I had an amazing session with Elephants a few days ago in Botswana! I spent hours in a stuffy, sunken blind, but was rewarded late in the afternoon when several elephant herds began to show up for a drink and a splash. It was about ninety degrees here, and they played in the cooling waters just five feet in front of us. The elephants were very aware of us and we were splashed intentionally many times – we had a major cleaning session afterwards since the churned water had turned to liquid mud.
This lasted for over an hour and I shot thousands of frames; the results are full of the personality and affection these amazing animals possess.
The task of editing has been daunting to say the least. I am working on a book with fellow UW alum & biologist Sam Wasser, who has been instrumental in using DNA to track endangered species, especially orcas and elephants, and now Dr. Wasser is trying to use DNA to track illegal shipments of ivory and shut down major poaching cartels. It makes my work look easy by comparison, and those of us who work with and care for the well being of these animals and their place in the world are so very grateful for his work.
New photos from this year’s Katmai Bear-stravaganza! This trip posed some new challenges to navigate, but this is why we work with the best in the business as far as our on-location support is concerned – and I think in the end it also inspired some new and unique images from a location I have made a point to visit every summer for the past 5-6 years.
The most notable thought that comes to mind in reflecting on these consecutive years visiting Katmai National Park is the familiarity I now have when I see individual bears as well as their families. I can recognize particular bears from previous visits both by their physical traits as well as the varied techniques they employ to hunt for fish. Some bears might even have a unique lumber to their walk or a discernible demeanor in how they react towards other bears as well as humans.
I’m starting to recognize physical traits in the young bears and can associate them with their mothers and other family members. One thing is for certain – these bears are reproducing, and there is a healthy population to be found here. This (with caution) bodes well for both their success as a species and our opportunities to photograph them in this remote, beautiful location.
I’ll be leading two more workshops in July and August of next year, and my associate Gavriel Jecan will also be heading up his own tour next summer – sign up now, as the multiple trips indicate – they sell out fast!
My latest book, “TREES: Between Earth and Heaven” will be available this fall, and if you preorder between now and October you’ll be sure to receive a personally signed copy as well as an 8 x 10 print of one of the book’s many images.
This 300 page book is filled with hand selected images of trees from around the world photographed over the course of my career. Photos range from vast expanses of forests to individual trees, as well as a focus on our cultural relationships with them. An introduction by Wade Davis kicks things off, and Gregory McNamee provides text that includes legends, lore, and literary accounts from across the globe relating to the great trees of the world as well as conservation efforts to protect them. I also share many of my personal views on these subjects as well as photography notes for included photos.
I’ve had a chance to visit the publisher and take a look at the early progress on this book, and I was blown away by the work that’s been done so far – this will be one any nature and photography enthusiast will want on their book shelf!
Today is Arbor day, a wonderful occasion to celebrate the significance of trees world-wide. The importance of trees both in terms of their impact on habitats and cultures can’t be stated enough but often goes overlooked. Check out arborday.org for more info on what you can do to participate this weekend!
This is also a good time to mention my newest upcoming book which has been available for pre-order for a few weeks. It’s called “Trees: Between Heaven and Earth“, and it will be available this fall. It’s full of beautiful photos of trees from around the world and details their beauty and contributions to habitats, cultures and much much more.
There are sample pages to check out on my online store, and don’t forget that all pre-orders through the site will be signed by yours truly before being sent your way!
Have a wonderful weekend, get out there and plant something!
Years back, student Angels Gazquez Espuny of Spain interviewed Art a few years back for a school project. The title was “The Artist’s Psychology”, and considering that Art has made his Photography As Art seminar a continued exploration into the subject matter in the years since, it seemed like a timely re-post! Enjoy!
From your experience, what is art and what is an artist?
A true artist is an individual who creates from their soul be they a musician, writer, dancer, sculptor, painter or photographer etc…They have a need to express themselves in a creative way, revealing a part of themselves in the process. To restrict their creative outlet, whatever it may be, whether they sell their work or not, is to imprison their soul.
Art is a journey, for both the artist and the viewer. An artist will grow and mature over time. Myself, I began with a more realist approach to my painting and photography and have trended towards a greater appreciation for the abstract as I have followed my own journey. The same is true for the viewer. At one point in your life you may not ‘get it’ when you look at another’s artwork; perhaps it is too abstract or unusual; but later in life you may return to these same pieces and see them from an entirely new perspective, appreciating them in a way you couldn’t have before. Everyone sees and interprets art from their own experiences. It is because of this that you can’t simply define “art” or an “artist”, each is an ever changing and growing interpretation for the individual.
For me personally, the highest form of art is something that enriches the viewer and speaks to them evoking an emotional response from within. I fill my home with art, both my own and pieces I have collected during my travels all over the world. Some are highly prized pieces such as centuries old Native American baskets but they run all they way down to simple indigenous crafts I have picked up for a few dollars. I have even transformed my yard over the years into a work of art inspired by the Chinese paintings of the Haung Shan landscapes.
I am an artist, I have been since a child. It was when I was a young boy in middle school the teachers, upon seeing my paintings, were so moved, that they actually paid me for my work. It was right then that I knew I would make a living selling my art, my creations, and I have followed that path ever since. My roots are set deeply in painting. I went to the University of Washington receiving my degree in Fine Arts and I saw this as my path. It was only in my 20s that I would transition to a photography and make my name as a wildlife photographer and in my journey, now at 60 years old, I find myself returning to my roots as a painter more and more.
Why and what motivates you to create, what do you normally create?
As I said before, I am an artist and I have that same drive inside me that all true artists feel which continues to motivate me even after nearly 40 years. When I return from a trip my mind is instantly seeking out the next opportunity – whether it is with my camera in the field, a studio session, or time with paint and a brush, as an artist I will never rest.
I have always been a strong conservationist, even as a child. I grew up spending more time outside than inside exploring the woods near my home in West Seattle, Washington getting to know every bird, reptile, mammal, and plant I could find. At a young age I could see the need to protect and preserve our fragile natural resources. I strive to capture the natural beauty in works of art with the hope that it will inspire the viewer, evoke that emotional response, to see the need to preserve and protect our diminishing resources.
In my career as a photographer, I first began photographing animals and landscapes and that is perhaps what I am most well known for. Over the years, traveling the world, I was fortunate enough to encounter the elusive animals that inhabit the remote corners of our planet, and at the same time I got to know and appreciate the indigenous people that inhabit these lands as well. Their culture in many cases remains intact as it has been for countless generations. Getting to know these cultures, fostered an appreciation for the beauty of their approach to life and balance with the planet. With a career spanning over 30 years, I have images in my archive that can not be replicated today as cultures give way to outside influences.
Traveling the world I have also been exposed to a wide variety of religions and practices giving me an appreciation for the beauty you can find in each. Over time I have found myself bringing home more and more creations around culture and religion from these travels.
Lastly, as I get older I find myself drawn more and more to the abstract. The photographs you find me taking today are less often about the grand scenic landscape and more often about intimate details, abstracting the elements in the natural world to tell a different kind of story, but one rooted in the same motivation for protecting and preserving the natural wonders of our planet.
Do you think an artist is born or grows with age?
I believe both statements are true. One is born with certain passions in their soul. No matter your level of physical fitness, if you don’t have a passion to climb mountains, you won’t be a mountain climber, that is a drive I believe you have deep inside of you and an artist’s drive is no different. You are born with this drive to create though not necessarily the talent to pull it off, for talent comes with time. This is how an artist grows with age. Some may be self-taught, others classically trained, and it’s the rare exception that may be inherently talented, but even with those, I would argue that you can see their work grow and transform over time as they follow their journey.
Whether your art form is photography, painting, music, whatever…talk with any artist and they will tell you of a journey where they grew as an artist, honing their craft, focusing their talents, changing with time and improving with each creation.
And I continue to evolve, I have taken photos in the last 3 years that I never would have seen just 5 years ago – at 60 years old I continue to get better, look objectively at my art, improve on it and move forward, never stagnating. I will be growing as an artist so long as I am still able to create.
Do you have any reference artists & what inspires you?
I am inspired by the works of many classical and contemporary artists. You will see direct evidence of influences from Jackson Pollack in my work in a composition showcasing the random line and chaos which can be found in nature. I have also long admired the work of dutch artist M.C. Escher. I have photographs that I explicitly composed with his repeating geographic patterns in mind such as the repeating black and white of a tightly composed image of penguins in the artic. As I am photographing in the field, a scene will unfold before me reminding me of a particular artist’s style and I will compose my image drawing upon this style.
As a lifetime student of art, the list of artists inspiring me is a long one. You’ll find all the usual suspects such as Salvador Dali, Renoir, Van Gogh as well as more contemporary artists such as Keith Haring, Jacob Lawrence, Mark Toby… To visit my library at home would provide you an understanding as it is filled with art books spanning the centuries, it would be far too difficult to try and list everyone I draw from here.
Additionally I am also influence and inspired by the original artists, those who left their art on rock and cave walls 10-30 thousand years ago in Australia, southwestern US and the caves of Spain and France. They were true artists abstracting their subjects, suggesting movement and exaggerating their features. They were not simply recoding exactly what they saw, they were creating art.
Lastly, I am inspired by the beauty of nature. The intricate designs you find everywhere you look, from a curled fiddle wad of a young fern to the beautiful colors in the wings of a McCaw. This is why I keep doing what I do, I love nature and all her beauty and I want to share this with everyone in the hopes that they too will fall in love and understand why we need to protect this precious gift.
Do you consider yourself an artist?
Absolutely. Art is my passion and I have been following that passion my entire life.
This week I spent some time with my friends Bill Edwards and Greg Green visiting the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in British Columbia, Canada. It was nice to get out shooting again and it only made me that much more anxious to get out traveling again! This is the longest stretch I’ve been home in the past 40 years or so by a long shot. The variety of birds and their fearlessness when it comes to human visitors was remarkable.
Enjoy, and stay tuned for more new shots from the field as I ease back in to traveling!
World Wetlands Day is celebrated internationally each year on February 2nd. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in Ramsar, Iran, on 2 February 1971. This year’s theme is “wetlands for a sustainable urban future” – recognizing the impact and importance of wetlands to cities. As population is booming, wetlands that provide drinking water, counteract flooding, and filter waste are dwindling. World Wetlands Day 2018 serves to highlight the importance of this symbiotic relationship between population centers and the very ecosystem that makes them a liveable environment. Click here more information on World Wetlands Day.
As you may or may not know, the latest tax bill passed by the Trump administration recently included provisions to lift the decades-old ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska. ANWR is home to more than 250 animal species, and is a location I’ve returned to many times over the course of my career to capture the tranquil and relatively untouched landscape.
Bare Essentials Magazine was kind enough to include my perspective on this very important matter in the latest edition of their online magazine – check it out! My piece, along with several photographs from various parts of ANWR begins on page 111.
Audubon has dubbed 2018 the “Year of the Bird” in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Something to think about if you’re looking for inspiration or the basis for your next photo adventure! For more information on Audubon’s Year of the Bird, click here!
Above are some of my favorite shots of our feathered friends from over the years. If you have a great bird shot you would like to share, post it to Instagram using hashtags #Audubon, #BirdsOfInstagram and #Birdstagram! Audubon is also holding a contest – so send in your best avian photo and win up to $5000!
Sponsored by Angama Mara, The Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year will win a cash prize of $10,000 USD, as well as an unforgettable all-expenses-paid 5-night safari in the Maasai Mara, with accommodation for two at lovely Angama Mara, a private vehicle at their disposal and return flights from Nairobi.
Your entry fees will go to support these important conservation organizations: