Every Picture Tells a Story


The Art of Seeing


Lesson Info

Every Picture Tells a Story

creating photos that work by themselves is one thing but making pictures that can do something else by working together as a visual language that is an entirely different process and I'm going to talk with you in this program about how I do that I'm going to use examples from my professional career as a photographer for national geographic but I'm also going to show you examples of things that anyone can do on their own not everyone can become a national geographic photographer I'm going to show you examples of how I take pictures that can help made awareness about environmental issues I'm also going to talk about how you can put pictures together in book form everyone would like to publish their own books and I'm going to end by talking about what I call creative collaborations instead of working on your own how you can connect with others today our scientists or other photographers to do things that are not possible on your own so that's quite a bit so should we get started let's do ...

it I'm going to start off by showing you images from a project that I did about albatrosses these are really big seabirds that only come ashore on remote oceanic islands and I'm really fond of them when people ask me about my favorite animal this could be one of them so I started off by showing you one image of an albatross sitting by itself at the seashore but this is how it starts you know you walk into one of these big colonies where there can be thousands and thousands of albatrosses and it's walking like it's like walking into a city where you don't know anyone so where do you start how do you get to know these birds you know what do you focus on initially well my approach is based on getting to know them in their neighborhoods instead of walking all over the colony which you don't want to do anyway you don't want to disturb the birds you know I work along the edges until I begin to see birds on their own and I see them interact with others in their neighborhood you know albatrosses are no different from people living in big aggregations and that is when I can begin to see the patterns bert interacting with each other I start to observe their courtship and then ultimately I create portrait's of themselves I start looking for the young ones which look kinda funny when they are still half down half half feathery and ultimately these young birds have to learn how to fly and that's kind of a humorous process with lots of stops and goes and not everyone makes it so there's the tragedy involved in birch that we'll never take to the air that's what's happening here but finally there's the glory of an albatross in flight these are amazing birds they fly like no other birds on the planet they use the wind to get around and that perfection of a bird with its wings outstretched to it a wingspan of more than ten feet is quite remarkable so I already showed you ten different pictures that each address a different aspect of the lives of albatrosses I go one to one of these colonies with a whole shopping list of photos that are based on what I know about them which comes from reading about them talking that scientist and then I start looking for situations where I can actually execute those pictures so I may spend one or two hours focusing on birds in flight and then I move on to something else then I see that another situation offers more potential but I always have that long list of pictures in my head and I already know how I can create a story where I can start that the big colony in the beginning and in the end there's a picture of one individual in flight but it doesn't stop there either because there's always people who are interested in birds like these albatrosses and I connected them the scientist who put satellite transmitters on them so that we can figure out where they go which is quite amazing they travel all over the world so in this case I took a picture of a scientist holding up the transmitter on the beach and then as luck had it one of these young albatrosses waddled into the view and then as last surprise he stretched his wings and you can see that all the visual components belong together everything is curved I used a fisheye lens to make the image to make the horizon curve to show it as a globe so there's a little bit of luck involved sometimes in the creation of these images beyond the science there's the environmental story like every other subject in the natural world yeah there is an ever mental dimension there's a lot of pollution on the oceans there's a lot of junk floating around and I illustrated out that this image where a young albatross for sitting on a pile of fishing nets that had been retrieved from the sea by the u s fish and wildlife service and it was brought ashore on one of the small hawaiian levered islands freddy's albatrosses come onshore as well so that's my picture story about albatrosses I could show you many more images I could talk to you about these perch for a long long time because I'm very fond of them but let's move on to something else so this is a big project covering these albatrosses in different places it took me years to assemble these images but now I'm going to show you some pictures that I made in one city park in the town where I lived for quite a number of years in the netherlands wrote it down city park called the calling suppose I made these images when I was just starting out as a photographer I really had no clue what I was doing with my camera but I was inspired by the natural world I didn't have a lot of time nor money to travel I was a student at the local university so I started making pictures of the four seasons in that city park and here's some of them they're very impressionistic technically they're not that good I only dare to show you a handful that are still worth projecting on the screen this is one that illustrates the spring I pressed my wide angle lens close to a bush but with flowers almost nothing is sharp I didn't want to make anything too sharp I was more interested in the feeling of spring and and the mood the color of it and I started combining these images with japanese nature poetry haiku I collected some written by the classic japanese masters and I started writing some myself as well so it was an example of a first multimedia project down back in the nineteen seventies and here's one of these high cu ce this is how it translated in the netherlands so our friends in holland can perhaps appreciate this I'll translate it in english and for you all hear those plum blossoms how red they are how red how rit how red they are it's a very simple poem just like that image is very simple the only thing that matters is the red color and the emotion that is evoked by the color this is an image from the summer at the edge of that city park is a lake I focused on the border plans at the edge of the lake and everything else remains soft it was outside my depth of field and here's an image from the autumn where I deliberately used something in front of my lens to make things look very soft it's an impression of the setting sun in a part of the park that the trees had already lost their leaves and an impression of winter also very soft with a very limited up the field using a short telephoto lens four images from a city park I moved to the united states in the late nineteen seventies to do research at the university of california and I was overwhelmed by the beauty and the vitality of the west coast the coast of california is spectacular and I wasn't the first european to be so impressed by that the first painters who came to california for justice fascinated here's a painting by a famous landscape painter called albert bierstadt who made paintings in yosemite and in the grand canyon and this is a scene that he made just south of san francisco now interestingly when you look at that wave look at the color look at the shape of it I made this image one hundred fifty years after beer style did his painting in a spot very close that misty inspiration for his scene things to look the same even hundred fifty years later and I'm fascinated by that same vitality that abundance of nature that there's so impressive about the coast of california so I continued to foresee it continued to cover the four seasons here just like I did in holland except that things are a little bit more exuberant than in that city park here's an impression of spring in california when the poppies air coming out and here's an impression of the summer when our coastal fog rolls in and it keeps things cool and an impression of the autumn when things get so hot and dry that it triggers forest fires the scary phenomenon but we also know that it's part of the ecology that keeps everything turning over so I made this image close to santa cruz you know when there was a big forest fire going on and what I like about it is that these flames are highlighting that trees that three in the background ultimately the autumn turns into early winter in our skies clear up things become crist and it looks a little bit like autumn in the east coast I made this image very close to where I live in a canyon with some three step for turning color and then in the background you see some morning mist rising from the from the redwood trees I used the white angle I close my depth of field told away I extended my depth of field all the way by closing my aperture and the light is coming from behind that is why the highlights are so spectacular and we do get winter here in california it's not as dramatic as the east coast or in other parts of the world but we do get snow on occasion at the highest mountains in the incentive cruise and then I rush out because it doesn't last very long so I continue to cover the four seasons whenever I can I add to the body of work and I do it for myself it isn't commissioned by anyone maybe there will be a book in it maybe it'll turn into an exhibition I don't know I'm just continuing the coverage I started off as a photographer because I was interested in nature and I started doing things on my own but out any editor of it out any publisher prompting me or asking me to do things I was fascinated by small shorebirds there many of them in the netherlands you find them along the tide lines in our coastal marshes this is one of the very first pictures that I could read three for my archives made of a small shorebird called channeling in dutch we called in three times strong low pers now I showed this picture with some trepidation because everything about it is wrong the horizon is tilted the bird is too far away the picture is over exposed all the mistakes that many beginning photographers make when they are too excited by their subject to pay attention to what is critically important to make a good photograph and that was indeed the case yeah I was so passionate about these little birds it took me years to to figure out how I could get close to them and how I could photograph them well I made this photograph on the beach in california and by that time I had learned how to approach him by crawling on hands and knees making myself a small it's possible these birds are very tiny by lying flat on the scent I could make them bigger and I was I to live with him and this one is standing there on one leg snoozing waiting for the tide to go down I began to experiment a bit tracking these birch in motion using my lens to attract him along as there are running along the tide line and this is what I looked like in those days my hair was much longer and I use an eye patch to reduce the glare of the light that came from the beach and you can see my equipment is quite primitive by today's standards then I contacted a scientist I started reading about sandra wings and I began to notice the name of a guy named pete myers I wrote him a letter and told him that I was interested in the same birch and asked if I could come and talk with him about it and I did and he invited me to his lap and the struck up a friendship and he invited me to go out with him and he was miss netting birch after dark and that's how I made this picture and then I followed him back to the lab and I made this picture the team holding one shandling and the data that came from all the other birds that he'd been tracking and all the little color codes on the feet correspond that the data on lease on this on his sheet so it was a combination of one life burt and the accumulated information that came from all these other birds had gone all the way up and down the pacific coast so it was a conceptual image and for me it was important I started doing things that consisted of combining different situations ultimately I made this image which became my big image of sandal ings along the tide line this to me symbolizes their essence because they're always found right at the advancing tight so I made all these pictures on my own nobody asked me to do them but eventually I published them as a picture story in a magazine in the netherlands thie editors liked it I wrote the story to go along with it and that became my template for subsequent picture stories immersing myself into the lives of different animals one species at a time in santa cruz monarch butterflies coming go so I started documenting their lifecycle how they start off like caterpillars they come out of there chrysalis and then how they come together every fall to spend the winter in a few groves along the coast of santa cruz and I photographed how they pass away that is too part of the natural cycle even though most nature photographers tend to focus on the beauty I try to show how to cycle of life comes and comes and goes and I began to photograph the people who came to this park natural bridges state park to marvel at these butterfly spending the winter there santa cruz is a interesting town nothing is too weird for people there so we have a festival we celebrate the monarch butterflies returning every autumn and people dress up like butterflies and of course that is a great photo subject and then I made this image I started raising monarch butterflies from their caterpillar stage I had him in little boxes in the back yard and one day I put a tiny little monarch caterpillar on the ruler on my kitchen table to show just how small it isthe manit begins its life cycle I put it on the ruler and then it began to crawl to the very end and then when he couldn't get any further it raised itself and that was an element of surprise I could not have foreseen that but that was the magic moment that led to this image notice how the patterns in the caterpillar are matched by the stripes on the ruler and the number one states how long one inches and that by inference gives you the idea how small these part of these caterpillars arv and they start out so does my monarch story again nobody asked me to do this I did it on my own

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.