Realities of Shooting in the Wild


The Art of Seeing


Lesson Info

Realities of Shooting in the Wild

you know in the first segment I share with you some general principles my visual philosophy we talked about principles of composition principles ofthe light and most of all the importance of thinking through what your perspective on any given subject is in this segment I'm going to share with you but it's really like to be a photographer when you're on assignment for national geographic it may seem very glamorous but let me dispel the illusion amazon basin remote part of the amazon basin opera tributary of the amazon river itself and these are the accommodations for two months there's not a lot of luxury there so there's not a lot of good food there but that's what it took to do this project for national geographic about the cost on dh we built this raft in order to stay hidden from them because when they came to that river bank for david's scatter teat clay to offset the toxins in their diet the raft think we barely got off all right I was dropped off at the weather spot on earth by h...

elicopter in the hawaiian islands and I thought that the helicopter would come back in two hours and then it couldn't because suddenly a storm came in so I had to camp overnight in the very spot on earth it did get very wet indeed and I ended up rig ailing my companions with stories about the misery of ernest shackleton and his companions which made us feel a little bit more comfortable we make arrangements all the time for charter planes to come and pick us up but when you're in central africa on your way to the congo no matter what plans you make they don't work out we spent half a day sitting on the tarmac in bujumbura capital of burundi until we finally were able to bribe a pilot of another plane to take us away now pilots are often the most dangerous part of my job because when they show up you have no chance to ask him questions come are you really a pilot are you really an experienced person do you know howto handle this plane no there's no time to do that you just have to jump in and go and one day kris and I had chartered a plane to go into a remote part of eastern peru and then when the plane came to a landing I really thought that we were going to card feel over airstrips full of mutt pilot could barely control the plane and then when he finally pulled a plane to a stop he explained that this is too dangerous he couldn't come back to pick us up until the dry season which is about three months away so we later learned that these men had actually not been a pilot he was the mechanic of that company but all the other pilots had crashed so he was the only ones left standing notice two on the side of the aircraft alistair esperanza the wings of hope and you really need that attribute to get you through those kind of situations but travel is a necessary means to an end if you want to get into situations like this I've done quite a bit of work that primates with apes and the number of years ago national geographic asked me to photograph unusual community of chimpanzees in west africa we all know about the chimps that have been studied by jane goodall and our associates for decades and decades but those air chimps who live in east africa in tanzania the chimps in west africa are a little bit different here's an image of a female and her offspring hidden in the dense foliage of the forest we now know that chimps use tools they use cross stems to extract termite and they do that because they need the protein that comes from the termite but these chimps in west africa it turns out are going a step further than fishing for termites they figured out how to turn three branches into primitive spears or secures here's a young chimp who is practicing that skill he is trying to stab a bush baby in a tree hole because he wants to kill it and eat it these air chimps had used weapons that takes us just takes them a step closer to us or perhaps us a step closer to them this is what chimps eat there mostly vegetarian lots of leaves a little bit of fruit and just a little bit of protein that's those termites so make that kind of diet you can imagine how priced animal protein is eggs birds and the occasional bush baby now if you're a photographer for national geographic and your assignment is to track those chimps who walked ten fifteen miles a day this is all the food that you could take along with you so you gravitate towards a chimp died except that we wanted a lot more protein and some carbohydrates some eggs and beef jerky granola bars and then stuffed at last for a full day in your backpack carrots bell peppers and tomatoes and lots of water because it is very hot and very humid there there's a scientist of course there's always a scientist they are my best friends I have no background in biology my background is in economics I'm a failed social scientist just who decided to become a photographer so I always gravitate to working with people who know much more than I do about a particular subject or a particular place and this is one of the scientist her name is still preet and she's like a young jane goodall she's worked for years with these chimps before they finally trusted her enough to allow her close this is jane at the beginning of a period of field work and this is jane sorry this is jill two months later she's lost about twenty five pounds of body weight just from tracking those chimps on the day to day basis and that's what chris and I did as well carrying all the stuff on our back for a morning's outing uh chris carrying the video camera and I carried the still cameras and we've worked with local people because you can't do these things by yourself I may get all the credit for the photographs but there are always people who stand right next to me or people who stand behind me and in this case it's an illiterate farmer who didn't know howto read learn he didn't know how to read or write he didn't speak any english we spoke enough french in common with each other that we could communicate he'd never worked with a photographer before but he became my best friend and all the people in this village is became good friends of ours here's chris showing some fragments of video coverage that she'd made of the chimps behavior and needless to say people who are fascinated by what the curse was able to show them because we were the only ones who are crazy enough to follow the chimps day in day out let me give you a glimpse of what it's like you head out way before sunrise at four in the morning you hike for an hour you see the chimps in first day light and then you have to keep following them you're the kind of money yes they're stopped to sweat bees not knowing way lost the chimps and that happened every day so you have to go out again and again and again and then someday said actually works at interesting things happen in front of you jim's beating wait but see how hard it is thea animals are barely visible in the vegetation no but sooner or later they lie down for their long midday siesta and that is when I have a chance the kids start playing and we had back to camp by some sense e share pictures of a jill who explains the behavior lightning flashes and the next morning we head out again it for him and he did that for six weeks that may be one or two days off in the middle it's hard work you know I can recommend the chimp diet if you really wanna lose weight but this is the payoff when we started the chimps are very shy because they were not used to seeing any other people besides jill they accept the jill as an egg zillionaire e chimp the first day he showed up we could see that they were very nervous and suspicious of us but by the end of our stay that the chimps I could do this and that is the ultimate trust that an animal can express to go asleep in front of you especially when it's a female that a young born infant so we walked with the chimps every day gradually you begin to see the patterns of their behavior and where they go and then from time to time we can anticipate where they might want to go and that is what we figured out here there was a water hole this is a dry forest but at the beginning of the rainy season there's a rock crevice that fills up with water becomes like a bathtub and that's where I photographed this male from a distance using this technique we build some rock parents and hit our cameras inside that's how I made a previous image and it's from that vantage point that chris made this interesting video clip one male comes he goes in very carefully the war is not that deep and yet he holds onto that liana yeah they're not quite sure how deep that water might actually be they're always a little suspicious but that water feels so good it's so cool and then another one comes in looking at the camera of course they know the camera's there you can't fool a chimp male chimps are constantly jockeying for position in the hierarchy but when they're in that bathtub together all the animosity is gone and then the old man comes it is the oldest male in the group jill named him ross he's probably over forty five years old which is very old for a chimp it was a typical life span is maybe thirty years in the wild broads could barely see barely here lost most of his teeth yes expressed in a still photograph now I hope you can appreciate from looking at these two video clips how hard it is to capture behaviour and personality and still photographs I'm really envious of chris then she uses her video camera because she can continue to capture things even and the chimps are barely visible in the undergrowth but as a still photographer I need that perfect frame it's not just the chimps we went there to document there's always people and he not forest in southern senegal their arm or more people and the forest is disappearing these chimps are surviving in a secondary forest that has been cut and it has been cut again and yet they're still enough for them to survive but it is a very tenuous balance and just farther to the north the forest is completely gone so the future for these chimps is very tenuous and we do not know what kind of future might be for these little infants that are growing up now and that in my opinion is a tragedy because this is a unique culture this is the on ly community of chimps we know about that has invented using branches as spears so it is a subculture and who knows what other groups of chimps and bonobos and gorillas may be out there in these vast equatorial forest that can show us more things about ourselves in our own prehistory we could jump to the amazon basin but what do you think john are there any questions that are emanating in in your mind absolutely questions coming up from the audience we do have some question coming from a life more thiss came from stock picks how often do you enter the field with a very specific shot in mind and then how often do you stick with that initial idea when I go out on assignment to cover a subject like these chimps and senegal havel shopping list it's not just a particular image you know I'm really going there to document behavior thie unusual spearing behavior the interactions between males and females and then all the environmental issues that always surround no matter what community of animals I'm spending time it on a couple questions are very similar one is saying I'm a biologist two works with very sensitive species how do you limit your impact on the wildlife you shoot especially those that are marked more likely to be impacted on dh then the second question is similar saying how do you mind about disturbing or shocking animals by using flashlight in which human you're very careful about that those are important questions I I have to avoid impacting the animals I've or quit because otherwise I would just be photographing frightened animals are looking at their backsides and that's not enough for me I really need to get inside their situation before I can do meaningful photography remember what I referred to in the earlier segment and I said it's not enough ultimately to look at the surface of things I want to capture something that expresses the meaning of a situation I can only do that when animals feel comfortable enough with my presence that it's not my impact on them that I'm photographing that the animals the way they are even if they if I would be there so I try to gauge very carefully what better they're reacting to me and that those chimps in senegal that definitely this problematic in the first couple of weeks I couldn't do much it's really was a matter of getting them used to our presence gradually so most days we were just walking behind him and gradually yeah their tolerance for us increased to the point that we could spend more time photographing and filming them question here the if I could answer the second question is all because that's also important yeah how do I determine better using flashes invasive that's a really important question and in the case of those chimps I couldn't use flash it was too invasive I've learned over the years that certain animals tolerate flash quite easily big cats in africa not bothered by it elephants sometimes they really do not like to see the out but from the strobe other times they're very casual about it but chimps and bonobos are very nervous about it so I avoid it question is I think it's human nature that when we see nature displaying in front of us for us to hesitate and to get caught up in watching it do you struggle with that because part of what you're doing is capturing those moments that we don't necessarily get to see and or do you give yourself the time to become lost in just watching um and not photographing how do you know uh I do spend a lot of time watching before I begin to photograph and then there are times when I just get so absorbed by observing what's in front of me that I forget to take pictures so I missed quite a few good situations as a result I'm in a very specific question coming in from view in germany's saying franz what kind of lens do you use to for talk photograph free since since the gorilla's all the wildlife that is very close to you we talked about that in the first section with the gecko with salamander but when you're photographing gorillas or other animals how close do you get in which lens uh for the chimps that I just showed on I used the two hundred four hundred and four nick or lands quite often which enabled me to reframe the composition very quickly without having to move myself and that was important because any time I moved the chimps would look over their shoulders what is he doing is it still okay for him to be this close but I also love the five hundred millimeter lens fit me s o I had a heavy back I'm going to talk about more about what you travel within trump I just have one question that interests me is not s o related about photography but why do only the males take the bath on dh it's not just the males too take about the females commas ville but the males have the prerogative to enter first keep the females on the outside have cynthia's asking how if you met these scientists have you connect with the captain acted with them before you plan your journey for this chimp assignment it was a scientist who had a I had an affiliation with national geographic she'd received a research grant from the society and then she started reporting this unusual behavior the magazine decided to produce a story about her voreqe and the chimps that she'd come to know so well and then the magazine asked if I was interested in going to senegal testing what would go great chat rooms got quick questions we've got lots of content to so let's carry on so let's skip continents let's go to the amazon basin I mentioned a little earlier in the talk that chris and I went to peru to and a tributary of the rubber amazon and that's where I ended up doing some ridiculous things which I would not recommend you you imitate casually this is a scaffold that stood about seventy five feet tall that is made up of construction scaffolding which we'd acquired in lima and and trucked over the andes and then and the other side of the andes it has moved by cargo canoe for a couple of hundred miles and then we needed quite a few men from an indian village too moving into position so that I could sit on top of that platform to get id alive involvement costs and that's just the focus of this particular project it turns out that at the time when I undertook this that most of the pictures of macaws were made of birch in captivity and that doesn't really give you a good sense of how these perch behave and what their lives are like out there in the forest now I did that with some trepidation because I have a terrible fear fight so oh I've had climbed that tower you with great nervousness and then when I looked down I wasn't feeling very comfortable it was only when I put a camera in front of my face that I said this is really cool look at the view and look how rickety that scaffold is the most dangerous part of us that it really was a like a lightning rod and there were quite a few thunderstorms in uh in the course of our stay there it was a little bit cramped up there and I had to go in there every morning before some rice so that the birds wouldn't see me and once I was in there you couldn't really go down again until the tail end of the day because otherwise it would have given myself away too does because so those are long days and often not much happened so you sit there you do all kinds of things you get to know your camera really vault and because it's a negatory yl rainforest it's very human early in the morning after my lenses would fog up on ly insight and then I would see the most amazing things but I couldn't photograph anything because my lens first fogged up and I would have to take the lens down and get it dried out on the subsequent day before I could climb the tower again and then the towers fell it was just misery after misery indians came and raided our camp but after three months I got this image and that is what it's all about of course this is a really unusual image of mk are in free flight being looked at from above never been done before it was a new perspective and that's what the editors of the geographic liked and that's what they expect off the photographer stay send out on assignment it's not good enough to be able to do the same pictures that have already been done by other people national geographic likes to break new ground so that story was featured on the cover of the magazine and it helped change the course of the local conservation scene in that part of peru because it triggered a lot of interest from researchers and tourists to come there while at the time fate of that region hung in the balance because there is a lot more interesting gold mining initially these fragments that I just showed you working that those chimps and working that those mccall's those are really hard projects because the animals were fearful I had to work with very long lenses we had to give them a lot of time to get used to us this is the other extreme there is nothing more delightful than to be able to work with animals who are not afraid of you and then you have to think of places like the galapagos islands or other oceanic islands where animals have never developed fear of humans or you go to a place like antarctica um I'm on an island between new zealand and antarctica are pigments walk through the forest they looked like hobbits and I found a bend in the trail that they take every day from their colony in the middle of the forest back to the beach when I go into the water and I found the little hollow where I could position myself and be literally eye level and that was just absolutely wonderful I could use a wide angle lens there was no reason to hide myself and you can see the penguins actually whereas a curious in mia's I was interested in them and this is another situation in australia in a in a desert landscape where red kangaroos have been released to re populate that area they too had no fear for human beings and that is just wonderful to be able to walk with animals as if you're part of their community but that kind of work is typically preceded by lots of discussions with other folks who help us figure out where to go went to go there what else to bring and siro l'm here we're looking at a map of a remote part of southern and goal of our chris and I have an interest to do field work and over scoping out the possibilities video geographers based in in namibia

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.