Last month, DPReview.com, the camera review site teamed up with me and Canon to shoot an extreme camera test. The crew followed me as I worked on the story of Barrow, Alaska, an Inupiat village on the North Slope of Alaska. There I spent time covering the story of indigenous whaling and the tragedy of climate change in the Arctic.
Behind the Scenes
I just had the pleasure of speaking with Ibarionex Perello, host of the Candid Frame podcast and a well known-street photographer. Ibarionex and I were recently co-presenters at the photo expo PIX2015. I’m excited to be on the show since I’ve been a long time fan of the Candid Frame, which is really the best podcast on photography out there– it focuses on the art and process of photography rather than gear and technique.
We talked primarily about the Living Wild project, my long-term project on modern hunter-gatherer practitioners, as well as bit about my background growing up as a Native/Chinese kid and learning self-reliance. You can play/download it directly here.
Scavenging Guatemala began as an accident. In March 2015, I was working Glen Cooper, Photojournalism Director of the New England School of Photography. He had asked me join and help instruct at a workshop in Guatemala, where American photographers worked on documentary stories for 10 days. Since it was my first time teaching in a workshop, I anticipated that I wouldn’t have any more than a few hours to shoot my own work. But the truth is, in documentary photography, much of the work happens without a camera in your hands…
Hi folks, I just returned from a couple of exhilarating weeks in the Elkhorn Slough, near Monterey, CA. I spent the time there with conservation biologists, farmers, bird watchers, leopard sharks, and of course– sea otters! Here’s a behind the scenes peek of this shoot for the Nature Conservancy.
It’s been a busy summer jaunting about Europe building kayaks and taking pictures! I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at the amazing 3e Lifetime Agency. Based in Minneapolis, they are the creative team behind Lifetime Fitness and quite a group of inspiring people themselves.
I gave a presentation on shooting photographs, of course, but when it comes down to it, I think to a large degree what I was talking about was Life. It was really about this quote from photographer Jay Maisel:
If you want to make more interesting photographs, become a more interesting person.
Life is best lived not worrying about the past and future so much as simply going on inspiration and learning to follow the power of saying Yes.
3e posted a blog entry. They were inspired as well and I found it amazing to chat with so many interesting people so dedicated to creativity and fitness together–a few of my favorite things.
“Sea Lions!”, my friend Tom yelled to me, barely audible over the chaotic roar of thirty lightning quick flippers, surfacing and disappearing in a boil of water to my right. Then one thumped into my kayak hull and I knew I had maybe 10 seconds. I pulled my camera away from my face, laid it sideways on my lap above a pool of saltwater on my skirt. 6 seconds… I nabbed my paddle, flipped it and planted it into the water with the awkwardness of going too fast.
I could suddenly hear myself breathing as my heart became audible and I pushed backwards with a stroke. 3 seconds… A few more strokes and my kayak gained momentum and slid, frictionless, through the water, away from the sea lions. And then suddenly the sea lions vanished beneath the surface.
A quiet moment passed but I kept paddling, then swiftly raised my camera with one hand. Suddenly, the ocean in front of me burst open as three humpback whales lunged, enormous jaws agape, straight out of the water where I had been moments earlier. Those 50 ft whales with jaws 15 ft long pushed up and footlong anchovies shot everywhere, sparkling silver amidst white foam. That’s the goal. They were here for the anchovies. We were here for the whales.
In Monterey Bay, California, anchovies school in large numbers and attract humpbacks who feed on them through a technique known as bubble-netting. The whales swim around a school in circles, releasing a steady stream of air bubbles. The fish won’t cross this wall of bubbles and become corralled into a tight ball, at which point the whales dive deep and come up, mouths wide open, swallowing ocean and prey alike.
Tom and I had paddled out in our handmade traditional kayaks, having noticed the rare coincidence of a small ocean swell and whales not far offshore. We shot out of the marina a few hours before sunset, fully loaded with photo gear. Straight out of the gate we heard them blowing, the smell of a fish market lingering in the air.
Minutes later, a lone humpback surfaced in front of my bow, ten feet away. I stopped paddling and braced, one hand on my paddle, the other on my camera. It snorted and blew a fine mist sky-high, which landed all over my kayak and lens. I was still clicking despite my heart having stopped beating.
An hour later, we spotted a group of feeding humpbacks and paddled to about 100 yds away, careful to avoid disturbing them. From afar I watched and learned the patterns of their behavior— first the whales would dive, exposing their tail flukes, and then the sea lions and pelicans would start diving in a frenzy. Moments later the humpbacks would come crashing out of the deep blue as they inhaled and strained anchovies through their baleen. The thing about wild creatures, though, is that they don’t stay put very well. The whales moved around us as I watched, and then they were amongst us.
Truthfully, despite having paddled thousands of miles in beautiful waters and having had lots of wildlife encounters, this one tops the list. To be in the gaping maw of wild creatures in their environment is a bit transcendental. As a person, I died that evening, and was born again, like a sudden gust of wind or a wild thing on a wild sea.
I sure do love my job. I spent the night over in the goshawk woods east of Seattle about 100 miles, woke up, and worked with falconer Aaron Allred to install a remote camera. Aaron did a tree climb about 100-150′ up and placed the camera at a terrific angle and we ran 500′ of cable to our blind to kick back and watch the goshawks get fed and grab some terrific footage. Here’s a quick glimpse.
The last three months of shooting and gathering elements for the photographic ALIVE series have been an absolute blast. I wanted to bring you along for the ride, so check out this 4 minute behind-the-scenes video of the campaign!
Last month I was interviewed by Chris Smith (@theecjsmith), Founder & Host of the Shoot For Thrill Podcast. The podcast is one of the top podcast in iTunes and focuses on successful photographers that are at the top of their craft who desire to spur on inspiration and action in others. There are some great interviews with some fantastic shooters on there, such as Joel Grimes and Delphine Diallo, definitely worth listening to.During our podcast we talked about my personal background as a developing photographer, the path to inspiration through personal work, the need to assist, and the business side of commercial photography.In the interview Chris drew out of me not only my story, but also some struggles I went through, successes I found, and we even talked about some of the gear I use. I would love for you to hear the story of my journey. Take a listen below and let me know what you think. http://shootforthrill.com/kiliiifish