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Another Look with Frans Lanting

Lesson 4 of 4

Wildlife Critique

Frans Lanting

Another Look with Frans Lanting

Frans Lanting

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Lesson Info

4. Wildlife Critique

Lesson Info

Wildlife Critique

So, we're going to move from the small world to the bigger world inhabited by animals. I think this pretty cool, huh? So Dolce said that she was in Fort Meyers, which is an amazing place, by the way, to practice bird photography, and she was looking for spoonbills. And she got close enough to this one to be able to capture this detail of a spoonbill preening itself. Can we look at the settings, Ross? So, 400 millimeter lens. Five six ISO, 200, depth of field not far extended, because you had the apertures wide open. I think this is beautifully seen and beautifully executed. The danger is, of course, when you're focusing that close that as soon as the bird moves a little bit, you're going to lose that composition. So this is high risk but high reward. The composition's perfect. She may have cropped it in a little bit from the composition that she captured it, but that's beside the point here. I think everything here contributes to making this image arresting. Look at it it, kind of we h...

ave white and we have pink, we have pink eyes, we have pink plumage. And the strong lines of the plumage are mirrored by the bill. Yeah, perfect. I wouldn't change a thing in it. It's time I go back to Fort Meyers beach. Lance, Lance went a little bit farther afield. He ended up in Kenya's Maasai Mara, which is a fantastic wildlife reserve. It's part of the Serengeti eco system that extends into Tanzania, and he captured a baby elephant close to its mother, and then converted it to black and white. And yeah, I think he did an amazing job here. You know, cropped it in quite close, so the emphasis is on on the baby and on the baby alone, and it is kind of surrounded by these kind of wrinkled shapes of the mother. I don't see anything wrong here in the foreground, either. I wouldn't change anything in the contrast, I wouldn't change anything in the other settings, either. Can you think of any way in which we can improve this? This looks good pretty good to me, I would say maybe the baby elephant maybe looks a little over exposed. A little hot there. It is the main focal point of the picture, so it doesn't bother me so much. I would say we applaud Lance for his efforts. I wish we could be there with him, right? So, Tim writes that he was in Moorehead State Park in Ida Grove, Iowa, and he was looking for saw-whet owls. He was there in the nick of time, the light was fading, and he passed two other photographers, and then he found the owl. And then he had to boost the ISO, because it was at the end of the day, so let's see what that ISO was like. Holy mackerel. He made this with a 24 to 70 millimeter lens, at a setting of 62 millimeters, so that means he must have been this close to that owl. Yeah. Yeah, that was a pretty cooperative owl there. So, I like this image. Owls, of course, are very photogenic subjects, but we see a lot of portraits of owls where the owl is looking straight into the camera, either looking a little bit annoyed, because the photographer is getting too close. What I like is that the owl is looking off camera. That gives it a little bit more intimacy, in a paradoxical sense. So, I like the blurred out foreground, I like the blurred out background, and that comes from that wide open aperture. I think we can fill in these highlights a little bit more, and if we fill in the highlights in the background as well a little bit, then our eyes are getting drawn even more towards the owl. Because it's all about the owl, right? So, Tim says that he was boosting his ISO and that gives me the opportunity to emphasize that point. Because one of the truly miraculous developments in digital photography is the amazing capabilities of our modern sensors. And, I started my career photographing on film, with a film that had an effective sensitivity of 25 ISO, and now with my Nikon D5, I can create images with the sensitivity of a quarter of a million. It is really amazing. So, Tim may have been a little bit concerned to increase his ISO to 1600, but I'd say don't worry about it Tim. Crank it up as far as you need to go, so that you can stay even longer with that owl. Because you know, I'm not even seeing any noise in here. Ross can magnify that image to see if I'm wrong, but it looks pretty smooth to me, right? Yeah. So, the best way to find out for yourself what your camera is capable of, is to do a test. Just kind of aim it at a neutral subject, or even at a monochromatic surface, and then systematically run from your lowest ISO to the very highest ISO possible, and then you'll analyze the results, and you'll see where your comfort zone is. Alan wrote us that he hand held this image in Botswana, in a moving safari vehicle. So, let's look at the settings. 2000th of a second at F9, ISO 1250, and he had a 70 to 200 millimeter lens, almost at a 200 millimeter extension. Now, I don't know how fast the vehicle was moving, but that's not easy, because typically you bounce up and down. So, vehicle was going after the cheetah, and the cheetah was going after the impalas. So he made the right decision, he kept his shutter speed really high. 2000th of a second, and I would say boost it even more to 4000th of a second, because you want the action to be captured crisply. And in this case, the ISO could have been boosted quite a bit higher. But, as it is, very nicely captured, Alan. But, I would suggest that we can let go of the sky a little bit, and that we can also bring this up a little bit to get a little bit closer to the scene. I would leave the horizontal alone, and turn it into more of a panorama. The image looks a little bit hot. So, should we darken it a little bit, yeah? Bring the exposure down and maybe some of the highlights. All right, well done Alan. Gene, Gene was on Hilton Head, and he found this little hooded merganser, and he says she was breathtaking. I agree, that's a gorgeous bird. That is really beautiful. So, quite a personality. That perky crest and perfect reflection. And also look at the twinkles here in the background, so this image is not just about a subject, it is also about light. It's about foreground, it's about background. Can we take a look at the settings? A long lens, it's a 100 to 400 millimeter lens. And yeah, the lens is wide open. And well done with the shutter speed, at a 400th of a second. And Gene did the right thing by keeping the ISO high, because if a bird is swimming toward you at this speed, you want to have a little bit of a safety margin. If you go any slower than 400th of a second, you may start seeing blurring in your subject here. So, I think this is really beautifully captured, but because we have such a perfect reflection in the bird in that smooth water in the foreground, I would suggest that this image could be cropped into a vertical. The bird emphasizing the prevailing lines in the composition. So we have all the essential information that Gene delivered to us, but it's a little bit tightened up and we're following where the image wants to go. I wouldn't change anything. The colors are gorgeous, I wouldn't saturate them. All the shadow details are beautifully expressed. Picture perfect, very well done, Gene. Robert. Robert says, I don't know if this qualifies, but it is a composite of two photographs. Taken about an hour a part, in somewhere near Philadelphia. He was trying to create an image that represents autumn. Kudos for trying that. For going beyond the literal, and experimenting with different ways to capture impressions of nature. I've done this a lot myself, and in fact, that's how I started my career, as a photographer in a city park in Rotterdam, and I started layering exposures on top of each other. Actually, after the fact, by putting two pieces of transparency together. So I can sympathize with this here, but I'm not sure that the effect is as successful as it could be, because what are we looking at here? I want to look at the reeds, I also want to look at the swan, and there's a lot of nice texture in here. But, I'm not sure that the composition is succeeding at making my eyes go naturally from element to another. So, I would suggest, what would I suggest. I think there's actually, there's two different images here. There's an image of a swan, but I would put the swan more towards the edge of the frame. And I would do more with this relationship here. And, then I see another image, if I want to follow Robert's lead, go back to these reeds in the foreground, Reed. Robert. And turn them out of focus, and then layer them on top of the other frame, and then those out of focus reeds are becoming more of a veil that you're looking through to appreciate the swan and the reeds in the background. Because then you're not fighting for attention between the reeds and the swan. Then the swan is still the subject. That's what I would do. So. Lance went to British Columbia, where he photographed a rare white face of a black bear, which has become known as the spirit bear. They're pretty rare, so you have to spend a lot of time in the rain, hoping that one shows up, and he was lucky, and he delivered this image to us. He says that he underexposed it, and then he did quite a bit of processing in the Light Room afterwards, so it looks, it looks therefore, very dark. So, I'm, kudos for sitting out and waiting for that bear. I don't know how many days it took you. But you have to be patient, and you have to bring your poncho, that's for sure. But, I'm not sure that the processing is totally successful. When we reveal a little bit of the shadow details, we're beginning to see a, and I hope you don't mind us revealing your work there, Lance, but see the masking was done a little bit abruptly, which you don't see when you're looking at the image the way it was given to us. But I suggest if you want to apply that effect that you feather this out more carefully, and Ross, what else would you suggest here. Yeah, I would say just make sure to keep this, all these leaves or grass blades in the background, visible from showing, so. Yeah. But then, if you do that then, if you turn this to complete blackness, then you need to bring the blackness directly around the bear, so you need to create a perfect mask. And then where does your transition go here at the feet of the bear, so. You see, you open up a Pandora's Box of problems for yourself. I like the idea, but I think the execution is a bit problematic. So, Lance, maybe you need to go back to B.C. and try this again. So, or, you have worked with one of the other images, because I'm sure you have more than than this one alone. And, we can't really comment about the original capture, because that detail's been obscured by the processing. So, yeah, we don't have time to go into all the details of how you can process images. But, I think we've looked at a couple of examples of people doing work in the background that was done maybe a little bit, a little bit fast or with not enough knowledge. But I think, Chris, there's plenty of classes offered by Creative Live where we get in really deep into the subtleties of Light Room, right? Yeah, it's pretty easy to just search for Light Room right on the Creative Live homepage, and you will see tons of classes that come up, for all different levels of Light Room. If you're just getting into it, or if you want some more advanced features, plenty of classes to check out. So go look at those if you were looking for more in depth Light Room material, but yeah, that's not really what we're covering here today in this class. Yeah, and that's what we do in our own workshops, as well, is we take people into the field, and then we analyze the images back in the studio, and then we really get into the nitty gritty. So if you're interested in that, join our mailing list and we'll tell you when the next sessions happen. Let's take a look at the next image. Zoos are great places to have intimate encounters with wildlife. You don't have to sit in the rain for a week, the way Lance probably had to do in B.C., and then have us criticize his image after the fact. (audience laughing) Sorry Lance. But, this is, you know I mentioned how easy it is to practice macro photography at your kitchen table. In the same way, if you don't have time to go to the Maasai Mara, you don't have the budget, you just go to your local zoo. And you indulge in the amazing presence of all these miraculous creatures that we need to preserve for our kids and for our grandkids, right? So, a flock of captive flamingos. So, we're seeing too much here. What is it that you can do in zoos that is not so easy to do in the wild? That is to get really close to amazing animals. And to relish in details and turn them into abstractions of themselves. So, I would suggest, let me bring up the maker of this image. Linda made this image in Zoo Atalanta. Very close to the entrance. So, she was either in a hurry or she didn't get any further into the zoo. So, Linda, let's take this out. We don't need to see this, because the eye candy is right in here. It's right in there. See, now we're seeing that reflection still, but you can see the effect. And of course we could get in even closer. And it's not just about the flamingos, look at all these little shimmering effects of the water, that is where my eye goes. And I would say Linda, go back to Zoo Atlanta and try it again. And maybe get a little bit farther into the zoo as well, and we'll see what you come up with. Here Tilmons went to Canada on a summer holiday and he captured this image of a black bear, and converted it to black and white. He mentions that he likes it a lot because the very first time he ever saw a bear in the wild. And, boy I know what that feels like, and we all know what that feels like, right? Yeah, there's nothing like the magic of being in nature and suddenly a big mammal shows up. And, you scramble for a camera, and you don't have the right lens and you have the wrong setting, and so on and so on. So, I can only imagine what went through his head when he did this. And, I think here what you came up with is really quite interesting. Because the bear is tucked away into the corner. He almost looks like, like a ghost of his own presence. And we're not seeing any detail in the forest, so, even though the bear is kind of tucked away into that corner, he is clearly the presence in the image. I think switching off the color is a good decision, because it's all about the graphic shape here. So, could we go even further with this kind of contrasty black and white rendition, Ross? Yeah, we can add some contrast and maybe darken the blacks a little. You do begin to lose some of the detail in the forest here, but. We do want to see detail here because that anchors us here in the foreground, and I like this as well. Do we have settings for this image? So, yeah, long lens, 250 millimeters, 500 ISO. So, he either had the time to apply great settings or he was really lucky that the camera was set that way. But, perfect for what he was faced with. I like that profile of the bear, I like that seeing that mouth a little bit. Nicely done. So Chris was in Ngorongoro, which is hallowed ground. The big volcanic crater at the edge of the Serengeti plains. A haven for wildlife. I've been there, many of my colleagues have been there, and Chris describes that he intentionally darkened the background, and he emphasized the warm coloring on the mane. So, he did quite a bit of post processing and he would like me to comment on the work that he did, yeah. And he's interested in my opinion whether he overdid it, I don't think so. I mentioned earlier on that the most important guideline to apply to the work that you do as a photographer, starting with how you may have influenced the subject that you work with, or the work that you do afterwards in front of your computer, is to be honest. Be honest with yourself and the people with whom you communicate about the image. If you do that, you're going to find that you can do a lot more than what you may be concerned about. It's all about honesty. It's about revealing what you did. So, I think this looks beautiful. So I don't have any problem with it whatsoever. Now, there is a caveat. If you want to publish your work in a magazine like National Geographic, you have to step into strict journalistic guidelines. We don't do things like double exposures, although, I think maybe we've done that a couple of times in the magazine, but then we disclose the methods that are applied. But pretty much, if you want to do photography for publication, you have to apply journalistic guidelines, and that really comes down to capturing things the way they are. But, even so, I would consider this to fall within those documentary guidelines, because all that has happened here is a little bit of enhancement of details. There's nothing that's been changed substantially in the image. And, since we're talking about the ethics here, I see no problem with enhancing details. I think the lines are drawn when you start adding things to an image that weren't originally there. Because then you're really adding another layer to the reality that most people associate with being genuine. So, I think this is beautifully done, and I'm also looking at that lion, and I say this lion's pretty lucky because he's not showing all the scars that I usually see accumulated on the face of a lion. Because they lead a pretty tough life. Yes Chris, sorry. You said not to add things, so that it was more realistic. Well, what about subtracting, for example, a straw or grass that comes within the face or the mane. That's a really good question. In case we didn't all hear the question, so I made a comment about be really conservative about adding things to your subject, but what about deleting details from your image. Like removing a piece of straw from a mane, or an out of focus twig in the foreground. That becomes a very subjective decision, and again, it depends on who you're communicating with. If you're applying your images to an art market, you can get away with just about anything. If you want to apply images to documentary publication, you have to be very careful. And the same with applying images to advocacy for conservation. Because you have to be really honest when you do that. So, I this specific instance what you are referring to, if there were any distracting details in the mane of that lion, I would say the safest thing to do is to just kind of brush them so that they become a little bit darker, so that they're still visible, but they're less distracting. This is a black rhino in the Maasai Mara. A black rhino, and he cropped it, and then he severely darkened the background to emphasize the rhino and the ox pecker and the greenery he was eating. And, Chris too is wondering about my impression again and my suggestion for post processing. Chris, you did something more radical with this rhino than you did with the lion. What you did with the lion was kind of an enhancement, what you did here is more of a deletion. And, I think it looks really cool as an overall effect. It almost looks more like a studio portrait, it's very graphic. And I like the effect of the ox pecker here and that little twig of greenery here. But, when we look at the way you masked the outline of the rhino, we see some things in here that you want to have another look at. And we've seen a couple of other examples of this kind of radical deletion or darkening of a background. You really have to be very good at this in order for this to survive. Because, it's one way to look at it on your computer, it's another way when we look at it in here. And now that I'm looking at it more closely here on the monitor, this doesn't look as smooth as I would like it to be. So, go back to the image and try it again. I think some selective feathering here of the edges could be helping Chris. What else would you suggest, Ross? Yeah, I would just say make sure that your masking tool is not feathering too much because this is what you'll get, is some leftover from the initial background that was originally there. But, otherwise, it looks okay. But yeah you can see here. But Chris, kudos for trying. This is how you test the boundaries of your own skills and your own vision. Adrian. He made this on the patio of his condo in Mesa, Arizona. He didn't give us any other details about how he made this image. When we look at the settings, I'm curious. 250th of a second at F14, and a moderate telephoto lens. So his aperture was closed quite far, and his shutter speed is borderline. Because if you want to capture a songbird in flight, ideally, I would like to apply a shutter speed of a 1000th of a second or faster, otherwise you run the risk of the wings becoming blurred. Now, can we see in the settings whether, the flash did not fire. See, there's all kinds of secrets that are revealed here. I see details of his tax return in here as well. (audience laughing) Just making that up. So, what do you think, Ross? Was a flash applied here even though it's saying it didn't fire? It's quite possible there was. Because it looks so crisp, right? It does, yeah. And the fact that the background is so black, it just, it makes me think that there was a flash or some type of secondary light illuminating the bird. Unless his masking is really, really good. So we're just trying to guess, Chris, at what you, sorry Adrian, at what you did there. But, kudos for what you did and how you did it, because that bird is beautifully expressed there. And it is so sharp that we can zoom on it a little bit more, the image will hold up well I think. Yes. Would you ever add a catch light? A catch light to the eyes? Well, there is a catch light here. So I don't think we need to add anything in here. If it wasn't in there. If it wasn't in there. Well, I think that relates back to an earlier question, you know. How do you feel about deleting detail, and how do you feel about adding detail. And, I would be more conservative when it comes to adding detail. And, you know, it's not so easy when you start thinking about how do you apply that catch light. Because you see what we're doing here, you know. If we really want to find out what happened and we start zooming in on the eye, then it's pretty easy to distinguish a natural catch light from a catch light that is added after the fact. And, if your image is good, then in this case, you don't want to drag it down by doing something that undermines it. That would be my response, yeah. So, Adrian, really well done. And no matter what you had in your tool kit, I would say do this again. If you're just sitting there on your patio with a margarita nearby and your camera nearby, you're in good territory there. Scott says that this is one of his favorite wildlife shots because the wonderful swirls of blue sky and dark mud combined with the white egret standing straight up. I agree. White egrets are really easy to photograph here in California, we have a lot of them. And they've become pretty tolerant, too, of us in many places. So, the challenge is no longer how close can I get to that egret, the challenge goes in the other direction. How much can I do with that egret if I surround it with the rest of the landscape. And, I think that is what's been done here. So, I'd say this is nearly a perfect composition. Well, we could push that egret a little bit farther into the corner. The stronger the subject is, the more you can push it into a corner, and the more space you can balance it with. But I like the lines. It looks like this is a little bit hot. Are we having any detail left in it, is it totally blown? If it's totally blown out, then we can't recover it. Yeah, it looks like it might be blown out to me. Yeah. Yeah, then it becomes a new species, a gray egret. (audience laughing) We don't want to do that, right. Yes. Do you have a problem with the fact that the reflection isn't the full bird. Do I have a problem with they're not being a perfect reflection. I don't have a problem with it. It would have been nice, but I don't think that was in the cards here. But, let's play the exercise. How could he have gotten the perfect reflection. Further back? Further back, not necessarily. Bring a stepladder. Go up higher. Oh, oh sure. Which is not the kind of equipment that most photographers carry along into the field. Not at Crissy Field. So, the better response is, you wait around for awhile, because that bird's clearly moving along here. So, sooner or later you're going to get your perfect reflection there. But it doesn't bother me too much, because this is a very nice composition as it is. All right. (audience laughing) So, I wanted to show these images side by side, because this is a very different rendition of the same kind of bird. Except this one was in Florida, the other one was in California, but that doesn't matter, they're the same bird. And both photographers decided to surround the bird with a landscape. In the case of the previous image, it was an abstraction. In this case, there's a lot of other things going on. So, I like that. And I would like to make a plea to all of you nature and wildlife photographers, is not to forget that there's a lot more going on in these places where we like to go than just nature by itself, you know. We live in a world that is crowded by human artifacts, and don't forget those. And you can turn them into really interesting statements that can either lead to images that express co-existence. Because this in an ironic way, is an expression of co-existence. You can turn them into images that point to conflicts, and that is something that is really close to my heart. Because a lot of my work is really advocacy and pleading for more conservation and more preservation. So, I really like that image for this reason. What could we do to express it better? There's not a lot of color going on, so except of course this red, so can we quickly flip to a black and white rendition? I kind of like the red in there. Could you do split toning, where you would leave the do not feed the birds in red, and the rest of it in black and white. Yeah, but it's, indeed that's a good suggestion. But, I think it's already there, because there's almost no color in here except that yellow bill. But yeah, that's certainly worth playing with. But I would accept the image as it is. It's the statement, right. And when you have an image with a strong message, then the technical details and the aesthetic details matter less than the strength of your message. So, I would say, this is an image that gets close to what I mentioned as yet another criteria for judging images by and that is meaning. In this case, it's not a closed off meaning, because, should we really not feed the birds, should we feed the birds, or what else can we say here. But it clearly goes a step beyond the traditional representation of birds. Pamela writes that she was at an elephant seal rookery on the coast of California. And she wanted to take a shot that would get a sense of the sheer numbers of the seals while still capturing a moment. She got the moment. So, we can check that box. We can check the composition box as well, and clearly there's a subject there, so, she's well on her way to create an interesting image. And it's, let's see, what else can see here. Pamela, can I make one comment? I think that you did a really nice job here, but if you submit images for publication or for critique like we're doing here, you serve yourself better if you don't make your watermark too prominent, because now we're starting a little bit much at your name, so tuck it in a corner. Then you're still identified. Or in the case of these Creative Live classes, we mentioned your name anywhere, and your name is also in the metadata. If you deliver images for publication, if you add your watermark visibly to an image, kind of, most photo editors don't really like that. If they're professional, they will know how to give you credit, or how to find you. So, this is something that distinguishes the professionals from the amateurs. Just so, to give you a sense. Back to the image. I like the flow of it. I like the way the head of that elephant seal is raised, I like the dark pups as well. So I wouldn't change that much to it. I wouldn't change the contrast, because it's a soft lighting situation. I wouldn't change anything in the composition. If any of you are interested in finding out where this image was made, Gene was very specific. Lock and dam 14 on the Mississippi River, just south of Le Claire, Iowa. So, and, before we get into the image, I just want to say something that is an extension of what I just mentioned. Bald eagles were in bad shape 20 years ago. They were an endangered species. And we've given them better protection, we've cleaned up our environment, and now, bald eagles are everywhere. And we're all the beneficiaries of that, and of course the eagles themselves are as well. So, it shows that there's a lot of hope, that we have a lot of success stories when it comes to nature and wildlife, as long as we make a commitment to it, and of course every victory when it comes to environmental protection is temporary, and every loss is unfortunately sometimes a final loss. So I just wanted to say that, I hope you allow me to make that comment. But, now to the image. I think this is really striking, I'm really envious of this image, because look at that. Look at the power in that bird, that expression, and we're looking at the streamlining of the shape, I mean everything is really there. The only thing that I would do is kind of tone down the tail a little bit, because I think there's more detail in the tail than we're currently seeing. And, maybe tone down this a little bit as well, because I really want our eyes to go to this part of the eagle. It's so light that we could perhaps even darken the image overall, what do you think, yeah? It looks a little darker on the laptop here than on the big monitor, so. You know, there's a, the lighting angle really contributes to the quality of this image. There's a sidelight that is striking across the eagle here that emphasizes the texture of its, the surface of the wings. Yeah, the more I look at it, the more I'm impressed. So, we may have to come and look up that eagle at the lock and dam 14 in Iowa. So, really nice. Compliments. So, this image was made in Tanzania, in Tarangire. And it's a close up of baboon eyes. The photographer says it was severely cropped from the original, which included a full head and the upper torso. So, I would say kudos for doing that. Let's take a look at the settings. It was cropped that severely, yeah the photographer did a very good job with capturing that original baboon very crisply. So, especially if the aperture was only at a four, because not only do you have a very limited depth of field, it is also not aperture but a lens performs in an optimal sense. So, I would say kudos to the photographer for the original capture, and I also like the way that this has been cropped. So, beautifully done. Robert writes us that he has a bird feeder about 10 feet from his study window, and then he has a tall hatch in the background that acts almost like a black background, and he was able to capture a battle between a common grackle and a blue jay. And then he philosophizes that the image represents the struggle between good and evil. (audience laughing) All right. I think this is amazing. You know, to see both of these birds kind of expressed that way with their wings wide open, that's a remarkable moment. And there's no, nothing distracting in the foreground or in the background. It looks like it may have been cropped in quite significantly, because on the big screen here it begins to fall apart a little bit. What are you seeing, Ross? Yeah, it looks like it, it falls apart just a little bit. At least there's some visible noise, but. Are the settings revealed? All right. 4000th of a second at six three, ISO 2,500. Relatively short lens. So, to me it looks like this has been cropped. So, that means that you can't enlarge the image very far. But, on a computer screen it looks fantastic. I wouldn't do a thing to this photograph, in part because of the way it has been delivered to us, so we can't really pull too many details out of the shadows, because then we're just emphasizing the noise, right. So, I would accept it as it is. And I would say, carry on with photography from your study, because I'm sure there's going to be a lot more amazing moments. Now, this good and evil thing, I know not everybody likes a grackle, but you know, I don't think they're quite that bad. Eve tells us that he made this image of a topi in the Olare Motorogi conservancy in Kenya. And, yeah, I know it's a bit of a cliche, you know. The silhouette of an animal against a big orb of a sun, but you know how difficult that really is to pull it off, because you get just a split second, so I'm going to say kudos to you, Eve. And I really like the way it's been framed. I like all these acacias to the left and to the right. I think the color looks a little bit, probably actually the color looks actually pretty naturalistic when I think back to all the times in Kenya. We could express it, perhaps, a little bit more graphically. Because it's all, you know, we're not really talking about tonality here. Let's see what happens if we increase the contrast. And this another case where we could drop the top of the image a little bit, because this is such a strong line, we would emphasize that more with a horizontal crop. So, it's subjective. But, personally I like this a little bit better. So, one thing I'll say, too, about the location, in addition to the famous national parks, there are more and more conservancies. Sometimes privately owned, sometimes owned by communities, and if you ever plan your safari in Africa, those are the places to go to. Because if you do, you probably are going to avoid a lot of the congestion that happens in the famous parks like Maasai Mara or Serengeti. Plus, your money ends up in the coffers or in the pockets of people who practice conservation, and that is a good thing. A red shouldered hawk, somewhere near Philadelphia. Just left the tree to grab a mouse that was a few feet from his feet. That's pretty miraculous. So, either that was a very courageous hawk, or somebody provided the vole or the mouse. The photographer doesn't describe that. So we're going to take this at face value, right. So, this is an amazing shot. And 20 years ago this would not have been possible, because we didn't have long lenses with auto focus capability. These days, it's a lot easier, but nonetheless. When a hawk comes straight at you like that, it's not just a matter of letting the auto focus work for you. You really need to be pretty quick, and you need to understand the behavior of the bird. So it's all about the eye contact, right. So, I think that's beautifully captured. Let's look at the settings. Pretty short lens. A thousandth of a second, that's really the shutter speed you need, or something even faster. And the depth of field, seven one, that's okay. Relatively short lens. So that makes it a little bit easier to capture something like that. So, really well done Robert. Now I'm going to come back to this question that I just raised, because there are quite a few opportunities now for photographers to go and photograph owls in situations where the snowy owls and other owls are provided with rodents. And then basically the birds come and capture the rodent, and then what you don't see in the image is 12 photographers standing there, you're all aiming at that same bird. And, I don't want to deny anyone the opportunity to practice amazing wildlife photography, but I think there's some ethical issues there, you know. Is it still okay to sacrifice rodents for the sake of a successful bird photograph? Or are we reaching a delicate area there. And at the very least, if you do those kind of things, be open about the methods that were used to capture the image that you ended up being so proud of. So, I just want to keep us all honest. All right. Vladimir delivered us a picture of a tree frog. The tree frog is hiding, indeed. And he did a really nice thing with this tree frog, because by moving at an oblique angle from this tree frog, he was able to blur the foreground. And look how smooth that is. But there's some lines that kind of mimic the line of the reed on which the frog is sitting, so very nicely seen, very nicely executed. I love the light on the frog, as well. Let's look at the settings. Do we have them? No, no settings for this one. No settings. So we'll have to do without the settings. But I commend you for doing this, Vladimir, and I wouldn't change that much to it. The image looks a little bit cool here on the monitor, so maybe a slight warming. We could tone down the toe pads of the frog a little bit so we can appreciate some of the softer details in it a little bit more. But, I would accept the image as it is. Nicely done. What are we seeing here? We're seeing zebras, we're seeing impalas, we're seeing elephants, and we're seeing one amazing elephant, look at the size of that tusk. Yeah, and, I fell for this image because of that tusk. Because those elephants have become rarities. In all of Africa because of the slaughter that is happening, there may be 100 big tuskers left, and none of them have a very long life ahead of them, because the poachers are the ones who are seeking out those individuals. So, that's an extraordinary situation. And it's just a reminder how much we need to do. I mentioned earlier that a lot of my work is about advocacy, I try to speak out on behalf of the organizations that are standing in the front lines. And in this case, it's Save the Elephants, and it's Wild Eight, and if you go to our website you'll find all the details about them. Sorry for speaking out about that. But, back to the image here, this is very dynamic. Yeah, there's a lot going on in here. But, I find that the color is almost a bit of a distraction. Let's flip this over to a black and white. How do we feel about this? The color is incidental to the subject and to the moment, so, I find this a little bit more interesting. What else can we do here, Ross? Ordinarily I would say we tone down the highlights in the tusks a little bit, but clearly the tusks are a very important part of the composition, so in this case, I wouldn't do that, I would leave them the way they are, so that they really shine. Could we do anything else? Maybe lighten up this dark patch over here, my eye sort of tends to shift that way, but. Yeah, and in that case we should lighten this as well. So then we have to do some really subtle work with the brush, right? And this would probably take a few tries to get the settings that we'd like and desire, but. Yeah. Yeah, maybe darken the exposure over all a little bit. So, this image kind of, if you start to work on this, there's nothing that's easy about it, it's all local adjustments. So, I would say, let's move on, because there's one more image coming up. (audience laughing) Robert writes that the arctic fox was checking to see if the polar bear was sleeping, because there was a caribou leg to the foxes left, and it wanted some of it. It did chew on it, and it was convinced the bear was out. So, I love this image. This was obviously cropped from the original, but it cropped it down to the essence. This is a true moment. And the attitude of the fox, the sleeping nature of the bear. But, they're in their environment. Everything is beautifully spread out. I'm not sure that I would change anything in here. Can we take a look at the settings? One second at F10, can that be true? Probably not. It might be inaccurate. No. You know, that would have required extreme cooperation between the photographer and the fox. (audience laughing) He stood like that for a full second. I don't know any foxes like that. So, that must have been inherited from something else. But, yeah, we're ending on this image for a reason. And that is, we have this amazing equipment at our disposal these days. The cameras, lenses that go up to 600 or 800 millimeters if you apply a tele converter. And the appeal of getting close to animals is something that is really deep inside us. We, some of us, used to practice that with guns, before people switch to capturing images of animals with a camera, and, but, I think what this image shows is that there's a very different approach possible. Instead of looking at the tip of the nose of the polar bear, these are animals that are living in an environment. They're interacting with each other. And, ultimately, I find that these kind of images may be more enduring when you print them for yourself or when you apply them to a project than the close-ups of the animals, because those can become somewhat generic. Because one close up looks right next to another close up, they look pretty similar. Whereas this was a unique situation. So, I commend the photographer for being there and for capturing this, and for sharing your story. And I would also like to thank all the other photographers who submitted images, because we've looked at a really strong showcase of animals big and small in different situations. And yeah, I'm impressed. And it's going to inspire me to head out, sooner rather than later, to see what else I can capture. I want to thank Ross as well, for being behind the controls. And I hope to see you all again, those of you here in the audience. I know Lisa's going to join us in Santa Cruz pretty soon. And those of you around the world, join us the next time. All right, now Frans before we wrap up here, I know you've got a lot of travel coming up. Where can people follow you if they want to keep this conversation going. Well, we are very active on social media. I would say the best way is to follow us on Instagram, because we're posting there every two days. And we're not just posting images, we're also telling in depth stories. And sometimes they're stories about the circumstances, sometimes they're stories of conservation, advocacy stories. But you learn a lot from checking our Instagram account, and sometimes we do mini-campaigns, so we stick with the same subject for a week. And you also find a lot of referrals to organizations that we think are really important for people to be connected with. So, do that. Christ Eckstrom, my wife and partner, has her own Instagram account where she posts videos. And then, on Facebook, you can find all kinds of other stories. And if you want to know more about what we do or if you want to join us sometime, write us, and check our website too. And we hope to see you again, virtually or in person.

Class Description

Join legendary nature photographer Frans Lanting, as he critiques a select group of outdoor and wildlife photographs. In this curated review, you'll get expert insight into improving your work in the field and through post-processing so you can begin capturing unforgettable images of the world.

Want to see your work critiqued by Frans Lanting live on air? Here are the details you need in order to be considered:

  • We’re looking specifically for photos that fall into the following categories:
    • Wildlife
    • Landscapes
    • Macro
  • Images should be at least 4k pixels on the long side, but keep files under 10MB
  • Label your JPG files: yourfullname.jpg
  • Upload your images via the form on the CreativeLive Blog.


Lisa C. Alvarez

This is a terrific class for photographers seeking a straightforward explanation of what makes a photo stand out from the pack. Despite all the amazing technological innovations in recent years to the way we take photos, the elements of what makes a powerful photo remains the same. Every year it gets easier to get it right technically, but what about aesthetically? If this is your concern, this is the class for you. Frans explains the elements of a exceptional photo in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. Then he applies these principles to photos submitted for review by Creative Live viewers. His use of the submitted photos as illustrations strengthens the understanding of these principles. Finally, another quality I like about Frans as a teacher is the genuine respect and appreciation he has for the photographer's vision. He takes great pains to propose edits that preserve the original style and message but relate back to the basic elements which must be present for a photo to be truly outstanding.


This review is more about the teacher than the material. As for the material, it is thorough, complete and covers 95% of everything that makes you curious and all without suffering the pain of having your own work critiqued and making you feel like a noob. However, greater than 50% of photography teachers have egos the size of Alaska, perhaps 100% and may even include Frans, however, most of them have no problem in letting you know how good they are, how much you have to learn and how their view and not yours is important. Spend these few hours with Frans and you will find none of that. He starts his critiques asking the photographer what they were trying to achieve, then he explains how much they did and didn't do that, and then he demonstrates by showing one or more ways you could have improved on that vision. He also talks to the fact that based on their vision, he may have shot the photo differently. Then he ends by asking the audience what they think of his changes and what they would have done differently and finally, incorporates their changes also. Incredibly enlightening, respectful, and of course, he is incredibly visionary and you can almost always see how his ideas are better, how beautiful is his ability to envision and create and his mastery of creating the vision he forms in his mind. Don't miss a chance to watch any and all of the classes by Frans Lanting, he will change your way of planning and executing photography and improve your post processing skills to best present your vision.

Melissa Lear

Really enjoyed the class, thanks Frans! Also grateful for the replay as I'm located in Dubai so the live class is too late for us (midnight!). Love the opening comments about Subject, Composition, Light, Moment and Meaning.. a good reminder to apply when taking photos. Really enjoyed the critique.. very insightful and amazing to see how a different crop can bring out the image more. Ha ha.. just disappointed I did not get an image critiqued. However, thanks for helping us photogs out there!