A very famous French diver once called Indonesia’s Wakatobi an underwater Nirvana. I am not going to quibble with Jacques Cousteau. Last week I traveled with very good friends and serious underwater photography gearheads (which I am not) to this island archipelago. My friends endured lost luggage and had to rent equipment, and I, a fish out of water doing underwater camera work, battled against stronger-than-expected currents, a leaking mask, and balky SD cards. Fortunately on the last couple days of shooting things worked themselves out and I managed to get a few really nice photos that will fit very nicely in the huge new wildlife book coming out next year!
One of the more challenging aspects of photographing underwater in this and similar locations are venomous fish – in this case, scorpion fish. On top of managing the underwater camera system while trying to stay steady in a difficult current and not scaring away my subjects, I also had to keep myself from disturbing the sea floor. At one point my underwater guide and myself were balancing ourselves on a tiny wooden dowel stuck into the sea floor to try to stabilize ourselves. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it – enjoy the photos!
I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera with an EF8-15mm f/4L FISHEYE USM lens in a Nauticam underwater housing.
Last weekend Seattle lost an icon: Harriet Bullitt, philanthropist and conservationist. She was 97.
Gorgeous to the end, Harriet exemplified the art of living life to its fullest. She had a remarkable spirit for adventure, took an interest in everything, and was possessed of a quiet kindness and supportive enthusiasm.
A grateful young photographer was on the receiving end of a bit of that patronage: she founded Pacific Northwest magazine (now Seattle magazine), which published my photo stories on local natural history and the art of nature photography. Her foundation also helped make my International Conservation Photography Awards a reality. An avid traveler, Harriet and her family traveled with me on a trip to Africa, as well as Cuba where we had to skirt US customs. She was never one to shy away from excitement and I count myself beyond fortunate to have known her!
I’m in the midst of going through all my photos from several recent workshops – all back to back, so my editing time has been limited! I did pull a few of my favorite shots from Oregon’s Lost Lake, looking out to Mt. Hood – the tallest mountain in the state, and also a dormant stratovolcano.
I often talk about the many ways to shoot a subject, and even from essentially the same vantage point you can find ways to make even a giant mountain feel different, and tell a different story.
For starters, the environmental portrait! This is a great way to open when sharing your photos, giving context to the scene. Here the calm lake is prominent, framed by the iconic evergreens of the pacific northwest. We get a good sense of place for the looming mountain.
Here we have the same elements – the lake is still present as well as the trees, but the mountain has become front and center. The lower sun is casting warmer hues on the mountain, separating it from the background. We still get a sense of place, but the mountain has become the star!
Here, the mountain is definitely the star feature. The lakes and trees still inform a bit of the environment, but the great mountain is free of the framing branches that kept it from feeling quite as prominent.
And finally – a vertical that takes us back to the sense of place – standing under the shady limbs of the evergreens. From all these shots, you can see from the forms and patterns on it’s surface that my angle on the mountain hasn’t changed – just taken a few steps one direction or another, gotten down lower to the ground, or tried a different focal length. Small differences can completely change the results of your shot!
It’s your last chance to vote for the 5 animals you want to be included in the New Big 5 of wildlife photography! The original ‘Big 5’ is a term used by trophy hunters for the 5 toughest animals to shoot and kill (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and Cape buffalo).
The New Big 5 project has a better idea: to create a New Big 5 of Wildlife Photography, rather than hunting. Shooting with a camera, not a gun. It’s about celebrating the incredible creatures we share the planet with and helping to protect them.
I’m excited to be supporting the New Big 5 project which is on a mission to raise awareness about threats facing wildlife around the world, including habitat loss, poaching, human-wildlife conflict, illegal wildlife trade and climate change, as well as conservation ideas and solutions.
The international initiative is supported by +150 international photographers and working with conservationists and charities, including The Jane Goodall Institute, Conservation International, Save The Elephants, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Polar Bears International, Save Wild Tigers, Wildlife Direct, Save The Rhinos, Lion Recovery Fund, Cheetah Conservation Fund, Snow Leopard Trust, WildAid, IUCN and more…
Please go onto the New Big 5 website and VOTE for the 5 animals you want to be included! Voting ends April 20. The results of the international vote will be announced May 17.
“What a great project the New Big 5 is. I wonder what the final choices will be. There are so many incredible animals in our world, all fascinating in different ways. Any project which brings attention to animals, so many of whom are threatened or endangered, is truly important.”
Urban renewal takes many forms. We are busy primates, always changing our environment for better and mostly for worse. For 40 years Seattleites dumped their garbage at the Montlake Dump just north of today’s Husky Stadium. It was just a worthless marsh so why not? Spurred on by a blossoming of environmental awareness in the 1960s-70s, a plan was slowly developed to reclaim the area as a natural laboratory. Today the site is some 50 acres of which 14 acres have been completely restored. It is a long process, beating back the Himalayan blackberries, loosestrife and other nonnative species. It wasn’t until the 1980s that work in earnest began, resulting in the natural marshland in existence today.
We have joined Washington Wild and 108 organizations, Tribes, and elected officials to urge the Canadian Government to stop Imperial Metals from mining the Skagit River headwaters.
The iconic Skagit River begins in British Columbia, flows down through the North Cascades and Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, eventually ending in the Puget Sound.
Along the way, the river provides critical habitat for grizzly bears, bull trout, spotted owls, and the largest populations of threatened steelhead and Chinook salmon. The fish, in turn, provide food to Orcas, and are central to many Native communities’ cultures and treaty rights.
Puget sound is right outside my window, and frequently I shoot in the western corridor between BC and Seattle – I’m distinctly aware of the ecosystem in question. Decisions made by our neighbors to the north affect us downstream. Moving forward with mining is a direct threat to one of our state’s most beloved natural resources. #ProtectSkagit!
Click here for a PDF with more information on this proposal.
In autumn my home state of Washington shows its colors, deepened and moistened by a welcome rain. I spent time photographing abstracts from the Olympic Peninsula in the west to Icicle Creek on the east side of the Cascade Range. In between I documented my yard for an upcoming book on Seattle gardens and scouted Port Townsend for a new abstract workshop. While I am an avid consumer of news, photography and nature has helped me keep my zen through these tense times. Take a hike, listen to water and the wind, cast your gaze into the reaching branches of a tree, it’s good for the soul.
I started off the month of October by leading a small workshop on the Olympic Peninsula for a handful of intrepid photographers who were ready to be safely out and about. Much of what appears to be fog in the photos is more than likely smoke still heading up north from the many devastating fires in California.
I’m so fortunate to live in such a varied and beautiful location where so many lessons can be taught in one place – from the varied lighting conditions on beaches versus the shadowed canopies of trees along their edge, majestic old-growth trees, and waterfalls to practice longer exposures.
Never be afraid to alter the location around you, as in the shot with the stacked rocks. It’s still possible to stage a scene while staying true to the natural wonders of the location, and in some ways enhance it while getting comfortable with the creative process!
In the photo below, the stacked rocks are not just an attempt to manufacture a subject, or add an interesting foreground element to capture the eye. While both of these things are happening, it’s really the smoothness of the rocks that informs the viewer about the location – the timeless rounded edges that speak of centuries of erosion. it so happens their rounded shape makes them easy to balance and stack.
Tomorrow is Migratory Bird Day! With projects like Migrations and the upcoming wild, I’ve no shortage of photos to celebrate these stalwart world travelers. Enjoy the image gallery!
On the subject of ‘world travelers’, tomorrow morning Parimal and myself will be live at 10 AM on Earth Is Our Witness to talk with “The Big Cat People” Angela and Jonathan Scott to hear the awesome tales that come of over four decades of experience photographing the lions of Africa.
Enjoy the images and we hope to see you live tomorrow morning!
Busy week both here in Art Wolfe land and the world! Sports are returning in limited fashion, political fallout, and conflicts of ideology that are having harmful results (wear a mask! Please – I have many more book projects to complete!). I absolutely enjoyed chatting with Michelle Valberg last night on Earth Is Our Witness. If you enjoyed Michelle’s work, don’t forget to pop over to the Earth Is Our Witness Instagram page and give a photo you like a comment – a lucky winner will receive a free print!
Last night on Tequila Time, I had a bit of fun with a look at some of the antics of my youth, but I also ended on a poignant note. As many of you are aware, the flora, fauna, and livelihood of local fishermen is under immense threat by the proposed Pebble Mine project in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska If the Pebble Mine goes through, the bears will lose, the fish will lose, Alaskans will lose, and Earth will lose. It’s short term gain for the few and long-term destruction for the many.
A little over a year ago now I sent out a call to action to contact your congresspersons and let them know your thoughts on this project, that only serves to propagate wealth for the few while ravaging this beautiful and globally unique environment that we and future generations will lose out on.
With the recent Army Corps of Engineer’s Environmental Impact Study being labelled as inherently flawed and wholly inadequate by respected organizations such as the NRDC and the obvious interests of the Save Bristol Bay campaign, it’s time to make voices heard. No project ever goes flawlessly. We know this as humans. I do my best to see both sides of a conflict, but when it comes to matters of the environment versus the personal gain of a few individuals whom already possess the means to undertake such an environmentally devastating project, my decision is very simple.
We will continue to fight the good fight! Have a fantastic weekend!