The Power of Storytelling


Nature and Conservation Photography


Lesson Info

The Power of Storytelling

On this day and age, when these threats are all around us, we just have to think about how lucky we are to be alive today to be able to answer this call so it's wonderful we're going to be talking now about the tools of the trade, you know, how do we tell conservation stories? And of course, our main tool is storytelling on because we're human beings we're hardwired to sit around the campfire from the beginning of times we've done it, and we passed down stories from generation to generation today our campfire is the internet and it's amazing, so we can tell our stories there and they really travel far. Why? So storytelling is what we're going to be doing this morning, and for me, sony has been the perfect answer for storytelling through my engagement with sony, I'm able to photography still photography, video and, more recently, audio they really have the perfect tools for multimedia for storytelling I just want to thank sony for allowing me to ship with their gear. Um, what's a good s...

tory telling picture. You know the best pictures are the ones that arrests the eye that make you stop in your tracks that make you wonder what is going on, you know you don't know who she is, where she's from course she's beautiful on her red outfit what is the goose doing on her head? You know so conservation and storytelling go hand in hand has to be on unfinished statement something that allows the viewer toe tell their own story as it turned out for this lady she was in china on it was just a grab shot you know I was fooling around with a role reflect which is not my camera of choice this is about ten years ago and I just grabbed one frame and it turned out so beautiful large beautiful slide the goods was a beloved pet you know I thought he was going to the party but no somebody sent me a picture of the same lady six months later and said though there's yes with a goose a photograph this man in the border between mexico and the united states that was a photograph for another rave there's one on the border learned between us and mexico and I just found them fascinating, you know, with his mustache and his glasses and his hat and he had a little piece of paper here that I'm it's in a different frame that it said that it was he was deaf mute he's begging for money but I didn't want to tell that part of the story you know and that's one of the great things about photography we are the architects of the final image we'd decide what goes in what goes out serendipity is a great tool and storytelling I found this scene while we were doing a different rave we were doing a rave in the yucatan peninsula in mexico talking about natural ecosystems and you know the ravages of the tourism industry that's everywhere but I found myself in this little town and I had my assistant jenny nichols on that she's a beautiful blonde girl you know all america and she's a champion on the vault which that when they do those pure bets on horses and she's amazing and she's gorgeous you know, with a hair blond head it's amazing. So we end up in this village and all the drunken man I wanted to be near jenny no, you just have to, you know, use what you haven't so I used genius bait to get things that happen around me and you know, this is they're opening the gates and all those horses are going into a road you on it's just like a crazy scene it's amazing, but it's a good story telling picture this is more my kind of picture. You know, a little girl in the highlands of ecuador and she's just out of school you know, you can tell she wants to go in play but she has to mind the family sheep you have to let the viewer tell you how the story ends so when you're ah storytelling photographer and you get lucky enough to get published in a magazine or in a blogger or in whatever usually get no more than twelve shots, you know that's about the size lock is you can get so every one of your shots has to do a big part of the story that I also pee wee branded this idea of twelve shots, you know, we try to teach photographers what it means for conservation on what it really is is just this photo essay I was talking to a national geographic photographer paul nicklin yesterday because he shoots this type of photo essay he said to me, you need the iconic image, you need that attention grabber that that image that's going to make people stop in their tracks, you know, hooked them into your story, make them want to read more ah, then you need a sense of place it's your aerial picture it's something that gives you a sense of where you are the strong portrait and we're lucky those of us who know like to make portrait I call it the hero shot you know, this is how you build your character and we're going to explore that a little you need an overall view off the scene, some details and then you need some action so I recently was in the arctic circle in northern canada and we were photographing grisly bash this is for a different story, you know, for me that's turned out to be a little natural history essay on grizzly bears on these air incredible animals you know, but the picture that you get most often is rock, you know, grizzly bear killing somebody, you're going to the bookstore and it's man eaters off the west, you know, whatever they turn out to be pretty lovely, incredible animals, you know, when they're not being shot at when they are come when they have a place to live there actually fairly smart and communicative, you know, we sat by the edge of the stream for a whole month to get these pictures and they knew exactly where we were, you know, they never made an aggressive attempt, you know, if you give them their space and you give them the opportunity to make the approach, these animals are perfectly comfortable if humans so for me, the iconic image turned up to be, you know, beautiful picture sense of place, you know, the bear in the snow. This is where we where it's called a fishing branch it's, a very remote part of canada helicopter left is there picked us up a month later, just a magical place, but you need that picture that tells the viewer where you are, you need a portrait hero shot you know his name is morris on that we were not there alone we had a fixer we had a guide a local his name is phil company and he runs the's bear viewing trips he used to be a bear hunter and he's not very proud when he tells you that he's killed a lot of grisly person he's guided a lot of people and grisly their hunts until he became so sick by what he was doing that he became a conservationist. So now he takes people toe you know, to spend time with grizzly bears in a very different way for me pictures like this you know, little grizzly bear are the ones that I like best you know, early in the morning six you're freezing horse frost and just a little bear coming down the river very young female terrified you know, the big males harrell around she's hiding in the grass and every once in a while she'll book out if a big male comes around she'll run andan you need some details you know here's a bear he's caught a fish you want to see what he's doing you want to get up close seventy two, four hundred on then you need some action shots you know and you need to know how to use the equipment and you need to have the right gear too right I know how to know how you're gonna handle action and there's many ways for me you know this young bear experimenting with catching salmon was just endlessly entertaining ah but in reality for storytelling nothing comes close toe the moment you know on dh that's a new exercise in hurry harry wait you know come on come on sit on that's all we do is photographer so for this picture you know in madagascar I showed it from the bridge beautiful scene you know you have the diagonal the laundry's drying and all of a sudden the cows walk into the frame you know I love these pictures what's going on you know your has to tell the end of the story this I photographed while on assignment for starbucks in mexico the coffee plantation but just this little boy you know he was standing there one second next second she should let himself go and he landed on the self grass I find that a charming picture this one is one of my favorite iconic images this wasn't a highlands festival in papa new guinea all these people dress up and they come and they performed for each other not for tourists it's a competition to see who is the most traditional in their custom under dance and you get something like twenty thousand performers on about three hundred tourists it really, truly is one of those life changing experiences so I walked around it's one of those you know where you get so much into your own focus that you forget where you are that you're hungry that you haven't been to the bathroom you know, by the time I realized it was dinnertime I mean time to go it's like the whole day went by I was just, like electrified but this is one of my favorite shot no gun, no picture. You know, you really have to wait for the moment when things happen and people ask me all the time did you tell them did you give him the gun? No. You know, they were already chewing the gum. You have to stay one step ahead and kind of predict what's going to happen next. One of the tools that I used a lot and this is something I've learned from other photographers is sketchy. You know, you can sketch with your point and shoot camera, you know, take a few frames kind of imagine what things are going to look like, but for me drawing a scene before I shoot it sometimes you know, a soon as I think of an assignment and cano was asked him, you know, how do you start? Sometimes I start by drawing, you know, what is that image that's going to make people care so you make a drawing for me this case was something I drew for my kayapo project you know I knew that I needed to have the river the forest I need toe have a person to tie the whole thing together the picture that I came up with you know what's a whole series of images I've shown you some already off people in the river but when you have a sketch you have the ability to recognize you your shot when you see it and you are able toe almost in an unconscious way work towards that shot it's something really important you know, I've seen photographers who have their amazing iconic a picture in and they show you how they sketched it beforehand it really is a very interesting tool to explore the next picture is some an interesting one come on there it's my son my twenty one year old I recruited him as a model for a sony shoud we just did this incredible project in with sony it's called chain reaction and they basically recruited for sony artisans and they challenged us to do a storytelling project so the first photographer would take a picture send it to the next photographer who had to react and come up with a picture as a reaction to the first picture and then send it on to the third one fourth et cetera so I recorded my son and I actually sketched the shot this was another one that was selected ah, it was that the other one so I go I'm going to show you that video sony's premiering it and I think this is one of the first places where we're going to see it so very exciting I mean bringing that make top believe experience to life the way it works is the first photographer received a brief and he created an image the image that I made with my reaction to his photograph and then I'll pass that on to the next photographer and he'll come up with this picture it's story telling three different points of view. When I first got this assignment from sony, I thought I was super cool because I really wanted to capture the geography of winter in maine is a photographer I'm not only ok with chance and chaos I actively embrace it a nine has a full from sensor which largely to shoot super shallow depth of field and also an incredibly low light. I think the picture that came out in the end has mystery and intrigue in it and can get handed off to the next photographer in a way that allows them to run and a lot of different directions he chose this thing that's sole control so well designed and so I want to break that I wanna make it really playful and almost chaotic I wanted to capture some of the on the water environment in this area on so I got creative and I got a fish tank. We have to rely on from the technical of the lease of this camera so that it can shoot a six frames per second. Even though the waves were moving, we were able to get some movement, and yet the very sharp picture all at the same time hurt imedi was all about the beauty of nature, so I would take all the elements from her shot, then twisted into this fashion our beauty shot. I've always loved creating thirteen way, all momentous image together visually when you were behind the linens and you have the small in front of you. The instant you shoot that picture, you feel it. What I love about the sun ae eighty nine is that it gives me confidence in knowing that I had the shot lovely shot. I like the fact that he kind of brings nature into the studio. I want to take a different direction. I'm going to look for a location that we can work with, what I was like, a little. Element of whimsy or humor and shots? I mean, what is more fun when you're the beach than having a couple mermaids? I love that in a very small compact body, rx one offers a full frame sensor on a great size looks like chilled out there loving it's, a lighthearted image that hopefully will make people's thiss sony made dot believe project has really in love the power of my imagination. Hopefully other people will use this as a starting point to continue their own stories. Ah, a lot of fun to shoot a lot of pressure because you only have twenty four hours a day through, you know, get the image, react, produce something final location. Get it done. You know, in a way that's compelling and truth to your own style. So that was incredibly fun. I'm grateful to david mclean he's a gentleman. He sent me something I could work with on then I think that both matthew jordan smith and brian smith did a wonderful job sold. Anyway, uh, how do you turn familiar settings into storytelling settings? This is where I lived for twenty two years. Washington d c I think there's very few more iconic images than, you know, capital the capitol buildings and monuments. We have the washington monument there and the jefferson memorial with a cherry blossoms but to tell them to take that and to turn it into a story telling him you know I actually recorded my friend emiliano boyfriend carlo I drive them downtown with me and it was a very gray very washington d c winter day so I thought, you know why why bother with color let's just go black and white on I asked them if they could kiss in for the memorial and they broke into this little dance and so it was very, very sweet I think it's a lovely little image I took the second one they turned on the lights of the monuments and I thought, you know, if we could use those lights kind of illuminate inside of the dome and then just take the dancing couple it's a little more of a story telling picture so that brings me to this little storytelling tool I called twenty sixty twenty have you heard about that? Um this is, you know, when you are centered on assignment, your obligation is a photographer. Your duty is to bring back a picture that your editor can work with so twenty percent of your time should be used on creating that image. You know, it's a safe place correctly exposed everything isn't focused, you know, you give them something that they can work with sixty percent of your time, then becomes your creative you take it a little bit out of the box you know you do the compositional dance move around, find a different perspective you know you shoot it from above you should it from below you out of flash you get people to do something and then twenty percent of the time you go crazy, you know, you really take it out out of the box you know somebody somewhere that's completely unpredictable it's those times when you're shaking the camera where you you know, adding some motion some crazy sometimes sometimes it works sometimes it don't it doesn't. So recently I was in paris andi I want to photograph the eiffel tower which has been photographed so many times so my first shot is fairly predictable. I found a couple I asked him to case they obliged and we have a perfectly exposed picture. Then I thought, you know, maybe I think jenny you know, to do a little dance for me and so she pranced around and I thought, hey, now we're getting somewhere fun I mean, this is a little more exciting and then I remember a picture that air one air with made and it was a man jumping with an umbrella in paris and so we went in but an umbrella and we photographed this from the other side of the fountain and it turned out to be a fun lovely shot I think jenny loves it so I find that it is one of those images that could become iconic and really fun and different whimsical, but when you're talking about the last twenty percent, you really need to take it out of out of the box of this little video of me working with a different kind of subject I'm just you know, I'm not even looking through the viewfinder just trying to survive but you know everyone's you know, while it works and you come up with an amazing shot, so this was published by the smithsonian institution and natural history museum in washington they printed it really big and even though he was just that big if he catches you, you will know that size does not matter. It is fun breaking the rules, you know, it's fun just shooting a little bit crazy a little bit out of the predictable take the camera in a different direction allowed to see where it takes you more predictable is your hero shot? You know, we've talked about portrait they really are important they allow you to build your character is one of those things that's going to tell you who is involved in the story should the people around you you know, this is my boyfriend paul nicolle he's, a photographer for national geographic he photographs like this a lot with us under water, this is a dry suit for cold weather. He specializes in polar regions. So I made these portrait for him, but it could be, you know, anybody here's, a young couple warrior in the shingle region and, you know, it's usually somebody that's standing there telling you who they are. You know, you want us to be a powerful portrait. Could be an animal. Um, I forget who was telling me that you photograph just photographed an alligator a crooked out as you it could be a portrait. Um, the hero shot or it could even be, you know, anybody a little girl with her dog it's an interesting character. It's, the opening picture with tells you who's, the character in the story now, to really make a portrait compelling to make it really work. You really have to get eye to eye how many times and I know probably mirror talked about this yesterday. You know, people have this tendency to photograph children and small animals from eight feet of high interview photographed down, you really need to been down and do a little work and get I y moving around. It makes a more intimate setting. If you allow yourself to get close it's an amazing thing when you have a camera to your eye that it becomes thesis bassem, invisible boundary between you and your subject and people stop carrying that you are so close and that you are doing the silly dance around them, it allows you to really get close. These children I photographed in madagascar it's actually pretty funny story we were doing an over flight in a helicopter on the pilot lost his bearings so we've been flying around for an hour. He had to land to use his cell phone to ask what we were by then, you know, I really have to go the bathroom, so I ran behind some bushes and I'm doing my little thing. I hear all these voices, you know, and it's the entire village that heard the helicopter, they're coming, and they're all coming down you towards me, so it's, just one of those, you know, lift your pants and run kind of things, but they really wanted to know who we were and what we were doing no helicopter had haven't landed in their village, they probably hadn't even seen that many, many tourists until then, there was pretty funny and, you know, they had this little tweaks that they were giving us his gift, but if you don't get there in with them, you know, they're allowing you to take a picture might as well get in there same goes with animals you know if you take a picture off a bird or a monkey or a bad and you shoot it from below you're just going to get a but that's something you can never published so you really have to find a way to climbed to their level so here I just climbed to another branch in a nearby tree and showed him this actually has two flashes if you can believe it I had a one remote and one off camera I photographed that in australia just outside of my hotel in cans you can believe it but giving your subjects a context I I was sent by conservation international to sri lanka to photograph these frogs they're endemic this is the only place where they live in this tiny little pockets of force that are left in sri lanka everything else is covered in tea plantations told gone on so how do you photograph this frog and you know give the sense that really it's habit that that's gone so if you're getting close you might as well get closer. You know I made this photograph of these beautiful lady and she was very comfortable with me taking her picture one of the things I like it's you know you can see her hand and we haven't talked much about the art off body painting among the amazonian people they use fruit about the size of a baseball it's called the jenny pop on it goes high upon a tree so the kids bring it down they open it up and then they mix it with charcoal and it becomes a semi permanent think it takes about a week and washes soften and they paint themselves again but the women do the painting so they all have these black hands so I like that you know, whenever you you go to one of these villages they want to paint you they think it's more beautiful if you have the shaved hit no eyebrows on the paint so yeah, we've gone around doing the painting, the shaving have to draw the line somewhere, but I've come back through the airport in miami you know where all of a sudden you have a face full of painting immigration officers looking at you weird but if she's allowing me to take her picture you know I should really try to go make an intimate portrait something that tells me a little bit about who this woman is on one of the things that people do when you photograph them and this is something we all struggle with is they all first gets stiff, especially here in the amazon the only time these people get their picture taken is when the government does their senses so they send somebody to photograph him and they all know that they have to stand like this before their senses picture so that's what they do first and then they smile oftentimes you know, people in these remote villages have no teeth or really poor teeth so you really have to wait until they relax and sometimes what I do a trick that I've learned that I pretend that there's something wrong with my camera and I start fooling around you know, with the buns the person forgets that I'm there you know I pick it up again and they're relaxed and you know, you could make beautiful portrait ce um getting people to relax to that point where they're allowing you to take a picture is the hardest part you know, taking a picture of these children was really easy had to stop for you know wait for them to stop roughhousing they would just not stop playing with each other but in the end what makes a picture is the light and that's why we need to buy time in the field you know you can go around snapping back pictures all day the beautiful pictures jared I'm sure you know this is the landscape photographer happened when the light is beautiful so you have to follow the light or make your own light I photographed this well this this assignment from national geographic it's a cave in the yucatan peninsula the yucatan in mexico has no rivers above ground they all run on the ground on every once in a while, you know the ground breaks and you get a glimpse into these rivers this waterways their goals or not this and their magical this is where the mayas used to throw their sacrificial you know, people so we did a story on I was the fixer for that story it involved, you know, diving in some of these places photographing these human remains ancient mayan schools so while the photographer was underwater taking those pictures, I was kind of floating around in the dark and this is an interesting case because there's one hundred twenty seven human body saying they're just about thirty feet below the water surface pitch black and tourists coming all day from cancun and you know they come in bosses, they're hot, they lower them into the hole to cool themselves they never tell them that they're in the mayan gravesite so there you're splashing around and I'm you know, floating in the dark corner just listening to it all and then they leave they climb up the rope again on the last person to klima's usually their little mayan guide so I started snapping these pictures you know? And if you wait long enough, you get this amazing shots off light and cameras today they have these sensors that allow you to shoot him, pitch black and you know, you can be pleasantly surprised when it's nature that provides the light shoot it how this is on the aurora borealis I'd never seen it before this is in the arctic circle on but I don't know three in the morning and it's just this crazy psychedelic show of light it's unbelievable you need to try but you need a long exposure on dh sensors in the scammers allow you to show the stars you know I didn't see the stars on delight push my little button and post production afterwards it was like wow there's starts in there but it's amazing because the grizzly bears are there is just so peaceful and quiet um if the light is bad then you can still shoot you know silhouettes in an amazing way of saving a day again the center of the camera allows me to pull back some of the detail and poor lt's production these are kind of bohemian warriors there therefore fishing I made the mistake of going with them you know they leave in the morning they say hey, you want to go fishing? We didn't come back until dark you know they don't come back until they have all the fish they want I didn't have water I didn't have a launch I'm like no some block but you know the silhouettes can work really well to tell a little story, you know, just a very simple way of simplifying your frame ah here's, another pair of kayapo fishermen again mid afternoon sunlight. The only way to save the shortest to expose for the bright parts and let the people become silhouette action. You know it's an amazing part of a story telling little photo essay to shoot this cow voice in the pantanal in brazil I had so much fun, you know, they just kept going back and forth on this river chasing the cows and this one of my favorites but you don't need people moving or motion. This is again pole and he was just coming back from his mountain bike, right? And he was covered in mud, so I made an action portrait. You know where he's not even moving, but yet we get the sense that there's been some action. Um, I photographed his little girl in brazil in the brilliance she's, the daughter of a fisherman, and we were just coming back from a day of fishing and she just started running around me. Ah, there's a little bit of a pop of flash to kind of freeze her motion, but I just thought she was delightful and beautiful. And again, you know, you have to kind of get low because if you shoot her from above it's no, they place and this is a funny story because it's one of those that its own finished so you don't even know what's happening why is this little girl jumping like that? She was a drawing with that stick a nice knock up on her and so when she saw me she just jumped you know it's like a I think she looks like a little which you know, whether little stick I think it's a funny picture but the the devil's in the details and that's that's where the story's really happened so you need to add some details and sometimes you need a longer lens to do that for marvin the not all you need to do is to get closer questions before we go further do we have any immediate ones and the audience know do we have any immediate ones? Well there there was a question that came up earlier. You mentioned it during your first segment and then it came up again. You mentioned this term rave can you just remind us what that stands for? Yes. A rave is a rapid assessment visual expedition and it's an idea that we came up with at the isle cp thinking about how to use the talent of all these photographers that are enthusiastic about telling stories. So we decided that if there was a threat to an area we could deploy a team of these photographers we talk about time in the field and having two weeks to really do a photographic essay is very difficult, but if you have ten photographers shooting different things, you really can come up with a beautiful collection of images so we would identify a story that needed attention from photography where there was some political movement or some, you know, grassroots movement that could benefit from the images and then I would send ten photographers and assigned them you're going to do underwater, you're going do people at the end of two weeks we would have an incredible collection of images that were donated to the conservation community on hopefully that would help turn things around and in more than one occasion it actually did ah, we stopped open pit mining in the flathead river valley in which columbia we helped create a marine protected area in balan dra in mexico it really works well. So rafe property assessment visual expedition that thank you for the question I'm on telemundo onda followed question from guest three seven forty three kind of along those lines how long do you usually stay in a community for a project? How long will you stay there? What's the longest amount of time you've spent with these people in their lives the least amount of time you should stay it's a least a couple of days, you know, spending a night and having the opportunity to, you know, live through the nine time with people it's really important the longest I've status probably a month and it becomes really hard after a while you know toe to stay that long but the more you stay the longer you stay the better the picture so it really is worth while I know that it's hard for photographers to make that kind of time but at least a week yeah yeah get the intimate pictures the access the you know to be able to sit there with the mothers and their children and to be invited to meals and to participate in hunting or whatever you have to stay yeah I follow up question to that is how often so you sketch and you kind of you you identify all these things that you know you need to hit to create a powerful story how often does the story change once you are there and how how much is that interaction with the people actually to find the story and then further how do you allow for that sort of room for that or or what are ways we can approach a very interesting question? Can it because you can do all the research in the world and you can imagine how things are going to go and when you arrive you find that it's a completely different set of circumstances to what you thought whenever possible having that structure of the storyboard and sketch allows you stay on track if you're on budget on a time line on the deadline it's important you have to have the flexibility to say you know what? This is a better line this is a better way to do the story and you really need to ask yourself because if you have funders that have given you money to follow a story eh is the story we're going to be as powerful but if syria is not working you need to really be able to say we're going in a different direction yeah following story do you communicate that sort of like when you're in the field or you just come back and I know this is what it is and this is what it is yeah this is what I got and sometimes you know people are happy and sometimes they they're not but you have to have the flexibility to say I only have three days left on this is not working we have toward this way great sometimes you find a better story yeah thankyou. So all the details I think those are really important like I said before when you approach a scene sometimes the first thing that captures your attention is the most important thing and you can go around and photograph it a number of ways I have found that very often you know, the picture I think is the first one that I make that really capture my attention I photographed this lady up in the highlands of papua new guinea and she was wearing the's bird on her head it's called a superb bird of paradise and I just seen the live birth the day before and I thought it was amazing you know but it just makes for a nice interesting portrait I was asked to tell the story of these beads because it's very funny you know the kayapo people love to beat the women they don't have tv or radio so they entertain themselves by beating these amazing bracelets where did these come from it's interesting because they have somehow landed this idea that be glass beats is the way to go so if you give him plastic seats they don't want those the beads they like our last piece from czechoslovakia you know they're not just any bits and so whenever we go you know we bring these expensive beat on they come in different color backs about a kilo each and you would think you know it's easy to separate you know divide them by color give him to the people but now they like to throw them all in a single pile and then they divide in a little cup and everybody takes their beats home and then they spend hours hours sorting by color you know and this is all they have to do and go zipping and laughing and the children are playing I've tried to photograph this, you know, in any number of ways, and this is what I mean by access can I you know, you you have the opportunity to go into somebody's home with their brand new baby and she's completely oblivious to the fact that I'm taking pictures, but she has her little pile of beats and she's making a bracelet on what we do with the bracelets is interesting there's his lady in karrada, her name is diane pinto, and she came up with a project so she buy the expensive beads, she takes him to the village, she gives them to the women, they make the bracelets, and then she buys the bracelets, takes them to canada, she sells him for ten times more buys more b it's taken back, you know what the woman do with the money? It's? Interesting because they don't need a lot of stuff, you know, every once in a while somebody needs medicine or they want to buy a new machete or a cooking pot. What they want the money for us, for the field dress that they were. I don't know if you noticed in the pictures they all wear the same kind of dress, and this is her legacy from the days of the missionaries, they came up with the stress and there's a woman that makes him an a town outside of the villages and she sells them for fifteen highs each dress and that's what they want the money for for fashion um but you know you get closer and closer until you finally arrive but you know the black hand covering paint with the beats the only thing that I learned in storytelling is that the story is told by what I call the little people you know the people in the background it's not the main character is what the people behind their doing that's really fun I shot this for the center for marine conservation in honduras and it had to do the story they wanted was the conch shell you know they catch these amazing kong's and they pry them you know if you go anywhere in the caribbean the elite fried conch well these animals are becoming really endangered you know they're so easy to catch so you know I don't know how to find the conch you know so I just started shooting these splits I wanted to show a little bit of the island the ocean the grass and then I found the conch and today we're into something but what happens when the little person walks into the frame you know these fishermen this guy looking for conchs then it makes the picture so little people are really important now whatever somebody is doing in the background pay attention to that focus and I mean concentrate you know this constant distraction people photographers to see it all the time reviewing their image is constantly in the l c these huge distraction you know once you start shooting focus on what you're doing focus on the light focus on the little people you know what what's happening around you where are the opportunities every once in a while look behind you maybe the light is better in that direction I photographed this lady middle of the day madagascar it was a story about marine protected areas there was nothing to shoot middle of the day you know but she was hanging in her laundry and I thought that was beautiful pretty cool I went low you know shorter big and then I realized you know that maybe framing with a blowing laundry and some of the glad glare was a beautiful way of breaking that big expanse of sky became a better picture but you have to focus you have to really pay attention to what you're doing the hands of people tell good stories I mean whenever possible include hands in the picture this is a community in northern british columbia they kill seals and sea lions for their food they're allowed to kill a number every year this is a knife that's being handed down from generation to generation and ivory handle knife the hands off the women that paint the faces of the children and these children are amazing they just said through these sessions off painting that last on our and you never see them squirming or nagging whining you know they just sit there and enjoy the process of socializing. The painting tells you a lot about a person are they single who's finally they belong to where they a boy or the girl so whenever possible you know somebody's holding something include their hands you know, the hands of old people are amazing they tell great stories about their lives if nothing else is working you can still tell stories. You know, these new cameras have the amazing ability to do these panoramas just got you could you could you could you could you I photographed poll in antarctica you know he was photographing this colony of penguins and it was frankly not that exciting, you know, middle of the day a little harsh sun but I thought you know it's a good picture of a photographer working in the in the colony this is a fun story way were forgiving chichi anita on the park close you know, they start showing people out at five thirty and we hung behind, you know and we got in trouble. You know, the security guards came and said, you know what if you want to be here you have to pay for a ticket you know how to think and you have to give us your pictures they wanted to take our cf cards, you know, on so I said, what would it take for us to stay afterwards? You know how much? And so we ended up giving him a twenty dollars bill. You know, he allowed us to go on top off the pyramid, you know, which is off limits to the public. And so there we are. You know, photographing down to the this is the temple of the warriors after hours, and I thought, you know, a panorama be interesting to show just how beautiful the setting is off these mayan pyramid, so I shut this with my any x six if you don't have a camera that those a panorama you can still you know, tell historian segments I love shooting trip ticks, the's air the great falls in great falls national park in virginia divides virginia and maryland. I don't know if you've been there, jeanne it's a wonderful place, but it's a pretty vast waterfall, so to photograph the whole thing, you really can just shoot in segments, and I like to do that a lot or you can create a clash. I photographed this with my daughter while on vacation, I had the rx one hundred little sony camera that has an amazing sensor with me on the, you know, we're leading the fireworks come up on I thought, you know what one picture of the fireworks doesn't do it you know you have to show the whole sequence and they really do an amazing thing with the colors of all these fireworks so I made these little collage and it's actually fun so I did I did this in post production for a shop I just created it by hand. So any questions so far all of these things you know, these are old tools of storytelling like get a few ideas but you're pulling it all together a lot of things we take for granted I know and I mean, these are just tools that you keep in your back pocket, you know, because more often than not things are slow and they're not happening and like I said photography's a game off run ron, wait, you know, we have together we have them there's nothing happening, you know are just have to wait, so how you entertain yourself while you're waiting or how do you make a your time productive it's really important? Do we have anything from the web? Yeah, in fact kind of along the lines of what you were just talking about with the pictures of the fireworks but a lot of your pictures look very natural some local, more stylized and produced in post and pro photographer asked how much editing do you do on your image is when you're shooting conservation photography on what editing limitations do you oppose impose on yourself that's a wonderful question because in for a journalism and especially for conservation photography credibility is one of the most important currencies we have so we have to be truthful to our images so when it comes to my own work to everything I do very little most of the post production I do I only do in light one and it has to do with you know, clarity and saturation and you know, turning things into black and white I think the minute you start adding or eliminating objects from your frame then you better start calling it something else and usually it's an illustration of some kind and you know there's nothing wrong with that as long as you disclose it I find that it's particularly important to disclose when an animal that you photographed is being held in captivity you know it's not a wild situation there's nothing wrong with shooting captive animals but pretending that they were wild haas moral implications and so truthful in photo journalism especially in conservation is paramount really isn't born I mean it doesn't matter what you do to your pictures as long as you disclose it just a quick fall upon that when you were showing us some of the images from washington d c earlier it looked like there may have been some post work done maybe in the sky and changing into black and white and that's and stylistically you that's completely ok those pictures I made thinking about fine art so yes, absolutely what I did is something I love nick software, so I usually use it to turn my images into black and white like I said, I was trained in the traditional darkroom, so I love the whole process of touching and burning. I wouldn't call it for a journalist, you know from and fine art you're allowed to take a lot of artistic interpretation to your images. You just have to be careful what you call it. Yeah, I think so far it's amazing. Thank you. Yeah, which I love that concept. Like you said of putting all together, it might seem obvious, but it's not when you put it all together. What, um, what do you see as the most powerful thing about getting one iconic image? What is the thing that of all these things takes priority when I think about iconic images, I usually think about, you know, publishing my pictures in a double spread if it doesn't hold for double spread than it's, not iconic. I think the most iconic images that we that we can think about are the ones that can be recalled with one where work, if I say, check guevara if I say nay, pound vietcong, or if I say afghan girl, you know, you all know which pictures I'm talking about. So those are the kinds of pictures we want to create on dh there's, a ton of those pictures for social issues, for war issues, there's, very few for environmental issues. It's ah, something that we have an opportunity to fill, you know, to try to find those iconic images that are really sticky and that people remember they're really important, kind of because otherwise people are so bombarded with information and with so many images that the unless he has something that stops traffic it's, hard to gain their attention and everybody so blah about the environment, you know, you really have to make it powerful. Yeah, and look, look, we had a question in the audience as well, yes, yeah, you're talking about the kind of the whole hurry up and wait ah, concept man, this scope of telling a story, how much time do you allocate to the research you do in the beginning on dh, then also the post production, you know, you've gone through your shots and you want to get them out it's a very good question, because it's actually time that you should be paid for. The time that you dedicate for research in the time that you dedicate to edit and post produce aa lot of photographers take it for granted, you know? But it takes a lot of time, as you know, in a lot of work, you know, I never thought about how much time to allocate, but I'm going to say that probably the bulk of our time eighty percent is sitting at a desk googling researching and in post production, the exciting time in the field is precious. So but if you do your research correctly, if you know where you're going, if you have a contact and access and if you have an idea for a story, usually are so much more effective than if you just arrive willy nilly hoping that things will happen. Sure, yeah, like you, research is valuable. Well, I'm excited to see what you have. Ok, so this is yet another amazing tool and it's time lapse and now there's cameras that actually do time lapse. I don't know if drew can tell us I think there's a new any except all said this one. I put together time likely in post production, but I shot it from a cherry picker I was in florida and we were doing an assignment for national geographic poll was a photographer you we were photographing the issues with fresh water, like I was saying earlier, you know what happens to these animals when the water starts being pulled out of the springs and this is the only place where they can go and in the winter to stay warm? I mean, when the temperature drops the foot below sixty eight degrees in the water, they just go into these state of top, really die, so they really need to stay in the springs, and when they're there, they usually are sleeping. So you see the moderates and the caps and, you know, they're just where the water is warmer, but these air public waterways and even though this is a marine mammal and it's protected by federal laws, people have the right to go and swim and to bring their kayaks and really, you know, it's one of those things, it's an amazing experience to go swim with these manatees there, so gentle and so beautiful, and you can really just go all the way close to them, and they're absolutely harmless there's some things, even curious, you know, they'll come to you and they'll push you around, but for the most part, you're not supposed to touch them, and if they're asleep, you really are. Doubles to let them sleep here in the three sisters spring in crystal river, they have a further problem and that is the huge human development. So all the canals are lined with houses on all the people that own houses they own both as well. And they want to go fast on their boats. They don't want anybody, you know, no loss to tell them how fast they can go, but the manatees, you know, they're really not very fast animals. They don't react very quickly when they hear an engine. So all of them have the's propeller should. So how do you find that balance between the rights of people, public waterways and these incredible animals that are so endangered? Like I said, you know, we lost six hundred last year to hypothermia, so what happens is when the freshwater is pulled out, toe water, all the school of courses and all these condominiums, invasion of seoul, water into the springs and the water gets cold. So these animals really, really depend on these springs and these air, one of the last few springs in florida. I don't know if you've heard about all these cave ings where they have these sinkholes is because the fresh water is being pulled out and there's nothing holding the ground up anymore. So we were there to photograph this, and we want a boardwalk on, you know, you see the manatees, you see the people but it's very difficult to gain a perspective. So we said, you know, how about if we rent a cherry picker, you know, just one of those winches, those machines and what I would call him a boom lift and so long, behold, you know, I phoned the company and they said, sure, you know, for whatever eight hundred dollars, you can have it all week, and so they delivered it, you know, you don't need a license to operate, collect kind of friendly, they brought it in, you know? We drove it down the road, we position that, you know, we were working with the fish and wildlife service what? We went ninety feet up in the end, this is what we got till this is probably hundred four hundred pictures, and you can see the people coming in swimming, you know, they don't mean any harm, but they're disturbing the animal. And then in come the kayaks and you know, these animals are trying to rest, and you can see the small area that's been cordoned off that really should be a lot bigger, uh but then somebody you know makes a noise and all these animals get scared and they get scattered you know and that's so difficult to see when you're in the boardwalk so when we show this to the fish and wildlife service they were in all you know, just how much disturbance there is on how bad this is for the animals and so when you're able to hand something like this to authorities that gives them the power to say we need better loss to protect these creatures and you really feel good so time lapse is an amazing thing I mean, this is amazing because people come out you know of an encounter with a manatee feeling really inspired so you don't want to forbid them from having that encounter but you have to find that balance between people having an amazing experience these animals being allowed to spend time where they need to be so that's it from my presentation I love to take some questions fantastic so over the years I've taken my work in to have a couple portfolio reviews and it was really helpful because they automatically identified like holes in my storytelling ability for beginning photographers how often would you recommend going and getting your work check out? Do you recommend emailing editors too got to coffee to see about what they would and would not like to see what's the process of kind of stepping up from dina hobbyist to trying to get your work into a professional room yeah, this is an excellent question, there's a number off events that happen every year, you know, I don't have the names at the top of my head, but these are events that actually happened for this particular purpose, where there's come together and people are allowed to pay to sit down with editor a or b or c to show their work. I know that the palm springs photo festival has this editorial reviews, I think it's one of the most valuable things you can do, because number one it forces you to, you know, detach yourself from your pictures, and this is one of the most important skills you can develop a photographer, thick skin rejection, it's a a tool of the trade, but sitting out with somebody that brings that fresh perspective. It's so important than editor, baby, and we'll tell you something very different from editor a, and you will need to listen to opinions. I find that oftentimes when I sat down with photographers, they get confrontational, and they, you know, argue with me, and they don't want to hear, but the ones who listen are the ones who grow, you know, and it's very difficult to well I this is the way I do things I find that my tell if you know when I said with an editor and they tell me something about my work I am like what do you know? I like my portrait just as they are when you allow yourself to listen you learn and you grow it's a very important thing I think that's an amateur you do it more often the more you get into your professional space and you find your own style and your own storytelling tools the less you have to do it because money have to do it I love I love that you said listening because that was one of the things that miracle talked about yesterday about how to break through creative barriers and how to move forward and grow as a photographer was present as a person was listening and so that's very important she also talk about something else you know those here that the peanut gallery I call it you know yeah voices telling you everything you're doing wrong don't listen to them listen to them or listen to them and say thank you very much living on I had a question further on what kaylan asked as you mentioned kalen the holes that better seen what are things what are tips for one of the biggest mistakes that you see when people are trying tio do this type of work or be a storyteller you know you you see it very clearly when you judge a photo festival on any time they have a story essay category, you know people send seven eight shots of the same, you know, same bear running same perspective saying the best thing is to go back to those different types of shots and make sure that you have a least one week and it cannot just be any shot every one of your shots needs to be that iconic shock you know are working towards that I mean, what people remember kenna is your worst shot. You know, if you publish a book, the worst picture is the one that people will remember so edit your work and edit it tight and if it's not there it's not there better not show it to anyone. Yeah, christine, I'm loving not just seeing these fantastic photos but also hearing your stories so they go along with it and we're getting a lot of questions in our chat rooms about where your inspiration comes from to find the stories and where does it all start? Guest one three one four to ask when did you start considering yourself? Ah, conservation photographer great question I am I think inspiration comes from a place they deep inside yourself that cares about something for me, you know, I grew up in mexico city, I have five siblings father's an account on my mother's a psychologist you know, I never went camping so I don't know where the love of nature comes, but I do know that once I realized that these threats were there, there was no other option for me than to do something. And every day, you know, sometimes I ask myself, I think, you know, I could be a successful hairdresser or painter or whatever. I have no choice, harry. You know, I got to bed at night thinking I cannot sit by and do nothing, so I will go down fighting, you know, because I have children and they will ask me, what did you do about climate change? What were you doing about biodiversity extinction? So that's, where I find that I think everybody cares deeply about something, uh, even see your church, it could be the homeless shelter, do something about it, you know, you know what it gives you more than a career? It gives you these feeling off, having done something really good, makes you feel part of a global community and it's a wonderful thing, you know, you don't have to do it as a full time career as a profession. Ah, it's just wonderful, kind of along the same lines, is there a photo in your collection that you think of his being the most impactful that you've been able to either share in a certain way that's made it impactful, or that stands out in your mind. That's a great question, you know, I don't think have taken the picture yet. I mean, that iconic picture that's really change something. Maybe the guy a poor girls in the waterfall is what comes closer because it's been so used, you know, but, um, yeah, I think the next picture is going to be the one our yeah, no, I mean, making those pictures is it takes a lot of thought, you know, it's not just snapping images, you have to think about what you want to say on the boys that matters is your voice, because it's your story. So? So I have a question about the need to do with with the convergence of dslr that have video. Are you seeing editors, especially in the editorial space, wanting to have a photographer that also does videography that also does writing? And is that something that a skill that we need if we're just photographers now to be become profession upon, or else we might not get the job? How scary is it can't? Because it's true, you know, I was talking to photographers that are sponsored by companies that are demanding that they video not my company not so but you know the truth of the matter is yes we have an amazing tool these cameras are incredible computers they allow you to do all of these things I think you know when you're still photographer that's what you do that's the way I think but I'm enjoying learning a little bit of video you know I'm thinking about how I can interject a piece of video into my work that might have some impact now I'm interested in audio you know I'm listening to things and I think you know all of us are great part of the story hard white produce quality audio on like I said earlier writing is such an important skill you know the internet you search by words you know search by images so if you want you stories to have impact at the very least you're captions have to be little self contained stories so no longer can you say girl with yellow whether you know you need to say what the girl was doing on because captions are so short you really need to be a good writer and the best way to learn how to write this by reading the work of all their senior people who inspire you I read all the time and I don't think all these notes I call it my lexicon you know these phrases I mean I just read rachel carson silent spring again found so much inspiration you know, she started the whole moment you're clearly inspired by so many different people and some of the stories in some unease from places what's next where where is your photographer taking you? Look, what do you think is in the next couple of years? Where you going from here? You know, I I went to marine biology school because I wanted to help people find, you know, sustenance in the ocean in mexico really that's what the government was saying, you know, mexicans will eat from the sea well, guess what we've collapsed all our fisheries on you know, we're much poor country because of it. So for me, it's a marine biologist that's a storyteller as conservation photographer, the next step is the ocean, you know? And I want to start a new initiative that deals with conservation in the ocean. The part of the story that I want to tell is all these people there's a billion people that depend on marine protein every day, you know, we take it as a luxury we don't even know where fish comes from for them it's a must on. So yeah, I I want an initiative that educates people about the fact that not all c life a seafood, you know, you go on safari or you go to yellowstone and you don't expect with the bison you know why do you go to the beach and expect to be the grouper? You know, we should really start reframing the way we think about the sea and there's this thin blue line you know when people look above and its beautiful beaches but when you poke your hand underneath we are in a sea of trouble and the ocean is our most important vital ecosystem and I think we don't understand that well, I don't think we've really documented and well on the relationship between humans and the ocean a critical one you know, if we were invaded by aliens today and they landed on our planet the report they would send back it so we've arrived at an ocean planet so we need to just understand that we're ocean creatures that's that's my next thing kind of along the same lines but going the other direction in time talk about where you're going I'd like to hear a little bit more about where you come from and are there photographers out there that you consider to be really inspiring and the works with you mentioned a couple earlier gregory colbert and jane james naturally are there other photographers whose work you really trash? So maybe the idea of conservation photography came to me you know, watching my neighbor take pictures of her flowers and her and on her deck the lead early lady and she called herself a nature photographer and I thought well yes she's a nature photographer but you know so it's nick nichols and he had just walked I think a thousand miles across cameroon on the paths off these wild elephants to show these places that no human had ever been before and they he took those pictures to the president of gabon president bongo with a scientist with mike fay and together they created thirty new national parks now mike phase back there creating marine protected areas you know he kept the story going so yeah, those people inspire me but I thought you know there's no comparison between nick nichols and my neighbor there has to be a way to make that purpose driven photographer different and so I googled conservation photographer and nothing came up you know was how to conserve images in you seems and I thought ah ha furik you know here we have a discipline so I tried to define it I wrote a paper if you google it it's called art on ethics conservation photography something like that and I talked about photographers like peter dombrovskis thiss mania photographer he was a quiet man but he used his pictures to oppose the government of australia when they try to damn the cordon franklin river and he wants you know without ever raising his voice he just showed what was take what was about to be lost on people rallied around them and lo and behold the franklin gordon river now is the largest wilderness area in all of australia and it's one of the most beautiful ones and it brings them enormous revenue from tourism and I thought if peter dombrovskis khun do it, others can do it so yes, photographers like jim baylor you know he has this amazing new film called chasing ice I mean he's brought in to clear focused melting ice from glaciers my own boyfriend pull nicklin you know he's shot so many conservation stories on climate change, the slaughter of narwhals I mean, everything we're doing now has thiss conservation threat to it and it makes me get up out of, you know, howto bed every day and go out and shoot and one of the all the things that I don't want to do the editing in the post production and you have to do it but hundreds of photographers out there who inspire me they're heroes, you know, and there's an army off them out there and we need more so yeah it's it's kind of been this whole session, but a couple of maybe you could wrap it up for us and a pretty bow for jennifer james and farzana who are asking who are very inspired and asking ok, this twelve shot photo essay different caught a different causes how do you create your first portfolio? So what where do people start I mean there's a number of places where you can start if you already have a body of work go back and look at it again with there's a different point of view off having these images that tell different parts the story if you don't have a portfolio yet then great you know you go out and shoot it and you know don't expect to have instantaneous results you know this is a process that takes a lot of time I mean anybody who wants to be a photographer knows that frustration of wanting to have that power for you today also don't wait until you have every last image you know I don't have all the images I want you start showing what you have and you tell people where you're going with historian you know it's your story it's your journey this is where it's going to take you and if you passionate enough about it you know there's no going anywhere you know just going to keep going at it I'm going to save the oceans where you just watch me I've never thinking on underwater pictures but it's gonna happen nice yes just started you know put your first foot front front and then the rest will just follow just taking a first stop taking that first step and I don't be afraid you know nobody's gonna laugh at you for having a lofty dream goal that's going to make you feel better make a better planet I'm gonna love seeing your work email me christine I got to tell you I'm a very list oriented person myself and the lists that you have shared with us with the audience with with the internet it's inspiring and it makes everything so approachable and so attainable it really makes me feel like I can take that first step and save the world through photographs s oh thank you step by step to success making a difference in your community it's it's clearly what's important to you so thank you for sharing that we've got some great quotes from the internet h mel mes says christina is very inspiring and empowering thanks for having her creative life and thanks to sony for sponsoring her also denise winters we have facebook hello facebook she says loving christina mittermeier she is a beautiful photographer and a beautiful spirit want to join a listen to her talk and her photos are fabulous thank you can agree that's that's all I need to hear that I'm having a positive effect and you know that's what happens when you start down this path you you find that very soon you have a positive effect on everybody around you and that's the most important tool we have our personal influence to tell everybody what we care about so just go out there and do it you know this is the time it's now

Class Description

With a focus on nature and conservation photography, Cristina will provide an overview on photography fundamentals and how to operate in various environments. Plus, she will walk you through the creative process, from conceptualizing to pre-visualization to shooting, this course will set you on the path to Shooting What You Love. This workshop is part of CreativeLive's Shoot What You Love: a 3-day inspirational event sponsored by SONY with fashion photographer Matthew Jordan Smith, family photographer Ma Ra Koh, and conservation photographer Cristina Mittermeier.


a Creativelive Student

WOW, I am feeling so inspired after watching Cristina's course in conservation photography. I have been wanting to do this for years, and have been doing it in my own little way. But now I feel I have so many ideas and examples to help me go down this path. Thank you Cristina and Creative Live.


Wow... Cristina has opened my eyes to story telling. Thank you. Love her approach to story telling.. Enjoyed this class.