This summer, I also visited Seattle after flying back and forth to Juneau. I enjoy being back in my old stomping grounds during the increasingly warm summers. Unfortunately, the downside to that nice weather is dry conditions in the Cascades that lead to forest fires and lots of smoke. I eventually pulled myself away from my prolonged SeaFair boating lifestyle to visit Mount Rainier National Park. Stephen Matera invited me to join him on a day trip and we decided to hike up to Spray Park to photograph wildflowers. Neither of us had been up there to shoot for who knows how long, so we thought it would be a great location to revisit. As we hiked up into the alpine meadows, we grew increasingly concerned that something was off. In places where we would normally anticipate seeing lush fields of wildflowers, we saw only brown, dried up plants. We scouted a number of locations and still could not find any significant displays to photograph. We discussed how this time of year should be the peak bloom, but only saw the odd signs of lupine, asters, and paintbrush hiding in the shade of trees. One particular meadow that in previous years had been remarkably productive for photos was just a tangle of nothing. I was resigned to not even take my camera out of my backpack, but kept scrambling around searching for anything to photograph. Eventually, I found this small display of avalanche lilies that made a strong foreground as the sunset illuminated Rainier’s icy summit. I had always wanted to create an image with these typically early season wildflowers and was lucky that there was almost no wind to move them around during my longish exposure.
This past January, I visited the Big Island of Hawaii in order to photograph lava from the ongoing eruption of Kilauea Volcano. I had intended to fly over there since I moved to Kauai last summer, but settling into my new island life kept getting in the way. Fortunately, I waited until until the right time and was rewarded with several days of incredible viewing of the dramatic “firehose” at the Kamokuna ocean entry. I hiked out to the main lava viewing area with some fellow photographers several days in a row, but on my final day decided to try the famous lava boat and shoot from the water. I had always poo-pooed the boat with its 50 passengers, but am glad that my buddy insisted that we try it. This is one of my favorite images because the lava can clearly be seen dramatically pouring out of the cliff while the steam cloud glows orange in the pre-dawn light. It was the experience of a lifetime.
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.
This past November, I traveled to Costa Rica for the first time. My main ambition was to explore a few different locations in order to photograph wildlife, but I also brought along one of my drones to shoot aerials. One of my first stops was the wild and remote Osa Peninsula which is home to Corcovado National Park. Often labeled one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, its wildlife includes scarlet macaws, tapirs, jaguars and squirrel monkeys. I saw a lot of amazing wildlife, but I only nibbled at the edge of the park. I rented a place close to Puerto Jimenz, but drove all the way to the end of the dirt road to Carate Beach one afternoon. This quiet and isolated setting had the Pacific Ocean on one side and impenetrable jungle on the other.
I’m kind of looking forward to heading back to Alaska next week. I say kind of because of the terrible June weather we have had here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m sure that it will be quite similar during most of July in Alaska which is kind of depressing. Oh, well. That is the price to pay for beautiful images in the 49th state. As I have recently finished editing my backlog of photos, I rediscovered this spectacular sunset image from my visit to Denali National Park last July. I had a professional photographer’s permit which allowed me to drive the Wonder Lake Road in my own vehicle for 9 days. It was an amazing experience that allowed me to create some fantastic wildlife and landscape images. The beautiful sunset light illuminating the virga in the distance caught me by surprise. I quickly jumped out of the van and ran down to this tundra pond next to the side of the road. It’s moments like this that I need to be confident in my abilities to set up my camera very quickly and efficiently.
I do not want people to forget that I am a landscape photographer. Sure, my work is increasingly focused on wildlife and underwater images, but that does not mean that I have stopped trying to photograph spectacular landscape scenes. As an example, consider this beautiful sunrise that I photographed while visiting the US National Park of American Samoa on remote Ofu Island last December. This ledge was not too far from the Vaoto Lodge where I stayed for one very memorable week. I like how the small waves occasionally washed over the ledge during the brief golden light of the tropical sunrise. Man, what’s not to love about secluded tropical beaches? Though I am headed back to Alaska for most of July, I have to admit that I am really looking forward to being back in the South Pacific when I visit Tonga as part of my humpback whale tour in August. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII, 17-40mm f4 lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer, and 2-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6. I also recently picked up Nik Software as my newest sponsor. I applied my new Nik filters including Dfine 2.0 to remove noise and the White Neutralizer in Color Efex 4. What do you think of my results?
I photographed this brown bear backlit at sunrise while visiting Kukak Bay on the outer coast of Katmai National Park last August. Kukak Bay is geographically oriented from east to west, so early morning light illuminates the bay whenever the sky is clear, which is not that often. In most cases, I prefer to photograph my subjects with front or side light, but this image is a good example of shooting into the light. I shudder to think what some HDR advocates would do to this beautiful silhouette. This large male brown bear was one of several that were wandering the tidal flats at low tide that morning. I kept thinking how casually the bears appeared to lumber along the shore, until I tried to keep up with them. I created this image with my Canon 7D and 500mm f4 IS lens. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.
As I have made progress editing my extensive backlog of unedited images, I have been discovering many wonderful photos like this one that have until recently been confined to my hard-drives. This image was created on my Katmai Coast expedition last August, during which I was able to photograph brown bears at very close range. This wide-angle image is a good example of what I mean. I love how this bear is casually strolling along the river’s shore and not paying any attention to my camera which I remotely triggered with a PocketWizard. The light was also really nice as this was one of the few nice weather days that I experienced during the entire trip. And just in case you are wondering, I was sitting on top of the rocks on the left side of the picture. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkII, 17-40mm f4 lens, and Singh-Ray 2-stop Hard GND filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.
I am excited to share that my “Discover Digital Quick Tips” article is published in the April 2012 issue of Outdoor Photographer! OP’s Editor gave me this opportunity after telling me that he always considers my images to be among the most authentic and beautiful that he regularly sees. In my article, I offer my advice on what my top processing techniques are and how photographers can use them to make their own images look spectacular. Please let me know if you enjoyed reading it and feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.
In other news, my regular readers, friends, fans, etc will probably have noted that I have not been online much in the last 2 months. I spent a wonderful, though, not super productive 3 weeks in Hawaii in February. I was barely home for a week before I flew down to Arizona to give 3 presentations about my Alaska photography at the Tucson, Paradise Valley, and Tempe REIs. (I will be at the San Diego, Portland, and Anchorage REIs in the coming month.) Last week, I moved my family into our gorgeous new house just south of Leschi. It is breathtaking to look out my windows anytime and see Lake Washington, the Cascades, and Mount Rainier. This week, I am finally settling into my new office which has its own separate entrance, new cork floors, furniture, and gallery track lighting. I have some large acrylic face-mounts being made by West Coast Imagining that will adorn my walls for when clients visit. Summer is also coming just around the corner. I have multiple trips planned to Alaska, plus my first trip to Tonga. This fall, I will also be joining a small sailboat expedition to South Georgia Island for 4 weeks. As you can see, I have a lot of exciting things going on and many new images to be created.
My regular readers have probably noticed that I have been on an extensive underwater photography binge in the last year. I’ve always said that I aspire to shoot mostly underwater subjects, and am happy that most of my 2012 trips will be at or below the surface. So sticking with that theme, here is another underwater image from my December trip to the National Park of American Samoa. I spent a week at the Vaoto Lodge on Ofu Island and had this idyllic beach setting all to myself each day. This is my favorite over-under image from all the time that I spent in the water. I really like how the coral rubble in the sandy bottom leads the viewer’s eye directly into the jagged peaks. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII and 17-40mm f4 lens with a B+W +2 graduated neutral density filter inside my Aquatech 5DmkII housing with an Aquatech 8″ dome port. This image is a single-exposure which required a minimal amount of processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.