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.
India is always a dazzling adventure. This trip began with leopards and ended with tigers, with Holi and Varanasi were sandwiched in between. Holi is a spring festival, but has become a rambunctious free-for-all where crowds fling brightly colored spices and powders into the air to banish the gloom of winter. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the energy to photograph this event again!
I’ll be posting some terrific photos my workshop participants took very soon, so stay tuned for those!
I recently took a trip up to Northern Canada to photograph a variety of owls, and came away happy – if not chilled to the bone. It’s cold up above the 51st parallel, no matter the time of day. That didn’t seem to impact the hunting owls of the region, who’s keen senses can detect rodents beneath the snowfall dozens of meters away. They essentially do a graceful face plant into the snow, rummage around, and come away with a snack.
The light sky and the bright white snowy landscape make shooting a challenge. To control the light and capture a quality image, one first has to understand light in terms of it’s relationship to photography. This excerpt from “Chapter 6: Reading the Light” from The New Art of Photographing Nature explains it more succinctly than I might in a blog ramble:
Without light we would have no color. And without light, there would be no photography. In fact, the word photography derives from Greek roots meaning “writing with light.”
Primitive man did not have the benefit of science to explain natural phenomena such as the rainbow. Nor did we, until Sir Isaac Newton’s use of the prism separated white light into its component colors. Light is a form of electromagnetic energy, which, in the whole spectrum of frequencies, is only visible as colors in a very narrow band. Other frequencies, such as infrared, ultraviolet, gamma, and X-ray radiation, are invisible to our eyes.
Yet, despite our basic understanding of light, it is something we are apt to take for granted, like the rising and setting of the sun. But in photography, we can never take light for granted, and must learn to perceive it many nuances. The quality of the light creates a variety of colors and moods. Light also models form, and the direction of light is crucial to how we perceive shape and depth in the landscape.
When talking about light, it is important to distinguish between quality and quantity. Quality of light can, for the outdoor photographer, mean the time of day, the angle of the light striking your subject or whether it creates high-contrast or low-contrast conditions. It can also be measured as color temperature (in degrees Kelvin) with daylight on a sunny day being around 5500 degrees Kelvin. While color film required filtration to correct for changes in color temperature, digital cameras have a built-in white balance function that can adjust the camera to virtually any lighting condition, indoors or out.
Quantity of light refers simply to the amount of light reaching the camera’s sensor and recording an image. It is by controlling this light, through changes in aperture and shutter speed, that we arrive at a proper exposure.
One of the more fascinating aspects of my annual trip to Katmai has been the ability to recognize specific bear families and even individuals as they grow, not only in physical characteristics but in their personalities, demeanor, and mannerisms as well. It’s always a powerful feeling of a connection with nature when I recognize an animal I’ve previously spent time photographing. I wonder if they recognize me?!
They are probably far too busy fishing to be concerned with me, however. You’ll note the dates from when these photos are taken generally fall into the late July and early August weeks. This is when the rivers run red with spawning salmon. We come here at this time every year because the bears are active, occupied, and ripe for fantastic shots in their element. Again I will occasionally recognize individual bears in the tactics they use to fish.
This image has gotten a lot of play this year and for good reason – it’s not often you’re able to capture a bear charging at you, claws bared. I hate to dispel any legends of my fearlessness and resolve, but I wasn’t in true danger here – the bears are far too busy fishing and adjusted to human visitors to be a true threat. That being said, always take precautions! Our local contacts ensure we are taking all the appropriate measures for safety.
All of these photos are available as prints in my online store; click a title above to add some wildlife to your home or office! Better yet, join me on one of two workshops happening this summer at the end of July and in early August and capture your own images to frame and share! These workshops will sell out, so don’t hesitate to get on the list to join me on the ground in Katmai and make your own connection with these awesome animals!
It’s Wildlife Wednesday – the perfect opportunity to share a slew of recent images from the recent Japan Photo Journey. Japanese macaques, Steller’s sea eagle, fox, deer, Japanese crane, and Ural owls were present. A Blakiston’s fish owl also made an appearance – the largest owl species in the world, sporting up to a two-meter wingspan – and last but not least, the iconic Whooper swans of Hokkaido.
Revisiting a location such as this where the imagery is iconic can be a real challenge in terms of coming up with a new perspective. When I lead a workshop or provide guidance on a retreat, my goal is to not only ensure you’ll come away with iconic shots, but also to find a unique focus to your photos. I challenge myself no differently. As an example, I wanted my photos of the macaques to capture their action and agility as they would leap from rock to rock over the flowing water, as well as their relationships between one and other. I positioned myself lower to the ground to capture the cranes and swans, trying to choose decisive moments when their wingspans and beautiful feathers were on display.
There are plenty of reasons that every Summer in late July and early August I return to Katmai Alaska to lead multiple workshops. From a new perspective on a location that’s become very familiar to me, to capturing the kinds of shots of the local bears one simply cannot get anywhere else, it always has something new to offer.
I’ll be back there this year, and there are still some spaces available to join me on both tours!
If you’re still on the fence, here are 10 more reasons to join me in Katmai, Alaska this Summer!
1.) Coastal Brown Bears are beautiful and powerful, and to be in the presence of an animal of this magnitude it is humbling.
2.) Capturing amazing images of these creatures is even more magical. There is no substitute for experience in the field, and I’ll be bringing decades of it to our group as well as our interactions on an individual basis.
3.) We have two dedicated pilots, four planes, and a speed boat at our disposal. Not only is this convenient, but it means we have the utmost flexibility to change our plans depending on weather conditions. If the group cannot fly, we can always take the group up to Lake Clark to see the bears fishing for clams, or to see Dick Proenneke’s cabin!
4.) The remote Katmai Coast is the largest intact stretch of uninhabited coastline left in North America, and provides a rich and contextual backdrop for the bears.
5.) The lodge has a top-notch cook, so the group can enjoy delicious meals while reminiscing about the day’s adventures on the tour.
6.) Late July and early August is the peak of the salmon run, and is why we reserve these times with our local experts and accommodations well in advance. The rivers are running with beautiful red salmon, which is an excellent secondary element for fantastic photographs.
7.) I’ve been such a frequent visitor of this location that I can recognize individual bears by sight and in many cases can predict their behavior and identify their strengths, giving us a distinct leg up in capturing them at their best. If an individual is known to be an expert fisher, rest assured I can point them out to ensure we capture the best possible action on the river!
8.) We work with the local lodge owner whom scouts the area before our group arrives to ensure we have a good idea of where the bears are going to be. This cuts down the amount of hiking the group needs to do so we can get right into photographing.
9.) We always find several mothers with young cubs and they are generally not intimidated by humans, so our groups can sit and photograph the cubs as they run and play for hours if we like.
10.) If it hasn’t become clear already, this is a region I know like the back of my hand, and we’ve spent several years working with the same local folks to ensure as much consistency as possible. So few variables and unknowns means I’ll have more time to spend directly working with participants to ensure they all come away with stunning photos!
Check out the events page for more information. These workshops always sell out, so reserve your spot today to ensure you don’t miss out!
With SNOWMAGEDDON hitting the Pacific Northwest, a timely themed #TechniqueTuesday is in order! This is an entry from Photographs From the Edge, where I’ve combined the stories behind some of my most recognizable career photographs, as well as providing tips, techniques, and camera data for them. Enjoy, and I hope everyone back home is staying safe in the Winter weather!
Canon EOS-1DX, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, f/18 for 1/250 sec., ISO 2000
This image of bison in Yellowstone National Park really began when I co-led a rafting trip down Alaska’s Taku River a number of years ago. On that trip I met Robert Bateman and his wife Birgit. This outstanding Canadian artist spent time photographing details of rocks along the river’s edge or details of the forest. I had to ask what he was doing. He simply responded that he was taking details that he could later render accurately as details in his paintings.
At that time I had been fixating on getting closer and closer to animals and ultimately getting that classic portrait of that animal almost as if it was a trophy. The analogy was that I was a hunter with the camera. Bateman made me take a serious look at how he would he was less concerned about portraits of animals and more concerned about capturing an animal within the context of its environment. I looked at my own work and started realizing he was right.
Bateman showed that by creating atmospheric conditions and a sense of place, the composition become more nuanced, more intricate, and more involving for the viewer. In the years after meeting Bateman, I think my work became infinitely more interesting by being more inclusive of the environment. From that point forward then I would always look at storms and thick atmosphere as opportunities rather than distractions.
This image of bison in Yellowstone works to carefully include the animal’s environment. With the advent of higher ISO cameras, I can shoot with both a smaller aperture and a faster shutter speed. Here, I was able to capture a herd of animals with great depth of field, and to use a fast enough shutter speed to stop the movement of snow. So in this image of the buffalo in Yellowstone, you can see tiny points of white snow suspended in motion as well as individual animals clearly in focus. To me, this photo recalls some of the great paintings of Robert Bateman.
Photo tip: For falling snow to show up in a photo, you need contrast to set the snow apart from the rest of the scene. In this image, both the dark trees in the background and the dark fur of the bison help bring this contrast to the image. The falling snow behind the bison also lend a strong sense of atmosphere to the shot.
The nature of the photo: Snow is extremely variable in size and shape, which has a strong impact on how it appears in a photo. Very cold conditions can create tiny snow crystals that will appear more as fog than snow in a photo. Large snowflakes can be a bold part of a winter photo.
For more photos and the stories behind them, along with tips and techniques, purchase Photographs From the Edge in my online store. As always, make a request note in your order and I’ll give it a signature!
And if you missed it – check out the gallery of images from my recent return trip to Yellowstone.
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!
One of my favorite things to do when I have a couple extra days at home is to take a quick day trip to the Fraser River Delta in British Columbia. It is a haven for birds and birders and I concentrated on the short-eared owls and harriers that were hunting for rodents in the tall grasses. As I did earlier in the month at Pt. Reyres, I practiced with my new Canon EF600mm f/4L IS III USM lens, shooting mostly with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
In addition to the birds of prey, I captured some of the best bufflehead images I’ve ever taken. Usually they look like little black and white sea ducks floating in dark water, but in the low winter light their feathers become a colorful iridescent rainbow.