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Photographing America's National Parks

Lesson 30 of 37

Skype Interview Scott Kirkwood

Ian Shive

Photographing America's National Parks

Ian Shive

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Lesson Info

30. Skype Interview Scott Kirkwood

Lesson Info

Skype Interview Scott Kirkwood

Well, again, super excited because this is the chance where we really get to not just look at my work, but now we get to look at users images and talk about what is working and what is not working in the shop, but I'm not going to do that by myself because, well, I just don't think I'm qualified enough to do that by myself, so I'm bringing in the big guns. The editor in chief of national parks magazine, scott kirkwood, will be here and joining us via thea, the online connection from his office in washington, d c on dh scott ni as I had mentioned earlier, I worked together for almost a decade hard to believe again, I just can't get over how much time has flown by, and we've done ah lot of assignments, including the image that you see that has been the iconic image of this course of big bend national park in texas that was shot on assignment for national parks magazine, and we've got one of them one of the hardest, most difficult, but also one of the most cherished assignments and memori...

es I have was photographing search and rescue on mount mckinley in denali national park back around almost six years ago was june in june, six years ago. Hard to believe how fast time flies on. And that was another project that scott and I had the opportunity to work on, so I'd like to without further ado, bring scott's here. Quite ready was already three. Mormon nevermind. Nevermind. All right, well, I'm gonna then prompt everybody again. This is an amazing opportunity to ask questions of an editor. So maybe we can talk a little bit about go back, tio, when you guys, how did you meet? And what was that? Because you think that's a good point. Yeah. So I actually met his colleague first amy marquis. Who, if you remember the ponytail in the cowboy hat from big band national park, texas, she was a writer there on dh still plays a very important roll in the national parks and film siri's that she's working on called the national park experience. And so she and I managed to stay in touch, but she's no longer there. But the time that was my entry when she was working as a photo editor on dh had introduced me to the magazine and it started very small. The relationship was very basic. It actually started. As I mentioned with stock, they were looking for images of places to fill and being the ambitious photographer that I am, one of the requests came in and I said what we're looking for this lodge in this location in yosemite national park and I called in sick to work and I drove to you seventy national park I shot those places came back and said I have stock of exactly those things that you need and sure enough I got my first image published a national parks magazine and from that moment on I built the relationship with them andi was able to travel in fact actually the three of us did a trip together the white sands national monument in southern new mexico where we actually got to have the very rare experience of camping out on the white dunes and there are campsites out there I don't remember exactly how many months it's about a dozen sites spread out throughout the dunes and a cz you may know that white sands a challenge with it is it's surrounded by the white sands missile test range and so very often the park is closed unfortunately due to testing grounds that are nearby on dso being there at night because the park does close at night and so when you're camping it's closed you are closed into the park um is a really rare and really awesome experience so to be able to have that with scott and with amy was was was really was really, really great and we continue to work together to this day, you know, with the most recent project I have had with them, I believe, was on the channel islands. And again, that was a personal project, that after a couple of years of photographing, I was able to share the images, and they really loved it. And channel islands is a very personal park to me, and so for tow have this relationship with them, and to bring a place that I love so much to their audience and to their membership was really incredible. So have a question on that in where was it that you saw that the national park magazine needed the shot that you went and shot and leading into that? Where where do people go? Given all of my secrets away? That's one I can't actually sanson on too. So that's a great question, a time and it's different for every magazine. I think we should ask scott about that ultimately, it's different for every magazine, how requests go out and where they come through at the time I had reached out to them, had shared a small portfolio of my work and said, you know, this is this is what I do, I focus solely on the national parks, because that was my thing, and and I had something called needs list and they had basically a group of photographers that were part of this broad list and whenever they were looking for something that would blast that out and if you've had it, you returned with it. Now, of course, it's very important, tio on ly return with the images they actually need but, you know, that's that's, basically, how it works. So every magazine has needs list there's also the benefit of we're going to stock agency as well. They get those lists on dh, helping get in the door. So it's also, although lots of other ways, these conventions and things like that to meet people. So who? I think we have scott up there and I was ready to join us. All right, scott, this is everybody. So, uh, scott, I wanted to ask you a couple questions and everybody's asking me about how we how we all started working together and sort of the process, and so I was hoping maybe you could tell me a little bit about, you know, when we start first started doing assignments together, you always really look for something specific. So when you send a photographer on an assignment, you know, what is the what is the direction that you think is very important for them to understand? You know what kind of images are you looking for? What? What? What makes an image publishable on the pages of national parks magazine versus you know me, I'm not making the cut, I guess. First of all, you want talking mostly about travel, very talking broadly, I think pretty broadly. I mean, what are the different departments? Actually, why don't you talk? Maybe a little bit about what the structure of a magazine is and what photographic opportunities there are? Okay, first off, so we have that we have different departments, so a historical section is heir to page are historical section. You sure you should focus on the species and a piece where we do but held findings where we focus on what the park service's kind of researching investigating me to those just have one photo on this really specific really pushed for a specific space in a specific site sometimes well, commission illustrations as well that those usually pretty straight for the news pieces are also pretty short one or two pages on the front on that you see that the's departments have applied most wagon again. We're looking for a specific photos person, something like that the work we usually do with your future article, so those years eight to ten pages long travel pieces where you're going your interests in the park on we're looking for providing photos one of the reasons we love working so much because you're really good at getting great last game shots we liked to get people shots are tourists experiencing landscape even I think you know when you went to yosemite to photos up waiters or waitresses and you know why? It's really great hotel you're really good at getting close up shots of flowers things like that really like to have a ride in terms of getting zooming in zooming out and not just kind of the postcards photos but what is the show? What it's like to really experience that place like like the restaurants things like that so just that works and I feel like it's really hard to find that does all those things you might get some of these great landscapes but getting a people shot you get some uncomfortable you have to kind of get them um I'm expressing their true selves versus opposing too much so I think those air really two different skills that's a really good point. So you mentioned that having I guess that sort of a general skilled ability photograph even probably food right in a restaurant like tijuana people landscapes, macro details it's fine, hard to find somebody that kind of covers all of those needs but that's important because it tells the whole story of a plane exactly why we don't just want kind of postcard shot after shot you want to actually feel what it's like to experience that place? Does the writer is going to be taking you through the experience of, you know, taking the plane there and landing and getting to the hotel and going on a hike and feeling exhausted working billy exhilarating a certain you so you want to have those photos that kind of match that case aren't that different perspective? One of the things you mentioned is a writer, and how often does a photographer go into the field and actually have the story? Is that usually a helpful reference for them? And how closely are they expected to follow the text of the writer? You usually keep it pretty this I mean, ideally it be nice to sandor writer and photographer together, I think some people think that's what happens, but that doesn't really happen very often, just based on timing and the seasons of trying to coordinate schedules. Lately, you've gone to a good rhythm where we can send a writer and then, you know, before the photographer goes, we can send them that draft, they can see a little bit about what the writer mentioned, which helps them get certain shots that we just had morgan, hi, I'm going to shoot a piece on canyon lands. And she went she was going to ask that same question like, how much do I need to match every single shot on? We usually tell you will you know if you can get sixty to seventy percent of overlaps of the readers if you're seeing now the writer's talk specifically about a certain candidate they visit you kind of want to see that you get a feel for it, but you don't just want everything to be an exact literal shot it's very likely that you know, when the writer was there it was raining and so they didn't get to see something perfectly or the same with the photographer you know how important lighting is you have to be there in sunrise or sunset some days there are no clouds or there are perfect clouds so there's no way we're gonna line them up perfectly. We just try to get some overlooked as much as you can. We definitely saw a little bit of the no clouds and way too many clouds in the last few days here in rainier national park. One thing you said earlier that really caught my ear was about you having room for only one photo and in a lot of the sections of the magazine and that photo was something very, very specific I think that a lot of photographers think well, I could be a national park photographer because I photographed el capitan or half dome really well but really the needs air so specific and probably very rare because people aren't thinking necessarily that specific when they're out photographing is that often the case yeah I mean, I think I heard a little bit of what you're talking about when we first started working with you on our needs list because there's so many stock sites out there right now you can get a lot of rage and eric bartos but when you want a really specific lawn we usually like to reach onto a civic tire prints that you go out and shoot that it's really hard to guess what people what editors gonna want right now that's going to be good enough that's going to be better than we're already exists learned star I mean it's definitely job of ah nature photographer is getting harder that's uh really really good in insight on teo I think the process so I mean, I think you'd be great tio go and actually look at the work of the people who have been kind enough to share it and and look for our opinions and with that I guess uh we'll start yeah, actually in and scott hi scott I'm cannot host here if I could take a couple questions that people have from online before we get sure that'd be great, that would be fantastic so we have one from amalia fastow's who says what if the photographer is also a great right? Or would you hire a combo? And is that something that you're actually looking for? More of we've done a bit indians actually written a couple pieces for us. He wrote that piece that don't lot denali rescue piece, you're not really well, I think it's really, really hard to be a great writer and a great photographer, just like it's. Time to be a great actor and a great singer. I mean, they're too specific things that requires so much time and energy to get free that so it happens and it saves us money, so we love to do it to send one person to people, but I think most people are better off trying to be really awesome at one thing, and then let someone else do the other thing it's just it's really hard to do, but thanks. God, yeah, I like the photo side better, though. I want another question that we have for you, scott as an editor. How much? Just cost come into using stock photos worth his assignment photos. I mean, in terms of cost, stock is always gonna be cheaper, we're always gonna have that as our first option, but after a while, you know if you keep running stock photo after stock, but it just feels like any generic magazine on if you wantto give reveal experience of travel princess or if we're doing a piece on you. It's on fracking, teddy roosevelt, national park it's kind of a news piece you're gonna want to sense went out there to get current photos. You're gonna want to get some fortunes of some people on the ground. So it's not always just a matter of money, it's a matter of you know what makes the most sense for the peaceable? How do you stay current? But it's about all those different factors a little bit about people who maybe have not submitted teo magazines before. Lynette, cs uh, does the magazine only image once used? Or does the photographer own the rights for most magazine? Simply an actual part. We purchased one time, right? So weakened that once in a magazine and we would auction actually pay a few bucks extra. We're going to use on the website, but for the most part, it's just one time rights, and then it hits you retain the rights of all time were just basically borrowing that footage for one issue I know ian has different relationships of nature conservancy, another wants it varies a little bit it does very, it also varies on whether it's a sign or whether it's a stock sales stock sale, you're going into it with the rights predefined and usually very, very narrow, with an assignment where there may be a neck sectional amount mohr of cost it's, then a client may expect ah, broader usage or broader license or rights to the images there's also something important with assignments and it's something I've obviously always had with with scott and national parks magazine and all of my clients and that's an embargo period. And so whenever I go out my photograph, this story might not run for three, six, nine months, I can't do anything, and I choose to not do anything but also contractually, I am often not able to do anything with those images I've captured until the story runs and then three months, approximately three months after the story runs and now that does vary from magazine magazine were in a stock photo, you may make the sale, you could make a sale to another magazine that same month they don't really necessary purchase an exclusive window, but we're going to talk a lot more about that during the business section a tte the next segment, thank you, great teaser for that. Geoff cutler asks for you scott what's the best resource for finding out who to pitch with photographs for a magazine is there a standard rule to pitch to photo editor managing editor where what should people do? Yeah I mean it depends I guess on the size the publication usually if you can find a flood writer that's perfect we only have four people on our staff would you haven't have a photo editor but if you send it to the rockers I don't think on a staff with syria for anyone's gonna be to accept definitely do your research go to the the website of the publication of trying to find out who it is almost all of them will make it pretty clear you think who it is and signed a pitching samples just make sure that you know publication I think the biggest the biggest frustration that I have on mind is that we'll get people who will send me a pitch you know, photographs from a bunch of state parks and I'll say in the name of the magazine is national parks magazine it's not state parks magazine but you'd be amazed how many people don't really pay attention and think ok, this is a specific market, these things this editor is gonna want and right then you're kind of it's kind of blown your chance right there so I think the big thing is read the publication check it out online and put together a really tight package of your best work I don't know about markets is from another photography looks thesame out there, but this icing that's all online and I haven't looked that much of a market and find that I'd give where you find the right markets once you find it everything's online now, you know, and there are companies that specialize in just managing databases, contacts, but you know, the industry is always changing so often and really the best way to go bad is visiting the website of the different publications. A lot of them will also publish their submission guidelines. So for both writers and photographers, you'll be able to download, you know, usually a pdf or read a web page that tells you about this is how we like to review work. This is what we're looking for, broadly speaking, s o that's always, I think the best place to start, scott said. And also the other thing I think scott mention which is which expand on is is the idea of don't submit state park work to a national park magazine know the difference of them, but that also plays into what we spoke about earlier in the course, which is know your subject really well. And if you really know what a national if you if you're making that kind of a mistake, chances are you don't know enough about your subject matter at that point to be considered working towards ah, professional careers, they're still too broad. I mean, no don't just know and photograph a few great shots from yosemite know every secret of yosemite know every trail of you, somebody, every lake, every lodge, if you're going in the direction of seeking, eh professional career on that's, the best way to go if you're looking for assignment, work or full stories if you don't want to put that sort of time or investment into a but you might just want to get images out there and published one here one there whenever the opportunity arises and it fits a need, then you might be better off only working in the stock agency world typically at go ahead. I'll say one thing else. I think a lot of when I was starting out as doing writing and photography, I would try to worry about, you know, I mentioned where does it go? But I think the big thing has become an awesome photographer and then were, you know, ninety percent of the work is becoming an awesome photographer and that ten per cent is finally find the market because if you're good people a lot of work with you I think there's too many people who are like and see plus for high phenomena go out there and try to get as much work can't you have to be a plus by the time I even started asking people yeah it's incredibly competitive and after this course I think I've only made more competition for myself so we'll see how it goes uh yeah those are good questions well let's take one more from jarod here in our studio audience and then get into the crew speak well, thank you and just like you had just said being an a plus photographers ninety percent of the work we all know that you know, being a great photographer doesn't necessarily make you a great teacher. What kind of skill sets are you looking for in photographers that you would actually want to put on assignment? What makes a great photographer in that sense? Oh god, I would say the big thing and he and I have talked about this it's like you need to be able to go remember that piece you did on kentucky? It turned out it was signed by someone outside in the sign but it turned out leaves had not turned green yet I think you were shooting like march or april run to kentucky and you got there and amy are editor and it was like, oh my god like everything is just it looks everything's dead here all the shoes like that and we're really were like, what is he going to do but a really good time american think on their feet you know you shot some really nice nighttime shots remember some people like playing banjos on a porch? A lot of in cheers of the guests was like a really hotel almost a bed and breakfast you got a lot of interiors that people spaces are more close ups on a banjo being able to think on your feet and find a lot of great shots where a lot of tigers have gone there and been like, well, here's twenty landscapes of a bunch of dead trees would have been in trouble, so I think thinking on your feet really photography to me is all about problem solving, you know, whether it's trying to pick you know, the right that's not value or remove a few feet to the left of the few feature the right it's all about problem solving and I think we want people who can really assault phones. I think working with people teo is good work. We're pretty much always gonna want a couple of fortress on if you're kind of a shy person who doesn't like working with people, you can kind of bring him out of their shell that's gonna be a problem to me and you have more than that I think it was actually pretty brilliant answer I have nothing to add to that I mean that's the truth I mean you have to just the goal the photographer everybody thinks about camera angles but you should be thinking about story angles thinking about how can I constantly change what I'm doing ever so you know think of it from every side you know think of it as ah problem solver really I mean essentially tryingto and that's that's the cases I can't tell you how many times scott since that kentucky assignment I have been sent somewhere at the absolute worst time to photograph it it's just the reality of being a photographer editorial deadlines don't match the ideal creative situation that you may want on dh that that is the challenge for me that's always been part of the fun of it too you know being sent somewhere that may not be considered photogenic but still telling a story that engages people that captures you know they could captivates them that engages them is a very is a very tricky thing I think it comes with time it comes with certainly a lot of effort and it's ah it's a trial and error process that to this day it's still evolving for may I still pick up magazines and look at other photographers approaches on and I'm regularly inspired by the way people continue to think out of the box and really apply their ingenuity so really it's a really good point, you know, there was one other question I wanted to address that somebody brought up scott, I don't know how much you can talk to this or not, but has the role, generally speaking, has the rule of ah, photographer or filmmaker has that role changed in relation to the national parks, specifically a ce faras getting permission to do so? And is editorial versus commercial changing? Is there any insight on that that you can shed or is it still stayed pretty much the same? The sense that if your editorial it that it is what it is, yeah, I mean, you would find a better night because we usually say, hey, go get the photos, and then we just assume you're gonna get them if they're like roadblocks in the way you'll take care of this, but it seems like from what you've told me, what I know you're shooting editorial, and you're just not there with the camera by yourself, maybe a flash it's fine, I mean there's, no issues as faras permitting my life for you and other photographers out there with a big crew. If you're gonna be defense areas ofthe have big flashes and bounces in the rigs, are people going to know what you guys doing here, then I think the permanent becomes an issue, but editorial in general, if you're shooting something editorial in a park or anywhere else, you pretty much have a right to be there and to shoot him. But I know I don't think it's changed a lot. Yeah, it's. Good. Yeah, I'm just curious if from the editorial side and being so close to the parks themselves, if you heard anything different but that's my understanding as well. It's. Great.

Class Description

Outdoor photography celebrates the varied and stunning landscapes of the natural world – in this unique course you will learn composition and shooting techniques for getting beautiful outdoor shots.

Shooting and teaching from two of the world’s most pristine parks, Olympic National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park, award-winning photographer Ian Shive will teach you new ways to create outdoor photographs that are powerful, captivating and fresh. You'll explore key elements of great outdoor photography including: composition, working a scene, selecting exposure, using filters to manage natural light, and scouting a great location. Then you'll learn how to put it all together to tell a story in a single image or series. After spending time in the field, Ian will move into the studio and present on the equally important tasks of managing and editing your work from the field.

Ian will show you how to capture images that are both technically and emotionally engaging. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to learn how to document the beauty of the great outdoors, in camera.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Field Guide to Photographing the American Wilderness

Icons of Nature Keynote

National Park Photography Intro and Setup

Photo Editing Keynote

10 Steps to Processing Perfect Star Trail Images

Business of Photography Keynote

Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I have taken quite a few courses with createlive and this was by far one of the best. Ian is a fantastic teacher and remarkable at describing what he is doing and his thought process clearly. There is so much good information in this course, I definitely plan on buying this class. Not only is Ian a great teacher, but he also seems to genuinely want to help other photographers and see them succeed. You can tell he cares more about seeing good pictures of nature than anything else. I cannot recommend this course enough. Whether you are a beginner who shoots landscape photography as a hobby or a professional who already specializes in landscape photography, this class has something to offer and will expand your skill set. Can't thank Ian enough and I hope he does another course soon.


Ian is a great teacher and it is great when some one who "can do", can also explain how he does it. Clearly, his experience and commitment are why he is good at what he does. There is a lot more to a great photo than getting the camera settings and filters right. Ian did his best to help us understand what to look for when "working the scene" and finding a good composition without distractions. A great course. Thank you, Creative Live and Ian Shive.


Amazing course. Ian Shive is a wonderful teacher, as well as photographer, and it all comes across. I was glued to my computer for the entire 3 days when the class was live, and just had to purchase it so I don't lose any of it. The bonus materials alone are worth the purchase price. I've got a trip coming up soon and will have the opportunity to put some of what Ian said into practice; and love that I can have it with me on my portable devices so I can refresh my memory and reinforce it all. Great to have on a long plane ride. If you are on the fence, get off that fence and go purchase this great course!!! You won't be sorry. My thanks to CreativeLive, and Ian Shive for giving us this wonderful opportunity to not only learn, but to actually be in the field with Ian.