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The Art of Nature Photography

Lesson 10 of 12

Travels To The Edge: Japan

Art Wolfe

The Art of Nature Photography

Art Wolfe

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Lesson Info

10. Travels To The Edge: Japan
Finish off the class with three episodes of Art's photography show, Travels to the Edge. Travel (virtually) to Japan and go behind the scenes as Art works to capture the peace of nature from the Japanese temples to the mountains and wildlife.

Lesson Info

Travels To The Edge: Japan

We are going to be watching some of your episodes three I think our wolf's travels to the edge I just wanted teo before we start watching the programs I wanted to talk about what you're going to be doing in the future because I heard that you're doing another show tell us about there is a group of photographers cinema photographers from sydney australia that have been shadowing me this year we started in new guinea about two months ago they're coming to seattle and I'm going to be producing a human campus shoot they were all going up to alaska the photograph bears airs and bears they go back to sydney and then in september we're rendezvous ing in kenya on then up to rwanda and ethiopia so they're going to produce a one hour documentary I'm excited about it because they they're doing a great job and then I'm going to get that on american public tv and tryto talk some sponsors too a six part series so that's that travels the edge is airing in seventy countries around the world so I'm rea...

lly proud about that because the show has a good heart it showcases cultures around the world spectacular landscapes wildlife and it was a dream to work on a great crew really proud of that siri's dream come true if you went to the far four corners of the planet for that she absolutely we did we went from antarctica to the arctic africa, brazil everywhere around the planet that in spin implies travels to the edge so it was a lot of work it was a great crew were all kind of my stature small so we all could fit in one little land rover or one small plane and we really worked well together but in this sequence so you're going to see should I talk about it? The first one? Yeah, go ahead and purpose yeah, the first one is about japan and it's the reverence and the tradition and as you recall, the beginning lecture was about the asian aesthetic. We try to convey that in this film about japan at the same time we went up to hokkaido and photograph that really beautiful nature in winter so it conveys kind of a sense of place and mood that only japan can convey the second one's luh you know the different personalities and that's taste place in bhutan on the lastly we'll finally we'll follow up with south george island, which is my favorite place on the planet for wildlife and landscape, so we picked three episodes that were very distinctly different from one another but really, if you have not seen siri's, it kind of shows what siri's was all about this is the japan most of us recognized congested and kinetic, but japan also has a wild side beyond it's crowded cities, especially in winter japan reveals moments of quiet and unexpected beauty amar wolf thiss is travels to the edge wait japan is a chain of islands that lies to the east of the korean peninsula in the north pacific we're visiting mountainous haunts you the country's largest island and rugged, sparsely populated hokkaido to the north. The japanese have complex view of nature infused with ancient shinto and buddhist beliefs is this elusive quality that I'm trying to convey through my lens? Ah, joining me is lucy craft, a journalist who has worked on conservation issues in japan for nearly a decade. Well, see it's gorgeous up here isn't it wonderful? I mean, this is one of the best kept secrets about japan art way always think of japan is being cities of being, you know, tokyo, this huge metropolis but in fact most the country's mountainous this's what really gave the japanese sense that there were gods up here and they built lots of shrines to worship the gods? You say I'm sure that the other times of the year are really beautiful but from my taste coming here in the winter it looks like a giant. The japanese have a very interesting way of how they perceive beauty there's a sense of beauty is always ten with a little bit of sadness, a little bit of loneliness, that's what they find most appealing a good example of that would be a snowflake. Snowflake is gorgeous in its perfection. It lasts a few seconds hits the ground, then it's gone. So the lesson is a life is transitory. No koya son was started as a religious place about twelve hundred years ago. This is really where the gods of shinto and buddhism were thought to reside. People have been coming here on pilgrimage is over a thousand years can you explain to me the difference between buddhism and shinto? Shinto is the native religion of japan. It's an animist religion, everything a tree or a rock or a bridge or anything could be a god. And the shinto religion buddhism was brought over from india by way of china. They sort of made it their own, and they put the two of them together. It's a it's, a very flexible way of approaching religion. They sort of believe in two at the same time, no eyes is beautiful it's snowing a monkey sweeping the steps to the shrine it's one of those moments that seems timeless. Wait right now buddhist monk is walking towards me in a blowing snow just a few quiet the japanese talk about something called woman oh allah it's this idea that nature is fleeting people are fleeting beauty is fleeting and that's what makes it beautiful you see this reflected in the temples that we're walking past? You know these aren't made out of granite or marble they're made out of wood this stuff's going toe rot away in a certain period of time things are impermanent exactly the things that are the most beautiful are just fleeting as manus these monks are taking purified rise to that his temple swim the's moments of quiet solitude and seen tradition are ones that I'll take back to seattle I'll just remember this moment it's so peaceful tradition atmosphere peacefulness it all comes together here a quest wait wear you yes that's you that's beautiful to live in a beautiful place thie frozen ethereal beauty of japan is perhaps most untamed on the northern island of hokkaido theo teo freezing here in okada zero degrees fahrenheit I've come up a volcano to photograph of crater lake this's ma shu lake have been distracted by these beautiful dead birch trees that are right on the volcano's edge and they're catching the first light of the rising sun. These trees are very, very expressive. They almost look like dancers frozen in place with their limbs out there stretched, contorted and suddenly my main subject becomes secondary to these beautiful trees but I'm trying to do is take thie japanese aesthetic of simplicity and serenity and make it come alive in my photos wait so so pretty surprising place yeah it is amazing it's considered the wilderness of japan was settled a lot later than the rest of japan was originally inhabited only by aborigines and the I knew people it's very sparsely populated this is where japanese come when they want to see nature no way that this entire lake to myself that is myself and about one hundred and fifty wolper swan's beautiful, graceful swan's that come down with post a siberia and winter over here on al qaeda occasioning these birds sit up on their haunches and just flap their wings to stretch like humans would a beautiful sight the's wolfers have such a elegant shape that they're really revered by many cultures around the world the japanese in particular are drawn force really simple and elegant forms just a very, very different shot level over with their long next to their feathers beautiful this's away photography should be this's a vast wetland actually is biggest central tokyo is this is the type of habitat that the red crowned crane I actually prefer famous red crowned crane that used to migrate all over japan now is confined to this area well, the crane is actually almost like the unofficial national bird of japan it's inspired so much poetry, so much literature, so much beautiful art waiting kimonos traditionally had this bird on the back of thie crane because it lives so long because it mates for life is a symbol of marital fidelity and long life what I love about these birds are just the dance the graceful dances and the winds go up and they just seem to interact so beautifully dancing so pull birds are really performing for us that one down wait look at that so beautiful okay I'm definitely happy camper right now they're so beautiful when they spread out those wings and just go straight up in the air just like artwork that way when I was here fifteen years ago I didn't see these numbers I wonder if they've increased since then significantly just in the nineteen twenties they were just a few dozen they thought they were gonna lose them forever we're up to about a thousand birds now this is because of feeding they had to feed them their habitat has shrunk and they don't have any food this is a good thing in a bad thing it's a good thing and that their numbers have increased but they don't migrate anymore which is always bad for the gene pool there's great fear among the bird conservation societies that one fell swoop from a disease that would wipe the whole flock out way people often think if you leave nature alone it will take care of itself people don't realize that nature is itself artificial thes animals are living in vastly reduced habitats and they need help if they're going to stay healthy and live back on the island of haunt you one mountain is iconic fuji is japan's most famous landmark japanese love fuji I have you found my spot and it's down in this frozen but there's this tiny little pond it's maybe fifteen feet across and in this pond when the wind dies down I could get a really in nice reflection way what makes this mountain so famous in my mind is the beautiful symmetry of the summit the lightest happening beautiful pink halpen glow just reaching the summit now on a sublimely beautiful morning like this you can really understand why the japanese love fujio the's are snow macaques or japanese macaques also known as snow monkeys. These are adorable macaques that live in the very precipitous mountains of central japan on hunt you island they have been habituated over the years they're drawn towards the natural hot springs they're the most northern primate on earth and they're the only primate that has learned to bathe. The story of the bathing began back in the nineteen sixties when the young ones which are naturally curious got into the hot springs and a lodge down the valley so many monkeys were coming into the lodge. It got to the point that the lodge put in this hot spring up the valley so that these monkeys would have their own hot spring there's little monkey is so adorable and it's so curious no always got a rock in his mouth oh that's too cute he even makes sound is like a squeeze toy his eyes are so clear in his little hands are so amazing oh, this is a nice shot wait grace shuts the monkeys jumping across this rocker coming right over the snow covered rock beautiful shots getting him in mid flight here goes one right now wait that's three snow macaques right on the edge of this mountain stream just a conglomeration of for and pink little face is it's really adorable is how they survive in this very harsh environment is the ability to stay close together for warmth and security just his tight as three animals could possibly be this is why I travel so much moments of intimacy like this really reward me we owe you not only am I getting some great shots but it's also an excellent opportunity the witness behavior just to see how these primates interact with one another the play behaviour the aggression between babies the scolding the's are undoubtedly the cleanest monkeys in the world no every winner on the coldest day of the year a unique shinto festival gets underway just before midnight wear in the middle of one of the oldest shrines in japan in okayama this is one of the most important evenings of the year it's a naked man festival before the end of the evening over nine thousand men will vie for two wooden amulets called singing and if they get that ambulance they will have good luck for the rest of the air thes men are sounding watch choi what joy wonderful wonderful now it's starting to get interesting as hundreds on men start circling through and taking a terrifying back they're cold they're wet there drunk thiss tradition goes back five hundred years and in modern japan is really exciting the sea traditional ways being celebrated on such a massive scale talking about a sea of humanity and literally looks like a sea of having and flowing as these people keep pushing each other all you could see his heads and arms and parcels interlock and swaying back and forth this is chaos now it happens this's amazing two very lucky guys in a crowd and for the rest there's always next year wait that's right known as cassadaga aisha is one of the most revered in all of japan with over three thousand lantern on the grounds of lighting the lanterns is a nine hundred year old tradition that marks the transition from winter into spring theo this's the moment really fill this tradition monks chanting candles are lit and it's very, very mystical way I love the textures the feeling the ambience, the mysticism of these temples the ancient traditions are everywhere you look just is magical for me theo japanese know that beauty is fleeting. As a photographer, I can relate to this awareness that thing's move us with their impermanence. I'm our wolf. Join me next time on travels to the o

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