Photography by Ian Shive
`- Alright so let's dive into some images here. You've supplied a collection of images.
Speaking of birds.
So yeah, so what do you got? What's going on here, where are we?
This is Midway Atoll. This is the first island I went to. Probably, little of caught, almost 14 months ago was the first trip, and obviously a lot of pre-production planning for these things. And this is a still image. This is, one of the things that's interesting is, and I say it's a still image, obviously it's not moving, but I mean it's a still photograph from a still camera.
As opposed to
Being pulled from a red. That's right. There's a lot of that. I've actually had a lot of success with pulling from motion clips, but there's just a different mentality into your approach, your style, your ability to capture the exact and defining moment, I think is also a little scattered. You'd think, "Oh, I can just scroll through and pick the right frame." You know, I don't think it's that simple. I think the way we...
approach things as still photographers is very unique, so this to me was such an intimate moment between an albatross and the chick, and they're such loving, loving creatures. And, as you said so poignantly, about the ability to tell a story in a single image. That's what I'm going for here. And be able to tell that story of love and passion and you can see the other birds with their, you know, in their nests there in the background. And so that's what I was going after and I had also a great morning. It was beautiful light.
Great clouds, good texture. So, creatively and technically, it was an exciting moment to be able to capture. So, you know, I'm laying down on the ground. At some point after weeks on islands where you're surrounded by birds, you stop worrying what you're laying in and so you just make sure you get the shot.
You got your dirty clothes. So yeah, obviously, from a photographer's standpoint, proximity to your subject is huge here. So, I thought before what you just said, I thought you were using a remote camera.
No, no, so these birds, by the way, that is a very large bird. They have a six foot wingspan, which is quite a bit taller than I am.
And that's the black bound albatross?
This is the laysan albatross.
Yeah, it's the laysan albatross. It's actually the smallest of albatross, even though it is quite large. They're very tall. They probably stand at least a couple feet off the ground. And they are very friendly. They're not used to people for the most part, and you just get out there. As long as you're not, obviously, in their nest or their eggs, but for the most part, if you're sitting still and you're chilling out for awhile, they won't care that you're there and a lot of times they'll come up and they'll pull the zippers down off your bags, and they'll peck at your hat, and you know, if you walk by, they might clap at you like the old video games with the albatrosses there. But for the most part, nope, you don't need remote triggers there. They're right there and you're able to have these intimate moments simply by being part of their world.
So you said this is the Pacific Atoll?
That's right. This is Midway Atoll.
In the middle of the Pacific. It's literally midway between the continental U.S. and Asia. And it is the only emergency stop off point for commercial airliners crossing the Pacific Ocean. So, if something goes wrong, that's where they land. And every few years, a plane does land out there, but it is very small, which probably only about 30 people out there. None of them are permanent residents, although some have been out there for many, many years. And so you're more or less on your own.
Now, is this part of U.S. territory? Is this a protected area?
Good question. It is. It's a national wildlife refuge. It's part of the larger marine national monument, so the island and its immediate surrounding waters are Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. It's also the Battle of Midway, from 75 years ago, Battle of Midway National Memorial. And that is part of many islands and atolls of this 1,200 mile by 200 mile marine national monument that begins in the northwest archipelago of the Hawaiian Islands, and that's called Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
Oh, very nice. Very nice.
It'll take a little while to learn that. So, it is, and it's all protected as national wildlife refuge and as, of course, part of our heritage.
Wow, sounds like a very remote region.
All right. What's this?
Speaking of protected areas, this was, honestly, this was quite a moving experience. In my mind, one of the scientists I was out there with, so this was one of the world's most remote islands, truly. Very few people have ever had the opportunity to step foot out here. It took me five days to get there and that included two different flights from L.A. to Honolulu, from Honolulu to American Samoa, and then a 10 hour, 185 mile steam on a boat over high seas where everyone had to lay flat the entire time to get out to an island that's only 16 acres. And, you know, to me this is the Yellowstone of the Pacific. To see these big pools, and they almost look like a thermal pool.
Yeah, looks like a geyser.
Looks like Mammoth Hot Springs or something like that. It's not. It's 80 degree warm ocean water. The pink is a crystalline coral algae. They call it the CCA that you can walk on. So, you're able to walk out there on low tide. It's ankle deep, or in most places, you want to be careful, of course, of your footing. Those pools are a couple feet deep and they're just surrounding the island. I mean, it's a photographer and film maker's paradise. And the island in the background is Rose Atoll. So this is also a national wildlife refuge and it is part of it's own marine national monument of the same name, Rose Atoll.
Wow, I'm thinking about walking around on this stuff, cause it's a few inches of water, right?
Yeah, at least.
And I was thinking of what a horrible area to be trying to film and shoot with expensive camera gear, cause you could never put anything down.
Nope. That's a great observation. I'm really impressed. Yes, you are 100% correct. There is a reason by the end of these trips that your arms are twice the size of when you started.
Because I'm so used to, I fill up a backpack full of lenses and I just put it down on dirt or grass and then pick out what I want, and here you've got to be able to figure out how to get to everything you're carrying.
You sacrifice a tripod to the salt water gods. That's exactly what happens. Cause you have a tripod and you put the camera on and that's your only break. You know, you're not able to set a backpack down. You're not able to put your, you're totally right. You can't put anything down. And I'm not close to that island. I'm mean, I'm walking out a quarter mile from the island at low tide and I'm spending hours out there.
You find ways to strap heavy red cameras. My camera weighs about 25 pounds. You find ways to just dangle things off your shoulders as much as possible, but generally I go very pared down in situations like this where it's a camera, a lens, maybe a couple filters. It's also very hot, very warm, very exposed, so you're covered in sunscreen, which is a nightmare for your lenses and your gear. And a tripod, and then you make it work. So, I actually did a stills trip and then I did a motion trip. I didn't do them at the same time.
And that's a good example of where you've gotta make decisions and sacrifices for one or the other.
Yeah, and I'm just gonna switch to the next image.
So is this shot by you? Were you shooting underwater?
I was. I love to shoot underwater. As a still photographer, I don't dare tempt the motion side cause there's so many moving parts to it, literally. This is in Cuba. This is actually in a channel outside the Gardens of the Queen. It's their national park in the southeast side of Cuba. It's from a trip I was down there with awhile back with the Environmental Defense Fund. It was great. And you know what? Ironically, there's a barracuda in the background and I did not see it when I was taking this picture.
Oh! You should never admit that! Never, ever admit that!
I knew it was there the whole time.
I didn't know it was that close.
I didn't know it was that close. Yeah, exactly. He was checking me out.
I love those little bonus elements in there like that.
Very nice. People wouldn't think Cuba when they see something like this, cause it's such a...
No, it's such a beautiful image though. This is in Palmyra Atoll. This is one of the best places to see coral in the Pacific that hasn't been completely obliterated. This is an area that's considered a baseline to judge other corals. So, photographically, you know, very very rewarding. It's so rich and vibrant, and I'm using strobes, so I really like to use light for still images, and I don't like in our cinematographer is in the same boat, so to speak. No pun intended. In the sense that he doesn't like to use light for motion. So, and the reason really is a lot of the times color correction for motion's very different from photos. And when you restore the color and the warmth that you lose when shooting underwater, it's more natural on motion, we find, than having these flood lights pumped in, because things are moving and you're moving up and over things. As a still photograph I like the light, because it's the best way to bring in the color. It's a great way to show the separation of the ocean and elements in the background. And also you rarely get to see the true beauty of coral, even when you're there in person, without that light because the blue water is illuminating or filtering out all of the red light. So there's two strobes on each side, meant to just flood it, real clean. And the water of it is just so beautiful.
And to me, the shot just sings because of it.
Yeah. Yeah, no, I love that texture and the color in the water.
Beautiful there. All right, now I'm trying to think. I think I've seen this location before.
Yeah, been there?
I think that's upstate New York, right?
Yeah. (both laugh) So, Tunnel View at Yosemite National Park. And what do you have to say to people who say, "Oh, I've seen Tunnel View before."
And because there is, I find it challenging. You know, I look at photo collections and I look at the comments, and it's like, "Hey, I've already seen this. I've already seen this location before."
What do you say to people who wanna shoot in a great location that's been shot before?
Well look, I mean, we can say everything's been done before, right? I mean, it's all about being there at a fortunate time. I'd never seen the light do this in this exact kind of way. It was pretty. Is it the most exceptional image I've ever seen of El Cap in Yosemite? No, not necessarily.
It might be in the top 10% guys. (laughs)
But it's a beautiful image. It was rewarding for me, and I think that's an important thing for most people, that they should understand is you go to a national park, you may or may not have an opportunity to do something different, but unless you put yourself in the position to have that opportunity, then of course you're not gonna do it. If you rule it out before you even try, then will you ever really be able to have that extraordinary shot? Of course not. So you have to try, you have to make an attempt, and every now and then, you get lucky.
Yeah, no, I'd say beautiful. Beautiful and I was just down there a couple of months ago myself. Had a good evening, not quite this nice, but you put your time in and, you know, you play the roulette. Maybe you win.
Maybe you don't.
It's the light luck.
You know, don't give into the haters who say, "You know, that position has been shot. You can't shoot there." In this particular location, a quick story. I didn't want to shoot here because everybody shot here, so I says, "There's a trail that goes up much higher. I'm going to go through all this work and I'm going to hike up five miles, and I'm gonna hike up this trail to the top." And I went up there and I went, "Oh, when you go up here, the mountains don't line up quite right and it's not nearly as interesting." And what happens is El Cap doesn't look as tall as it does from this location. And so this is a popular location. Number one, because it's right next to the road. There's a big parking lot.
But it is actually a really good spot to shoot.
It's beautiful. Why not? That's exactly right.
So forget it. Put your time in, get your shot, enjoy the experience, and, yeah, go look for those other unusual shots.
Well, it depends on what your goal is too. I mean, are you shooting for yourself? Are you shooting to share with friends? Or are you shooting to sell? You know, even if you're shooting to sell, which would be the most limiting factor of why you might choose a location, this is a place that's written about all the time. And so there's always a need, there's always opportunities for people to run new images and new perspectives of things that otherwise might be deemed as classic.
Yeah. All right, really quick: What time of year was this?
That's a good question. This was October or November. I think it was late October.
Because the light really changes. The light comes in.
Yeah, and you can see the trees, I think, are changing a little bit in the foreground, so yeah, it was fall.
The color down there at the bottom of the falls.
Very nice. Very good, very good.
So whereabouts are we now?
Well, this is in central California, the Tahachapi Corridor, and unlike the image before, which everyone knows exactly where it is, this is an often overlooked beautiful stretch of central California. It runs east, it's up sort of towards Bakersfield. It's a great wildlife corridor. It's a 50 mile stretch of area that I was on assignment for the Nature Conservancy at the time, and they had these incredible rock formations. And you know, these are the kind of opportunities as a photographer you wait for, you hope for. Which is something new. Something that hasn't been done before many, many times. And the challenge is you have to work twice as hard to find them, maybe three times as hard to find these.
Yeah, I was gonna say probably more.
Exactly, but as you well know, but at the same time, timing is everything, so it was gorgeous and rolling green, which in California is like seven days long. And all jokes aside, it is a very short window of time that you have green rolling hills in this part of the world. The part of the world they're usually otherwise very golden. But the green is lush and then just finding different rock formations. I was able to spend hours out there working the scene.
Yeah, this was, this image has been used quite a bit.
Nice. Well, one of the concepts that I think is kind of interesting to explore is when you take an image that you like, or is a great image, when did you know that you were going to take that photo? Like, did you know about these rocks two days before it?
No, I didn't know about those rocks 10 minutes before.
Okay, so this is something you found and it's kind of, you're just working on the moment.
That's right. Yeah, working the scene, driving around on dirt roads through these rolling hills, trying to figure out where could I get a good elevated view, and I get up there, and then there's these lichen covered rocks. And I'm like, "Oh, perfect." (laughing) But you don't know. And I mean, that's the risk, is the light is just changing and things are rapidly, and there's a lot of wild flowers, so I kind of had a backup plan in my mind at the time. But ultimately, it's about just making, it's recognizing that moment and making that investment, and saying, "I'm gonna slow it down. Bring out my tripod, and this is the composition I'm gonna go with." And I shot it horizontal. I loved the vertical, cause it just kept the energy moving with the rocks.
Yeah, it gives you more elements to work with in there.
And so, as a photographer, you really, you have to be kind of optimistic in that there could be an image five minutes away that I don't know about now, and I gotta be ready for it.
And it's, it can be really hard.
And I'm sure that you've been out there in situations just like, "There is nothing to shoot. I have nothing to... no reason to pull my camera out of the bag."
A lot of the time.
And you have to be ready for that.
Yeah, usually the weather. Usually the weather or maybe the wildlife, right?
Yeah, classic shot. And classic location, up at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, and you know, this area is just epically beautiful. And it was actually really fun, cause there's just so many of the mountain goats roaming around in there. And then the great subject matter, but again, you have to put yourself in the right place at the right time, and being able to do that means being there, right? That's so much of photography is all about being there and having those opportunities, as we've said, so this was that. Good clouds, good light, and a great model.
Yeah. And I can guarantee, at least I'm very positive, that when you hiked up there you did not know that there would be a mountain goat waiting for you.
I did not.
And so, a little bit of luck in there.
I called the park service, but they're like, "We can't guarantee it." So, you know, it's tough.
Take advantage of those opportunities as they arise.
All right, another beautiful image here, and I'm guessing this is not California.
It is not California. No, this is in Pollau. This was actually the trip that really opened my eyes in new ways to coral and the oceans. And this was also the first time I had attempted to really take on story telling in motion. And so I was on assignment again also for the Nature Conservancy, and I managed to convince a couple people to split the cost with me, just take the doors off the helicopter and fly over these islands. And these are the rock islands of Pollau. They are absolutely iconic.
Unbelievable, I haven't seen anything like it. I mean, it looks like broccoli growing all over these.
I like that. It's really true. Yes, these little fuzzy green rocks floating out there in the middle of nowhere. And it's such a beautiful ecosystem. You can see the color shifts in the water, and you don't necessarily see a lot of boats out there. It's a huge diving destination, but it's still not over done and it's still relatively, you know, small population, small dive community that goes out there. So being able to have this boat moving through is just luck of the draw. It was a 45 minute helicopter flight. I certainly couldn't afford to just keep flying around.
This is pre-drone era as well, which is noteworthy cause any of these shots up until only a couple of years ago had to be done the old fashioned way. And at quite an expense.
A lot of money there. Definitely, and another nice little bonus element, that boat in there.
That's right, yeah. Helps tie it together.
Brings scale to it. And scale, talking about scale here.
That's right. Sometimes it's just, again, roll the dice, be there, good light. You know, put yourself out there. Shape, line, texture. You know I love when you can put a big foreground element in a frame and shoot a landscape photo with a long lens. It's so rare. People always think, "If I'm gonna do a big landscape, I gotta use a really wide-angle lens. I've gotta have that foreground element inches from my lens." And it's not true.
Yeah, you know.
The big landscape's can be done with a telephoto, and this was shot at I think about like 200 mill. I think it was 70-200 that I shot it, and I'm pretty sure that this was at 200. It might have even actually been at 400, now that I think about it. So, big landscape photos, sometimes big lenses.
Yeah, I know it's one of two states. It's either California or Colorado.
You're right in California, first guess. Yeah, it's Death Valley.
All right, very good. And did you position that person there, or did they just happen to be there?
I added it in post. No, I'm just kidding. I'm ruining my own image. (laughing) No, they just happened to be there.
I have a hiker's stamp that I can just stick on it.
That's right, I put it everywhere, yeah. I should. That'd be great. It'd save me all that effort. No, I actually anticipated somebody walking up in the shot, and so I saw them coming, I saw that they had broken from their group, and I had an opportunity to isolate them as a silhouette.
Great, great little element. Good opportunity there.
Thank you. Organ pipe cactus. You know, tough shot because you gotta wrap things up before it gets too dark. I had talked with park service there. I told them where I was. It's along the border, so aside from the technical components of this, which is 75 frames over 75 or so minutes, I think it was, stitched together with a single frame. The first frame was actually the foreground element, and that was the cactus, which was actually lit using moonlight, but it wasn't all that dark. It was like moonlight and like that ambient sort of, there was a full moon rising behind and there was this ambient still sun sort of in the sky from the set. And then waited for it to get darker, took the 75 exposures, but there's more to it, because when you're along the border with Arizona and Mexico and you're in these back country areas, safety is obviously a concern. And so it was heavy trafficking and immigration route. So you always had border patrol potentially coming through, or you know, headlights and lamps and there were a lot of drones and other things that were flying around for security reasons. And so very, very frustrating, but in the end, it was exceptionally rewarding, cause it ended up working out pretty well. It's very Van Gogh-ish.
Yeah, yeah, no, beautiful. I was wondering how you did the even lighting on that and that explains that.
Yeah, just a nice long exposure only for the cactus.
Yeah, perfect. And thank you very much for bringing those images in. Let's talk a quick moment about some of your other classes here at CreativeLive. Right now, I think you have three classes. Explain a little bit about, real quickly, what one class is versus the other one.
Yeah, they're very different, but they all revolve around the outdoors. So if you're passionate about the outdoors, this is where they start. My first class, which really was about photographing the national parks, both from a technical perspective as well as a lot of the great questions that you brought up today, which was how you do something different with iconic landscapes. How do you figure out compositional elements in a new way and shift your thinking on that? And so, the national parks are a great place, because they're so challenging, because it's all been done before. I always here that, right? But it hasn't, so that class really addresses that. The outdoor photography class is sort of a general one-hour. It's more of an introduction to the theme, where the national parks is a deeper dive. And the outdoor enthusiasts guide is the one I just finished teaching. I'm very excited, cause it is an absolute deep dive. And it not only includes photography, but all of those challenges that come with the shift to motion.
Nice. And so if you're interested in those classes, take a look at 'em up on the CreativeLive website. I think there are some little free previews there, but all very good classes.