Posts Tagged ‘Naturescapes.net’

Monday Blog Blog: Mark Graf Up Close, On Ice Or Underwater

March 16th, 2015

Mark Graf: Notes From The Woods PhotoBlog

Lessons On How To Make Captivating Nature Photographs Almost Anywhere

Coral Reef, Little Cayman, Caribbean, Nikon D700, Nauticam underwater housing, dual Inon Z240 strobes. This photograph represents a lot of what I enjoy about the underwater world. Everything you see is animal life. Animals familiar, and some very foreign to land dwellers. All of which make the ocean a fascinating place to explore, and deserving of our attention to preserve the highly complex chain of life that exists within it.

Coral Reef, Little Cayman, Caribbean Sea, Nikon D700, Nauticam underwater housing, dual Inon Z240 strobes. “This photograph represents a lot of what I enjoy about the underwater world. Everything you see is animal life. Animals familiar, and some very foreign to land dwellers. All of which make the ocean a fascinating place to explore, and deserving of our attention to preserve the highly complex chain of life that exists within it.” (Click on image to enlarge.)

(What in the world is Monday Blog Blog? See the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”)

Learning about photography online is richest and most rewarding not in attending tutorials, photo schools, forums or other large blog or magazine sites, but in finding talented single photographers who have a distinct voice or a specific niche, something in common with you, or the type of advice or specialty you seek, or something different you admire, then developing a blog relationship with them.

One photoblog I discovered five years ago in my first month of blogging was Mark Graf’s Notes From The Woods. Not only do I admire the way Mark Graf approaches photography and blogging, he is one of the best at encouraging discussion and creating community, yet he appears to do it nearly effortlessly, with nonchalance and a lack of blowing his own horn that is pleasant and surprising in today’s often ego-driven photo social media world.

Graf makes his home in Detroit and has photographed and specialized in the natural places and wildlife of Michigan, Alaska, the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, as well as other states and bodies of water since the year 2000. His photography has been widely published in magazines and books and used by a long list of commercial clients in the financial, travel and education spheres. He specializes in placing large fine art prints in hospitals and other medical facilities to provide a calming, tranquil atmosphere for patients. Part of his core philosophy as an artist is the idea that everything is connected in the web of nature. Mark’s short biography and artist’s statement are well worth reading.

One day a few years ago I visited the New York Times Opinion Pages Dot Earth online and suddenly there was a photograph by Graf called “Fracked,” as well as a commentary on the image and his other photographs he makes by photographing mineral laden rocks up close. Abstract photography is one of his specialties. To learn more about the photograph from the artist’s perspective see Mark’s blog, Notes From The Woods and the original blog post about “Fracked.” Also, take a Google at some of the many other blogs and websites that published articles about the innovative image “Fracked,” including StateImpact a reporting project of NPR, National Public Radio.

Fracked, Nikon D800, Nikon 105 f/2.8 Macro lens, cross-polarized lighting. "This abstract of Cherry Creek Jasper was photographed during a time when natural gas fracking was fresh on my mind from a number of news stories. The red cracks symbolized the wounds we are creating in the Earth. The appearance of them above and below a horizon symbolized what we do below the Earth can have an impact on the atmosphere above. This image was referenced in the New York Times Dot Earth Blog.

Fracked, Nikon D800, Nikon 105 f/2.8 Macro lens, cross-polarized lighting. “This abstract of Cherry Creek Jasper was photographed during a time when natural gas fracking was fresh on my mind from a number of news stories. The red cracks symbolized the wounds we are creating in the Earth. The appearance of them above and below a horizon symbolized what we do below the Earth can have an impact on the atmosphere above. This image was referenced in the New York Times Opinion Pages Dot Earth Blog.” (Click on image to enlarge.)

Graf has written about how Michigan, for the most part, has less dramatic landscapes than many Western or other states and countries. As a result he has developed his macro and underwater photography and diving. He also finds nature in small areas and preserves, often owned by the Michigan Nature Association, which he supports and works with. The Michigan Nature Association, Mark said, “Buys sensitive plots of land and prevents any development or recreational use other than hiking and education.” They are a non-profit working to protect Michigan’s threatened and endangered species through habitat preservation. Since 1952, they have established more than 170 nature sanctuaries, the largest network of such natural areas in Michigan.

When Graf writes for Notes From The Woods, he sometimes states his opinion, but he writes his posts in such a way as to leave plenty of room for other viewpoints. He shares the various sides of any given discussion or method and asks his readers for their thoughts. I will discuss certain aspects of blogging here because I feel Notes From The Woods is one of the most accessible and easy to relate to examples of how to run a photography weblog around.

There are subtle issues that come up in commenting on blogs and receiving comments. The two biggest complaints I hear from bloggers about comments are: 1. “Most of the people who comment only do so hoping I will return comment on their blog” or conversely, 2. “Some blogs I comment on never reciprocate by commenting on my blog.” As a photoblogger, if you comment right back each time anyone comments on your blog, you tend to get into a lot of “tit for tat” relationships. If one day you do not maintain the chain of exchanging comments, comments tend to dry up on your blog. If you never reciprocate by commenting on other blogs, you will not receive many comments on your blog either. There are a few blogs that are extraordinary exceptions to this pattern. Also, at least some comments come from those who truly appreciate the writing or photography.

Graf has found the happy middle between the two opposites of never reciprocating and constantly reciprocating. He comments back selectively and intermittently. Mark visits and comments on Landscape Photography Blogger when I write something that catches his interest, but there is no noticeable correlation to when I comment on his blog. Thus, with his lead, we have avoided the rut of an endless half-sincere comment trade. This alone sets Notes In The Woods apart in my mind and causes me to think of Graf Nature Photo in a favorable light. When I get very busy, his blog is one of those I visit first, while I may not get to many of the others I usually read. More fundamentally, I have been following and commenting on Notes In The Woods now for five years because I found Mark’s writing and photography intriguing and ideas provoking. His blog was also rated highly by blog ranking websites, which meant to me that he knew what he was doing and would be interesting to learn from. I was not disappointed.

Ice Sheets at Twilight, Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24mm lens. "Photographed on Lake St. Clair, Michigan - which is about a 25 minute drive from where I live.  I only photograph here in winter because of the dynamically changing conditions of the frozen lake.   I am always surprised at what the lake offers up to me in terms of compositional elements."

Ice Sheets at Twilight, Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24mm lens. “Photographed on Lake St. Clair, Michigan – which is about a 25 minute drive from where I live. I only photograph here in winter because of the dynamically changing conditions of the frozen lake. I am always surprised at what the lake offers up to me in terms of compositional elements.” (Click on image to enlarge.)

Graf has a way of sharing often small, yet vital photography pointers sometimes through his own mistakes and with a humility, friendliness and real-world insight that can be lacking in other photographers who have as much experience. I always look forward to reading what he has to say, or what I can learn, or be reminded of, in his blog posts. Many aspects of digital photography that were different from film, I discovered there.

Not only does Graf’s blog provide an excellent learning experience, but his photographs have much to teach those who care about nature and wish to capture it with integrity. At the same time, with many innovations that go beyond the literal image, we see in his work the cutting edge of artistic expression in digital photography today. Mark began this journey by using double exposures and other effects with film photography. See his article about it on NatureScapes called, “Departing from the Literal Image.” Today we see in Graf’s photographic art various blurs, pans, movement of objects and other effects, all executed with taste, often in camera rather than in Photoshop, giving natural places dignity. He still makes multiple exposures in camera, which is one reason he uses Nikon digital cameras: they make it possible. His use of special effects adds to and helps bring out the beauty around us, rather than supplanting it in a gimmicky way like much of the awkward pictorialesque imagery seen online today. To a number of his images he adds a circular blur either in post-processing or in camera. The images in which he chooses to use this whirl effect, or any other technique for that matter, help us see the details and patterns in nature, rather than covering them up. For an education in digital photography, be sure to study his online photography gallery of portfolios. You will be glad you did.

eBook Review: Essential Guide To Photographing Arches National Park By Bret Edge

April 29th, 2014

The Essential Guide To Photographing Arches National Park

By Bret Edge

Published by NatureScapes.net

The Essential Guide To Photographing Arches National Park by Bret Edge. Copyright 2014 Bret Edge.

The Essential Guide To Photographing Arches National Park by Bret Edge. Copyright 2014 Bret Edge.

Bret Edge is what I would call a power landscape photographer. His compositions are direct, with strong lines and bold arrangements that may often portray iconic scenery, but with more ingenuity and interest than most. The graphic design and lettering of Edge’s new guide to photographing Arches National Park are big and bold and frame his power images and direct text perfectly. In addition, NatureScapes’ logo and motif indicate that this new, bright and crisp PDF is one of their Photography Series eBooks and can be ordered directly from NatureScapes’ order page.

Besides small sections about the author, NatureScapes and a general introduction to the national park, the table of contents is divided into three main sections: Sunrise Locations, Sunset Locations and Alternative Locations. Immediately I want to ask, ‘What about midday locations?’ But much of the year photographing Arches in the middle of the day ranges from not much fun to downright miserable and even fatal due to the heat. As another outdoorsman I know said, “In that country in July you cannot carry enough water.”

Within the three main headings, each location gets a treatment. Each geographical area is laid out on one page with a short description; a section called, “Getting There,” essentially the trail directions; a “Need to Know” note that gives safety cautions, background, history, tips on how to tread lightly, or get more enjoyment out of each photo spot; and most importantly for our purposes, “Photo Advice.” Here Edge’s enthusiasm for the landscape shows, as does his acumen for open-ended suggestions that allow for more diverse possibilities rather than guiding everyone to make images like Bret Edge.

This format is not only clear and concise, but it saves time over wading through the many other guidebooks and pamphlets on Arches National Park. As might be expected in a guide devoted solely to one national park, Edge covers all of the locations found in the more broadly focused book, The Photographer’s Guide to Canyon Country: Where to Find Perfect Shots and How to Take Them by John Annerino, but Edge also adds quite a few more photo spots and goes into more depth on each. In Edge’s guide the type, though small, is in a clear, readable font. Division into the various headings and subsections as described above make Edge’s guide quicker to read and easier to find essential information inside than many guides arranged in standard text formats.

Moon Handbooks are known for quality and depth, but the Moon Handbook for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, covers no more trails and destinations than Bret Edge’s NatureScapes eBook packs into only 30 pages. Besides, the Moon Handbook, of course contains minimal information specific to photography. A guide by Wilderness Press called 50 Best Short Hikes in Utah’s National Parks by Ron Adkison offers a rich narrative on Arches National Park including archeology, flora, fauna, park ranger interpretive activities and more, but the limited photographs in black and white do not evoke as much of what can be experienced visually. Travelers and explorers may read many books on the history and background of Southeastern Utah, but for photographers, Bret Edge lays it out best in his short easy to follow format. Only Photographing the Southwest: A Guide to the Natural Landmarks of Southern Utah & Southwest Colorado by Laurent Martres covers more photographic ground than The Essential Guide to Photographing Arches. However, Edge does offer a few spots and details about spots that Martres misses in his comprehensive photographer’s guide. Also, Edge’s Photo Advice is more specialized to fit local conditions and customized for photographing sandstone formations, reflecting the experience of Edge as a desert inhabitant and photography workshop leader in the area.

The only change I would make to the Essential Guide to Photographing Arches is to add information on photographing the national park in the winter or during the middle of the day when the season or weather allows. Nonetheless, if you want a book that gives you much solid information in a tight, focused and well-presented arrangement, Edge’s power photography guide is the NatureScapes eBook for you. Order here directly from NatureScapes’ order page.