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The Art of Nature Photography

Lesson 7 of 12

Online Audience Critique Part 1

Art Wolfe

The Art of Nature Photography

Art Wolfe

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Lesson Info

7. Online Audience Critique Part 1
See work from students and landscape photographers like you and dive into making each image better. Find photo tips like using a small aperture (for a deep depth of field) to create a starburst of light from the sun. Gain insight into improving different landscape photography shots, as well as building a variety into your work.

Lesson Info

Online Audience Critique Part 1

This is looks like zabriskie point this is a beautiful area of death valley and there's overlapping ridges so this isn't interesting we call this terrorist girl light which is kind of comes from the way rembrandt used to paint his landscapes this so it's like undulating light light dark light, dark throughout that's kind of interesting on this landscape I have photographed in late light I like this idea the only problem with this and this is something the artist's thomas could come back and do again is to having shot this that looks like late in the day so I usually take advantage of things I'll shoot it like this light and then probably in a half hour either this was sunrise actually from where it is it might be sunrise uh even light would be a great way of looking at this landscape because you not only have these over lapping ridges but within this these deposits are bounds of minerals so that's a pretty complex subject usually complex subjects as I indicated earlier and forest scene...

s you want even light and I think this same composition and even light would be strikingly different. This one is interesting but I'm thinking that's probably the way to go or be just take a tighter shot and play with just one ridge and make a tighter shot right in this composition because once it starts to get really light over on this edge and here this is like pulling your eye up and out of the frame so that's the thing I want thomas to think about in the future I think it's really well executed sharpe is framed really tightly all about that light and maybe shooting a variety of lights lit scenes in different situations. Okay, beautiful beautiful I can tell this is the police yeah, it says washington all right I love this I love this idea of the leading line taking your eye up and not only do you have this mean line but you have these extent you know additional lines where they've tilled the field so that's a great way of looking at it no skies great holds my eye in I think this composition is really good a second composition so this one is good I would not change it but as I showed you in the previous lecture I often will shoot a variety of shots of the same thing. The second good one would be maybe a tighter composition where you're balancing this leading line with that one tree and so I think a tighter shot here where it comes right across here and comes straight down there as you visualize that where my finger is going that also would be a good translation of the simple shot so tree tessa took a really nice shot here that would be just a second in that line oh I'm waiting for it to turn but I control this is a stunning shot I love the light very simple overcast light perfect time of the year when you have all these additional waterfalls coming into the gorge this is on eagle I think it's eagle creek down along on the organ side of the columbia gorge I think this is really really well done what I like about this as you see there's dark on both sides of the waterfalls on either side of the frame and hold your eye and recall this shot of bhutan where I had that little house right up in the corner and pulled your eye away this harness is the white it's a little close down here I think we could probably have sacrificed a little bit of the top area and added a little darkness below those rockets in the bottom but that's really nit picking I think this is a really good job nathan it's beautiful it's rich it conveys the atmosphere the softness of the waterfall with a long exposure all those things work perfect perfect perfect. The only thing that is a slight distraction with this julie is perhaps this one pull I almost want to add a little more on the bottom of this fans so we see where the polls are coming out and I think we could sacrifice that much of that sky because anything above this is always said but down here, so in the inn, the previous lecture, I talked about keeping their highs and out of the middle, and it still would be out of the middle if you lost a little bit of the sky and added, because right now, this is such a dominant, uh, part of that fancy brings may I there and I think just giving it a little bit of space on the bottom would add, I think, it's an excellent photo. I love the star effect shooting with a small aperture opening. We got that perfect star effect the ah haziness in the air really conveys a sense of the midwest and the farm belt. It's really a textural it's, almost a romanticized version of the midwest and makes me feel like it was shot in a different era. And I love that aspect, and I also like the fact that the sun is off center, so one of the things with rhythms from the wild that was critical was having apart if I was sitting a long exposure of animals moving the feet on these, uh, pronghorn are wildly out of focus, and yet the eyes are not. There are nothing focus. It gives us a point of reference and a place for the id arrest. They're not tax sharp, nor would they be in a long exposure but I think in this view panning with the movement of the pronghorn is a good choice I think that there's a really strong shot just even write in that group of pronghorn, but I think that person nailed it one of the things that you have to if you're experimenting with motion blur and this is what we're talking about, you keep the camera kind of inline with the animal's movement than the eye becomes sharp and the ladies become wildly out of focus and you want that kind of ah contrast between blurred motion and sharp focus that gives life and separation and depth to the image and I've talked about death a lot in the frame I think nathan's choice to crop this into a panoramic is not a bad idea because it's a freeze you know, freezes the element at the top of like a grecian temple where you have all the human figures embedded into ancient greek temples. This is kind of like a freeze this is a band of, uh elements that worked well together and who knows what is occurring above the frame but all the energy is in that band this is this is an image I'm not sure whether this was shot with a digital capture or a film I can't tell from this perspective the one thing I know that in light room today we can open up shadows and take down highlights and I think this frame we need to open up a little bit of the feathers on this eagle. The other thing is, the angelo could be credited for getting it at the moment this eagles taking off, I think that if it was static and you could change things a little more space, the way the bird is moving is always in that advantage, so I'm often framing ahead of the action if the bird is facing left. I know if it's going to take off any second, I'm always giving a little more space the direction is facing because it's not going to turn around suddenly and go the opposite direction. So having a little more space the direction is facing is always a good idea, but I think the most important thing on this one is opening up the exposure and in today's world in light room, you can do it and again, I'm not on light rooms dime, but that that is really become part of my workload is even with old slides. Even if this was old slide, you can scan it and open it up. And if this was a raw image or a digital capture, certainly you can, uh, open up the exposure limor with this one it's a it's ah, obviously photographed in the rockies glacier national park this is, again, this is would be a classic case that you could transform this image through the libra mu can open up the shadows and take down the highlights, and I think that alone will bring this into a better exposure with bands of all the content is right within that band, you know, you got dark water and, uh, light sky, my thoughts are to zoom in and make this area of the frame much more important. I don't know that opening this up without context, without a foreground tree or something, I want an anchor, in other words and context, too, the edge of that lake, and so I'm often walking up and down a road or a trail, trying to find in the element to bring perspective and distance and scale to the image, but I think this image would absolutely be transformed. We're taking down the highlights. Well, now I see the moon, so the moon might have been part of what allured tim to the shot, but taking down the highlights, opening up the shadows, the moon will stand out much more strongly. I would have noticed it from the beginning, so I was just taking the raw image, and this is something that a lot of people didn't understand is invariably and always, when I show an image, people will ask well, did you what did you do to this image? And people have the belief that if you've played with contrast or saturation or exposure that you're doing something wrong or secretive and in fact a rock capture is almost analogous to a negative you're doing something wrong with a rhyme and if you don't open up the shadow, so if you don't saturate the color or play with a contrast because a raw image was never meant just to be stand alone and an image like this really benefits opening up the shadows in that case and taking down the highlights which way? See here so in this shot, robin is almost there with the idea of having foreground rocks, the river and the distance but that's, this is the classic case where I talk about getting in much closer finding one rock I'm not quite sure the location, but I want either the grass or wherever this is to be unequivocal. I want the grass, the foreground to be absolutely obvious in this frame from which this river maybe a flood stage or in a rain sits quietly, but by because right now the's rocks these foreground elements are enough far enough away from the camera, but they don't look intentional they don't look like that's exactly what the photographers after and if the photographer is after if robin's after the river then the river needs to be more in focus and more dominant in the frame, and I suspect the whole thing would be greatly improved by just moving closer to a foreground element finding iraq and make it dominate from which the stepping into the distance creates the depth. So right now, right now, I think the band of light through these trees that hail bay, those bales of hay are like an old style today we live in a time where their shrink wrapping hato look like marshmallows, which are really not attractive, so the old fashioned of the way the hay is rolled is a great element to work. The sun rising is great, and separation of the miss of the trees is the main shots I wantto frame around this I want to make it either a panoramic or just make it tighter, so it becomes unequivocal at this range horizons in the middle, the tea's als or the thistles down here aren't dominant enough to even be part of it. And then you've got this. You've got this as an afterthought. You either have a tree on the side with space on either end and make it look like it was all intentional, but just a little bit of that tree doesn't work it's going to be all or nothing so the strength of the image lives within and that's zooming in zooming and make it even more important present in the middle's and then you got this one little uh things so those tiny little things you've got to pay attention to, you know and that's just part of the evolution of your thought I mean as I said before I threw away my first ten years of shooting you know, it was either out of focus or it was weak I thought it was great so it's just part of the process as the more you shoot the more you see the subjects there is this needs to be tighter and stronger so like, I have no idea what the subject in this image is now that's a joke so you know, this is a shot that is amazing to me to see eagles uh flying in unison and I've seen him it's really hard to capture its good light it's about the moment digital capture if this was what it was and I suspect it is is permitting us to get shots that we would only dream of years ago. And I think uh, the way I look at this is really great I think the exposure and it could be part of the projection, but I would want to take down the highlights a little bit on the heads and again I don't want this to be a treatise about light room because it's really about composition but in today's world light room can really transform it and there are other the programs that you khun work on images I just particularly used light room so I'm talking about it but that's a beautiful image and it could be cropped I don't you know maybe the john cropped it into this but if he did it's a good choice it's a good crop it looks nice you know that's a nice moment that's a really identifiable moment here's uh probably mennonites I think these airmen and nights not quakers and they're out on the east side are in the smokies or the appellations whatever and he is helping his wife down iraq to eventually push her over the cliff and I like it I I like that I think it's a really nice moment you know you don't think of mennonites going on vacation but uh there definitely on a retreat and it'sjust I love the traditional culture I spent one whole day in lancaster county recently photographing in and around the amish culture and the mennonites and just seeing how they live is really intriguing to me coming from seattle and this kind of captures of that culture in a different way than I would expect the only thing from a compositional point of view I had to have a little less space on the right side and a little more of this uh reservoir and the lower portion but you know that's that's fine I think here with these boats on the lake it's a perfect reflection I wantto this is the starting point for me I want to get the horizon out of the middle and whatever I have to do to make that happen, I would probably put on a wide angle lens rather than the lens we're looking at. I'm sure this isn't wide angle, so white angle could distort reality. You could get the camera lower to the docks of the sweep of those lines of the dock, take you into these distant mountains right now and then there's the canoes that could be also worked on a different way with a wide angle. So to me everything is fairly tight and straight and less expansive because this is a mountain environment on the edge of a lake great light everything's tack sharp so there's a lot of things going on that are correct about this, but I think a white angle could actually give a little more drama to the scene convey a sense of openness yeah on this one the best essentially again, you're going to go to sleep oh my god horizon but the space between here and here is almost analogous to that so in a way we're dividing that in half there's nothing really in the frame above here that needs to be included, so by doing that if we went to the edge of this uh waterfall and shot low and close then the whole sweep that waterfall flowing towards me becomes accentuated more dramatic at the same time then we have less sky andme or of the foreground which is that waterfall so it's often just a matter of positioning the camera one or two feet different and yet it can dramatically affect the way we are brought into a frame. So with this last shot it was a wide angle to try to convey that openness of the mountain environment got a lot of great things happening here it's a really nice mountain environment I want to feel the power I want to feel like I'm going to get wet at the edge of this waterfall but right now we're a little careful we're a little too far away get into it make it dramatic make it feel like we're there so I was saying about horizons I mean we are it's in our dna to put that horizon in the middle and again the reason I have said before I don't think it's a good idea because it tends to flatten things out we wanted convey a sweeping view now their shots within this there's several ways of shooting this subject you could just shoot entirely in the reflections and do a detailed the forest repeated the thing that I would have done naturally is gotten closer to the reeds in the foreground maid does reads really close to the camera so I'm seeing the reeds I'm seeing the reflection of clouds in the reeds then the mountains and everything else sits quietly back wide angle lens again a wide angle lens would be really good here so in all three of these I think it's about the positioning of the camera wide angle this is a wide angle but I wantto make it feel like it I would actually position the camera right here with that secondary waterfall that's the foreground elements all of this sits back and less guy and then again wide angle convey that sweep of the mountain environment you probably include more clouds but that's it the first element that I'd work with I think these flowers in the foreground would make a really nice band of color closer to the camera so we have this really interesting flowers I'm not sure what they are but I want to fill the frame with that and then I want to crop the top of it at this bridge I wanted to be about that and that this is kind of one of those days where the skies kind of a block is not really dark blue is not white it's kind of in between so I say eliminate that the top of these willows weeping willows top of these trees nothing here is really interesting is all about that bridge and those flowers so it's just about positioning and taking advantage of the elements we're seeing a little bit of artifact by probably opening up the shuttle's a little too much so let's just forget the fact that there's an orange or ah purple cast to this because this is not what the intent of diana was about but it is interesting the graphic nature it's almost like a nighttime shot where they used to flash and that's a tricky thing to dio that almost looks like it's from seattle where is that? Oh yeah I almost seattle o'keefe inoki swamp I should read the captions before I make a comment. No, no to art here's my thought on it I think using a flash on these trees trying to shoot the stars is is not gonna work you know it's all about that night time sky think about this before digital we couldn't really shoot a shot of stars as points you had a by a device that you attach the camera to so that in the course of a thirty second exposure the camera would move with the movement of the stars to get star points like you this now on age of digital weaken dial up our sos too fifteen hundred or two thousand or for thousand so now we can get those pinpoint of stars but by using the flash on these trees it's like the elephant in the china shop it overwhelms any sense of those stars in the background so my thoughts are forget about it just use the stars and the silhouetted uh wintertime trees and make that the shot the foreground trees as you could see the flashes not broad enough to cover that so it looks like an island that's kind of overwhelming everything else so it's a good first step you learn from these and you either dial it back and just paint with a flashlight sweeping across the all those trees because in thirty seconds with a fairly powerful flashlight you can make it expand all the way across so that might be an idea if they're really strong on using foreground light by the flash isn't working never correct me in front of people that I'm trying to impress okay, I you know but you know what? What this this actually this actually tells you volumes about me I'm so visually oriented I hate reading words down here I'm all about the photo so I'm not gonna read it and then make a comment so okay she probably needs to be a little broader with her flesh yeah, this is pretty nice shot. You know, jack, I think this is yeah, this is a jag where jaguars are very different than lepers they're blocky headed oh, and that says jaguar c again I did not read jaguar so my only thought about this is I might take this image and crop it and just rotated towe where it's perfect because I want there's a bit of a slant here. I want to kind of rotate it and crop it a little bit. So it's actually symmetrical it's what I was doing with the faces on a what? A crop. So a nice shot of a jaguar, but that would, and then I would probably burn in a little bit of the highlight on the right and opened up the shadows and just take this image and just make it one step a little better little cleaner, more graphic but there's a good starting okay, now you got me reading. All right, I am a very slow reader, so we'll go through two images now between now and two twenty five I love this shot. I'm not entirely sure in the process of having it projected that's it's tack sharp, but a shot like this is extraordinary. The miss coming through these little first eyes, extraordinary light. I love the subject it's not tax sharp and there's a little bit of artifacts in what they were working on. So I'm not quite sure where the how susan got to this point, but as a subject is brilliant, I love it because of starts, silicon campaigning but the technical technical aspect of it looks a little soft and that could be a manifestation of the the way this has been brought to this room nice shot compositions nice bands everything about it is very strong I love to get up early and go kayaking while reading one of art will's books okay nice this is pretty good I like this you know that recall the other shot of a waterfall we saw earlier this this has a nice flow through the composition my eyes held in its not distracted by any the lightest parts of the frame is being harnessed which is this water's so this is a nice solid composition beautiful I feel the witness you almost smell the the moisture in this image so I think it's technically perfect yeah and it looks like a rain forest all right so this is steptoe bute over in eastern washington you know this is a good shot I I love the layering of the clouds and the way the rays air coming through the gaps so nice composition and even the horizon you know two thirds is below the horizon so this really works well the next shot would be to frame just that portion there's a beautiful tapestry it's almost textural almost looks like velvet the way the light is coming and going over that folded pollutes the loose is interesting in the sense that it is this undulating uh last gate that's uh extraordinary it's what makes it unique and the way the light is coursing across the surface really would be a great tight panoramic you know, this is a minefield critiquing somebody's pet I can't see anything bad without getting a letter in the mail actually what's nice about this shot is you know, certain dogs have the expressions of what they are I mean, that dog is when those big dopey dog's I'm not saying nicole that your dog isn't like a rhodes scholar I'm just saying it's a happy dog and that capture of it really conveys the personality of the dog I would crop it a little tighter around its head you know all that white area or simply burn it in with in light room just to take down because the whiteness of the head is being competed with eyes competing with all that so I would just give a little halo dark, innit? You know, wipe the drool put a cigar in his mouth I like this too. This is really nice and very simple graphic this is those what we would call an intimate scene you know, the combination of the rock, the water, the log coming out is really nice, very simple, you know it's really hard to compose an element with very few elements and there's only three elements in this well if you include the water there's poor but I like it it's there's a balance you know the bigness of the rock in the foreground it's balanced by the the smaller rock and the log so it works good so this is probably multiple vertical shots stitched together and what I'm thinking is the left side of this composition probably could be it could end here because there's still enough of a panoramic and you got mount sigh in these cat tails so I I feel like probably this would be the extent when it's this broad it kind of flattens out a bit so it's when I cropped images I usually dial in a thirty five millimeter crop or a six by seventeen panoramic and the six by seventeen panoramic was kind of ah framing and a camera that was built for panoramic ce and so I try to stay too ah proportions that are commonplace so that people don't know I crop you know that's a tricky thing you don't want people to know you're cropping you want him to think you're that good that you get it every time perfect so when I do panoramic sw by overlapping verticals I try to stay within a six by seventeen panoramic my thoughts on this one is everything above the horizon is extraneous I think the photographer karen in this case could work with this tree with the grapes maybe the whatever's coming true in the distance framing it tighter and less expected here it's kind of all that sky isn't adding to this conversation in any way, so as playing with the grapevines, this tree and what's in there, and there's a there's a shot somewhere in there, but not up in here. So the analogy is the fewer words in a sentence, the stronger the statement and within photography usually the fewer the elements, the stronger the composition and this would be stronger without everything else the sky above, you know, taking long exposures, you're in this case, jeff is moving the camera as he's taking a picture and I'm not sure what the picture is up north, so that matter to me I'm looking at this purely from an abstract point of view I like the movement, I like the balance I like the fact that is white on the bottom and the white is melding with the blue sky and the background is completely abstract I get it and I like it I think it really is ah, good execution really good execution really nice. The only thing I would say about this, I think perfect moment really good capture I would add just a little bit less sky on this get the risin I want a little more of the foreground shone so I would crop it like this have these mittens about there because there's no clouds in the sky above this point, the most important thing is that one cloud, and yet there's things you can do in life room to open up the foreground just a little bit so that whole portion of the foreground could be part of this conversation and anything above that cloud that blue sky tends to be unnecessary. So, there's, this is really, really good there's have been a lot of work on here, you can see the burning and dodging, so I usually don't do this myself because I'm not patient enough. I have the adults in my room do this kind of stuff, so this is tricky because they've already burned down the sky and probably opened this up as much as they could, I think is a beautiful image, it's just er and in fact, this could be just a standalone shot, because the way those rays are coursing in front of that mesa is really beautiful, you know, there's a really interesting thing that's happening in this image, I think there's a greenness to the water that I'm not quite getting, and I think that the, uh, think eric probably played with color a little stronger than he should, because that green at sunset probably doesn't exist, so it almost makes me and the speed of the capture makes the water very static so it makes it solid looking so you add that frozen moment in time of the wave breaking with the greenness of the water and it almost looks like algy rather than water to me, so I'm thinking it's the compositions not bad I want to emphasize the form here, which is ah form created by a fast shutter speed is it doesn't have that organic flow of water I can't quite get across that greenness of the water and sometimes when you're working on an image on a computer it doesn't look so bad but when you see it projected in a large room, suddenly you can see some of those things that might not be the best choice and I think that greenness of the waters it's either algae bloom or jeff or eric has played a little bit too much for the green channel and that's what I suspect I love the way this captures the light in the end the ocean at dusk are these quotes by the photographers okay, so my by thoughts are let's just rework this a little bit and in fact if you want to you could even crop in this area just have a little bit of that son and make it more of ah vertical thirty five millimetre

Class Description


  • Improve your composition in landscape photography
  • Develop an eye for better nature photography
  • Find --and grow -- your inspiration
  • Go from nature lover to nature photographer
  • Spot creative shots even in popular places
  • Fine-tune composition with the unpredictability of wildlife photography
  • Tell a story through fine art nature photography


Spend a day gleaning insight from a nature photographer with five decades of experience shooting on every continent, Art Wolfe. This special one-day class includes two 90-minute discussions, 90 minutes of student critiques, and three episodes of Art's documentary series Travels to the Edge.

Go beyond basic nature photography tips and dig into the psychology of nature photography and what takes an image from a snapshot to fine art. Learn to find your inspiration, break the rules and see the story inside grand landscapes. This is not a class for taking textbook plain nature photography from a boring list of landscape photography tips -- it's a class designed to help you find your own unique voice to capture your own fine art prints of landscapes, wildlife, and culture.

After this class, you'll have the confidence to experiment, to work for the shot, and to capture the story in nature photography.


  • Beginning photographers shooting landscape, wildlife and nature
  • Intermediate photographers ready to refine their eye
  • Advanced photographers looking for insight from a top nature photographer


Art Wolfe is a nature and conservation photographer with a background in fine art and painting, a start which continues to influence his work to this day. Often described as a "prolific" nature and wildlife photographer, Art has published more than 80 books of photographs, along with images appearing in major publications such as National Geographic Magazine, Smithsonian, Audubon, and more. Art has received numerous awards, including Nature's Best Photographer of the Year. He also leads a documentary television series Travel to the Edge. When he's not traveling nine months out of the year (including leading photography tours), he's teaching and working with his stock agency and production company in Seattle.

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What a fantastic use of time! My photos improved dramatically since this course. I found it so useful, I recommended it to 3 people, and am coming back to purchase. My favorite segment was about composition, which is where I really needed the most help. I'd previously subscribed to the take a hundred shots and hope one turns out well. Now I think much more carefully prior to the shot, and the quality of the photos is on a completely different level from what I'd taken before. Then entire course was excellent, and I really appreciated the segment on audience submission critiques. It helped me to internalize the concepts he'd taught, and to develop a keener eye. Art Wolfe truly is a master. His photographs have the ability to stir the emotion deeply and soothe the ailing heart. Mr. Wolfe is a great instructor too. Concepts were presented clearly, and illustrated well. I am so thankful to have participated in this course. Thank you, to Art Wolfe, for sharing insights into your talent, and also thank you to everyone involved in making this course widely available. I cannot recommend this course highly enough!


I have always loved you CreativeLive, for being there in so many ways to teach me how to do better what I love to do. And, so I doubly thank you for re-featuring this and, thus. allowing me to buy this at a no-brainer price. I live in New Mexico. I have struggled to discern how to photograph New Mexico in a way that it hasn't already been photographed. It's like the Eiffel Tower. This class has SO helped me think about how to do that. I LOVED how Art Wolfe talked about how he started as a painter and how that has influenced how he captures his photography. I'm going to really start thinking about that and experimenting with this. New Mexico has had MANY painters, besides Georgia O'Keefe, whose work I love. I'm committed to studying them more and being influenced by their work. I haven't been photographing landscapes here very much, because of how much New Mexico has already been photographed. But this class has helped me think about how to do that more powerfully.and uniquely. And also, total kudos to the videographers of the last three segments of this class. Just watching these videos and Art Wolfe narrating this is worth the price of admission. So, in short, being a New Mexican who aspires to photograph her beloved New Mexico in a way that is different and more powerful, I think this class will inspire and focus me going forward. Thank you!

a Creativelive Student

I enjoyed your presentation and critiques so very much. I was able to watch it all but decided I would love to watch it again. I bought the class. Art's sense of humor was enjoyable. I loved his time working with his models and oh my what he was able to do with them artistically was so incredible. I learned so much through his critique. I went to our local Barnes &Noble; and was shocked they didn't have any of his books. I will continue looking for them as I would enjoy having some of them for inspiration. I also want to thank creative live as I have enjoyed your programs so much and I continue to spread the word about your classes. Thank you. Frances