Technique Tuesday – Photographing Polar Bears

The polar bears of Churchill are world famous, of course; like many photographers I have made pilgrimages there since the early 1980s. This has given me the opportunity to photograph the bears in various ways. From a tundra buggy, you can see the bears engaging in harmless battles as they wait to hunt seals once the ice that’s formed on Hudson Bay. From the air I recorded the beautiful patterns on the frozen lake’s surface as well as the bear’s shadow cast across the ice. To emphasize the barren tundra terrain and diminish the bear’s presence, I selected a 17-35mm wide-angle lens.

For The Living Wild I went to Churchill to photograph cubs newly emerged from their winter dens. Not only did I find several sows with their cubs, but I found them in near-perfect late afternoon light.

Because light meters are calibrated to read any scene as neutral gray, I set my aperture to overexpose by two stops from the reading to make sure the snow stays white. Without this compensation, the bears would be underexposed. This gives the most accurate exposures for white animals in the snow.

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New Photos from Boundary Bay

In anticipation of finally getting back to world travel, I’ve been easing back into the swing of things by making a few day trips to visit our neighbor to the north to photograph the birds of the region – predominantly owls in this case. Solitary and intelligent, owls are some of my favorite animals to photograph. Although stoic and not as playful as many animals, at any moment they can burst into a flash of spectacular action to make a precision strike on their prey. Featured in this set are a variety of owls – short-eared, long-eared, barn owl, and even a pygmy owl hunting voles which I was incredibly happy to find here. Enjoy!

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Technique Tuesday – Bringing Home the Gold!

I am pleased to announce that Spiritual Journey has won a gold award in the Graphis Photography Annual 2018! You can pre-order your copy of the annual today.

Capturing Spiritual Journey – an excerpt from The Art of the Photograph:

I was walking along the Ganges River in Varanasi, India, at dawn one morning when I saw the color. The sun rose through a layer of smoke and haze, and I thought, “Wow, that is a beautiful red orb.” I had to get that shot.

I was at this location during the Kumbh Mela, a massive gathering of Hindus along the Ganges that happens every 12 years. This is a time of great spiritual and cultural significance when holy men gather to bless the millions of people who have made the pilgrimage to the location. Many pilgrims had traveled to Varanasi and upriver to Allahabad. Many were crossing the river to the encampment on the far side. I contacted one of these people the night before, offering a dollar to act as my model the next morning, one hour before sunrise.

The next morning, I positioned the boat with my new model in the dark mud along the shore. I used a polarizer to take the shine off the water in the foreground, creating the illusion that the boat was floating.

To get the deep depth of field that I wanted, I shot with a wide-angle lens and a small f-stop of f/22, getting an exposure of one or two seconds, during which my model had to remain still. The foreground point of the boat is every bit as sharp as the distant horizon. I had to work quickly because the color of the sun was so important, and it lasted only a short time. once the sun rose above that layer of haze, it lost it’s color.

I loved creating the image, stylizing something these pilgrims did every day during Kumbh Mela, making the image more memorable. you don’t know whether the person is a woman or a man, which helps the viewer see him- or herself in that place.



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2018 is the Year of the Dog!

The Chinese calendar designates 2018 as the Year of the Dog. According to the Chinese Animal Zodiac, those born under the sign of the dog are loyal supportive individuals who’s deep caring and willingness to give advice can sometimes come off as being intrusive, but ultimately their intent is well-meaning and in the interest of the happiness of their friends and loved ones. Much like the dogs themselves, they are loyal with a strong sense of duty to those in their lives.

“Dogs make us fully human. They awaken us to many of the qualities we find in them that we wish to have in ourselves. We wish to be loyal and forgiving and loving. We wish to be focused on important things like family, enjoying time in the wild, walking in the woods, being with friends, lying about indolently in the sunshine. We would like to believe we could make friends with anyone if we try hard enough, to believe that we neither have nor need to have enemies at all in the world.”

–Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson from Dogs Make Us Human

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Upcoming Events in the Pacific Northwest

We are fast approaching spring and kicking off quite a few events in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Come join me for a seminar or a workshop whether you’re local or just want to visit!

March 4th: Photography As Art in Seattle

Photography As Art is coming back to Seattle, and soon! If you’ve missed out in the past, now’s your chance. This seminar tends to fill up fast as it gets near, so sign up today to ensure your spot! If you’ve attended this seminar in the past, I’m continually revising it to add new photos and perspectives, so it can be a great refresher while you prepare for spring shooting!

April 25 – 29: Olympic Peninsula Workshop with Art Wolfe

Always a fan favorite! We will include some new locations this time around, and work with 6-stop neutral density filters to expand on technique. This is an excellent way to experience the Pacific Northwest, whether you’re a native who wants to explore your own back yard, or from out of the area and want to experience the lush variety of our corner of the world where it converges between the Olympic range and the Pacific ocean

May 24-28: Abstract Astoria Photography Retreat with Art Wolfe

Situated at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, Astoria is a fascinating and revitalizing port city with a history tied to the early territorial aspirations of the United States. My goal is work closely with each participant to truly transform and refine their skills while exploring the nature of creativity itself. This ties strongly into the subject matter I cover in Photography As Art.

August 16-19: Mt. Rainier Summer Workshop with Art Wolfe

October 11-14: Mt. Rainier Fall Workshop with Art Wolfe

Same locations, two different seasons to capture beautiful Mt. Rainier and the surrounding Cascade Range, as well as the lush forest, meadows, and surrounding forests! We will use the setting of Mt. Rainier National Park to discuss composition and design in nature photography. Aside from lessons in the field, there will also be lectures on these subjects as well as informative critiques of your work in the field.

Hope to see you all in 2018!








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Technique Tuesday: Spotlighting

Art Wolfe: Spotlighting is an often unpredictable event that can create and unexpected picture. With this image of a tiger in the dense forest, it was essential that I spot-meter the tiger’s illuminated face to ensure it was exposed correctly, since all of the deep shadows could have easily fooled the camera’s meter.

Martha Hill: I find this image intriguing. Tigers are among the most elusive of the big cats, and this image, by showing it lurking in the shadows, perfectly captures the animal’s  mystery. To me it is a more evocative rendering of the subject than the more commonplace, out-in-the-open view we often see.

Art Wolfe: In the hours prior to this shot (of Bridalveil Fall), the valley had been covered in flat light under solid cloud cover. Late in the afternoon, however, the clouds began to break, sending shafts of light onto the faces of El Capitan and Half Dome, and, in this case, the waterfalls that rush over the cliffs in early spring.

Getting the proper exposure in a shot like this can be challenging. using my camera’s spot meter, I took a reading off the brightest area and opened up to keep the whole image from getting too dark.

Martha Hill: This image has drama and mood. Bridalveil Fall is one of Yosemite’s most photographed icons, but the unusual lighting conditions captured here set this image apart. The momentary beam of light illuminates the distant waterfall, directing the eye immediately to it. Under different conditions, such as an even lighting, we might overlook the waterfall altogether in this already dramatic landscape. The success of this image depends on timing – waiting for the exact moment when the light will highlight an interesting visual element.

-Excerpt from The New Art of Photographing Nature, p. 138

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New Photos From Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

This week I spent some time with my friends Bill Edwards and Greg Green visiting the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in British Columbia, Canada. It was nice to get out shooting again and it only made me that much more anxious to get out traveling again! This is the longest stretch I’ve been home in the past 40 years or so by a long shot. The variety of birds and their fearlessness when it comes to human visitors was remarkable.

Enjoy, and stay tuned for more new shots from the field as I ease back in to traveling!

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Technique Tuesday – Canon EF 100-400mm Lens

For as much versatility as you get out of it, the Canon EF100-400 f/4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens is light weight, which means it’s great for traveling and backpacking. This is a particularly sharp lens with great glass and a smooth action collar. It also works well with extenders, which only adds to it’s versatility and value. The quick action zoom makes it a go-to lens for me for capturing wildlife.

What are some of your favorite lenses that never leave your pack? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to know what’s out there, and check out my gear page for more recommendations!

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World Wetlands Day

World Wetlands Day is celebrated internationally each year on February 2nd. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in Ramsar, Iran, on 2 February 1971. This year’s theme is “wetlands for a sustainable urban future” – recognizing the impact and importance of wetlands to cities. As population is booming, wetlands that provide drinking water, counteract flooding, and filter waste are dwindling. World Wetlands Day 2018 serves to highlight the importance of this symbiotic relationship between population centers and the very ecosystem that makes them a liveable environment. Click here more information on World Wetlands Day.

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