Photographing STEVE was on my photo bucket list. Although I’ve seen the northern lights many times this was the first and only time, I’ve seen this rare astro-phenomena. It was bright at first then faded very quickly. I feel extremely fortunate to have squeezed off eight frames. This image of STEVE reflects my goal of capturing wildlife and wild lands few people see first-hand.
This photo is special to me thanks to the community involvement in removing burdock, a local invasive species, and the associated storytelling opportunities. I’m a nature photographer, but a conservationist first. As a committee member of the Sacajawea Audubon Society here in Bozeman, Montana, I wanted to shed light on our local conservation efforts. Our “Knock out Burdock” campaign has brought many volunteers from various backgrounds together to make change in our community. My vision in taking this photograph was to raise awareness on this issue in the hope that I would encourage others to get involved and start a larger discussion.
I have recently been learning more about meditation and am fascinated by the many ways one can choose to meditate. One ancient form of meditation is to focus on a mandala image. Mandalas, or circles, are a sacred form of meditation that allows the individual to focus on the image and in clinical trials has been shown to promote healthy living. With this image, I tried to combine an image of nature, which is naturally calming to me, with the idea of mandala art. This image reminds me of a warm tropical sunset with the color, trees, and circular motion. When looking at it, I can almost feel the warm sun, hear the waves and feel the salty air on my face, and it sends me into a relaxed state.
Through my photography I try to portray the character or spirit of a bird. Often that involves capturing behavior that represents some distinctive aspect of that particular bird’s lifestyle. It’s extra rewarding if I can achieve that vision in a unique or artistic way as with this black skimmer in flight. We see the astonishing blade-like bill with which it skims the water’s surface to capture fish, a bill so thin in cross-section that, seen from the front, almost disappears from view. The unusual head-on view, the symmetry and verticality of the wings, the shallow depth of field drawing attention to the bird’s eyes—factors that all came together to produce a compelling image. Framing a bird flying toward you at close range can be extremely difficult, but I love a challenge and in this case the reward totally outweighed the effort.
I feel at home on the coast, with a shutter release in my hand, and nowhere more so than the rugged coastline of the Basque Country around Barrika, which includes these stunning spine-like rock formations, known as flysch formations. “Chasing the Dragon” absolutely evokes features which motivate me creatively – energy, shape, perspective, and a little bit of drama. It’s a privilege to stand alone in near-complete darkness, senses heightened, with only the sound of waves, and see those components come to life in your viewfinder.
I created this image on one of my trips to Bwindi National Park in Uganda. On this day the dominant silverback sat by himself in the dark canopy of the cloud forest. The reason I love to photograph mountain gorillas is the fact they are so similar to us humans. The looks that I got from him this day reminded me of a shy, pensive person. I wondered what was crossing his mind as he saw me photographing him. Do they think like us? Or is he just an innocent being wondering who this intruder to his world is? I believe the mystery of what is going through his mind tells his story.
In a small section of my landscaping, I have yellow ground flowers that produce nectar, thus attracting many varieties of pollinators, as well as aphids and ants. While lying flat on my stomach on the ground to photograph the insects, I noticed an ant among the flowers, resting on a blade of grass. Through my macro lens, I could see the ant was drinking from a tiny droplet (nectar or possibly a droplet of water). As I positioned myself at different angles, I realized I could capture the flowers refracting into the drop, which I think makes an interesting and unique image. I have never been able to capture a scene similar to this, so this image is quite special to me.
COVID-19 caused all of my photo safaris for 2020 to be cancelled. It seems so apropos that this photo, taken within a few miles of home, would be my awarded image! This epitomizes what I’ve tried to tell people over the years—you don’t have to travel far to take wonderful wildlife images. In fact, many times you get your best images in an area you can return to many times.
Having recently retired and relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area to Portland, I have spent lots of time exploring local wetlands and wildlife refuges. Koll Center Wetlands Park is a small wetlands bordering a business park. When I heard that a number of common mergansers were hanging out there, I went in search of them.
In this photo, I love the way the dark background makes the merganser really pop and allows her personality to reveal itself!
In macro-photography of insects, one often has to choose between science and art. Making a bug pic artistically appealing is a special challenge probably because many of us simply find bugs creepy. (Why doesn’t my wife want to hang this great spider photo in our bedroom?) Both the art and science are legitimate approaches, and each has its place. Macro photography of insects becomes special when we can capture the beauty without losing the functional and behavioral detail. My goal is to look at these tiny creatures in new ways from a different perspective; often that requires moving beyond the view we typically have – the back of a running bug just before we squash them with our boot. In this photo the empty egg case and emerged caterpillar come together with curve of the host plant in a special way that honors both the science and beauty of nature.
When I create a composite, like Guardian of the City, I like to use individual images that have a strong potential to express a mood and use them to create a story. Sometimes I know ahead of time exactly what I want to create and other times it just happens spontaneously. It’s great when my imagination kicks in. Although many of my photographic images tend to reflect a long association with classic and traditional compositions, I have only just recently enjoyed a slight departure into the world of altered realities and artistic stylizing. I find the challenge of creating altered images while retaining original photographic detail to be unique, fun and fascinating.