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The Art of Nature Photography

Lesson 8 of 12

Online Audience Critique Part 2

Art Wolfe

The Art of Nature Photography

Art Wolfe

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Lesson Info

8. Online Audience Critique Part 2
Continue the audience critique portion of the class. Learn pitfalls to avoid and working with accessories like filters to draw the eye and tell a better story. Look for the details that really make the shot matter and consider telling the story with a close-up or using natural elements to lead the eye.

Lesson Info

Online Audience Critique Part 2

This is obviously a big landmark in this environment, and the photographer wants to get the shelf iraq and the waterfall, but the edge of this highway is incongruous with the organic nature of the fault so that the trick is crop. Here we don't need to see the sky send overcast day it's, very bland sky crop right at the top of the fall and probably make this less about the entirety of the the last gate and more of an intimate shot where you can get just enough of the curvature of the stone to give it a sense of place. But keep our eye on that waterfall and let go of the road. This is almost analogous to that view of the bhutan landscape before I started going in and pulling out subject, I think there's three or four subjects in here that in and of themselves would be stronger. The this is kind of those that open air view, but on a day like this, we want to use a neutral density filter or a polarizer too dark in this whole light, airy, because all this area is being competing with the br...

ightness of that so it's about seeing where the eye would go, and you eventually learned to avoid the pitfalls pitfalls airbase washed out light areas, not base but light. Areas of a friend everything below this is a perfect exposure and within this you have repetitive forma trees or little farm houses or open pastors there's a lot of shots that with a telephoto lens you could bring our attention too but the entirety of this image above below this is fine but it from above a weakens the story your weakened because it's just in a hard exposure to get without a filter so I think there's maybe some shots in here maybe it's the shadows of the trees on the grass but this kind of light it's not late enough in the day or earlier enough in the morning to shoot a shot like this because his light dark light dark you got you know you've got these black hawk agents scoping out a drug deal in those dark cars you got a telephone our light standards coming in from the side there's a little elements that could be tightened up the park itself the trees the repetition of these trees aren't strong enough has a pattern toe warrant the composition this shot might be better just concentrating on the shadows as an interesting element but I think of of the park in its entirety it's a really tough one this prize and it's mostly about the light it's the time of the day so here's another case I think that these blades of grass which obviously were intended to include need even be stronger? I want to go in and forget not what what happens see all this, these reeds going this way and that way that is less of a pattern than here where there's a more consistency. So think about this, alex, if you just moved in, filled the frame or with these reeds, made him a little more dominant and then layering it up and even having less water and then use a filter, make the reeds unequivocal the main part of the shot and then you've got the bands of water that sit behind the minute the inclusion of those reeds on the left there so haphazard and random that they don't look like they're graphic enough to include, and it really comes down to that when I teach I'm just saying, don't start shooting until you really analyse and walk around and find a subject and then move in and give it some in time. And I think alex found this as a compelling image, but it starts to weaken as you see on the left side. So I'm using elements of design line texture patterns as part of the network of what I shoot and in this you have the patterns of or the line of the read you have the texture of the water, those air too strong elements is just everything's a little too far away we want hit you over the head move in close make it unequivocal as I've said before and I think this is an interesting shot with these joshua trees the rocks uh in joshua tree the rocks air really organic and then we got the sky but that's guy is so bright it overwhelms the tree and the rock so we either have to darken the sky or crop the sky out and then maybe that this shot really lies from here in this section tree rocks sky and all of this is just too much it's just too many words and sentence there's the shot right in there and even if you cropped it just like that that's fine because all these rocks are being cropped when you crop everything equally in neutralizes itself out so there's a shot right there is not in all that sky and what I said about those reeds a couple of minutes go a same applies here there's a shot in here the reflections, the lines that's the meat of the shot then you got the log and the path and less less interesting stuff because the light sitting here this is uneven light so a tighter shot just in here would improve this composition almost everything I will say it's about shooting tighter and whatever you want to include make it obvious I mean it's just redundant but that's the common theme risin in the middle in this case brightness of the sky takes your interest away from this river and I think that there's beautiful shots that lie in the texture of the foliage the river the old trees there's something in there to be exploited but not to include all that sky horizon in the middle that's really nice say this is these trees are unequivocal part of this the tightness of the sky around these cardinals towers um I would play with the contrast just a little bit play with it just to make it pop a little bit but composition lee the the way these trees or swim swept the way these dead tree is just reaching they they have gesture trees have gesture just like a you know, uh, dancer so these have history and form as do the mountains and even the clouds compliment the shape of the trees so there's a lot of dynamic drama in this composition and I think it's well composed everything holds up throughout my eye stays evenly throughout this competition. So there's a spot on just a little bit skied a little closer to the grass a little closer to those flowers just aiming getting the camera that much closer makes the foreground flowers more dominant and I think it's a beautiful shot but that alone would help get the prison more out of the middle give more emphasis to the foreground elements and again and again and again, it's the foreground elements that becomes important from which the middle ground becomes the middle ground and the background becomes the background and that then creates depth and movement of the eye. So if everybody within the sound of my voice goes to sleep tonight thinking horizon in the middle then I've done my job seriously it's less horizon. You know, you could play with contrast in lab room and bring out those clouds if you want. All those things are, uh, really with attainable and a great image like this. But, boy, this is a beautiful shot. Great light. Those flowers want to be a little larger in the frame, I think letting go of that canadian goose just crop around the mother ballard with her babies. There's a beautiful shot right in here just in there because these guys are kind of like almost a circle and the mother is bringing your eye back. You know, the ghost becomes dinner eat goose saved the ducks that's a beautiful shot, fred that's. Really nice. I know fred probably saturated the orange in the sky, but it's a beautiful shot there's drama the twist of this ancient bristlecone pine it's, beautiful on the framing is beautiful choice of vertical works bread just didn't walk up and just randomly shoot that he he was there to shoot and convey these amazing trees, and the fact that the sky is glowing orange is brilliant. I know it was an orange sky, he didn't make that up computer wise heap probably saturated a little more than it should be, but that's all right, that's, it looks great, beautiful fat! Yeah, you know, with these out of focus grasses, they're not so obvious that that was the intent of the photographer that's looking threw them to the horse works, you almost have to have something. If it's going to be out of focus, it almost has to be a bigger, thicker element to be out of focus, as opposed to the photographer not even seen the grass. Other focus. So I don't think that out of focus grass serves the purpose. We'd be better off tromping through the weeds and just shooting the horse within that pasture again, I there's nothing in the sky at this point that serves it well, but I'm sure in light room you could drop in the filter and play with contrasts and bring out the details in the clouds and then it's bands of horse trees and clouds, but right now, all that out of focus grass, it is not a contributing element to work what doc oh doc lie I was looking for the duck but now I'm an artist not a writer of words so anyway so the problem with this is that you could have everything wildly out of focus but whatever is in focus has to be tax chart because you're leading us right to those two um see lions but they're not tack sharp and therefore you're leading us to a non pay off so we had those being tack sharp and maybe a crop right down because this is a sense essentially our horizon so all this is extraneous can you imagine this if these two we're tack sharp and you darken this and your eye just goes to that that would be terrific so they don't look like they're going anywhere fast so I would shoot that again so christine I would almost crop that uh artificial plastic flower allah there in fact by saying artificial plastic I'm pretty much using words that would say ho you will agree with that I mean it's a beautiful shot of a hummingbird that's kind of hovering I just want to see that I don't want to see uh that so just a matter of cropping and be happy with it because they eye of the hummingbirds tack sharp is really a nice moment and that that would work work better than yeah I actually can read walmart right? Not that wal mart okay so this is really ghost john thank you so much for sharing this image with us because this is a great example what could happen I believe these are the same ones san juan mountains down in colorado anyway walk up to this thing fill the foreground with this old buggy make it dominate from which these mountains that aren't in the greatest light would sit back then use a neutral density filter so we're framing essentially this well that so that's going to be just like in your face so you can have that satisfying view of this old weathered wagon and then the san juan's air sitting quietly beyond right now everything's far enough that we're just wanting to get closer you want to walk in there and get closer to it and then a neutral density filter which you could drop in in lie room uh would be perfect it would be perfect so almost there I think this shot is nice but my my thought is after shooting this colin go in and even take a tighter shot where the waterfall is on left and this beauty this headland is on the left are on the right there's a shot because the color of the water the waterfall and that hedlund are really the most intriguing parts of this uh julia pfeiffer state park on the big sur coast I think this is a really nice shot the next one that's just another good shot in there. Okay this is it's hard for me to criticize this this is a nice image really nice image so you got it then the next one would be even a tighter with playing with the reflections abstracting the shots or getting low to these rocks and making the rocks part of the interesting foreground and then having the horizon higher in fact that's the way I would go on this thing is getting into those rocks making him for azzam great compelling foreground you still have the reflection of the mountain and then the mountain is occupying the top a third of the frame were cropping about there that's how you would create more depth in this composition what's our gun say art's going to say beautiful light dramatic great tree get closer even if you have to risk your life because that's a great tree as a great tree and that's a great tree so we want that tree a little more dominant just look for the park rangers make sure they're not around and then hop that fence get over there and do that now we can't advocate because if somebody does it then I'm being sued so don't do that what's the strength of this image is the beautiful light perfect color execution I think if you're going to crop it that's you know just make it a lot stronger in the frame less about here have a little bit of space from which the tree coming out and I would include the top of this all the way down and just a tighter shot. Just zoom in a little bit more because it's a beautiful shot. Well, here we have to announce, right, there's two messages going on. You've got the offshore sea stack and you've got the castle of some sort. Where is that? Ireland okay, to me, that's an interesting, shy okay. Get that just to show friends and family then take the art shut. Not my shop, but artistic shot because I would love to see that pink color and a long exposure so it's soft and pink and out of focus set against that resilient rock that's been there forever. So the contrast of the sharp focus and the pastel colors would be a great idea to explore. But right now I'm divided between that and what's going up there, so yeah, established where it is, but then maybe look for the illness, there's bands of color I mean that's kind of interesting, but I think that those two elements air kind of pulling my eye apart. I think this one cropping it off on the bottom because I love the sweep of this river that clouds have a lot of texture, everything below this is kind of hard to read, so maybe zooming in and just making a tighter shot of around the most salient parts of this composition and see where the sun is coming through that's really hard to expose for so I don't know that you even need it if you just cropped right there kept the dark clouds keep that the lightest part and just framing around that oxbow or the bend in the river that's the shot so simplifying simplifying the elements that's a beautiful shot you know uh two twos to make that a black and white or turn into infrared or whatever gary did was nice is artistic it's got a lot of depth I like that single spruce tree down there it's a really light and airy and artistic and works I just want a panoramic that kind of takes those landforms on the horizon and that human in the foreground and play against that you could lose a lot of the blue sky or in a lot of the beach it's what the meat of the shot lies within that one third in the middle so it's the juxtaposition of the person and the beach or b get up closer to the person making balloon more dominant in the frame and then have a big sky because you're at the edge of the ocean so convey openness but right now everything's a little precious right in the center portion and there's nothing in the foreground now you could go close to where they're walking and try to get their footprints in the sand just as they're leaving them and play with that. But right now there's too many little things, and I want something absolutely dominating other than having the horizon in the middle. I think atmospheric conditions work. I just it's again it's getting that horizon of the middle which everybody it's in our dna to do so, you know, the mallards missed the spanish moss, all those air elements to work with it's just it's just about proportion it's all about proportion. And the other thing about that image, by the way, is I have the perception that everything's on hill so I want to first put in light room and straight at the horizon. Get those verticals, verticals, horizontal sze, horizontal sze and my thoughts are b is to have a little less of the trees and zoom in on the mallards to make him a little more dominant. That is interesting when I first saw that shot when before I went back to the other one, I thought that was a cresting wave coming over me and in fact, it's a long exposure of geese ticking on so that's pretty interesting. I love being surprised and this is pretty surprising having said that, I just want to hold your eye right into this I wanna let go of everything above here and here's where I perceived the movement of the geese and you can have a bit of the lake bed of here but bring our eye right into this area and play with the contrast a little bit so make it dominate is gonna be abstract and you're teasing with our perceptions make it really strong okay just less sky mohr rock here is close you're really close but look at this nothing above this adds to it you know it's a nice form of a cloud I would crop her red on the top of that so you get that much more to play with the foreground and sweep up that creek would be much more complete but look where the ending markets right dab in the middle so we want to get out of that compress the top expand the middle create space and death this is very similar to the maroon bells the shot that I talked about finding a foreground rock you know these air beaver ponds is beautiful person got out of bed and jackson wyoming and got out here right at sunrise on the grand tetons got the shot beautiful love it is very very nice next shot is shooting something where you have the edge of the palm with grass in the foreground so you have the sweep really a nice shot but we want it now the next one a little more depth oh my god. You know what it's gonna be tough being a teenager canadian goose shawn, this is the ugliest goose I think I've ever seen now actually, it's funny because I have photograph king penguins king penguins are one of the birds that takes forever to grow up. And so last year birds this year looked like teenagers they've got feathers coming here they look dishevelled, they look like old couches. This bird looks like an old couch is going from baby fuzz to adult plumage and sean shot it at a great time. I just want to hit you hit your head over it. I just want to frame it tighter and just make it revel in its ugly dance you know, it's a tough time to be a goose all I can say but I want that to be unequivocal a little tighter on that. This is now see the difference between this as a bird subject and this one is this is very graphic. You know, this is like positive and negative space. I know the person who shot this judy didn't like think positive and negative space maybe she's standing on the ferry and from a boat you know how the birds come down and one that crab boat but what makes this shot strong is the way it's framed, you know, cropping off at the wings on both sides neutralizes that if only one wing was clipped it would your eye would go to the wing that's clip but the fact that both are off the frame is fine neutralizes it the heads off center which works and even the tell is clipping here so it's a very graphic image positive and negative space and I like it a lot whereas this's just kind of a bird sitting in a big pond without any element of art other than the awkwardness of the age of the bird see, I don't know what the subject here is beautiful really beautiful I mean it's like a last sou over that rock it's amazing I think that's a really, really interesting image I love the blurred motion of the rock the composition stars that's extremely well executed executed image makes me very jealous can I lift the image and, you know, put my brand on that again, you know we've seen three shots now we've seen the broom bells, grand tetons and mount rainier and in all cases we've got beautiful light. We've got reflections, but it lacks up anchoring foreground that would create death, you know, strive to step back a little bit and find something and get the camera little lower you still will have the reflection you still have those clouds in the sky but we want an element in the foreground to give context to the middle ground this's all about middle ground and distance without that foreground foreground serves a vital purpose of creating depth from which the eye goes from here to there to there and it goes up and down in and out and we want that your eye just goes to the mountain it stops and we want that movement of the eye throughout the composition. Charest ce I don't know what to say about this there's nothing here that I think I could do anything with other than maybe taking the serrated edge of that shell and the purple uh, inside color and abstracting that first I would take that shell washing down gold, put a macro in and just start abstracting because there's detail in that but just the shell in and of itself is of little interest to most people. You know, we have to have something engaging and interesting tow hook us in and biggest care about the shot you know mel rainier has its charms. This is on question and intriguing shot, but when you get to a shell, either the shell has to be beautiful like an abalone shell, or have intricate designs. But just a clamshell in and of itself is not enough it only people that love this are people that love clam chowder this is about as brutal as I can get so you know you just gotta take a subject and find ways have abstracting admit make it engaging for the people and so this white area this triangular white area pulls your eye way so you got a zay said in earlier shots of water find a way of harnessing the white with the dark keep the white contained within the composition and again this is with those other ones there's a lot of shots in here beautiful abstractions of the lake you know perfect reflections there's bands of diagonals and diagnose give drama to a composition so the mountain and the lake in and of itself is okay but there's a lot of beautiful panoramic ce in there when that's a really nice reflection let's accentuate that make that the dominant part of the shot everything and this shot is kind of distance it's all at infinity so find something old stump in the foreground to give scaled to the landscape we're almost there but this is so inconsequential it looks like an afterthought we want that to dominate I have to say those clouds are pretty sculptural I almost want to do this I I want to crop this like this right down here and down and we see the beautiful lines of the clouds but we don't need to see them the clouds of up we got it all contained in there but in a less obvious way, so give credit to your audience. They get the fact that's, a blue sky day with big cumulus clouds, but we don't need to see the clouds and the reflection give us one or the other, and in this case, I think the reflection is the better choice, so shoot that down that way, less is more, and I shot like this. This is pretty good, you know, we got perfect light, we got a great focus were in there. And it's it's a nice shot. Then a second shot could be even mohr abstract, because there's a little happy faces, you know, that's, a total happy face. Look at those eyes and nose and mouth anyway. Bring us in on a level where we can start toe, create metaphors for things of interest. So that's, a nice shot. The next one is even better as a tighter image.

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.



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