In just over a week, I’ll be in Boise, Idaho bringing my popular Photography As Artseminar to the City of Trees!
This seminar is designed to completely change the way you view photography, and my intent is to inspire you to bring unique artistic visions to life using your camera as both brush and canvas. With an emphasis on the abstract, imaginary landscapes, and capturing metaphors the lessons learned here can be applied anywhere and with whatever equipment you have available – no globe-trotting or a plethora of fancy gear required.
I recently took a trip up to Northern Canada to photograph a variety of owls, and came away happy – if not chilled to the bone. It’s cold up above the 51st parallel, no matter the time of day. That didn’t seem to impact the hunting owls of the region, who’s keen senses can detect rodents beneath the snowfall dozens of meters away. They essentially do a graceful face plant into the snow, rummage around, and come away with a snack.
The light sky and the bright white snowy landscape make shooting a challenge. To control the light and capture a quality image, one first has to understand light in terms of it’s relationship to photography. This excerpt from “Chapter 6: Reading the Light” from The New Art of Photographing Nature explains it more succinctly than I might in a blog ramble:
Without light we would have no color. And without light, there would be no photography. In fact, the word photography derives from Greek roots meaning “writing with light.”
Primitive man did not have the benefit of science to explain natural phenomena such as the rainbow. Nor did we, until Sir Isaac Newton’s use of the prism separated white light into its component colors. Light is a form of electromagnetic energy, which, in the whole spectrum of frequencies, is only visible as colors in a very narrow band. Other frequencies, such as infrared, ultraviolet, gamma, and X-ray radiation, are invisible to our eyes.
Yet, despite our basic understanding of light, it is something we are apt to take for granted, like the rising and setting of the sun. But in photography, we can never take light for granted, and must learn to perceive it many nuances. The quality of the light creates a variety of colors and moods. Light also models form, and the direction of light is crucial to how we perceive shape and depth in the landscape.
When talking about light, it is important to distinguish between quality and quantity. Quality of light can, for the outdoor photographer, mean the time of day, the angle of the light striking your subject or whether it creates high-contrast or low-contrast conditions. It can also be measured as color temperature (in degrees Kelvin) with daylight on a sunny day being around 5500 degrees Kelvin. While color film required filtration to correct for changes in color temperature, digital cameras have a built-in white balance function that can adjust the camera to virtually any lighting condition, indoors or out.
Quantity of light refers simply to the amount of light reaching the camera’s sensor and recording an image. It is by controlling this light, through changes in aperture and shutter speed, that we arrive at a proper exposure.
One of the more fascinating aspects of my annual trip to Katmai has been the ability to recognize specific bear families and even individuals as they grow, not only in physical characteristics but in their personalities, demeanor, and mannerisms as well. It’s always a powerful feeling of a connection with nature when I recognize an animal I’ve previously spent time photographing. I wonder if they recognize me?!
They are probably far too busy fishing to be concerned with me, however. You’ll note the dates from when these photos are taken generally fall into the late July and early August weeks. This is when the rivers run red with spawning salmon. We come here at this time every year because the bears are active, occupied, and ripe for fantastic shots in their element. Again I will occasionally recognize individual bears in the tactics they use to fish.
This image has gotten a lot of play this year and for good reason – it’s not often you’re able to capture a bear charging at you, claws bared. I hate to dispel any legends of my fearlessness and resolve, but I wasn’t in true danger here – the bears are far too busy fishing and adjusted to human visitors to be a true threat. That being said, always take precautions! Our local contacts ensure we are taking all the appropriate measures for safety.
All of these photos are available as prints in my online store; click a title above to add some wildlife to your home or office! Better yet, join me on one of two workshops happening this summer at the end of July and in early August and capture your own images to frame and share! These workshops will sell out, so don’t hesitate to get on the list to join me on the ground in Katmai and make your own connection with these awesome animals!
I absolutely love this time of year, the days are getting longer and spring is right around the corner! After many cold weather trips this winter I am ready for the new palate of color that spring bestows upon us.
Of special note I have several opportunities coming up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest this year: the Olympic Peninsula in April when the mosses are rich and green and the rivers are clear; Mount Rainier in August when the wildflowers are at their peak; Lake Quinault in September for a restorative retreat in the ancient temperate rainforest; and a renewed Photography as Art seminar in November.
These workshops only have a few spaces left so sign up today before they are all sold out!
In the shot of the karst mountains in Guilin, China, I wanted to emphasize their repeating pattern and unusual shapes: individual humps instead of long ridges. I used my 80-200mm lens to zero in on an area that I felt made the strongest statement.
The second shot was taken a few minutes from my home in Seattle. I grew up in this neighborhood, and as a boy, I loved this path especially, with its graceful madrona trees. I went back to photograph it forty years later.
Spatially, light objects stand forward of dark in our normal experience of perception. When we have atmosphere such as fog, however, it is the reverse; dark objects are closer to us than light ones, as in the mountain scene. We understand this perceptually because atmospheric haze intervenes and makes the far mountains paler and less distinct. This is sometimes referred to as “atmospheric perspective.”
We also understand crisp outlines as close and fuzzy ones as distant, as with the trees in the fog, which is contrary to normal perception, where we can see distant objects in focus as well. The sense of space in both these images is definitely enhanced by the fog. Forms are more noticeable without competition from intricate detail. The tree trunks stand out more without the busy clutter of foliage. Because it shrouds things from view, fog, more than any other atmospheric condition, creates mood and a sense of mystery.
It’s Wildlife Wednesday – the perfect opportunity to share a slew of recent images from the recent Japan Photo Journey. Japanese macaques, Steller’s sea eagle, fox, deer, Japanese crane, and Ural owls were present. A Blakiston’s fish owl also made an appearance – the largest owl species in the world, sporting up to a two-meter wingspan – and last but not least, the iconic Whooper swans of Hokkaido.
Revisiting a location such as this where the imagery is iconic can be a real challenge in terms of coming up with a new perspective. When I lead a workshop or provide guidance on a retreat, my goal is to not only ensure you’ll come away with iconic shots, but also to find a unique focus to your photos. I challenge myself no differently. As an example, I wanted my photos of the macaques to capture their action and agility as they would leap from rock to rock over the flowing water, as well as their relationships between one and other. I positioned myself lower to the ground to capture the cranes and swans, trying to choose decisive moments when their wingspans and beautiful feathers were on display.
There are plenty of reasons that every Summer in late July and early August I return to Katmai Alaska to lead multiple workshops. From a new perspective on a location that’s become very familiar to me, to capturing the kinds of shots of the local bears one simply cannot get anywhere else, it always has something new to offer.
I’ll be back there this year, and there are still some spaces available to join me on both tours!
If you’re still on the fence, here are 10 more reasons to join me in Katmai, Alaska this Summer!
1.) Coastal Brown Bears are beautiful and powerful, and to be in the presence of an animal of this magnitude it is humbling.
2.) Capturing amazing images of these creatures is even more magical. There is no substitute for experience in the field, and I’ll be bringing decades of it to our group as well as our interactions on an individual basis.
3.) We have two dedicated pilots, four planes, and a speed boat at our disposal. Not only is this convenient, but it means we have the utmost flexibility to change our plans depending on weather conditions. If the group cannot fly, we can always take the group up to Lake Clark to see the bears fishing for clams, or to see Dick Proenneke’s cabin!
4.) The remote Katmai Coast is the largest intact stretch of uninhabited coastline left in North America, and provides a rich and contextual backdrop for the bears.
5.) The lodge has a top-notch cook, so the group can enjoy delicious meals while reminiscing about the day’s adventures on the tour.
6.) Late July and early August is the peak of the salmon run, and is why we reserve these times with our local experts and accommodations well in advance. The rivers are running with beautiful red salmon, which is an excellent secondary element for fantastic photographs.
7.) I’ve been such a frequent visitor of this location that I can recognize individual bears by sight and in many cases can predict their behavior and identify their strengths, giving us a distinct leg up in capturing them at their best. If an individual is known to be an expert fisher, rest assured I can point them out to ensure we capture the best possible action on the river!
8.) We work with the local lodge owner whom scouts the area before our group arrives to ensure we have a good idea of where the bears are going to be. This cuts down the amount of hiking the group needs to do so we can get right into photographing.
9.) We always find several mothers with young cubs and they are generally not intimidated by humans, so our groups can sit and photograph the cubs as they run and play for hours if we like.
10.) If it hasn’t become clear already, this is a region I know like the back of my hand, and we’ve spent several years working with the same local folks to ensure as much consistency as possible. So few variables and unknowns means I’ll have more time to spend directly working with participants to ensure they all come away with stunning photos!
Check out the events page for more information. These workshops always sell out, so reserve your spot today to ensure you don’t miss out!
This May, I’ll be making a return trip to California’s Monterey Coast originating in stunning Carmel-by-the-Sea with an exclusive opportunity to join limited to just six participants. Assisted by my associate Gavriel Jecan, decades of experience will be available to support you in capturing the beauty synonymous with this location. However, the picturesque landscapes of the coastline are only the beginning, as we will delve into the abstract and many of the themes prevalent in my Abstract workshops and my Photography As Art seminar.
A retreat in a paradise, an exclusive small-group setting, two instructors, and the many lessons and themes of my popular abstract workshops and seminars – What more do you need? Well, fortunately, I have answers here!
1. A retreat in paradise – a gorgeous location on California’s fabled Monterey Bay!
2. At only six maximum participants and two instructors, you’ll get plenty of one-on-one time with us to answer any and all of your questions and provide direction to ensure you get the absolute most out of your time.
3. Go kayaking and photograph otters with the world’s premier nature photographer; if you’ve never kayaked before, rest assured we will have trained guides so you can focus on your photos!
4. Great food! This is a region famous for it’s cuisine – join myself and Gavriel every evening to discuss the day’s shooting.
5. Explore the region that inspired the likes of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.
6. Get your photography portfolio reviewed! Gavriel Jecan and myself will look at everyone’s work and provide constructive feedback that you’ll be able to carry with you onto future trips.
8. Experiential learning at its best. It’s my hope that the lessons you learn on this retreat will be referenced on your travel and photography adventures moving forward.
9. Through lectures, critiques, and instruction in the field, we’ll cover many aspects of my Photography As Art workshop – now is your chance to go all out and put the topics discussed into action!
10. New friends with alike interests – many a friendship has been forged thanks to the balance of levity and learning on our workshops. Here is an opportunity to meet fellow travel and photography enthusiasts!
Spaces on this retreat are extremely limited, and some are already spoken for – sign up today to ensure your spot!
With SNOWMAGEDDON hitting the Pacific Northwest, a timely themed #TechniqueTuesday is in order! This is an entry from Photographs From the Edge, where I’ve combined the stories behind some of my most recognizable career photographs, as well as providing tips, techniques, and camera data for them. Enjoy, and I hope everyone back home is staying safe in the Winter weather!
Canon EOS-1DX, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, f/18 for 1/250 sec., ISO 2000
This image of bison in Yellowstone National Park really began when I co-led a rafting trip down Alaska’s Taku River a number of years ago. On that trip I met Robert Bateman and his wife Birgit. This outstanding Canadian artist spent time photographing details of rocks along the river’s edge or details of the forest. I had to ask what he was doing. He simply responded that he was taking details that he could later render accurately as details in his paintings.
At that time I had been fixating on getting closer and closer to animals and ultimately getting that classic portrait of that animal almost as if it was a trophy. The analogy was that I was a hunter with the camera. Bateman made me take a serious look at how he would he was less concerned about portraits of animals and more concerned about capturing an animal within the context of its environment. I looked at my own work and started realizing he was right.
Bateman showed that by creating atmospheric conditions and a sense of place, the composition become more nuanced, more intricate, and more involving for the viewer. In the years after meeting Bateman, I think my work became infinitely more interesting by being more inclusive of the environment. From that point forward then I would always look at storms and thick atmosphere as opportunities rather than distractions.
This image of bison in Yellowstone works to carefully include the animal’s environment. With the advent of higher ISO cameras, I can shoot with both a smaller aperture and a faster shutter speed. Here, I was able to capture a herd of animals with great depth of field, and to use a fast enough shutter speed to stop the movement of snow. So in this image of the buffalo in Yellowstone, you can see tiny points of white snow suspended in motion as well as individual animals clearly in focus. To me, this photo recalls some of the great paintings of Robert Bateman.
Photo tip: For falling snow to show up in a photo, you need contrast to set the snow apart from the rest of the scene. In this image, both the dark trees in the background and the dark fur of the bison help bring this contrast to the image. The falling snow behind the bison also lend a strong sense of atmosphere to the shot.
The nature of the photo: Snow is extremely variable in size and shape, which has a strong impact on how it appears in a photo. Very cold conditions can create tiny snow crystals that will appear more as fog than snow in a photo. Large snowflakes can be a bold part of a winter photo.
For more photos and the stories behind them, along with tips and techniques, purchase Photographs From the Edge in my online store. As always, make a request note in your order and I’ll give it a signature!
And if you missed it – check out the gallery of images from my recent return trip to Yellowstone.
Is it a little late to say Happy New Year? Perhaps ‘Be my Valentine’ would be more appropriate. Time flies when you’re out and about photographing like I have been here in the Pacific Northwest (owls), California (bobcats), and Yellowstone (wolves). A few of these predator photos are bound to make it into a top secret book project I am working on. Shhh – don’t tell anyone!
When looking forward at your 2019 schedule, consider joining me for a workshop! I’m excited about what we have in store for the coming year, with diverse locations both new and familiar. Whether you’re looking to join me somewhere exotic and share an adventure or attend one of our recurring fan-favorites, I’ve got a lot on the calendar.
Every day was a learning experience and loads of fun as well! Thank you for being so open to sharing your skills and knowledge. I’m continuing to put this into practice.”
New on the workshop front is a retreat in beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea in May. We had so much fun last year we’re going back! We’ll be concentrating on abstract photography along this glorious coastline, kayaking with sea otters, and critiquing our results every day. I am offering an earlybird special through February 15th. Please note that this workshop is limited to a small group of 6, and all participants will receive a limited edition Human Canvas book along with a print (a $1400+ value!)
“I enjoyed…the challenges of working in different environments…and I met people from all over the world…Thanks for doing what you do and sharing your love of nature…You make us all better stewards and people…”
When considering any workshop take a look at ratio of instructors/guides to participants. My assistants and I strive to deliver whether you are a seasoned photographer or just starting out, whether this is your first workshop with me or your fourth.
“A workshop with Art Wolfe is so much more that a photo shoot at a beautiful location. It is an opportunity to grow and try new things with a master artist and superb teacher.”
– Bill O.
I look forward to meeting new friends and seeing old friends on my travels this year! My goal is nothing less than to change the way you see.
Wishing You the Best of Light! Click an image or description below to find out more about all of my upcoming workshops!