If you’re not already, now is a great time to make sure you’re following me on all my social media platforms. I try to offer a variety of content on each one, so collect the whole set of @’s! We have some upcoming contests and give-aways coming up, so get recognized and score some loot!
. . . And last but not least, the blog here on ArtWolfe.com. Throughout all my social channels, I try to include tips, techniques, and much more. The social icons on the blog posts are for sharing – use ’em! If you’re not signed up for the newsletter, it’s a great way to get updates on upcoming workshop and speaking opportunities.
Have a great weekend and stay tuned for some great new pics from my recent trip to Greenland!
Wildlife photography can be a frustrating pursuit at times, but you roll with it! In August I had the opportunity to photograph sea wolves in the temperate rainforest of Canada. It rained and rained and rained and the wolves made themselves scarce. Apparently they had moved their den site to another area, but I am pleased with the fleeting images I was able to create.
The surrounding landscape is so varied, from lapping water to rocky shoreline to impenetrable forest that it creates an extraordinarily lush backdrop to these elusive wolves. It was important to me to include the context of the environment, as you don’t find wolves in these kinds of surroundings often. Portraits and ‘hero’ shots of animals can be important to illustrate their personality and demeanor, but may not always inform you of what that creature’s environment and life might be like to the extent of capturing them in the vastness of their natural element.
Think about context and story when you photograph wildlife – and you’ll often come away with a winner!
Just two spaces remain in my Lake Quinault Photography Retreat coming up very soon! 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? This is 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.
1) Check the Olympic National Park off your bucket list. Do you have a National Parks passport? Maybe it’s time to get one and start visiting the sites of “America’s Best Idea”!
2) Check a workshop with Art Wolfe off your bucket list. A UNESCO world heritage site combined with a world renowned photographer, who also happens to be a great teacher and inspiration? Check!
3) The trees. The temperate rainforest has a living standing biomass which may be the highest anywhere in the world. And it is stunningly gorgeous.
4.) The Luxurious and historic Lake Quinault Lodge is a fantastic home base. We welcome your partners to join us for meals and critiques at the end of our workshop activities.
5) Assistants. I am accompanied by terrific assistants to assure that your photographic experience is as rich as your surroundings. The Quinault retreat is manned by my workshop coordinator Libby whom is also familiar with the area and will be on hand to help assist the participants.
6) Friendship! I don’t know how many friendships have formed as a result of these workshops in particular, but my workshops seem to bring like-minded people together many of whom end up traveling with one and other again and again.
7.) Beautiful images make beautiful prints! Make room on your walls for some new images from a lush and vibrant location.
8) Water. Water defines Olympic National Park. There’s a reason why the trees are massive and the moss lush; why the rivers are highways of life; why the glaciers are there to sculpt the massive peaks.
9) Wildlife. We may get lucky and see the huge Roosevelt elk that make the Olympics home.
10) Adventuresome learning. I work hard to make sure everyone comes away from these multiday workshops feeling better about and more enriched by their photography skills.
Again, only two spaces remain – Sign up now and I’ll see YOU in a few weeks!
AW – Often students in my classes will bring work that shows an interesting subject, but without enough information to tell a complete story. I find that one effective tool for storytelling is using a wide-angle lens close to my subject, so that some of the background is included, creating a valuable sense of place.
I find elephant seal weaners, fattened up and then abandoned by their mothers, to be wonderfully cooperative photographic subjects. With this weaner, I laid flat on the ground in front of it to photograph it on its level.
The hot-spring-addicted macaques in the Japanese Alps are another fun subject. When their own hot springs were invaded by the furry monkeys, the human residents built a monkeys-only spring. This youngster hung around the side of the pool, making a perfect subject for a wide-angle shot, which allows me to add important background and context.
MH – Looking at us with its liquid black eyes, the seal pup seems to be hoping we are his mother coming to feed him. Weaned at three weeks, he seems a bit lost, even indignant, that the tap has suddenly been turned off. With the spectacular landscape of South Georgia in the background, this image creates a sense of loneliness, seeing this solitary pup by himself in this grand wilderness.
In the second image, the Japanese macaques are so human-like that it’s a little freaky. The monkey in the image seems curious, even mischievous, while his peers ignore his proximity to the camera and wallow in the thermal heat. I love seeing an animal in its environment, especially one as unique as this. It enlarges our understanding of how they live and sometimes gives us clues as to what motivates their behavior. Here, the slight distortion of the wide-angle lens enhances the drama of the scene.
Strong Leading Lines
Another important approach to using a wide-angle lens is to work with leading lines. Leading lines have long been important parts of painting and other two-dimensional forms of art. A leading line is simply something that creates a line from foreground to background and leads or directs the eye through the image. It can be anything that is visually distinct, that a viewer is going to notice, and helps define the composition.
You can find all sorts of leading lines in the environment: tracks in the sand, edges of roads, cracks in rocks, architectural structures, and so on. These can be used to direct the viewer’s eye through a composition and toward the main subject. They are an excellent way to help the viewer understand your picture as well as add a graphic element to the design of your image.
Wide-angle lenses help emphasize leading lines. This comes back to the concept of perspective. By getting in close to nearby parts of leading lines, you spread them apart, yet they still go to the same vanishing point in the distance. That creates a very strong change from foreground to background along those lines, something that will dramatically show off the elements of your photograph.
To understand this, think about a railroad track. If you stand on a hill and photograph railroad tracks in the distance so they start at the bottom of your picture and go to the horizon near the top, you will see them heading off to a vanishing point at the horizon. The railroad tracks will be a certain width at the bottom of your composition. If you then put on a wide-angle lens and get right down on the tracks, the width of the tracks will fill the width of your image. The tracks are still going to go off into the distance to a vanishing point, but now they go from the full width of your frame, creating an extreme change from foreground to background.
Don’t be afraid to get close to leading lines in order to emphasize how strong they are. So often photographers back off from subjects like this and lose some of the impact because they don’t have the same foreground-to-background perspective.
I am deeply saddened to hear about the rampant fires currently ravaging the Amazon Rainforest. Relaxed policies on environmental protections and an increased focus on clear-cutting the natural areas has had an immediate and negative impact on a region that already sees numerous fires every year. According to Brazil’s Institute for Space Research, fires in the region number in the high tens of thousands, and an increase of 83% versus this time last year. Smoke pours across Brazil and it’s neighboring states.
Climate change is a hot-button issue these days, and I make an honest attempt to keep politics from being a factor in my work. I get to do what I love for a living, and along the way I also have the pleasure of sharing the world’s beautiful places, animals, and cultures with those whom don’t have the luxury to visit them all. It’s important to me we all share in this experience regardless of our backgrounds and beliefs.
Regardless of our beliefs, or the theories behind the how or why – world-wide climate is changing, and this region of the world is solely responsible for replenishing 20% of the oxygen in our atmosphere and purging a substantial amount of carbon from our air. In times like these I’m hopeful we can put the politics aside and realize the devastating ramifications that occur when we take our environment for granted.
For more information on the topic, and ways to help visit the World Wildlife Fund site on the subject.
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.