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The Art of Nature Photography

Lesson 12 of 12

Travels To The Edge: South Georgia

Art Wolfe

The Art of Nature Photography

Art Wolfe


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Lesson Info

12. Travels To The Edge: South Georgia
Follow Art to the rugged South Georgia island through arctic seas and Antarctic-like conditions. Explore what Art calls a primordial location that's among his favorites to return to every year. Go behind the scenes photographing penguins, elephant seals, wandering albatross, and more in their natural habitats.


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1 Introduction and Background Duration:22:38
2 An Integrated Life Duration:29:41
5 Finding the Subject Duration:27:54

Lesson Info

Travels To The Edge: South Georgia

South Georgia island is bitterly cold, wild, inhospitable, and yet it has one of the largest concentrations of wildlife found anywhere. On is my favorite place on earth. I'm our wolf joined me on travels to the edge southernmost tip of South America is Cape Horn and article eyes. Eight hundred miles to the south, the remote island of south Georgia lies to the east of these two continents, exposed to the full fury of the Southern Ocean. Joining me on this journey is one of the world's foremost authorities and seabirds Peter Harrison and explorer and naturalist Shirley Mentz. This is the wildest island I can think of. They're only a few hundred people in the world that have ever circumnavigated this island because it's a it's a fearful place. Take us around this coastline. This is a CZ wild as it gets in, says Georgia. We will feel is that we are in Antarctica. Truth proper. Tell me about this area was here that Shackleton came in after his eight hundred mile journey. To this day, he's s...

till gasping at the open boat journey of eight hundred miles What do you think is in store for us? Two and a half to three days of rolling around in the windiest stormiest ocean on the world. Run into a first class storm with thirty foot seas. Albatrosses are being tossed around. Very, very dramatic. What? I am getting some great. Wave ever a place that primordial It has to be South Georgia, especially in this pre dawn light, the sounds, the smells, the sights off all these penguins and elephant seals. This's the place that I love to come back to year in, year out. It is really early in the morning and the light hasn't quite gotten up to where I can really start to do my work. So I like to walk around with my subjects and figure out a place to photograph. Let's get some photos, We'll have a little lunch. Ah, lot of penguins here because colony in the world of King penguins. A few years ago, we only had say, two hundred thousand Qing Penguin pairs on South Georgia, now over four hundred thousand pairs of penguins. Why do you think they're increasing it? Such amazing rate. Well, I think the earth is warming on the warmer ocean around South Georgia, the whole back of all of these glaciers and so on. It has benefit the King penguins. I'm like a kid in a candy store. There's so much to work with. If a committee of designers got together, I don't think they could have designed a more beautiful bird. Golden yellow stands out so regally against the silver, silver and gold in a beautiful shape on the top of these birds, and it's just so fun to work with the color and the design of him. No, really. What I tried to do after having established a sense of place to these first is find the details. It's those little moments that you capture on film that you bring away that really play nicely with the larger perspective. These are amazing. These elephant seals, they are so enormous, multi ton animals that come ashore to rest and to give birth to little seals. And these air actually bit sized males. Right now, they're just incredible how high they can reach the conf stand up much taller than me, and then they far like this. There's barring, They're interacting. There's little babies all over the place. They make athlete gropes sounds. They're amazing animals. You. You, you. When I go into a new environment, I'd like to shoot an establishing shot with a really wide angle E I I love working with overcast light Right now I've got the best of both worlds. I've got overcast light but blue sky behind Very, very classic calm morning which is really an unusual event on South Georgia right now. Everybody's calm. I'm calm, it's peaceful. This is the only island in the world where you can actually come and sit with wanting all the crosses. Peter, this is a big bird. Tell me about the spring. Well, it's not only big heart, it is the biggest, the biggest flying bird in the world. There's nothing that is bigger. Nails weigh about twenty four to twenty five times in a way. That's a Thanksgiving turkey size, but with wings eleven. Teo even twelve feet from wink twelve feet to basketball players, Cyprus. I guess that's right. I can fit under one wing. They're on. They still have a few inches on me. Very long. Live birds long live longer than ion. I'm sixty years old, that bird on the right foot. Seventy years. Seventy seven zero seven zero way. Not only that, these birds, when they fly, they fly five to six hundred miles in a single day. When the youngster leaves, this nest goes. I don't the ocean for the first time spends the first seven years minimum at sea. By the time it gets back, it will have flown one and a half million miles in its lifetime. These birds are estimated to fly some fifteen million miles. That's around eighteen roundtrip journeys to the moon and back. Nothing flies further than in all the troughs wait. Sadly, they are threats. In the twenty years that I've been coming here, we've had numbers on South Georgia plummet from four thousand birds. Now down to less than one thousand eight hundred birds. We've lost half and about twenty five years wait. First heels present a formidable challenge for photography here on the island because they're so aggressive. Theo Southern first sales were nearly hunted to extinction in the early nineteen hundred. In fact, they thought they were extinct, and since the early nineteen hundreds, they've gone from maybe thirty animals to two million. It's such a short time, one of the most extraordinary comeback of any animal species. And right now these animals have come back with a vengeance. They're extraordinarily aggressive, very territorial. They bite. They will charge you from one hundred feet away. I've had tripod legs sheared off. And a force to be reckoned with. Surely it's amazing how this south coast of South George is so much more glaciation and rugged looking. Oh, very much so. And this is where Shackleton ended up coming. After his eight hundred mile journey, he arrived here in King Cack and Day. He spends about four five days here, gets resupplied nails, thie nails to the bottom of the soles of his feet and then makes the journey up over the spine of South Georgia to the other side. Thirty six hours across the glaciers over mountains that were never ever traveled before. Not mapped, not explored. Uh, no food up in the mountains. So they had to take all of that with incredible story. Yes. I don't think very much replicated it all still today. And that's when men were men. An incredible journey and amazing rescue, given the fact and nobody died on his entire trip. That was always something that Shackleton claimed that no man was ever lost under my command. Yeah, here. Yeah, computer. This is a freshwater lake left over from a receding glacier. And in this lake are hundreds of young wieners, elephant seals that were born probably a month or so ago, and they've been fed on very, very rich milk from their mother's. And now the mothers have gone out to sea to replenish their nutrients. But for right now, these pumps are jousting and playing and just hanging out in this very benign water. Great shot from about three feet away. Wide angle have approached him from very low various animals. You want to get unusual shots, you get into unusual positions. And by staying low, letting them look into my lens, he'll come right up. I get these distorted light angles, which can often be fantastic. And I love these kind of perspectives because if you just stand up from five feet up looking thirty feet away, it looks like you're looking at these animals. And now I want to kind of interpret their landscape, interpret their environment, and you do that by getting into their environment on their level. These guys are known as Wiener simply because they've been weaned from their mother's. And when they see somebody like kneeling on the beach, they may in fact think I'm mother. So they come in close. And I just love this interaction with these wild animals, and I'm careful not to touch them again. Come on, you want You want, Uh, there we go. Now He's so curious. My hands don't touch my lands. You blow snot on, definitely said, don't do that. Excuse me. Lookit. That's you. You trust me? Do you think I look like your mother? That's a baby. Your diamonds. More feeling? Oh, yeah. Yeah. Cool you. Yeah, it's miserable out blowing rain. It's cold. And yet some of the best shots I've ever shot are in these very conditions. Right now. I have a small group of macaroni penguins that have just emerged from the sea, and I'm bundled up one of the few times not using a tripod because I'm just maneuvering the camera every couple of seconds. Wave comes up and totally soaks me. It'll be well worth it because these air beautiful shots really, really nice, even a reflection in a little pond. There's a first deal right behind them, so they've hopped right into me and they're coming right up, be ended by This is up close and personal because his first seal has scared them. So they're not so concerned about me as much as the first wave. This is a very windy day here, and I cannot find any penguins or seals on this really remote beach. But what I can find are some beautiful landscapes, but on a very intimate level. What I'm framing up here is just a close study of thes beautiful lichens that thrive here in these very cold conditions on South Georgia Island, there among the oldest slowest growing plants on Earth. E. I love this. I mean, it's great for the mind. And when you're photographing allowed life, you're so caught up in following action. But here your mind can relax. You can really get into the moment. Well, you certainly know a lot of history about this place while I come maybe two or three times a year on every time way always come to Griffin and side of the largest of our waving stations on DH. There is there is a lot of history here. Republican was the first of the whaling stations here. It's south Georgia on it was started off in nineteen. Or for what you have to imagine, our is that Cumberland Bay at that time was full of Wales. And I mean full. Not like a whale here. They're talking of hundreds and hundreds of Wales. They never left the base. They caught hundreds and hundreds of Wales. All they had to do was to row out, put the harpoon in the whale on, bring the scrap. That's what a dead weight is called. Back into the harbour. The fifties, the whales were getting harder and harder to catch these same boats that court whales just in this bay. Now they were going over two hundred miles from this island to find whales. Actually ended around nineteen sixty five nineteen, sixty six. So about fifty five years, fifty five years combined, whaling stations of south Georgia took one hundred seventy five thousand two hundred and fifty whales. They range from the biggest, the blue to the rarest done in these waters, which was the southern right whale. Nothing escaped the harpoons here. This's also the final resting place for a famous person. Shackleton finally came to rest here. He died in the bay here, his men erected across on the hill. He told his wife. My heart is always in the south, and if you go to the graveyard, you'll see that every single grave is buried with the head facing north to Europe. Sir Ernest Shackleton, the boss is the only person with his head and his heart facing size to the continent. He loved corn Antarctica. What a fitting place for him to be. Wait. I was walking down the beach and I just happened to see this great opportunity. There's a family first deal, several females and a don't bowl really nice moment with otherwise very aggressive seals. There's three pups to are the typical black and one is this beautiful cream color. One in two thousand occur with this color face right in front of us. What's nice about this is the seal pups. Eyes are so black. It's a great contrast shots that I'm looking for when the baby in the mother's head's come together and there's a moment of nurturing and it just really plays well with the camera. Despite its isolation and extreme climate, South Georgia Island remains a remarkable oasis of wildlife. There's simply no other place like it in the world. I'm r will join me next time on travels. Tio, I'd love to have some final words from you or just Yeah, for me. That's the first time I've seen some of these up episodes and several years, and it brings back great memories. Any rate that was fun to spend the day with you folks. Any final thoughts about the day, anything thoughts or you just put to sleep and you want to go home? Any rate that film crew that I worked with, the editors, the photographers, they were gold. It was a great team to work with. I look forward to working with him in the future and just to take people to these remote and special places. You know, not everybody has the energy, the finances, the health to go there. And that whole Siri's was to show the world to people that may not have that opportunity. From Antarctica to South Georgia, Bhutan. I wanted to show the world and the humans that populate this globe as being very similar to you, you know, it was it was inspired after September eleven, that evil event. I want to show people that there is a great world out there. I've seen it. I have been travelling there for thirty years, and so we did this episode this Siri's to show you people from Mongolia to Africa, South Georgia, the few people that live on South Georgia. So we have a great time doing this show.

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