13 July 2012

Serenity In White

This was shot on our last White & Wild Japan tour.

On this trip we visit the main island Honshu to photograph the snow monkeys, and we visit the Northern island Hokkaido to photograph Japan's spectacular birdlife; white-tailed eagles, Steller's sea eagles, the endangered Japanese cranes, and whooper swans. These swans can also be photographed outside of Japan, but nowhere do you get to shoot them with such stunning scenery and backdrops as on Hokkaido. We visit this great lake that freezes over in winter, except for a few parts close to shore where warm water from natural hot springs runs into the lake. Obviously, the swans like to swim there, and as the rest of the lake is frozen, there are many swans in a few relatively small areas - perfect for photographers.

On this particular morning the conditions were very good - a crystal clear sky with a good view of the mountains in the background, fog, some soft sunlight, and a lot of swan activity. We got flocks flying low over our heads, fly-by's, landings, take-offs, wing flapping and dancing.

What I like about this shot are the different activities all in one image; sitting, sleeping, flying, landing and calling (the one on the far right in the distance). It's a shame there's no sound with this picture, because that can be pretty impressive.

If you would like to join us on our next White & Wild Japan workshop, please check out the White & Wild Japan page on our website for more information, pictures and tour impression video clips.


10 July 2012

At The Gates

Of all the National Parks that I have ever visited in the US, Arches NP is without a doubt the most iconic one. Millions of photographs have been shot here, and to come up with something different is not easy. That does not mean one shouldn't try though, and I personally greatly enjoy thinking of new possibilities to photograph iconic subjects.

Double Arch is one of them. When you're standing below this imposing marvel of nature, it's hard not to be impressed by the size and the beauty of this amazing structure. From my research before my visit to Arches, I learned that 99.9% of all the images of this arch are more or less taken from the same viewpoint. I'm sure one of the reasons for this is that you need some distance to get the whole thing to fit inside your frame - standing inside the arch is not going to work. Unless of course you have a 14mm on a full frame camera. :-) But even then it was tough to find a position where I could get all the openings and the lines at the right places - it only worked with a vertical composition. And I was perfectly fine with that, because the vast majority of images taken of this arch are all horizontals.

I also decided to photograph the arch at night and to bring out the details and colors by using a flashlight. The advantage of doing this also meant that there would be stars, and stars are nice. I wanted to include part of the Milky Way, which meant that I had only a very short window of time to take the shot. These decisions were all very important in order to create something original, but the most important one for me was to include a human figure. As always, Daniella was so kind to risk her life by climbing into the arch Her presence really brings the shot to life and it acts as a vital scale element. The fact that most landscape photographers don't like humans in their pictures is always a nice bonus when you're trying to create something original. :-)

This was shot three years ago as a double exposure - one for the sky with my lovely assistant, one for the light painting. We tried to shoot it again with our group on this year's Arches Under The Stars workshop, but the weather gods did not want to cooperate. They gave use snow the next day though, so that made up for that.

If you would like to join us on our next Arches Under The Stars workshop, have a look on our website for more information.