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The Art of Seeing

Lesson 21 of 23

LIFE Project Intro


The Art of Seeing

Lesson 21 of 23

LIFE Project Intro


Lesson Info

LIFE Project Intro

so we saved the best for last you know it's my pleasure now to take you on a short journey through time based on images that I created in the course of seven years to give you all a chance to imagine what life may have been like then you're a time traveler with a camera that was my idea but before I go further with the story let me show you show you the first image this is a little frog in the desert of australia one of the many creatures that I've been I do I've it this is a frog that lives most of its life under the sand and it only emerges then it rains it's one of these many miracles of life that I've had the privilege to to encounter and to document and it's a long ways from the place where I grew up in the netherlands in a small village where nature is pretty much regulated by humans the trees the poplars everything has been planned it escaped holland and began to explore the big world beyond that nothing's regulated here in the rainforests of borneo then I began to get id alive ...

it creatures around the planet as I explained earlier you know my philosophy is based on becoming intimate and personal with my subjects and I tried to encounter them on their terms rather than on my terms I've worked with gorillas and I worked with rhinos and many many other creatures I've been privileged to live that lie in sin the african night years ago before I touched a camera when I was growing up in holland my parents gave me a book that told the children story written by a swedish all turn in selma lager love this published in the early twentieth century it was a magical story about a boy who shrank to the size of a of a pixie and then he was small enough to climb on the back of a barnyard goose and he joined a flock of wild geese and they took him all over scandinavia and the geest showed neil stuff name of the boy you know what's kind of navy looked like from their perspective and that's really triggered an interest in me and I began to imagine that it might have been might be possible to see the world through animals ice I could have never imagined that one day I would be able to do this to see the world through macaws eyes I started photographing animals seriously then I came to to california coast and I experimented with elephant seals and then the animals got bigger and I went farther afield frauds down in front of elephants and for years I thrive on the adrenaline of working with big animals up close in a situation like this it helps to know the difference between a bluff and a real charge but over time I began to look at animals laissus photographic trophies and mohr as ambassadors for ecosystems and that thinking ran parallel to the way biologist and conservationist started looking at animal life animals as ambassadors for ecosystems and that is the idea that I trying to express here elephants are keystone species in the african environment and the cost also have become ambassadors for the tropical ecosystems in the amazon basin but then I moved beyond that along with it biologist who coined a new term for nature that began to refer at it as a network of relationships in the term that applied to death was biodiversity dr leo wilson and tom lovejoy embrace that and began to publicize that term and it resonated with the entire scientific community and the national geographic asked me if I could do a big story about biodiversity and what it meant at the turn of the twentieth into the twenty first century I plunged into that and it inspired me to start looking at nature differently again photographing nature one species at a time is easy but how do you photograph nature as a collective all of these species of crickets tropical grasshoppers together I went into a museum collection to do that and I've worked at scientist this man has discovered mohr beetles and anybody a life on the planet so terry erwin with millions of beetles that he collected for the smithsonian very complicated image but I don't want to dwell on that here because I want to get to this spot I went to this part in delaware bay in the state of new jersey to do coverage for this project about biodiversity now you might say it's a strange place to go for biodiversity new jersey's not exactly known for its nature but I went there for the same reason that all these goals were gathered on the beach they were attracted by the same thing as I have us the horse you craps which come to spawn on the beaches of delaware bay every year and they've been doing that for a long long time but I wasn't there just for the horse you craps I was there because those craps have interesting relationships with people and that the birds who come and eat their ex fisherman take a lot of the horse you craps as hell bait and in fact way too many and it's undermining the ecosystem but there's also a new economy that is spawned by morsi sustainable use of the crops it's a biomedical industry that is yet aiming to extract blood from these horseshoe crabs for use in biotechnology in biomedical applications and it is sustainable the craps are released after the blood has been taken from them and they swim away again into delaware bay and it's created a lot of new jobs and then their scientist who studied two craps a scientist from boots hole put video cameras on the craps he's interested in their eyesight and maybe one day we'll contribute to a better understanding of our own eyesight what he ultimately hopes to do is to create young mechanisms for making blind people see and then there's the craps themselves there's one that is crawling around on the beach not so sure of what is the way back to the ocean after a night of spawning on the beach now those craps have been around for a long long time and I learned more about that in the course of my research because I always read up on the animals before I photographed him and I'd learned that they've been around for two to three hundred million years virtually unchanged I went into a museum to photograph this fossilized crab looks exactly like the ones there are around today and then one evening as I stood there on the shore of delaware bay and the crabs came out by the thousands it was the perfect time for them to come ashore and spawn I made this image oh and I looked at it and I said this isn't new jersey today did mike this might have been the world away at just three hundred million years ago there is nothing modern visible and that is when I had this idea if I can show the world the way it voss in new jersey what might I be able to do when I start looking deliberately for other windows in time and that was the beginning of my journey through time a simple idea but it turned into a crazy undertaking because how far do you go I started talking that people who knew mme or about the prehistory of life in one idea after another came tumbling out of course I had to go to the galapagos islands because they are so associated with the evolution of life ever since charles darwin visited there and it is actually a place where you get an idea of the way the world may have been like before there were mammals around because there are no native mammals in the galapagos islands and these giant tortoises are perfect model for giant dinosaurs so I began my journey through time with this crazy idea that I could be a time traveler with a camera so the game I began to play was this I wanted to photograph things as if I was there at the moment the species emerged sort of meant in a case of this creature which predated all the dinosaurs it's a very primitive reptile known as a tuatara and it only occurs in new zealand that really means that I could not show anything that evolved later than that creature existed no birds no mammals not a single flowering plant who was around when the tuatara evolved more than two hundred million years ago my challenge became bigger and bigger to fight arriving back into time because a billion years ago there wasn't much around there was a life there are no plans to ever know animals the vergis bacteria and algae and you khun go to only a few places on the planet today where you can still see them living together as a complete ecosystem I went to a place in eastern russia on the kamchatka peninsula by their artie's geothermal pools are on ly those extreme organisms can thrive but I'm in farther back because the history of this planet goes back four and a half billion years and I discovered these creatures a cross section through a fossilized remains of a straw mat alight and I found them in living form but looks like rocks on the beach are actually living structures like primitive coral reefs built layer by layer by very primitive bacteria which were actually the very first organisms that are able to utilize the energy from the sun it is by these bacteria that the fine art of photosynthesis was was developed capturing the energy from the sun and then they exhaled oxygen aim it out then we wouldn't be here because before the stromatolites existed before the cyanobacteria existed there was no oxygen in the atmosphere every breath we take here every inhalation includes oxygen molecules that came from these two mata lights that evolved more than three billion years ago I didn't know about that when I started this project I knew about penguins I knew about polar bears and that is one of the things that I'm so fascinated by in the world of natural history because it's an ongoing discovery stromatolites the beginning of life if you take a step even further back in time you end up with naked rock and volcanoes erupting much is how began so you have to go to places like kilauea constantly erupting volcano on the big island of hawaii which is where I made this image and that is for chris and I found ourselves one day standing on the rim of an active active cone of killer away and you have to wear these gas masks because the air is quite poisonous it gives you an idea of the way things were before we had a healthy atmosphere where you could breed oxygen so chris and I traveled around the world for several years in the midst of many other projects to piece together the history of life through photographs and then at the end of that miraculous journey we suffered from the same syndrome that scientist it we knew too much we had learned too much and I could recital the facts and figures discreet you revolved that many years ago and that plan has been around for so long but that's not a story those are facts and figures so we decided to turn the story of life back into a real story and I went back to my old roots remember I started writing haiku way back in the days when I was living in rotterdam and I was photographing in a city park so we decided to write an extended haiku a poem that celebrates the history of life on earth and I would like to share with you now some of the highlights of that miraculously sequence of events using photos made in our own time which validates that the history of life is still visible everywhere and illuminate our planet's four billion year plus history

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.

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