Green Heron (Butorides virescens) on Cypress knee.
In last month’s column in From Photography to Filmmaking, we started to think about sound and how sound can help to shape and craft our story. Today, I’d like to expand on that a bit more and walk you through how I put together the audio for my latest short film from my project Filming Florida.
I spent the first few weeks of the year filming and photographing in south Florida and spent four or five mornings working in Sweetwater Strand in Big Cypress National Preserve. My latest short film explores the transition from night to dawn in the swamp. When I was filming this particular piece, I went about things a little differently since I was also using this as an opportunity to test out a bunch of new equipment. With all the testing of a new camera, I was not focused on recording audio. As a result, two days before the planned release of the film, I had a fully edited film, but it didn’t have any audio to go with the visuals. This afforded me a very interesting exercise–setting out specifically to record audio that matched the visuals for the film. I’m not saying that this is the best way to do it, and in fact I’d much rather capture high quality audio while I am filming, but it was a valuable experience. Take a moment to watch the film and then I’ll walk you through my approach.
A montage of the books that Friesens has published
Compared to challenges nature photographers often face and embrace in their work, creating and publishing a quality book has never been easier. You have the images, likely enough to publish a hundred coffee table books, so what’s next?
This article summarizes what you should know when considering, designing and publishing a photography book.
Before we get to that, let’s review a common book printing question today. Should I print my book digitally or through a traditional offset press? Which is best for me?
“Best” is relative to many technical, artistic and personal variables. Years ago, for professional image quality, digital cameras fell short, yet today they deliver outstanding results. Similarly, the print world has seen impressive advancements in digital press technology. Which is best? Depends. With higher quantity book runs, traditional offset printing remains an “ultimate quality, more options, and lower cost per book” home run. At the same time, print craftspeople using the newest digital presses can print lower book quantities with outstanding quality. Do your homework. If you aspire to deliver trade publishers’ coffee table book quality, does your intended printer print these books? If not, have you reviewed samples of their work? Be careful and inquisitive. There are printers printing books on digital devices much like an office copier, charging as much or more than some book printers printing books on million dollar digital offset presses. There is a quality difference. If you’re unsure of final book quantity (and most book publishers are), ask your book printer to quote multiple book quantities (e.g. 100/250/500/750/1000+) comparing traditional offset and digital prices, and provide samples of both. Depending on your book quantity range and the printer’s press options, you will quickly learn where digitally printed or traditionally offset printed book quantities are attractively or unattractively priced. You must also consider quality bookbinding, but we’ll reserve that for a follow-up article.
Labyrinth Sublime: The Inside Passage, by photographers Pat and Rosemarie Keough. This book opens to almost three feet!*
Have a book concept. Tell a compelling story – don’t just show photographs.
Showcase unique images – avoid repetition.
Are you a photographer or a graphic designer? If you’re a photographer, hire a professional graphic designer.
Hire a professional editor.
If you choose to personally design your book:
Review and compare published books similar to your concept.
Consider and compare font sizes and page layouts before beginning design. Design only when you have fine-tuned your intended layout(s) to your (and more importantly your intended audience’s) satisfaction.
Calibrate your monitor. Printers can provide kits that help measure a monitor’s accuracy at which point you may need to calibrate your monitor using a colorimeter (prices start around $100).
Ask your printer for a cover design template (based on your book specs).
You can work in RGB (Red/Green/Blue) up until you select your printer at which point you should convert RGB files into CMYK (Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/Black). Printer profiles for printing on coated paper are available for this (example: GRACoL2006 Coated1v2). Note: When color images are printed on paper the effect of the paper causes the images to look slightly darker because a computer screen emits light rather than paper which reflects light. Converting images to the GRACoL profile on its own does not simulate this effect. You can use the Proof Colors option in Photoshop to simulate this effect when printing on coated paper.
Review and understand book manufacturing formats, options and material specifications. Once you have an idea of book size and format, page count, paper, cover, and quantity range, request a quote. Don’t worry about future quote revisions based on changing specs and/or trying to hit a price point. This is part of the business.
If you are personally scanning slides, make sure your scans are of the highest quality. Send test scans to your printer for review and proofing to avoid discovering at press that your images are not at their best.
Send hard copy proofs as a guide to your printer especially if you will not be present at the press when the job is run (called a Press Check). You should also request proofs to see and compare to what is expected at press.
Sewn binding provides higher book quality and longevity.
Proofread, proofread, proofread (and not just by you). Errors are easy to miss – even for big publishing houses – but, once printed, impossible to erase.
Consider crowd funding to help pay for your book.
Design in RGB (can cause issues at press which prints CMYK)
Personally scan images unless you have a high quality scanner (by printing industry standards), you know what you’re doing, and you’ve tested your scans through your intended printer.
Good luck with your book! I hope this article is helpful. If you have any book production or publishing questions, please contact me anytime by email at email@example.com.
Fred will be one of the featured Breakout session speakers at the 2015 NANPA Summittaking place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com.
Fred Perrin began his career as a Kodak Technical Sales Representative for Professional Photographers. Fred has received honors from The Professional Photographers of Canada as Craftsman of Photographic Arts (Scenic/Nature Photography) and his lithographs have been presented to sixty world leaders by the Government of the United States.Fred is now VP of Marketing & Business Development for Friesens, North America’s premier book manufacturer. Friesens customers include many of North America’s most prominent museums, art galleries, publishers and photographers. Company Website: books.friesens.com
Small American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) laying in vegetation on edge of water.
This is the third entry in the From Photography to Filmmaking monthly column by Drew Fulton. To see the previous posts, visit the archives.
Photography is primarily the pursuit of a single sensory experience that of vision. We talk about composition, exposure, and focus. As we start to think more about using the moving image to tell stories, this all encompassing pursuit of vision all of a sudden must also include another sense. We have to start to listen!
During this busy holiday season, I challenge you to take a few minutes to close your eyes and just listen. I think too few of us really listen to the world around us. Take a moment and sit on a bench in the mall while doing your holiday shopping and just listen. What does the laughter of a child or the wail of a tired infant tell you about the scene? What about the distant rumble of a vacuum or the swish of an opening and closing automatic door? What sounds add to the story? What distracts you?
Nevada is one of the featured keynote speakers at the 2015 NANPA Summit taking place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com.
Images and Story by Nevada Wier
Photographing in low light is particularly challenging, but immensely satisfying — if you can overcome the difficulties. However, it is these kinds of situations that stimulate me as a photographer. I know that it is these times when it is more possible to create what I call a “snowflake photo”: one that no one else has in his or her portfolio. So I seek out the difficult light and perspectives. Of course, that also means that the chance of failure is high; I have to work extra hard in these situations. I am on alert, paying attention, anticipating the action and seeking out whatever light is available.
One is definitely constrained by the quality of their equipment. Sorry, an iPhone is not going to be the camera of choice for photographing at night or inside a hut lit by a candle – unless you are going for an abstract with high noise. Many digital camera sensors are not able to produce a relatively noise-free image at an extremely high ISO. Unless you have a top-of-the-line camera that can handle 1600 ISO or more, the highest exploitable ISO for most cameras ranges between 400–1600 ISO. Another limiting factor is the lens. If you are using a zoom lens that has a minimum aperture of f/4.5, it is going to be problematic. Not only will you not have a fast enough shutter speed, the lens will not be able to quickly and accurately focus in dim light. And, it is critical to pay attention to the focusing. During the day in strong light focusing quickly is easy and accurate; it only takes a quick press of the focus button to be accurate (I use the back * button on my Canon for focusing and to set a specific focal point). In low light it is important to squeeze the focus button until you see the focus alert signal in the viewfinder. Sometimes I have to use manual assist. Occasionally I need to shine a flashlight on my subject so I can focus.
Sometimes I use flash but not for a primary source of light, rather to pop color or stop the action with a slow shutter speed. A flash is always a secondary source of light. I usually go to the highest ISO that I am comfortable using and on my Canon 5D MarkIII I rarely go above 1600 ISO; if I can I much prefer to stay at 800 ISO or lower. I photograph primarily on Shutter Priority, but in low light I sometimes switch to Aperture Priority when I want to stay at a wide-open aperture. However, I do like slow shutter speeds (and I’m not afraid to hand-hold at ½ sec. or slower) in combination with flash, either for panning or having a flash stop the action within a blur, so there is sharpness within a sense of motion. I carry a number of different gels for my flash so the flash outputs blends seamlessly with the ambient light. I usually keep my white balance on Daylight unless there is an abundance of red, and then I use Auto (red is a difficult color to desaturate, it tends towards purple).
I make sure my exposure is absolutely perfect; better too light than too dark. I constantly check my histogram. At a high ISO you do not want to have to lighten your image in post processing and expose ugly noise. Honestly, I rarely use a tripod. I don’t like to walk around with them. The photographs I’m showing you on this blog are all hand-held. In fast moving situations it is difficult to use a tripod, and in crowds – forget about it! Knowing how to use flash appropriately is a big key to success.
I mentioned earlier that it is important to anticipate so that one can be in the front of a crowd. I am used to “wiggling” myself into a good location. There is a fine line between being assertive and aggressive, but I don’t want to end up in the back of a huge crowd.
I expect a lot of failures; in fact I mostly have failures in these kinds of situations, as they are technically and often socially difficult. However, all I need is one great image! I try as many shutter speeds as possible; depth of field is not a critical concern to me at these times. I try slow shutter speeds with or without panning, usually with the flash on. I turn the flash off and work with natural light. I try everything! I always say, “If you don’t try, you don’t get”. And, often what one gets is that magical snowflake image.
Nevada Wier is a multiple award-winning photographer specializing in the remote corners of the globe and the cultures that inhabit them. Her journeys have her crisscrossing the world in search of compelling travel experiences and images. To read more about Nevada, view her extraordinary photography and get information about her photo workshops and tours, visit her website at www.nevadawier.com.
A Snowy Plover sits among the dunes on a Florida beach in front of one of many condominiums.
This is the second entry in the From Photography to Filmmaking monthly column by Drew Fulton. To see the previous posts, visit the archives.
When I first started to dabble in the world of the moving image, I didn’t think much about the storytelling side of things. I simply started shooting what was essentially a moving photograph rather than a video clip. What do I mean? Basically, I took all of my experience as a photographer and applied that to making video. I didn’t make any changes to the way I composed or created images. I simply did what I had always done except now I was making videos! I won’t say that this was totally wrong, but it sure was far from right. Let’s take a few minutes to really think about how our audience watches video and the fundamental differences between watching video and looking at a photograph.
Photographing moving water at varying shutter speeds produces different looks, from a silky effect to frozen detail. When photographing the ocean surf, waterfalls, streams or any moving water, I often bracket the shutter speeds to create a variety of results.
In the vertical waterfall image in Iceland, above, the water appears smooth and gauzy. The horizontal image of the same waterfall, below, presents more detail, permitting more shape with enough blur to endow the shot with a sense of motion. I like both effects, so I vary the shutter speed to get more or less detail. When bracketing the shutter speeds, review each image on view screen to judge the results. If you see silky water with no detail where it is all white, move to a faster shutter speed. If there is too much detail where the water looks like ice, use a slower shutter to add enough blur for a velvety water effect.
How fast or slow the water is moving is a factor to help decided shutter speed for the amount of blur or detail. A slow versus fast moving stream will have different effects at the same shutter speed. In addition, wider-angle lenses show less apparent motion compared to a telephoto from the same distance.
Several factors to help decide the shutter speed:
The flow rate of the water – slower shutter for more blur with slow moving streams
The amount of blur or detail you want – slower shutter for more blur
Distance to the subject – the water flow appears faster the closer you are
Focal length of the lens – slower shutter for wide-angle lenses for more blur
Waterfalls all fall at the same rate weather they are a faint stream or large waterfall. They gain momentum with the distance. The air resistance is the only factor that will effect the rate of water falling.
I photographed the waterfall in Iceland while leading a photography tour with Jim Martin. In the horizontal image, I used a .6 second shutter speed for a satiny effect, while the vertical image has a 1/10 shutter speed to show more detail.
Tripod: Using a STURDY tripod will be necessary for the slow shutter speeds. They are still a good idea for higher shutter speeds as they aid in fine-tuning the final composition. Keep in mind it is often windy at the base of a waterfall or around the ocean surf. Weigh down the tripod if necessary to avoid vibration or tipping.
Exposure: when taking a photograph, I decide whether the shutter speed or f/stop is the most important and set that first. Normally, I use manual mode and set the shutter speed first, followed by the f/stop. Next, I set ISO, ideally the native ISO for the camera, such as ISO 100 for Canon, or 200 for Nikon. Native resolution produces the least noise. If the shutter speed is too slow, I raise the ISO to the proper exposure. Finally, I add a filter, as discussed below.
Shutter Speed: In order to get slow shutter speeds for the satiny effect, try photographing in low light conditions since full sun may demand too fast a shutter speed for slow motion. For example: photograph at low light near sunrise or sunset on sunny days, with the subject catching the first or last rays of light. Exposure it easier when he water is in the shade; be aware that your color temperature will change, shifting toward blue. Overcast conditions work well most of the time.
Filters: Using a polarizer will reduce your shutter speed time by about two f-stops. Turn the polarizer to see the effect on shiny rock surfaces and note how the reduced glare reveals detail and form. However, be careful when using a polarizer so as not to take out desired colorful reflections. Neutral density filters (not graduated neutral density filters), grey in color, will reduce the light to the sensor, allowing for a slower shutter speed.
Ideas: Water in all its forms is a dynamic subject open to many approaches. I like photographing streams in the shade with green leaves reflected onto streams in the afternoon (Yosemite’s Fern Spring is good for that). Photographing along Yosemite’s Merced River at sunrise provides the opportunity to capture the warm reflections of the mountains in the river. Fall colors, the leaves lit with sun and the water in shade reflect leaves, is a perennial favorite.
Tips for keeping the lens dry:Use a lens hood to keep spray off the lens. Carry a hand towel or pack towel to dry the camera and tripod when you return to the car from the shoot.Use a chamois cloth to wipe the droplets off the lens. Chamois are used to wipe cars dry and it works just as well on the lens. If you are in heavy spray from waterfalls, the ocean or from rain, it is helpful to carry a small sized soft absorbent pack towel to wipe the lens of most of the water, then use the chamois as it will otherwise get soaked too fast and become useless.
Tips for cleaning sea spray: First, use an air blower (not canned air) to remove any bits of sand or dust that might scratch the lens.
Next, wipe down your camera and lenses with a damp cloth to clean off the salt from the sea spray. Do this as soon as possible.
If you do get sea spray on the front element of the lens, use some lens cleaning fluid on a wipe or tissue and use that to remove it. Use lens cleaning solution and do not use abrasive or solvents. Wipe in a circular motion from the center outward. Do not put fluid directly on the lens. If it is very misty, bring the fluid and wipes with you to the ocean.
Another option is using a UV filter when at the ocean to protect the front element of the lens from the salt in the sea spray and you can clean the filter after the shoot in the same way as mentioned above.
Clean the camera eye-piece in the same way if it is needed.
Have fun photographing moving water and creating inspiring images!
Jennifer Wu, a professional photographer since 1992, is best known for her nature, landscape and night photography. Jennifer was named by Canon USA to the elite group of photographers, The Explorers of Light. View more of her work and check out her book and workshop offerings at www.jenniferwu.com.
Jennifer will speak on “Nature’s Elusive Beauty” in one of the breakout sessions at the 2015 NANPA Summit taking place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com.
Ferns – Multiple exposure with spin to highlight patterns and texture.
What does interpretive nature photography mean? Nature is nature, art is art, and never the two shall meet, right? For some, perhaps this is true. But only for those who have never walked in the woods, sat in a flower garden or watched the sun meet the day or settle in for the night. Or for those who have never stopped long enough to explore a dandelion or to watch a butterfly break free of its chrysalis. Nature IS art, in its finest and purest form. Capturing this essence is what nature photographers live for. It is what makes us unable to imagine doing anything else. It is what brings me peace, healing and joy. It is what pushes me as an individual to be present in the moment and to slow down long enough to see and feel and connect.
So, how do we do this and what do the results look like? Most of us begin our photographic journey with our eyes, hands and mind — seeing something, grabbing the camera and figuring out how to set the camera correctly. This is natural, as we need to see our subjects and to learn how to use our equipment to capture the moment. The sticky piece in this equation is “correctly.” True, technical knowledge is necessary. What is missing, and what makes our work express the “art in nature” is vision and heart. When we see and connect at the heart level, our work begins to shine, and what we share with the world resonates at a deeper level than a pretty picture. Continue reading →
I made my first leap into multimedia storytelling after following, with considerable interest, the work of MediaStorm, a video production company founded by Brian Storm. Their videos wove together interviews, music, ambient sounds, and still photographs into artful, dynamic stories. As I watched them, I realized that hearing the ambient sounds and interviewee’s voice created a stronger emotional connection to the story—it just seemed more real than a photo slideshow with captions. I wanted to be able to produce my own multimedia video, but I was intimidated… I had never recorded audio before or used a video editing program.
In the spring of 2009, a client asked me if I would be interested in documenting a month-long undergraduate research experience in the Siberian Arctic. I immediately jumped at the opportunity, with one requirement: the chance to produce a multimedia video.
That July, I found myself in Siberia, wading through knee-deep permafrost goo, battling legions of abnormally large mosquitoes (audio recorder in one hand, DSLR in the other). At the end of that month, my hard drive brimmed with over 20,000 images and about a hundred pages of interview transcriptions. The thought of the next step nearly overwhelmed me: how to create a coherent, compelling story from this mountain of material. I decided to enlist the experts at MediaStorm for some one-on-one training.
A month later, I knocked on the brushed-aluminum door of MediaStorm’s office in New York. Storm introduced me to my mentors for the week: Bob Sacha, an award-winning photographer-turned-multimedia-producer, and Maisie Crow, a talented up-and-coming multimedia journalist. In five short days, we needed to turn my pile of photographs and interviews into a living, breathing, multimedia story.
Sacha quickly introduced me to the MediaStorm process. First, we poured over the material, starting with the interview transcripts. The edited interviews, he explained to me, would form the backbone to the story. Once the interviews were on the timeline, Sacha showed me how to choose music and integrate ambient sound recordings I had collected in the field. Lastly, we added my photographs and credit slides—it was complete!
Looking back, those five days at MediaStorm really changed my trajectory as a photographer. From a pragmatic standpoint, my new skills opened up a whole new avenue of funding opportunities, allowing me to keep photographing the stories I love. Since 2009, I have produced dozens of multimedia stories and worked as the lead cinematographer on an hour-long documentary production. Some of the videos have simply been a series of images set to music or a voiceover. Others have been more complicated, such as a series of videos on ocean robotics that involved filming interviews in front of a green screen and incorporating historical underwater footage. An unexpected benefit to my multimedia training is that my photography skills have improved as well. Now, it’s easier for me to break down a story idea into the elements I need to illustrate with my photographs. In essence, I have evolved into a better storyteller.
At the 2015 NANPA Summit, I will be co-presenting a Breakout Session with fellow photographer and filmmaker Morgan Heim on the lessons we’ve learned producing multimedia. There you can find out our most critical multimedia storytelling tips, like: whatever you do, don’t forget the…
The 2015 NANPA Summit takes place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com. Early bird registration ends on October 31st!
Chris Linder works part-time at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as an Expedition Multimedia Specialist and runs a freelance photography and filmmaking business. Chris focuses on communicating the stories of scientists working in the field. In the last ten years, he has documented over 40 scientific expeditions from Antarctica to the Congo. Chris’s images have appeared in museum exhibits, books, calendars, documentary films, and magazines worldwide. He is the author of Science on Ice: Four Polar Expeditions.
My name is Drew Fulton and I am excited to introduce myself and announce a new column here on the blog that focuses on how we as nature photographers can start to make use of the video capabilities that is part of pretty much all modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras. I have spent the last few years focusing more and more on creating moving images in addition to my still photographs and I am excited to share some of my experiences and those of others here on the blog. Each month, this column will bring you articles about how to incorporate filmmaking into your own photography and specifically how that can be used to promote conservation. I will be writing a couple of article and curating guest posts by other individuals.
Flip Nicklin is one of the featured keynote speakers at the 2015 NANPA Summit taking place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. Flip will also lead of one of the Pre-Summit Boot Camp sessions. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com. Early bird registration ends on October 31st!
Forty feet below me she hovers quietly. She’s 45 feet long and 80,000 pounds, and her bulk hides her 15-foot-long calf. The calf makes his way out from under her chin to take a few breaths at the surface. On his way back to his mother, the young humpback spots me near the research boat and gives me a good look. After 35 years of photographing cetaceans professionally, situations like this still bring a smile to my face.
The lives of whales aren’t always serene, though. Only a few days after I spot the mother with her calf, our research team finds a dozen male humpbacks fighting over a female. The battle is brutal; many of the whales have open bloody scrapes on the tops of their bodies. Despite whales’ occasional reputation as “gentle giants,” I would never use the word “gentle” to describe these violent, occasionally fatal encounters in the winter breeding grounds off the coast of Hawaii. Continue reading →