The Art of Wildlife Photography with Tom Mangelsen by Todd Henson

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The Art of Wildlife Photography  with Tom Mangelsen . Image credit: CreativeLive

The Art of Wildlife Photography with Tom Mangelsen. Image credit: CreativeLive

Wildlife photography is an activity that brings me so much joy. I love getting out in nature, hiking the trails, observing animals, learning their behavior, working to capture some of what I see with a camera, and then sharing those images with others.

I think there is so much to learn by getting outside and practicing, learning through experience, by trial and error. But I think there is also value in learning from others. Books can be great sources of education. Or you could find a mentor who could teach you one on one. Or perhaps you can find and take a workshop with an expert in the field. Another great alternative I often use is watching online classes through CreativeLive.

I found this young Red Fox kit just outside its den. Shortly afterwards it curled up and fell asleep.

The Art of Wildlife Photography is a CreativeLive online class taught by Tom Mangelsen, a well known wildlife photographer. It was originally streamed live over 2 days, and includes almost 11 hours of video of both classroom discussions and video of Tom and several students in the field, photographing landscapes, elk, river otter, moose and more.

You really get to know about Tom in this class, where he came from, how he got into photography, and how passionate he is about the wildlife he photographs. And you get to learn some of the lessons he has learned over the years photographing wildlife all over the world. He talks about how to approach wildlife, how to read their behavior, and how the well being of the wildlife is always more important than the photograph.

An American Pika I photographed on the edge of a rock in Rocky Mountain National Park.

One of the elements of this class I most enjoyed were the videos of Tom in the field with students. I enjoyed seeing how Tom approached a scene, what he looked for, and how he adapted to the scene as things changed, whether that be lighting or wildlife moving around in the background. You could see how over the years he has learned how wildlife behaves and can often anticipate their movement allowing him to better position himself for an artistic wildlife image.

His experience photographing a very large family of river otter brought back fond memories of an experience I had in Maine with my father. We also ran into a family of river otter, granted, much smaller than the one Tom and his students found. But it was such a joy photographing them, and such a joy to watch his excitement as he photographed them with the class.

Four River Otter I photographed in Acadia National Park, along the Schoodic Peninsula in Maine.

Most of my wildlife photography could probably be labelled as wildlife portraiture. I tend to focus on single animals at as close a distance as possible, filling the frame with the animal and throwing the background into a pleasant out of focus blur. I really enjoy this style of photography, and it is something Tom has also done.

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher I found sitting on its nest.

But Tom’s greatest works seem to be larger environmental landscapes where wildlife is integrated into the scene. These are often panoramic images of beautiful landscape backgrounds with wildlife as a subject in a key location. I would very much like to use his examples as a starting off point for myself, and try to explore creating these wider images of wildlife in their environment. I think these can help tell a larger story and really draw the viewer into the photograph.

I saw this Coyote out in a field and photographed it looking over its shoulder.

If you are passionate about wildlife photography and want to learn from one of the best in the world then check out CreativeLive’s The Art of Wildlife Photography with Tom Mangelsen. It is one of my favorite classes that I’ve purchased over the years. I hope you enjoy it, as well!

The Art of Flower Photography by Todd Henson

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Focusing on the edge of the rose petals

I recently felt the pull to photograph flowers. This is not something I do all that often, and when I do it’s usually very small wildflowers along a forested trail. But I’ve always loved artistic photographs of larger flowers, so that is what I decided to photograph.

If you’re like me you benefit from finding inspiration in others work. Sometimes I just don’t know how to photograph a subject and I get so frustrated by this I put it aside and go back to photographing things I’m more comfortable with. Spending time studying someone else’s work, or watching a class, can sometimes help me find enough inspiration and motivation to get off my butt and start photographing.

A young rose bud

In this case I re-watched Kathleen Clemons’ CreativeLive class, The Art of Flower Photography. Kathleen has a very particular style to her flower photography, one I very much like. She often creates very soft dreamlike flowers, frequently using a Lensbaby to help achieve these qualities.

But it’s about more than lens choice. It’s about lighting. It’s about focus. It’s about finding a background suitable for the subject. It’s about composition. Where do I place the flower in the frame? How much do I show? What part of the flower do I show? Is the composition stronger centered, more to one side or the other, or perhaps angled in some way? These are all questions she talks about in her class, using her own photographs as examples.

For the photographs in this post I used my 105mm macro lens (not one of her favorites, but what I have). I didn’t have any flowers near my house so I drove over to my folks house where they have several rose bushes out front. I waited until the sun had moved behind their house, eliminating any direct sunlight, giving me an even soft light without overly harsh highlights or shadows.

Looking at the curls and curves of the rose petals

I find composition challenging when photographing flowers. That is one of the reasons I think I benefit from studying others work. I know when I like a photograph. If I find enough photographs I like I can begin to look for patterns. What is it about them that I like? A particular composition? A shooting or processing technique? Whatever it is I can try to use that to find my own compositions that I like. It’s not easy, but it’s a fun challenge.

I hope the photos here are just the beginning. I would like to continue practicing. I may watch The Art of Flower Photography again to pick up a few more tips and see more examples of Kathleen’s work.

Inside a red rose

I find these CreativeLive classes the next best thing to attending live workshops. Check them out if you’ve never tried them. They stream classes free throughout the day. If you enjoy a class you can purchase it, letting you stream it again anytime or download the videos to watch offline, as well as giving access to extra materials available with some classes.

So go out there and find something you’d like to photograph but lack some confidence in. Search out a class or a book on the topic, or find another photographer or artist who deals in the subject you’re interested in. Watch the class, read the book, study the artist’s work.

Find inspiration, try to determine what you like about the subject, or about an artist's approach to the subject. Then get out there and practice. Your photographs may not be very good in the beginning, but that’s ok. You don’t need to show them to anyone. Just keep learning, keep practicing, and most importantly have fun!

The Art of Flower Photography  with Kathleen Clemons . Image credit: CreativeLive

The Art of Flower Photography with Kathleen Clemons. Image credit: CreativeLive

Fundamentals of Photography with John Greengo by Todd Henson

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

Fundamentals of Photography  with John Greengo . Image credit: CreativeLive

Fundamentals of Photography with John Greengo. Image credit: CreativeLive

Are you new to photography? Interested in learning how to master your new camera and use it to begin creating beautiful images? Or perhaps you already know a bit about photography and would like a refresher to reinforce various topics? If so, check out CreativeLive’s class, Fundamentals of Photography, taught by John Greengo.

Each year John Greengo teaches his Fundamentals of Photography class, often adding or updating content, especially if anything new has happened in the world of photography. I’ve purchased two versions of this class in the past (in 2010 and 2012), and still go back to the lessons from time to time. John is a great teacher and he creates amazing visuals that help explain and reinforce the topics he teaches. (The visuals and examples in this post are my own.)

Selection of SLR lenses

In the class, John covers a wide range of topics. He talks about the different types of cameras out there today and how each work. He explains each part of a camera system, including the digital sensor and the differences between sensors, and camera lenses in their different forms. He explains how light works and how the camera captures it.

John teaches about exposure, and how it is affected by choices of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. He explains each of these topics with visuals that really help you grasp the concepts. Examples of this are how to use aperture to get a shallow depth of field or a large depth of field. He talks about how shutter speed will affect the look of your image, allowing you to freeze the action or create motion blur to show the action. He explains ISO and how it controls how sensitive the sensor is to light.

Example: Aperture and Depth of Field

The images of the lens below show the actual, physical, opening of the aperture at 4 different f-stops: f/1.4, f/4, f/8, and f/16. For this particular lens, a 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens, the largest opening possible is f/1.4 and the smallest opening possible is f/16. Click on the arrows on either side of the image to display to the next image.

The images of the frogs below show the depth of field for each of the apertures above. The depth of field is the area most in focus. In each image I focused on the eyes of the middle frog.

Notice at f/1.4 there is very little depth of field, meaning there is a lot of the image that is out of focus. Notice how at f/4, then f/8, and finally f/16, that more and more of the image is in focus.

Look at the images of the lens above again. Notice that f/1.4 is the largest opening and created the least depth of field (had the least in focus). Notice that f/16 is the smallest opening and created the largest depth of field (had the most in focus).

Example: Focal Length and Perspective

The images below were created at 2 different focal lengths. I attempted to keep the compositions as close as possible.

The first image was created using a wide angle lens at a focal length of 16mm. The front of the lens is very close to the foreground frog. Notice how large the foreground frog is in relation to the background frog. Notice how far away the background frog looks. Short focal length lenses (wide angle lenses) can stretch out the landscape, making objects in the foreground appear larger and making objects in the background appear smaller.

The second image was created using a telephoto lens at a focal length of 200mm. Notice how much larger the background frog is in relation to the foreground frog. Notice how much closer the background frog seems than in the wide angle image. This is called compression. Longer focal length lenses (telephoto lenses) compress the foreground and background, bringing the background objects closer to the foreground.

These images are an example of why it can still be very useful to move back and forth in a scene and not just rely on zooming your lens to fit the scene to the lens. Instead, visualize how you'd like the image to look.

Do you want to emphasize the foreground and minimize the background? Then use a wide angle lens and get close to the foreground object.

Do you want to emphasize the background, making it seem very large? Then use a telephoto lens. You can then move closer or further from the foreground object depending on how large you what that to be in the frame.

In addition to the more technical topics, John also talks about composition and design, about how to create pleasing images, how to add drama and evoke emotion in the viewer. He has had a long and successful career in photography, and has worked with other well known photographers, such as Art Wolfe. John is very good at taking what he’s learned and passing that on to his students through the videos and visuals.

Fundamentals of Photography is a long class full of content. It is broadcast live over several days, usually close to 5 or 6 hours a day. One of the nice things about purchasing the class is being able to watch it later at your own pace. You can take one topic at a time, watch the videos, experiment with your camera, really understand the topic. Then move on to the next topic.

If you’re new to CreativeLive, check them out. They are an online education company that broadcasts classes on a whole range of topics. The classes are free to watch during the live broadcast and from time to time when they rebroadcast the class. They are always broadcasting something. If you like the class you can purchase it, letting you stream the class anytime, and also letting you download the videos and other content to your computer to watch offline anytime you want. Some classes have extra content only available when you purchase. I have purchased dozens of classes over the years, and likely will continue to. CreativeLive offers a fantastic platform for learning. Their topics cover not just photography & video, but also art & design, music & audio, craft & maker, and money & life.