While it can be incredibly exciting to photograph in a new place or to spend time with an animal you’ve never photographed before, I also enjoy revisiting old subjects. It’s allowed me to make some of my more creative images. It’s that familiarity that allowed me to make this portrait of a barred owl.
Monday, May 4, 2020
To call these unusual times minimizes how unusual they really are. Over the past seven weeks, the majority of my photography has been conducted within a few feet of my front door. And given that the stay-at-home order in my state has just been extended, my yard will continue to be my photography subject for at least another four more.
It’s easy to fixate on the limits. My spring and summer travel plans have been scrapped. And I can’t help but think of the photo opportunities in the parks close to home, which are off-limits to my camera and tripod. But these nearly two months at home have also been eye-opening.
Saturday, August 31, 2019
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
I’ll be honest with you. I’m sharing this image because I know it will do well on Instagram.
Even though I consider myself a nature photographer — I photograph wildlife and wilderness! — on social media, my wildlife images take priority. It’s the animals that get the digital hearts from my followers.
This image should hit all the right buttons. Owls are always cute. Burrowing owls are among the cutest. Two burrowing owls cuddling should be off the charts.
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Photographers are conditioned to always need something new.
Often it’s equipment. We’re bombarded with ads for new cameras and lenses that somehow will immediately make our art better.
For nature and wildlife photographers, it’s also locations. There’s always some hot new location that promises incredible opportunities that are like none we’ve ever seen before.
But there’s one new thing that will make an even bigger difference in your photography. It’s attitude.
Monday, April 30, 2018
As I wrote last month, wind can seem like an impossible concept to capture in a still image. But just a few days after posting about my experience in the wind in Pinnacles National Park, I found yet another opportunity close to home.
My latest wind image came on a day when I had set out to photograph nesting kingfishers. The birds weren’t cooperative, but because I had just written about the wind, the image at the top of this post practically jumped out at me.
For me, the image illustrates more than the wind. It also shows how assigning yourself ongoing projects can help you to break through creative logjams.
Saturday, March 31, 2018
You often hear of artists talking about their careers in terms of personal growth. Over the nearly 20 years I’ve been photographing nature, my vision has certainly grown.
In the beginning, I was satisfied with images that made nature look as pretty as possible. Today, I try to make images that are pretty but also communicate how I felt when I pressed the shutter button. And in Pinnacles National Park, California, last month, that meant I had to find a way to photograph the wind.
Thursday, November 30, 2017
If you’ve only visited the national parks of the U.S. west coast you have a very specific view of what national parks are: spectacular wonders of nature that were preserved before development had much of a chance to alter them.
But the definition broadens as you head east. A national park isn’t necessarily pristine wilderness. And if you can get past the fact that the water in one used to catch fire, beautiful scenery awaits.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
While I learned the art of nature photography through independent study, there’s no question that Galen Rowell was my professor. We had never talked and he had likely never seen any of my work. He died 15 years ago, just before I landed my first major publishing credits.
But about 10 years ago I got an opportunity to visit his Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop, Calif., which had become a museum for his life’s work. In addition to showing his classic prints, there was even a display case housing one of his lightweight Nikon 35mm cameras. I’m heartbroken on hearing the news that the gallery will close within the next few weeks. Everything — including the last prints bearing his signature — is priced to sell.
To be an artist, it’s imperative that you find your own voice, but you start that journey on a path others have laid.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
I was one of millions who braved traffic and potential gas shortages to drive to the middle of nowhere to see the total solar eclipse earlier this month. If there were any doubts as to whether the effort was worth it, they vanished the moment the sun disappeared behind the moon.
The two minutes and 10 seconds where the sun’s corona was visible in the midday sky were truly spectacular. But it was also only two minutes and 10 seconds. There were many more photographic opportunities during the 24 hours I spent chasing the eclipse. And I tried to take advantage of as many of them as I could.
Friday, June 30, 2017
When I first took up photography, I read a lot. I hadn’t studied art previously, so I didn’t know about composition, lighting, design — the elements that turn a snapshot into a photograph. And the more I read, the more I was turned off.
A common refrain was that there was a “correct way” to photograph everything. It quickly became obvious why all of the animal pictures I had seen in local photo competitions looked the same and why there were so many images of flowers growing out of old wagon wheels.
Friday, September 30, 2016
When you take a picture, do you capture or do you express? This question gets right to the heart of the art of photography, and it’s a shift that you have to make as you evolve from taking pretty pictures to crafting images that mean something to someone.
Sunday, July 31, 2016
I’ve spent more time thinking about my photography — why I do it and why my images look the way they do — over the past three months than I probably have over the preceding decade. I’m still doing interviews about my Rainbow on Haleakalā image, featured on a Forever postage stamp to commemorate the centennial of the U.S National Park Service. I’ve learned a lot about my approach to photography through the process of doing these interviews.
A few of the interviews focused on the thought process and effort behind the image (my favorite.) A few others concentrated on equipment and camera settings (my least favorite.) And a few fixated on the fact that I’m “self-taught,” I didn’t study — in fact, I detested — art in school. I think it’s really easy to take the latter the wrong way.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Since the announcement of the commemorative postage stamp featuring my Rainbow on Haleakala image, I’ve been asked a lot about my approach to photography. One quote that kept coming to mind each time I answered the question is the title of this blog post: “He who seeks beauty will find it.”
Sunday, January 31, 2016
We live in an age where virtually everyone is a published photographer. Many people now take photos every day. Most of these are quick snapshots to show off where they are, themselves or their dinner. Seconds later they’re published on social media for all the world to see.
There has never been a time when we’ve taken so many photos — and thought so little about taking them. So as someone who painstakingly crafts images, trying to produce a few that truly matter, I think it’s helpful to share the process that resulted in them. Those rare gems are usually the result of a lot of work.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
There’s been a lot of talk lately in nature photography circles about what constitutes art. This discussion comes up every so often, but this latest round was spawned by what seems to be an absolutely amazing accomplishment from one of our own — not that many of his fellow nature photographers want to claim him.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
People say one key difference between the amateurs and the professional photographers is that the professionals take a lot more pictures. That may be true, but there's another difference. The extra images are typically part of a creative exercise; they aren't random shots.
Ansel Adams once remarked that every now and then he arrived on a scene "just when God's ready for someone to click the shutter." I've had my share of images like that, but more often, I have to work at it.
For me, the process works a bit like this: Something strikes my eye, and I keep refining the composition until the image consists only of the essence of what drew me.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The Wilderness Act, which has preserved some of the most pristine areas of the United States, turns 50 next week. My absolute passion for nature photography has just turned 14.
The two are more related than they might seem.
Sunday, March 31, 2013
I've always been a little envious of painters. If you're trying to capture a scene and the clouds aren't quite right, a painter can just make them right. Photographers have to make do with what nature provides — at least at that moment. As one grows as a nature photographer, however, the act of creating an image becomes more like creating a painting. And I'm not talking about the use of Photoshop.
Photography does involve being in the right place at the right time, but that doesn't mean it's always entirely left up to chance.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
I was standing at Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park recently, sharing the popular overlook with a couple dozen photographers. It's one of the most popular viewpoints in any national park. From this one point you can see several iconic granite peaks as well as Bridalveil Fall. If there's any one scene that says, "Yosemite," this is it.
But the sky was clear. The lighting was not dramatic.
"Let's go," a photo tour leader barked to his students, wanting to retreat to the lodge for hot coffee. "I have many pictures from this spot that are much better. You could get this picture any day." He ambled to his car and honked the horn at his students who were still snapping pictures.
He was right. But he's also wrong.