Now that Spring is officially a week away and the weather is warming up a bit here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a great time to get out and shoot. Winter rains can be cold and nasty, but throughout the spring and early fall rainy overcast days that aren’t also affected by extreme temperatures and winds are the best days to get out and photograph! I woke up this morning to some cloud cover, light showers, and a relatively balmy 60 degrees, and was inspired to get the word out about how great such conditions can be for capturing fantastic images.
People are often surprised that I don’t run outside with my camera on a beautiful blue sky day. The clouds on an overcast day act like a huge softbox to soften the light, reduce contrast, and open up the shadows to details that would be completely lost on a bright sunny day. Falling rain diffuses and evens out the light even more. Some of my favorite images have been captured on gray rainy days.
You’ll need to check your lens frequently for spots but with a little care you can use the rain to your advantage. Use a tripod, polarizer, small aperture and long shutter speed to keep from recording individual falling drops of rain and maximize atmospheric softening. Additionally, the polarizer removes the shine from foliage for the richest colors possible. It’s rare that I don’t have a polarizer on the front of my lens. With standing water in your frame the falling rain will ripple the surface. The long shutter speed will blur movement the same way a waterfall can be rendered as a soft ethereal white drape over rocks.
Every year I sit down both personally and with my staff to reflect on the year’s projects as well as the photographs from locations new and revisited. I can’t believe how much we were able to fit into 2017, and although I’m starting off 2018 recovering – very swiftly and beyond expectation, I might add – from foot surgery, I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish in 2018!
Here are many of the highlights from the past year:
• We added new content to the website to give you more reasons to check back in with us! Where’s Art? was a segment we created as part of our new Multimedia page. It’s great to give you slide shows from my travels, but adding a voice to each unique trip brings something new to the table. Stay tuned for new editions from Mexico and Hawaii!
•I’ve begun doing portfolio reviews, with a few different packages to choose from. If you purchased one over the holidays and have submitted your photos, they are my focus for the current and coming weeks!
• We also added a new gear page where you can check out much of the equipment I use in the field, and we also focused on bringing you tips and tricks every Technique Tuesday on the blog.
• We had several terrific workshops here in my stomping grounds of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska: Columbia River Gorge, Abstract Astoria, Glacier Bay and Katmai National Parks, and over on the Olympic Peninsula at Olympic and Mount Rainier National Parks, as well as Lake Quinault.
• I brought Photography As Art to the following cities: Austin, Atlanta, Portland, Scottsdale, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, Dallas, and Seattle. Check out 2018’s current slate of cities with more likely to be added!
• An outdoor exhibit of Vanishing Act took place in Hamburg – what a great way to see your work displayed!
• Three new books were contracted with my publisher, Earth Aware Editions. A new edition ofEarth Is My Witnesswas released in the US and UK, and new French and Italian editions of Witness and the New Art of Photographing Nature were also published.
• Amazon added the first season of Travels to the Edge to their offerings on Prime streaming video!
• Photos and more photos! You can find my 2017 slide show here; from clicks and comments, it seems like your favorites were a bit different, with an emphasis on the Lofoten Islands. Hmm, perhaps I should schedule another workshop there. . .
• I’m in the process of planning my schedule for the next three years; keep an eye on my events page as well as the blog to stay up to date!
Myself and the staff wish you a healthy and prosperous 2018!
Sometimes you may need to shoot a moving subject in lighting that isn’t ideal. Add in a longer lens and extension tubes to create the composition you want, and you may need to add a flash to capture effective detail. Shot on location in Manu National Park, Peru.
When shooting in harsh conditions, it’s important to keep your equipment protected. Avoid exposing your camera’s image sensor to dirt and the elements by avoiding changing lenses in the field when conditions may be problematic. Having multiple camera bodies with a range of lenses attached keeps the sensor from being exposed, with the added benefit of allowing for quickly capturing different looks for your images by simply grabbing your second camera.
As you know, I am all about capturing a unique and compelling image regardless of your equipment. However, if you’re going to invest in the time to travel and photograph amazing places it pays to be prepared. If you’re looking into a second camera body, consider checking out some of the used equipment on the B&H website or your local camera stores. Be sure to pick something up that’s compatible with your current lenses. Although the latest and greatest cameras offer some spectacular features, finding a backup camera body in a range that fits your budget will ensure you never miss a shot!
Don’t forget that you can also rent camera bodies and lenses as well! Your local camera shops may rent equipment, and there are websites like borrowlenses.com that will ship rentals to you. This can be a great way to try before you buy, or simply ensure you have the best gear available if you’ve already invested money into traveling and participating in photo workshops.
All this run up to the solar eclipse on August 21st makes me hark back to when I traveled to South Australia back in December 2002 to photograph a total eclipse there. At the time, I was photographing landscapes for my book Edge of the Earth, Corner of the Sky and I thought this would be an amazing opportunity. I’d seen many technically excellent photographs of total eclipses over the years, but quite honestly they all looked pretty much alike. My objective became capturing the eclipse in relation to the Earth.
The solar eclipse that occurred on December 4, 2002, was noteworthy when viewed in South Australia for a couple of reasons. First, the eclipse was unusually brief at 25 seconds. Also, it occurred less than 40 minutes before sunset, so the likelihood of an obscured view was greatly increased because clouds generally stack up along the horizon at that time of day. To maximize my chance of success, I decided to find the precise position from which to film the eclipse by experimenting exactly 24 hours before the eclipse. I also decided to try two cameras for two very different perspectives, so I used both a wide-angle and a 70–200mm lens, enabling me to take full advantage of the eclipse’s late hour by incorporating the landscape.
Most eclipses occur earlier in the day when the sun is much higher in the sky. For this book, I wanted to establish the connection of the eclipse with the Earth. I wanted the viewer to witness the eclipse as if they were standing there next to me under the gum trees. Since I could not determine exposure until totality began, I decided to use matrix metering on an automatic aperture priority setting. When totality began, I would simply engage the shutter using locking cable releases, hoping that the entire roll of film would run continuously through the camera. This would have happened had I not made one final decision: to auto-bracket my exposures. I discovered, too late, that the camera would not continuously advance while on the auto-bracket setting. After just three exposures, both cameras stopped advancing. By the time I figured out what was happening, totality ended. Fortunately, I did get proper exposures for both compositions. After the critical moment of the full eclipse, I continued to photograph as the eclipse continued, switching to other lenses and film.
To create these images I used two Canon cameras, an EOS-1N and an EOS-1N/RS, EF70-200mm and EF 16-35mm lenses, Fujichrome Provia 400 film, and a Gitzo tripods. For the images of the setting eclipse on the horizon, I used an EF500mm IS lens and Fujichrome Velvia film.
For viewing the eclipse next week, make sure to protect your eyes properly, I cannot stress this enough! B&H has a bunch of articles up on their Explora blog on how to protect yourself and how to photograph the event. If you can’t see it in person, the best view will be via NASA livestream.
In this video shot on location in New Zealand, Art discusses the equipment used to compliment ideal overcast lighting to take photos in a forest of trees, moss, and lichens. The overcast lighting provides the perfect opportunity to capture the many layered textures of the forest without the distracting shadows and highlights of sunny direct lighting that can often hide or blow out the fine details.
Along with the overcast lighting, a longer lens to focus on areas of interest, and a shutter release with tripod to minimize movement, Art is able to capture the immense detail of the thick verdant forest.
Even in an environment with an abundance of interesting detail to focus on, like the Pancake Rocks of the South Island of New Zealand, sometimes stepping back with a wide angle lens to give context to those details is the best way to capture them. It can be easy to get caught up in the surreal nature of an unfamiliar landscape and focus too much on the alien details of something you won’t find anywhere else in the world, but it’s that contrast with the more familiar surroundings that can make them feel even more unique.
Here I’ve used a 16mm wide angle lens with, at the time, my Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III. A shutter speed of 1/60th froze the waves in the background while an aperture at ƒ10 ensured the subject of the pancake rocks were captured in full detail. The bright day allowed for a low ISO of 100, so very little noise infiltrates the image.
Last week I posted about additions and changes to my upcoming workshop schedule, and I wanted to take some time to expand on this as they begin to fill up. Despite the lack of bright sunny weather, spring is here. The days are longer, and the overcast lighting is perfect for the purposes of taking photographs in the beautiful landscapes of the Pacific northwest.
In less than a month, I’ll be leading a Columbia River Gorge workshop. From waterfall-laden rainforests to grasslands, this workshop will encompass a variety of subject matter – and good food from local restaurants to boot! My goal is to not only provide tips and techniques for shooting the varied landscape, but I’m also excited to announce that we will be lending 6-stop neutral density filters to participants to use for nighttime captures of waterfalls. I’ll also provide all participants with personalized copies of my how-to book, The Art of the Photograph.
As of this post there are six spots remaining to join me, but with only weeks to go it will fill up quickly!
I’ve scheduled another Lake Quinault retreat for October. Not only will we be photographing one of the more lush and green rainforests you’ll find, we are also providing a full day of instruction on Adobe Lightroom, as well as printing tips on EPSON printers. Come away from this workshop with new skills in the field, a better understanding of powerful and affordable photo editing and organizational software, and beautiful print or two!
We are a couple weeks away from Photography As Art in Scottsdale, Arizona at the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts on May 13th. Sign up now to spend the day hanging out with me and learn how a lifetime of photography and a background in art can change the way you see the world around you. Be inspired to capture interesting and unique images!
While browsing my website, you may have also come across a couple new additions. Many people have asked me about the equipment I use in the field, and to that end we’ve created the Art Wolfe Recommended Gear page. All items listed here are items I use in the field or in some cases as I travel or edit my photos. The Featured Partners on this page are also all companies who’s products we use both in the field and in our office.
We’ve also launched the Pro Tours page – workshops led by my associates Gavriel Jecan, Sean Fitzgerald, and Yuri Choufour. I can’t be everywhere at once, and these instructors have traveled a great deal with me over the years.
Lastly, enjoy some of my latest exhibitions and photos! I was recently in Hamburg, Germany and cut the ribbon on my first ever open-air exhibit, Meisterhaft Getart. Over 50 large format prints from my book Vanishing Act are on display for free all day all night on the streets of Hamburg’s Überseequartier through June 30ths. If you find yourself in Germany, check it out!
I’ve also recently returned from central Africa, where little shade and 110 degree temperatures made for a grueling trip – but I couldn’t be happier with the variety of wildlife I was able to capture. On the ground, I was happy to find a variety of wildlife mingling within each shot. From the sky, we were able to capture the magnificent elephant herds who’ve come together in search of dwindling water sources, and in unity against the attacks of poachers in the region.
Some of the most common questions I receive from photographers of all skill levels and backgrounds are in regards to the equipment I use and recommend. While I always emphasize the importance of understanding fundamental art and design principles first and foremost when it comes to taking great photos, finding the right equipment in a sea of options can be understandably overwhelming.
I’ve put together a gear page you can check out here that highlights some of the equipment I use and recommend, as well as some of the brands and companies I trust. Bookmark this page and check back often, as I’m constantly trying out new equipment!
At San Cristobal & Floreana Islands I was able to capture some wonderful shots of the local bird life, and the Galapagos sea lions were all too willing to show off for the camera. I purchased a generic light weight camera housing along the way to ensure I could get these under water shots, although I was admittedly a little weary of putting my new Canon 1DX into the water in a setup that I hadn’t tested before and trust it would not leak, but no guts no glory! The payoff made the risky endeavor worth while as the sea lions gave us quite a show. I also managed to capture schools of fish as well as some boobies looking for a meal.
I couldn’t be happier with what we were able to find on this trip. The local wildlife has been an incredible host for our group.