It seems like an eternity ago, and in a sense it was. In February I traveled with Kevin Raber and Rockhopper Tours to Antarctica. So much has happened in the relatively short time since then that I very nearly forgot about this trip, filled with abundant wildlife and stunning landscapes.
A highlight was a massive iceberg we cruised by at dinner time. Everyone was deep in their dishes when I jumped up, grabbed my camera and ran off. A krill-red smear announced the presence of Chinstrap and gentoo penguins. Against the blue of the iceberg, it was a rich sign of life in this arresting landscape.
Seals, orcas, petrels and some minke whales also came to escort us along our cruise aboard the ship. Enjoy the photos – if you have any questions about them, join me on Thursday for another live episode of Tequila Time with Art and ask away!
Another great time going live on Tequila Time with Art is in the books, and this time we took a tour of my Huangshan-inspired Japanese garden. It was by far the most requested feature from these live chats, so I’m thankful both the typically soggy Seattle weather and technology conspired to work together for once! Check out the video above if you missed it, or simply want to re-watch it. For more information on my garden, I’ve also included my story of how the garden came to be below. Enjoy, and have a fantastic weekend!
Nature possesses many powers. It can awe and inspire, provoke fear, and humble. As a nature photographer who frequently travels to some of the most wild and remote regions of
the world, I have truly experienced each of these emotions and more.
In all my journeys, though, one place in particular captured my soul and spirit in ways that continue to inspire me today. The incomparable grandeur of the granite spires, spectacular rocky peaks, contorted pines and swirling mists I encountered at Huangshan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in China’s Anhui Province, planted in me a desire to blend my global travels into the shape and feel of my own home environment.
Upon returning to my native Seattle nearly 35 years ago from that fateful voyage to China, I immediately purchased a property brimming with artistic potential, offering sweeping views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Full of enthusiasm, I began to transform my flat half-acre of predictable plantings and 1910 Tudor-style home into a miniature Huangshan.
Soon my simple lawn with its rhododendron border was transformed into a bustling work site. I rented a backhoe to sculpt a koi pond and cascading stream beds. A mobile crane brought in over 100 tons of moss-covered granite boulders, black pines, Western red cedars, hemlocks, Douglas firs, and Japanese maples, some with root-balls weighing as much as 8,000 pounds. My yard quickly became a place to enjoy visually as well as spiritually, and I was not alone. Wildlife promptly discovered the habitat I had created and new photographic opportunities arose.
I post no signs and have no fences, so it is quite common to discover total strangers walking along my pathways, lured by the soothing sounds of cascading waterfalls. The inviting landscape evokes the spirit of Huangshan that enchanted me so many years ago, and so long as visitors remain respectful, they’re not turned away. My decision to avoid contributing to suburban sprawl by remaining in an urban setting has been remarkably satisfying. I have enjoyed creating and maintaining critical habitat for the numerous wild denizens who share my tranquil setting.
There is something incredibly peaceful and grounding about working here, pruning the pines, weeding, planting and observing life thriving all around me. Simply put, my yard has become my therapist, my refuge, and a beautiful, relaxing place where I can explore my lifelong passions for nature and photography.
What better way to celebrate Earth Day than to vote on the New Big 5 of wildlife! British journalist & photographer Graeme Green has been hard at work creating this new international initiative to create a new Big 5 of wildlife photography, bringing awareness to the plight of wildlife everywhere.
For the second week in a row I was able to connect with friends and followers live on Facebook and Instagram, and once again I came away with a tremendous sense of elation at being able to connect with everyone. Thank you to everyone who made with with a drink in hand, tequila or otherwise!
We had a few requests to re-post Komodo dragons from my January trip to Indonesia and Komodo Island. A special thank-you to Bill for helping me create a contraption to get my camera down low to shoot them without being eaten! Ask and you shall receive. . .
Looking forward to another live Tequila Time this evening and I’d love to see you there if you can make it! We’ll be on Facebook Live and Instagram. If you’re planning on playing along at home, here’s a recipe I loosely follow:
1 1/2 oz of your favorite Blanco Tequila
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Agave Nectar
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
Finish with a splash of tangerine or orange juice – perfect as the days get sunnier and warmer! For those of you who don’t imbibe or aren’t of age, here’s a mocktail recipe you can use – no alcohol, but lots of love an fresh ingredients!
2 oz honey or agave
1 oz limeade concentrate
1 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
2 drops almond extract
1/4 tsp orange extract or bitters
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
In either case, it’s not a tequila cocktail or a mocktail without limes to garnish!
If you’ve been paying attention to the blog or caught last week’s livestream, you already know I’m keeping myself occupied lately working on a new series of educational videos releasing very soon. If you follow me you know that I’m an artist first and a technician second – I learn to use technology as I need it, but unlike many photographers my background lies in fine art.
That being said, my upcoming lecture series will touch on many of the technical aspects of photography as well, for example using a high shutter speed to capture water droplets around the high-speed movements of this small painted bunting.
Freezing the action here requires a fast shutter speed – in this case I’ve chosen 1/6400th of a second. I’ve achieved my goal – the droplets and the bunting are sharp! However one problem you may run into depending on the available lighting is the high ISO required to get enough light from such a brief exposure. In this case my ISO was bumped all the way up to 5000 – well beyond what most photographers are comfortable with.
Personally I have always pushed my use of ISO; if the photo truly requires a high number to get the effect and freeze the action like I want it to, I am okay introducing a bit of noise. Much of that can be removed later in post. As an example, here is a close-up of this image with one side using Topaz Denoise AI, and the other the original image:
As you can see, Topaz does a great job of removing much of the noise in the image while retaining details. I highly recommend that regardless of the software you use to remove noise, that this is your first step in your edit. As you tweak levels, colors, and other attributes of your image, they may overly enhance the noise making it harder to retroactively remove. After you remove the noise, you can then go back and re-introduce some sharpening where needed, selectively avoiding areas with large swaths of color that will just end up looking noisy.
That will have to be a lesson for another day – enjoy your week, stay safe and healthy!
I had a great time going LIVE last night with my good friend Parimal Deshpande for the inaugural episode of Tequila Time with Art! This one was a little on the formal side while I adjust to the format, but I hope everyone who tuned in and participated felt like it was time well spent. I’m looking forward to doing these weekly and I hope you’ll continue to tune in and tell your friends!
Obviously we won’t be able to answer everyone’s questions during the broadcast, but rest assured we have culled inquiries and If I can find some time, I’ll answer some here on the blog in the weeks and months to come.
If you missed out on the live broadcast, they will be available every week on my youtube channel, facebook, and instagram – get connected!
Happy technique Tuesday! Hopefully everyone is healthy and using their time to practice their photography at home. While I’m currently working on my Pathways to Creativity series of lectures, I figured it couldn’t hurt to give some tips for those of you looking to pass the time.
Photographers of all levels know just how useful a tripod can be. Myself and others have touted the necessity of choosing a good brand and not skimping on a cheap one. That being said, sometimes you need to ditch that thing. While the stability a tripod offers is essential for many shots, it’s not always the most maneuverable tool to use.
In this video, I illustrate that by losing the tripod and getting down low, I can capture these chinstrap penguins in such a way that enough background is included and in focus to give true context to their environment. This is an angle and perspective I wouldn’t have been able to achieve without the spontaneity and maneuverability gained by freeing myself from the tripod.
Use your body, the ground, and objects around you to stabilize your shot – don’t forget, any three points of contact, not just tripod legs, will make for a steady shot. Now, unless you’re super lucky, you don’t have penguins in your back yard – that’s okay! Get down low and photograph your familiar surroundings from a whole new perspective.
Continuing my series looking back on the previous decade and half of travel, April has been a varied month for me, with shoots spanning the globe to Europe, the Far East, the southern tip of Africa, South America, and plenty of shoots here in the states as well. This is typically an opportune time of year to visit so many locations that it’s making me antsy to think about it. Fortunately I’m keeping myself very occupied and fully immersed in creating my next series of educational and hopefully inspiring lectures – stay tuned for more information about that project, and enjoy the photos.