Visionary Wild, LLC • 2200 19th St. NW, Ste 806, Washington, DC 20009
E-mail: email@example.com • Tel: 1-202-558-9596 (9am to 5pm, EST).
Justin Black – Managing Director: 1-202-302-9030 • Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sara Robb – Operations Assistant: email@example.com
We look forward to hearing from you!
By John Shaw
Many current cameras have a “hidden” autoexposure feature, an option I use quite often when working wildlife. If your camera has ”auto ISO” buried someplace in the menus, you probably can use this feature.
Three choices control exposure: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. We generally lock in two of these, and vary the third. In aperture priority you select the f/stop and ISO, and the camera sets the shutter speed. In shutter priority you select the shutter speed and ISO, and the camera sets the f/stop.
With most cameras it’s far easier to change shutter speed and/or aperture than it is to change ISO. After all, with both Nikon and Canon that’s what the command dials by themselves do as default behavior.
Look in your camera’s menus to see if you have “auto ISO.” If so, turn it on for this test. The way auto ISO normally works is that you set a minimum shutter speed and a maximum ISO value. So long as you’re shooting at that shutter speed or higher, the camera will vary the ISO needed for the situation. If the light level drops below this range one of two things happens: (a) in aperture priority the shutter speed continues to slow below your preferred minimum, while the highest ISO value is maintained, or (b) in shutter priority, once the aperture is wide open the camera underexposes, usually with some sort of viewfinder warning indicator, but still using the highest ISO.
But here’s the catch for bird and mammal work: setting a minimum shutter speed for wildlife means you’re probably going to choose a fast speed in order to stop any possible action. What if you intentionally want a slower speed? At the same time, at any given light level you don’t want to work at any higher ISO than necessary; you always want to use the lowest ISO you can get away with, given the situation. That fast minimum shutter speed you selected may force you to shoot at a high ISO even in good light.
OK, back to those three variables that control exposure. Reread that paragraph up above, and you’ll notice that I did not mention the manual exposure mode in which what you set is what you get. In this exposure mode you have to manually set both the shutter speed and the f/stop. Now here’s the kicker: if your camera has auto ISO, most likely you can use auto ISO while the camera is in manual mode, and let the camera vary the ISO needed for whatever shutter speed/aperture combination you select.
However — and this is a major “however” — you must know how to work in the manual mode. I’m always amazed at how many photographers today do not know how to do so. If you’re not sure, read my June 2015 blog post, and your camera’s manual, and practice.
So, switch to manual exposure mode, and turn on auto ISO. Set the highest ISO value to whatever maximum ISO you’re comfortable using with that camera. Set the camera itself to its lowest native ISO. For Nikon cameras, the “minimum shutter speed” choice in auto ISO does not apply when the camera is in manual mode (and I’m pretty sure this is also true for Canons, but not being a Canon user myself…).
What you have basically done is turn the manual exposure more into an autoexposure one. You select the f/stop and shutter speed you want, the camera sets the necessary ISO.
But how can you add or subtract the amount of light (for example, in order to reposition the histogram when shooting RAW) if the camera adjusts the ISO for any given shutter speed/aperture combination? Just as in any autoexposure mode, you use the camera’s autoexposure compensation. This does not affect the shutter speed or aperture you’ve set; after all, in manual mode what you set is what you get. Instead, it changes the ISO the camera selects. Dial in a +1 autoexposure compensation, and the camera raises the ISO by one stop; dial in a -1 compensation, and it drops the ISO by one stop. Since the camera is in manual mode, the shutter speed and aperture displayed in the viewfinder will not change, but there will be some sort of indicator that exposure compensation is in effect. You’ll have to pay attention to what you’re doing, and remember to return the compensation back to “zero” when no compensation is needed. If the light level drops so low that the camera maxes out ISO, your set exposure values will be too low. Just watch the meter display, which in this case will show underexposure.
Should you use this “auto ISO with manual” mode all the time? Heavens, no. As with all modes on your camera, you use what is appropriate to the situation. I personally find auto ISO in the manual mode extremely useful when I’m working wildlife.
by John Shaw
How does one coordinate Lightroom used on a laptop when traveling, with a master Lightroom catalog back in the office? I’ve written about this before, but the topic keeps coming up at workshops and on tours, so….
I have one main master Lightroom catalog for all my images, which resides on my desktop computer in my office. That master catalog is on an internal drive (a different drive than the internal SSD drive I use for all my programs). A backup copy of this master catalog is made to another internal drive (automatically done by Lightroom when I exit the program), and a third copy of the catalog is on a small external USB drive. Yes, I’m a bit paranoid about loosing all that data.
I have another Lightroom catalog named Travel on my laptop. When I’m on the road, I download images using Lightroom, in the exact same format structure I use for the image files back in my office. As the files are downloaded, Lightroom automatically renames the files and adds my copyright information, using templates I’ve created in Lightroom. My naming template is a YYMMDD_camera-generated-file-name-and-numberformat, so individual files appear along the lines of 150624_D4S_4752. Nikon lets you set camera names in the menu system to a three character code, so my cameras are named D4S and D8T. Yeah, real original thinking there. Image files are always downloaded into a _Photos folder (the underscore makes it the topmost folder in my laptop’s directory), into a subfolder named by month and location of shoot. 06 Namibia would by a June trip to Namibia while 09 Denali would be a September shoot in Denali. Each day’s images are automatically sorted as Lightroom reads the file metadata, makes YYYY-MM-DD folders as needed inside the month-shoot folder (the 06 Namibia or 09 Denali folders), and puts the correct images into the correct folders (I always have my cameras set to the local time, which in turn means all images will be correctly sorted by date). Once all these parameters are checked in Lightroom they remain as set, so the only thing I ever have to change is the name of the month-shoot folder. I flag any images I work on in Lightroom, highlight those images, and save all metadata to file by doing Ctrl/Command + S.
While on the road I copy every day’s take to two small external USB powered hard drives, so that by the end of the trip I have three duplicate copies of all my images. Since the files are already in the organization I use in my office, all I have to do once I get home is to copy the image files to their correct location on my master hard drives, and to add the trip catalog to my master catalog. I open the Travel catalog on my laptop, select the folder with the trip images, and do File > Export as Catalog, saving the exported catalog on one of the small USB drives. I make sure to include the image previews. Since the image files on the USB drive are all current with the correct metadata saved to them, there is no reason for me to do what Lightroom calls Export negative files (“negative files” is Adobe-speak for the actual images).
Back in the office I plug this drive into a USB port on my desktop computer, and use my operating system to copy the image shoot folder, which has all the photos, over to the correct date location on my main hard drive array. Then I open my master Lightroom catalog, and do File > Import from Another Catalog, and select the catalog on the USB drive. When this is finished working, I disconnect the small USB drive, at which time Lightroom want to know where the files are located since the imported catalog still thinks they are back on my laptop. I point Lightroom to the correct image folder I’ve copied over, the 06 Namibia folder or whatever it is, and I’m done. The backup software on my desktop computer automatically kicks in, and backs up my new images.
When I’m positive that all is well with my desktop system, I remove all the photos from the Travel catalog on my laptop, so that I can reuse the catalog shell again with all my preferences still set. I reformat the USB drives, reset the time in my cameras, and I’m good-to-go on my next adventure.
In April 2015, Justin Black sat down with PhotographyTalk.com founder Alex Schult. Here’s the full interview.
Alex: Hi Justin, welcome to Photography Talk.
Justin: It’s a pleasure to be here, Alex.
Alex: I understand that 2015 marks your 20th year as a professional photographer. How does that feel?
Justin: Well, it’s been a wild ride, and I’m very fortunate to still be doing what I love.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
The power of the still image. It both communicates information and evokes emotion instantly, and it also invites inspection and interrogation over time. It allows us to look at the world in a way that we don’t directly experience. A photograph renders the fleeting moment eternal.
When I was in junior high school, I took a communications class called Media Arts. Among other things, we learned the basics of developing black & white film and making prints, which was magic to me. There’s still nothing quite like seeing an image emerge on a sheet of paper in the the glow of a darkroom safe light. I wish I had access to a traditional darkroom and the time it takes to use it, but I digress… After that, I became increasingly interested in photography and started devouring books and magazines on the subject and going to photography exhibits at the many art galleries in Washington, DC. At the same time, I was generally interested in art.
Early on, there were a few photographers whose work particularly got me excited about photography as an art form and as a career: Eliot Porter, André Kertész, Minor White, Wynn Bullock, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Cartier-Bresson, Galen Rowell, Frans Lanting, David Muench, and Jack Dykinga. I’ve since had the privilege of working and teaching with the last four of these.
Tell us about your first sale.
You mean besides photographing a friend’s Bar Mitzvah when I was thirteen? I don’t remember my very first photo sale after I started my career in 1995, but my first memorable photo license around that time was a picture of classic storefronts in downtown Mansfield, Ohio, that was used on Mastercard credit cards. That sale netted me about $7,000.
Fast forward to today, you run a very successful photography business, tell us how that started.
Well, I guess you could say it was what I call “the upward spiral” – one experience leading to the next, to the next; one supporting the other, until everything comes into alignment. Over the last two decades, my work has included being a landscape, travel, and wildlife photographer, a contributor of photo-text packages to publications, a stock photo licensing specialist, image archive manager, gallery curator, photo workshops director, photo business general manager, book editor, and the executive director of a global conservation photography NGO. Over the years, I’ve developed a following for my editioned prints, done both commercial and editorial photography on assignment, and licensed my work for publication and advertising. One area I’ve found that gives me the tremendous satisfaction, however, is creating exceptional learning and travel experiences for other passionate photographers.
In late 2010, I left my position as executive director of the International League of Conservation Photographers to create Visionary Wild, which is in some ways a continuation of the workshops program I rebuilt at Mountain Light Photography from 2002 to 2009, after the deaths of my friends Galen and Barbara Rowell, who perished in the crash of a chartered airplane. Of course, with Visionary Wild we’ve now gone way beyond what we were doing at Mountain Light, both in terms of international scope and quality.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
That’s easy. Helping to save the pristine Flathead River Valley in southeast British Columbia from a massive mountain-top-removal coal mine that threatened to wreck the entire trans-border watershed. I collaborated with a great team of photographers on that project when I was at ILCP, and its very clear that our photos turned the tide in the conservation campaign to save the place.
Tell us about your book.
Both my photography and my writing have been published in several books, though I haven’t produced a monograph yet. I’ve edited and managed several photo book projects for Galen Rowell and the International League of Conservation Photographers. The ones I’m proudest of are Galen Rowell: A Retrospective (Sierra Club Books), and Freshwater: The Essence of Life (ILCP)
Tell us about time in your career where you failed at something and how did you pivot to overcome this?
Back in 1995, I was trying to get a contract to have my work represented by Pictor, a UK-based stock photo agency that I worked for as a picture researcher. I was a naïve kid, but I guess I had enough passion and raw talent that their creative director, a jolly Italian guy named Alberto Sciama, decided to give me a chance. He gave me a few rolls of film and a simple assignment to go out and make some marketable images.
When I brought him the results, he patiently looked them over with a loupe at a light table, and then said in a lilting Italian accent, “Justin, you are a lovely boy, but this is crap.” I knew it too. I learned three important lessons that day. The first was to set high standards for my work and to always push myself to do better. The second was to shoot what I love, rather than what I think other people want me to shoot. The third is that well-informed, forthright feedback on one’s work is immensely valuable, especially when it isn’t what we want to hear.
Have you had an “I’ve made it moment”?
I’ve had a few, I guess. The first was when Alberto actually gave me a contract to shoot for Pictor. That was a gateway to a steady, livable income from my photography, though it would only be another six years before Pictor went belly up because they couldn’t adapt fast enough to the new digital paradigm in the stock photo industry. In the bankruptcy chaos that followed, I lost most of the original film I had shot for them, so in the end it was a mixed blessing. Another high point was a few years later when some significant galleries started to exhibit my work. The most recent was when I realized that Visionary Wild was actually going to be a success.
How do you balance a demanding photography career and your family?
My wife, Lena, is the most wonderful, insightful, and supportive woman in the world, that’s how. Two years ago, our young son wasn’t very understanding of my travel schedule, but now, even at age five, he takes it in stride pretty well. I travel at least a third of the year, I miss them, and they miss me. It’s not a simple thing, but as you say, it’s about balance. When I’m home, I try to focus on family as much as I can.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to the 21 year old you?
Make pictures for yourself, not for the market. In other words, be true to your own vision, interests, and passions. In the 1990s, I spent a lot of time and resources making images that were designed to be highly salable in the stock photography market. They did sell, but most of that early work is totally irrelevant to me now because it isn’t representative of what I have to say and what I want to do with my photography. Thematically, my work has gone in a very different direction.
I’m a big believer in the notion that artists and communicators ought to aspire to find a market for the work that is true to them, rather than tailoring their work to fit the demands of the market. It’s important to understand the market, but it’s become clear to me over the years that photographs with meaning and longevity arise from the photographer having something to say and a unique vision to share, not from cynically engineering images for maximum payback.
Of course, most young aspiring photographers need some serious advice with regard to the fundamentals of operating a business, valuing their work, copyright management, etc., but I am lucky to have had a pretty good education in those areas very early on.
What is the best photography business advice you have been given.
It’s really just good business advice in general: “Be your brand.” In other words, your professional identity will ultimately become whatever it really is, not what you assert it to be or what you wish it were. For your brand to be what you want it to be, you have to live it and be authentic. Be honest, be reliable, don’t make promises you can’t keep, always put in the hard work to do the best job you can, and value what you do.
Another bit of advice is to make five-year and ten-year business plans, know your cost of doing business, and to price your work in a way that positions you to meet your goals for your business and your personal life. Learn to negotiate in such a way that communicates the value of your work, and don’t compete on price at the expense of the viability of your business or your long-term goals. Be willing to say “no” and walk away from bad deals – you’d be surprised how often I’ve had clients call back to accept a price quote after initially saying that they can’t afford it.
If you want to own a house or put your child through college, you’re not going to do it by simply accepting whatever scraps lowballing clients want to pay you. Don’t believe the notion that you have to work for free to pay your dues. Rather than starting at the bottom and working your way up, figure out how you can effectively target and deliver a great value proposition at the higher end of the market. Build a base of clients who see the value in what you do, and don’t bother with the ones who can’t afford the fees you need to charge to be successful. The obvious flip side of this is that if you can’t pull off charging the fees you need to meet your goals, you’ll have to rethink your career choice. There is no shame in being a talented amateur photographer. For one thing, amateurs are free to make whatever photographs they like with no regard for any market or audience at all.
Oh, and diversify revenue sources so if one part of your market dries up, you can focus more on the others.
We live in a world of carbon copies, what advice can you give to those seeking to be unique and unlike others in a congested industry?
Simple, I’ll quote Polonius: “To thine own self be true.” It’s important for photographers to be honest with themselves about what their own genuine passions are. We all do our best work when we are photographing subjects and themes that are deeply important to us, and doing it in a way that feels right to us as individuals. I’ll give you an example from my own personal experience. You have to understand that I went to work for Galen back in 1999, it was a dream come true. I was 25 and he was one of my photographic idols. I experienced a little anxiety because I hadn’t yet climbed in the Himalaya or undertaken bold rock climbs of new routes in Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada as Galen had done. I thought I would never catch up to his achievements. Gradually, I realized that while I admired Galen and his work, I wasn’t personally interested in photographing the adventure sports, mountaineering expeditions, and other types of adventure-oriented work that Galen had done over the course of his career. There was already a Galen Rowell, and I needed to be Justin Black.
Do you believe technology is making better photographers?
It depends on what you mean by that. For instance, I don’t think that technology has made the best photographers today better than André Kertész, Ernst Haas, Minor White, or Eliot Porter. A truly great photographer will always find a way to make the medium say what they want, and having something to say is the important thing. I do think that these days it’s easier to make more pictures at a higher standard of technical image quality, in part because technology has made the process easier and more forgiving, and in part because the internet provides incredible access to information about photographic technique.
When comes to seeing, composition, having a meaningful point of view or voice, however, the benefits of technology seem to be limited to the advances in communication and access to media. Via the internet, photographers can study more pictures and engage in more conversations about photography, art, and other media than they may have been able to in the past, but they ought to be choosy about the way they engage these resources. Arguing online over which camera brand is better or how much digital manipulation is acceptable doesn’t move the art forward. Since photography was invented, a gulf has always existed between those who are merely technicians on the one side, and those who use the medium to communicate in a meaningful and interesting way that contributes something new to human culture and understanding.
Of course, digital cameras and workflow are great tools for learning. The opportunity for quick feedback is wonderful, but one still needs to be able to thoughtfully analyze the work to learn from mistakes. This takes a certain visual vocabulary, to enable the photographer to understand what to look for, what works and what doesn’t. We try to teach this in our workshops.
What do you see photographers doing today, that if done differently tomorrow would improve their success?
If every photographer started demanding fees and contractual terms that enable them to operate a growing, sustainable business, and that support raising a family, buying a house, putting the kids through college, and a reasonable retirement, then you had better believe conditions and opportunities would improve significantly for photographers. By and large, photographers undervalue their work. Too few…
• Develop and follow a business plan, much less one designed for success and growth.
• Determine a CDB (cost of doing business)
• Learn to negotiate terms and fees in a manner that is beneficial to them over the long term
• Walk away from bad deals.
• Charge appropriately for valuable rights that clients may hope to be given for no additional charge.
While I do occasionally donate my work and time for charitable causes I believe in, this is almost always in the context of a scenario where many other parties (other than photographers and artists) are likewise donating time, labor, materials, content, etc. If the project has a budget for things like advertising space, graphic designers, writers, editors, PR staff, development staff, travel, and the electric bill, I generally expect to be paid fairly also at rates that I set based on the needs of my business. The artist too often is the only party expected to donate or heavily discount their work and in the process diminish its value. In general, photographers ought to feel perfectly justified in charging fairly for value delivered, rights granted, and services rendered, even when working for charities doing important work.
Unfortunately, there are also an increasing number of photographers out there who don’t actually rely on sales of their photography for their livelihood, and who offer work for sale at unsustainable rates, primarily for the sake of tax write offs or the empty ego boost of referring to themselves as “professional photographers.” Most have never had their work vetted by professional editors or curators, and they typically never net a profit on their photographic activities. I don’t have anything at all against new photographers entering the market, but I do have a problem with undervaluing one’s work to make a sale at any cost, as the cumulative effect over time is to diminish opportunity even for the most talented and business-savvy photographers who do rely on photography for their livelihoods.
Many folks are trying to re-invent themselves as photographers. Assuming you had camera, lens and lighting gear already. If you had to start over and only have $500 budget to get your business started. How would you spend that $500 budget?
If the person in question was mostly interested in trying to sell a little photography on the side but wasn’t relying on it as their primary source of income, I’d recommend they spend the money on a website. If they hope to change careers to photography as a full-time profession, I would recommend that they spend the money on a meeting with an expert business consultant who would explain that the proposed business is insufficiently capitalized to be successful. I’m serious about this. To seriously undertake photography as a competitive full-time business takes some financial resources and a well-thought-out business plan.
What are some resources that you use regularly for your photography business?
These days, my most important resource is communication with my network of professional peers and clients. It’s a big ongoing dialog and we share a lot of information. Besides that, I use Fotoquote, the Editorial Photographers’ forum, and Negotiating Stock Photo Prices a lot.
What are some ‘must have’ items in your camera bag?
My Nikon D810 cameras, the 24mm, 45mm, and 85mm PC-E Nikkor tilt-shift lenses, and 70-200mm f/4 Nikkor zoom. This combination has not only replaced the 4×5 film outfit I used to use for my landscape work, but – using stitching techniques – it has exceeded it. For wildlife, I use Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 and 500mm f/4 lenses plus 1.4x teleconverter. My macro lens is the wonderful Nikkor 200mm f/4. I also sometimes carry 18-35mm and 24-70mm Nikkor zooms. I’ve recently acquired a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Series lens, which is simply superb and a lot of fun.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what is the ONE photography book you would want to have with you?
Diary of Light: 1912-1985, by André Kertész. I could look at his compositions over and over forever and always extract new insights and meaning from them.
Here’s a fun one: Life has been found on another planet and none-other than Sir Richard Branson is piloting Virgin Galatica and has put together a team of engineers, scientist, and doctors and has asked you to come along to document the journey. The challenge is you can only bring two lenses and one camera body and two other items. What would you bring?
I’d probably bring a Nikon D810, 14-24mm f/2.8 Nikkor for spacecraft interiors (assuming cramped quarters), 24-120mm f/4 Nikkor for general purpose photography, a powerful microscope, and a Nikon F-mount to microscope adapter. After all, life on Earth consisted entirely of single-celled organisms for 2.6 billion years until multicellular life evolved one billion years ago, so odds are that the aliens would be invisible to the naked eye.
What action steps can you recommend our listeners take immediately that will ultimately help them become a better photographer?
There are a few things I would recommend. First, I like to point out that photography is a practice. We take it for granted that a musical prodigy like Yo-Yo Ma still plays scales and practices on his cello frequently, and that top athletes like LeBron James train obsessively to stay at the top of their game. Photography is no different. Eliot Porter once said, “You learn to see by practice. It’s just like playing tennis, you get better the more you play. The more you look around at things, the more you see. The more you photograph, the more you realize what can be photographed and what can’t be photographed. You just have to keep doing it.”
I also suggest spending a little time every day looking thoughtfully and critically at two-dimensional art, especially cohesive bodies of work like a particular exhibit, project, or photo essay. Photographs, paintings, drawings, abstracts… anything. Why does it work? Where does it fail? How could it be better? Does it sacrifice longevity and deeper meaning in favor of immediate eye-grabbing impact? Think about point of view and perspective. Think about quality and source of light, line, form, texture, color contrasts, etc. It’s all about building visual vocabulary and familiarity so you can make good creative judgments when it matters.
Then, find other photographers with whom you can share your work and get meaningful feedback from. Make sure that everyone is willing engage in thoughtful and honest constructive critique. I find that doing this in person is far more productive and useful than doing it on an online forum if you can.
Finally, this is a self-serving, but if I am to answer the question honestly based on my observations and experience, I’d say take a Visionary Wild workshop. I’m serious. Our first-time workshop participants are consistently amazed at what an eye-opening experience our programs are. They often tell me that they learned more at our workshop than from any other source. Our workshops and trips generally include 50% to 100% repeat clients – folks keep coming back, time and time again. I have some clients who have taken over a dozen workshops with me, and their work has become very strong indeed over that time.
Thanks for taking the time to talk, Justin.
Thank you, Alex! It’s been a pleasure.
You may already be aware of the prestigious Nature’s Best / Windland Smith Rice Photography Awards, featuring an exhibit of winning photographs at the Smithsonian each year. We are pleased to announce that Visionary Wild instructor Lou Coetzer has collaborated with Nature’s Best to create a new annual competition focusing entirely on subjects from the African continent. Visionary Wild founder, Justin Black, has been invited to serve on the inaugural judging panel.
Click here for details: NATURE’S BEST PHOTOGRAPHY – AFRICA
Entries will be accepted through May 3rd, 2015, in the categories listed below. Prizes include photo safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa, as well as exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, and the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town. Mark your calendar and spread the word!
• African Landscapes
• African Culture
• Wild Cats of Africa
• Birds of Africa
• Mammals of Africa
• Reptiles of Africa
• Africa Underwater
• Africa Up Close
• Africa Wildlife Story
• Youth Award (ages 13-18)
On our recent safari in east Africa’s Maasai Mara / Serengeti ecosystem, we encountered three very special lions – Sikio, Morani, and Scarface (as viewed left to right above). These powerful brothers are the leaders of the Marsh Pride, made famous in BBC’s Big Cat Diary documentaries. They had crossed the Mara River to follow the bounty of the wildebeest herds, and made most of their foray into “foreign” territory by mating with the lionesses of the Oloololo Pride.
One morning, we spotted Morani returning to a tree they seemed to use as a rallying point, carrying a young wildebeest that had likely been taken down by one of three lionesses that followed close behind him.
After setting his stolen prize in the shade of the tree, Morani strutted, scent-marking the tree with an expression on his face that gave the impression of immense self-approval. One of the lionesses used this moment of apparent distraction to sneak in and attempt to snatch the kill away, but Morani chased her off. While the big male continued carrying on, she sat across a small ravine, glaring at him.
To watch this drama unfold just a few meters away was a tremendous honor.
In the early hours of May 24th, Jack Dykinga underwent a double lung transplant at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. We are very pleased to report that the procedure was an outstanding success, and Jack has since been making excellent progress while recovering in the hospital. The anonymous donor of Jack’s new lungs appears to have been exceptionally fit, as Jack’s lung function was recently tested at 100%. Jack will soon leave the hospital to continue his recovery in more hospitable surroundings, and is expected to complete his recovery within the next two or three months. Jack has expressed repeatedly his profound and heartfelt thankfulness to all the friends, family, fans, and medical team who have contributed to his wellbeing through this process. He is looking forward to making the most of this gift of a second chance and a full life.
Jack Dykinga – Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, world-renowned landscape photographer, and Visionary Wild instructor – has recently been hospitalized due to progression of a chronic lung condition called Ideopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis that he has been living with for the past three years. He is presently at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, awaiting a double lung transplant. He is considered an excellent candidate for the procedure as he is otherwise fit and in good health, but it is of course a major procedure that involves some risk and potential for complications. Fortunately, there have been major recent advances in both the procedure and after care for lung transplants, and his transplant team has an excellent track record, so Jack’s chances of a successful outcome are very good indeed. Jack is expected to undergo surgery sometime in the next few weeks, after which time he will have a carefully managed recovery of two to three months.
Though presently bored and frustrated that he finds himself more or less confined to a hospital bed and breathing apparatus for the time being, Jack is in reasonably good spirits and very good hands. He has the benefit of the support of his loving family, countless loyal friends, and a top-notch team of medical professionals. While Jack certainly appreciates your support and well-wishes, he asks that any correspondence be sent without expectation of a reply, as his hands are already full keeping up with other obligations. He also discourages phone calls until further notice, as his breathing apparatus makes conversation impossible. Those who wish to send cards may mail them to the following address:
We hope you will join all of us at Visionary Wild in supporting Jack through this difficult time. We wish him a speedy and successful recovery, and we look forward to seeing him walking tall with a spring in his step once again.
Recently, Alex Schult of PhotographyTalk.com sat down with Visionary Wild’s Justin Black – virtually, via Skype – for an interview recorded for their Success Interviews series, revealing the creative inspiration and path to success of noted photographers working today. Click here to watch the full 39-minute interview.
Amateur and professional photographers alike are constantly seeking elegant solutions to display their best work online. We are excited to announce that our friends at Paupress have launched Justin, a new e-commerce enabled website solution for photographers, and indeed all visual artists. Click here to check it out. In its most basic form, Justin is a WordPress theme based on the fundamental design, architecture, and functionality of Visionary Wild founder Justin Black’s recently re-launched portfolio website, www.justinblackphoto.com. For those seeking to manage online sales and customer contacts, Justin is designed to seamlessly integrate with a powerful and easy-to-use customer relationship management and e-commerce tool created by our friends at Paupress. Users can opt for simple, portfolio-only functionality, or for full e-commerce and CRM support. The theme can be customized to suit the artist’s individual tastes and needs. If you’d like to present your best work online in an elegant, clean, and effective and professional manner, we invite you to check out the Justin theme at Paupress – www.paupress.com/justin/
by John Shaw
Editor’s note: There’s a lot of photo-mythology floating around out there. Visionary Wild instructor John Shaw puts a few of his favorite myths to rest.
1. Images for the web should be sized at 72 dpi. First of all, “dpi” refers to dots per inch, and computer screens have pixels, not “dots.” But “72 ppi” is also false. Pixels dimensions are the only criteria for computer images. 1200 pixels are 1200 pixels, whether they be 1/inch or 1200/inch. You still have 1200 pixels. Say you have an image that’s 1000 x 500 pixels at 72 ppi. How many total pixels is that? 1000 x 500 = 500,000. Resize to 1000 x 500 pixels at 300 ppi. How many total pixels is that? 1000 x 500 = 500,000. Exactly the same. If you’re resizing web images to 72 ppi, you’re simple adding a useless step to your workflow.
2. Mac monitors use 72 ppi while Windows ones are 96 ppi. Sorry, this is a myth. If it were true, a monitor would have to change resolution depending on whether it was connected to a Mac or a PC. Want to know roughly what the resolution of your monitor is in ppi? Measure the horizontal width of the screen and divide this into the horizontal pixel dimension at the monitor’s native resolution. My laptop’s screen is 1920 pixels wide, and measures about 13.5 inches horizontally. 1920/13.5 = about 142 ppi.
3. You should set Adobe RGB in your camera if you’re shooting RAW files. While this might affect the image displayed on the camera’s LCD, it does not directly affect a RAW file. After all, if Adobe RGB were actually applied, the file would no longer be RAW data.
4. For the best RAW file results, set a specific white balance in the camera. Don’t use Auto White Balance. RAW files have no white balance. Just as I said above, if a white balance were applied the file would no longer be RAW. A specific white balance is only set when the file is processed into a standard graphic file format such as .psd or .tiff or .jpeg; that is, when it is no longer a RAW file.
5. This RAW image is how it appears right out of the camera. Not true. A RAW image has to be rendered in some way before you can even see it. Exactly how it is rendered depends on the default settings of the RAW conversion software you use.
6. You can evaluate exposure by looking at the image on the camera’s LCD. You can adjust the LCD’s brightness on almost all DSLRs, so exactly which level of brightness would be “correct?” Sorry, not true at all. For that matter, the camera LCD most certainly is not a color corrected and calibrated monitor. You can evaluate composition; you cannot evaluate color or exposure. You definitely should use the histograms for exposure information.
7. Always use a UV filter to protect your lens. From what? Dirt and fingerprints? Then you must take the filter off for every shot, otherwise you’re shooting through a dirty, fingerprinted filter. Use one for “protection” only if you can state from what it is you’re protecting the lens. Salt spray? Yes, this might be an answer, but I live about 100 miles from the ocean and on the other side of a mountain range, and if there is salt spray here, protecting my lens will be the least of my worries.
8. 12 frames/second is better than 10/frames per second. In what way? Neither one guarantees you’ve caught the peak moment. Consider this: let’s assume a shutter speed of 1/1000 second. 12 frames/second captures 12/1000 of the action, and misses 988/1000 of it. Holding down the shutter button at the highest frame rate yields lots of images, but not necessarily the one you wanted.
9. Always underexpose a half-stop to richen the colors. Intentional underexposure with digital cameras is one of the worst things you can do. It simply adds noise.
10. Professional photographers get all their equipment free from the camera manufacturers. Boy, do I ever wish this were true, but it isn’t. For that matter, I wish it were true for cars and houses also.
11. All information on photography forums is true. You might remember back when there was an actual discussion about using Scotch® tape to clean camera sensors. I’m fairly sure someone fell for this, and actually tried it. We all know that it’s not Scotch® tape you should use, but duct tape, right? (Well, I read about using duct tape on the Internet, so it must be true.)
CLICK HERE to check out John Shaw’s blog.
In January 2012, photographers Jack Dykinga, John Shaw, and Justin Black collaborated on our first Vision Workshops at Santa Catalina State Park in Oro Valley, Arizona. Cinematographer Austin Andrews joined the group for a few field sessions in an attempt to capture the experience. Jack, John, and Justin are returning to Santa Catalina State Park for two more Vision Workshops in February 2013.
There is nothing like exploring sublime landscapes with a group of friends who share a love for photography and wide open spaces. Immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday, Jack Dykinga, Jeff Foott, and I led a week-long overland photo expedition with nine other passionate photographers, visiting some stunning backcountry areas in northern Arizona. As the guest of a gracious Navajo elder, we first explored and photographed a very special location characterized by dramatic red rock sandstone hoodoos and dinosaur footprints 200 million years old. We then traversed over twenty miles of sandy 4WD jeep trails to one of our very favorite Colorado Plateau locations, a photographer’s paradise of swirling petrified sand dunes, intimate abstract designs, and grand vistas overlooking the Grand Staircase leading down to the Grand Canyon. Our merry band was joined by Chris Collard, Editor-in-Chief of Overland Journal magazine, Laurie Rubin of Nik Software, and Tom Hanagan of Four Wheel Campers.
The days were so full of photographic opportunities that many of us had to force ourselves to take a break in order to get some food and a nap, and the photography didn’t end at dusk. Working by the light of our headlamps, we set up Nikons with MC-36 intervalometers to shoot five-hour multi-exposure star trail images, the results of which can be seen in Jack Dykinga’s stunning image in the gallery below. After a week of intense photography and fulfilling camaraderie, we exchanged hugs, said our farewells, and set off toward home.
The Arizona Overland Expedition was a prototype, testing a model for more overland adventures to come. Stay tuned for exciting overland trips in 2012.
Here are some highlights submitted by the group.
At a gala event in London sponsored by Veolia Environnement, Visionary Wild instructor Daniel Beltrá has won the 2011 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award for his image Still Life in Oil, a striking shot of eight brown pelicans rescued from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in June 2010.
Beltrá made the photograph at an ad hoc bird-rescue facility on the Louisiana coast. ‘Crude oil trickles off the feathers of the rescued brown pelicans, turning the white lining sheets into a sticky, stinking mess. The pelicans are going through the first stage of cleaning. They’ve already been sprayed with a light oil to break up the heavy crude trapped in their feathers,’ Beltrá explained. A statement from the judging panel described the image as ‘a strong environmental statement, technical perfection and a work of art all rolled into one. The sheer simplicity of this powerful image makes it really beautiful and shocking at the same time’
The international judging panel of respected wildlife experts and nature photographers reviewed more than 40,000 entries from aspiring amateurs and established professional photographers from all corners of the earth. As a sign of the competition’s growing international reach, this year saw first-time submissions from countries as far afield as Cambodia, Moldova, Brunei and Kyrgyzstan. There was also a notable increase in photographs submitted from countries such as India, China and Russia.
Now in its 47th year, the competition is owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine and is sponsored by Veolia Environnement. It is internationally recognised for taking a lead in the artistic representation of the natural world and continues to be held in high esteem with a reputation for being the Oscars of the wildlife photographic calendar.
The winning images will be featured in an international exhibition beginning at the Natural History Museum, London, on Friday 21 October
This important photograph is presently touring as part of Beltrá’s exhibit, Spill, at the Long Beach Aquarium in California, and at Roca Gallery in Barcelona, Spain. Limited edition prints are avaible as follows:
Oil Spill #20 – Still Life in Oil
Limited Editions: Mounted Size: Price:
8 48 x 60 $10,250
10 40 x 48 $5,500
15 25 x 30 $3,500
Prices are for unframed, museum quality mounted, archival prints.
Shipping and sales tax not included. For more information and edition availability, contact Susan Newbold at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visionary Wild instructor, Polar explorer Chris Linder produced this stunning video featuring his photographs from his latest expedition to Iceland this past August with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute researchers. Chris and landscape photographer Justin Black will lead a photo expedition for nine passionate photographers August 12-19, 2012, which will visit Iceland’s puffin colonies, coastal landscapes, glaciers, iceberg-filled bays, and dramatic volcanic interior. Click here for more information about this exciting expedition!
“Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised,” wrote Apsley Cherry-Garrard of his time with the 1910 Scott expedition to the South Pole. And that’s how most of us still imagine polar expeditions: stolid men with ice riming their beards drawing sledges and risking death for scientific knowledge. But polar science has changed drastically over the past century—as Chris Linder shows us, brilliantly, with Science on Ice.
The result is a combination travel book and paean to the hard work and dedication that underlies our knowledge of life on earth. Science on Icetakes readers to the farthest reaches of our planet; science has rarely been more exciting—or inspiring.
Review of Science on Ice:
“Science on Ice gives the reader a glimpse into the challenges of conducting field research in the extreme and isolated environments of the Arctic and Antarctic. I came away with a new appreciation of both the risks and adventures scientists experience, the creativity and adaptability they must possess to work in difficult conditions, and most of all, the fact that they are normal human beings with a strong sense of curiosity that fuels their work. This book will help us understand these distant reaches of our world, and] it has enormous potential to spark the minds of future would-be scientists.”—Amy Gulick, photographer and author ofSalmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest