Save 50% on Creative Live Courses Through 7/20!

Creative Live is having a site-wide sale beginning today and running through the rest of the week, and followers of my blog and on social media can save an additional 10%!

This is a great resource for a wide variety of endeavors, from technical photography knowledge, software packages, Art and Web design to lifestyle, finance and fitness classes. Of course, I’m biased and will recommend you check out my courses, but with such a big sale happening I’ll understand if you want to check out some other stuff!

One of CreaiveLive’s biggest sales of the year runs through July 20th, 2018 – use code CLArWolfe at checkout to get the bonus discount!

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Technique Tuesday – Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM


For the last post on lenses we focused on the super wide angle, and how it affects perspective. Now I am introducing my favorite zoom lens for photographing wildlife, the 200-400mm. It has an internal 1.4 extender which is absolutely fantastic. It pushes the 400mm to 560mm and opens the aperture to get more light to the sensor.

I have been known to add an additional external 1.4 or 2 extender on top of this. This is recommended only in desperate situations, like when the snow leopards are spotted two miles across a Himalayan valley and you are on foot. Not only does the extender restrict light to the sensor, it magnifies the faults of the lens.

I use this lens for more than wildlife, though. Strong telephoto focal lengths are needed for photographing extreme compression effects, such as pulling in background elements like the setting sun to make them tower over the foreground subjects.

In addition, the telephoto allows you to:

  • cut down the angle of view and isolate aspects of the scene in front of you
  • get close to wildlife without disturbing it
  • frame simple compositions–look for little slices of design and interest within a landscape

Last and very important – to use this heavy lens effectively, you’ll need a sturdy tripod and a strong back as it weighs nearly 8 pounds.

For more tips and tricks, check out my technique books, “The Art of the Photograph” and “The New Art of Photographing Nature“.

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Technique Tuesday: Neutral Density Filters

As we are in the middle of a couple of West Coast workshops where coastlines, waterfalls, and woodland streams take center stage, now is a great time to discuss the use of neutral density filters. In the summer months where overcast days become rare even in a region fabled for it’s grey skies, ND filters are a necessary tool for outdoor photography.

Simply put, an ND filter will reduce the amount of light your sensor receives without affecting the color of your capture, therefore allowing you to use a wider aperture, capture a longer exposure – or both. This is especially useful when you’re shooting outdoors on a bright, sunny day, or trying to expose for soft waves and motion in water. If you’ve done this without an ND filter, then you know how hard it can be to get the exposure correct without having a blown-out sky and over-bright highlights.

ND filters come in several stops, with the cheaper 1, 2 or 3 stop filters being common – however I highly recommend spending the extra money on a 6-stop or even 10-stop ND filter. These will block out more light, and give you the greatest amount of leeway in using your camera settings to achieve your desired results.

A 6-stop filter will be good enough to expose for blurred waves and streams, and capturing the scene without an over-bright sky, while a 10-stop will create the foggy dream-like haze of water in motion. In either case, you will cut down on blown-out areas of your photo, balancing out the tones while keeping true-to-life colors and exposing for the proper amount of detail.

Though most of my use for ND filters involves apertures in the 11-13 range to capture all the details of a landscape, or as low as 5 for a scene that may not need all the details sprawling to the horizon, an ND filter will also allow you to open up your very wide. This way you can photograph a specific subejct outdoors on a brighter day while still keeping your aperture wide enough to achieve an out of focus  background.

For more ND tips and others check out my how-to books, “The Art of the Photograph” and “ The New Art of Photographing Nature“!

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Join Me in Katmai, Alaska in August – Limited Space Remains!

It’s almost time for the annual Katmai, Alaska workshops series! The trip at the end of July is sold out, however a few spaces are still available for the second workshop I’ll be leading from August 1st through the 7th.

This is a Katmai experience like no other due to the exclusivity of the location, my decades of experience visiting this region, and of course our close working relationship with local experts and accommodations. We know these bears well, and most importantly where to get the best access to capture unique shots safely. This time of year, the rivers and streams are full of salmon and the bears are so occupied with the fish that they hardly give our groups a second glance.

Along with the expertise of the location and the philosophy behind it’s significance, we will also discuss all aspects of photographing in the field including techniques for composition unique to Katmai. Sign up now online, or give my office a call at 1-206-332-0993 and secure your spot. This trip WILL sell out so don’t hesitate!

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Photography As Art in Montreal, NY, Philly & Pittsburgh is Here!

The remaining dates for Photography As Art in 2018 are happening over the next couple of weeks! A seminar that keeps evolving, PAA is a finally tuned machine and I’m excited to bring it back east for four dates over the next two weekends!

Check out Photography As Art in the following locations beginning in just a couple of days! I’d like to ask give a special thanks to Canon and Epson for sponsoring these events.

Montreal – Saturday, June 2nd at the McCord Museum

New York – Sunday, June 3rd at Infinito

Philadelphia – Saturday, June 9th at the National Museum of American Jewish History

Pittsburgh – Sunday, June 10th at Carnegie Science Center

This seminar is designed to completely change the way you view photography, and my intent is to inspire you to bring unique artistic visions to life using your camera as both brush and canvas. With an emphasis on the abstract, imaginary landscapes, and capturing metaphors the lessons learned here can be applied anywhere and with whatever equipment you have available – no globe-trotting or a plethora of fancy gear required.

If you’re on the west coast, I’ll be back in the Pacific Northwest for a couple of workshops before the month is through. A few space remain for the Columbia River Gorge workshop, and there is room for just one more for the Oregon Coast!

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday Wisdom – What to Shoot in June and July?

Wildflowers in bloom, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington by Art Wolfe

Some people are amazed to learn that I still enjoy getting out to photograph wildflowers. The greater truth is that I just enjoy getting out to photograph – anything. It fuels my soul, and as long as I can walk and hold a camera that’s where you’ll find me, out in the field working the subject, whatever it may be.

As spring gives way to summer, the snows on the mountains around Seattle melt away to reveal wonderful meadows of wildflowers. Mt Rainier is perhaps one of my favorite destinations for wildflowers, and so many can be found just a short walk from the parking lot. For those familiar with the area I like to head to Paradise, drive past the main parking lots and down the hill maybe half a mile, parking where the road crosses Edith Creek. From there you hike up towards the mountain and the wildflowers will soon surround you with a rushing creek and smooth boulders to work with. Hiking maybe a mile will afford beautiful views of Mt. Rainier filling the foreground with flowers.

Wildflowers in bloom, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington by Art Wolfe

When you head out to photograph wildflowers, one’s first instinct is to often isolate a perfect blossom at a 45 degree angle and go home happy. I call this the trophy shot – It looks just like the image on the packet at the home and garden store. We all have them, myself included, so get that shot – and then open your mind to more creative possibilities.

When I have lead workshops to Mt. Rainier in the past, I’ll let the students know that we have “arrived” at our destination for the next hour and they will politely line up on the trail and begin to photograph the first flower they see, usually right from the very direction they had approached it. After all, that’s why we’re here, no? No! We’re here to stretch our creative imaginations, to see in new ways, and uncover new possibilities. Consider how you approach the flower as you would any subject. Over the years I have critiqued so many photos and the answer is all too often the same, get lower and get closer.

My approach is generally to first walk through the area and get familiar with the myriad of options, perspectives, background possibilities, subtle differences in lighting. I’ll look at the subject from all sides possible before choosing a location to begin. Remember, recolonizing, fragile, easily accessible meadows like those of Mt. Rainier don’t allow for venturing off established trails. So please be aware of your surroundings, trail markers and warning signs.

Initially, I will photograph the larger scene with a wide angle lens (16-35, always with a polarizer adding a 2 stop hard ND filter as needed) helping to establish a sense of location. This can be useful later when trying to remember where I was when the image was taken, perhaps a hold-over from shooting slides when it could be three months before I would see any results from the days’ efforts. The wide angle lens allows me to include the surrounding plants, trees, terrain and mountains leaving the to flowers become a pattern of color in the lower foreground. I’ll look for leading lines in the pattern, gentle curves, a way for the viewer to interact with the image as they move through the foreground, middle ground and background – an old, well established formula from view cameras that still works today.

Alpine flowers, North Carolina by Art Wolfe

As I move in closer, I continue shooting with the wide angle lens, allowing first, a group of flowers and then individual blossoms to dominate the frame. This gives me the ability to still tell the story of location and environment through the greater composition. When people first purchase a wide angle lens they see it as an opportunity to get a greater view of the distant vista, to include the mountain and the surrounding hills – and are all too disappointed with the results. It’s not until they begin to see the wide angle as a tool for getting in close to the subject, I’m talking within inches – not feet, do they begin to see the possibilities.

Once satisfied, I’ll switch to my 70-200 lens and look to limit the composition to just the flowers themselves. Here I begin looking for those ubiquitous motifs in nature, patterns of petals filling the frame, alternating colors, lines and form, positive and negative space. Ultimately zooming from the wide end up to 200 mm abstracting the subject as I bring the viewer to see the flower in a unique way. I’ll then put on extension tubes which allow me to focus even closer. As you abstract the elements of the flower, digital photography now allows you to “rack focus” with a middle ground f-stop, say f11, shooting several images as you move the shallow depth of field marching towards the back of the composition, knowing later you will combine them into one image with a sharp focus throughout.

Ravensthroat River, Northwest Territories, Canada by Art Wolfe

What about wind and movement? Use it! Sure you can purchase a “Plant Clamp” to hold the flower steady in a light breeze but why not use the movement to your advantage just as you would with flowing water in a stream. Try longer shutter speeds to abstract the flowers to a wash of color. Even introduce your own movement by intentionally panning with the camera up, down or sideways during the exposure. You may be surprised by the results, perhaps pleased even.

Working the subject I will be changing my location, moving in closer, shooting from the side as well as directly overhead – ultimately I may even spread the legs of my tripod to where it is less than 12 inches off the ground and be lying on my side in the dirt – why? Because it’s about unique perspectives. Flowers aren’t usually photographed from directly overhead nor do most people bother to look at them from the ‘flowers’ perspective. Great images are generally not made at a comfortable standing height having just walked up to your subject!

Wildflowers Paradise Valley by Art Wolfe

Don’t wait for the sunny day to go out and look for wildflowers – your best bet is an overcast day with even lighting. A sunny day is great for a picnic, and the flowers are beautiful to look at – yet the shadows caused by the direct sun put too much contrast in the image. The strong highlights and shadows will take away from the varied hues of the flowers, as well as giving you much less information to work with when editing your videos in a tool such as Adobe Lightroom. Overcast and even rainy days are some of my favorite for flower photography. Good thing I live in Seattle!

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Technique Tuesday – Complimentary Colors: Blue & Orange


Color plays an important role in any visual art form. Along with composition, it’s one of the key elements of any great painting. Watch any film and the costumes, sets, and lighting are all designed with color in mind, meticulously planned by experts in various design specialties. Color photography is no different in situations where you can control your subject and environment, but there are complimentary colors to be found in nature as well.

Today we are looking at the color wheel with a focus on blue and orange. it’s one of the more prevalent colors found in nature, given the interaction of the sky and water in contrast to sunsets and the earthy oranges and browns of the natural world.

If you’re on a photo hunt and struggling to find a subject, consider the colors around you and how they might tell the story of a given location. Sunsets, rust, dirt, wood, leaves in the fall or the orange glow of firelight can all provide a starting point to shoot against a blue sky either directly or reflected in a local body of water. Finding splashes of color and ways to match them up against their compliment can be a fun challenge. If you’re shooting a subject such as  a model in a particular location, it can definitely pay off to scout ahead for backdrops and background elements of a certain consistent color and have them dress accordingly!

 

 

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Workshop Wednesday – Columbia River Gorge & Oregon Coast

Mid to late June is a beautiful time to visit the Pacific Northwest, and for that reason we have a pair of workshops happening here with only a few spaces remaining!

Columbia River Gorge workshop – June 14 – 17

Join Art Wolfe in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, which is arguably one of the most beautiful attractions in the Pacific Northwest! The wide range of elevation and precipitation makes the Columbia River Gorge an extremely diverse and dynamic place, and therefore the photographic opportunities are endless. Explore the Gorge with Gavriel as it transitions between temperate rainforest to dry grasslands in only 80 miles, hosting a dramatic change in scenery.

The field locations will not be limited to the scenic beauty of the Pacific Northwest, Art will also take the group to some locations that will provide opportunities to photograph abstract images as well.

We will also have 6 stop Neutral Density filters for the entire group to try out while photographing long exposures. For one portion of the worksop the group will be taken to a lesser known waterfall for night photography!

Oregon Coast Workshop – June 21 – 24

Along Oregon’s historic and scenic coast, this will be a weekend of imagination! the Oregon Coast has so much to offer with the beautiful waterfalls and ocean landscapes, as well as opportunities for unique intimate landscapes and abstracts. This workshop is slightly different than my popular “Abstract Astoria” workshop as we will focus more on the ocean and landscape photography with a hint of abstracts.

A single image can have the power to stimulate the imagination and the intellect while also telling a story that awakens the senses. Our challenge is to explore the nature of creativity itself and discover ways to bring its power to your images.

 

 

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Technique Tuesday – Art On Art!


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.

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Travel Tuesday – Art’s Travel Tips!

Now that I’m getting back to traveling, I’m reminded of all the details that come along with doing so – and some tips that can make the whole process a lot less stressful! Since it’s top of mind, I figured I would share on this #TravelTuesday!

•If you travel more than six times a year, it is worthwhile to get Global Entry, Nexus (US & Canada only) or TSA Precheck (domestic only)

•Have a detailed packing list and start packing well in advance of your trip so you have time to obtain any necessary items, such as prescriptions, before you go. Don’t forget your adapters, cables, and extra batteries for all your devices! A portable power pack is a good way to ensure you won’t run out of juice if you’re unable to charge your devices.

Check the CDC for any necessary immunizations you might need before your travels.

Check the US State Department website for any travel alerts

•Acclimatization is critical. Set your watch to the local time of your destination. Try to sleep on the plane or stay awake depending upon the time. Use earplugs, noise cancelling headphones, and eyepatches.

•Flying with expensive camera gear. Take your camera bag with the majority of your gear in the plane cabin with you. Check big, heavy lenses.

•Enroll in STEP — Smart Traveler Enrollment Program — with the State Department before your overseas trip. If you lose your passport, this will make it much easier to get a new one. Always carry a photocopy of your passport.

•Always get trip insurance. Yes, insurance is a gamble. It will add expense to your trip, but it may save you a bundle as well!

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