© 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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© 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 »
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 »
Most 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 »
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 »
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 »
Mary 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 »
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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Vacations are a great way to get away and de-stress. However, I often find myself stressing even more. While I try to be mindful of the fact that I’m on vacation and not on assignment, I can’t seem to leave home without my camera gear.
With only a limited amount of time, I worry about getting the shot. Where are the best locations? When and where does the sun set and/or rise? How can I best secure my equipment in the hotel room?
On a recent trip to Antigua, West Indies, I was focusing on a bevy of tropical treats that don’t normally grace my lens. It’s easy to get sloppy and fall into the “tourist trap.” You want to shoot everything, but end up shooting not much of anything worthwhile at all. Slowing down and actually seeing your subjects, as opposed to simply looking at them, can make all the difference in the world.
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Satellite photo of United States at night.
If you look at a satellite photo taken at night of the United States, you’ll see a recognizable shape. The coastlines are outlined in light. Major cities are clearly defined. Yet, out in far West Texas, there is a dark area void of major manmade lighting.
This huge dark area is being preserved thanks to a major dark sky preservation movement by local entities. Read the rest of this entry »