Patterns From Above

patterns-from-above-richardson_20149_600x450Contributing editor Jim Richardson is a photojournalist recognized for his explorations of small-town life. His photos appear frequently in National Geographic magazine.

Don’t get me wrong. Shooting aerials is great fun, even if I make it sound like hard work. It’s a new world when you get up there. Textbook geology (dry as dust in the classroom) leaps to fascinating life. Intricate patterns of human life reveal themselves magically. And the borders and boundaries of our world lay out plainly before our eyes. I never get tired of it. For all of the precautions and caveats of my previous post on shooting aerials, let me make this clear: it’s worth it.

Not all the time, not for every situation, and most of all, not without reason. I’m not one for taking pictures just because they look nice. I’m a believer in working pictures.

And in Cornwall, where I shot this picture out on the ancient lands of the Penwith peninsula, I had a job to do. I needed to show two things. First, the ancient patterns of the Celtic

Iconic Images With a Personal Touch

machu-picchu-icon-richardson_28447_600x450It’s a bit humbling, standing at Machu Picchu where Hiram Bingham stood with his camera nearly a century ago.

Bingham, a Yale professor and adventurer, rediscovered in 1913 the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu, perched on a ridge above the Urubamba River. The image of Bingham pushing his way through the overgrowth on the mountains, seeking lost cities (and fame), is the very stuff of Indiana Jones.

Bingham’s real fame didn’t come until two years later, after he had had returned to Machu Picchu at the behest of National Geographic editor Gilbert Grosvenor. Grosvenor urged Bingham to take a camera and bring back the pictures. He did exactly that, and in 1913, National Geographic devoted a whole edition to Bingham’s discoveries—including a spectacular three-panel panorama of the ruins. From that moment, the fame of Machu Picchu (and Hiram Bingham) was achieved.

A hundred years later, I was standing in the same spot that Hiram Bingham had stood in, agog just as he was at the great ruins sprawling before me. It is a sight worth the journey

Staffa—Position Is Everything

staffa-panoramic-richardson_22762_600x450Contributing editor Jim Richardson is a photojournalist recognized for his explorations of small-town life. His photos appear frequently in National Geographic magazine.

With the towering basalt columns of the Isle of Staffa still looming overhead, ace Zodiac driver David Cothran gave me a gift.

David had already provided a fantastic boat ride into Fingal’s Cave. (It’s the dark cavern on the right in my photograph.) David even had motored us to the rear of this fabled cave! Yet he turned to me as we headed back to the National Geographic Explorer and asked, “Anything else you’d like to do?”

Well, yes, actually there was. “Can you take us to that tip of that rock outcropping and hold the Zodiac there long enough for me to take a panorama shot?” I asked. “No problem,” he said. I figured David, the Explorer‘s seasoned underwater specialist, could do it if anyone could.

The chance to put a camera in that position on a beautiful day does not come along often—maybe once in a lifetime. Probably never. Years ago I had seen

Newborn Photographers – How They Make Photo Shoot Special

Every genre of photography has its own specialties and for a newborn photographer it is extremely important to know the ways of ensuring successful photo sessions for newborns. The expectations of clients have to be understood in the right perspective so that adequate preparation can be taken. The better you are prepared for photo sessions, better will be the results.

The ideal approach to successful newborn photo sessions is to send an advance list of preparation to the mom and daddy. Send emails containing preparation checklists and a list of gears together with relevant instructions that would help to stay organized and prepared so that least amount of time is wasted. Inform them about the approximate length of the session, what things you will be carrying with you, how the sessions have been planned and even the possibilities of frequent feedings and messes that can happen.

Besides proper preparation there are a few more things that an expert newborn photographer should be aware of.

Posed session

From the client’s expectations you will come to know about the kind of session they prefer. Some might prefer studio like sessions while some others may like natural lifestyle sessions. Each session has its own requirements. Studio sessions

Nature Photographer Magazine

Nature Photographer is a “how–to” magazine,
published in print form three times a year covering all four seasons—Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. The Spring issue is published each March, the Summer each July and the Fall/Winter a larger combo issue each November. The magazine is intended for nature photographers and nature enthusiasts who range from beginners to professionals. We will help you channel your intense interest in nature photography into more successful trips into the natural world, whether they be for the day, weekend, holidays or vacations. This is the magazine for those of you interested in photographing the wilderness—in far-off destinations, in local parks or in your own backyard.
Nature photography is all about getting out there and being a part of our natural world. When in nature working on our photography, it is helpful to entirely immerse ourselves in what we are doing. To do that, we need to practice the techniques needed to consistently produce quality images and research the locations that will appeal to each of us the most. We at Nature Photographer hope to help you along that route with both the print magazine and this web site. We strive to showcase the Earth in the most beautiful

2015 A Summer of Wildfires in Northern Saskatchewan

A severe and protracted lighting storm during the night of June 7, 2015 was a harbinger of things to come for the Lac La Ronge area (Figure 1).

I observe Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on Lac La Ronge in Northern Saskatchewan during the breeding season between May and October.

Lac La Ronge is a large glacial lake in the Precambrian Shield with a shore length of 631 miles and a surface area of 546 square miles. The lake is dotted with 1305 rocky islands scattered among large tracts of open water.  Lake travel can be challenging due to the large tracts of open water and the high variability of depth, which can vary from 50 meters to rocks-at-the-surface in a span of less than 5 meters.

The spring of 2015 was mild and storm free on the North American prairies. This resulted in a relatively stress free annual migration of Bald Eagles to breeding grounds in Northern Canada. The Bald Eagles arrived at Lac La Ronge in good physical condition and ready for a productive breeding season.

There were nine occupied nests in the area of observation in the spring of 2015. During the first week of June, I observed ten Bald

Composition in Nature Photography

If a photographer asked you to explain composition as it relates to photography, do you know what you would say? If your answer would be “I’m not 100% certain” or “I don’t know enough to explain it” don’t fret, you are in very good company. Aside from mastering exposure, composition is one of the most difficult parts of photography for many to learn, and with this series I hope to take some of the mystery out of it for you.

Composition in Nature Photography

In photography, composition refers to the structure, organization, and visual characteristics of the elements in your photograph. Compositions can be complex, powerful, boring, moody, uplifting, and a plethora of other adjectives. When you hear photographers refer to the composition of a photograph, likely they are talking about things like subject placement, lighting, color, lines, space, balance, and more.

A Marriage of Crafts: My photographic learning curve has the benefit of 3O years of experience designing and painting wildlife art. In order to best reach my viewers I have spent my lifetime studying the compositions of paintings, photography, graphic art and works of countless other visual mediums.

Evaluating my first serious bird prints three years ago

Same Old, Same Old Why does all Nature Photography Look the Same

There has been much discussion and debate on NPN and other online photo forums about the predictable and ‘boring’ repetitiveness of nature photography. The critics point out that nature photography has become a ‘cookie cutter’ genre with all photos looking essentially the same. “You’ve seen one waterfall photo, you’ve seen them all…. Same goes for flower shots, butterfly images, lake reflections, and bird portraits – most everything nature shooters do is clichéd and trite. There is little that is new and exciting in nature photography,” says one particularly vocal critic. I tend to agree, a lot of nature photography does look the same, but I don’t think that’s so bad. The homogeneity of images is more a result of large numbers of shooters at a similar stage of development in photography rather than a lack of creativity by nature shooters.

Technical Perfection

In the not too distant past, to be a ‘good’ nature photographer only required technical mastery of the craft. I remember my early days in a camera club, the most respected and awed member was the fellow who photographed nesting birds using sophisticated, custom-built, high speed flash. To get his amazing images, he required not only extensive knowledge of bird

Pluto’s North Pole Is Streaked With Canyons

Until NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto last year, all scientists knew of the dwarf planet’s looks was based on tiny, pixilated smudges. But the data pouring in brought the charismatic orb into focus. Now, a new NASA photo reveals miles-wide pits, frozen canyons and deep valleys sprawling across the dwarf planet’s north pole.

Known as the Lowell Regio (named after Percival Lowell, whose work led to Pluto’s discovery), Pluto’s north pole is streaked with enormous canyons that can be seen running vertically across the left side of the photo. The largest, which is highlighted in yellow in the annotated image below, is about 45 miles wide at its largest point and is surrounded by smaller canyons about six miles wide.

What’s curious about these canyons is that they are much older than any of the others found on Pluto’s surface, Mariella Moon writes for Engadget. By looking at the canyon’s walls, NASA researchers noticed that the ones stretching across the north pole are crumbling at the edges as opposed to the younger canyons found in other regions that have more sharply defined walls. By examining these canyons closely, researchers might be able to glean new insights into how Pluto’s early seismic activity shaped the

4 Travel Photography Tips from Mark Wallace

Mark Wallace is a commercial fashion photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona. The founder of Snapfactory studios, Wallace continuously shares his knowledge of camerawork with aspiring artists, leading workshops and classes around the world. In 2013, Mark left the United States to embark on a 2 year-long journey during which he visited 25 countries and captured thousands of unique photographs across the globe. We met up with Mark at Adorama last night to chat about his journey and to gain some insight about practical photography on the go. Here’s what he shared:

1. Be vigilant– Often times when visiting other places and absorbing new cultures, you will be exposed to social and political differences. Although it is exciting and meaningful to encapsulate this diversity within your images in an effort to explain and share with others back at home, in doing so, it’s important to be mindful of your role as a photojournalist. Capture what’s true, and make sure to send viewers an accurate, unbiased message of what’s going on.

2. Pack practically– “On any kind of trip you take, I suggest packing a tripod,” Mark advised. “You’ll be able to capture better low light and time lapse shots that way,

The Next Revolution in Photography Is Coming

In the future, there will be no such thing as a “straight photograph”

It’s time to stop talking about photography. It’s not that photography is dead as many have claimed, but it’s gone.

Just as there’s a time to stop talking about girls and boys and to talk instead about women and men so it is with photography; something has changed so radically that we need to talk about it differently, think of it differently and use it differently. Failure to recognize the huge changes underway is to risk isolating ourselves in an historical backwater of communication, using an interesting but quaint visual language removed from the cultural mainstream.

The moment of photography’s “puberty” was around the time when the technology moved from analog to digital although it wasn’t until the arrival of the Internet-enabled smartphone that we really noticed a different behavior. That’s when adolescence truly set in. It was surprising but it all seemed somewhat natural and although we experienced a few tantrums along the way with arguments about promiscuity, manipulation and some inexplicable new behaviors, the photographic community largely accommodated the changes with some adjustments in workflow.

But these visible changes were merely the advance indicators of deeper transformations and

5 Tips to Maximize Profits for Your Wedding Photography Business During the Holidays

As a wedding photographer, I’ve often experienced a lull in business after the final few leaves have fallen from the trees here in Fayetteville. I typically only have a few winter weddings, and like a bear storing up for winter I’ve had to get creative on how to feed my belly during the winter months.

With any advice, it’s important to think about what might work for you and what might not. As you read through these tips, try to imagining yourself in a situation where any of these are possible; these are all tips that I’ve personally used and, for my area and clientele, have proven to be great ways to generate income during winter months.

Shoot Mini-sessions

Mini-sessions are a great money maker during the holiday season because so many families are excited to send out holiday cards (more on that below). A mini-session can mean different things to different photographers, but here’s how I do it:

  1. I choose my single date in the calendar for a given city (for example, October 20th in Little Rock, Arkansas; October 21st for Dallas; October 22nd for Kansas City). Since I have clients outside of my normal shooting area that I still want to service,

The Power of Photography

Photographers use their cameras as tools of exploration, passports to inner sanctums, instruments for change. Their images are proof that photography matters—now more than ever.
By Robert Draper

Thirty-four years before the birth of this magazine, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard sourly prophesied a banal fate for the newly popularized art of photography. “With the daguerreotype,” he observed, “everyone will be able to have their portrait taken—formerly it was only the prominent—and at the same time everything is being done to make us all look exactly the same, so we shall only need one portrait.”

The National Geographic Society did not set out to test Kierkegaard’s thesis, at least not right away. Its mission was exploration, and the gray pages of its official journal did not exactly constitute a visual orgy. Years would go by before National Geographic’s explorers would begin using the camera as a tool to bring back what is now its chief source of fame: photographic stories that can alter perceptions and, at their best, change lives.

By wresting a precious particle of the world from time and space and holding it absolutely still, a great photograph can explode

Equipment for Wedding Photographers

Should you try to make quality wedding images as a paid professional with just a Canon Rebel and the kit lens? The answer is no, you really shouldn’t. However, any digital SLR body combined with a decent lens (see below) is a good start. This article will explain the equipment that a typical wedding photographer uses and some of the reasoning behind those choices.

An Important Note on Renting vs. Owning

When you are responsible for documenting something as important as a wedding day, there is no excuse for not having the right tool. This is doubly true if you are presenting yourself as a working professional. So how do you get your hands on a $1600 Canon 16-35 lens when you only have $100 in your wallet? Rent it! Most professional photography stores have a rental department. Prices for a digital body range from $100-200 per day and most lenses range from $24-100 per day. Many rental operations offer a discount for multi-day or weekend rental as well. This is good because you get the chance to become familiar with a particular piece of equipment before you have to use it on the job.

Photographing the Aurora Borealis

I recently led two photo tours to Iceland to photograph the Northern Lights, and our groups each had the good fortune to experience several nights of clear skies and brilliant displays of aurora. The Aurora Borealis, as the Northern Lights are also known, occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun are carried by solar wind towards the Earth, and collide with gases in the upper atmosphere. Those gas particles—most commonly oxygen (green aurora) and nitrogen (pink aurora)—are “excited” by the collisions, and release photons of light. The Earth’s magnetic field deflects most of the solar particles, but the field is weakest at the poles. This is why the aurora is mainly seen near the polar regions. Solar activity peaks and falls on an eleven year cycle. The winter of 2012-2013 was the peak of the cycle, which was the best chance to see auroral activity for the next decade. In general, the chances of viewing the aurora are best at latitudes above 55 ° N, and between the months of October and March. Historically, October and March are the best months for aurora viewing. The frequency of clear skies is a big a factor in seeing the aurora as

How to Get the Most Out of a Photography Workshop

Attending a photography workshop can be a great way to improve your photographic skills. Learning from an experienced professional can help take your images to the next level, and sharing ideas with other photographers is a great way to expand your photographic horizons.

However, many photography workshops are either quite expensive or require long distance travel, or both. In addition, attending a photography workshop requires a substantial amount of your time and effort. So, while attending a photography workshop may help you increase your photographic skills, it can be a big investment.

Luckily, you can make the most of your investment in a photography workshop by following these seven simple guidelines.

1. Select Your Workshop Carefully

There are myriad workshops available today. If you can name a type of photography, there’s a workshop for it—anything from photographing newborns to shooting star trails and everything in between. Be sure to select a workshop that focuses on the skills you wish to improve.

Ask yourself some questions: What do you want to work on? Equipment? Post-processing skills? Composition? Printing? Do you want a classroom setting or to shoot in the field? Do you want to travel or want to find a workshop locally?

Read the workshop description carefully

Exposure Basics: Correctly Expose Your Photographs

Every picture taking opportunity allows you to record no less than six correct exposures!

Perhaps you have already figured it out after reading the above, but if not, you will soon know that most picture taking situations have at least six possible combinations of f/stops and shutters speeds that will all result in a correct exposure; not a creatively correct exposure but a correct exposure. But only one, sometimes two, of these combinations of f/stops and shutter speeds is the creatively correct motion-filled exposure.

Again, let’s review, that every ‘correct’ exposure is nothing more then the quantitative value of an aperture and shutter speed working together within the ‘confines’ of a predetermined ‘ISO’. For the sake of argument we are both out photographing a city skyline at dusk, using a film speed of 100 ISO and an aperture opening of f/5.6 and whether we are shooting in manual mode or aperture priority mode the light meter indicates a correct exposure at 1 second. What other combinations of aperture openings (f/stops) and shutter speeds can we use and still record a ‘correct’ exposure? If I suggest we use an aperture of f/8 what would the shutter speed now be? Since we have

Capturing the Heart of Home

It’s that time of year again when the weather gets cooler and the days grow shorter. And as the seasons turn, so can our focus, quite literally. Long and lingering sunny days of summer have all but slipped through our fingers and although there is still plenty of color, texture, and light to be captured in the great outdoors, there is something that begins to beckon us indoors. Friends, family, hearth, and holidays give us plenty of reasons to turn our lenses inward, within our four walls. There’s an entirely new world to be explored when we set our sights toward the landscape of home.

From everyday life to special occasions, there are endless visual stories that can be explored from within each of our homes. After all, it is there that our life happens. There are endless ideas to consider, shots to experiment with, and creative perspectives to take when home is the backdrop of our photographic work.

Look for Light

No one knows the nooks and crannies of your home like you do, but have you ever paid attention to the light from cupboard to corner? It’s not always easy to find the right light—or even enough light—to shoot great images

Three Tips for Selling/Showing Your Photos in a Gallery

There are few industries as heart-wrenching as the fine art business. It’s a six-car pileup at the intersection of art and commerce and the amount of opinion and hyperbole that is somehow labeled as “fact” is just terrifying. The gallery business is an entire industry based on getting people to part with money in exchange for an undefinable emotional response (best case scenario) or under the impossible-to-keep promise of long-term investment (worst case scenario). Then you pile on the general pressure of running a business selling a luxury good during an economic downturn and you’ve got a lot of really miserable art being shown by really miserable gallery owners.

Assuming that didn’t discourage you and send you running back to shooting car shows and weddings, here are a few things that you should know about showing in galleries that most gallery owners probably won’t think to mention.

1. A lot of people don’t think photography is worth as much as paintings

That sounds really awful, doesn’t it? It’s true. Those droves and droves of people who picked up a Nikon D40 kit on clearance at Target and suddenly think they’re photographers? Those people know how

Wedding Photography Insight with Jeff Ascough

Jeff Ascough has been a professional wedding photographer in the United Kingdom since 1989. He has covered over 1000 weddings with a documentary photography style. Ascough emphasizes capturing the moment without any prompting or interference and using available light. American Photo voted Ascough as one of the ten best wedding photographers in the world.

He is also a Canon Ambassador and uses the Canon 5D Mark II’s due to the low light capabilities. Frank Van Riper in America’s Washington Post described Jeff as “A master at shooting by available light” and went on to describe his images as “…among the best I ever have seen—an absolute pleasure to see.”

Jeff took a moment to answer questions from members in the Wedding Photography Forum. Here’s the original Q&A thread.

To familiarize yourself with Jeff and his work, you may want to read an earlier

Wedding Coverage

I never tell my clients to do anything on the wedding day. I prefer to document what actually happens rather than what I think should happen. I also believe that once you give a couple some direction, they spend the rest of the day looking for

Photographing the Elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water



Without a doubt, quality of light is the transforming factor in landscape photography. Composition, technique, equipment, and mood are all important, but the quality of light can transform even the most humdrum location into a stunning masterpiece. Almost without exception, the best landscapes are therefore captured during the golden hours — the hour leading up to sunset, and the hour following sunrise. The best results are often obtained by shooting at an angle of 90 degrees to the low sun (with the sun to either side of the camera), which accentuates the modeling of the land, and creates rich, contrasty images by reducing the relative dynamic range of the scene


Storm Clouds

A building storm is a wonder to behold. Towering clouds, dramatic light, approaching curtains of rain or hail, and complex cloud formations all offer fantastic opportunities for the intrepid photographer. Ambient light levels will likely be relatively low during a storm, or will get progressively lower as the storm builds. However, there is still likely to be a large difference in exposure levels between land and sky, so always carry a range of graduated (hard and soft) neutral density filters (up to 3 f-stops should be fine) in order to

Light in the Heart of Darkness

Contributing editor Jim Richardson is a photojournalist recognized for his explorations of small-town life. His photos appear frequently in National Geographic magazine.

I got an email from Penglaz the other day. Penglaz is the horse in this picture, in case you didn’t know.

Actually it wasn’t from Penglaz himself. It was from Mrs. Penglaz, his wife. (Not their actual names, of course. Penglaz is a Celtic Obby ‘Oss and his actual identity is something of a state secret down in Penzance, Cornwall, where I shot this picture.)

Mrs. Penglaz had been trying to find me ever since I shot this picture for National Geographic as part of our coverage of the Celtic realm. The horse skull is a truly ancient Celtic symbol of rebirth and the Obby ‘Oss is equally ancient. Up the coast at Padstow the Oss comes out on May Day as he has for, perhaps, 1,500 years. A living piece of antiquity in the here and now.

Photographing Penglaz that night was no piece of cake. It was midnight when he stormed out of the darkness to run amok through the Golowan Festival band and those assembled to parade through the streets of Penzance. It was dark. So I had to

Colour Theory as Applied to Landscape Photography

From Academia to “Gut Feel

Unlike painters, most photographs have little if any training in colour theory. This is a pity, since unless one understands the physiological as well as psychological basis of formal colour theory it’s hard to understand why some photographs work and some don’t, except on a “gut feel” basis.

I find it remarkable, but over the years I have never seen a comprehensive article in any photographic magazine about colour theory. A thorough search of the web has also come up short.  Since most landscape, nature and wildlife photographers work in colour it is important we understand the underpinnings of our art.

This is not a simple topic. It intertwines the physics of light, the physiology of vision and our psychological perceptions. With this essay I hope to assist you in appreciating why we see colour the way we do and what can be done to improve our photography using this knowledge.


I’ve used coloured text wherever the name of a colour is used. After some initial reader feedback I discovered that even though it looks a bit garish it’s a considerable aid to comprehending a somewhat difficult subject.

The Colour Spectrum


Discussions about colour (British spelling) always begin