Saturday, August 27, 2022

The art of rejection

Rose Campion in Bloom, Washington

Being rejected is a terrible, terrible feeling. But in art, let alone life, I’m not aware of any way to avoid it.

We’re conditioned to only share the positive. We worry that if we show any sign of weakness, it will taint our public image and close the door to future opportunities. Who wants to work with a loser?

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Camera settings hold us back

Evening Light on Reservation Head, Skagit County, Washington

Perhaps more than any other form of art, photography is treated as a technical pursuit. That’s not to say that other forms of art can’t be highly technical — they are! — but most people can appreciate a painting without asking about the specific brands of paint used, the wrist action used to apply it, and so on.

The same cannot be said for a photograph. There’s often an expectation that photographers publish their settings with their images. If the f-stops and ISOs don’t fit with the presentation, the expectation is that the photographer will supply them if asked. If the photographer won’t indulge, it’s assumed he or she is hiding something.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Nature can be close to home

Merganser and Downy Duckling, Lake Washington, Renton, Washington

An incredibly destructive flood — the kind you might see once in 500 years — tore through Yellowstone National Park a few weeks ago, cutting off access to a wildlife hotspot popular with photographers. The park worked quickly to reopen other areas, but it’s not clear how long it will take to repair or replace roads that reach the Lamar Valley.

So what’s a wildlife photographer to do?

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The curse of the modern photocopier

Red Fox in Golden Grasses, San Juan Island, Washington

Wildlife photographers sometimes look for conflict to add drama to their images, but more and more it seems like they’re getting caught up in conflict themselves. Wildlife hotspots are now becoming flashpoints for heated battles between people out for a few Instagram likes and those who believe the photographers are like paparazzi who are doing the animals harm.

One such hotspot is on San Juan Island in Washington state where a few years ago I photographed a bald eagle flying with a red fox and a rabbit. The park was a well-known fox habitat before I captured those photos, and the number of photographers showing up has only grown since.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

In search of the Salt River wild horses

First Light, Salt River Wild Horses, Tonto National Forest, Arizona

If there is an animal that’s synonymous with the American West, it might very well be the horse. But in our minds, the horse usually isn’t alone. It’s typically paired with a cowboy.

Along the Salt River outside Phoenix, Arizona, if you look hard, you might just spot a horse. It’s likely not alone either. If you look even closer, you’ll likely see many more. The horses here have no owners. They’ve been on their own for hundreds of years, making their own lives along the riverbanks. And somehow they’ve thrived, despite countless attempts to get rid of them.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

The art of misery

Lodgepole Pine Snags and Shadows, Winter, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Would you like this picture more if you knew I was in pain when I made it? That my fingers ached after I removed one of my gloves in the sub-freezing temperatures in order to work faster in the fleeting light? That a half hour earlier I injured my back while trying to speed through waist-deep snow with my heavy camera bag?

It is a somewhat serious question. Anybody can take photos and most people always have a camera with them. The number of pictures taken in any given day is approaching the population of Earth. So, what separates the dedicated artists from anyone with a smartphone? The amount of suffering is becoming that measuring stick.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Happy birthday, Yellowstone

Mist in Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The idea of the national park is 150 years old today. On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed an act setting aside Yellowstone as a public park. It wasn’t the plan, but it ended up being the first of many. Over the century and a half that followed, the United States added another 62 parks and hundreds more federally-protected scenic areas, monuments, seashores and rivers.

The concept of the national park has been called “America’s best idea,” but as Yellowstone has shown, the idea itself has evolved dramatically over the years.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

The coyote and the river otters

Standoff Between Coyote and River Otters on Yellowstone River Ice, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is home to nearly 400 species of animals. If you’re a wildlife photographer, the hope is that you will get to capture species interacting with each other.

A bald eagle swooping down to catch a fish is a somewhat common sight. Spend enough time there and you’re also likely to see a fox leap to pounce on a vole. The big hope, of course, is to see one of the park’s famous wolf packs hunt a bison or an elk, but that activity usually occurs miles out of sight.

On my latest trip to Yellowstone, however, I got to see a wildlife encounter that at first glance seemed downright strange: a standoff between a coyote and river otters. And it took place on ice covering the Yellowstone River.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Variations on a sunset

Fiery Sunset Over Saratoga Passage, Camano Island, Washington

Look at a sky watcher’s chart and you will see sunset listed as a precise moment of time. I, however, prefer to think of it as an event — an event that can last hours.

There’s more to a sunset than the instant when the sun slips below the horizon. Sometimes an hour before, the western sky can begin to turn golden. Puffy cumulus clouds that are low in the sky can go from being pure white to intense yellow.