Maybe it’s time to think small, macro small. September and October in the Pacific Northwest present wet dew laden mornings which are perfect for photographing tiny intimate landscapes, insects in your garden, abstracting details of a flower into a wash of color, or a spider’s web suspending drops of dew.
When I talk about “macro photography” I’m not limiting myself to 1:1 or greater magnification. Macro to me is really anything that might fit in my 2 hands. A clump of clover or a close-up of a Macaw’s back showing detail in the feathers, fall into my definition of “macro photography” as does a butterfly’s wing or dandelion seed head filling the entire frame.
People often ask me what I would recommend for a macro lens and honestly I don’t generally carry one; they add too much weight for how often I find myself using one. Instead, I carry a set of extension tubes, practically weightless when compared to adding another lens to my bag, and at my age, less is definitely more (as in more walking, more shooting and more time out of the chiropractors office!)
I’ve asked Jay Goodrich to provide a few technical details on macro lenses and how extension tubes work:
To understand macro lenses you must first understand how a lens focuses on a subject. As you twist the focus ring, the glass optics inside move forward and back. Want to focus closer? Move the glass further from the sensor. Want to focus at 1:1 magnification? (1:1 happens when the object you are shooting is the same size on the sensor as it is in real life such as a quarter or butterfly’s wing filling the frame) Then your lens must be able to move the optics away from the sensor a distance equal to the focal length of your lens (This will vary based on the crop factor of your sensor). In other words if your 100mm lens can move 100mm from the sensor, you have a ‘macro lens’ able to focus close enough for objects to appear life size on the sensor. A 100mm macro lens will be able to achieve 1:1 (lifesize) at twice the distance from your subject than a 50mm macro lens would.
But what if your 100mm lens is not a “macro lens”? That simply means it is not able to move the optics a full 100mm from the sensor. Perhaps it can only move them 75mm and thus it can’t quite focus close enough to fill the frame with the butterfly’s wing. An extension tube is spacer that fits between your camera and lens and they come in various thicknesses. Having no glass at all they do not impact your image quality as a magnifying filter (also used for macro photography) would. So if you were to put a 25mm extension tube on the back of your “non macro” 100mm lens – you would then be able to achieve the full 100mm (75+25) of extension necessary to photograph your subject at 1:1 or 1x magnification.
So what does Art use in the field? He will add extension tubes between his 70-200 f4 lens. Without them, the lens has a minimum focusing distance of 1.2m and a magnification of .21x (about 1/5th life size). Adding a 25mm extension tube allows him to move in closer and achieve .42x life size. Stack additional extension tubes behind the lens and he’s able to focus even closer yet – all without adding an additional lens to his bag.
If you enjoy shooting macro subjects, an investment in a true macro lens is worthwhile. While extension tubes allow you to “make one” on the fly, they must be removed to allow the lens to again focus on distant objects and to infinity. You can even purchase a macro lens with enough extension built in to achieve up to 5x magnification – filling the frame with the eye of a praying mantis.
Most of the time stopping down to f22 and keeping your sensor plane parallel to your subject will give you enough depth of field to cover your subject. If not, you may need to “rack focus”, shooting several images with the focus point first on the leading edge of the subject with each subsequent image focusing a little further into the composition until you reach the furthest point you want in focus. Later you combine the images with Photoshop or Helicon Focus; the combined image will then look sharp across the entire scene from front to back.
I use macro photography to abstract the patterns, lines and texture found in nature; to give the viewer a different taken on an old subject. We’ve all seen photographs of flowers, force your audience to think a little, to tilt their head as they wrap their imaginations around your composition.
You can abstract just about anything you find in nature and even man-made objects. By framing tight on your subject you are able to show a pattern that is lost when looking at the whole. Your image allows a new appreciation for the subject which is unavailable without the photograph to isolate and show only what you, the artist behind the camera, is allowing the viewer to see.
Patterns come from the repetition of shape and textures, thus it is possible to get too close and not show enough of your subject, losing the magic of the pattern you had intended to show. If you love ferns for their delicate pattern of leaves, get in close, focus your attention on just one frond and enjoy the gentle curve of the main stem while playing with the beauty of the individual leaves branching out while ever decreasing in size to either side. A fully symmetric composition with the frond in the center makes a different, but equally effective statement as drawing the frond out of a corner diagonally, try it both ways to see what you like.
Sometimes if I am lacking for inspiration I’ll create a little vignette, a story, with the elements around me. On a beach I may grab some bits of seaweed, a shell, perhaps a dead crab or some muscles, and a bit of drift wood. I’ll loosely arrange these so as not to appear too deliberate or forced and play with the composition. This exercise can help to open me up to other options around me as I begin to see line and form that I may not have seen otherwise.
A good exercise for anyone, whether you are feeling stuck or full of inspiration, is to walk to a random spot, in your back yard, in the country, in the forest… and just stand there and take in the scene. Look all around you. It may take 15 min or it may take an hour, but you will begin to see opportunities on a macro, close up scale, which you may have overlooked in the past. The stained glass effect of a dragon fly’s wing, the rainbow of colors in a puddle, a sewer grate, the wabi sabi qualities of a dead leaf as it curls and browns. Photographic opportunities are all around if you open yourself to the possibility of seeing them.
Always keep a sharp eye for any distracting elements in the composition. Check each of the four corners for bright areas on the edges, twigs, dead leaves, hard edges. A grouping of pine needles close-up can make for an abstract of Japanese writing; a single pine needle in the corner can blow the whole composition.
As you head out to photograph the macro landscape, ask yourself about the difference between a tight shot of a flower that could be used in a botanical textbook as “figure 7.2”, and an artist’s abstract of that same flower. When you get in really close, can you start to see a Georgia O’Keefe or Claude Monet’s influence on the composition? Does the texture make you think of a pointillism painting where the entire scene is composed of dots of color? Go back and photograph those same flowers, mosses, and leaves you have shot so many times before, even those in your own yard, but do so through a new set of eyes, not looking to record nature but to abstract and challenge the senses of your viewer.
This trip, which ranged from the color riot that is the Holi Festival in Mathura, to the holy waters and ghats along the Ganges in Varanasi, through the beautiful landscapes and tigers of Bandhavgarh and on to colorful desert settings of Rajasthan, was a terrific experience for us both. Art Wolfe magic was a big part that experience. Art is a funny, engaging and kind human being, as well as an excellent, patient teacher of photography. We would join him again in a heartbeat for more photography travel and hope to do so soon!
In early August, five photographers gathered in western Washington for a journey into the wild landscapes of Olympic National Park. Not so unusual… except for the way we met.
We met each other through Art Wolfe’s Facebook page.
When Brigitte Lucke (from Mallorca, Spain) announced she was coming to Seattle in early August, Emily M. Wilson, Victoria Hobbs Braden, Carol Ann Morris (that’s me) (all from western Washington), and Kathy Pfeifer Hansen (from Oregon) were quickly on-board to grab gear and go shoot. A cabin (The “Twilight Eclipse”) was found in Forks, Washington, and the trip was set. Olympic National Park gave us cascading waterfalls (Marymere and Sol Duc), zen-like landscapes (Cape Flattery), beach sunsets (Rialto), and silhouettes and sand formations (Ruby Beach). Add in bald eagles, turkey vultures, cedar waxwings, and it became an extraordinary adventure! Then we were off to Hurricane Ridge (at 4am) for a blazing sunrise and dramatic moonset (the views of each just 500 feet apart). Next was Obstruction Point, where we spotted a sunning marmot, and a cautious ptarmigan with her flock.
We ended our journey in Seattle, at Emily’s home. The super moon, houseboats, a paddle-boarder that somersaulted for our cameras, a Lebanese toddler, flying kites, Tibetan monks, Korean girls, Seattle at night, a lightening storm, visiting Art at his home… it was all one big grand photo op. We felt as if we’d known each other for months, not just the seven days since Brigitte first stepped off the train in Seattle.
A big heart-felt thanks from all of us, Art. Because of you, we connected.
This has become a wonderful circle of friends because of Art. I am so fortunate to have met Art last October and to go outside my comfort zone in an effort to meet the others. I have not only learned a great deal in the last 10 months, but have gained so many friends. I feel blessed.
For the last two years brilliant Seattle-based photographer Phil Borges has been working on a feature length documentary called CRAZYWISE. The idea grew out of his fascination with shamanism and the way indigenous cultures often look at severe mental disorders. It wasn’t until he started working on this film that he realized the depth and severity of the mental health crisis in the USA. However, this film is about hope. During the production, they have discovered underreported, innovative, community-based treatment approaches that emphasize hope for recovery, acceptance, and peer to peer mentorship. Their goal is to highlight these successful programs and have the film spark a long overdue conversation for change.
Principal Photography Wraps in 2014. Now Raising Finishing Funds for Post Production.
“Gifts can have an unforgettable impact on a person’s life, like the 35mm camera given to me by my older brother. With a fascination of art from a young age, I would feverishly work through sketchbooks drawing everything imaginable, spending hours trying to replicate what I saw in real life on a piece of paper. I also carried that first camera with me everywhere and treasured the thought of getting that one perfect shot so people could see what I see.
After becoming a father in 2000, time constraints had me step away from art and photography to focus on family. It was in 2007 that I saw my first episode of Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe. After seeing one episode, I was so inspired and said – ‘that’s it’, I have to follow my passion of photography and art again.
My photography experience includes magazine editorial photography, commercial construction photography, portraits, landscapes, fine art and gigapixel photography. As an expert in shooting gigapixel panoramas using GigaPan technology, I capture hundreds of thousands of images and combine them into a single, high-resolution image to digitally explore, pan, zoom and share. During my career at GigaPan, I have conducted seminars and workshops, trained top photographers, and developed tutorial videos and webinars. To this day, I still carry my camera everywhere, prepared to capture the next great shot.”
Mendocino, California native Justin Lewis was nurtured in the raw and rustic Pacific Northwest, where he honed a keen eye for capturing images that instill wonder and inspire action. Having traveled to over forty five countries and featured in many major global magazines, Justin has woven his photography career seamlessly into his lifestyle of exploration and conservation. As an artist, Justin finds inspiration in beauty, and finds beauty in nature.
Justin has spent the last two years dedicating his life to an eight phase photo-documentary project called 70 Degrees West. The project follows a single line of longitude from Greenland to Antarctica, illustrating the impact our modern civilization has on fragile eco-regions and cultures who dwell there. His photography hopes to expand global awareness of environments at risk by capturing the extreme landscape while also giving a voice to the battles each region faces both environmentally and socially. For more information, including slide shows and two video shorts, visit www.70degreeswest.com For more of Justin Lewis’s photography, visitwww.justinlewis.com
Here are a few images from Phase I – Greenland: Thule Hunter
It is said that Greenland’s Inuit name, Kalaallit Nunaat, means “The Land of Man.” To the Greenlandic natives, it is home, where the dark days and sunlit nights demand the human spirit to endure at all costs. Here, a sled driver and dog team rest for a moment under the arch of a looming translucent blue iceberg frozen in the sea ice.
The life of a dog sled driver is one of patience and discipline. Nine Greenlandic Arctic dogs rest during a long trek across the ice. Greenlandic Arctic sled dogs are only exist north of the Arctic Circle and found no where else in the world.
The magic of Northern Greenland’s midnight sun is filled with stunning beauty and extreme isolation. This image was taken at 3 o’clock in the morning where a tidal pond formed on the surface of the sea ice. Salt water was forced up through cracks in the sea ice as the oceans tide came up.
Spring time comes to Ilulissat, Greenland and the fisherman begin to venture out into the recently broken chunks of looming sea ice. Eager to get out fishing, some fisherman launch their boats into the Arctic waters, delicately navigating through chunks and sheets of ice.
Thomas Martika Qujaukitsoq was born in Qaanaaq, Greenland, one of the northern most municipalities in the world. He wears a reindeer jacket his grandmother hand-stitched for him when he was a young man. Although he has hunted extensively through the surrounding landscape, he has never traveled to any other part of the world. His home is Qaanaaq, his life is that of hunting, fishing, and driving his dog sled. He says, “I drive my dog sled because it is my culture and my life. It will always be like that.”
During the warmer months, massive icebergs calve from the glacier head and slowly drift through vast fjords. Certain icebergs can float for many years, very slowly melting and breaking into smaller chunks of ice.
I had the chance to take a chilly dive under the sea ice during our photo expedition in Ilulissat, Greenland. Dressed in a dry suit and specialized arctic gear, it was ethereal and thrilling. Having a ceiling of ice above me and no sight of a sea floor, it felt other-worldly.
As I write this, my film Terra Sacra Time Lapses is just passing 100,000 combined views on YouTube and Vimeo and continuing to spread to all corners of the planet. The six-minute short is a compilation of my favourite time lapse sequences photographed during assignments and personal travels between 2006-2012 on seven continents in 24 countries. I’m super thrilled by the overwhelmingly positive feedback but equally humbled and gratified by the many comments which praise the beauty of our Sacred Earth. This was the ultimate goal… To inspire a deepened appreciation for the world around us.
Influenced heavily by Art Wolfe’s vision to care for the planet and it’s diversity, I created Terra Sacra Time Lapses as a a means of sharing the intangible magic I’ve been so blessed to experience on these journeys to famous and remote places.
By far, most of the shots in the film were photographed during the making of “Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge” – truly a dream assignment for any filmmaker.
I started experimenting with DSLR time lapse photography during the very FIRST episode shoot with Art in Utah back in October 2005. The technique involves using a DSLR camera and a remote interval timer to capture a series of images that can be processed into a time lapse video. Since the resolution and image quality of each individual frame from a DSLR (up to 5,000+ pixels) is many time greater than a single frame of high definition video (only 1920×1080 pixels), you can zoom and pan within the image without sacrificing pixels. The image QUALITY (colour range, low light sensitivity) from a DSLR is also greater than most professional video cameras. I immediately was blow-away by the creative potential of this new tool and would make a point of shooting these shots as often as possible. I could setup a time lapse with the 5D and use our production video cameras to continue filming all the other elements for the show. The time lapses would eventually become a signature look for the series and often be used as visual transitions between the scenes in each episode. I also employed these techniques on assignments for other television series for National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and personal travels.
As romantic as it sounds to travel with Art for three years and film 26 episodes of the beloved TV series all around the world, it wasn’t always easy!
Here’s five of my worst moments:
• bluff charged and nearly trampled by a camera-shy male elephant in Kenya
• nearly run-over by our bush pilot the very next day as he pushed the comfortable boundaries of delaying his take-off for a dramatic shot (Art scolded him for almost killing his cameraman)
• careening off a highway in La Paz, Bolivia, after a tire separated from the axel (we suspect thieves stole the lug nuts!)
• dodging a massive anaconda dropping out of the trees while cruising the Pantanal in Brazil.
• losing all my clothes to a nun in Peru after a horrendous case of “mistaken luggage identity” (my bag eventually got delivered by dug-out canoe a week later to our filming camp in the Amazon jungle)
On the flip side, here’s five of my favourite highlights:
• being swooped by the 10-foot wingspans of Andean condors after a steep four-hour hike in Patagonia, Argentina.
• that Cessna that almost killed me… I got to fly it from Kenya to Lake Natron in Tanzania (the rest of the crew slept in the back!)
• seeing Antarctica. Period.
• sleeping on the sand beneath the most amazing star scape ever while en route from Timbuktu to Arouane (Mali) to film a caravan of camels in the middle of the Sahara
• photographing bengal tigers in India by elephant back. These felines are the most awesome creatures I’ve ever seen in the wild!
Thank you Art, again, for hiring me as the cinematographer for this amazing series and providing the great memories and adventures I’ll cherish for a lifetime… Hopefully Terra Sacra Time Lapses will echo the spirit of your mission and serve as a lasting showcase of our Sacred Earth.
Sean F. White
Shot-by-shot breakdown of each location in the film >>HERE
Most of the time lapses were shot with a Canon EOS 5D digital SLR at the maximum resolution using a TC-80N3 intervalometer. A few shots were taken with a Canon 7D and Canon 5D mk II.
All images are single manual exposures, no HDR composites.
Original full resolution images were colour corrected and processed in 16-bit in Adobe Bridge using Camera Raw and exported as JPEG sequences at maximum quality. The rendered JPEG sets were then opened in Quicktime Pro as image sequences and exported at their native full resolution (up to 5K) as Quicktime movies at 23.98 fps with the Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) codec. The ProRes 422 (HQ) files were then edited in Final Cut Pro 7.0.3 on a ProRes 422 (HQ) timeline at 23.98. The master file is ProRes 422 (HQ) 1920 x 1080.
Selected time lapse sequences were also processed using Adobe Bridge and LRTimelapse to smoothen aperture flicker apparent in some shots with large depth-of-field.
There is a very nice spread in the University of Washington Alumni Magazine “COLUMNS” this month. The University is celebrating 2012 as their 150th Anniversary and featuring noteworthy Alumni.
Art Wolfe graduated in 1975. This spread also celebrates the beautiful and unique natural environment of the UW campus as only Art can see it.