On March 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt established Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, along Florida’s Atlantic coast, as the first unit of what would become the National Wildlife Refuge System. There are now more than 560 refuges across the country that protect species and the landscapes they depend upon for survival.
My favorite refuge is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. After rafting rivers in the refuge several times over the years, I filmed an episode of Travels to the Edge there in 2006, which can now be streamed online!
I’ve been eager to get back to Mongolia for some time now. Although some of the photos I took here on my last visit have become iconic – such as the Kazakh Eagle Hunter and his amazing golden eagle – shooting while the hustle and bustle of Travels to the Edge was being filmed didn’t quite allow me the same flexibility I might have when visiting on a tour. add to this the astronomical leaps we’ve taken in technology since then, and I can’t wait to get back!
We still have a couple of spots left to join our group, embarking on our photo adventure July the 6th. Join us to photograph the Naadam festival, wild horses as the roam the vast steppe largely unmarred by the influence of development, and of course a special shooting sessions with Shaman and Kazakh Eagle Hunters.
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
I’ve been informed that it’s World Whale Week. . . .Wow, wonderful! As much respect as I have for these amazing and unfortunately endangered creatures, it’s my own self-preservation that comes to mind when thinking about whales.
While filming Travels to the Edge, I was trying to guess at where a whale would surface next for a shot. I had the camera to my eye, prefocused, poised and ready to capture what I hoped would be a magnificent breach 100 yards off the bow – only to have the whale come up right next to the boat, spouting mere feel from me!
It scared me so much I screamed, and the footage from the film crew was rendered unusable as what came out of my mouth next was not suitable for the PBS audience.
Over the years I’ve had many more great memories while working with whales, and looking forward to making more!
Celebrations abound for Lunar New Year among Asian cultures, with various Buddhist traditions marking the occasion. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced the festivities myself in person several times. Some fond memories:
In 2005, I visited Labrang Monastery in the Gansu province of China to witness the unfurling of a thangka – a large tapestry of painted cotton usually depicting a scene from the Buddhist belief system and way of life. The tapestry is carried by the monks up the long hill where it is unfurled and displayed above the monastery.
A few years later, I visited Bhutan and photographed the prayer flags and temple dancers that constitute a part of their lunar new year traditions. The prayer flags have come up several time in my talks and lessons, which might be an indicator of just how fascinated I was with this location. Prayers are inscribed on flags that have been erected in the loftiest, windiest heights so that the gusts turn the flags into tatters and send the prayers scattering to the heavens one fiber at a time.
Finally, in more recent years I witnessed the Setsubun Festival in Japan where elaborate costumes and traditions such as throwing packets of roasted soy beans and burning tree boughs wards off the lingering evil spirits of the previous year and bringing hope to the new one.
Happy year of the Tiger! Enjoy the image gallery above, and check out the episode of Travels to the Edge on Bhutan to learn more about this truly unique culture.
As mentioned onTequila Time, I can’t wait to get back out in the field for our upcoming slate of workshops and tours! Of course we will promote safety first, as I’m sure we are all anxious to put a tumultuous year behind us. I’m even more anxious to get back to doing what I love – teaching workshops, and joining friends new and old for amazing experiences both in our Pacific Northwest workshops and abroad.
On the subject of workshops abroad, there is still room to join me for the photographic journey we have slated for July of this year. Space is limited, so if you’re interested let us know today!
In the video above, I share some images of the things we will see on this epic adventure to one of the least-densely populated countries in the world, where in total there is only a population density of five individuals per square mile. Vast landscapes, interesting wildlife such as the yaks famous in the region, and of course the culture are all aspects we hope to capture in the remote areas we will visit.
We learned a great deal last year about how to conduct workshops in the field and keep our participants safe and healthy. It is so fun to get out and photograph with a group of like minded people, I am really looking forward to doing that again! I hope you will join me on one of my small group workshops.
Our goal of course is to conduct our workshops as safely as possible. Participants will be asked to either have received their COVID vaccine, which I intend to have before these workshops kick off – or a negative covid test within 72 hours of our workshop commencing. Masks and adequate distancing will be required, and we will ensure that any restaurants we intend to visit have been vetted to ensure a safe and comfortable environment.
I can’t wait to get out there to shoot and teach again! Beyond my book projects, teaching in the field is what keeps me motivated. As much as I’ve enjoyed getting some quality time in the garden over the past many months as well as the many live streams we will continue to do, nothing compares to being in the field.
What am I grateful for? In these times, my health and that of my friends and fans worldwide. Thousands of you tune in every week to watch Tequila Time on Facebook & Instagram which deeply gratifies this old heart! I’m also fortunate to have great connections with B & H Photo, participating in their virtual Optic event this year. If you missed it, be sure to check it out!
This week on my live stream, I expounded on the photos in my popular book Photographs from the Edge. This book is a timeline of travels near and far with tech tips from noted photography author Rob Sheppard. Many of you may remember that he was the longtime editor at Outdoor Photographer.
In this latest episode I mention several Photos/Travels to the Edge products that I am offering for the holidays, so here are the links for easy access! If you purchase Photographs From the Edge (or any other book on my website for that matter) and you want it signed or inscribed to that special someone, please put that in the notes field when you check out.
Finally and most importantly, everyone stay safe and healthy this holiday season – it seems the experts are on the cusp of a vaccine and some normalcy may be on the horizon. I for one plan to minimize my risks as much as possible in hopes of a travel-rich 2021 – I’ve got work to do!
Did you know that Season One of Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge is available for streaming worldwide? It’s true! For an episode, or a season – check it out!
When the series first launched, American Public Broadcasting interviewed me about the series – talk about a blast from the past! Here are a few of my responses from that Q&A:
APT: What a great job to have … to travel the world with a camera and take pictures.
AW: There’s actually an ulterior motive to it. I almost want to use my photos as worms on a hook to attach people to the subject, [make them] care about the subject, and ultimately help the subject. Whether it’s a vanishing culture or an endangered landscape, I think we ought to care more about these subjects than we currently do.
APT: How many times do you think it takes to get that award-winning photo?
AW: You know, I never really think about statistics but I can tell you when I started out it took me a lot longer to arrive at a good shot. At this point in my career, I can see the subject and capture it fairly quickly. I’ve done a lot of wildlife [photography] and you don’t have time to wait around – so you make fast decisions. That has served me well with cultures and even the very ephemeral, changing light on landscapes.
Virtually everywhere we went was a dream so they’re all great. One that stands out is a trek around these really remote mountains in Patagonia (Southern South America). It’s memorable because virtually everything had to be carried on our backs. We were out there in a really exposed environment, and bringing high-definition cameras along is unheard of in those locations. But really, it’s a TV series of highlights. We had thousands of places we could have gone and we boiled it down to 13. Each one of them better be a homerun and they were all homeruns.
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.