COVID-19 caused all of my photo safaris for 2020 to be cancelled. It seems so apropos that this photo, taken within a few miles of home, would be my awarded image! This epitomizes what I’ve tried to tell people over the years—you don’t have to travel far to take wonderful wildlife images. In fact, many times you get your best images in an area you can return to many times.
Having recently retired and relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area to Portland, I have spent lots of time exploring local wetlands and wildlife refuges. Koll Center Wetlands Park is a small wetlands bordering a business park. When I heard that a number of common mergansers were hanging out there, I went in search of them.
In this photo, I love the way the dark background makes the merganser really pop and allows her personality to reveal itself!
We all know there are few, if any, guarantees in wildlife photography. We wonder if the wildlife will reveal themselves while we are there. Will they exhibit the behaviors we want to document? Fortunately, one of the very few places on earth you can reliably photograph and observe humpback whales working as a team bubble-net feeding is in the pristine, nutrient-rich waters surrounding Sitka, Alaska. This impressive act of cooperative feeding is on display every year from late March until the first week of April.
I have to think I’m not alone. Last fall, after six months of COVID-19 isolation, I found my finger sliding down my bucket list to try to find a destination that didn’t require getting on an airplane. Or driving for three days. Here’s one, the Great Smoky Mountains. Never been there, never done it. I hear they have waterfalls, and I love waterfalls. I think everyone does. They are universally fascinating, conveying both sublime power and at the same time, a sense of peace and serenity. I’ve tried for years to photograph them but my efforts have never been very satisfactory. I had never found the secret to conveying in my images what I was experiencing. It was time to try harder. So, in late October, Jeanne Marie and I headed east from St. Louis. My primary objective was to find and photograph as many waterfalls as I comfortably could, but the fall color would be reaching its peak and there’s a lot of wildlife in the Smokies, so who knew what else would jump in front of my camera?
In macro-photography of insects, one often has to choose between science and art. Making a bug pic artistically appealing is a special challenge probably because many of us simply find bugs creepy. (Why doesn’t my wife want to hang this great spider photo in our bedroom?) Both the art and science are legitimate approaches, and each has its place. Macro photography of insects becomes special when we can capture the beauty without losing the functional and behavioral detail. My goal is to look at these tiny creatures in new ways from a different perspective; often that requires moving beyond the view we typically have – the back of a running bug just before we squash them with our boot. In this photo the empty egg case and emerged caterpillar come together with curve of the host plant in a special way that honors both the science and beauty of nature.
Last month in part one of this series, I discussed some of the most commonly used compositional techniques in nature photography. In Part 2 I’ll be highlighting a few more popular methods, but some might not be used that frequently.
Ron Rosenstock, a fine-art photographer based in Massachusetts, will be awarded NANPA’s 2021 Fine Art in Nature Photography Award during the Nature Photography Virtual Summit April 29-30. His photos have been shown in exhibits and galleries across the globe and his works are in the permanent collections of the Fogg Museum of Art at Harvard University and the International Center of Photography in New York, among many others. He’s written six books and many articles on photography, taught photography at Clark University for thirty years, and has more than fifty years of experience as a photo-tour leader. Ron has served on the NANPA board and is a long-time member.
When I create a composite, like Guardian of the City, I like to use individual images that have a strong potential to express a mood and use them to create a story. Sometimes I know ahead of time exactly what I want to create and other times it just happens spontaneously. It’s great when my imagination kicks in. Although many of my photographic images tend to reflect a long association with classic and traditional compositions, I have only just recently enjoyed a slight departure into the world of altered realities and artistic stylizing. I find the challenge of creating altered images while retaining original photographic detail to be unique, fun and fascinating.
In these days of COVID-19 my bucket list is getting bigger, but my bucket is not. At the risk of being less than completely clear, allow me to explain. As time goes by, always far too quickly, I learn about more and more places on our little globe that I would like to visit, photograph and enjoy.
My list is now measurably longer than it was a year ago. Working against my ability – and that of all of us – to cross names off that list is the virtually worldwide lockdown as nations everywhere take a multitude of steps in an effort to minimize the spread of this scourge. Countries including as Argentina, Chile, Jordan and Switzerland are sitting on my yellowing list now rigidly frozen in gridlock.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant that many travel workshops were canceled last year and the few that took place looked very different. Now, with vaccinations ramping up and new precautions in place, photo workshops are coming back … but they won’t look, feel, or be the same. We asked several NANPA members who are long-time workshop leaders what will be different and how the experience and logistics of travel photo workshops will change.
The Nature Photographer episode #9 on Wild & Exposed podcast
Trained in studio art and digital media, Steven David Johnson is driven by curiosity to closely observe the natural world right outside his door. His work includes macro and ultra macro (2.5-5x magnification) conservation photography, including documentation of vernal pools where biodiversity is largely hidden from the uninformed eye in daylight. Steve tells NANPA’s Dawn Wilson and Wild & Exposed’s Ron Hayes and Mark Raycroft how he stumbled upon these temporary spring ponds while documenting salamander life in Virginia—on a personal blog largely for the benefit of family back home in New York. Find out what’s so special about a vernal pool, what you’re likely to find living in one, and how to photograph it. Plus, learn why Steve’s vintage Star Wars Hammerhead figures are key to getting a great image.