The last stop on my Africa adventure took me to Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia. From Sossuvlei to Dead Vlei and the Skeleton Coast, Namibia provides an abundance of photographic opportunities that illustrate a cross-section of my work. The flowing dunes and the angular shapes of the gemsbok traversing them, along with the graphic silhouettes of acacia husks provide endless opportunities to experiment with composition.
I go into more detail of what makes this such a fascinating location in an upcoming edition of Where’s Art?. Episode 9 from Botswana is available as of Tuesday, and the edition covering Zimbabwe will be up next week!
I’ll be leading a photo journey here next year which is already sold out. If you’re interested in visiting this location with me, please fill out the wait list form in case a spot opens up.
The first leg of my excursion to Africa took me to Botswana; specifically Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. Although this location doesn’t feature the wildlife that everyone might expect from a trip to Africa, the bold and curious meerkat in the area came out to mug for the camera. We took to the air via helicopter to capture the vast, beautiful landscape from the sky, and visited a remote landmark revered by the local San bushmen.
Over the years trees have saved me a couple times from angry animals, and an acacia came to the rescue this time. On this, the second leg of our southern Africa trip, in Mana Pools National Park, an elephant cow got annoyed with me and we all had to take refuge. Satisfied that she proved her dominance, she wandered off after giving us the hairy eyeball for a few tense moments. No one ever says traveling with me is boring!
Aside from photographing these elephants in such an incredible environment, the wild dogs in the area were prevalent and playful. Considering a number of book projects coming up that relate to trees and night time photography, I worked with the iconic baobab trees to capture several worthy images.
To see more images from this trip and others, check out the stock site! As always virtually any image you can find here is available as a print. Just contact us with anything you find that you like.
Every successful image is comprised of several key elements that define its character: exposure, the balance and movement of the composition, the interplay of tone and color. Focal point and depth of field are critical components as well.
Picking a focal point and highlighting it with shallow depth of field makes the subject “pop“,but one risks over-revealing. Sometime the eye has nothing to do except dwell on the primary subject. Watch people in a gallery. They pass by an over-simple image in moments while an interesting composition engages them for a while.
I usually prefer to draw the eye across the frame, placing the focal point deeper in the composition. The focal point could be a strong design element, but nothing attracts the eye like brightness or a splash of vivid color.
When I construct a composition, something in the scene catches my attention. I immediately try to distill the image to its essentials, looking for anything that gets in the way of the design elements that attracted me in the first place. I feel my way toward the final composition. I don’t actually photograph each step of the journey, but I did here to illustrate the process.
I shot this series in the ruins of a temple near Angkor Wat in Cambodia. In the first image (above) we see some strong vertical lines, but nothing grabs the eye. The bits of white sky are distracting; it is almost monochromatic, which is not a virtue with this composition.
In the second image we see a Buddhist monk in orange robes in the distance. We now have our point of interest, but it’s overwhelmed by the temple, and the bright sky continues to move the eye away from the real subjects.
When in doubt, get closer. I moved in a little closer and zoomed to crop out sky above the doorway into the right. At the same time the sun on the floor is almost removed. Our monk is now a little larger, but there are still too many distractions from the main composition in the form of the remaining sky and foreground.
This time I got a lot tighter, driving extraneous elements out of the frame. (Cambodia4). The sky and bright triangle of light on the floor have been removed and there’s no question that the monk is the center of interest. However, the composition has become too symmetrical, too static for my taste. This is an acceptable image that I want to push a little farther.
This photograph is well-balanced, and all those bothersome highlights are gone. The eye jumps to the monk but then there is more to see in the forms of the pillars. The monk is looking out of the frame, which is a minor issue that I could tolerate.
These final two images last two images work the best for me. They have strong graphic elements and can be read a number of ways. Although the monk still draws the eye, the bias relief of the dancing apsara (supernatural women, the wives of Indra’s court servants) is the first thing to draw the eye. Then, the bright orange forces your attention across the frame. Ordinarily, the bright vertical strip of sun lit sandstone would bother me, but in this case it seems like a border between the past and present and accentuates the verticals of the temple’s pillars. The monk seems a little crowded in the first photograph so I gave him a little more room in the final image.
I’ve had the fortune of spending these past few weeks traveling to several locations in Africa with great company, and I’m excited to bring you new photos from the first leg of my journey. Our first location was the Makgadikgadi pan in Botswana. Curious meerkats came to mug for the camera and the locals gathered in traditional cultural garb led by their shaman. We took to the sky for aerials of the salt pan, and photographed the ancient Baobab trees. I couldn’t have been happier with the variety to be found here, and it was a great first stop on this adventure.
Travel tip! I experienced technical difficulties with my laptop to begin this trip, and had to pick up another one on the fly. It was an inconvenience to be sure. My advice to anyone undertaking such an involved trip that keeps you in remote areas for extended periods of time is to consider bringing along a smaller less expensive backup laptop so you’re not simply out of luck when it comes to editing and organizing your photos. It would be a shame to invest the finances and time into such a trip and have a simple piece of hardware impact your productivity. Thanks only to my wonderful connections here was I able to continue to work without a hitch.
Stay tuned for upcoming photos from Namibia and Zimbabwe, as well as episodes of Where’s Art? from these locations!
The Eagle Hunters of western Mongolia are a proud and hearty people that have an immense sense of culture. They also practice a particular form of falconry in which they hunt with eagles. My goals for photographing them within the context of their environment were three-fold: convey the expansive landscape of the region, feature the power of the eagle, and highlight the traditional dress that is ever fading in the historical cultures of the world today.
1.) This first photo establishes where are, and our starting point. A pair of eagle hunters traverse the open landscape bordering western Mongolia and Kazakhstan with their avian assistant with horse in tow. While it does show the landscape, there is little drama and the other goals are not present.
2.) Here you can see I move in close to my subjects; I’m using a 16-35 wide angle lens which allows me to keep the three subjects in prominence while also capturing a dramatic background. The lighting looks a bit flat in this shot, but up close I am able to find better results. We keep the horse out of the shot – we don’t want competition for our focus – the men and their eagle.
3.) In my third image, which is at a right angle to the direction of the sun, I have attached a polarizer to my wide angle. You can see how much more dramatic the light appears. This image also highlights the problems of working with dramatic light – very harsh shadows were cast every time the eagle moved its wings.
4.) The wing of the eagle is now down, but the man that’s controlling the eagle is casting a shadow on his assistant. As my goal is to bring this culture into the light and share it, it’s not an ideal result to have half of my subjects in shadow.
5.) I decided to get lower and shoot upwards to bring in some of the openness of the sky in hopes of creating more of a story than in the previous shots. Always keep experimenting within your photographic goals!
6.) The result is that I don’t have nearly the problems of the previous images with the shadows. This is a very satisfying image to me and meets the goals I set for myself in terms of capturing the men, animal, and landscape. This is where some may stop, thinking they’ve captured the shot they are looking for. In an effort to see what else is achievable, I begin working the scene a bit more.
7.) I’m standing at eye level again with the hunters, but the problem with this shot is that the man closet to me is staring straight at me. I like to maintain anonymity when I am taking pictures, and would prefer that the subject is not staring straight into my camera.
8.) I ask him to look straight ahead, but now with movement of doing so, it’s the eagle mugging for the camera. This isn’t necessarily a bad composition, but I would prefer the eagle in a different position.
9.) I move a little bit further around and discover I love the way the light is falling across the main eagle hunter and his beautiful fox fur hat. However, as you can see, I have moved in too close to get all three subjects in the frame.
10.) I decide to back off a little bit, and now I am getting what I am looking for. I love the fact that the man in the middle is kind of looking my way without staring straight into the camera, the assistant is looking off to his left, and the eagle is conversely looking off in the opposite direction. There is a nice balance to this image, with no shadows on their faces. In addition, the eagle has nice light on his eye. This to me is a winner.
11.) I also like this last photo because it has a nice sense to it; the eagle is looking further opposite now, and is even more absorbed in what is going on in the landscape, rather than in what the photographer is busy trying to achieve. Both of these final two images are very strong photos for me, and I am very happy with the results.
A good balance of compositon, dramatic light, openness of the land, traditional wardrobes – it all comes together in a very nice way in these last two images!
As far as Hawai’i goes, the Big Island is Everything!
White, black and green sand beaches, waterfalls, rainforest, rainbows, mountains, sunsets, sea life, small towns, rich Hawaiian history, and uniquely, an active volcano. The Big Island is a siren beckoning, especially with winter closing in and I’m very excited for this trip!
2018 is going to be a very busy year, and I just can’t find a lot of time in my schedule for the usual number of workshops. Knowing that, I’ve made sure this last workshop of 2017 is a special one. Working with our local support in Hawai’i, I’ve put together a more intimate photography experience concentrating on the east side of the Big Island. Joining this retreat is photographer and friend, Bruce Omori, a local and expert on the area – a volcano photographer who monitors the activity daily. Together, Bruce and myself will respond to conditions to seek out the best opportunities whether it’s photographing from the ocean to capture the fresh lava pour, dusk or dawn lava activity on land, or exploring the abstract and mysterious nature of the hardened lava fields. There’s so much more – but unless you know where to go, you can spend a whole lot of time just looking at lava rock while driving around. On this trip, our local team will be at the ready to take this small group to planned destinations.
I’m packing this trip with extras, including a customized seminar that will kick things off before venturing out with you into the field and putting theory into practice under constructive guidance. Depending on the conditions, our team will be poised to make the most of photographing all the scenic riches of the island’s seascapes, sea life, waterfalls, rainforests and lush tropical forests with a surprise or two of special photo lessons arranged.
Not to miss out on the ‘Aloha’ experience, I definitely plan to enjoy this small group gathering by extending an invitation to the participants to share in relaxing dinner outings ranging from casual to ‘must try’, and most definitely with those delicious Hawaiian cocktails! I look forward to recounting the day’s activities with the group, and being around those whom share my love of photography.
While there are only a few spots left, we encourage you to sign up for the wait list even if it fills up, in case of cancellations.
I can’t wait to see the spectacular photos I know everyone will come away with!
Icebergs and ice are an increasingly important topic in recent years, as climate change is becoming more of a resounding, everyday issue. On a recent trip to Antarctica I developed a personal project of capturing the ice in as artistic of a way as possible. During the day, cruise ship passengers disembarked in Zodiacs to go ashore and view penguins. I have photographed a lot of penguins, so my mission became the ice that was floating in the vicinity. On this particular trip I asked a Zodiac driver to take me over to a distant iceberg that I could see towering over all of the other icebergs. It looked almost like a cathedral, standing out there over a 150 feet above its surrounding neighbors.
This first image shows the dramatic angle of the pinnacle of ice as it’s surrounded by smaller icebergs. As usual I circled my subject and look at it from all angles before settling on an image.
As we travel around the iceberg it takes on a slightly different shape. This new vantage point allows me to incorporate more of the surrounding icebergs in the foreground.
Here I am able to incorporate a foreground “bergie bit” (little piece of iceberg) that is found floating around its larger cousins. I am using a 16-35mm wide angle zoom lens and a polarizer to compose this image. My main objective is to balance the foreground ice with the iceberg in the distance.
I put on my 70-200mm zoom and circled back around to the location where I captured my initial composition in image 1. I chose to shoot a vertical to emphasize the vertical sweep of this dramatic iceberg.
I noticed a distant iceberg with an arch and directed the Zodiac to it. As we headed over to it I put my wide angle zoom back on. I circled this iceberg looking for a point of view in which to include with my initial perspective.
This composition reveals the first iceberg in a very beautiful way. I also love the way the green arch surrounds the distant blue icebergs, and how the wide angle gives the image a nice perspective by incorporating some of the blue green ice just below the surface.
I decided to go back to my 70-200 to try to pull in that distant iceberg. This lens allowed me to compress the scene while still keeping the strong foreground element of the arched iceberg in my composition. However, because I am further away now, you can see the blue sky above the arched iceberg. I have lost the drama that I had with the last image.
I zoomed in to try and eliminate the sky from the previous shot,but in doing so I have lost the top of the distant iceberg.
This is my favorite image in the series. It conveys the drama of the arch, it frames the iceberg in the distance perfectly, and it has a nice sense of color with the blues and greens.
The result is 3 or 4 distinctly different compositions of the same iceberg, which demonstrates how perseverance and a change of perspective can yield a stronger set of images.
These unique perspectives are the kinds of things I’m always looking for in any location I visit. To learn more, check out my workshops page and explore them yourself! We have a couple exciting events coming up – join me next week in my home state of Washington and photograph the lush Olympic forest at the Lake Quinault Photography Retreat, and in November I will be leading a photography workshop to explore Hawaii from new and exciting perspectives. See you there!
This time around, I’m on the coast of eastern Greenland photographing the austere landscape, ice in it’s many forms, and the local wildlife. You may be surprised to know that in my 4-plus-decade career, this is my first trip here! Fortunately I’ve done my research and the location didn’t disappoint. Don’t forget to check out the blog post and stock site for more photos from this location. Time is also running out on our print sale, where you can save 20% on just about any image in my collection!
My staff was thrilled that I finally was traveling to a new location: the world’s largest island, Greenland. Our Luminous Landscape group met in Svalbard, and from there sailed across the misty Greenland Sea and down the eastern coast of Northeast Greenland National Park. We were able to make Zodiac landings to explore the rugged landscape that was already turning autumn copper and red. The immense icebergs were the true rock stars of the journey, and we felt dwarfed by their stories-tall spires. They are dangerous as well; if you are too close when one rolls over -and they do- they could swamp and kill a boatload of people. In the final days of the trip I was able to capture some the most spectacularly perfect reflections I have ever seen – truly a fantasy world of ice.