Not even the government can shut down Yellowstone! This vast volcanic caldera has always delivered photographically for me. I headed out with some close friends and in a few short days were able to photograph wolves, coyotes, bison, otters, and two horns, big & prong. I caught one otter rolling and gamboling in the snow and sliding across the ice of the Yellowstone River; and there was an energetic young ram who put on quite a show leaping back and forth across a rocky hillside.
Enjoy the photos – more to come soon from Japan. It’s just days away, but two spaces have just opened up. There is also one spot remaining to join me on a trip to India in March to photograph the Holi festival as well as tigers – grab it before it’s gone!
Much has been made of the Kumbh Mela lately because it is such an extraordinary event – a mass Hindu pilgrimage, largest in the world. Each Kumbh, tens of millions of pilgrims descend upon one of four Indian cities to celebrate and bathe in sacred rivers.
The location for the Kumbh Mela rotates each time, roughly every three years, with smaller celebrations occurring at each city during various off-years. These dates are dictated by the Vikram Samvat, or historical Hindu calendar.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting during this spectacular event multiple times throughout my career:
2001 – Allahabad
This visit to Kumbh Mela ended up producing one of my most popular images – Spiritual Journey.
This occasion was a “Maha” or “Great” Kumbh Mela – over 120 million people attended!
If you’re ever able to attend this historic spiritual event, it’s well worth the trip to witness the spirituality and dedication of the pilgrims who attend. Though popularity and exposure has risen over recent years, it’s a sacred event that exemplifies spirituality through the dedication and sacrifice. Rarely seen in the public eye, the Kumbh Mela offers a rare chance to witness the emergence of the sadhus, or holy men, who spend most of their lives in isolated meditation and deprivation who come and further display their dedication through discomfort as they bathe in the melted glacial waters of their sacred rivers.
An upcoming Ardh Kumbh Mela takes place this year in Allahabad (officially known as Prayagraj), and the next Kumbh Mela will happen in 2022 at Haridwar.
The Lake Quinault Retreat that we have put together is fast becoming one of my most popular workshops. The small-group setting in conjunction with accommodations at the esteemed and historic Lake Quinault Lodge sets the stage for the quintessential Pacific Northwest experience in the lush Quinault Rain Forest. I’ve been visiting this location for many years, and yet I always find new experiences and subjects to focus on. There’s simply never enough time! And this is specifically why you visit with an expert – my thorough knowledge of the area will allow us to adjust our shooting plans on the fly, whether it be for weather conditions or simply the group’s desire to explore the various features of this location.
For a limited time we are offering an Early Bird discount on this retreat – save a few bucks and treat yourself to an engaging, instructive get-away in this iconic location on the Olympic Peninsula. Couples are welcome on this trip as well, so if you’d like to roll your photographic excursion into a get-away with a partner, they are welcome to join us for critiques and meals.
Since they are a niche piece of equipment, not everyone is familiar with what exactly a tilt-shift lens is and what they are used for. Admittedly, I’ve only used them sparingly in my career. Speaking in simple terms, a tilt-shift lens is a lens that allows the optics to tilt and rotate in relation to the image sensor on your camera.
When you take a photo with a standard lens, your lens and the sensor create planes of the same angle. At a wide aperture, everything in front of and behind your focus point will gradually become more out of focus. Using a tilt-shift lens, you can achieve more control over what is or is not in focus by having greater control of your focusing planes, therefore keeping more of the image both in and out of focus, depending on what you’re looking for. It should be noted that there is no auto-focus available on T/S lenses.
You can use this flexibility to achieve a number of desired outcomes. Although on short notice prior to my trip my Canon rep was unable to get me the lens, I was able to rent the Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L MACRO from borrowlenses.com and use to great effect while photographing a king penguin colony on South Georgia Island. By tilting the lens down, you’re essentially moving the plane of lens to be closer to the angle of the the ground and in effect, widening what falls into the range of focus. This allows you to utilize some of the benefits of a relatively lower aperture while still achieving a great deal of detail.
This is just one use and effect achievable with a tilt-shift lens. Even if you’re not familiar with their use, it’s likely you’ve seen photos or even video utilizing the concept. In portrait photography, where a longer lens is ideal to bring attention to the subject and blur the background, a tilt-shift lens can be used to use such a lens in a tight space. In architecture, having greater control over your image plane can be used to combat the distortion that often happens to parallel lines. If you’ve ever seen a photo of a cityscape that looks more like a scale model than an actual city – that’s a tilt-shift lens in action!
I’ll be heading to Japan in February with Gavriel Jecan and no more than 8 other travelers for a special photographic journey. Very limited spaces have recently become available – here are 10 reasons to claim them!
1. Japan in winter is one of the most majestic locations you could ever imagine.
2. Take a tub with the charming Snow Monkeys
No, you don’t have to strip down and commune with the macaques. But this is an amazing photographic opportunity: these furry primates come down from the pine and oak forests and for a couple of hours a day they hang around a natural hot spring where you can photograph from within inches without interrupting their behavior.
3. Explore the wilderness that is Hokkaido.
Hokkaido reminds me a bit of Alaska, full of forests of birch, pine and fir with a back drop of beautiful volcanic mountains.
4. Dance with the endangered Red-crowned Cranes
Leave the dancing to the cranes. These elegant birds have been symbolized in Japanese culture for thousands of years due to their grace and beauty.
5. Fight over fish with the massive Steller’s Sea Eagles
Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of our own sushi to eat! These majestic eagles don’t want to share anyway.
6. Whoop it up with the cacophonous Whooper Swans
Overwintering from Siberia, these swans congregate in the thermally heated waters of Hokkaido’s lakes, making for ethereal, misty photographs.
7. Take a break from nature and explore buzzing Tokyo
8. Experiential learning at its best. It’s my hope that the lessons you learn on this photographic journey will be referenced on your travel photography adventures in the future!
9. You will be traveling in a small group of 8 participants. Other tour operators are a minimum of 12 or more, so you will get far more one-on-one time.
10. Photograph under the tutelage of one of the world’s premier nature photographers and take full advantage of your time spent in Japan!
On the heels of spending time at South Georgia Island & the Falklands, I headed off from Chile to eastern India. After a day to rest we departed Kolkata for Nagaland in the northeast and photograph the colorful Hornbill festival, where the region’s many tribes gather to celebrate their culture, art, athleticism, and much more. The cloudless skies and throng of festival-goers made for a frenetic and challenging environment to photograph in, but I did come away with many of the shots I was seeking.
From there we went north to Kaziranga National Park where we were treated to dozens of Rhinos and an abundance of other wildlife including elephants, water buffalo, great hornbill, and more – and then to Kanha in search of tigers. Unfortunately during the time we had allotted to seek them out, a cold heavy rain fell and kept them mostly out of view. We were, however, treated to the playful Indian wild dogs and other denizens of the area.
Enjoy the photos, but most importantly – Happy Holidays! Ill be spending mine with friends in Thailand, before finally heading home to Seattle for the first time in nearly a month and a half. . . and then it’s off to the next adventure!
Despite it’s cold, unwelcoming climate, South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic is one of my favorite places on earth. A remote, hundred-mile whaleback of rock, South Georgia Island resides in the Southern Ocean, more than eight hundred miles southeast of the Falkland Islands. It features glacier-clad mountains rising two vertical miles above the sea. South Georgia is as wild as it gets, hosting one of the largest concentrations of wildlife anywhere. Over four hundred thousand pairs of king penguins walk the beaches and swim in the frigid blue ocean. Seals, albatross, and even reindeer (imported for meat by long-gone Norwegian whalers) also inhabit this isolated island. I used a wide-angle lens to photograph austere landscapes, intimate plant studies, and endearing animal behavior in this wildlife oasis.
On a tiny island near the coast of South Georgia Island, a courting male albatross bonds with it’s potential lifelong mate. The wandering albatross, with an eleven-foot wingspan, is clearly king of ocean birds, but overfishing and destructive longline nets threaten it’s survival in southern oceans. Some nets stretch up to sixty miles and snare fish and birds indiscriminately.
An adolescent king penguin challenges reindeer crossing through a penguin rockery on South Georgia Island. Long gone European brought reindeer to the island as a dietary alternative to whale meat. Reindeer herds continue to roam through the remote island.
Forty-pound king penguins line the shores of South Georgia Island. They are on their way to the rockery where territorial instincts prompt numerous quarrels among the birds. The beach is a respite from the dangers of the ocean and the crabby neighbors on the nests. Although the island experiences some of the worst weather in the world, we were fortunate to shoot in the pink light of a clear sky with the sun hidden behind the horizon.
Want to know more, and see these animals in motion? This episode is featured on Season 1, Episode 4 of Travels to the Edge, available individually, as part of the entire first season, and the full series! Have a great weekend!
Here I am in Dubai, editing photos in sunny climes that are in stark contrast to the cool temperatures of the South Georgia and Falkland islands from where I recently departed. This weeks-long photo expedition led by Tom Mangelsen, Frans Lanting and myself provided plenty of opportunities four our group to capture the variety of species that call these remote islands home. Our accommodations aboard the Polar Pioneer gave us all a chance to get to know one and other – making new friends is always the highlight of any trip.
Frans, Tom and myself were discussing where we might go next; leave a comment below if you have any suggestions! Enjoy the photos, and stay tuned for more as I head off to India!
If you follow the blog and my Events page, you know being idle is not my strong suit. In looking at the upcoming schedule, it become apparent I had some time to work with – and to that end I’m offering two of my most popular workshops to late April and early May that many of you have been waiting for an opportunity to join. These are always sell-outs, so if you’re interested be sure to sign up ASAP to guarantee your spot!
As an added bonus, sign up before December 1st and receive an early bird discount of 200$ off each workshop!
Olympic Peninsula Workshop
April 25 – 28, 2019
From the dense evergreen forests to the expansive coastal landscapes bordering the Pacific Ocean, there is a lot to cover on the Olympic Peninsula. Wildlife, Waterfalls, the Ocean, the old growth forest – this location has everything, and we’ll do our best to cover as much ground as possible!
Abstract Astoria Workshop
May 1 – 5, 2019
This workshop has become a signature destination with so much to offer that repeat attendance is common. Not only is Astoria a historic location, holding the title of first permanent settlement on the Pacific coast, it’s also home to plenty of great places for us to dine and chat after our days shooting.
Click the links above for more information about these two JUST added workshops, but don’t hesitate to get signed up before they are full!
This excerpt is from “Photographs from the Edge”, which not only details the stories behind some of my most well-known captures from across the globe and throughout my career, but is also filled with tips and tricks and equipment information.
August 1988: “Rising Mist”, Alaska Range, Denali National Park, Alaska USA Nikon F3, Nikkor 200-400mm f/5.6 lens, f/8 for 1/250 sec., Kodachrome 64
The nature of the photo: Mountains are well known for their fast rising and falling air along their slopes. Glider pilots in mountainous areas will fly right at a mountain side when the thermals are right, then catch a fast moving ride going up with the air. They often describe this as running and jumping onto an elevator that is already moving upward.
Years ago I was working on a book entitled Alakshak, The Great Country, a Sierra Club book about Alaska. I spent a lot of time crisscrossing Alaska gathering photos for it. As part of this journey, I wanted to get some aerial shots of mountains in the Alaska Range. So I found myself in a small plane above the mountains working in the hours between 11 pm through 1 am.
In the summer, this is a key time because the light is most dramatic then. During summer solstice in Alaska, most of the day is bright sunshine and you only have a few hours of twilight with bold light and color. I was using the shortest hours of the day to capture the most radical light.
In this image, the light of the sun on the Arctic horizon illuminating a few misty cloud sweeping up a slope at around 18,000 feet. While I like this image and I have long loved photographing mountains, it is not the photo itself that brings back memories of this moment. This was shot over 25 years ago, and I remember it all these years later because of the absolute turbulence that our plane would encounter as the plane would fly long the lip of the ridge.
I fly a lot, and I have been on planes around the world in some very remote locations. However, I’m not a happy camper when the plane drops 20 feet in an instant as it was doing here. I can often circle in ever tighter circles around the subject with my mind so focused on the shooting that being scared is not part of the equation. However, when a plane is dropping and rising with the thermals like this, it is uncomfortable at best and frightening usually.
I remember spot metering the brightest part of the frame which was simply the wispy cloud. I compensated for the brightness by exposing to make that cloud bright with detail. By contrast then the surrounding mountains and distant valley remain fairly dark by comparison. This shot shows off the ephemeral nature of clouds and light. Within seconds of shooting this, the sun dropped below the horizon, and the entire moment was gone in an instant.
Photo tip: Spot metering can be a helpful technique when the light is dramatic and you have to be sure you get the brightness values right. In this shot, spot metering determined the exposure for the bright cloud, but that would have meant the clouds were dark and the rest of the scene even darker. That exposure has to be adjusted to make the clouds bright, not dark, by adding exposure to what the meter shows.
For this and many, many more stories behind some of the most notable photographs from a lifetime of world travel, pick up “Photographs From the Edge“ today and make a note at checkout that you’d like me to sign it!