In a win for wildlife and indigenous communities, the last remaining oil and gas leases on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have been cancelled. The US is on track to produce more oil and natural gas than ever before and tapping this vital ecological sanctuary was always a bad idea.
Called “the place where life begins” by the Yup’ik and Gwich’in, the refuge is home to 250 animal species including vast herds of caribou that migrate from wintering Canada every year to calve on the coastal plain, grizzlies, wolves, and millions of migratory birds from as far as Antarctica. As long as I have been photographing, which is a long time indeed, it has been the focus of heated debate over resource extraction. One thing we should know is that this ban is not permanent, and more advocacy must be done to make sure this biologically rich area remains wild and untouched forever—a gift to future generations.
There’s no place like Katmai, there’s no place like Katmai, there’s no place like Katmai. I wish it were that easy to be transported to this extraordinary living laboratory of Alaska’s brown bears. This year we had better than ever photographic opportunities with the bears. From afar with our 100-500mm lenses set at the upper end of the focal length we witnessed at-times violent interactions between older siblings over salmon, tender moments between protective mothers and their cubs, and diverse birdlife of the tundra and waterways. The landscapes are vast and glorious, the wildlife abundant–truly a privilege to behold!
I’ll be heading back to Katmai next summer for two workshops – take your pick and join me next year! Save a few hundred bucks with early bird pricing through October.
Glacier Bay has been a favorite location of mine since I started teaching workshops there in the early 1980s. A small boat cruise in this vast watery landscape is the best way to witness the ecstatic breaching whales, the bevies of sea otters, and the flocks of cormorants, ducks, and puffins. The weather cooperated, which is never a given in Alaska.
A great advantage of the way we run this workshop is that when others are heading in to a harbor for dinner, we are able to stay out and work the best light of the day in late afternoon into evening. As a highlight, we were rewarded with gorgeous backlighting of surfacing whales. Never passing over the opportunity to experiment, we employed panning to photograph the waterlilies in a glacial kettle in one of our forays on land. Referencing Monet in one’s photography is always a good challenge.
The new owners of the Alaskan Song yacht are proudly continuing the great hospitality we have enjoyed in past years, making it easy for friendships to grow between our fellow travelers. I can’t wait to return in 2025 – Sign up today and reserve your spot!
The first decision every photographer must make is simply what to photograph. The best place to start, of course, is finding what appeals to you. If finding subject matter to photograph is easy, making it stand out is harder. Our first impulse when something catches our eye is to simply point the camera, center the subject, and shoot the picture. No surprise, then, that when we look at it later, we are all too often disappointed and wonder, “Why did I take that?”
The novelist and critic Henry James wrote, “In art, economy is always beauty.”
In a landscape, there is often a glut of information. For that reason, artists who sketch in the field will often take a piece of cardboard with a rectangle cut from the middle. By holding it
up to frame various sections in the scene, they can isolate what has potential to make a strong composition.
This can also be a valuable aid for photographers who have trouble visualizing the potential field of view of different focal length lenses. The closer you hold the hole in the board to your eye, the more it approximates the field of view of a wide-angle lens. The farther away you hold it, the more it resembles what a telephoto lens might see.
Isolating the subject is the first step in making a strong composition. This can be achieved in a number of ways-coming in close, backing up, looking down, looking up, changing the direction
of the light on the subject, waiting for another time of day, blurring the action or stopping the action, using selective focus to blur unwanted elements, putting a light subject against a dark background. All of these are potential creative solutions that We will address throughout this book.
Isolating your emotional response to the subject may be more complicated and take time and practice, but it is an important step for an artist. If you can analyze why you feel drawn to make a picture, and work to express the feeling clearly, chances are someone looking at it will ah respond with more than passing interest.
The image gallery above are all examples from my travels to Kenya in which I wanted to focus more on the emotions, textures, and compositions of isolated subjects and families. I’ll be heading back to Kenya in January – join me and make your own memories!
Summer is near, and I’m feeling it in Seattle! Coming off a fantastic weekend workshop that began last Friday evening with a meet and greet at my home, I came away feeling invigorated after working with everyone who joined.
We added some smaller-group workshops to our events page – and they immediately sold out. If this is something that interests you, we will work with you to figure something out when my schedule allows. The up-side of these smaller trips are more one-on-one time as well as having accommodations and transportation resolved for you.
For the spontaneous adventurer who can get themselves here at the end of the week, one spot remains to join us on the Olympic peninsula. Who is us? Myself, my long-time shooting partner Gavriel Jecan, and office superstar Libby Pfeiffer who assembles these fantastic opportunities.
The Columbia river gorge is one of the most iconic locations on the west coast, and there are a few spots left to join Gav and myself here in early June. While we will have plenty of opportunities to capture the vistas, waterfalls and temperate rainforest of the area our goal here is to use this naturally beautiful location to dial into the abstract. This is something I’ve taught myself to do over decades, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than teaching it to you.
Before the summer wraps up, I’ll be returning to Katmai, Alaska – home to the bear that adorns the cover of my upcoming book, Wild Lives. We’ve been working with the same folks on the ground (and in the air!) for a long time now, and I always look forward to the two weeks we spend teaching workshops here. We are fast approaching the time of year when the last few spots for these opportunities fill up – so don’t miss out and sign up today!
Teaching what I love to do is my passion and the breakthroughs that happen on our workshops are, simply put – awesome. Being able to pass on a lifetime of learning is why I do this!
This past weekend we had a great workshop in California’s Joshua Tree National Park. As expected after the state’s record rainfall this winter, the wildflowers were out in force and the cacti were blooming which made for some unexpected hummingbird photography. However, it’s Joshua Tree’s eponymous yuccas and ancient granite formations that I love to explore.
Earth Day arrives tomorrow, April 22nd and you can celebrate by visiting your local national parks for a fee-free day. With over 400 national parks and one in each state, there’s likely at least one near you. . . get your camera gear ready and head out for some photos and fresh air!
Don’t know which one to visit? The National Parks Service has created a handy interactive quiz that will help you narrow down your interests to a location that meets your needs based on distance, activities and more.
Share your photos online tagged with the #yourparkstory / #myparkstory hashtags and interact with others celebrating Earth Day at our protected natural places! Some of my best work, including photos from my upcoming magnum opus on international wildlife has been capture in our national parks. Enjoy the image gallery. Better yet, get out there and create your own!
National parks are powerful places that have many meanings and connections to those who visit them – our shared history, our sense of discovery, and our dreams of the future. They teach us about ourselves and the world around us, and invite us to continue to learn, grow, and explore. National Park Week is a time to reflect on what parks mean to us, enjoy what they provide to their visitors and communities, and commit to protecting these places we cherish.
Over the weekend, we officially entered into Dark-Sky Week! I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the folks over at the International Dark-Sky Association for a while now and along the way I’ve learned much regarding the benefits of curbing light pollution. I’ve long known about it’s impact on night photography – but the issues that arise from an abundance of artificial light are much more complex than you might believe. To that end, IDA has created International Dark Sky week to bring awareness to many of those issues – from disrupting the patterns and habits of wildlife to artificially manipulating the moods and routines of human beings.
It may seem harmless, but light pollution has far-reaching consequences that are harmful to all living things. Effective outdoor lighting reduces light pollution, leading to a better quality of life for all. The dark sky movement is working to bring better lighting to communities around the world so that all life can thrive.
-International Dark-Sky Association
For more information and to find out what you can do to raise awareness within your community photographic or otherwise, visit DARKSKY.ORG.
To commemorate the increasingly popular topic of light pollution and efforts by the IDA to bring awareness to it’s benefits, I am currently running a 25% discount on my most recently (as of this post!) published book project, Night On Earth as well as my entire print collection – good this week only, until the end of Dark Sky Week on April 22nd.
I’ve picked out some of my favorite night-related prints, found below if you need a starting point. It’s always nice to be able to spark a dialogue with the photographs and artwork you choose to hang on your wall. With the accessible information in Night On Earth and the efforts of the IDA, these make for an excellent conversation piece.
In a win for wildlife, the latest tiger census in India has seen an increase of 200 tigers from just four years ago! Launched in the early 1970s, Project Tiger relocated entire villages to open up habitat corridors for the big cats, thus minimizing conflict with humans, and giving the wildlife room to rewild the lush sal and bamboo forests and grassy meadows.
Join me in November to experience the best India has to offer: we will travel to two national parks to photograph the elusive big cats as well as barasinghas, rhinos and the massive wild water buffalos. We might even see sloth bears and leopards!
November is a time of celebration too. Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated all over the country with spectacular light displays, gift-giving, a delicious sweets. It is a time of spiritual uplift, a celebration of good over evil, and the end of the harvest season.
Red alert for fans & collectors of wildlife books! There are a couple titles that I am involved in that I want to highlight that are either being funded or published this week. While they are different in their subject matter and approach, they both deserve your consideration and support.
Remembering Wildlife is now funding Remembering Leopards, their eighth in the Remembering series which has raised over $1.3 million for wildlife conservation. My photo of a leopard is a featured print in the limited edition book, of which there will be fifty copies. The aim of the creators is to make the most beautiful book ever seen on the featured species and to use that to not only raise awareness of conservation issues but also, more importantly, to raise funds for organizations working for its protection. The Kickstarter for this book is now live. You can pre-order the book (as well as grab many other rewards) to give the producers the cashflow to make it happen!
Being published this week is author/photographer Graeme Green’s The New Big 5: A Global Photography Project for Endangered Wildlife. Over five years ago he contacted us about an idea he had about creating a new Big Five of wildlife photography. The Big Five was a term coined by game hunters and includes the African lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo. Graeme took this phrase and has turned it on its head. In his book being published on April 4th, he has brought together 165 wildlife photographers (including me) and conservationists to raise awareness of the crucial issues facing the world’s wildlife. Order your copy today!