I love bears! It is such a privilege to be able to see these intensely intelligent mammals every summer. A bear I photographed as a cub several years ago is now an accomplished mother of three.
This year the salmon were late to arrive, but arrive they did and in great numbers. Every year is a bit different, and though I have commented on the numbers of cubs in the past, it seemed like this year was a bumper crop. Or maybe I was just photographing the same bear over and over and over…I can’t help it if she liked the camera!
As many of you are aware, this glorious region of the planet is under threat. If the Pebble Mine goes through, the bears will lose, the fish will lose, Alaskans will lose, and Earth will lose. It’s short term gain for the few and long-term destruction for the many. Please make your thoughts known to your congresspeople.
Today is #WorldElephantDay! Created in 2012 to bring attention to the issues facing elephant populations in Asia and Africa, now is a good time to mention that this fall I’ll be releasing my latest book, WILD ELEPHANTS: Conservations in the Age of Extinction. In addition to being a collection of my career’s best elephant photos, I’ve worked with Dr. Samuel Wasser of the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology to provide context for all of the many issues these creatures face. A portion of the proceeds from book pre-sales will be donated to this department.
Legendary for their size and intelligence, elephants are one of the most charismatic of megafauna. That they are under siege form poachers is no secret, and the rapidity of their declining numbers is horrifying. However, amidst the steady stream of bad news, all is not lost. Ivory prices are declining, global awareness is advancing, and recent government crackdowns are beginning to stem the flow of illegal ivory.
Wild Elephants is a celebration of these wondrous gentle giants and the renewed efforts countries are taking to protect their heritage and explores what we can do to empower local populations to safeguard the survival of the magnificent species.
On the heels of my recent trip to Ecuador where freezing the action of the tiny and quick humming birds there was my primary goal, here is an excerpt on using fast shutter speeds from Chapter 7: Creative Options from The New Art of Photographing Nature. Enjoy!
AW: In this final set of images—of a Gentoo penguin porpoising in Antarctica, of leaping impalas in Kenya, and of whooper swans coming in for a landing on a frozen lake–I have chosen the fastest shutter possible to stop the action, capturing a frozen moment in time rather than a more impressionistic view. In the age of digital, the ability to select higher ISOs and faster shutter speeds allows me to capture a lot more moving subjects in sharp focus in this way, although my preference is still for blurred motion.
MH: The penguin shot is a wonderful example of allowing us to enjoy something unusual, in this case, a penguin “in flight.” This is a split-second event and takes remarkable timing to capture with a camera. The result allows us to appreciate the penguin’s torpedo-like shape, and understand a little better what makes them such speedy swimmers.
All of these images are examples of the camera being able to record something that is either too fast or too slow for the human eye to capture accurately. Fast shutter speeds enable us to savor moments of peak action at a later time and at our own pace. One of the greatest advantages of digital has been the ability to immediately see your results, allowing you to experiment and then make corrections on the spot. This can be especially valuable, for example, when testing different shutter speeds to gauge their effect.
I spent some time down in South America recently, a trip that was initially conceived to photograph the solar eclipse in Chile but also turned into a fantastic opportunity to photograph birds and other wildlife in Ecuador with a focus on capturing tiny, agile hummingbirds.
There are numerous sources online you can go to to find technical information on shooting slight and/or speedy subjects such as these, so I won’t bore you with technical specs except to say that my photos were captured with a Canon 5D Mark IV, a 100-400 lens, and a shutter speed of 1/160th of a second. Instead, I’d like to focus on my approach to capturing these and other animals that can be hard to get a handle on.
There were two things I didn’t want to end up doing in this situation – chasing elusive birds around with my lens all day long, or firing off a bunch of shots in hopes of coming away with something good after spending hours and hours editing and cropping photos.
Instead, I took the approach of spending plenty of time observing these creatures long before I attempted to take any shots. I recognized patterns in their behavior and how they interacted with their surroundings and each other. This allowed me to anticipate their movements and come away with more focused and intentional shots rather than just releasing the shutter and hoping for the best. Instead of chasing, I let them enter the frame and do the work for me. In the end, I came away with shots I’m happy with, and didn’t have to sort through too many duds to get there.
After spending much of the first quarter of 2019 in the Eastern Hemisphere, my time in the few months since then has been spent in the West. From Patagonia to Utah, from the California and Oregon coasts to Alaska and now back to South America, it’s been a busy one.
On one hand, it’s hard to believe we are already halfway through 2019 – on the other, looking back I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised with as much as I’ve traveled. There’s been a lot of maneuvering to get everything just right, with attempts to conduct my excursions at ideal times for the goals I had in mind for both myself and workshop participants. I’m fortunate to have a great staff to lean on when it comes to thoughtfully pin-pointing and scheduling the best times to visit all of the locations we add to the calendar.
While we are on the subject, it’s important to note that just about any image you see posted on my site, the stock site, or anywhere else for that matter can be created as a print. If it hasn’t been printed before, each photo will be expertly edited and fine-tuned to look it’s absolute best when printed by staff members with decades of editing experience. It will then be examined by my staff to ensure its quality. Just contact us and let us know what image you’re interested in.
The summer is a spectacular time to visit Glacier Bay – the weather is usually good and the plentiful wildlife here is active, and the location has so much to offer anywhere from portraits of animals to the vast and majestic glacier-bound landscape. It’s also a busy time for tourism, so if you plan to visit in this most photo-op rich time of year, make sure you set your plans early!
This trip offered plenty of variety as usual, and I was excited to use my somewhat recently acquired canon 600mm lens here, which has served me well thus far. humpback whales, Steller sea lions, and bald eagles were among the usual suspects.
Enjoy the photos! Check out the NPS page to plan your visit, and keep an eye on my events page for future trips here with me!
Time for a little wilderness and wildlife advocacy. Alaska’s Bristol Bay needs our help. It is home to the world’s largest, most productive salmon run and it is threatened by the advancement of the Pebble Mine. The Pebble Mine would be a massive open pit mine that would leach into the ecosystem of one the most productive wildlife regions on the planet. I have been photographing in the region, which includes Katmai National Park and the famous McNeil River Bear Sanctuary, since the early 1980s, and understand first hand what this massive extraction project would do to the wildlife, the fishery, as well as the thriving, sustainable wildlife viewing industry.
Click here for a brief interview I did on the subject.
Brown bears associated with the Project area are a resource that has high ecological, economic, and social value. Southwest Alaska residents and visitors were estimated to spend nearly $145,000,000 (2019 dollars) annually to view wildlife and generated more than an additional $133,000,000 in associated annual economic activity. Much of the wildlife viewing activity in southwest Alaska is centered on observing brown bears. For more information, this study drills down on the economics involved in brown bear viewing ins South-central Alaska.
I strongly urge you to take 20 minutes and watch Koktuli Wild, a video by Brendan Wells which perfectly illustrates the fragile beauty of the wilderness that feeds the potent Bristol Bay watershed. It is uplifting, beautiful, informative, and most importantly galvanizing. Even if you never see it with your own eyes, just knowing this this wilderness exists is affecting.
UPDATE: 6/29/2019 – The U.S. House of Representatives passed amendment 90, being called the “Huffman Amendment,” to the Energy and Water Appropriations Act. However, this is only the begging and Alaskans have called upon Senator Murkowski to to stand with Alaskans in opposing the Pebble mine.
This past March saw plenty of time spent with great company photographing the culture and wildlife of India during Holi, and I’m thrilled to be able to post some of the photos our workshop participants captured along the way. Though the mass of humanity participating in the celebration can be overwhelming, it truly is a once in a lifetime experience and I’m glad we were all able to come away with some incredible shots. Thank you to everyone who participated – it truly was an honor to visit these ancient and culturally revered locations with you!
May began with our second Carmel-By-The-Sea workshop in as many years, and this is fast becoming one of our most requested Photography Retreats! Not only is it a beautiful and accessible location that doesn’t require leaving the states, there is just so much to see and do in the area that each trip is a little different.
Sea otters, seals, and a variety of shore birds can be found here and we usually take a relaxing kayak tour to photograph them from the water. If you’re not an avid or even mildly experienced kayaker, fear not – we just go along for the ride and hire professionals to do the work for us so we can be free to photograph!
Next year’s retreat is already on the calendar – get signed up today to reserve your spot. Spaces are already spoken for, and this trip will be a sell out!
Photographing in Patagonia I am running into people I know at every turn! Hopefully the variety in the slide show indicates all of the varied opportunities that have presented themselves on this trip – it’s been a good one! Save one miserable day that was spent chasing ghosts up a mountain in gale force wind and rain, but that’s all a part of nature photography. We have seen eight different cats, all responding differently toward us – some are prone to flee at first sight of our group, while others casually hang around not seeming to mind our presence at all.
Over all this has been a fantastic trip with great company, and I’m excited to sit down and edit what has been a satisfying batch of new captures.