Add Scale to Your Grandscapes by Kerrick James

© Kerrick James

© Kerrick James

Like many of us, my love of photography began with the wild landscape. My early years were spent emulating icons like Ansel Adams, David Muench and Eliot Porter. I followed the grand landscape dream all over the American West, and after years of chasing light and doing “pure” landscapes with no signs of humanity whatsoever, I began to feel a little boxed in, as if I was repeating my favorite lighting formulas everywhere I went, and missing something I could sense, but not see.

Eventually, I broke out of that mold by showing the friends and guides with whom I was exploring the natural world—on backpacking trips, river-rafting and kayaking adventures, climbing and every activity I could envision. Over time, these new images of landscapes with people meant far more to me, and not coincidentally, had more success in the world of magazine travel photography than the classic landscapes of my youth.
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MAKING A LIVING AS A NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER, Story and photographs by Jack Graham

© Michael Struble

© Michael Struble

I am often asked if it’s possible to make a living as a nature photographer. No matter whether you attempt to do it as a full-time professional or a part-timer to supplement income from an existing job, there are many things to consider. Nature photography is a tough way to make a living. However if you do it right, you can make it work.

Both full-time and part-time photographers need to remember and understand these concepts: Read the rest of this entry »

NATIONAL PARKS: Rocky Mountain National Park Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

Hallett's Peak reflects in Bear Lake at dawn, winter, Rocky Mountain NP, CO.

Bear Lake with its reflection.

Before the chilly fingers of winter tighten their icy grip and close in on some of the northern national parks, consider a trip to the Rockies. Rocky Mountain National Park is just under two hours from Denver International Airport. The resort town of Estes Park, Colorado, is the perfect gateway to the park, which is known affectionately by many as “Rocky.” With a good choice of lodgings, Estes makes the perfect base for your trip. Wherever you stay, try to save an hour to stroll through the historic Stanley Hotel.

Protecting a good chunk of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, this beautiful park features shimmering lakes, rushing waterfalls, quaking aspen, bugling elk and sharply carved peaks thrusting toward the sky. While I revel in capturing any and all of these subjects photographically, expressing the reflections in the various lakes may be my favorite. Read the rest of this entry »

THE POWER OF MONOCHROME by Jack Graham

Juniper tree at Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

 

When reading this short essay, remember I have no plans to abandon color photography. My feelings are that both mediums have their place. Some images are better represented in color and others in monochrome. The principles of photography carry over to both methods. The only difference is in certain images, the lack of color and the power of monochrome can stand out when applied correctly. I also prefer to use the term monochrome rather than black and white. When viewing a black and white image, we are really looking at shades of gray, not just black and white.

When we think of monochrome photography we almost always think of Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Minor White, Robert Frank, Paul Strand, Dorothea Lange and Edward Weston, just to name a few. We think of powerful images delivering a story clearly transmitted to our brains. We think of monochromatic images going back to the acceptance of photography as an art. Thank you, Mr. Stieglitz!

Alabama Hills and Sierra Nevada Mountains

Alabama Hills and the Sierra Nevada.

 

THE HISTORY OF FILM

Color film was actually developed in the mid-1800s but due to the primitive nature of the products, colors faded from the prints quickly. Just before 1900, if one had the money, one could buy the proper equipment to make color images. Only the very rich could afford to play in this process.

In 1935, Kodak brought to market Kodachrome. However because of the expense compared to black and white, color processing was not the norm until the 1970s, just 50 years ago! Interesting enough it was Polaroid who introduced the first instant color film in 1963. By 1970, color film was the norm for most “snapshots.” However, black and white film was still used by some photographers for the aesthetic nuances that it offers.

It was common for black and white photographers to do their own developing and printing. Color film was dramatically improved, but black and white photography continued to be used as a different method to tell the story, in unusual and powerful ways.

West Fjords Waterfall, Iceland.

West Fjords Waterfall, Iceland.

 

COLOR OR MONOCHROME?

Today I strongly feel that deciding to eliminate color, as an option in telling our story through photography, is a choice not to be taken lightly. It is important to decide, even before the photograph is made, if this image is a possible candidate for monochrome. I have made many images where color is actually a distraction from the strength of the image itself as well as subtracting from the meaning I am trying to convey.

Form, as well as texture, can be brought out in monochrome much stronger than in color. In monochromatic photography we are using our eyes and brains to look at the form of a subject, the texture of the subject, and not confusing ourselves with trying, at the same time, to decipher and process color.

When making color images we think about brightness, hue of color and more. With monochrome images we are only dealing with shades of gray. This is one reason why monochrome images can be exceedingly more powerful than color if produced correctly. Again, the process starts before the camera comes out of the bag.

Photoshop, or any type of computerized monochrome processing that we may be working with today, parallels what Weston and Adams did in the darkroom years ago. In many ways, monochromatic photography can exceed the power of color both in emotion and how the image is viewed and interpreted.

Sea stacks at Bandon Beach, Oregon.

Sea stacks at Bandon Beach, Oregon.

 

LEARNING TO SEE IN MONOCHROME

When working in monochrome consider using tone, brightness, texture and contrast within your image to tell the story and communicate your feeling. Consider that complementary colors like red and green can often look the same in monochrome. If the textures in a monochrome image are identical they become hard to differentiate. Using different textures within an image in monochrome is another way to bring out the feeling from the start. I find differentiating the depth of field of a subject in monochrome photography is more important than if photographing in color. Making one part of the image sharp and the other out of focus can really accentuate the image.

Using these concepts and techniques will get you on the path to seeing in monochrome and being able to deliver images with significant value, but there is much more to learn about making quality monochromatic images. Understanding the Zone system, proper processing technique for monochrome, as well as perfecting your printing technique are all important.

interior of old barn in Palouse, Washington

Inside an old barn in the Palouse.

 

SUGGESTED READING

Guy Tal’s Guy Tal’s ebooks on Creative Processing Techniques

Ansel Adam’s “The Negative,” originally published in 1981

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Graham has been a Professional Photographer and Photo Workshop Leader for over 20 years. For more information, and to view his portfolio, visit www.jackgrahamphoto.com. To read additional photography articles go to www.jackgrahamsblog.com.

FIELD TECHNIQUE: The Magic Hours, Story and photographs by F. M. Kearney

S_121Most nature photographers know that the best light of the day occurs during the first and last hours of sunlight—sunrise and sunset. During this time, the sun is low on the horizon, and its light travels through more of the atmosphere, creating brilliant shades of red, yellow and gold. For that reason, photographers fittingly refer to this time of day as the golden (or magic) hours.

I was recently in Atlantic City and captured “bookends” of the same day on the beach. In the morning, I shot a photo (above) of the sun rising above the Atlantic Ocean. When shooting directly into the sun, it’s best to use manual exposure. Auto modes will go haywire in this type of light. Although it’s been said many times before, some advice bears repeating: Never look directly at the sun in the viewfinder. This is especially true if you’re using a long lens, which will, of course, magnify the sun’s intensity. A spot meter, which measures a small portion of the frame, is also helpful. I spot-metered a clear area of the sky next to the sun, then locked in that exposure on manual. Read the rest of this entry »

A Tale of Two Winters by Kathy Lichtendahl

Mystic Falls © Kathy Lichtendzahl

Mystic Falls © Kathy Lichtendzahl

Although Yellowstone National Park is a photographer’s paradise any time of year, it is truly magical in the winter months. But a visit to the Park in the cold season requires a certain amount of research and planning. Many of the roads close down completely in late October and re-open to supervised over-snow travel in mid-December, remaining open until the end of February before closing once again for spring plowing. One exception is the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and Cooke City, Montana, through the well-known Lamar Valley. The road is Cooke City’s only automobile access to the outside world in winter and so it is kept open year round.

Options for winter visits are plentiful, depending on where you wish to stay and what you want to do. Shoulder towns such as Gardiner and West Yellowstone offer a variety of housing options or you can stay in the park itself at Mammoth or Snow Lodge at Old Faithful. Another option is to take a class through the Yellowstone Association and stay right in Lamar Valley at the Buffalo Ranch.

For years my husband and I have been making at least one trip each winter into Old Faithful Snow Lodge (so many years, in fact, that we stayed at the old lodge before it was torn down in 1998!) Six months ahead of time we make reservations, arranging for three to four nights at Old Faithful as part of the “Frosty Fun” package, which we have found to be the best deal for a winter stay. The package includes our snow coach ride in and out from Mammoth, a room for two and breakfast each morning, among other things. We also make sure to arrange for a snow coach “drop” each day we are there which allows us to get a jump start each morning by being delivered, with our skis, to a location several miles either north or south of the hotel, depending on our plans for the day.

In both 2014 and 2015 our visit to Old Faithful took place in the second week of February. The difference in temperatures between the two years was truly unprecedented, proving that you cannot rely on a specific weather pattern for any given winter visit. In 2014 the cold was severe with daily highs well below zero degrees Fahrenheit. The snow was deep and traveling, even on skis, was a challenge. It was critical to have as little skin exposed as possible and keeping camera gear, especially batteries, warm, was a constant struggle. Shots of the thermal features were challenging because of the amount of steam present and many animals were selective about leaving shelter only when absolutely necessary. The images that were made featured trees covered in snow and ice and frosty faced bison desperately plowing through deep snow in search of buried blades of grass. In contrast, this year found us experiencing record high temperatures with middays in the 40 degree range! The challenges were different but still present. With daily thaws followed by nightly freezing, boardwalks and ski trails were icy and incredibly slick. Bear spray was an unexpected but necessary accessory and bison were present in large numbers as they enjoyed the ease of munching on uncovered grasses. The images to be made contained far less snow and frost but steam was less of a problem in the warmer air.

Whatever the temperature, a winter visit to Old Faithful is well worth a photographer’s time and money. Solitude, an impossible concept in summertime Yellowstone, is easily achieved in the colder months. Just the opportunity to enjoy a private viewing of the famous geyser in early morning or late evening is a special treat that few people in the world have the chance to experience, let alone photograph.

Coyote © Kathy Lichtendahl

Coyote © Kathy Lichtendahl

Castle © Kathy Lichtendahl

Castle © Kathy Lichtendahl

 

 

Kathy Lichtendahl, owner of Light in the Valley, LLC., is a nature photographer based in northwest Wyoming where she often leads photo tours and workshops in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Kathy is also a partner in Open Range Images Gallery in Cody, Wyoming. See more of her work at: http://www.kathylichtendahl.com

 

 

NATURE’S VIEW: Whatchyamacallits and thingamajigs (Part One) Story and photographs by Jim Clark

Sunrise at Black Duck Pool, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia.  © Jim Clark

Sunrise at Black Duck Pool, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. © Jim Clark

It’s that time of the year when nature photographers are either embarking on a summer season filled with photo adventures, or they are making the final preparations to do so. They have their tripods, lenses and cameras all cleaned, inspected and primed, ready to go into action. Watch out nature, here we come!

Often, we forget to bring along the little things—the whatchyamacallits and thingamajigs—that can save us from those minor and major inconveniences we encounter in the field. During my workshops, I have a show-and-tell session to disclose to my students some of the lesser known items I keep in my camera bag or vest—very handy and inexpensive stuff that can make a difference in having a good photo shoot or a bad one.

Here are just a few items you might consider adding to your photographic toolbox: Read the rest of this entry »

NATIONAL PARKS – Mt. Rainier National Park, Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg ©

North America, United States, US, USA, Washington, Northwest, Mt. Rainier National Park Massive Mt. Rainier reflecting in the icy waters of Tipsoo lake, Mt. Rainier National Park, WA

Photographs of Mt. Rainier and its reflection can be made at Tipsoo Lake or Reflection Lakes.

The Ring of Fire—a string of volcanoes, earthquakes and sites of seismic activity that encircles the Pacific Ocean—is the result of plate tectonics. Tectonic plates are slabs of the Earth’s crust, which fit together like pieces of a puzzle. The plates constantly move atop a layer of solid and molten rock called the mantle. Some volcanoes are actually vents with direct pipelines to the molten core of our little planet.

One of these presently dormant volcanoes is massive glacier-covered Mt. Rainier. Long called “Tahoma” by Native Americans, Rainier is about 80 miles south and east of Seattle, Washington, and is plainly visible from that city’s airport despite the distance. At 14,410 feet, this imposing peak is the tallest in the Cascade Range and one of the highest mountains in the 48 contiguous states.

Looking at the map of Mt. Rainier National Park, the mountain occupies nearly the entire area. The excellent main road pretty much goes around most of Mt. Rainier. That does not mean that there are a limited number of compositions here; just the opposite. Spending some time in Mt. Rainier National Park will give you the opportunity to photograph not only this magnificent mountain from many viewpoints, but also some great waterfalls, forests and a spectacular wildflower display that usually peaks around early August.

One way to show Mt. Rainier is with a reflection of itself. Some of the best places to capture these kinds of images are at Reflection Lakes along the road just south of Paradise and at Tipsoo Lake in the Chinook Pass. Both are best at sunrise and can offer foregrounds of colorful wildflowers if you are able to time your visit just right.

For other great views of Mt. Rainier, drive to Sunrise in the northern portion of the park. Counter to its name, a visit to Sunrise can be productive at dawn or late afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »

VOLUNTEERS: Joe and Mary Ann McDonald

Mary Ann and Joe AntarcticaMary Ann and Joe McDonald are professional wildlife photographers who, together, lead photography tours around the world and teach photo workshops at their home, Hoot Hollow, in central Pennsylvania. Their images appear in many national and international nature magazines, calendars and books. Mary Ann is the author of 29 natural history children’s books. She has gone to many elementary schools as a visiting author and has written a coffee table book on the Amish. Joe is the author of six how-to photography books. He is co-author of a book on digital nature photography with Mary Ann and fellow photographer Rick Holt, and he and Mary Ann have written a book and produced a video for Photographing on Safari. Joe has written several coffee table books on jaguars and tigers and is currently writing books on Indian wildlife, creatures of the night, world’s deadliest creatures and camouflage in nature. Mary Ann’s photography awards include two first-place awards and several other awards in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, first place in the Nature’s Best Photography competition and first place in the old AGFA competition in South Africa. Joe has won first place in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition as well as several second and third places. This will be Mary Ann and Joe’s 28th year leading photo safaris to East Africa, and next year they will celebrate 100 treks to Rwanda to photograph the mountain gorillas. Joe became a NANPA Fellow in 2002 and Mary Ann in 2010. (Note: The following questions were answered by Mary Ann.) Read the rest of this entry »

INTERVIEW: Gerrit Vyn on Multimedia Storytelling in The Sagebrush Sea

Strutting male Gunnison Sage-Grouse. The display of this speceis differs significantly from that of the Greater Sage-Grosue and led researchers to declare it a unique species in 2000. Gunnison County, Colorado. Photo by Andrew Johnson.

Strutting male Gunnison Sage-Grouse. The display of this speceis differs significantly from that of the Greater Sage-Grosue and led researchers to declare it a unique species in 2000. Gunnison County, Colorado. Photo by Gerrit Vyn.

Story by Andy Johnson; Photos by Gerrit Vyn

 

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Multimedia Production team has spent the past three years producing an hour-long documentary about the iconic sagebrush steppe of the American west. On May 20th, at 8/7c, The Sagebrush Sea aired nationally on PBS, as part of the award-winning series, NATURE. Check your local PBS station for future viewing times. You can also stream the film online for free on the PBS / Nature website.

Gerrit Vyn, photographer and producer at the Cornell Lab and iLCP fellow, has spent much of the past few years documenting the sagebrush steppe for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Sagebrush Project included a magazine article in Living Bird, educational web interactives, and an hour-long documentary for PBS / Nature, The Sagebrush Sea. In today’s shifting media landscape, increasingly rooted in web and multimedia, conservation itself (in turn, rooted in communication and education) is also expanding its media toolbox.

I recently sat down with Gerrit to discuss how the intersection of conservation photography with filmmaking and web production can benefit a core message.

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