Though my Africa trip seems like a ages ago, I still have much to share in the form of another episode or two of “Where’s Art?”! This leg of the journey was to Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe. I had two book projects in mind when I planned to come to this location, and it did not disappoint! For a book on elephants, coming to Mana Pools was a must due to the unique flora that can be found here providing a backdrop that you just won’t see anywhere else. I also had my sights set on capturing some nighttime exposures of baobab trees silhouetted against the starry evening sky for a book that will focus on images captured in between dusk and dawn.
Though the elephants here are generally accustomed to visitors to this area, they are still wild animals – and that was proven when a mother decided to charge our group. Fortunately we were prepared and able to use the surrounding trees to our advantage and no one was hurt, but it was just one more reminder about the importance of staying alert and respecting that this is their home. Rounding out the trip were African wild dogs which were entertaining, to say the least!
Greetings! I’m headed off to Hawaii today to lead a photography retreat of EPIC proportions – but before I go I wanted to share some photos from my recent trip to the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia – part of the world’s largest archipelago – where we found, after a couple of days of searching, a social group of macaque monkeys.
As you can tell from these photos these animals are friendly, outgoing and most of all, grabby! Many of you know of the controversy surrounding the macaques of Sulawesi and photographer David Slater. I post these photos so we can all appreciate the often joyful personalities of these outgoing creatures. These are curious animals whom have no fear of the camera, mug for it, and often reach for it out of curiosity – hence the appearance of ‘selfie’ type shots. Rest assured, I was not about to trust them with my expensive equipment!
Though this trip started out with such wonderful subjects (pygmy tarsier’s included!), it was unfortunately cut short due to medical concerns. You see, back in the spring I took a trip to Chad and came away great photos of elephants and some not so great sand fly bites. If you are unfortunate enough to experience such a thing, get them treated immediately! To make a long (and not particularly pretty) story short, CDC was eventually involved despite my best efforts to treat them as recommended by my doctors back in Seattle. Given that the remainder of the trip was structured around diving opportunities, we felt it best not to tempt fate with the damp and irritation of repeatedly changing in and out of a wet suit. I’m on the mend – but I can’t stress enough how important it is to address such things immediately!
What could be better than November in Hawai’i with Art!?
We’ve had a cancellation for our Hawai’i Retreat which leaves two spaces left. If you’re looking for a special photography getaway, this is a unique opportunity to work with Art in a customized small group arrangement. Art has put together a program unique to the location with particular photo lessons in the field exploring work in a natural light art/model session, dawn to dusk landscape and star photography, abstract and fine art nature composition.
Art is packing it in with a customized seminar that will kick things off before venturing out with you into the field, putting theory into practice, under his constructive guidance. Depending on the conditions, the 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.
Not to miss out on the ‘Aloha’ experience, Art definitely plans to enjoy this small group gathering 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! He looks forward to recounting the day’s activities with the group and being around those on this trip who share his love of photographing.
The Hawai’i Photography Retreat with Art Wolfe begins November 11th. For more information, click the button below or give our office a call at 1-206-332-0993!
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!