Five great tips Galen Rowell taught me

Story and photographs by Gary Crabbe

Editor’s note: On October 31 the photo gallery founded by Galen Rowell and lovingly managed by his wife Barbara Rowell called Mountain Light will close. The Rowells died 15 years ago in a plane crash near their hometown of Bishop, California, while returning from a photography workshop in Alaska. Author Gary Crabbe’s first real job was as a manager of Rowell’s 400,000-photo library for nine years. Now a successful photographer living near San Francisco, he offers five things he learned from Rowell that helped boost his career from amateur to professional.

It was 15 years ago last August that internationally renowned photographer Galen Rowell and his wife, Barbara, perished in a plane crash near their hometown in Bishop, California. They were on the very last leg of a long return voyage home after teaching a workshop in the Arctic. In a moment, we lost one of the best-known photographers who helped pioneer the genres of climbing and adventure travel photography and helped to elevate the genre of landscape photography with what he called the “dynamic landscape.” Continue reading

How to get published

Story and photography by Budd Titlow

So…you’ve been an avid nature photographer for several years. Your shots always win compliments from family and friends and ribbons at local camera club competitions. Now you want to move up to the next level and start selling your work. How do you do this?

A reflection of fall foliage in a lake in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Settings were 1/30th of a second at f/16 using a 400mm lens to isolate the scene 100 feet away. © Budd Titlow

Getting Started

Be realistic.  Don’t even think about quitting your day job—at least for a while. The romantic allure of traveling the globe—camera in hand—is very enticing. But unless you’re living off a trust fund, just hit the lottery, or have one‑in‑a‑million shots of mutant pygmy crocodiles in Borneo, it’s not going to happen. You simply aren’t going to suddenly start making a living from nature photography. Continue reading

Design your photos for success

Story and photographs by Jennifer King

Summer is here, and a great time to get out and photograph. As you are capturing all that summer has to offer, I want to remind you of the impact that fundamental design principles can have on your photography.

HORIZON

Are you photographing a mountain or beach? Where you place your horizon line can help you to create depth and dimension in your photo and also help call attention to the hero in your photograph. Consider referencing design tools like the Golden Ratio, Rule of Thirds or the Fibonacci Spiral when setting up your composition.

 

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Visit Lima as a nature destination

Story and photographs by Mercedes Benavides

Peru is one of the top 20 mega-diverse countries in the world. Its capital city of Lima contributes to this through its beautiful landscapes, flora and fauna. To the west is the Pacific Ocean. On the east is the foot of the rising Andes Mountain Range, and on the north and south is desert. Millions of years ago when the Andes were created gorges formed on the western side of the Andes through which rivers flowed into the Pacific Ocean. Those gorges today are fertile valleys along the coastline of Peru, and it is in one of them, on the alluvial fan of the River Rimac, that the city of Lima is located.

Lima has many natural and man-made nature locations, but here are four of the best. The first is the Zona Reservada Pantanos de Villa, a Ramsar Site, which is designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty. Ramsar Sites are recognized as being of significant value not only for the country or the countries in which they are located, but for humanity as a whole. The Zona Reservada Pantanos de Villa is a coastal wetland and a location for feeding, nesting, rest and safe harbor for resident and migratory birds. Migrants fly in from Chile and Argentina to the south; from the United States and Canada to the north; and from over the Andes to the east. More than 200 bird species exist at this site, and one of them is the Many-Colored Rush-Tyrant (Tachuris rubrigastra), a favorite with nationals and foreign visitors.

Pantanos de Villa

Many-Colored Rush-Tyrant

A second location includes the cliffs of the Costa Verde which are a magnificent site that show the face of the desert and overlook the Pacific Ocean. Continue reading

A tale of two brothers

Text and photography by Teri Franzen

Life in the African bush is hard for prey animals and apex predators (those at the top of the food chain) alike.  Ungulates (hooved animals) such as zebras, gazelles and wildebeest are constantly wary and keeping watch to ensure they don’t fall victim as food for one of the countless predators that share their territory.  Predators fight among themselves over that same territory.  Lions will fight to take control of existing prides.  They will also fight to drive off other predators, like cheetahs, sharing the same space.  Very often these battles have grim results for the victims.

During my recent trip to Ndutu in northern Tanzania (eastern Africa) we saw many cheetah families living in the Makao plains.  Among them were two bachelor brothers that we had hoped to encounter during our journeys.  With a top speed approaching 70 miles per hour, cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world.  They can maintain this speed for approximately 500 yards.  As a singular animal a cheetah is capable of chasing down and capturing smaller prey, a favorite being a Thomson’s gazelle.  Adult male cheetahs often form coalitions with siblings.  When teamed up they are capable of bringing down much larger prey, like wildebeest.  We wanted to see this two-male coalition in action.

On January 31, during our morning game drive we happened upon a lone cheetah that had climbed onto a fallen tree.  It started calling and before we identified the gender we suspected a female calling for her young.  As we looked more closely we realized it was a male and that it was injured.  His mouth was wounded and his elbows rubbed raw.   This was one of the brothers, only his sibling was nowhere in sight.  Our best guess was that the two cheetahs had been victims of a lion attack during the night.  Either the second male had been killed or severely injured, or he escaped and ran in another direction.

Injured cheetah searching for his brother.

A closer look at his mouth injury.

The wounded cheetah wandered from tree to tree, sniffing for signs of his brother and then sending a stream of his own urine toward the tree.  Like all cats, cheetahs have a keen sense of smell and can identify an individual by its unique scent.  During this time he called continuously with a forlorn cry, presumably with the hope of vocally contacting his sibling.  Occasionally he would leap onto a fallen tree to search and call from a higher vantage point.  Allowing enough distance to avoid interference we followed the lone male for over an hour.  During that time his pace was constant, his conviction never faltered. Continue reading

A wastewater wonderland

Story and photography by Budd Titlow

Do you want to knock your birding and photography socks off without busting your bank account? And—in the process—get to witness a prime example of sustainable water management for wildlife habitat enhancement and climate-change control?

If so, just grab your binoculars and camera gear and head to the Brevard County Wastewater Treatment Plant located in the east-central Florida town of Viera, Florida—just 2.5 miles west of I-95. There you’ll find 200 acres of constructed wetlands that are supported and nourished by advanced treatment outflow from the treatment plant. You’ll also find some of the best and easiest wild birdwatching and photography you’ve ever experienced. It’s called the Viera Wetlands.

Typical view of habitat provided by Viera’s sewage-treatment wetlands.

Establishment of the Viera Wetlands has been a phenomenal success. These created aquatic habitats now provide living spaces for more than 160 species of birds, but—perhaps best of all—the birding and photography access is as easy as pie. A network of 2.4 miles of one-way, 10 mph gravel roads—perched atop the earthen berms—allows superb opportunities for virtually every square foot of the sanctuary. Continue reading

Capture to print—creating eye-catching black-and-white landscapes

Text and photography by Dana Warnquist

“Is that an Ansel Adams photograph,” she asked. “No,” the gallery owner replied with a chuckle. “It’s a local photographer.” Overhearing this exchange, I could feel my face warm as I flushed with both pride and embarrassment. True story.

Winter wonderland; Firehole Canyon, Yellowstone National Park. ©Copyright Dana Warnquist

Winter wonderland; Firehole Canyon, Yellowstone National Park. © Copyright Dana Warnquist

While my art certainly cannot be compared to that of master photographer Ansel Adams, his photographs and philosophies about protecting our natural environment have inspired and motivated me to capture eye-catching black-and-white images. Not everyone can create iconic landscape images like Adams, but with a few basic steps, from capture to print; stunning black-and-white images can be produced by even the newest DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera owners. Continue reading

In nature photography is the preservation of the world

Text by Gordon Illg. Photography by Cathy and Gordon Illg.

.NANPA recently posted a blog, “The 6 Myths That Frustrate Aspiring Photographers” by Tom Horton that offered advice to new nature photographers. The post reiterated advice I’ve heard from established pros many times over the decades, and every point he made was valid. Following his guidelines will almost certainly help neophytes augment their craft and become more noticed. But there are other issues that were not considered, quite possibly because there’s just not enough room in a blog.

Mesa Arch frames Washer Woman Arch, Arches National Park, Utah. You can’t blame people for wanting to photograph icons like Mesa Arch. Canon EOS 40D, 28-135mm @ 30mm, f14, 1/15 sec, ISO 800, -2/3. ©Cathy & Gordon Illg

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The life of the sea otter

Story and photography by Frank Toller

These marine mammals live mostly on the North Pacific coast and typically weigh between 31 and 99 pounds. They are able to live their entire life in the water, in part because of a massive fur coat, the densest in the animal world. They feed on invertebrates such as sea urchins, clams, crab, and abalone as well as octopus and some species of fish. The otters will use rocks to scrape their prey and open shells, making them unique among marine mammals as tool users.

The sea otter population has risen from 1,000 to 2,000 years ago to 100,000 now. © Frank Toller

The sea otter population has risen from 1,000 to 2,000 years ago to 100,000 now. © Frank Toller

They can go onshore and occasionally will do so. The otters are very friendly and while taking these pictures on Jetty Road at Moss Landing, California [55 miles south of San Jose on the coast], I observed the animals allowing children to approach within six feet. The kids and pups seemed equally curious about each other. Continue reading

Ruddy ducks—leading a double life

Story and photography by Budd Titlow

Depending on where you live in the world, the ruddy duck is either a cute bundle of fun or a despised nuisance.

In the United States, this perky duck is beloved for both its peculiar name and its unique appearance. Arthur Cleveland Bent provides this perfect description of the ruddy’s personality: “. . . the little gem of bird life that floats gently on its surface, his back glowing with the rich, red brown of his nuptial attire, offset by the pure white of his cheeks, his black crown, and above all his wonderful bill of the brightest, living, glowing sky blue. He knows he is handsome as he glides smoothly along, without a ripple, his saucy sprigtail held erect or even pointed forward till it nearly meets his upturned head.”

The ruddy duck, hated in Great Britain, loved in the United States and Canada. © Budd Titlow

The ruddy duck, hated in Great Britain, loved in the United States and Canada. © Budd Titlow

Ruddy ducks are a common migratory species throughout the United States and Canada and can be found in marshy ponds, lakes and bays. Even though ruddies are one of our smallest ducks, they lay eggs that are the size of those of the great blue heron and wild turkey.

Wonderful divers and swimmers, ruddies often submerge to considerable depths to capture shellfish, crustaceans, aquatic plant roots, and aquatic insect larvae. With their chunky bodies and short wings, they must patter for some distance across the surface of the water before finally becoming airborne. Their small wings stroke so fast that these birds resemble bumblebees in flight. During courtship, male ruddies engage in a highly entertaining “water bubbling display” while delivering a funny sound reminiscent of a lawn mower starting up.

The ruddy duck is shot by hunters in Great Britain, and by photographers in North America. © Budd Titlow

The ruddy duck is shot by hunters in Great Britain, and by photographers in North America. © Budd Titlow

Now—for those folks living in Europe—here’s the dark side of the ruddy duck’s story. Due to escapes from wildfowl collections imported from North America starting in the 1950s, the ruddy duck became widely established as an invasive species in Great Britain. Since that time ruddies have spread throughout southern Europe, where problems first arose in 1999. Spanish biologists began complaining that ruddy ducks migrating down from Great Britain were threatening the survival of their globally endangered white-headed ducks. In response, British biologists concocted a controversial plan to extirpate the ruddy duck as a breeding waterfowl species throughout Great Britain.

In the March 8, 2012, online edition of the Guardian, environmental editor John Vidal wrote that the British government has killed more than 6,500 ruddies at a cost of more than £900 (approximately $1,173) each, making the ruddy duck some of the most expensive ducks in the world. Although the ruddy duck has bred happily in British ponds for more than 60 years, Vidal notes that bird lovers hoping to see this species should “hurry because the government is about to spend £200,000 (approximately $260,720) trying to shoot the last hundred to finally exterminate this invasive species.” Their only crime: being “American, oversexed, and over here.” Other European countries with ruddy duck populations have abandoned their eradication efforts, believing that a complete culling of the ruddies is both impractical and impossible.

Europe is hardly a safe haven for the ruddy duck. © Budd Titlow

Europe is hardly a safe haven for the ruddy duck. © Budd Titlow

For now, the ruddy duck will continue to live its double life—loved on one side of the Atlantic and hated on the other.


A wetland scientist and wildlife biologist, Budd Titlow is an award-winning nature photographer and author in Tallahassee, Florida. His credits include: 2003 Wildlife Photographer of the Year, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Outdoor Photographer, National Wildlife, Audubon, Outside, Nature’s Best, Travel/Holiday, Time/Life Publications, Sierra Club, Popular Photography, and Petersen’s Photographic. He has authored four books: Protecting the Planet—Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change, Bird Brains—Inside the Strange Minds of Our Fine Feathered Friends, SeashellsJewels from the Ocean, and Rocky Mountain National Park—Beyond Trail Ridge. He also writes a weekly birding photo-essay for the Tallahassee Democrat, teaches ecology, birding , and photography courses at Florida State University, and serves as president of the Apalachee Audubon Society. See his web site at www.buddtitlow.com.