One of my underwater Steller sea lion images is featured on the cover of this month’s issue of Canadian Wildlife. Scuba diving with these curious pinnipeds is one the highlights of my entire photography career. Over the years, I have had a lot of success publishing these images from my January 2009 dive trip to Hornby Island in British Columbia. (Doesn’t that seem like a long time ago?) It’s nice to see that an “older” image that I created using my original Canon 5D is still valuable and publishable.
As I have been recently editing all of my older trips, I keep finding surprising gems like this image from my last scuba diving trip to Hornby Island, BC in January 2009. If you are a diver you absolutely need to plan a trip to dive with the Steller sea lions at Hornby Island. They are incredibly curious and playful underwater. Many people who are familiar with my work might recall that another one of my Steller sea lion images was awarded 2nd Place in the Underwater category in the 2010 ICPA. Anyway, here is another cute sea lion admiring its reflection on the front of my dome port. I created this image using my Canon 5D and 17-40mm f4 lens in my old Ikelite 5D housing with 8″ dome port and using dual DS160 strobes. It is a single exposure which was mostly processed in Aperture 3.0. Photoshop CS5 was used for some minor adjustments and to clone out particles floating in the water.
I have consistently been part of the Nature’s Best Photography Awards the last 7 years, but each year the photography is more amazing and the competition more difficult. I am honored to have even one image accepted and especially pleased that this year it was one of my underwater images. I love photographing dramatic landscapes, but I am equally excited by underwater and wildlife photography.
My underwater portrait of a Steller sea lion had an excellent 2010. Last summer, it received 2nd Place in the 2010 International Conservation Photography Awards in the Underwater Category and was featured on the promotional poster for the event. The poster was highly visible around Seattle all summer and even made a cameo appearance in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. This image is currently Highly Honored in the Underwater Category in the 2010 Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice International Awards and is one of 6 images featured on the cover of the current issue. I’ve also been told that it will be displayed in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.
I created this image with my Canon 5D and Canon 17-40mm f4 lens with a +2 diopter inside an Ikelite 5D underwater housing with dual Ikelite DS 160 strobes attached with ULCS arms. The image initially required minimal processing, but I spent a lot of time cloning out backscatter in Photoshop.
One of my new Steller sea lion images is featured in the Alaska Exposed section of the December 2010 issue of Alaska. Typically, it takes me a few months to process my new images before I get them on my website or submit them to my agents. However, Alaska saw this image on my blog back in September and immediately contacted me about publishing it. In my experience this is an unusually quick turn-around from creation to publication.
By now, my regular readers and social networking followers are probably aware that I had engine trouble last week while using my boat on Prince William Sound for the first time. The repair bill is pretty bad, but not as catastrophic as I had initially feared. It’s par for the course in trying to shoot unique images in remote locations. I have not had a trip go sour in almost 2 years, so I can not complain. During my short visit, I was absolutely blown away by the beauty and potential images that I saw in the College Fjord area, let alone the rest of PWS. I hope to go back to Alaska in the next week and maybe even get out on my boat once it is repaired one last time. Either way, I have a lot to look forward to next summer.
Here is a new Steller sea lion image from my July trip to Southeast Alaska. I spent 2 days visiting the Yasha Island pinniped colony. The cacophony of sound plus the overpowering stench of the colony is impossible to share, but at least I created some interesting images that capture the spirit of the place. I used my inflatable boat to drift in the kelp in order to get a low-angle view which best conveys a sense of being in the water next to these curious creatures. Steller sea lions have bulging eyes which make them look like aliens, which really comes across in this image. I think they are even kind of cute. I used my Canon 7D and 400mm f4 DO IS lens to create this photo. This setup is excellent for being able to hand-hold a big lens on the water.
After spending 3 days photographing humpback whales bubble-feeding near Angoon, I motored my boat down Chatham Strait to photograph Steller sea lions at Yasha Island. I have been scuba diving with Steller sea lions in British Columbia during the winter, but have never put any effort into photographing them in Southeast Alaska. Their populations are declining in much of their range in Alaska, so I have not wanted to disturb them. Fortunately, some of the juveniles were very curious and approached my boat as they frolicked in the kelp. At one point, I even had one come within a few feet of my inflatable in order to play “let’s-splash-the-photographer”. I know that I shouldn’t have encouraged it, but I just had to splash back. It is difficult to take a decent picture amongst the chaos of a pinniped colony, especially when the light is less than ideal. It is even more difficult to hand-hold my 400mm lens in my inflatable when the current is running. I wanted to capture a moment from a low perspective when one of the sea lions was barking so that it looked like I was just another sea lion in the daily scrum.
Tonight is the awards ceremony for the 2010 International Conservation Photography Awards at the UW’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. The exhibit opens to the general public tomorrow. My image of a Steller sea lion underwater won 2nd Place in the Underwater category. It is featured on most of the promotional materials, including this poster that is currently displayed all around Seattle. I also received an Honorable Mention in the Landscape category for my “Badwater Salt Crust Sunrise 1″ image from Death Valley National Park. I am really looking forward to seeing some of my friends, like Stuart Westmorland & Sean Bagshaw, and meeting a number of photographers that I only know online, including Todd Mintz, Jim Patterson, & David M Cobb.
Here is another great image from my recent Steller sea lion shoot. This sea lion is biting the front of my dome port. Even with the dome and a +2 diopter, you can still see that it is a little soft around the mouth, but is that close or what? This images was created with my Canon 5D digital SLR in an Ikelite underwater housing with 2 Ikelite DS160 strobes set on Manual to -4, at f4 and 1/125 second.
For any of my regular visitors, I have to apologize for not keeping up with my promise to try and post more the past few weeks. The economic uncertainty that we are all facing has started to demand my attention, as well as some personal family issues. I canceled my trip to return to Argentina this week, and am trying to work on some other projects for the time being as I try and sort everything out that is going on. It might be awhile, so I am just trying to regroup and focus on what I can do for my business and family at this time. Some of the bigger concessions that I am trying to make include selling my boat up in Alaska and eliminating my film expense by going all digital. I’m looking into trading in my Pentax 67 and Canon 5D so I can upgrade to the new Canon 5D mkII. I’ve got some new projects in the works to lead more photography workshops next year, so it only makes sense that I should shoot digital so that I have something to show to my clients, rather than waiting for my film to get processed after the trip. I think that I will keep my Fotoman 612 panoramic camera to still shot some film once in awhile, because I really like the detail I get in my larger prints.
I’ve got some more editing to do from my recent dive trip with the Steller sea lions, but this is one of my favorite images. I shot about 2600 images over 3 days during 8 hours of diving. I deleted at least 1800 in my first cut. Now I need to process the top 40 or so images from the shoot. This images was created with my Canon 5D digital SLR in an Ikelite underwater housing with 2 Ikelite DS160 strobes set on Manual to -4, at f4 and 1/125 second.
I have had a great week scuba diving with the Steller sea lions. This is my 4th visit to Hornby Island, but the first time that I have chartered the resort with only 3 other photographers. I have been mobbed by 20-40 sea lions on 5 out of my 6 dives. I routinely disappear into a ball of sea lions as they gently bite on my drysuit covered legs and pull on the back of my wetsuit hood! When it gets too much, I just sink to the bottom and hold my camera over my head until they lose interest and go bother someone else. It is impossible to take pictures in the middle of that much chaos. They are constantly chasing each other and dive bombing me from the surface. I think they are having as much fun as I am. This is one of my favorite images of a juvenile blowing bubbles at me underwater. It was shot with my Canon 5D digital SLR, 17-40mm f4 lens, B+W +2 diopter, Ikelite underwater housing with an 8″ dome port and two DS160 strobes set to -4 at f5.6 and 1/200 second.