Recently my staff received the following question in regards to the above image:
“Was this photo a single shot, an HDR composite, or some other technique?”
this is from the good ol’ days when you shot a slide (single exposure in this case) and waited a few months to see if anything turned out…
All the details – Canon EOS-1N, Canon EF 17-35mm lens, f/2.8 at 30 seconds, Fujichrome Provia 400 film, Gitzo G1325 tripod.
The aurora borealis, or the “northern lights” as they are often called is an atmospheric phenomenon that occurs as electrically charged particles from the sun make gases glow in the upper atmosphere. Despite the dryness of this scientific explanation, it is difficult to view the aurora borealis without experiencing a sense of wonderment and mysticism. It remains one of the most dazzling sights in the natural world.
To get this image, I flew to Fairbanks, Alaska, then drove eight hours north to the Brooks Range on the famous pipeline road to Prudhoe Bay. The Brooks Range lies within the Arctic Circle and thus provides a more predictable chance to see the aurora borealis. I timed my journey to coincide with a half moon because the snow-clad range would be properly illuminated by the half moon’s light. A full moon might actually have been too bright during the required 30-second exposure. I discovered that despite the fact that the aurora is in continuous motion, a 30-second exposure is usually fast enough to yield proper exposure and reasonably sharp lines within the displays. When I photographed this display, I was unhappy with its color, which appeared to be a dull, pale green. When I returned home and developed the film, I was delightfully surprised to discover that the film picked up the reds.
This photo is featured in the book “Edge of the Earth, Corner of the Sky” as well as being available as a fine are print.
Are there any photos in my collection you’d like to hear the story behind? Drop a comment below – your suggestion could spark an idea for a future blog post!
I’m currently on the final legs of quite a trip that started in Brazil and then on to Morocco, and currently I’m in Spain for a few days for Holy Week to hopefully capture the masses for my upcoming book on world religions and spirituality. We will wrap this trip up in Jerusalem before I’m back home later this month.
As stressful and tiring as so much travel can be, I’m also fortunate to have gone down a career path that allows me to see the world. Many people are curious about how all this came about and do that end, as part of a new feature on the blog, here are a few Ask Art questions to hold you over until I return with a plethora of new photos!
Have any “Ask Art” questions of your own? Leave a comment below and we will add it to the list and perhaps your question will be featured on the blog!
Q: How do you get the amazing jobs/photo assignments that you go on? I know it’s your reputation and your amazing photos but how did you get started?
A: I struck out on my own from the very beginning. Rather than go the route of a photographer on assignment I made my reputation shooting stock photography which allowed me to set my own destinations and agenda for what I wanted to shoot. It also gave me full control over my images and I continue to work that way today, albeit with many more connections and options on the table. I’ll decide where I want to go and with the help of the staff we’ll create a photo tour or workshop and advertise them to the public.
Now days, the stock industry is difficult since everyone has a high-powered camera and super computer to process their images in the palm of their hands. However, there are also many more ways to share your work and promote yourself as well.
Q: Who is your favorite photographer?
A: I admire a great number of photographers and artists and have a library overflowing with books that span all kinds of genres. Those whom follow my history are well aware that my origins began at the University of Washington where I studied traditional Art History as well as Teaching. However, If I were to pick just one photographer who’s had the biggest impact on me, I’d have to go with Ernst Haas. His pioneering work influenced me early in my career and I continue to draw inspiration from him today.
Q: How have you cultivated your eye to create compelling compositions? It is truly amazing!
I have been an artist all my life and I would have to credit my eye for composition today with my roots as a painter going back to Jr. high School. I did not set out to be a photographer from the beginning – I was first and foremost a painter working in different mediums. Watercolor, though, was an early favorite and I grew up with the smells of oils from my mother’s paintings. I would take my easel and canvas and set them up on location and paint the landscapes and buildings before me. I would also imagine rural scenes and paint those – and later, as I grew and matured as an artist I tended to lean more and more towards abstracts.
A successful painting relies on the artist not just to copy what they see as they walk up to a subject – but rather, as you would imagine, one must look with an artistic eye, different angles, points of view and work the subject they are to paint – just as in photography you can choose to paint with a wide-angle perspective or a compressed telephoto point of view. There is more crossover between the disciplines than you might first imagine! A photograph is not simply taken – it’s created. It’s not an exact replica of what you saw (how boring would that be!) – like a successful painting be it abstract, landscape or portrait, it’s a successful application of discipline, principals, and creativity.
And just as with an artist with a brush my eye for composition has been an ever-evolving process as I review my own work and gain inspiration from the work of others. It really doesn’t matter if it’s a painting, a sculpture, or a photograph – there is something educational and inspiring to be gained from every successful work of art.
Two spots have recently opened up to join me in Madagascar in May! This is one of the most prestigious locations on any photographer’s bucket list, and one that’s been requested for some time now. Check out the video above for more information on what this unique location has to offer!
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 – but space is limited!
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 and four planes 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!
Happy International Day of Forests! A few years back we published Trees: Between Earth & Heaven with Earth Aware Editions. It’s an ode to forests around the world – lush pages full of the life-sustaining forests, unique flora, and heroic individual trees that have withstood the test of time for centuries. Printed in association with Roots of Peace on Replanted Paper, all books sold contribute towards planing new forests. A great cause, and I would like to think – a great book!
Celebrated all over India since ancient times, Holi is an annual festival which takes place on the day after the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalguna. Originally Holi was an agricultural festival celebrating the arrival of spring. In keeping with this tradition people now choose to celebrate the occasion by throwing brightly colored spices or herbal powders into the air. Symbolically they are ridding the gloom of winter and rejoicing in the colors and liveliness of spring.
On March 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt established Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, along Florida’s Atlantic coast, as the first unit of what would become the National Wildlife Refuge System. There are now more than 560 refuges across the country that protect species and the landscapes they depend upon for survival.
My favorite refuge is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. After rafting rivers in the refuge several times over the years, I filmed an episode of Travels to the Edge there in 2006, which can now be streamed online!
I’ve been eager to get back to Mongolia for some time now. Although some of the photos I took here on my last visit have become iconic – such as the Kazakh Eagle Hunter and his amazing golden eagle – shooting while the hustle and bustle of Travels to the Edge was being filmed didn’t quite allow me the same flexibility I might have when visiting on a tour. add to this the astronomical leaps we’ve taken in technology since then, and I can’t wait to get back!
We still have a couple of spots left to join our group, embarking on our photo adventure July the 6th. Join us to photograph the Naadam festival, wild horses as the roam the vast steppe largely unmarred by the influence of development, and of course a special shooting sessions with Shaman and Kazakh Eagle Hunters.
You never know what you will find when wandering around a city with a camera in hand. When light and subject and circumstance come together, magic can occur.
In this particular case, the facts behind the shot are nothing special. Workers had been putting gravel onto the parking lot of a restaurant in Panjim, Goa, which kicked a lot of dust into the air. Pedestrians were simply going about their business. However, when backlit by a late sun, the scene became street art–performance art. The activity of putting gravel down created an amazing atmosphere for a nicely layered image.
Standing back from the scene, I used a 70–200mm zoom, which enabled me to shoot a series of shots without interfering with the people so that they would not pay attention to my presence. I positioned myself looking directly into the late afternoon light so that the dust kicked into the air would be filled with light. I was not so much concerned about capturing details and faces of the people, as much as I was with the positions of the bodies within the frame. I kept shooting and reframing the shot as the scene changed every couple of seconds when the workers threw on the next load of gravel and different people came through the scene. I love the layering effect of the light and dust that comes from the backlight.
Photo tip: Dust, rain, humidity, fog, haze all add dimension to a scene when shot with backlight, light behind the conditions. It creates atmosphere and interesting changes in tonality and light, as well as creating layers in depth. Be careful that bright atmospheric conditions do not cause your camera to underexpose the scene.
Camera & settings used: Canon EOS-1Ds, EF 70–200mm F2.8 lens, f/7.1 for 1/160 sec., ISO 100
I am pleased to announce that you can now see a few of my favorite images displayed at the Artemis Fine Art Gallery in La Jolla, California. Opening just last summer, the gallery focuses on themes of conservation and the Earth’s beauty and a portion of sales benefits environmental organizations. In ancient civilizations Artemis was the goddess of conservation and the gallery represents artists who share an appreciation for nature and a desire to protect our planet.
On March 4th Artemis will be open for First Friday Art Walk. If you are in the area, please drop by to see the latest arrivals and enjoy light refreshments!