Currently I’m on the road traveling, but have some photos to share from our visit to Romania. While there, I was able to photograph the Bear Dancers whom parade through the streets of villages every year between Christmas and New Years in their bear-skin costumes. It was a privilege to photograph them in this way long before they will officially don the outfits.
This ceremony is a joyfulcelebration belying the fearsome appearance of the traditional costumes and demeanor of the dancers within. It is a tradition intended to scare away evil spirits – including an accompaniment of drums, flutes, and singing – with beginnings that have been difficult to pin-point due to sparse documentation of the region’s history.
To begin with, we assemble the performers! Dressed in a red military uniform, the “Bear Tamer” leads his group of dancers while a wool-clad shepherd stands with the musicians in blue and white garb. A more overcast day may have been ideal, but you must work with the circumstances you are given. By closing in close on the group of dancers themselves, we can put the focus directly on the savage costumes.
Here, a young girl peaks out from below her mask, giving us a great opportunity to capture a similar shot of the group, but with this reveal adding an extra sense of context to the photograph. The contrast of her face among the fierce, snarling bears only adds to the story.
Again, I want to isolate and emphasize the costumes and the dancers themselves without any other outside information informing the story – the subjects here are the elaborate costumes, their muzzles silhouetted against the blue sky, and the shadowed faces of the dancers themselves.
Of course, these ARE dancers after all – so action shots are necessary. Capturing the dancers in their furs against the rich evergreen background of Romanian landscape ties them together nicely. As complimentary colors, the rich reds of their costumes stand out against the forest green.
Here we focus on the procession of bears as they might appear in their journey through the village, usually ending up in a town square for further celebration. Whenever you are given an opportunity like this, take full advantage of it and get all the shots you possibly can – I’ll have more up soon along with the rest of our haul from Romania!
I recently returned from my second trip to Eastern Greenland in the last two years and once again it lived up to expectations. From ship to Zodiac, there was a lot to capture in between the wide seascapes and ancient detail in the upheaval of rock formations.
The bedrock of Greenland is some of the oldest on the planet, up to 3.8 billion years old and it shows in the tortuous folds and striations around the ice-free edges of the island. One of the most fascinating spots is called the Skaergaard intrusion, a relatively young formation of igneous rock extruded from the Earth 55 million years ago. Its layers, texture, and line make for a photographer’s dream.
The aesthetics and geological history is all well and good – but the REAL question is, can you find the bacon?!
Wildlife photography can be a frustrating pursuit at times, but you roll with it! In August I had the opportunity to photograph sea wolves in the temperate rainforest of Canada. It rained and rained and rained and the wolves made themselves scarce. Apparently they had moved their den site to another area, but I am pleased with the fleeting images I was able to create.
The surrounding landscape is so varied, from lapping water to rocky shoreline to impenetrable forest that it creates an extraordinarily lush backdrop to these elusive wolves. It was important to me to include the context of the environment, as you don’t find wolves in these kinds of surroundings often. Portraits and ‘hero’ shots of animals can be important to illustrate their personality and demeanor, but may not always inform you of what that creature’s environment and life might be like to the extent of capturing them in the vastness of their natural element.
Think about context and story when you photograph wildlife – and you’ll often come away with a winner!
Just two spaces remain in my Lake Quinault Photography Retreat coming up very soon! Fall in Washington state is gorgeous, and what better way to celebrate the season than to be part of an intimate group of photographers exploring the lush Olympic forest? This is a location that I can never seem to get enough of as far as photographic opportunities go. I always leave feeling like there is so much more to explore, and this exclusive small group setting is my opportunity to share what I see with you in hopes I can pass on four decades of knowledge to you.
1) Check the Olympic National Park off your bucket list. Do you have a National Parks passport? Maybe it’s time to get one and start visiting the sites of “America’s Best Idea”!
2) Check a workshop with Art Wolfe off your bucket list. A UNESCO world heritage site combined with a world renowned photographer, who also happens to be a great teacher and inspiration? Check!
3) The trees. The temperate rainforest has a living standing biomass which may be the highest anywhere in the world. And it is stunningly gorgeous.
4.) The Luxurious and historic Lake Quinault Lodge is a fantastic home base. We welcome your partners to join us for meals and critiques at the end of our workshop activities.
5) Assistants. I am accompanied by terrific assistants to assure that your photographic experience is as rich as your surroundings. The Quinault retreat is manned by my workshop coordinator Libby whom is also familiar with the area and will be on hand to help assist the participants.
6) Friendship! I don’t know how many friendships have formed as a result of these workshops in particular, but my workshops seem to bring like-minded people together many of whom end up traveling with one and other again and again.
7.) Beautiful images make beautiful prints! Make room on your walls for some new images from a lush and vibrant location.
8) Water. Water defines Olympic National Park. There’s a reason why the trees are massive and the moss lush; why the rivers are highways of life; why the glaciers are there to sculpt the massive peaks.
9) Wildlife. We may get lucky and see the huge Roosevelt elk that make the Olympics home.
10) Adventuresome learning. I work hard to make sure everyone comes away from these multiday workshops feeling better about and more enriched by their photography skills.
Again, only two spaces remain – Sign up now and I’ll see YOU in a few weeks!
I love bears! It is such a privilege to be able to see these intensely intelligent mammals every summer. A bear I photographed as a cub several years ago is now an accomplished mother of three.
This year the salmon were late to arrive, but arrive they did and in great numbers. Every year is a bit different, and though I have commented on the numbers of cubs in the past, it seemed like this year was a bumper crop. Or maybe I was just photographing the same bear over and over and over…I can’t help it if she liked the camera!
As many of you are aware, this glorious region of the planet is under threat. 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. Please make your thoughts known to your congresspeople.
Having missed the “Eclipse across America” I scheduled a trip to Chile to catch the recent total eclipse down there. I have shot eclipse moments in the past but this time armed with Canon’s new lightweight 600, a 2x and 50mp 5D… I was not only able to get the shot I came for – but cropping in you can even see solar flares along the edge of the sun!
I spent some time down in South America recently, a trip that was initially conceived to photograph the solar eclipse in Chile but also turned into a fantastic opportunity to photograph birds and other wildlife in Ecuador with a focus on capturing tiny, agile hummingbirds.
There are numerous sources online you can go to to find technical information on shooting slight and/or speedy subjects such as these, so I won’t bore you with technical specs except to say that my photos were captured with a Canon 5D Mark IV, a 100-400 lens, and a shutter speed of 1/160th of a second. Instead, I’d like to focus on my approach to capturing these and other animals that can be hard to get a handle on.
There were two things I didn’t want to end up doing in this situation – chasing elusive birds around with my lens all day long, or firing off a bunch of shots in hopes of coming away with something good after spending hours and hours editing and cropping photos.
Instead, I took the approach of spending plenty of time observing these creatures long before I attempted to take any shots. I recognized patterns in their behavior and how they interacted with their surroundings and each other. This allowed me to anticipate their movements and come away with more focused and intentional shots rather than just releasing the shutter and hoping for the best. Instead of chasing, I let them enter the frame and do the work for me. In the end, I came away with shots I’m happy with, and didn’t have to sort through too many duds to get there.
The summer is a spectacular time to visit Glacier Bay – the weather is usually good and the plentiful wildlife here is active, and the location has so much to offer anywhere from portraits of animals to the vast and majestic glacier-bound landscape. It’s also a busy time for tourism, so if you plan to visit in this most photo-op rich time of year, make sure you set your plans early!
This trip offered plenty of variety as usual, and I was excited to use my somewhat recently acquired canon 600mm lens here, which has served me well thus far. humpback whales, Steller sea lions, and bald eagles were among the usual suspects.
Enjoy the photos! Check out the NPS page to plan your visit, and keep an eye on my events page for future trips here with me!
With a few extra days to spare, I met up with some friends in Yosemite. I was excited because there was no moon, but unfortunately, the clouds rolled in. I was able to get a few decent shots of stars and star-trails, but the most interesting nighttime image in this group is one that shows the climbers on El Capitan lit up like fireflies (final shot).
A few tips for shooting for the stars! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself):
As far as equipment goes, in most cases you wont need anything special. Most of my shots end up being between 20-30 seconds in length. If you wish to shoot longer exposures you may need to use an intervalometer. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways as an excuse to link my preferred band – you’ll need a tripod. Finally, your favorite wide angle capable lens to capture as much of the sky as possible.
Do your research! Find locations that have minimal light pollution. Here’s a handy map I came across. Checking moon phases is a must as well. The time period around a new moon is your best bet – you’ll never know how truly bright a full moon can be until you’re trying to shoot the stars! As mentioned above, a cloudy sky can also pose challenges. Ideally speaking you’ll find a place away from population centers on a clear night with the moon nowhere to be found, or at least in it’s most obscure phase.
As far as individual camera settings go, it’s impossible to give specific numbers because it will largely depend on the above conditions and the specific gear you’re working with. Most of my night shots fall into the ƒ/2.8 – ƒ/4 range and a focal length between 24-40 mm, with an exposure time of about 25 seconds. If you want me to take a stab at a starting point, 24mm and 25 seconds at ƒ/2.8 is probably a safe bet to give you at least enough information to make the proper adjustments.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as photo tips go for shooting at night – but my garden needs me! For more information, check out CreativeLive – they have a few helpful courses on the subject!
In spite of the evening cloud cover which thwarted our star photography, we had a great time in the Utah canyon lands near Moab. Studying and staring at all the rock formations is like looking at shifting clouds–how many faces and forms can you see? This is an excellent place to put your artistic eye into action, capturing graphic images of shadowed rocky columns silhouetted against a bright blue sky, or using the natural textures, lines and layers of the landscape to lead your viewer through your shot.
Overall this was a fantastic trip; it’s always humbling to visit such a massive wide-open landscape! Enjoy the photos!