Friday, October 6, 2023

Traveling in Style with Abercrombie & Kent

Something new and different for me this year was joining Abercrombie & Kent as a photo coach on their luxury small ship cruises. Rather than photographing wildlife in remote locations, I was challenged with cities, people and architecture in Italy, Croatia, Montenegro and Greece.

Funnily enough, many of the same principles apply such as lighting, composition, backgrounds and foregrounds, as well as capturing behavior. Just like birds and wildlife, watching and waiting for a particular moment was an interesting exercise. 

On one occasion on a very hot day in Syracuse, Sicily, I stood in the large square and noticed a couple of kittens lying around in the shade. My plan was to photograph them when unexpectedly a father carrying a toddler put her down and she made a beeline for one of the kittens. For a very brief moment, the kitten looked right into the child's eyes before the father scooped her back up into his arms. It was something I quickly managed to capture and a lesson in being both observant and prepared. Photographing unknown children is not something I would normally attempt to do, certainly not without permission, but I felt this was okay as the child's face is not seen. We do not know who this little girl is and I like that. I also think whomever the parent of the child is would probably love to have the photo, but we will never know. It is a sweet encounter frozen in time and one of my favorite images from the entire trip.

Walking through busy streets full of late summertime tourists, I also tried to seek out things that might not necessarily make it quite so obvious as to where we were or filled with throngs of people, but caught my eye for one reason or another. It could be an architectural detail or in Venice for example, where I noticed this pair of beautiful brass sea horses that adorned a gondola. I lowered my point of view and took a side on shot with my 70-200mm lens, set against the dark background. I think it worked out well.

When it did come to photographing street scenes, I looked for areas less trafficked such as alleyways, as was the case in this next photo in Naples. I noticed the gentleman heading towards me carrying a large box on his shoulder and was drawn to the grunginess and textures in the scene, along with the pop of color in the blue flags and red pipes. I used my 70-200mm lens from a distance with the gentleman going about his business completely unaware. To me it conveys just how Naples felt, not pristine clean and perfect, but a city full of character and well lived in. I loved it!

Again in Naples I made use of the 70-200mm telephoto and how it compresses a scene, particularly as we walked along the famous "Christmas Alley" and beyond, jammed with visitors. I focused mid scene into the distance and was able to convey the density of people along this narrow street. 

Traveling with a camera in hand offers so many creative options. Being more observant and thinking outside the box can lead you to interesting scenes and images such as these. More to follow in my next posting!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Contributing to conservation through Photography

A few years back I met an amazing individual as a volunteer with the Wildlife Conservation Network. His name is Pablo Garcia and he had created an organization in 2009 called "The Global Penguin Society" with the goal of protecting penguin species around the globe. I found him to be a passionate advocate for a bird I have personally fallen in love with from my many travels to South America and Antarctica. Is is hard not to be totally enamored by these beautiful, charismatic creatures of the Southern Hemisphere. 

Pablo's story and the efforts he has made is really quite amazing including the creation of Patagonia Azul, or Blue Patagonia, a UNESCO biosphere reserve in Argentina which I hope to visit AND photograph one day!  In the meantime, Pablo has used my images in his presentations and also in scientific publications of which I am incredibly proud of. 

Pablo recently became the recipient of the "Indianapolis Prize for Conservation". The Indianapolis Zoological Society selected him, the first winner from South America, from a pool of 51 nominees and six finalists. He will receive an unrestricted $250,000 grant for his efforts to protect penguins and their habitat. Here is the article and a short video clip where several of my penguin images were featured. 

Thursday, November 3, 2022

NANPA 2023 Top 100 Showcase Selection!

It has been a couple of years since I submitted any of my work to the North American Nature Photography Association's Annual Showcase and after visiting Antarctica in late 2021/2022 felt I had a few images worthy of submission. I was very happy to recently learn that one of these made the top 100 of all the final images selected. This is from thousands of entries! 

It is an image I captured while in the Beagle Channel returning from Antarctica en route to the port of Ushuaia, Argentina. We had phenomenal weather and the waters of the channel were like glass when a small pod of Peale's Dolphins made an appearance alongside the ship. I quickly made my way down to the lowest level so I could potentially capture some close up shots. This required paying very close attention to their movements and awaiting those moments when they briefly broke the surface of the water. 

Using my trusty Nikon D500 with the fabulous lightweight Nikon 300mm f/4 PF lens, I fired off short bursts of several images over a period of about 15 minutes or so, before they decided they had had enough fun and vanished below the depths. I was so very happy to have captured this particular image with both the reflection and the eye! 

1/2500s, f/7.1 @ ISO 1000

As more and more photographers submit their images and the standard each year seems to be getting higher and higher, having any image selected is a personal achievement. It reaffirms and makes the time, work and effort involved in being a professional wildlife photographer all the more worthwhile.

My advice for getting your images selected and published are to not only submit your best images, but of subjects not typically seen, unusual behavioral or compositional shots and of course, technically sound.  

The beautiful NANPA Expressions publication will be available with all the winning images in 2023 and I will post more information on that when all the winners are announced. 

Return to the White Continent!

After two long years of no overseas work, in December, 2021 I was thrilled to finally make a return visit to the bottom of the world on a seven week assignment with Albatros Expeditions. This was my first contract with the renowned tour operator who are based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Albatros Travel Group has been around for a very long time, but their polar expedition side is relatively new. 

I was both excited and intrigued to work for a new company on one of their new Polar vessels, Ocean Victory. The vessel is part of a brand new generation of low-energy vessels, with 4 diesel engines and 2 electro engines, all controlled electronically to optimize speed and fuel consumption.

Over the course of seven weeks, I crossed the notorious Drake Passage seven times! We visited the South Shetland Islands, the Antarctic Peninsula and even crossed the Antarctic Circle. Fate led us into the Weddell Sea to avoid bad weather where I saw my very first emperor penguins! We also visited the beautiful Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island, which also happens to be one of my favorite places on the planet. 

Travel to these wild and remote places is an experience like no other and for many, a once in a lifetime trip. Here are some of my favorite photographic moments.

Juvenile Emperor Penguins

Juvenile Fur Seal

Charlotte Bay, Antarctica

Peale's Dolphins

Light-Mantled Albatross

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Talk at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

I am thrilled to have been invited to do a talk on September 23rd at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History in Pacific Grove, California as part of their Hardcore Natural History Speaker Series. 

The idea came about in a conversation with the museum's director of education and outreach, Liese Murphree relating to their wonderful new "Changes" Exhibit. The year-long speaker series is focused on changes in Monterey County habitats over time, the impact of humans in these landscapes, and the role of humans in protecting them for the future. 

Photography plays an important role in conservation and I look forward to discussing how it has shaped my own personal journey both as a photographer and resident of this incredibly beautiful part of the world.  I hope you can join me!  

Learn more and REGISTER HERE

Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

NANPA's Annual Showcase 2020

Every year, the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) hosts a photography competition for its members. Thousands of entries are submitted with 250 images selected by an esteemed panel of judges for publication.

Winning images tend to be those that are not only well executed both visually and technically, but contain scenes or subject matter not commonly photographed or submitted. As with any photo competition, it helps to view previous winning entries. This will guide you as far as what it is judges are looking for and how you can potentially submit images they may not have seen before.
Bears and eagles tend to be highly popular, so if you are planning on submitting images of either subject, they had better be extra special in order to grab the judge's attention.

This black oystercatcher was a top 100 selection and I was so thrilled to share this beautiful bird, which I rarely see either submitted or winning nature photography competitions. As with much of our wildlife these days, it is facing challenges primarily due to coastal development and human disturbance. You can learn more HERE.

Art in Nature Photography Festival

I am thrilled to be one of the eight judges in this year's "Art in Photography Festival" at the renowned Ward Museum, Salisbury University, Maryland.  As with many events and activities around the globe, this year's competition will be a little different in that it will be virtual.

With twelve categories, there is something for everyone, wherever your interest in nature photography lies. The competition is now open for entries up to July 8th with the exhibit taking place from July 10th - 12th.

You can learn more HERE

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Helping Ourselves by Helping Nature

I know this is a difficult time for many and priorities have changed in various aspects of our lives. But if like me, you now have some extra time on your hands, there are ways to put that time to good use and where social distancing is possible. Nature heals and this is a wonderful way to feed our spirits when it is easy to feel low.

If you are able to get out in nature, many organizations are in need of volunteers, as crucial funds diminish and programs come to a halt. This in turn will have a drastic impact on the wildlife, the communities and the environments they support. Wherever your interest lies, whether that is nature related or something else entirely, there is something for everyone.

This year I officially became a volunteer with the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History with an interest in their Black Oystercatcher Monitoring Program. This involves observing nesting birds in various locations in the Monterey Bay area, gathering and documenting data as part of an ongoing research study.

It is a win, win situation for me and the birds, as it not only makes me feel good and useful, but I also get to see and photograph these beautiful birds. I was also recently highlighted in the "Volunteer Spotlight "section of the museum's newsletter.

New Nature Blog!

Announcing my new nature blog, "All Things Wild", where I will share short stories from my experiences in the natural world.

Wildlife photography requires a great deal of time watching and waiting. It is during these times of observation that I have discovered some remarkable things about my subjects and the environments they call home.

I created the blog with the sole purpose of sharing some of the things I have learned along the way and I hope you will subscribe and follow along!

Monday, May 20, 2019

A morning at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

This morning I headed over to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve with a specific goal in photograph the Brandt's Cormorants at Bird Island. Right now these birds are busy preparing for nesting season and there is plenty of action!

Males choose the nest site and display to ward off rivals and attract a mate. Displays include drawing head back with blue throat pouch extended and bill pointed upward, spreading tail, and fluttering wings; also thrusting head forward and downward in rapid repeated strokes.

The nest site is on ground, either level or steeply sloped. The nest consists of a mound of seaweed, eelgrass, algae, cemented by droppings. Most nest material is obtained underwater with the male doing most of gathering and the female most of the building. A pair may use the same nest every year, adding to it annually.

While at Bird Island, I met another photographer who kindly shared the location of three Black-crowned Night Heron nests, two of the nests already with chicks, while the third had three beautiful pale green eggs being carefully tended by the female.

All these nests are located on small islands so away from human disturbance. They only thing they have to contend with are predators including crows, gulls, hawks and a resident pair of peregrine falcons. If unfledged chicks happen to fall out of the nests to the rocks or ocean below, they have pretty much sealed their fate.

Deriving its name from the offshore rocks at Punta de los Lobos Marinos, Point of the Sea Wolves, where the sound of the sea lions carries inland, the Reserve has often been called "the crown jewel of the State Park System" and it is easy to see why. Spectacular scenery, rock formations, hidden coves with turquoise water, and an incredible array of birds, wildlife, plants and trees can be found here. There is nowhere else like it on earth and I am so very fortunate to have it right on my doorstep.

If you decide to visit, weekends can be crazy, so arriving at the park when it opens at 8:00am is best. Otherwise, weekdays are going to be your safest bet.