Moonlit Night at Park Avenue, Arches National Park. Sigma 12-24mm lens @ 12mm, f/4.5, ISO 100, exposed for just over an hour. Photo by Roman M. Kurywczak
I have been photographing nighttime landscapes for about 20 years now, capturing images of star trails like the one pictured above with good success (even in the film days). The arrival of digital cameras and their high ISO capabilities has allowed me to push the boundaries of nighttime landscape photography and allowed me to capture the milky way and stars just as we see them. I released my e-book on that subject in February 2011 but wanted to revisit some of the images I had captured with the Sigma 12-24mm lens. The above image is the newest version of my cover shot, but this time the illumination you see is from just the moon. A rock solid tripod and ballhead are a must for this genre of photography. A wide-angle lens is also a must; the Sigma 12-24mm lens is now my lens of choice for my Canon 1D Mark III bodies. For those of you with crop sensors, the 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM should be your go to lens, but keep in mind that any wide angle lens will work (Tip: you should be around 20mm max on a full frame sensor with the settings I will be providing). Continue reading →
“There are no rules for Technique, only solutions. Today’s Darkrooms may soon be replaced with electronic consoles. Yet after thirty years, Steiglitz’s advice to me remains constant: ‘The only thing that matters is the finished photograph.’ “
Arnold Newman, 1965
As a teacher of photography, I often quote Arnold Newman because he is speaking about the essence of creating a meaningful photograph.
My background is in the traditional, large-format, black and white school of photography of Edward Weston in the 1920s, and later of Ansel Adams. I worked with a camera similar to that used by Weston and Adams, an 8”x10” view camera, so called so because the film was 8×10 inches. My camera, ten film holders, and tripod together weighed 40 pounds. Cumbersome equipment, but that was just the way it was if you wanted to make high quality images. Back in the 60’s and 70’s it was called fine art photography.
Many years have passed but the basic principals are the same. In the dark room we could crop the image, increase or decrease exposure, increase or decrease contrast, burn and dodge areas to lighten or darken those areas selectively. We can do all this and more now with more ease than ever before. Continue reading →
Proposed Wilderness in the Clearwater Basin of Idaho’s Bitterroot Mountains.
By Krista Schlyer
This week marks the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act. Americans will be greeting this occasion in myriad ways. Wilderness lovers and protectors will be lauding our foresight as a nation to recognize the value of wilderness and codify that value with strong protections; many will be celebrating the 750-plus wilderness areas now protected under the act. Some will assess the uncounted acres of wilderness that have been lost to development, exploitation, and political failure, as well as the floundering health of this landmark legislation. A few members of Congress will be devising new ways to skirt or dissolve the act, along with every other environmental safeguard. And many Americans will watch the week pass never knowing there was anything special about it.
To me, The Wilderness Act may be the most hopeful piece of legislation ever passed, based on one of the noblest ideas humanity has ever conjured. Wilderness as a valued concept, as a state of being that must be protected, acknowledges three important realities: that untouched, undeveloped, forever-wild land has value in and of itself; that we as a species if given the opportunity will destroy it; and that for so many reasons, impossible to articulate, we need to live in a world where large areas of wild land exist outside of our reach and exploitation. We need it, as Wallace Stegner said, for “our sanity as creatures.”
When President Lyndon Johnson signed The Wilderness Act into law September 3, 1964, he stated: “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”
I have worked for more than a decade as a conservation photographer and writer, and during that time I have documented numerous locations that epitomize Johnson’s divergent states of the land, “the world as it was in the beginning” and the world “after we got through with it.” The wilderness, and the once-wilderness, and some places that exist in sad limbo somewhere in between. Each has something to offer to the story of wilderness.
The Anacostia River, in Washington DC, was once a wild paradise of rich diversity that nurtured a sustainable civilization of native people and abundant wild plants and animals. By the time we were finished with it, the native people were extinct, the river’s waters were so toxic and filled with human waste that 2/3 of the catfish now have cancerous tumors, and swimming in the river was pronounced illegal out of public health concerns. The building of a nation brought the Anacostia wilderness to its knees almost two centuries before The Wilderness Act was signed. It didn’t stand a chance.
Brown bullhead catfish with a cancerous lesion in the Anacostia watershed, Washington DC.
But a handful of designated wilderness areas along the US-Mexico borderlands, did stand a chance, and still do, in theory. Lines drawn by Congress, or at least approved by them, continue to demarcate roadless wild lands under the Wilderness Act, but in name only. Since 2005 and the Real ID Act, the borderlands have been stripped of environmental protections by the US Congress. The Wilderness Act no longer applies along 2000 miles of some of the wildest most biodiverse lands in the United States. It was a matter of political expediency. Despite the presence of many endangered species and imperiled ecosystems, (and despite ample evidence that border walls and militarization do not stop human migration), the government didn’t want environmental safeguards slowing down the military machine.
Desert cottontail rabbit at the US-Mexico border wall under construction in southern Arizona.
A different type of machinery stands at the door of a third location, the Clearwater Basin in Idaho, one of the United States’ wildest remaining mountain landscapes yet to receive protections under the Wilderness Act. Advocates began proposing a wilderness designation for the Clearwater decades ago, only to see the acreage whittled away in the interest of timber extraction, road construction and off-road vehicle use.
Salmon heading upstream to spawn in the Clearwater Basin.
All three of these places present a different struggle and opportunity within the discourse about wilderness. The Anacostia offers a cautionary tale about what often becomes of a wilderness unprotected. In this watershed the most economically disadvantaged citizens of the nation’s capital continue to eat fish and swim in a river long ago abandoned by most as a toxic waste pit. But even now, despite centuries of abuse and neglect, there are opportunities to undo some of the harm we have done and re-create this river through restoration and in some places re-wilding.
Kayaker on the Anacostia River.
In the borderlands, where every day the US government is eroding The Wilderness Act and wilderness itself, environmental protections could be returned to the land, if Congress were just to act in good faith and honor our most treasured environmental laws.
Kit foxes in the US-Mexico borderlands.
The Clearwater, its crystalline waters, salmon runs and old growth cedar forests, are on the precipice of protection, awaiting the state and local communities to express their faith in the importance of clean water and air and open wild spaces where people can get lost and learn to love the land in a way no other experience can afford them.
And all three of these places offer one singular hope for the wild species that inhabit them, the hope of a future to live their lives in this great ecosystem of Earth. The beaver, catfish and cedar waxwings of the Anacostia River; the jackrabbits, green jays and kit foxes of the borderlands; and the salmon, black bears and wolves of the Clearwater, all depend on us. Our pact with wilderness, made 50 years ago this week, and our commitment to honor that pact, will determine their future, and ours.
Beaver on the Anacostia River.
Krista Schlyer is a photographer and writer living in the Washington DC area. She is a senior fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers, and author of the book Continental Divide: Wildlife, People and the Border Wall, winner of the 2013 National Outdoor Book Award. View more her work on her website at www.KristaSchlyer.com.
Schlyer will give a presentation on “Nature At The Borderlands” in one of the breakout sessions at the2015 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. Early bird registration ends on October 31st!
I took the podium and looked out over the room: seven hundred men and women, some of the finest nature photographers in the world. This was the North American Nature Photographer’s Association’s (NANPA) Second Annual Forum and it was my job to bring it to a close.
That morning, I had holed up in my hotel room trying to come up with what I would say. My mind wandered back over my own career as a photographer — not so much the photographs but rather the experiences and the lessons I had learned.
I thought about the natural cycles I had so often witnessed while photographing – the seasons, the tides, the rising and setting of the sun. How many thousands of times I had I watched them? Like watching the smooth muscle of the planet — the things our little orb can’t help but do. Like watching the earth breathe.
During the revolution Martín Luis Guzmán rode the train through Navojoa and looked over at the sierra and felt what we all do when we see its green folds rising up off the desert. We all wonder what is up there and in some part of us, that rich part where our mind plays beyond our commands, we all dread and lust for what is up there.
–Charles Bowden, The Secret Forest
In 2009 the Tucson based environmental group “Sky Island Alliance” launched a visionary initiative to explore, document and protect one of the world’s premier biodiversity hotspots, the Madrean Archipelago of the North American continent. This 70,000 square-mile region of sky-island mountain ranges, surrounded by “seas” of desertscrub and grasslands, straddles the borderlands of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.
Commonly referred to as the Sky Islands, the Madrean Archipelago is a globally unique region where several major biogeographic provinces overlap, creating a region of biological richness found nowhere else on Earth. This richness caused Conservation International to name the region one of the world’s Biodiversity Hotspots in 2004. Despite its proximity to the U.S. border, the Mexican portion of this remote and rugged area has received little biological study; thus the Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment (MABA) was born, an international effort to study a globally important region.
With support from U.S. and Mexican experts in the fields of botany, entomology, ornithology, herpetology, mammalogy, and other disciplines, MABA expeditions are truly international and provide an opportunity to collect critical biodiversity data, foster graduate and undergraduate research, raise awareness about conservation in the region and develop important relationships with landowners, and land managers, on both sides of the border.
I have had the good fortune of being invited to participate in the MABA expeditions as the lead photographer since its inception. I often accompany a herpetologist into the field and provide photographic vouchers of the reptiles and amphibians we encounter. In addition, I document habitat types and capture images of the biologist at work.
After a day in the field, I continue to photograph herpetological, botanical, and entomological specimens brought back to camp by other teams of biologists. These animals must all be photographed that evening so that they may be returned, unharmed, to their point of capture the next morning. My images not only help document the diversity of life found in these remote mountain ranges, but also help to tell the story of this amazing project, its expeditions, and the many people involved.
Major findings from MABA expeditions include the discovery ofseveral new plant species as well as documenting many plant species previously unknown to the state of Sonora. MABA entomologists continue to make new discoveries, documenting more than 10 species of invertebrates that are new to science. Range extensions for a variety of species are frequently recorded.
One of the greatest achievements of the Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment has been the development of a growing, online database of biodiversity. It is a remarkable natural history tool that provides access to the region’s foremost collection of specimen records and species observations for anyone seeking to learn more about the Sky Islands. This database currently contains nearly 78,000 animal records and almost 35,000 plant records for the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and Chihuahua. These data represent the products of MABA research expeditions as well as data from herbaria, museum collections, agencies and scientific literature. The database (www.madrean.org) is freely accessible to all.
Charles Hedgcock will share his experiences working with the MABA project and discuss some of the techiques he uses to document the amazing diversity of life found during the numerous MABA expeditions 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 program and others like it, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com.
The Past, Present, and Future of Nature Photography: The Future – NANPA High School Scholarship Students’ display
Photo and story by Lione Clare
Last October, I had the opportunity to visit the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum (IPHF) in St. Louis, Missouri for its Grand Opening to see my image in, The Past, Present, and Future of Nature Photography exhibit that was on display through January of this year. My photo was one of ten selected from several submissions by recent North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) High School Scholarship Students for the “Future” part of the exhibition.
A Metallic Green Bee (Augochloropsis metallica) visits a Black-eyed Susan.
Since Niall Benvie and I first developed Meet Your Neighbours in 2009 I’ve seen my fair share of amazing, beautiful and sometimes bizarre creatures. From the beginning, I’ve worked almost exclusively in the land that surrounds my home near the Southern Appalachians in upstate South Carolina, USA. Rather naïvely, I suspected that after a short period of time I would begin to run out of subjects to photograph but nothing could be further from the truth. Seldom does a day go by that I don’t see a creature or plant that I’ve never seen before in the wild, anywhere! As Piotr Naskrecki points out in his fantastic book The Smaller Majority, “Over 99% of life on Earth is smaller than your finger.” It’s little wonder then that the careful observer will be awarded with a lifetime of discovery.
North American Porcupine; Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, Canada
Story and Photographs by Jenaya Launstein
If you’ve been wondering about photography contests and whether they’re worth your time and effort, the answer is yes! I have really enjoyed and benefited from the competitions I’ve entered over the past few years, and would like to share some of the benefits, along with the considerations you should be aware of.
Entering photography competitions is a great way to develop your skills, and should you be successful, build a name for yourself along the way. There are many popular international competitions out there; Windland Smith Rice International Awards by Nature’s Best Photography, BBC/NHM Wildlife Photographer of the Year, NWF’s National Wildlife Photo Contest and Audubon Magazine Photography Awards, just to name a few.
Many competitions publish the winners’ and finalists’ images in magazines, offering even further exposure. The people who see these images could be potential print customers or even editors looking for talented photographers. Beyond getting your name out there, many photographers enter competitions for the great prizes! Some competitions offer cash awards or gift cards for photo gear, even photography adventures. I have a great collection of camera bags and other accessories now, thanks to these competitions!
There’s no question that winning a big competition will get your name out to many new people and possibilities, however don’t pass up the national and regional competitions. Although smaller, they are a great place to start! You are still getting your name out there, and in many cases you will receive beneficial feedback on your images.
By placing in the youth category of the annual Canadian Geographic Wildlife Photography of the Year competitions, I’ve had several of my images displayed in Canada’s Museum of Nature the past three years. They were also included in a traveling exhibition throughout the country that has resulted in print sales and additional exposure for my photography.
Rocky Mountain Elk; Banff, Alberta, Canada
In 2011, I won the youth category in the popular NWF National Wildlife Photo Contest. To say I was excited is an understatement! Three years after the contest, I was contacted last month by someone, who had looked through the winner’s gallery, interested in purchasing several of my prints! In 2013, I was named the Youth Photographer of the Year in the Windland Smith Rice International Awards by Nature’s Best Photography. The exposure that is generating for me is nothing short of incredible.
Don’t just stick with your favorite subjects! I’m almost exclusively a wildlife photographer, but in 2012, I entered and won the Grand Prize in the Western Heritage Values photo contest with a picture I took of my dad and brother. The prize included airfare for two to the destination of my choice! I knew immediately where I would go, and a few months later I was photographing bears, moose and more in Alaska and the Yukon Territories. It was an amazing experience and the images I captured there are among my all-time favorites. One of the images I captured was the image chosen as the winner in the Windland Smith Rice Awards.
One of the most important things you must do before entering any competition, however, is to read the terms and conditions thoroughly, and understand what image rights you are giving to the organizers. Even though the contest may have great prizes, the rights they demand may not make it a wise decision for you to enter. The conditions attached to any competition, is the number one factor in my decision of whether I submit any images.
You should also pay close attention to the rules and guidelines of the competition. What type of images are allowed? What are the limitations on processing, cropping, etc? Be sure to follow their instructions for file size, naming, EXIF info and color settings.
If you agree with the terms and understand the rules, I encourage you to enter! You never know what doors it could open up for you. Placing and winning in photo competitions has really helped my career to lift off, even at age 16!
Bohemian Waxwing eating berries; Pincher Creek, Alberta, Canada
Now, some of you may still be reluctant. You might think that you’re not good enough yet, or don’t have the best camera or lenses. Don’t let that keep you from choosing a good competition to start with and submitting your best! And if you really don’t think you’re ready yet, keep practicing! Go to a nearby park or natural area and find something to photograph so you can develop your eye. It’s also a great idea to ask other photographers for feedback on your images. Their advice can really help you improve your work. So get out there and create some award-winning images of your own!
16 year old Jenaya Launstein, was one of ten selected for NANPA’s 2013 High School Scholarship Program. You can follow her on Twitter.
Nate Dappen at the mouth of an ice cave in the Margherita Glacier on Mount Stanley, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Uganda.
Responses and Images by Nate Dappen and Neil Losin | Day’s Edge Productions
How did the idea for this film get started?
Neil came up with the original idea to retrace the steps of older expeditions and recapture their photos to document the disappearance of glaciers on equatorial mountains. At first, we had our sights set on documenting the glaciers on Puncak Jaya (also known as Carstensz Pyramid) in Indonesia. But, as we did more research, it became clear that it would be logistic and financial nightmare to climb Puncak Jaya. So, we started looking elsewhere. I grew up in Nairobi, and my dad had climbed the Rwenzori’s in the late 80’s. So, when Neil and I found out that the first-ever expedition to climb the peaks had photographed their journey extensively, we knew that we were going to Uganda. Continue reading →