Skip to main content

The Art of Seeing

Lesson 8 of 23

Elkhorn Slough - Seals


The Art of Seeing

Lesson 8 of 23

Elkhorn Slough - Seals


Lesson Info

Elkhorn Slough - Seals

I was wondering ah I know we're leaving the birds right now but what suggestions do you have for ah keeping them in focus and they're flying other than the fast shutter speed you know how to take pictures of birds standing or put pictures of birds in flight flying without getting I'm all blurry well that is their auto focus lens is really help and it helps to have a really big bird like a brown pelican that a predictable behavior so and and you know high shutter speed helps on dh but I also work at the other range as I explained earlier in you know I liked experiment of it using slow shutter speeds when you take a picture of a brown pelican around the fifteenth of a second it can create a beautiful effect so um you said that like if you think about you haven't image going dude again ah I'm wondering like do you do something differently other than just looking for a better composition like do you like twiki your exposure maybe even like lower shutter speed I mean you know you already ha...

ve one good shot are you trying teo do something completely different or just looking for a better composition sometimes it's a gradual process I take time to check the results using my loop held on the lcd screen and other times I start experimenting with different lenses different exposures um I really believe in working a situation instead of saying ok check that one off let's do something else come about focusing here ice man was asking when you're photographing the birds or even the seals when we see them in a second do you focus on their eyes or do you focus somewhere else and their body on a similar question was do you position yourself so you can a light in the subject's eyes two different questions yeah especially animals a bit of it you haven't long bodies on extended muzzle you have to be very aware of the limited depth of field if you if your aptitude is wide open and we may see some examples of death and the look of pictures of the harbour seals if you if you trust your auto focus lens to focus you may end up with a sharp nose and eyes out of focus most instances that's not so sincere not so successful so then you you're better off applying the technique that I mentioned earlier round you've and you focus and then you hold your focus locked down and then you recompose and then the catch lighting their aisha that's nice but it's not obligatory it um it seems a little bit yeah a little bit forced to to apply that every time all of a sudden that I hadn't noticed before initially I was so focused on the harbour seals that I was ignoring the background but now I'm seeing the smokestacks from the power plant you may not want him in your picture but it's actually a very interesting graphic counterpoint to the seals if you like that we can move upstream again a little bit and then when the float past a seal there is a moment when we will see the seal surrounded by the two vertical shapes of the smokestack and I sent that this should happen then the float in front of the other seals there so keep that in mind what's interesting to me is that even though it's a very unusual juxtaposition of an organic curve shape in a manmade linear shape and yet because the color is similar it seems too seems to work together yeah yeah so but I'm going to do is I've got my long lens my fixed focal england's here and then I also have this one hundred to four hundred and uh so I'm going to do both I would say let's start drifting towards the seal so be aware of the wonderful reflections in the border that are a nice complement to the shape of the steel's body yeah I suggest you consider shooting some vertical we'll see it again now let's carry us the predominant shape in the in the images thie vertical shapes of the smokestacks be sure to yet to compose it in a variety of ways but what I like especially is to play that the reflections of the smokestack that's the more artistic part of it yeah there wants that air sticking up uh in the background there not nearly as interesting is that suggestive shape so if you like that idea then you end up in a composition perhaps sort of seal is at the top of the frame and then you know the smokestacks are becoming these kind of yeah fluid shapes in the water so and that is what I'm seeing now okay so I thought that was interesting you know it's uh it's curving a little bit on the turns these kind of linear shapes into organic shape and the colors complementary and it made a more interesting composition than just to see a line there by itself but that's just my personal reaction to it and now let's come into the shell just a little bit and go downstream leveled it see now we're really micro maneuvering we have a very specific composition in mind this is different from what we did through the pelicans where we're really focused on the pelicans and the pelicans alone now we have another reference point now my composition is perfect right now now I have the harbour seal right in the middle of the smoke stack but off a little bit there it was another harvest heels coming swimming buying give doug his line camp now uh see ellis yawning scratching perfect that's a good sign that actually means that it's relaxing it's still alert it's looking at us periodically but it's not alarmed anymore she things right she has a pop right next to her that's why she was a little bit concerned okay that's little cut off on the left um that's nice that's a good moment now yeah here's what I would like you to considered that's good but it's cut off on the left that's easy no no you've got the whole thing so but the most interesting part in the images the reflections of the seal in the water and you cut that off a little bit at the bottom what I'm seeing is say this is incidental we don't need to see that but the image extends here farther towards the bottom you're composing a bit too much that the seal in the center so now start looking more deliberately for a composition that makes the most of your visual elements it's to seal in the reflection of the seal shape in the water so ignore what is on top of the seal go more for what is below the sealed okay okay we have okay I'm looking oh I love that that is cool doug that's exactly what I was talking about him and you've got the smokestack off center a little bit oh that's gorgeous I really like that that's no longer a picture of a seal it turns it into a real composition that exists for other reasons so and it becomes very graphic with that highlight on the seal and it looks like it's beautiful well done thank you did you do apply an exposure compensation yes my man that's exactly what I would recommend so you have by doing that you're making a mortgage graphic rendition of the situation there's so much light on the seal that even then you under exposed by a full stop this seal is still rendered well and some of these details in the grass and in the in the in the sold marsh vegetation I'm no longer showing up it's prominently so it's becoming more abstract and you may want experiment without his help I want to see what he did you are not seymour dita on the screen it actually shows up lighter than it and then it appeared in the back of your camera so this is a least one to two stops darker by comparison I really like that here in the area surrounding this year but that's ok it's just about the seal and the reflections of the of the smokestacks in the water yeah with the three hundred I couldn't get the reflection in the water and you still have that telecom food around would you could consider let's take that off all right so we are evolving from doing portrait of seals to becoming more artistic by incorporating other elements in the landscape and that's often how these things happen you know you start off being so focused on the animal because it's interesting and there's a challenge you know there's the interaction between yourself and the animals but then there comes a point there you know you want to let go of the immediacy of the situation and start looking in the provider right trying to get it all in what we learned from this first approach of the harbour seal is that you need to look not just at the animal itself but also at the reflection of the shapes in the water and then you start combining dells in an explicit fashion it leads to more interesting compositions I would like us to be even maura wear of what is happening with the water reflections and to make the most use of that the ignored background we ignore the background by shifting the position of the camera a little bit lower we see some threes in the background but I don't think those belong in this portrait of the seal you know the seal and the coast and the sold marsh and the water below it that is what we uh we need to focus on here and we'll start looking for these moments than the mother is raising herself oh now she's raising a flipper and her tail little catch lighting arai that's gorgeous she's moving towards the water just a little bit so she's adjusting her possessions I've attached a five hundred for nick or lands to my nikon d for s camera and I've added of one point four converter so I'm getting a very close shot of her it's framed feeling I met a thousandth of a second at f five six and it all looks gorgeous now she's looking off to the side oh she's curving her body this is really beautiful now he's looking straight at me beautiful her pup is lying right next to her that's right not alarm that's nice so keen to see what we're doing because she's not quite sure whether we not a bit too close I think we should back off a little they filled on sensing our body language that they're pushing it a bit too far on dh have a student precious I think we should leave this female alone we've we've done what we could with her she's been very tolerant of us bring a really good position to you know do a wider shop now of the whole group of seals with the smokestacks behind so it's the same idea you have a horizontal pattern of the seals and a vertical pattern of the smokestacks so create a balance composition you khun do it by creating symmetry that the smokestacks in the center or you can push the smokestacks to the left or to the right and we stayed really low because now we're getting close to a whole group of so this is much more sensitive than and then an individual because if one of them spooks then everybody goes in the water so you you have to really pleased to smell skittish of all the animals there in order to keep the situation sustainable teals one is lifting his head so that means we've been spotted don't spook him nice nice oh beautiful sisto in congress you know all these marine mammals and then that industrial presence now as we are floating past the seals the lightest changing quality it's becoming back lighting now and what is happening what are we seeing differently and feels the reflection of all the the water on their on their uh for really getting highlighted now it's getting highlighted and what does it do what are we seeing in the seals that we're not seeing before or whatever you're seeing better whiskers and they're back with their fur what I'm seeing is also you know their shapes overall and that is what backlighting does it enhances shapes here we're going to try and do something that's a bit more radical than what we've done so far they're approaching the harbor seals against the light so they will show up a silhouette the water reflections are very dark because they're trees right behind the harbour seals so it's very challenging very contrast the light but if one of the seals with ray's himself a little bit and show some whiskers and show some flippers then we might just have enough identified identifiable features that it could become a really interesting portrait yeah we can always adjust the the contrast after the fact that I would say for starters let's expose neutrally even though it all looks very dark the principle that exposure ring that exposures is that then something is stark he wantto underexposed and something is light you want to overexpose it's a bit counterintuitive but in this case let's keep it at neutral because we want to maintain some shadow detail in the faces of the seals care about the threesome just using the trees is a backdrop here beautiful keep with this nice twinkle here the water is julie that there's almost no color it's all black and white so we're gonna look for shapes to make this image and the shapes had determined by the body postures of the seal so I see one stretching their the flippers air coming out that is nice and I see the whiskers come out that's exactly what we were looking for beautiful sober in position that's waiting for the seals to do their part and their parties to reveal themselves as marine mammals with whiskers and with flippers and a little bit of personality of course and personality they have oh that looks great so I see some seals that are lying together it's a little bit difficult to make sense of where one begins and the other one end so justus with the pelicans I'm looking for an individual I'm looking for an individual to do something that makes it a unique moment I'm too close now I need to take my tele converter off and just shoot with the straight five hundred I'm keeping my aperture wide open now and the reason is that we've got these interesting little things floating on the water surface and as out of focus details they create really nice speculator highlights and the more open my appa curis the more they calls a twinkle in the image and that's really enhances the quality of the image of roll then it's no longer just a portrait of the harbour seal it is surrounded by twinkling highlights I'm just shooting one frame at a time there's really no fast action let's put all those in the rattle off ten frames a second even though my defore can easily do that look shoot look cute background is this grove of eucalyptus trees which is in shape she's going to be largely black but in light room I can still pull out some details but it's really a composition of curving seal shapes and nothing else no color no ordinary that you could use a little bit but close to seals and they just light out can you find one militia or is it too hard yeah a little gray one and then that fat little pup right next to it that is a healthy healthy on oh no no they're suddenly looking I'm a happy man we had quality time at harvest heels and that doesn't happen every day first we had an encounter of it an individual can write up what about and we learned how easy it is to use the terrain to your advantage and we finished it off but another group of harbor seals have a very relaxed kind of lying along the shoreline be soul a mother with her pop we got some nice close ups of her we were able to show the smokestacks of the power plant in juxtaposition that the seals as another interesting reference to the human environment that surrounds alcorn slough and then be approached directly against the light and we were able to do some very graphic renditions of seals shapes against a dark background of a eucalyptus grove so we had very different situations different light different focal point I think it's a wrap no this is a scary thing to propose to go out on a wildlife photography trip and you really don't know what you're gonna get first of all it could the crappy weather order could be no animals or there could be animals and then after five minutes it's all done so I was crossing my fingers when he headed out this morning and you see how beautifully it uh it all worked out here we had sustained encounters that animals and we were able to improve on the situation as time and buy it doesn't get any better than that so that's why I'd like to go to alcorn slough time and again it's only twenty minutes from where I live and that's why we take our classes there as well question coming from photo mayko saying please can you talk about the workshops you run there because I they'd like to know more about how you operate them how much wants one instruction you provide on the setting so please tell us about these workshops that you run the sure happy to do that twice a year we offer for the workshops in in santa cruz where I've lived for more than thirty years on dh there is so much to do there on the shores of the monterey bay there so much diversity to weaken practice landscape photography close up photography vod life photography all in a matter off a few days and I've worked out of it a couple of assistants who are photographers in their own right and we take a group of ten to fifteen people on early morning field trips late afternoon field trips and the combine it of it intensive classroom sessions we review images I do presentations we talk about technical issues and it's quite amazing how fast I can help improve how people take their pictures between the date of oak in and what they leave it so I'm very pleased to it this overall process now in addition to the workshops as well you also provide photo tours eso what is the difference between these two particular experiences yeah photo workshops are combined your field trips that classroom sessions and they are really meant to to give people immediate field back feet back about the images that they produce we do image reviews together so every one or two days the help select people's pictures and then the lucrative together on dh everyone's been to the same place and yet everyone comes up a different vantage point on the photo to worse than the take people to africa or to antarctica or to galapagos the priority is to get the most time in the field and you know we don't have the same time for classroom sessions I still work with people one on one but the priority is to get the pictures volver out there you you have you been to the galapagos or is that a tool that you've actually got coming up yes I go to galapagos every couple of years because I think it's one of the most amazing places on the planet if you're interested in wildlife and if you like to get close to animals uh yeah they're very few places on the planet quite like it and in two thousand sixteen I go back there together of it to close friends and colleagues tom mandelson and hard wolf and there'll be a very special trip because tom and art and I are close friends very different personalities we have different styles and s o the people who will join us we'll get three very different perspectives on galapagos and a wildlife photography the the offered one departure and you know the the forty slots that they're available filled up in three days so we are now offering a second of part eerie and uh in the middle of may two thousand sixteen and it's a trip that is not just for photographers it's just it's enjoyable and rewarding if you dare just to enjoy the animals it looks amazing people definitely check that out on the web site there

Class Description

Join world-renowned National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting for two days of instruction and inspiration that will change the way you look at photography and what you can do with your own camera.

With experiences from three decades of work in wild places – from the Amazon to Antarctica, Frans will introduce you to new ways to capture the wonders of the natural world with a camera. His class includes presentations about creative ideas and technical skills, and also features landscape and wildlife photography instruction during special field workshop sessions at prime photographic destinations along the California coast — Frans’s home ground for the past 30 years. The course will conclude with a critique of images submitted by viewers.

If you’re passionate about nature photography and want to improve your own photographic vision, you will be inspired by this unique course from a master photographer and teacher.



I was very excited to be chosen as one of the two students to be in the field shooting for this course. I have been shooting for a long time, but to be in the field with a world renowned nature photographer like Frans Lanting is a bit intimidating to say the least! However when we met that morning at 5:30AM to start shooting, Frans could not have been more charming. He put everyone at ease, and his enthusiasm to go capture fantastic images was infectious. He is an excellent instructor and has a way of sharing his knowledge that is very effective. It was truly inspiring to be involved (in a small way) in creating this course and also being a part of the live studio audience. Thank you again to Frans and the CreativeLive team. I have learned so much in a very short period of time and have been truly inspired by being around all of you. It was an invaluable experience that I will not soon forget!Keep up the great courses – clearly you are filling an important need for many people all over the world. CreativeLive rocks !


In response to the person who made the comment about the attendees not taking a lot of notes: I was an attendee. I believe every person had something to take notes with. I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, when I was told the attendees would be getting the class in our "My classes"; area and I could review it anytime I wanted, I chose to focus on the moment and not take a ton of notes. The Art of Seeing isn't a class chocked full of camera settings and gear guides; it is about figuring about what impact you want to make with your images and then creating those images followed up with examples and then refining your vision - telling a story. If the presentation had been more of a technical how-to, I might have taken more notes in class. I would encourage people not to be distracted by attendees not taking notes and I would hope after 2 days of instruction, if I enjoyed the presenter, that an informational list of his/her work or upcoming events would be posted so I could find out more. Frans Lanting is a fantastic storyteller. His willingness to show his vision and share his wisdom says much about who he is. He is one of the greatest photographers of our time. His desire to be eye to eye with the animals shows us the humanity in them, and in doing that, slowly helps to erase the line between Them and Us, making us all One. Just like Ansel Adams exposed us to and charged us with the knowledge of things we didn't know existed, therefore making us responsible for their safekeeping, Frans reveals animals to us that most of us will never have contact with outside of a zoo. He takes us into their living room, introduces us, enchants us, and then exposes how our actions impact them. But more than that, he doesn't just take us to far off and fantastic places, he looks in his very own community. Not all of us can be a National Geographic photographer, but this class shares with us how we all can make a difference in our own communities. And THAT, well, we are all capable of that.

Robert Felice

This was a very good course, I learned a lot from the lectures, and I also picked up some good tips. Frans spent a bit of time trying to convince us that being a National Geographic photographer is nowhere as glamorous as you imagined it to be. He also emphasized just how much time it takes to capture a great image. I found the Field Trip lessons were useful demonstrations of how to work a scene, The last three lessons were about Frans' LIFE project, which I found interesting, but somewhat incidental to the main subject of the course. The images were breathtaking, however, and perhaps they will inspire me.

Explore More Free Classes


Enjoy the free classes? Get 2000+ more Classes and watch it anytime, anywhere.

Get The Pass