I managed to snap a few photos while in Ely, MN, visiting Jim Brandenburg (see previous post). It was my first glimpse of the North Woods and Boundary Waters territory, and only a glimpse. I didn't even take the quintessential paddle on one of the thousands of lakes. Reason enough to make my way back up there, for a longer stay.
I recently had the great honor of meeting one of the world's great nature photographers, and one of my all-time favorites, Jim Brandenburg. When I first started photographing wildlife, I immediately recognized Jim as a rare master of the craft, inspiring and teaching me through his beautiful work (I told Jim I am the student he never knew he had). So to actually meet one of my photographic heroes was kind of a big deal, to say the least.
How did it happen? Well, I contributed to the award winning documentary, Medicine of the Wolf, which features Jim. As a result, a handful of backers and I we're gifted the opportunity to meet Jim and his wife, Judy, at their magical home in Northern Minnesota, on the edge of the Boundary Waters.
That's where we also met the producer and director of the film, Julia Huffman, who's devoted roughly the past 4 years of her life to the documentary and cause of protecting wolves. We spent the weekend talking about life, canis lupus, politics, photography, as well as touring Jim's studio, property, and even seeing the spots where Jim's captured so many of his iconic images of wolves.
The documentary features Jim, Julia, and other wolf experts in an effort to dismantle deeply entrenched historical myths of the wolf as a menace and threat to human beings and their way of life. Jim is highlighted in particular because of the 40-some-odd years he's dedicated to photographing and living among wolves in the wild, particularly Northern Minnesota. The sheer amount of time Jim's spent observing wolves, coupled with his unique vision as an artist, gives him a special perspective on the nature and spirit of these terribly misunderstood creatures.
In the face of recent wolf hunts across the country, the film presents a moving and compelling portrait of the wolf as a necessary part of the landscape, and as a sentient being who's probably our closest animal kin, not at all unlike our best friend, the dog.
Keep your eyes open for the film, especially with the fate of so many wolves hanging in the balance as lawmakers fight over the wolf's protected status under the Endangered Species Act. The film was recently bought by Gravitas Ventures, and will be available for pre-order on the Medicine of the Wolf webpage, October 20th.
I'm grateful for the film and being able to support it. Much of my focus and attention over the years has been devoted to the re-colonization of the North American cougar towards our Eastern states, but with the delisting of the Gray Wolf, and subsequent--and irresponsible--wolf hunts, I was compelled to contribute to the cause of Canis Lupus, our brother wolf.
Click HERE for the Medicine of the Wolf website.
Click HERE for the Medicine of the Wolf Facebook page.
This male sooty grouse was in peak display right along the road leading up to Hurricane Ridge. He was broadcasting his unbelievably deep booming call to a rival grouse, who would respond in-kind from the cover of the forest. As with many animals in the heat of courtship or competition, they usually throw caution to the wind and give little attention to approaching photographers - which makes for great photo-ops.
These shots are from the Art Wolfe workshop I recently attended in June of 2015. Early into the workshop, my landscape camera was lost to the powerful tide at Second Beach on the Pacific. Consequently, I had to switch to a backup camera and borrow lenses throughout the workshop. It was a very humbling experience, to say the least. Fortunately I still managed to get some landscape shots.
I finally had a chance to put my new Canon 5DS R to the test at one of my favorite spots on Lake Michigan, the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area, sandwiched between Oval Beach and the Kalamazoo River. It's a beautifully calming landscape, with gently rolling dunes and dune-grass swaying in the wind. The real dazzler for my new 5D was the dragonfly I photographed at a distance with a long lens (540mm) and roughly 100% crop in Lightroom. Even that far away, the generous 50MP of that camera captured all the intricacies of the dragonfly's wings. Had the dragonfly been more approachable, allowing me to use my 100mm macro, I can only imagine how crazy the detail would have been.
I'm not a big fan of hyper-realism or detail, but when necessary and appropriate, it is an absolutely beautiful thing!
During my recent visit to Port Townsend, Washington (part of my larger tour of Olympic National Park), I spent a lot of time down by the water, where I quickly learned of an otter family living in and around the town's main marina. The otters had developed an appetite for the fish scraps available at the fillet station down at the dock, earning them the not so favorable nickname of "water rats" from some fisherman. But not all frowned upon the otter's a-little-too-close relationship with humans. The woman running the bait shop next to the fillet station loved their presence and friendliness around the docks, claiming they'd wrap themselves around her ankles when seeking food. They'd also occasionally bring their pups up to the docks; a sight I'm sure could soften even the hardest of fisherman hearts.
I wasn't able to snap any shots of them mooching fish scraps, but managed to capture them slithering down the boulders of the breakwater.
They say familiarity breeds contempt, and the all too familiar seagull seems to bring about a similar kind of disdain, or at the very least, a form of ambivalence. They're everywhere, and consequently don't get the kind of respect or appreciation we afford other birds.
Well, during my recent visit to Seattle I stayed in a hotel room right on Puget sound that came with exquisite views, perfect sunsets, and a pair of seagulls nesting right below my balcony, all contributing to a new found love and respect for this incredibly adaptive and graceful bird. They won me over. Or at least woke me up every morning with their raucous call.
Last year I had the distinct pleasure of meeting one of my favorite nature photographers, Art Wolfe, while visiting his gallery in Seattle. He was gracious enough to stop and talk with me and my relatives, and more than willing to accommodate a photo.
Well, one year later I have the distinct pleasure of attending one of Art's photo workshops in the Olympic Peninsula. Art grew up in Seattle and has always considered the Peninsula his backyard and will be taking us to some of his favorite spots in Olympic National Park.
Considering photography has always been a solo sport for me, working with Art and another 20 people should be a lot of fun. I also hope to learn a thing or two from a world renowned master photographer.
After moving to a larger studio on the 4th floor of the Park Trades Center last year, I'm finally opening my doors to the public. On display will be some new works printed really big. So, if you're in Kalamazoo this May 1st and hopping around for the biggest Art Hop of the year, stop on by and pay us a visit. We'd love to see you!