In the Frame of Things: Using Natural Frames to Emphasize Your Subject

Snow-covered branches frame urban landscape of Central Park, New York, NY.

Snow-covered branches frame urban landscape of Central Park, New York, NY.

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

Making a subject stand out is the primary goal of all photographers. There are a number of ways to accomplish this and your subject matter will usually dictate the best method. Common techniques may include special lighting, subject placement, extreme angles or contrasting colors. If you delve into the world of digital imaging, your choices will be virtually unlimited. But, if you prefer to keep your images looking as natural as possible, you may want to stick with the in-camera methods.

One of my favorite ways to highlight a subject is to place it within a natural frame. This might consist of leaves, flowers, bushes … just about anything nearby that you can find to encircle your subject. In the opening photo above, I used the snow-covered branches to frame the distant buildings in this Central Park winter scene. Besides serving as decorative foreground elements, they were a great way to cover up the dead space of a white, featureless sky.

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Photographing the Canadian Rockies

Just one of Canada’s innumerable peaks, the last light of day shows this one to its best advantage.

Just one of Canada’s innumerable peaks, the last light of day shows this one to its best advantage.

Story and Photos by Jerry Ginsberg

Overview

Our American West is sprinkled with many spectacular national parks. Even a quick glance at the map will reveal that these preserves of nature are just islands in a sea of a burgeoning population surrounded by spreading towns and cities that often press against many of the parks’ very borders.

In sharp contrast, our Canadian neighbors have a nation of almost exactly the same size as the U.S., but with only about one tenth of our population. As a result, they enjoy roughly ten times more elbow room. With the exception of relatively small pockets of people, western Canada enjoys lots of wide open spaces. As long as we bring our passports along, those fine folks will let us share their pristine parks and vast wilderness.

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Five Reasons You Should Be at the Nature Photography Summit

Still debating whether you should come to NANPA’s Nature Photography Summit and Trade Show, February 21-23 in Las Vegas?  Here are five compelling reasons to pull out your credit card and start making reservations.  And, hey, there’s still time to get pre-conference pricing . . . but only ‘till midnight, Sunday, January 20th.

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Sweet Serendipity: Being Ready to Capture Life’s Unexpected Moments

Sunrise behind "The Wheel" on Steel Pier, Atlantic City Beach, Atlantic City, NJ

Sunrise behind “The Wheel” on Steel Pier, Atlantic City Beach, Atlantic City, NJ

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty of making providential discoveries by accident.” In photography, it’s more like capturing that once in a lifetime shot that could not be recreated again in a million years. The internet is full of these types of images, usually classified as “Photos Taken at the Perfect Moment,” or “Things You Have to See to Believe.” Of course, almost anything you see on the internet should be viewed with a certain degree of skepticism, and even more so when it comes to photos and videos. The old saying, “The Camera Never Lies,” has never been less true than in the digital age in which we live. However, assuming that even if a fraction of these photos are, in fact, real, they truly are serendipitous moments caught on camera.

I recently spent several days in Atlantic City, NJ shooting ocean views. Most of my visits in the past have been day trips lasting only a few hours – just enough time to grab a quick lunch, lose all my money and head back home. On this occasion, I had the luxury of time on my side – time to see the real beauty of this town, beyond the bells and buzzers, and the glitzy flashing lights within its casinos’ walls.

One morning, I took a walk along the beach to The Steel Pier – a 1,000-foot-long amusement park built on a pier of the boardwalk. Its latest attraction is a 227-foot tall Ferris wheel, known as The Wheel, which began operating in 2017. I arrived just as the sun was rising behind it. My main objective was to get the surf in the perfect position – far enough into frame to be a dominant foreground element, but not so far in that it covered up the sun’s reflection on the wet sand. I also wanted to get the rising sun directly between the spokes of The Wheel. The sun’s position changes quite rapidly when it’s this low on the horizon. I took several shots and the photo above was the only one where the sun and the surf lined up in the perfect positions. This was the result of careful timing (and a little bit of luck). However, the serendipitous aspects were the inclusion of the seagull and the woman – things I had absolutely no control over. I saw when the seagull walked into the reflection during the shoot, but I didn’t even notice the woman in the background until I was reviewing the images back home on my computer. She had walked into one of the openings of the pier directly beneath The Wheel at precisely the right moment.

Another serendipitous moment was the inclusion of the honeybees in the daylily image below. I was all set to shoot the flowers when I suddenly found myself surrounded by a small group of bees. Like little helicopters on a mission, they methodically visited each flower in the area – hovered for a few seconds, then landed to pollinate. Since I already had my camera locked down on a tripod and focused on one particular bloom, I decided to wait and see if they would pay it a visit. Eventually, two bees flew into the shot and hovered close enough for my flash to cast a catch-light in their eyes. When they landed, they went down too deep into the flower to be seen, so I was lucky to get this photo of their approach.

Honeybees “photo-bombing” daylily image.

Honeybees “photo-bombing” daylily image.

Serendipitous moments in photography are unplanned and often referred to as “lucky shots.” But you can increase your luck if you’re prepared, have a little patience and are aware of specific patterns of behavior – as in the case of the honeybees. Sometimes, however, you just get a pleasant surprise. Careful planning made the image of The Wheel a good shot. Serendipity made it one-of-a-kind.

Jackson Hole Launches Tag Responsibly Campaign

In a November 2018 post, we asked if photographers should stop sharing location information. Popular spots are being overrun with Instagrammers, seeking to duplicate iconic images. The landscape is being damaged, vegetation trampled, trash and human waste left behind and people are risking life and limb for the next epic selfie.

It’s been a topic of conversation across the nature photography community. Now, the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board has entered the debate with a campaign they’re calling “Tag Responsibly. Keep Jackson Hole Wild.”

Along with a video (above), the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board released posters and shareable social media graphics aimed at getting photographers of all levels to refrain from posting specific location information with their photos. This story even made the New York Times.

Anyone who’s been to Jackson Hole and tried to photograph Schwabacher Landing, Moulton Barn, or Oxbow Bend can attest to the fact that these locations are getting too much traffic. It’s easy to find the popular photo spots: there are long stretches of hard-packed bare earth, tamped down by thousands of feet and tripods. On any given sunrise, a photographer might have to deal with several photo tours and random cell-phone-toting tourists walking into their shots, parking in fields and leaving litter behind.

The new campaign urges people to “Post the photo. Trash the tag.” It’s not like Moulton Barn is hard to find, and there’s a big sign for Schwabacher Landing right on the highway but, when the very businesses that depend on tourism start getting behind a movement like this, they have the potential to change the conversation. As one of the Travel and Tourism Board posters asks, “How many likes is a patch of dead wildflowers worth?”

Do Sweat the Small Stuff: How Attention to Small Details Can Bring Big Rewards

“S-shaped” pattern of pinecones

“S-shaped” pattern of pinecones

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

They had all gathered in the same spot – practically standing shoulder-to-shoulder. When new members joined the group, they were careful in setting up so as not to bang into the legs of the other tripods already planted in their perfectly chosen spots. All the cameras were pointed in the same direction waiting for that special moment.

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Returning to Badlands National Park

Yellow Mounds area in Badlands National Park, SD.

Yellow Mounds area in Badlands National Park, SD.

Story and Photos by Jerry Ginsberg

In my many columns for NANPA, I have never repeated a particular location. Until now. As a result of events described below, it seems fitting to add a new insight on a familiar location.

Being a National Park Artist in Residence

Last year, I had the privilege of being chosen by Badlands National Park in South Dakota as their Artist in Residence for the fall season. Many units of the National Park Service offer these opportunities, which appear on https://www.nps.gov/subjects/arts/air.htm. In addition to National Parks, many other units (National Monuments, Scenic Trails, Historical Parks, Battlefields and more) in the system offer such opportunities. The process is very competitive with many artists across a wide spectrum of disciplines—visual, writing, performance, etc.—submitting applications. And the actual judging criteria remains unknowable.

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Should Photographers Share Location Information?

A sunflower field in Canada was trampled by hordes of people seeking a viral selfie.

A sunflower field in Canada was trampled by hordes of people seeking a viral selfie. © Frank Gallagher

Art Wolfe is reputed to have said you can celebrate something to death.  In a similar vein, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Senator Lamar Alexander penned a May 2018 editorial for CNN in which they bluntly stated that “our parks are being loved to death” through a combination of record-breaking crowds and severe maintenance backlogs. All over the world, precious, unique natural areas are under stress from human visitors.  In some places, it’s simply a case of too many people coming to too small a space.  In others, it’s not just the crowds, it’s also bad behavior.

In order to protect beautiful but fragile areas, many photographers have stopped sharing location information.  No GPS data.  No clues about where the spot is or how to get there.  Why?  Because, once a really cool photo location is out there on Instagram, Facebook or other platforms, the crowds inevitably follow.

Is withholding locations arrogance? Selfishness? Respect for nature?  You be the judge.
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Great Photography Spots in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Fantastic lunar landscape of the Wave, in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, located in both Utah and Arizona.

Fantastic lunar landscape of the Wave, in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, located in both Utah and Arizona.

Story & Photography by Jerry Ginsberg

Exploring the Southwest

Although the four states that comprise the great Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah) contain a combined total of thirteen national parks, this vast area has so much spectacular natural beauty that all of it could not possibly be contained within these parks.

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The Autumn Show: Beyond “Trees & Leaves”

Fall foliage reflecting in lake, Twin Lakes area, New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY. f/9.5 @ 70mm, 5-image HDR compilation.

Fall foliage reflecting in lake, Twin Lakes area, New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY. f/9.5 @ 70mm, 5-image HDR compilation.

Story & Photography by F.M. Kearney

The final curtain is about to rise. A cast of billions is in place. Throughout their entire performance, they’ve all been restricted to the same regulation green outfits. For their finale, they now have a chance to break free – a chance to dazzle onlookers with stunning new yellow, red and orange wardrobes. A few glory-hounds will attempt to upstage the others with magnificent, multi-colored garb. Sit back and relax… The Autumn Show is about to begin.

I’m sure most nature photographers look forward to this show every year. But, it can be a challenge to come up with something different than the usual “trees and leaves” photo. Try looking for compositions beyond the obvious – compositions where the subject isn’t immediately evident.

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