If anyone has flown on Alaska Airlines this month, you might have seen my polar bear mother and cub image and read my tips for creating better photos in the current issue of Alaska Beyond. The article features several of the Northwest’s top photographers offering advice about photography, so I was honored to be included. I have heard from a several people who have already read it, but I think that no one was more surprised and pleased than my parents when they saw it on their flight to Florida last week. You can read more about this photo here, in case you missed it.
Last week, I returned from my annual pilgrimage to Hawaii to photograph humpback whales. I spent 10 days chartering a boat with my good friends Robin & Stuart Westmorland and our buddy Ken Howard. We have been photographing whales together for over a decade from Hawaii to California up to British Columbia and Alaska. We call ourselves the F***ing Whale Crew. Anyone who has ever spent time around whales can probably appreciate how often we curse them for being uncooperative and unpredictable, thus the name of our small fellowship. Anyway, the wind and the whales were working against us most of this trip, however, we were rewarded with this impressive breach close to the boat on our last day. My buddy Patrick Kelley flew over from Kauai to join us that morning. It was his very first visit to Maui. He had basically been on Maui for about 2 hours before joining us to go out for our final day. After departing the Kihei boat ramp, we encountered a group of whales within 20 minutes. I have been fooled enough times over the years by whales who suddenly breach without my camera being ready, so I advised everyone to get their cameras out. I am pretty fast when I need to be, so my camera was out in a flash, but I am pretty sure that I heard Patrick’s lens click onto his camera body about 1/2 second before this whale suddenly flung itself out of the water. Talk about beginner’s luck. You are welcome PK! Once we calmed down from hooting and hollering at what we had just experienced, we realized how fortunate that we all were able to photograph this breathtaking moment. I created this image using my new Canon 7DmkII and Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II lens. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
During my November visit to Costa Rica, I began my trip with several days of birding in the San Gerardo de Dota. While my main goal was to photograph a quetzal, I also spent time photographing hummingbirds by the lodge’s feeders. There were often dozens of hummingbirds darting back and forth, sometimes sharing the feeders, but other times heatedly pursuing each other over some imperceptible slight. This is one of my favorite photos of a green violetear hummingbird ruffling its tail feathers. I especially love the detail and iridescent colors in the feathers. I created this image using my Canon EOS 7D Mark II camera body and Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM II lens. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
Two thing that I have always loved about photography and pride myself on is pushing myself to shoot new subjects and learn new techniques. Before I traveled to Costa Rica, I had never photographed frogs and had very limited experience using a flash. My flash knowledge was mostly limited to underwater photography using strobes. This gave me a good starting point as I read my manuals and worked out how to use my flash as a wireless slave with one of my camera bodies before a night-time jungle trek. I proceeded to apply this new found skill to photographing this tiny granular glass frog that I located with the assistance of my guide. The abdominal skin of some glass frogs is translucent with the internal organs sometimes visible, thus their name. I had never even heard of a glass frog until we started finding them, but I was immediately smitten with their cuteness. I created this image using my Canon EOS 7D Mark II camera body, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens, and Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
Almost a decade ago, I first considered visiting Costa Rica specifically to photograph the incredibly rare resplendent quetzal. This amazing bird was considered divine by Aztec and Mayan civilizations. The male of the species is especially beautiful with its long, iridescent green tail feathers. I did not end up going on that trip, so my research languished on my computer until I finally visited Costa Rica this past November. The first stop on my trip was the San Gerardo de Dota in order to photograph a quetzal. On my first day, I hired a birding guide who showed me an ideal location to observe them as they foraged for wild avocados in the early morning. I visited this same location three mornings in a row during which I observed several females and males feeding. They were very difficult to photograph, because they were mostly obscured by branches as they perched in the tree. Fortunately, they sat perfectly still while digesting the tree’s fruit for upwards of 20 minutes. This allowed me enough time to move around and position my camera in order to photograph an unobstructed portrait of this brilliant male. I created this image using my Canon EOS 7D Mark II camera body and Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM II lens + Canon EF 2X III Tele-Extender. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
This is my favorite underwater walrus image from my Svalbard sailing expedition last summer with my co-leader Tony Wu. Early in our trip, we encountered walrus resting on iceflows with ideal blue sky conditions that allowed for great underwater visibility. As both the trip leader and inflatable boat driver, I cautiously motored towards a group of walrus to allow my clients to photograph them without disturbing them. Eventually, I delicately approached them and got close enough to extend my underwater polecam out to shoot the most curious animal. I love how he is looking right at the camera and the detail in this image is truly amazing. I created this image using my Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera body and 15mm fisheye lens inside my Aquatech 5DmkIII housing with an Aquatech 8″ dome port and remotely triggered it on the end of my monopod. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
Last June, Tony Wu and I lead our first expedition to Norway’s Arctic Svalbard archipelago. We departed Longyearbyen for 14 days of exploration with our incredible captain Heinrich and three of the best clients that a photo tour leader could ever wish for. Like any truly worthwhile adventure, we experienced a lot of down time while sailing and due to bad weather. Our primary goal was to photograph walrus, but of course we were also hoping to encounter polar bears during our voyage.
I tend to stay up all “night” during the Arctic summer and sleep from 6am to noon, or so. Imagine my delight when I woke up one afternoon to discover that we were anchored to some solid fjord ice and had a bear in view, albeit over a mile away. Looking through a pair of binoculars for several minutes, I observed a female bear and her small cub before resigning myself to patiently waiting to see if they would eventually approach us. I went back down below to prepare myself some food, but in no time at all one of my clients alerted me that the bears were already walking towards us! I hurriedly finished my meal and got dressed in anticipation of our encounter.
I was hoping to get some nice images of the bears on the ice using my medium telephoto lens, but the momma bear walked right up to our boat, stood up on her hind legs, and proceeded to check us out. This was way too close for anything but a wide-angle lens. Our captain assured me that she was just curious and that he had the situation under control, so I grabbed my underwater polecam and set to work. I began photographing her by cautiously leaning over the railing of the sailboat while gently lowering my camera down to the ice. Early in our encounter she stuck her nose against my dome port which left snot all over it. It took me a few minutes to clean off and from that time forward I did not allow her to touch my camera again. She walked back and forth along the ice edge for over an hour, but her cub mostly stayed by our anchor. Towards the end of our encounter, the cub finally decided to join her close to the boat. I could not see what I was photographing, but realized that the cub was beneath her and quickly repositioned my camera in order to capture this incredible moment. I created this image using my Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera body and 15mm fisheye lens inside my Aquatech 5DmkIII housing with an Aquatech 8″ dome port and remotely triggered it on the end of my monopod. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
I want to start sharing some of my incredible new images from my spectacular Svalbard expedition that I co-lead with Tony Wu this past June. I have been hesitant to publish what I consider to be some of my best work ever given the fact that publishing photos is not what it used to be, not to mention that a lot of my work gets used without compensation by copyright infringers. However, I can not be afraid of holding back my new photos forever.
This is an underwater walrus image that I created while standing in the Arctic Ocean, holding my polecam, and waiting for a walrus from the nearby colony to swim up to me. Eventually, this very curious walrus took interest and swam directly at me as I nervously stood my ground with my polecam held under the surface in front of me. I blindly fired away as this extraordinary encounter unfolded. After the walrus grew tired of staring at its reflection on my dome port, it gently settled into the shallow water in front of me and proceeded to scratch itself for what seemed like an eternity. It was truly an unimaginable experience as both of us were just relaxed and hanging out at the beach while enjoying each other’s company. I created this image using my Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera body and 15mm fisheye lens inside my Aquatech 5DmkIII housing with an Aquatech 8″ dome port and remotely triggered it on the end of my monopod. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom 6 and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.