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April 26th, 2016

The Incredible Macro Photography of Microsculpture

Macro photography requires a certain discipline and patience, but even the most redoubtable macro shooter has to marvel at what Levon Biss has done.

In a project dubbed Microsculpture Biss created 3 meter prints from 10mm insects–insects sourced from the second largest collection in Britain, at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

As the behind-the-scenes video below details, creating these images was a painstaking, exacting enterprise. Biss used a 36-megapixel Nikon body and a microscope lens attachment with an incredibly shallow depth of field. To get the entire image of the bug properly in focus, he had to shoot thousands of images, varying the focal length by as little as 10 microns with each shot, and composite the final together. Each final image is composed of between 8,000 and 10,000 individual photos.

Biss also lit individual portions of an insect differently, using one type of lighting for the eye and another for a wing to highlight the unique textures. It took about three weeks to create a single image from capture to post.

The final results are on display through October 2016 at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. You can also take a nice interactive tour of each insect here, where you’ll gain a whole new appreciation for beetles.

Microsculpture from Levon Biss on Vimeo.

March 11th, 2016

Using Thermal Hot Springs to Tone Prints: That’s an Alternative Process

© Jon Verney. The images in his “Thermophile” series were toned by the sulfur-rich water in and around geothermal springs. “It was like painting with the earth.”

© Jon Verney. The images in his “Thermophile” series were toned by the sulfur-rich water in and around geothermal springs. “It was like painting with the earth.”

Jon Verney makes his multi-hued prints by using the sulfur-rich water and mud in hot springs and geysers to bleach and tone silver-based prints. Verney first tried the process at a hot spring in Italy, and has since traveled to hot springs in Iceland, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and the Salton Sea in southern California to make the images in his “Thermophile” series. “It was like painting with the earth,” Verney tells the magazine of the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan. An MFA student at Stamps, Verney will be showing his thesis show alongside his classmates’ projects tonight through April 2 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

He explains that he got the idea from Romeo DiLoreto, a darkroom master Verney met while working in Italy as a darkroom technician, responsible for mixing chemicals for sepia toning. To make a sepia print, a black-and-white print is placed in a bleaching agent “which erases the image and reverts the silver in the emulsion back into an undeveloped state,” he says. When the bleached print is put into a bath of sodium sulfide, “the sulfur latches onto the silver and forms silver sulfide, a new chemical compound that causes the image to redevelop in warm brown tones.” DiLoreto noted that the high concentration of sulphur in a hot spring could turn a bleached photo to sepia. Verney took a bleached print to a local hot spring to try it. Watching the paper change color and then seeing a bronze-colored image appear was “a baptismal experience,” he says.

He’s since discovered that he can get a wide range of hues at different hot springs, depending on the temperature, acidity or mineral content of the water. “I realized that along with the sulfur, the water also contained a rich array of other dissolved elements—iron, calcium, aluminum, nickel—and these molecules would also bond to the silver, fusing and forming new compounds.”

© Jon Verney. Verney, an MFA student at the University of Michigan first tested the technique at a hot spring in Italy.

© Jon Verney. Verney, an MFA student at the University of Michigan, has explored a variety of hot springs, and finds he gets different hues in different locations.

Each print is unique, influenced by factors such as how long the image is in contact with the water. Like every lover of alternative processes, Verney appreciates the element of chance and uncertainty.

Working with boiling mud and sulfurous water requires some daring and ingenuity, of course. He sometimes puts prints in an old peanut butter jar with holes cut into the lid. He hurls the jar into a steaming pool, then he pulls it back in by a string. Check out the article in the Stamps publication and visit Verney’s website to see his images and how he hurls a jar over the edge of a crater.

September 1st, 2015

How Paul Colangelo Keeps Bears at Bay When Shooting in Wilderness

Photographer Paul Colangelo's camp, with an electric fence protecting his kitchen and supply tents. Todagin Mountain, norther British Columbia. ©Paul Colangelo

Photographer Paul Colangelo’s camp, with a solar-powered electric fence protecting his kitchen and gear tents. Todagin Mountain, northern British Columbia. ©Paul Colangelo

Working on long-term projects in remote locations can pose logistical challenges for photographers, including lack of phone and internet service, and power for recharging batteries for cameras, laptops, and other gear. Vancouver-based wildlife photographer (and PDN’s 30) Paul Colangelo explains how he copes with those issues in our story, “Managing Photo Tech on Location, Off the Grid.”

But he faces another kind of challenge altogether during his long trips into remote, open country of northern British Columbia: hungry grizzly bears. Colangelo isn’t too worried the bears will attack him. But he does worry about bears raiding his three-month supply of food while he’s out of camp, especially during the day “when I’m not there to scare them away.” (more…)

March 18th, 2015

Video Pick: Chris Jordan’s “Midway,” on Beauty in Environmental Activism

MIDWAY a Message from the Gyre : a short film by Chris Jordan from Midway on Vimeo.

Chris Jordan, the photographer and conservationist, has spent his career exploring the harmful consequences of our thoughtless consumption and the pollution we create, while also making images that are often eerily beautiful. At the Society for Photographic Education (SPE) National Conference in New Orleans on March 13, he showed a trailer and clips from “Midway,” inspired by his years photographing the albatrosses of the Midway Atoll, located in the north Pacific 2000 miles from the nearest continent. Jordan and a film crew have documented the birds mating, laying eggs, and also dying as a result of having consumed plastic garbage from the ocean. Many choke to death, gasping for air on the shore; others die from toxicity or from starvation when their stomachs become full of indigestible materials.

The theme of the 2015 SPE conference was “Atmospheres: Climate, Equity and Community in Photography,” and during his talk, Jordan shared his approach to activism and the reactions he hopes his film evokes. He doesn’t want simply to highlight a problem, but to change the way people feel and act. (more…)

January 22nd, 2015

Fellowship Opportunity for Conservation Photographers

The International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) is currently accepting applications for its Associate Fellows program. The iLCP is a non-profit organization whose members create images and other content that help advocate for environmental conservation causes all over the world. The organization counts many respected conservation photographers among its ranks, including senior fellows James Balog, Paul Nicklen, Christina Mittermeier, Krista Schyler and Tim Laman.

Fellows work with the iLCP to promote the work of the organization and partner organizations involved in conservation, participate in expeditions organized by the iLCP and receive support for their work from the iLCP.

Associate fellows work with the organization for two years before they are considered for senior fellowship. The iLCP lists several expectations for associate fellows on its site. Applicants are expected to have completed and published two major conservation photography projects. They should also be willing to mentor Emerging League Photographers and participate in events and workshops, among other qualifications.

The application for associate fellowships is due Friday, February 27, 2015. The application process involves two rounds. Each round requires a fee of $125.

To learn more about fellowships and read more about the application process, visit the iLCP site.

Related: The International League of Conservation Photographers and the Wilderness Society Protect Idaho’s Clearwater Basin

November 12th, 2014

Forest Service Chief Says Journalists Don’t Need Permits to Photograph in National Forests

When the United States Forest Service released a vaguely worded directive that suggested journalists would have to pay up to $1500 for a permit to photograph or film in national forests, photographers and first amendment activists were alarmed. The controversial directive, issued as a draft in September, was first reported by The Oregonian newspaper.

Following the outcry, U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell has clarified the USFS’s position with regard to photography and film for journalistic purposes, rather than commercial use. In a letter written to Forest Service officials, sent on November 4, he said the clarification was needed because “considerable response” from the public “raised significant concerns beyond the intended scope of the directive.”

“News coverage on NFS lands is protected by the Constitution, and it is our responsibility to safeguard this right on the lands we manage for all Americans,” Tidwell wrote.

He outlined how USFS officials should differentiate between journalism and other activities: “The following question should be asked: Is the primary purpose of the filming activity to inform the public, or is it to sell a product for a profit? If the primary purpose is to inform the public, then no permit is required and no fees assessed.”

Tidwell clarified USFS’s position with regard to commercial film and photography. “Permit fees should be primarily viewed as land-use fees. If the activity presents no more impact on the land than that of the general public, then it shall be exempt from permit requirements.”

Read the full text of Tidwell’s letter here.

Via The Oregonian.

October 6th, 2014

Nature Photographer Quits Business, Blaming Copyright Piracy

Photographers have complained plenty about online copyright infringement, but so far, the problem hasn’t driven many to quit the profession, or discontinue posting images online.

Nature photographer Alex Wild says he’s had enough, though. In an essay titled “Bugging out: How rampant online piracy squashed one insect photographer,” Wild says infringement of his work has contributed to his decision to quit photography for a position “less prone to the frustrations of a floundering copyright system.”

Wild asserts in the essay, recently published on arstechnica.com, that “For practical purposes, the Internet has become a copyright-free zone.”

He goes on to provide a long list of unauthorized commercial uses of his work, and describe the futility of his efforts to stop it.  “I send, on average, five takedown notices to Web hosts every day, devoting ten hours per week to infringements. Particularly egregious commercial infringers get invoices,” he says. “Copyright infringement drains my productivity to the point where I create hundreds fewer images each year.” Just ignoring the infringements is a bad option, and so is suing them, for several reasons he explains.  For one, his business competes with “uncredited copies of my own work.” As he explains, “Who wants to pay for an image that is already everywhere?”

Wild concludes by calling for copyright reform that provides “reassurances that the mere act of participating online won’t force [artists] to choose between bankruptcy and chasing infringers through the rabbit hole of ineffective copyright enforcement.” Which is just the kind of reform that photographers’ trade groups have been chasing for years through the rabbit hole of Washington politics.

September 24th, 2014

New Forest Service Directive on Still Photos Worries Reporters, First Amendment Activists

Proposed changes to United States Forest Service rules for photographers and videographers have some first amendment groups concerned that journalists could be required to obtain permits and pay up to $1,500 in fees to photograph within national forests, according to a report by The Oregonian.

The Oregonian quotes first amendment groups and politicians who are expressing concern about a vaguely worded directive, which could be interpreted to require special permits for all uses other than breaking news situations. Other news situations would appear to require a permit, The Oregonian says.

According to current land use requirements, special permits are  required for “use of still photographic equipment on National Forest System lands that takes place at a location where members of the public generally are not allowed or where additional administrative costs are likely, or uses models, sets, or props that are not a part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities.”

Special permits are also required currently for the “use of motion picture, videotaping, sound recording, or any other moving image or audio recording equipment on National Forest System lands that involves the advertisement of a product or service, the creation of a product for sale, or the use of models, actors, sets, or props, but not including activities associated with broadcasting breaking news.”

The proposed directive “would make permanent guidelines for the acceptance and denial for still photography and commercial filming permits in congressionally designated wilderness areas,” according to US government website Federal Register.

The new guidelines for granting a special use permit ask that applicants meet several requirements. Applicants should be promoting wilderness and outdoor activities, be doing work that doesn’t damage the environment or get in the way of the general public, and shouldn’t use vehicles or other machinery, among other requirements.

The Oregonian article stirring up some furor argues that “a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in any of the nation’s 100 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone.”

Maybe. The Forest Service’s special use requirements appear to be targeted at commercial photographers, not journalists engaged in legitimate news gathering. But The Oregonian report did make one rather interesting point: The maximum fee for permits is $1500, while the maximum potential fine for violating the requirements is $1000. So yes, it’s potentially cheaper to break the rules and pay the fine.

Those who wish to comment on the proposed directive on still photography and commercial filming permits can do so here.

September 12th, 2014

Friday Fun: David Yellen Shoots on Location with a Snapping Turtle and Uninvited Alligator

10_COVERThis month’s PDN cover features Ernie Brown Jr., aka The Turtleman, posing in a swamp with a large, irritated snapping turtle on his knee. For photographer David Yellen, the shoot–to promote Animal Planet’s Call of the Wildman–was more harrowing than it looks.

It took place last February on the edge of a swampy pond in northern Florida. Location scouts had certified the pond as alligator-free. But Turtleman announced upon arrival that there was an alligator about. “We called bullshit on him, but he said, ‘See those air bubbles over there? They’re going to start moving.’ And five minutes later we saw the alligator’s eyeballs,” Yellen recounts. Animal wranglers took up their guard with alligator nooses. Turtleman, who specializes in ridding people’s backyards of unwanted reptiles, started diving for the gator. “He was saying, ‘I’m going to get this guy,”” Yellen says. “Luckily, he didn’t. It was a nine- or ten-foot alligator.”

With the alligator lurking around, Yellen struggled to get just the right picture of Turtleman holding the 80-pound snapping turtle. “I kept getting closer, wider, and lower,” Yellen says. “I was really pushing it.” Yellen, who had never worked with a snapping turtle before, didn’t know that large snapping turtles can extend their necks 12 inches or more. Behind him, the animal wranglers, the producer, and eventually Turtleman’s manager issued increasingly urgent warnings for Yellen to “watch out.” He was also looking through a wide angle lens, so he was getting closer to the turtle than he realized. “I thought they were being paranoid,” he says of the worried crew.

Finally the turtle got Yellen’s attention by taking a lunge toward the camera, and missing by not much. The resounding snap of its jaws unnerved Yellen, but he pressed on. “I was like, I don’t care, I’m going to get this. I just didn’t feel like I was getting it. I felt like it needed to be more intense, and I needed to try harder. So I got lower and closer.” He got so low that pond water finally flooded into his waders. “It was disgusting,” he says. With his camera—a Hasselblad H2 with a Phase One back—within half an inch of the pond’s surface, he finally got the image he was after. “It’s not an intense stare-down” with the camera, he says. “[Turtleman] is not totally connecting with me. He’s just out there in the wild, and it kind of feels like that.”

August 27th, 2013

Landscape Photographer Edward Burtynsky Explores Another Endangered Resource: Water

Burtynsky-Watermark-Water
Edward Burtynsky, the photographer renowned for his monumental photographs that explore how human activity alters the landscape, has spent the last five years investigating our exploitation of a precious natural resource: Water. Spanning ten countries, “Water” may be his most ambitious project to date. “Over five years, I have explored water in various aspects; distress, control, agriculture, aquaculture, waterfront and source,” Burtynsky explains on the project’s website. Next month, Steidl will publish 114 of the images in a new book, Burtynsky –Water, and exhibitions will open at galleries in North America, Europe and the UK. A documentary about the project, Watermark, co-directed by Jennifer Baichwal, who directed Manufactured Landscapes, an earlier film about Burtynsky’s work, will be shown at the TIFF film festival in Toronto on September 6.

The film was shot in 5K high-definition video, to capture the details in his aerial views and landscapes: a ritual swim by worshippers in India’s Ganges River, an enormous dam in China, leather tanneries pumping water in Bangladesh, a suburban development sprawling across former desert in Arizona, dryland farming in Spain.

Even when seen on a computer screen, the trailer looks pretty great:

WATERMARK – Trailer from Flowers Gallery on Vimeo.

(You can also see the trailer on Vimeo.)

“Water” opens at Nicholas Metiver Gallery in Toronto on September 5. Other shows of Burtynsky’s work, including images from his project on water, open at Howard Greenberg Gallery and Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York City on September 19. You can view more of the images and see a full list of exhibitions on Burtynsky’s website here.

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