Whale Soup in Alaska

Faking it as a wildlife photographer with the Humpbacks 

Whale Soup in Alaska by Richard Lewis

Whale Soup by Richard Lewis 2014

The title of this post does not advocate cooking whales. It is a term the locals use to describe a phenomenon where Humpback Whales will hunt in large groups to trap fish. When this happens, the sea fills with them. Humpbacks tend to be solitary animals. In Alaskan waters while eating to build up the stamina to swim south for the winter they will sometimes cooperate with each other.

We were very fortunate to witness this. All afternoon we had been watching the Orca and Humpback Whales, one or two at at time. At the end of the day, a large group of Humpbacks appeared all around our boat. We knew that this was something special when the crew appeared on deck to watch and take pictures. These folks see whales all the time along Alaska’s Inside Passage, so when they stop what they are doing and become whale watchers it really must be a unique experience.

I made hundreds of images of the whales all afternoon. It was raining so the photographs, while interesting, were soft and very flatly lit. The rain stopped for the first time in three days as evening approached and the sun started showing itself. Not only was there an abundance of whales in the “whale soup”, but the area was becoming beautifully backlit. While my emphasis is not wildlife photography, I do know that the quality of light is important no matter what type of subject one is photographing.

Enjoy

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The Pine Barrens Light

We came for the Super Moon but won the Gold

Golden Light in the Pine Barrens by Richard Lewis

Golden Light in the Pine Barrens by Richard Lewis

My friend Denise Bush reminded me of something special in her latest blog post. Before the August 2014 Super Moon in New Jersey, there was a moment where the golden light of the late day sun appeared against a darker background of clouds. While hiking to my “moon shot” location, I wandered over to this place and was awestruck by the beautiful light.

Sometimes the world gives you something different than what you planned. This is why it is good to photograph with an open mind and an open eye to see the opportunities.

Enjoy

More Alaska photographs coming soon!

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Creative Aerobics in Alaksa’s Tracy Arm Wilderness

 Fighting weather and Challenging Shooting Conditions

Tracy Arm Wilderness in Alaska Richard Lewis

Tracy Arm Wilderness #4 by Richard Lewis 2014

Tracy Arm Wilderness Alaska Richard Lewis

Tracy Arm Wilderness 6 by Richard Lewis 2014

Tracy Arm Wilderness Alaska Richard Lewis

Tracy Arm Wilderness 8 by Richard Lewis 2014

Tracy Arm Wilderness Alaska Richard Lewis

Tracy Arm Wilderness #3 by Richard Lewis 2014

Of all the places we visited in Alaska, the Tracy Arm Wilderness was probably the most beautiful. Unfortunately, it rained the entire time we were there. While it is not fun to shoot in the rain, the upside was that Tracy Arm looked like a fantasy landscape with mist and hundreds of waterfalls. You can see them spilling down the mountains in the images above.

With rain comes the need to keep the camera dry and functional as well as cleaning the front of the lens frequently to keep water droplets from accumulating. While fighting the rain was one thing, the real challenge was shooting landscapes from the ship we were traveling on. The entire time we spent in Tracy Arm was in motion, either on a moving ship or skiff. This was an exercise in what I call “High ISO Creative Aerobics.” It involved hand-holding the camera and composing quickly before the ship moved past the ideal shooting spot. A tripod would have slowed me down. This type of photography really raises one’s creative heart rate.

This was an exercise in learning to work quickly and methodically to get photographs that define a place. I liken it to adapting the instincts of a sports photographer to landscape photography. I didn’t know if I’d be back there again, so I needed to be sure that when we sailed out of the Tracy Arm Wilderness I had well-composed and technically correct photographs that met my creative vision.

Click here to see another photograph of the Tracy Arm Wilderness from a previous post

Enjoy

Alaska… Bad Weather and Beauty Beyond Belief

Traveling Along The Inside Passage

 Tracy Arm Wilderness in Alaska by Richard Lewis 2014

Tracy Arm Wilderness by Richard Lewis 2014

Old Pump House Along The Inside Passage in Alaska by Richard Lewis

Old Pump House Along The Inside Passage by Richard Lewis 2014

Tracy Arm Wilderness in Alaska by Richard Lewis 2014

Dusk in Petersburg Alaska by Richard Lewis 2014

I’ve got a lot of photographs and a few thoughts to share about our recent trip on a small ship along Alaska’s Inside Passage. Photography was a challenge due to weather, moving ships and, well, lots of stuff. For now, I’ll just share a some of the first images I’ve processed.

Enjoy

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Super Moon in New Jersey

Swatting mosquitos in the Pine Barrens to get the shot

Super Moon in the Pine Barrens Copyright Richard Lewis

Super Moon in the Pine Barrens by Richard Lewis 2014

Maybe it was the news hype or social media pressure, but on Sunday night I was standing next to an old cranberry bog as the August Super Moon made its appearance in the sky. I enjoyed the quiet evening setting up the shot. Then as darkness fell, the peace ended when the mosquitos found me. This might be considered combat landscape photography because I was under attack by every mosquito in the Pine Barrens while attempting to holding still during the long exposures needed to get this photograph. Around here bug repellent is an important piece of photography gear.

Enjoy

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The Art of iPhone Photography Part 1

Is iPhoneography the next step in the Art of Photography?

Over the last few months I’ve committed myself to learn how to use an iPhone to create art. iPhoneography, or smartphone art, is fascinating and probably as controversial as digital photography was years ago when it was a new art form.

The images below were created on a recent Saturday. None of these photographs would have been created if I was packing my regular camera gear. The whole concept of iPhoneography is to view photography differently. The camera is far from a pro level DSLR with a set of good lenses. It’s a camera sporting a tiny lens and sensor with few controls over the exposure. The apps designed to process photographs created by the iPhone, or other smartphones, can give you some sophisticated controls, but you are processing those images on the small screen of the phone or iPad without the aid of a mouse. These are challenges, but they are also opportunities. iPhoneography creates a new mindset for the photographer to create art in a completely different way. 

Readers copyright Richard Lewis All Rights Reserved

Readers by Richard Lewis 2014 – Apps Used: Perfectly Clear, Snapseed

Sitting in my local coffee shop I noticed these two women. The light was beautiful and I loved the fact that in the woman in the foreground was reading a paper while her phone sat on the table. As usual, everyone else had their head buried in a phone or computer screen. The iPhone is a perfect street photography camera because it is so easy to be discreet. I felt this scene had an Edward Hopper feel to it so I processed it with that in mind.

A Rainy Day In Atsion copyright Richard Lewis All Rights Reserved

A Rainy Day by Richard Lewis 2014 – Apps Used: Snapseed, Leonardo, Retouch

It was pouring rain as we pulled into the parking lot for the Mullica River hiking trail in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, so we decided to wait in the car until the rain died down. I shot this through the wet windshield because I loved how it distorted the straight line of the fence. After moving the car around to find the right position I took this photograph and did a lot of the post processing while waiting for the storm to break. This is one advantage of being able to process your photos on the device you created them on.

Cedar Stand copyright Ricard Lewis All Rights Reserved

Cedar Stand by Richard Lewis 2014 – Apps Used: Snapseed, DistressedFX, Retouch

Although I’ve hiked the Mullica River Trail many times, I never noticed this little stand of dead cedars. The abstract lines of the trees caught my attention this time. I had to shoot the scene with the iPhone zoomed in all the way. This created a even lower quality image because the “zoom” on an iPhone is just in in-camera cropping tool that gives you even less pixels to work with. iPhoneography invites the photographer to use the imperfections of a lower quality image to explore abstraction in photography.

Ansel Adams probably would not have embraced the iPhone as a camera. As a photographer who shares Adams’ discipline of meticulously composing, exposing and processing an image, I find using a telephone as a camera is forcing me to view my craft, and my subject matter, much differently. It’s an interesting challenge that is expanding my vision as an artist.

If you have any questions about iPhoneography don’t hesitate to ask them here in the comments. We can explore this wonderful art form together.

Enjoy

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Like these photographs? They’re for sale as fine art prints. Please visit my new website to see more.

The Intimate Landscape: How to find Paradise in a Parking Lot

Forest Details Great Smoky Mountains

Forest Details by Richard Lewis 2014

A Tree in the Forest Smoky Mountains

A Tree In The Forest by Richard Lewis 2014

14_Dogwoods-in-Full-Force-WEB-SM

Spring Trees Smoky Mountains

Spring Trees by Richard Lewis 2014

Intimate Forest Smoky Mountains

Intimate Forest by Richard Lewis 2014

“Sometimes you can tell a large story with a tiny subject.”
Eliot Porter

When I learned that our first morning in the Great Smoky Mountains would be spent photographing in the parking lot of a visitor center, I thought that I may have wasted a bit of money going there. For a hiking fanatic, sitting at the edge of one of the most beautiful natural areas in the world, heading to a parking lot to shoot seemed like a mistake. As usual, I was wrong.

Eliot Porter (1901-1990), a pioneer of color landscape photography, introduced the concept of the “Intimate Landscape.” Unlike a grand scene of mountain ranges, the intimate landscape focuses, literally, on the intimate part of a scene like the shape of a tree, the visual flow through a meadow, or the texture of water flowing over rocks. The intimate landscape is what we were looking for because a parking lot in a national park can offer a unique glimpse of the forest’s edge.

How I Did It – When photographing the intimate landscape it is important to notice the details. Dan Sniffen, a great West Coast photographer, uses the term “complex simplicity” to describe this process. A simple thing like a tree is really a complex array of branches, colors, textures and tonal range. The trick is to put all of these complexities together in a way that delights the viewer and invites them into the simple little piece of the world you are recording with your camera and lens.

Enjoy

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Like these photographs? They’re for sale as fine art prints. Please visit my new website to see more.