The summer is a spectacular time to visit Glacier Bay – the weather is usually good and the plentiful wildlife here is active, and the location has so much to offer anywhere from portraits of animals to the vast and majestic glacier-bound landscape. It’s also a busy time for tourism, so if you plan to visit in this most photo-op rich time of year, make sure you set your plans early!
This trip offered plenty of variety as usual, and I was excited to use my somewhat recently acquired canon 600mm lens here, which has served me well thus far. humpback whales, Steller sea lions, and bald eagles were among the usual suspects.
Enjoy the photos! Check out the NPS page to plan your visit, and keep an eye on my events page for future trips here with me!
We’ve had two last-minute cancellations on the formerly sold out Katmai Workshop that I am leading in late July and early August. If you have ever wanted to see powerful brown bears fishing for beautiful red spawning salmon right in front of you, this is the place to go! With me and our expert Katmai guide by your side, you will come away with not only amazing photographs, but fun stories to tell for years to come.
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.
Now is your chance to claim the remaining two spots – due to my travel schedule, I’ll have to miss visiting this time next year, so it’ll be a while before I return!
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!
Time for a little wilderness and wildlife advocacy. Alaska’s Bristol Bay needs our help. It is home to the world’s largest, most productive salmon run and it is threatened by the advancement of the Pebble Mine. The Pebble Mine would be a massive open pit mine that would leach into the ecosystem of one the most productive wildlife regions on the planet. I have been photographing in the region, which includes Katmai National Park and the famous McNeil River Bear Sanctuary, since the early 1980s, and understand first hand what this massive extraction project would do to the wildlife, the fishery, as well as the thriving, sustainable wildlife viewing industry.
Click here for a brief interview I did on the subject.
Brown bears associated with the Project area are a resource that has high ecological, economic, and social value. Southwest Alaska residents and visitors were estimated to spend nearly $145,000,000 (2019 dollars) annually to view wildlife and generated more than an additional $133,000,000 in associated annual economic activity. Much of the wildlife viewing activity in southwest Alaska is centered on observing brown bears. For more information, this study drills down on the economics involved in brown bear viewing ins South-central Alaska.
I strongly urge you to take 20 minutes and watch Koktuli Wild, a video by Brendan Wells which perfectly illustrates the fragile beauty of the wilderness that feeds the potent Bristol Bay watershed. It is uplifting, beautiful, informative, and most importantly galvanizing. Even if you never see it with your own eyes, just knowing this this wilderness exists is affecting.
UPDATE: 6/29/2019 – The U.S. House of Representatives passed amendment 90, being called the “Huffman Amendment,” to the Energy and Water Appropriations Act. However, this is only the begging and Alaskans have called upon Senator Murkowski to to stand with Alaskans in opposing the Pebble mine.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! If you’re looking for last minute gifts to send dad’s way, save 20% in my online store through this Sunday, June 16th – request a signature on any book or print and i”ll be sure to add it before it’s sent their way.
A print makes a thoughtful and unique gift (especially a limited edition – only 100 will be printed!) . If you’re looking for an image that will be perfect for the father figure in your life but aren’t seeing anything on the store, check out my stock site – just about any image you can find here can be expertly edited and turned into a beautiful print.
Just use code DADSDAY19 at checkout and save 20% on your entire order!
With a few extra days to spare, I met up with some friends in Yosemite. I was excited because there was no moon, but unfortunately, the clouds rolled in. I was able to get a few decent shots of stars and star-trails, but the most interesting nighttime image in this group is one that shows the climbers on El Capitan lit up like fireflies (final shot).
A few tips for shooting for the stars! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself):
As far as equipment goes, in most cases you wont need anything special. Most of my shots end up being between 20-30 seconds in length. If you wish to shoot longer exposures you may need to use an intervalometer. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways as an excuse to link my preferred band – you’ll need a tripod. Finally, your favorite wide angle capable lens to capture as much of the sky as possible.
Do your research! Find locations that have minimal light pollution. Here’s a handy map I came across. Checking moon phases is a must as well. The time period around a new moon is your best bet – you’ll never know how truly bright a full moon can be until you’re trying to shoot the stars! As mentioned above, a cloudy sky can also pose challenges. Ideally speaking you’ll find a place away from population centers on a clear night with the moon nowhere to be found, or at least in it’s most obscure phase.
As far as individual camera settings go, it’s impossible to give specific numbers because it will largely depend on the above conditions and the specific gear you’re working with. Most of my night shots fall into the ƒ/2.8 – ƒ/4 range and a focal length between 24-40 mm, with an exposure time of about 25 seconds. If you want me to take a stab at a starting point, 24mm and 25 seconds at ƒ/2.8 is probably a safe bet to give you at least enough information to make the proper adjustments.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as photo tips go for shooting at night – but my garden needs me! For more information, check out CreativeLive – they have a few helpful courses on the subject!
This past March saw plenty of time spent with great company photographing the culture and wildlife of India during Holi, and I’m thrilled to be able to post some of the photos our workshop participants captured along the way. Though the mass of humanity participating in the celebration can be overwhelming, it truly is a once in a lifetime experience and I’m glad we were all able to come away with some incredible shots. Thank you to everyone who participated – it truly was an honor to visit these ancient and culturally revered locations with you!
May began with our second Carmel-By-The-Sea workshop in as many years, and this is fast becoming one of our most requested Photography Retreats! Not only is it a beautiful and accessible location that doesn’t require leaving the states, there is just so much to see and do in the area that each trip is a little different.
Sea otters, seals, and a variety of shore birds can be found here and we usually take a relaxing kayak tour to photograph them from the water. If you’re not an avid or even mildly experienced kayaker, fear not – we just go along for the ride and hire professionals to do the work for us so we can be free to photograph!
Next year’s retreat is already on the calendar – get signed up today to reserve your spot. Spaces are already spoken for, and this trip will be a sell out!
It’s Technique Tuesday, and since the last little tip I shared was a very technical tutorial on creating panoramas in Photoshop and Lightroom, I figured we would go back to the basics with a more universal message that I think will help new photographers and those who may be struggling themselves with tunnel vision alike. With a recently added Abstract Astoria workshop happening soon, and my Photography As Art seminar happening in Seattle this fall, these are some basics I will find myself repeating!
What are you seeing as you photograph? How do you perceive the world and what’s important to you? This is something that goes much deeper than thinking about getting the latest camera with the most megapixels. Good shots come from cultivating the eye. Scrutinize every subject without prejudice. A good photo can be found in rusting debris lying in an alley of a big city or out in a pristine environment. Finding images everywhere is how you practice, how you improve your work. It’s about the subject only in how you frame it, and in the message you send with the photo.
Do you shoot any possible subject, whether a rusting can in a gutter, a grand ceremony in a foreign land, or birds on a beach? Or do you define yourself as a “bird photographer” or a “landscape photographer”? Try not to limit your subjects or how you define yourself as a photographer. Photographing without prejudice opens up the world! You can’t even walk into a grocery store without finding a viable subject. And along the way, you gain practice that cultivates your eye.
You might think that composition comes naturally for professionals like us. Naturally, perhaps, after many years of doing it! There is no question that if you are to succeed as a photographer, you have to take a lot of pictures. This is sometimes frustrating for people who have invested a lot of money in the latest gear and want instant results since you have to take a lot of both good and bad photographs to get better.
There is an old joke about a visitor to New York City trying to get to a concert at Carnegie Hall. After getting a little lost, he saw a man walking down the street with a large cello case. He stopped the musician and asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
The musician looked sternly at the visitor and said, “Practice, practice, practice.”
A concert pianist rarely gets up on stage and gives a bad performance, but only because he or she has had years of practice. That isn’t to say that you can’t get good pictures at whatever stage you are in, but it does point out how important it is to get out and take lots of pictures. Practice does matter.
The Subject, or the Photograph?
One thing that can hold photographers back from finding great images is that they focus too hard on finding the “perfect” subject. Whenever possible, try to avoid “trophy hunting” for subjects. That means going out and trying to find the same subjects that photographers like Art Wolfe shot, or going to major locations and photographing only the big, iconic subjects. Think about that. You can buy postcards of those big, iconic subjects that were shot under ideal conditions. When you start looking for subjects simply as trophies to be captured, you stop looking for the photograph.
If you simply look for subject matter, you’ll often be disappointed because the camera is not looking for subject matter. The camera doesn’t care what your subject is! The camera is simply looking at light and shadow and how to translate that into pixels. It is your job as a photographer to work with your camera to find interesting photographs, not simply capture a subject.
Looking at the art world outside of photography can be instructive. Painters have to figure out what the whole image is going to be, not simply the subject. They have to interpret a scene in a certain way on their canvas, rather than simply pointing a camera at a subject and pressing a button. Seeing through that “lens” can help you navigate the challenge of finding original compositions in the world you walk through every day.
In this book there are very few photographs of the big, iconic subjects that so many others shoot. Art looks for and finds subject matter that is going to translate into interesting photographs that appeal to him. He responds to the world around him as a place filled with photographic possibilities because he is not simply looking for an interesting subject. He is always looking for interesting photographs.
Sometimes things are beyond your control and the only choice is to adjust – thankfully with some clever last-minute wrangling, there is an opportunity to fit in one of my most popular offerings. Time and time again I have been asked to shoehorn in another Abstract Astoria workshop. June 5th through the 9th is the window of opportunity and, notably, this will be the last time I will have it in the schedule for a couple of years.
I realize it’s happening soon, so I’m offering it at a special price of $3,450! This workshop is complete with a special edition of my limited edition Human Canvas book + print (a $1,500 value). This workshop will fill quickly so don’t wait. Only a couple spaces are available and it’s sure to sell out despite the fact that it’s only a couple of weeks away.
Now is your chance to partake in this immersive photographic experience in one of the Pacific Northwest’s most fascinating and historical locations – get signed up today to ensure your spot in Astoria!
A topic that came up recently was just how easy it is nowadays to quickly create seamless panoramic images from stitched photos using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. It’s a simple process in either program, so if it’s something you haven’t tried or are just looking for a refresher on how to merge photos – this post is for you!
The first thing you want to do of course is choose the images you’d like to create a panoramic from. The photos should overlap just a bit, as the colors of the pixels are how the software will determine where to stitch the images together. Make sure you photograph your panoramas in portrait format to get the most amount of pixel real-estate for the highest resolution final image!
Once you’ve made your selection of images, you’ll then need to choose between using Photoshop or Lightroom to merge them together. The base Adobe Creative Cloud subscription includes both, so it’s really a matter of your familiarity with one or the other.
Both processes are simple enough. I’d say if you’re looking for quick and easy results the Lightroom method is a good starting point, but if you want a little more control the Photoshop method offers a little more. Better yet, give both a shot to see what you prefer!
1.) Import the images you wish to merge together
2.) From the top menu, choose the “Photo” drop-down and find the “Photo Merge > Panorama” Option
3.) In the Panorama Merge Dialogue box, ensure “Spherical” is selected for the
projection. You can also choose “Auto Crop” to automatically crop away the
transparent edges. Finally, ensure “Auto Settings” is checked.
4.) Click “Merge” and your panorama will be created!
1.) From the “File” menu, choose “Automate” and then “Photomerge“.
2.) In the Photomerge dialogue box, ensure “Auto” is checked under “Layout“.
In the “Source Files” box, be sure “Use:” is set to “Files” and hit the
“Browse. . .” button.
Choose the files you wish to stitch together. In this case we will use four
PanoTutorial.jpg images in the Pano Tutorial Images folder.
Be sure that “Blend Images Together”, “Vignette Removal”, and “Geometric
Distortion Correction” are all checked.
You can also choose to check “Content Aware Fill Transparent Areas”, but this
will add to processing time and attempt to fill in edges with content sampled from
the image, which may require more advanced Photoshop experience to ensure
there aren’t repeated elements in your image.
3.) Click “Ok” and the Process will begin. Depending on the size of the images being
merged, it could take several minutes to process the images.
4.) Once the image has processed, from the top menu, choose the “Layer” drop down and
choose “Flatten Image“.
5.) Using the crop tool (highlighted in red below) crop the image to get rid of transparent
areas, and also use the rotate ability of the tool to ensure your horizon is straight.
Those are the basics – There are obviously a lot of other options in those dialogue boxes. . . I suggest experimenting to see what different settings do to come up with a process that works for you!