I recently sat down once again with Parimal Deshpande for an episode of Earth Is Our Witness – in which I was the subject rather than the Artist-In-Residence. We’ll be releasing the episode in its entirety this holiday season. Until then, enjoy this segment on photographing wildlife in Africa as I discuss a variety of subjects ranging from conservation to technique – and stay tuned for more as we approach the release of Wild Lives!
The following is an abbreviated excerpt from The New Art of Photographing Nature.
The first decision every photographer must make is simply what to photograph. The best place to start, of course, is finding what appeals to you. If finding subject matter to photograph is easy, making it stand out is harder. Our first impulse when something catches our eye is to simply point the camera, center the subject, and shoot the picture. No surprise, then, that when we look at it later, we are all too often disappointed and wonder, “Why did I take that?”
The novelist and critic Henry James wrote, “In art, economy is always beauty.”
In a landscape, there is often a glut of information. For that reason, artists who sketch in the field will often take a piece of cardboard with a rectangle cut from the middle. By holding it
up to frame various sections in the scene, they can isolate what has potential to make a strong composition.
This can also be a valuable aid for photographers who have trouble visualizing the potential field of view of different focal length lenses. The closer you hold the hole in the board to your eye, the more it approximates the field of view of a wide-angle lens. The farther away you hold it, the more it resembles what a telephoto lens might see.
Isolating the subject is the first step in making a strong composition. This can be achieved in a number of ways-coming in close, backing up, looking down, looking up, changing the direction
of the light on the subject, waiting for another time of day, blurring the action or stopping the action, using selective focus to blur unwanted elements, putting a light subject against a dark background. All of these are potential creative solutions that We will address throughout this book.
Isolating your emotional response to the subject may be more complicated and take time and practice, but it is an important step for an artist. If you can analyze why you feel drawn to make a picture, and work to express the feeling clearly, chances are someone looking at it will ah respond with more than passing interest.
The image gallery above are all examples from my travels to Kenya in which I wanted to focus more on the emotions, textures, and compositions of isolated subjects and families. I’ll be heading back to Kenya in January – join me and make your own memories!
This past spring I returned to Moab, Utah with a great group of workshop participants that were graciously receptive to my teaching goals in such locations – shooting the unobvious! It’s easy to come to a place like this and shoot the arches and other well-known landmarks. I can recite ad nauseum the camera settings I might use while we sit around waiting for perfect light and re-create the same shot you’ll find on postcards as you head out of town. That’s not why I come here and certainly not why I choose to lead workshops here.
Places like Moab, Astoria, and other significant locations around the country and the world are attractions for a reason, however— so I recommend people get those shots if they want them, of course. In these popular locations it’s much easier to find lodging and great food versus some remote and obscure spot on the map, so they make great places to hold these workshops. However there is so much more to be seen in the details, reflections, and abstracts to create new and unique one-of-a-kind images as well, and that’s where I like to focus my time and my teaching.
Enjoy the video, and check out my upcoming workshop offerings!
Grand Teton National Park ranks among my favorite locations for capturing spectacular fall color. The balance of the massive Teton Range hedged by the beautiful golds, oranges and reds of the foreground flora provides a number of distinct opportunities to capture this juxtaposition of stone and verdure.
Last year a group of my associates were blessed with several perfect sunrise sessions, each with their own unique characteristics to explore. The gorgeous photos in this gallery were captured my my assistant Libby Pfeiffer – I think she got great shots! For a photographer, mornings always come early, and not always easily – yet when the click of your shutter echoes in the quiet morning hours you forget all about missing sleep and are captured in the exhilaration of the moment.
I’ll be leading a Grand Teton workshop next fall, and If this is a location you’ve wanted to visit or if capturing pristine fall color is on your agenda, I highly encourage you to sign up and join our group. I always enjoy seeing and helping our participants push their boundaries and each other to create unique and beautiful images. On top of that, the friends and stories you create along the way will last a lifetime.
Hope to see you there this fall!
I’m happy to announce that Travels to the Edge Season 2 is now available for streaming on my Vimeo On-Demand channel – just in time, as DVDs are getting harder and harder to find. Check out fan-favorite episodes on Mongolia, Iceland, Australia and much more! To celebrate upcoming 2023 international workshops, I’m offering up two full episodes to watch completely free! Just sign up for my email list – don’t worry, I hate spam also!
Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge Season 2 Episode 1 – Japan: Hokkaido & Honshu
The Image many of us have of Japan is congested and kinetic. But Japan has a wild side. In winter, beyond its crowded cities, the country delivers quiet, unexpected natural beauty. In the second season opener, Art Wolfe ventures north to the remote region of Hokkaido to view iconic red-crested cranes; south to the mountains to film the mischievous macaque snow monkey; and journeys on to the sacred temples of Mt. Fuji and Koyosan on a photographic pilgrimage.
Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge Season 2 Episode 10 – The Kingdom of Bhutan
Known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”, Bhutan has survived in isolation for more than a thousand years. As this enlightened Buddhist kingdom greets the 21st century, its greatest challenge is to preserve its soul. In episode ten, Art Wolfe finds a photographer’s nirvana of mountainside monasteries, sacred festivals and chanting monks in an environmentally and spiritually progressive nation.
A great way to break up the ennui of flying is to play around with aerial photography. Get yourself a window seat, a camera, and enjoy all the amazing landscapes Earth has to offer. I’ve recently been doing this more and more and I am loving it! Google Earth, step aside, Wolfe Earth is now a thing.
But seriously, you can get some great abstract shots and fancy yourself a spy from time to time. This last trip took me over the pole so I was able to get some images of ice break up in the Arctic Ocean north of Greenland, Russian farmlands, the east coast of the Caspian Sea, and the Alborz mountain range in Iran. While on the plane I do set my clock to local destination and try to get some sleep, but it can be very difficult, so I find this to be a very absorbing and intriguing distraction.
Two spots are available to join me in Detroit, Michigan in just a couple of weeks for the first ever Abstract Detroit workshop!
Detroit, Michigan is hard to define these days. Restoration projects abound in the urban sprawl that faced decline for many years. Nature preserves and neighborhoods have sprung up along the way, bringing green vitality to what many think of as a grey urban landscape. Modern commercial districts and the arts combine to form a growing down-town, feeling right at home amidst the array of architectural styles that define many middle-American cities.
Our home base will be the beautiful and modern Aloft Detroit at the David Witney, a modern hotel with every amenity providing the foundation for our retreat together. Over the next four days our explorations will provide opportunities to capture images unique to each participant.
I’m often asked by the curious and uninitiated to briefly explain what makes an Art Wolfe workshop unique to any other photography class you could attend. The answer is as simple as it is complicated – I simply want to change the way you see! I feel I’m uniquely qualified with a background in Fine Art and Art History to ensure you get the most growth out of your participation.
Click here for more details and to register. As the theme of today’s post states – there are just two spots left and it’s only two weeks away – don’t hesitate to get signed up and experience the many complimentary aspects of Abstract Detroit!
You never know what you will find when wandering around a city with a camera in hand. When light and subject and circumstance come together, magic can occur.
In this particular case, the facts behind the shot are nothing special. Workers had been putting gravel onto the parking lot of a restaurant in Panjim, Goa, which kicked a lot of dust into the air. Pedestrians were simply going about their business. However, when backlit by a late sun, the scene became street art–performance art. The activity of putting gravel down created an amazing atmosphere for a nicely layered image.
Standing back from the scene, I used a 70–200mm zoom, which enabled me to shoot a series of shots without interfering with the people so that they would not pay attention to my presence. I positioned myself looking directly into the late afternoon light so that the dust kicked into the air would be filled with light. I was not so much concerned about capturing details and faces of the people, as much as I was with the positions of the bodies within the frame. I kept shooting and reframing the shot as the scene changed every couple of seconds when the workers threw on the next load of gravel and different people came through the scene. I love the layering effect of the light and dust that comes from the backlight.
Photo tip: Dust, rain, humidity, fog, haze all add dimension to a scene when shot with backlight, light behind the conditions. It creates atmosphere and interesting changes in tonality and light, as well as creating layers in depth. Be careful that bright atmospheric conditions do not cause your camera to underexpose the scene.
Camera & settings used: Canon EOS-1Ds, EF 70–200mm F2.8 lens, f/7.1 for 1/160 sec., ISO 100
Excerpt from Photographs from the Edge.
I’m pleased to be joining B&H Photo Video and the National Parks At Night organization to discuss my most recent book Night On Earth in a couple weeks. How might you catch my talk and many MANY more insights into photographing between dusk and dawn? I’m glad you asked!
The Night Photography Summit
More than 25 presenters teaching over 40 classes and participating in 3 panel discussions on the subject of night photography
February 4 – 6, 2022 – with access for all participants to all recordings of the summit presentations through February 7, 2023!
Everything will be online – find out more information on the official Night Photo Summit Page by clicking here.
You’re a photographer of any skill level who wants to up your knowledge of shooting at night, astrophotography, and much much more!
I also have a number of new workshops being added in the coming months. It’s been tough to navigate the calendar with how fast things change in terms of COVID, but my staff is getting quite good at it and we take every precaution. We may not be able to buy happiness, but we can purchase a little peace of mind in the form of travel insurance and I highly recommend utilizing it, especially during these *deep breath* unprecedented times.
I’ve been busy lately – leading workshops, working on books, and of course working in the yard. That being said I’ve missed Tequila Time and being able to connect with everyone live. While logistically speaking, having a weekly live stream simply isn’t feasible, it’s my goal to bring you monthly stories and lessons from the previous 30 days of shooting and my take on current events as they relate to travel and photography.
Returning for the inaugural episode will be Earth Is Our Witness host Parimal Deshpande. I have a quick video treat from my trip to Iceland to share and comment on, and lessons from that same trip to share – and more! Tell your friends, hope to see you there!