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!
From Katmai National Park in Alaska to Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya; from the Canadian Arctic, with it’s icy waters, to the smoke and steam of Hawaii and it’s volcanic activity – I’ve quite literally crisscrossed the globe more than once in the third quarter of 2018. I truly feel much of this is some of my best work to date, and it’s going to make the selection process for upcoming book projects a difficult one! I hope you enjoy the photos – leave a comment below if you have any favorites! As always, just about any image you can find on the site can be purchased as a print – just let us know what you’re looking for!
Limited space is still available in my India Holi Festival & Tigers Photographic Journey happening this March! This is sure to be an amazing trip, encompassing a wide variety of subjects from the people and culture to the wildlife and landscapes. Here are 10 reasons why you should join us on this adventure:
Indians are a warm, kind, beautiful people! It is a large country with a lot of diversity in its population.
2. The Markets
We will be visiting a variety of markets in Delhi, each with their own specialty and traditions. All make for great photo opportunities.
3. Holi Festival
The Holi Festival, or “Festival of Colors” as some have come to call it, is a spring-time festival celebrated by Hindus annually – but has spread to other nations and cultures as well as a celebration of life, love, and the idea of good conquering evil. Not only does it mark the end of winter and the arrival of spring, but it signifies a time to reconnect with loved ones and appreciate the simple things in life. The kaleidoscope of colors and bustle of activity makes for excellent opportunities to capture the joy of this culture and it’s people.
4. The Ganges
The Ganges, or Ganga, is the holiest river in the world. It runs from the northern Himalaya all the way to the Bay of Bengal. But it is much more than just a river to the one billion Hindus. They believe it transports prayers to heaven and that a dip in the river purifies the soul.
5. Ranthambhore National Park
With an area of 400 sq. km encompassing rocky hill crests which descend to open valleys between the Aravalli and Vindhya ranges, dotted with water pools and fruit trees, this park gets its name from the thousand year old fortress, which looms above the forest. Ranthambore is a very special and unusual area where a natural present meets a historical past.
It is also well known for the diurnal activity of the sixth reason to travel with me to India:
Tiger safaris traditionally take place at dawn and dusk when the big cats are on the move, sometimes hunting. Naturalist guides use their hearing rather than their site to initially find tigers: when chital and monkeys sense a tiger approaching they give a distinctive warning call that alerts the wildlife (and our guides) to the tiger’s approximate location.
7. The Chaos
Learning to embrace the chaos is an important part of any trip to India. Learning to relax and be at peace with all your senses being overloaded will give you a much greater understanding of the culture.
India is home to all of the major religions of the world and is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Observing people engaging in their rituals is a profoundly intimate experience.
9. The History
Home to the world’s oldest civilization, the religion, culture and architecture of India have evolved under multiple influences creating a visual feast.
Early in my career people told me not to bother going to India – they said it had nothing to offer and I should focus elsewhere. So for over a decade that’s what I did. Worst advice ever! Once I finally saw India with my own eyes—I’ve been back just about every year since and I’ve still just scratched the surface of it’s beautiful, complex and wonderful variety of culture, nature, landscape and wildlife.
What are you waiting for? Sign up to guarantee your spot to travel with me to one of the great and historic regions of the world!
What’s become an annual trip to Namibia was particularly great this year, with different views of Sossusvlei, great wildlife views in Etosha National Park, and fun with abstracts at an old diamond-mining ghost town slowly being inundated with sand. The quiver tree forest was spectacular too, though the moon was full when we were there which somewhat inhibited photographing the Milky Way at night. I also came away with some great new elephant shots for the upcoming book project. Enjoy!
I am leading another Namibia tour in August 2020. You can get on the preregistration list now to be the first notified when trip details are posted. This trip will sell out, don’t miss out!
I had an amazing session with Elephants a few days ago in Botswana! I spent hours in a stuffy, sunken blind, but was rewarded late in the afternoon when several elephant herds began to show up for a drink and a splash. It was about ninety degrees here, and they played in the cooling waters just five feet in front of us. The elephants were very aware of us and we were splashed intentionally many times – we had a major cleaning session afterwards since the churned water had turned to liquid mud.
This lasted for over an hour and I shot thousands of frames; the results are full of the personality and affection these amazing animals possess.
The task of editing has been daunting to say the least. I am working on a book with fellow UW alum & biologist Sam Wasser, who has been instrumental in using DNA to track endangered species, especially orcas and elephants, and now Dr. Wasser is trying to use DNA to track illegal shipments of ivory and shut down major poaching cartels. It makes my work look easy by comparison, and those of us who work with and care for the well being of these animals and their place in the world are so very grateful for his work.
September finds me spending the month in Africa with good friends and plenty of subjects. We’re currently in the midst of our Namibia photo journey after having spent some time in various locations around the southern regions of the continent. We began our travels in Kenya, where we were able to capture much of the region’s wildlife over the course of several days spent at Maasai Mara National Reserve; lions, zebra, cheetah – and much, much more. This location also provided several shots that will look great in the book on elephants I’m currently working on! Giraffes and several species of birds were on display as well. Derived from the Maasai language, the term “Mara” describes the flora and fauna spotted nature of the wide open spaces, and wildebeest mingled with the other wildlife in the area to dapple the landscape.
Enjoy the new photos, and check back on the block soon for more photos from Namibia!
This coming February, I’m proud to present the Japan Photo Journey – an intensive photography workshop and journey to one of the great places to visit in the winter time for truly unique photo opportunities. Both myself and Gavriel Jecan will be with you and 9 other participants over the course of an 11-day workshop that begins in Tokyo before heading to the mountains to photograph the snow monkeys enjoying their hot springs.
Once the monkeys have had their fill of our small group, we will head to Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido. In the winter here, the days are short – but the stunning sunrises and sunsets can be lengthy, making this an ideal shooting location with expanded periods of time to shoot in ideal lighting conditions. The rich forests and mountains here provide the perfect backdrop to photograph the many bird species that congregate here, here including the symbolic Japanese Crane, whooper swans, and the very large Steller’s sea eagle.
The days may be a bit shorter, but they will be full of adventures and opportunities. By the time the sun goes down there will be plenty of time for everyone to enjoy a nice warm bath before we have a meal together, after which we will engage in lectures, critiques, and of course cheerful banter. Though our day shooting may be over, teaching is my passion and it’s in these moments where we regroup and discuss the day where perhaps the most knowledge is gained and shared.
I can’t believe how fast the year has gone by! It started out a bit slow with a surgery recovery but has been a busy summer, and fall is off to a bustling start as well. As it stands now, there are only two more workshops left on the calendar for the rest of the year that aren’t sold out that will see us visiting locations on opposite sides of the country, but the same goal in mind – capturing gorgeous fall color!
In October I’ll finally be home from the month I am currently spending in Africa, and will be hosting my Lake Quinault Photography Retreat. Myself and my assistants will assist participants in a very intimate hands-on experience, both in terms of capturing the lush, earthen sensations of the Quinault Rainforest as well as a printing lesson and demo from our home base at the historic Lake Quinault Lodge. We have opened the invitation up to partners and spouses as well, so if they would like to come along and enjoy the lodge while we are in the field, they are welcome to join our group for meals and critiques.
Following that, I’ll be heading east to the Great Smoky Mountains to experience the fall color on the east coast – it’ll be interesting to compare and contrast! This will again be a small group affair, limited to 8 participants for some hands-on instruction in the field with group discussions and critques.
Act quickly, these sell out rapidly as we near the workshop dates and they are just around the corner!
It’s been a busy summer, but there is no slowing down for me! I wanted to take this opportunity to share an updated list of my upcoming workshop opportunities with you. Some return trips to familiar locations are here, and I love to share the knowledge that I’ve accumulated over the years of visiting these great places. We also have exotic and new locales to visit as well. My team is hard at work doing our research, working with the best local support available.
Many of these new destinations come from the feedback we received from surveying those of you who subscribe to my newsletter. If you don’t receive those, get signed up here to be notified and kept up-to-date on what I have planned!
Particular locations and workshops will sell it well in advance. Don’t hesitate to get your name on the list! As always if you have any questions about an upcoming worshop, contact my staff – they would be happy to answer any questions you may have about a particular workshop.
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 on my Lake Quinault Photography Retreat? This region is the gift that keeps on giving; 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.
Along with this very personal look at a region I’m particularly familiar with, I’ll be providing lectures and critiques. We will also have equipment on hand Epson during our time at the Lake Quinault Lodge for demonstration – take home prints of your best photos from our time together!
Sign up now, this Photo Retreat will sell-out as Autumn approaches!