Since they are a niche piece of equipment, not everyone is familiar with what exactly a tilt-shift lens is and what they are used for. Admittedly, I’ve only used them sparingly in my career. Speaking in simple terms, a tilt-shift lens is a lens that allows the optics to tilt and rotate in relation to the image sensor on your camera.
When you take a photo with a standard lens, your lens and the sensor create planes of the same angle. At a wide aperture, everything in front of and behind your focus point will gradually become more out of focus. Using a tilt-shift lens, you can achieve more control over what is or is not in focus by having greater control of your focusing planes, therefore keeping more of the image both in and out of focus, depending on what you’re looking for. It should be noted that there is no auto-focus available on T/S lenses.
You can use this flexibility to achieve a number of desired outcomes. Although on short notice prior to my trip my Canon rep was unable to get me the lens, I was able to rent the Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L MACRO from borrowlenses.com and use to great effect while photographing a king penguin colony on South Georgia Island. By tilting the lens down, you’re essentially moving the plane of lens to be closer to the angle of the the ground and in effect, widening what falls into the range of focus. This allows you to utilize some of the benefits of a relatively lower aperture while still achieving a great deal of detail.
This is just one use and effect achievable with a tilt-shift lens. Even if you’re not familiar with their use, it’s likely you’ve seen photos or even video utilizing the concept. In portrait photography, where a longer lens is ideal to bring attention to the subject and blur the background, a tilt-shift lens can be used to use such a lens in a tight space. In architecture, having greater control over your image plane can be used to combat the distortion that often happens to parallel lines. If you’ve ever seen a photo of a cityscape that looks more like a scale model than an actual city – that’s a tilt-shift lens in action!
I’ll be heading to Japan in February with Gavriel Jecan and no more than 8 other travelers for a special photographic journey. Very limited spaces have recently become available – here are 10 reasons to claim them!
1. Japan in winter is one of the most majestic locations you could ever imagine.
2. Take a tub with the charming Snow Monkeys
No, you don’t have to strip down and commune with the macaques. But this is an amazing photographic opportunity: these furry primates come down from the pine and oak forests and for a couple of hours a day they hang around a natural hot spring where you can photograph from within inches without interrupting their behavior.
3. Explore the wilderness that is Hokkaido.
Hokkaido reminds me a bit of Alaska, full of forests of birch, pine and fir with a back drop of beautiful volcanic mountains.
4. Dance with the endangered Red-crowned Cranes
Leave the dancing to the cranes. These elegant birds have been symbolized in Japanese culture for thousands of years due to their grace and beauty.
5. Fight over fish with the massive Steller’s Sea Eagles
Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of our own sushi to eat! These majestic eagles don’t want to share anyway.
6. Whoop it up with the cacophonous Whooper Swans
Overwintering from Siberia, these swans congregate in the thermally heated waters of Hokkaido’s lakes, making for ethereal, misty photographs.
7. Take a break from nature and explore buzzing Tokyo
8. Experiential learning at its best. It’s my hope that the lessons you learn on this photographic journey will be referenced on your travel photography adventures in the future!
9. You will be traveling in a small group of 8 participants. Other tour operators are a minimum of 12 or more, so you will get far more one-on-one time.
10. Photograph under the tutelage of one of the world’s premier nature photographers and take full advantage of your time spent in Japan!
Is it that time already? 2018 started off a bit slow with a foot surgery that kept me home to “kick off” the year (pun entirely intended) but definitely picked up pace as time went by, culminating in a nearly seven-week trip around the world! This year’s travel starts off rather quickly with a trip to the Northern California coast next week. Here is a brief rundown of this past year’s highlights:
•I had a fantastic time traveling to the East Coast and presenting to the Carolina’s Nature Photographer’s Association, as well as a trip across the pond to Birmingham, UK to present Earth Is My Witness at the Photography Show.
•Mitch Stringer and myself got together to create a special extended episode of Where’s Art – check it out if you missed it!
On the heels of spending time at South Georgia Island & the Falklands, I headed off from Chile to eastern India. After a day to rest we departed Kolkata for Nagaland in the northeast and photograph the colorful Hornbill festival, where the region’s many tribes gather to celebrate their culture, art, athleticism, and much more. The cloudless skies and throng of festival-goers made for a frenetic and challenging environment to photograph in, but I did come away with many of the shots I was seeking.
From there we went north to Kaziranga National Park where we were treated to dozens of Rhinos and an abundance of other wildlife including elephants, water buffalo, great hornbill, and more – and then to Kanha in search of tigers. Unfortunately during the time we had allotted to seek them out, a cold heavy rain fell and kept them mostly out of view. We were, however, treated to the playful Indian wild dogs and other denizens of the area.
Enjoy the photos, but most importantly – Happy Holidays! Ill be spending mine with friends in Thailand, before finally heading home to Seattle for the first time in nearly a month and a half. . . and then it’s off to the next adventure!
The nature of the photo:King penguins are second only to emperor penguins in size. Mostly they live on islands north of Antarctica such as South Georgia Island, rather than on the continent itself. They feed on fish and squid from the ocean nearby which is known for its diversity of life. Canon EOS-1N/RS, TS-E 90mm f/2.8 lens, f/16 for 1/125 sec., Fujichrome Astia
South Georgia Island is a great place for penguin photography, but it is an extremely remote island in the South Atlantic that is difficult to get to. While working on my book, The Living Wild, I worked out a way of getting onto South Georgia Island and camping for six days. My assistant, Gavriel Jecan, and I were dropped off by an American tour boat then picked up six days later by a German passenger ship coming from Cape Town, South Africa.
During our stay, we faced all sorts of weather, but primarily wind and snow. This can be miserable for the photographer but such weather is often stunningly beautiful for the pictures. I love atmospheric conditions and blowing snow is one of those conditions that convey a sense of the primordial and timelessness to the image. Still, it made for difficult shooting.
You can see all of the penguins are hunkered down to withstand this turbulent weather. We were trying to shoot videos as well as stills. The wind meant we had to stabilize the image with a heavy tripod. A small f-stop of f/16 kept all the penguins in focus. One thing a still photo doesn’t convey are the sounds and smells of the moment. Certainly the smells of hundreds of thousands of penguins is something I’ll never forget. The sounds of the birds, the trumpeting of the adults is a sound that is forever etched in my brain. Simply put, it’s one of my favorite places to visit on earth.
A simple tip this technique Tuesday, but an important one to consider – If you suspect challenging weather, be sure you are prepared for it with the right clothing, boots, gloves and hats. If you are too uncomfortable, you are not going to stay outside for the unique possibilities that weather might bring. When conditions get tough, dramatic and unusual photographs are often possible then.
For more stories, technical details and tips relating to some of my most well-known photos, check out the book this excerpt was taken from in my online store – Photographs from the Edge.
It’s been quite the holiday season so far, though not in the traditional way! Frans Lanting, Tom Mangelsen, and I just spent a couple of weeks cruising South Georgia and the Falklands (new photos HERE!) and now I am in Kolkata, India starting a private tour. Frans, Tom, and I are thinking about another adventure in 2020 or 2021. Where would you like us to take you? Email me!
I have a few new 2019 workshops posted so consider giving the gift of experience this year to the shutterbugs in your life—maybe you! This year give the gift of adventure.
Or perhaps a book! After a bit of a scramble to get copies because of a very large retail order, Trees: Between Earth and Heaven is now readily available in English, Italian, and German editions.
I’ve just received thrilling news about one of the 2019 workshops I was already excited about – a March trip to India for the Holi, as well as a very special opportunity to photograph tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park. This park boasts the highest density of tigers in the world, and I’m pleased to announce we have access to one exclusive full-day permit to the park.
What does this get us? We’ll access the park earlier and stay later than anyone else, won’t have to leave the grounds throughout the day as other visitors must, and we won’t be restricted to any zones our routes. Simply put – there will be no better situation to photograph Tigers, and I can’t wait for our group to take advantage of this opportunity for truly once in a lifetime photos.
Click the links below to find out more about each workshop. Happy Holidays!
Wine from Elsom Cellars will be available and special guests will be in attendance. Up for bid via silent auction will be 30 award-winning photographs, as well as a trip to Africa with all proceeds from the evening benefiting the Angama Foundation in the Maasai Mara.
If you have an interest in traveling to Africa, this will be an excellent opportunity to make the acquaintance of Travel Mentors from Explorer X!
Despite it’s cold, unwelcoming climate, South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic is one of my favorite places on earth. A remote, hundred-mile whaleback of rock, South Georgia Island resides in the Southern Ocean, more than eight hundred miles southeast of the Falkland Islands. It features glacier-clad mountains rising two vertical miles above the sea. South Georgia is as wild as it gets, hosting one of the largest concentrations of wildlife anywhere. Over four hundred thousand pairs of king penguins walk the beaches and swim in the frigid blue ocean. Seals, albatross, and even reindeer (imported for meat by long-gone Norwegian whalers) also inhabit this isolated island. I used a wide-angle lens to photograph austere landscapes, intimate plant studies, and endearing animal behavior in this wildlife oasis.
On a tiny island near the coast of South Georgia Island, a courting male albatross bonds with it’s potential lifelong mate. The wandering albatross, with an eleven-foot wingspan, is clearly king of ocean birds, but overfishing and destructive longline nets threaten it’s survival in southern oceans. Some nets stretch up to sixty miles and snare fish and birds indiscriminately.
An adolescent king penguin challenges reindeer crossing through a penguin rockery on South Georgia Island. Long gone European brought reindeer to the island as a dietary alternative to whale meat. Reindeer herds continue to roam through the remote island.
Forty-pound king penguins line the shores of South Georgia Island. They are on their way to the rockery where territorial instincts prompt numerous quarrels among the birds. The beach is a respite from the dangers of the ocean and the crabby neighbors on the nests. Although the island experiences some of the worst weather in the world, we were fortunate to shoot in the pink light of a clear sky with the sun hidden behind the horizon.
Want to know more, and see these animals in motion? This episode is featured on Season 1, Episode 4 of Travels to the Edge, available individually, as part of the entire first season, and the full series! Have a great weekend!
Here I am in Dubai, editing photos in sunny climes that are in stark contrast to the cool temperatures of the South Georgia and Falkland islands from where I recently departed. This weeks-long photo expedition led by Tom Mangelsen, Frans Lanting and myself provided plenty of opportunities four our group to capture the variety of species that call these remote islands home. Our accommodations aboard the Polar Pioneer gave us all a chance to get to know one and other – making new friends is always the highlight of any trip.
Frans, Tom and myself were discussing where we might go next; leave a comment below if you have any suggestions! Enjoy the photos, and stay tuned for more as I head off to India!
First published in English, TREES Between Earth & Heaven is now available in Italian and German as well. While I always recommend that you support your local bookseller, here are online links for purchasing: