet above the floor in a warehouse ceiling and tethered to a laptop where it was triggered with a key-stroke. That was a collaborative experience, so I wouldn’t say I really got to experience the Phase One one-to-one.
So, that begs the question…what about using it outside of the studio setting?
I recently set out into the Cascade Mountains to find out. Even though it is a medium format camera system, the Phase One still fits into my same old camera bag. I just needed to move one little Velcro divider around to accommodate it.
It was far from an ideal day for photography – there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the sun was at its peak overhead, it was hot, mosquitos were out and nothing was really calling out to me. With lunch in mind I saw a large patch of snow in the distance with a stream running out from under it. Since I’d hiked above the tree line, this was the only potential shade within reach. In anticipation of dipping a handkerchief in the cold water and eating some lunch, I set out for the snow bank. And that’s where I saw it…
The stream and winds had carved out a large tunnel under the snow, and even from the entrance I could begin to see shades of blue, deep in the cave. I’ve been a mountaineer almost my entire life, climbing the volcanoes in the Northwest, crevassed glaciers, even climbing to the lower level camps with an expedition on Mt. Everest, so I knew this situation had “extreme caution” written all over it. Looking over the snow, wall thickness, and arch of the top, I decided to proceed as one would on a snow bridge over a crevasse – very cautiously.
I stuck very close to the side walls; if the roof was to collapse this would have been the safest place to be. Moving into the cave was like entering a cathedral. A reverence for the beauty of the unexpected display was overwhelming.
Immediately I saw the potential in abstracting the icy blue glow of the ceiling fueled by the direct sun overhead. I used a 55mm lens (34mm equivalent), my attention fully focused on the otherworldly qualities of the ceiling. Looking through the viewfinder of the Phase One, the patterns and lines abstracted into soft human forms, suggestive of the Rubenesque feminine ideal form.
At other times I was drawn to the lines within the form, like the layers of geological time recorded in a rounded stone found alongside a river. The colors varying between blues and yellows only added to the final composition.
Shooting and shifting my point of view I worked the ceiling as a subject finding more and different compositions with each new angle. I could have stayed with this subject for hours. It was so unexpected – a real treat for what had promised to be a rather bland day.
The Phase One system is very intuitive with a huge LCD and touchscreen menus. I was able to easily navigate the functions to set up the camera for the way I like to work, even in the cave. When you are talking about a medium format system, it’s all about image quality – and this one delivers. The system combination of superb Schneider Kreuznach leaf shutter lenses, 645 DF Camera body and IQ 160 digital back produce the sharpest and most detailed images I have ever shot.
So what’s next? I’m currently on tour through Europe visiting familiar landscapes as well as some new ones. I have the Phase One with me and I can hardly wait to see the results when I get home and begin enlarging these images to prints. This camera system is able to capture the grand scenic landscapes in unprecedented detail and clarity. If only I could have had my hands on one since 1978.
When it comes to the big picture, Phase One wins out. ~Art Wolfe
Join me on the Phase One Digital Artist Series (PODAS) Workshop in Kimberley, Australia in June, 2013. >>MORE INFO
Pictures Magazine (Germany) has put together a very nice article on Art Wolfe and his upcoming seminar. His highly touted Art of Composition workshop is being held alongside Photokina this year. If you are going to make it for the Exhibit, don’t miss this rich class. Participants are getting so many take-aways from this class. The class will be held September 22 in Köln (Cologne), Germany.
A few Images around Dingle Town, a small sea coast town on the SW Corner of Ireland. The seascapes are indicative of this rugged wind washed landscape. In a small town in Ireland one does not have to walk far before encountering an Irish Pub.
Maybe it’s time to think small, macro small. September and October in the Pacific Northwest present wet dew laden mornings which are perfect for photographing tiny intimate landscapes, insects in your garden, abstracting details of a flower into a wash of color, or a spider’s web suspending drops of dew.
When I talk about “macro photography” I’m not limiting myself to 1:1 or greater magnification. Macro to me is really anything that might fit in my 2 hands. A clump of clover or a close-up of a Macaw’s back showing detail in the feathers, fall into my definition of “macro photography” as does a butterfly’s wing or dandelion seed head filling the entire frame.
People often ask me what I would recommend for a macro lens and honestly I don’t generally carry one; they add too much weight for how often I find myself using one. Instead, I carry a set of extension tubes, practically weightless when compared to adding another lens to my bag, and at my age, less is definitely more (as in more walking, more shooting and more time out of the chiropractors office!)
I’ve asked Jay Goodrich to provide a few technical details on macro lenses and how extension tubes work:
To understand macro lenses you must first understand how a lens focuses on a subject. As you twist the focus ring, the glass optics inside move forward and back. Want to focus closer? Move the glass further from the sensor. Want to focus at 1:1 magnification? (1:1 happens when the object you are shooting is the same size on the sensor as it is in real life such as a quarter or butterfly’s wing filling the frame) Then your lens must be able to move the optics away from the sensor a distance equal to the focal length of your lens (This will vary based on the crop factor of your sensor). In other words if your 100mm lens can move 100mm from the sensor, you have a ‘macro lens’ able to focus close enough for objects to appear life size on the sensor. A 100mm macro lens will be able to achieve 1:1 (lifesize) at twice the distance from your subject than a 50mm macro lens would.
But what if your 100mm lens is not a “macro lens”? That simply means it is not able to move the optics a full 100mm from the sensor. Perhaps it can only move them 75mm and thus it can’t quite focus close enough to fill the frame with the butterfly’s wing. An extension tube is spacer that fits between your camera and lens and they come in various thicknesses. Having no glass at all they do not impact your image quality as a magnifying filter (also used for macro photography) would. So if you were to put a 25mm extension tube on the back of your “non macro” 100mm lens – you would then be able to achieve the full 100mm (75+25) of extension necessary to photograph your subject at 1:1 or 1x magnification.
So what does Art use in the field? He will add extension tubes between his 70-200 f4 lens. Without them, the lens has a minimum focusing distance of 1.2m and a magnification of .21x (about 1/5th life size). Adding a 25mm extension tube allows him to move in closer and achieve .42x life size. Stack additional extension tubes behind the lens and he’s able to focus even closer yet – all without adding an additional lens to his bag.
If you enjoy shooting macro subjects, an investment in a true macro lens is worthwhile. While extension tubes allow you to “make one” on the fly, they must be removed to allow the lens to again focus on distant objects and to infinity. You can even purchase a macro lens with enough extension built in to achieve up to 5x magnification – filling the frame with the eye of a praying mantis.
Most of the time stopping down to f22 and keeping your sensor plane parallel to your subject will give you enough depth of field to cover your subject. If not, you may need to “rack focus”, shooting several images with the focus point first on the leading edge of the subject with each subsequent image focusing a little further into the composition until you reach the furthest point you want in focus. Later you combine the images with Photoshop or Helicon Focus; the combined image will then look sharp across the entire scene from front to back.
I use macro photography to abstract the patterns, lines and texture found in nature; to give the viewer a different taken on an old subject. We’ve all seen photographs of flowers, force your audience to think a little, to tilt their head as they wrap their imaginations around your composition.
You can abstract just about anything you find in nature and even man-made objects. By framing tight on your subject you are able to show a pattern that is lost when looking at the whole. Your image allows a new appreciation for the subject which is unavailable without the photograph to isolate and show only what you, the artist behind the camera, is allowing the viewer to see.
Patterns come from the repetition of shape and textures, thus it is possible to get too close and not show enough of your subject, losing the magic of the pattern you had intended to show. If you love ferns for their delicate pattern of leaves, get in close, focus your attention on just one frond and enjoy the gentle curve of the main stem while playing with the beauty of the individual leaves branching out while ever decreasing in size to either side. A fully symmetric composition with the frond in the center makes a different, but equally effective statement as drawing the frond out of a corner diagonally, try it both ways to see what you like.
Sometimes if I am lacking for inspiration I’ll create a little vignette, a story, with the elements around me. On a beach I may grab some bits of seaweed, a shell, perhaps a dead crab or some muscles, and a bit of drift wood. I’ll loosely arrange these so as not to appear too deliberate or forced and play with the composition. This exercise can help to open me up to other options around me as I begin to see line and form that I may not have seen otherwise.
A good exercise for anyone, whether you are feeling stuck or full of inspiration, is to walk to a random spot, in your back yard, in the country, in the forest… and just stand there and take in the scene. Look all around you. It may take 15 min or it may take an hour, but you will begin to see opportunities on a macro, close up scale, which you may have overlooked in the past. The stained glass effect of a dragon fly’s wing, the rainbow of colors in a puddle, a sewer grate, the wabi sabi qualities of a dead leaf as it curls and browns. Photographic opportunities are all around if you open yourself to the possibility of seeing them.
Always keep a sharp eye for any distracting elements in the composition. Check each of the four corners for bright areas on the edges, twigs, dead leaves, hard edges. A grouping of pine needles close-up can make for an abstract of Japanese writing; a single pine needle in the corner can blow the whole composition.
As you head out to photograph the macro landscape, ask yourself about the difference between a tight shot of a flower that could be used in a botanical textbook as “figure 7.2”, and an artist’s abstract of that same flower. When you get in really close, can you start to see a Georgia O’Keefe or Claude Monet’s influence on the composition? Does the texture make you think of a pointillism painting where the entire scene is composed of dots of color? Go back and photograph those same flowers, mosses, and leaves you have shot so many times before, even those in your own yard, but do so through a new set of eyes, not looking to record nature but to abstract and challenge the senses of your viewer.