I’m happy to feature my good friend and fellow professional nature photographer Dennis Goulet on the blog. I had the pleasure to work with Dennis as a client on my Costa Rica workshop tours twice, and I quickly came to admire Dennis’ photographic knowledge and skills. We get along very well and as a result, we decided to co-lead a trip later this year. This trip is a new offering called Intro to Rainforest Photography and, as the name suggests, we want to work with people who are just starting out in photography and have an interest in improving while learning and taking some great pictures in Costa Rica’s rainforests and cloud forests. The trip is scheduled for late July/early August of 2012, and we still have a few spots open. So, if you’re interested, please check out the trip here on the Foto Verde Tours website. Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed, Dennis!
I don’t think I have a particular style, although I do primarily photograph nature and landscape subjects. I suppose my style might be considered ‘opportunistic’; I’ll photograph whatever is in front of me. However, I do take the effort and research to put myself in places that offer the opportunity of photographing interesting nature subjects. I don’t generally pick a location to photograph a specific species, but tend to select locations that offer a variety of opportunities. I’ve also traveled quite a bit when I was working and took advantage of interesting places by adding a weekend to my business trips. While I appreciate, and strive for, artistic images, I’m more likely to ensure I capture the subject to reflect what I saw and felt at the time. I find great value in images that, properly grouped together, tell a story about a place or environment, usually in image shows.
Pretty much any nature subject and landscape. I do a lot of macro photography at home when I find small wildflowers, insects, and spiders. I can go back to a subject the next day to capture a different phase of a blossoming flower, or the development of an assassin bug that has made a flower in my garden its hunting ground.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel to many places around the world, from the Arctic to Australia, and find that one visit to a place usually isn’t enough to experience all it has to offer. To pick one place, it would be Alaska. It is relatively easy to plan a trip and make most arrangements on your own. The best place in Alaska to spend some time is in Denali National Park, staying at one of the lodges near Kantishna, 90 miles into the park. I prefer the fall, which is usually the last two weeks of August, and typically offers colorful tundra, grizzly bears, arctic ground squirrels and pika preparing for the winter.
Digital Bodies: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and 7D. Lenses (Canon) : 17-40 f/4 L, 24-105mm f4 L IS, 70-200 f/2.8 L II IS, 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L IS, 500 f/4 L IS, 1.4x and 2.0x TC’s Sigma 150mm/f2.8 Macro. Flashes: 580 EX II, 550EX, 430EX (X4) MT-24 EX Twin Flash. Tripod: Gitzo 1348, Really Right Stuff BH-55, Wimberley Sidekick.
For the longest time the Canon 500mm f4L IS lens would have been my favorite, but I really like the new Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. The lens produces crisp images, is fast to focus, and is excellent with the 1.4X and 2X converters, essentially giving me a three different zoom lens ranges out to 140-400mm f/5.6. I’m pretty certain I’ll be selling my 100-400mm lens.
Right Angle Finder. This is handy for macro work close to the ground. The newer ones have a magnification feature that aids critical focus, although lately I have been using the Live View and magnification feature on my Canon bodies for critical focus.
A collection of elastic bands. I use them for many tasks including keeping the camera strap from blowing in the wind when the camera is mounted on the tripod, removing a polarizing filter, securing my off-shoe flash cable to the flash bracket, keeping my cables organized, and many other uses.
Lengths of green parachute cord. I remove the inner core so that it lays flat and knots stay tied. I use it to tie back foliage that would otherwise ruin a good composition or to place a perch for birds to rest near a feeder.
Compass. I use this to determine good shooting positions while scouting for sun- or moon-in-the-landscape opportunities. I use a map when I’m planning a trip and on location when choosing locations to put my tripod. I also use
Ephemeris 2.0 to calculate sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moonset time and angle for any date and location. It is a free download at Digital Light and Color.
Generally, I try to get the best image capture possible under the conditions at the time, then do what has to be done to make it into a presentable image. It also depends on how I am using the image. For many nature competitions, limited global adjustments are allowed and I will abide by the rules as I select images to enter. Otherwise, I see no reason to limit myself to a small set of the capabilities afforded by image editing software. I see nothing wrong with cloning out a twig, an out-of-focus flying insect, or other distracting element, selective sharpening and other adjustments if it does not render the image untruthful. As I viewed the subject at time of capture, I don’t always notice the distracting element. If I do I’ll try to eliminate it by physical adjustment (camera angle or remove item from scene) Also, I find nothing wrong with severe cropping as there is some advantage beside not having to buy an 800mm lens. I rarely make a 20X30 print of an image so I wouldn’t necessarily need the full file from my 20 MP cameras. For a given distance from a subject, the greater the focal length of the lens, the less depth of field at the subject; if depth of field at the subject is needed the only options are a smaller f-stop, or you can use a shorter lens. For example, a 500mm lens on a 7D at f/8 and a distance of 40 feet will have a depth of field of .57 feet; by using a 300mm lens at the same distance and f-stop the depth of field is 1.61 feet, nearly three times greater.
I import new images into Lightroom 3 although I know I’m not using all of its capabilities. I haven’t settled into a standard LR3 workflow, but do rely on its better exposure adjustments, HSL (hue, saturation, luminance) controls, and lens correction. I’m also starting to appreciate the noise reduction capabilities of LR3. I usually export from LR3 to Photoshop CS5 where I can do selective adjustments using the masking features of layers and also do the final preparation for sizing for use (web, projection, print). I understand a lot of that can be done in LR3, but I haven’t taken the time to learn how. I use Photomatix Pro and Nik HDR Efex Pro for HDR work and will try both as they have different sets of presets that offer different results. I really like Viveza2 to selectively adjust an image based on color. It’s very handy for darkening up a sky or lighting a background. For noise reduction I use Noiseware and more often Topaz Labs Denoise5, which does a better job of preserving detail. For panoramic stitching I use PS5, and I’ve also been experimenting with PS5 to do image focus stacking.
Be gentle! There’s no need to over process an image to make it look the way you saw at time of capture. In local camera club and international competitions that I have judged, I’ve seen quite a few over-processed images, mostly heavy handed sharpening and color saturation. Often color problems are a result of an uncalibrated the monitor. Calibrating a monitor can be considered a pre-processing tip.
John Shaw, Joe McDonald, Galen Rowell, Art Wolfe, Moose Peterson. I’m also inspired by images, taken by amateur photographers, that I see at local and international photo competitions. When I’m serving as a judge, I usually reserve my highest scores for those images that give me a "wish I had taken that" feeling.
I suspect it is difficult to sell stock images for editorial or other commercial use, unless you have a lot of time to devote to contacting buyers. There are so many places for low cost use of images that it doesn’t seem to be the best use of my time to pursue that. I have sold a few prints, but only as a result of winning the Audubon Magazine Birds in Focus Grand Prize. I was notified that I won the contest two months before the winners were to be revealed and expected some amount of interest in my images to be generated by the award. I selected and prepared images to sell prints on my website. I sold a dozen large prints, mostly of the winning image, and a few other hummingbird images. For the most part I haven’t made a serious effort to market my images. I get the impression that successful professional photographers make more revenue by leading trips, sharing their knowledge at workshops, and special projects than by licensing image. I don’t know that to be a fact, but my observation is that many professionals spend a lot of time leading trips, safaris and workshops.
www.photo.net Great place for buying and selling gear, extensive forums on all things photographic.
www.KeptLight.com My friend, A.Cemal Ekin, writes blog posts on all things photographic, from the beginnings of photography to the latest image editing software.
Deep Green Photography to be inspired by great rainforest photography (ed. note: cha-ching!).
Google to just ask a question. Most of the time good answers can be had.
I would be remiss to not include this image. It was selected grand prize winner of the 2010 Audubon Magazine Birds In Focus Contest. I enter a few contests each year, hoping to win one of the prizes, but not expecting it. There were quite a few bees at one lodge which was making the hummingbirds hesitant as it was often difficult to get into the feeder. The birds would move in and back off repeatedly, but to say I timed this one perfectly would be pushing it. Most often, it is difficult to gauge what will be captured since the birds move so fast it is impossible to see the shot and capture. The best that can be expected is to anticipate some movement and press the shutter, then be surprised at your good fortune.
Canon 7D with 100-400IS zoom lens, 1/200 second at f/18. ISO 320
Post-processing: Slightly reduced yellow and green saturation, used curves to slightly increase contrast, and sharpening for use
A town ordinance in Homer, AK was in place prohibiting the feeding of eagles, with the exception that the Eagle Lady, Jeanne Keene, was allowed to feed a huge gathering of eagles as she did every winter since 1977. I went there in February 2009, and although she had just passed away, wildlife officials allowed the continued feeding until March when the eagles would disperse. The eagles were so plentiful and acclimated to the photographers that they would fly close on their way to the feeding area. I like this close-up perspective of this eagle coming in for a landing.
Canon 40D, Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens, 1/1000 second at f/4, ISO 1000
Post-processing: Using approximately 60% of the image, cropping excess wing on left and blank sky above. Used LR3 to reduce exposure, recover highlight detail, increase blue saturation, increased yellow luminance and applied a little capture sharpening for use.
I had lifted up a stone birdbath in my yard to empty it and found two weevil s. I replaced the stone and ran into the house for my camera and macro lens. After taking a couple of record shots with the weevil on the concrete stand, I placed an oak leaf on the stand and let the weevil walk on to it, providing a more appropriate background. I was so thrilled with the subject that I didn’t notice that the antennae came from the middle of its snout. Since the joint in the middle of the antennae close to its head when folded back, I thought they came from there until I saw a few of the images.
Canon 10D, Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, tripod, 1/30 second at f/9.0, ISO 200
Post-processing: Minimal croping, curves and saturation adjustment, sharpening applied
This was one of the best nature experiences. While hiking along the Savage River trail in Denali National Park I noticed a flock of about 20 willow ptarmigans foraging about twenty feet from the path. I walked far enough along the path and went off the path to place myself ahead of them and in their line of travel and sat on the ground to await their arrival. As they walked closer I was able to capture some incredible portraits of these birds that were just starting to change into their winter plumage. I finished one roll of film, and couldn’t reach into my pocket to get another roll; I would have knocked over the bird that was standing six inches to my side. So I just enjoyed the experience.
Canon EOS 3, Canon 100-400mm IS zoom, handheld, Fuji Velvia 100, other settings not recorded
Post-processing: Scanned from film, dust and defect removal, probably color and density adjustments, sharpening for use
After photographing hummingbirds at a feeder in a high speed flash set up, many of the images were starting to look very similar. I set a goal for myself to capture the image at the time just before the bird landed. It took a little while to get the timing figured out, considering the delay from pressing the shutter button to the time of capture. I ended up with quite a few images of birds with their claws out, but this one is my favorite; the bird balances the vertical element of the flower.
Canon 7D with 100-400mm IS zoom lens, 1/200 at f/16, ISO 500
Post-processing: Reduced red, orange and yellow luminance to cut down glare on heliconia. Sharpened for use.
At the end of my first day in Yellowstone National Park recently, our driver received word of a bobcat sighting along the Madison River. Our group stopped and we set up on the river bank ahead of the bobcat which was on the opposite side. Bobcats hunt along the river for ducks and swans as they drift with the current. The light was dim as the sky was heavily overcast and it was snowing so much that it was difficult to focus, and the images have a painterly look.
Canon 7D, Canon 500mm f4L IS lens, tripod, 1/200 second at f/4, ISO 200
Post-processing: Cropped out-of-focus snow bank to make horizontal panel and cropped some of rock on right side to make it a minor element in the image. Exposure increase, boosted some yellow/orange color and changed white balance to reduce blue cast from overcast sky. Both capture and final sharpening were used.