Kevin Adams - North Carolina Waterfalls and the Night Sky

>>> Click image below to see Kevin's video interview.

The first thing I did was come up to the mountains and hunt waterfalls and take pictures of the waterfalls. It stuck with me.

Learning

I started subscribing to Outdoor Photographer the first year it came out. Like so many people my age, I started out learning from the greats, Galen Rowell, John Shaw, Larry West, people like that, reading everything that I could get me hands on. 

Turning point

The big turning point for me was when I realized that it was okay to not believe what I was reading—that I could make my own decisions. If I witnessed something, if I saw or experienced something that was counter to what I was reading, it didn't mean that I was making a mistake. When I realized that, I felt like I really started to be able to make photos.

Affect on life

Photography is an excuse, a reason if you will, to get out of bed in the morning and see that sunrise, and to stay out for that sunset, when maybe you'd rather go in and have dinner. And to hike that trail that maybe you wouldn’t hike because your knees aren't feeling good, but you do it anyway. Photography is the mechanism that keeps you on course to do that.

As photographers, we see and experience the natural world in a way that others don’t. For instance, if it wasn't for my waterfall books, I wouldn't have seen a thousand waterfalls in North Carolina. There’s no way I would have gone to a lot of them. I just wouldn’t have. But because I'm working on this project, I have to get this photo, I have to do this research for this waterfall, and it forces me to go. In the process, I'm seeing and experiencing things, and I'm happy when I get back.

ALIVE

I discovered a waterfall that I suspected was there but had to hike in to find out. There was no trail whatsoever. When I got to the base of it, it was an absolutely gorgeous waterfall with no sign that any other human had ever been there. I’m sure hunters and fishers had been there, but it was not something that the photo crowd had gotten to, or that the hiking crowd even knew existed. 

I’m standing there and the conditions were just perfect.

Favorite places

I have travelled abroad, I have been to other countries, and I’d like to do a lot more of that, but when I talk about favorite places, it’s where I’m living right now in Western North Carolina. The mountains of Western North Carolina, and the waterfalls... gosh I just love it!

Image over your mantle

It's a shot that I took of fireflies, in a jar, set up a few years ago, and I’ve never seen another shot like it, it’s one of those night photography things that I create in my mind before I shoot it.

I had to shoot the jar part of it first and focus on that. Then, when I was shooting the Milky Way layer, as I was exposing, the biggest meteor I have ever seen in my life went right through the perfect spot in the frame.

Advice

The turning point for me was when I realized that it was okay to use my own mind and think for myself, and I would encourage others to do the same. I have noticed that young people already are doing that; they don’t know who John Shaw is, they don't know what the rule of thirds is, they don't know not to center their subjects.

They’re just out there doing their thing, and they are making some really cool photos along the way. Yeah, they’re making some horrible ones too, but so do I.

They are not bound by any sort of rigid rules like old people like me tend to be. Don't let anybody tell you that it has to be done this way, just do what you like, and if you do that eventually you’re going to come upon some course that you can follow.

For more of Kevin's work, see www.kadamsphoto.com

Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.

Look for Kevin's "Best Of" teaching coming to the ALIVE Photo online classroom early June 2016.

In the meantime, we'll send you this free mini-course with landscape photographer David Muench. (Click below)

Bruno D'Amicis - Italian Wildlife Photographer

"When the picture is too strong, you cannot look at it too much. When the picture is too perfect, you forget about it."

Abruzzo is quite well known in Europe, because it’s the last really wild place in Italy.

It’s a good combination, because you can visit the Colosseum in Rome in the morning and then watch a bear in the afternoon, and have an amazing dinner at night in a five hundred year old village.

Invisible signature

What most people come and ask me is, "How do you somehow manage to have an invisible signature to your pictures?"

It doesn’t mean that [the pictures] are better or worse than others, but it means that they are really [mine].

It comes from a very strong inner vision.

It’s surprisingly fed and nurtured by any input you place into your head. It could be music, it could be food, or your favorite football team. 

All your past, all your background, all your daily experiences somehow, if you manage to metabolize them, flow into the way you approach photography.

ALIVE

I was working almost ten years of my life on Apennine chamois. It's a kind of mountain goat which is endemic; it lives only here in the Apennines.

One idea was to photograph them with the moonlight. The chamois were in a line, and I was photographing with the light of distant villages, very distant villages in the back. There came a haze that turned all pink. The wind was moving a cloud that turned completely blue. So, the situation was well beyond my wildest dreams.”

And that picture says it all.

Affect on life

Another time I looked into the forest, and I saw running toward me a wolf pup with the fresh cut head of a deer. This connection of the death and life was really like ecology in one picture. 

In that moment I had a burst; I had a blush on my cheeks, and when I walked back I was crying, really crying, because of this huge emotion.

One of my childhood dreams was to photograph the fennec fox (Sahara Desert).

This picture shows the difficult conditions in which both the animal and the kid live. This kid is trying to sell the fennec fox that he caught in the wild illegally.

This image was a 2014 winner in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

This image was a 2014 winner in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

Advice

When the picture is too strong, you cannot look at it too much. When the picture is too perfect, you forget about it. You have to find a picture that you can read in layers.

Have a strong drive for the subject.

Learn as much as you can about your subject, more than about the camera or the latest thing in Photoshop. The nature part takes ages. Be patient.

Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.

Leave a comment for Bruno below. 

Experience more of his work at BrunoDAmicis.com

According to legendary wildlife photographer Jim Brandenburg, Bruno's latest book "Time for Wolves has been crafted with the delicate eye of an artist, the hand of a seasoned writer and the analytical mind of a scientist."

Enjoy FREE wildlife photography courses here >>> ALIVE Photo <<< in the online classroom.

 

Ian Plant - Dreamscapes

"I sleep, and then there’s photography; that’s about it."

My $100,000 mistake

I bought a Pentax K1000 about twenty years ago. At the time I was in my first year of law school. After I got the camera I realized then that I had just made a huge $100,000 mistake. Not on the camera, mind you, on my legal education.

I was hooked right away, and it very quickly morphed into a hobby. Then, before I knew it, it was a passion, and then once I worked about eight years as a lawyer to pay off my law school debt, it became a career.

Now I just call it a lifestyle. I really can't say that it’s something that I do; it is what I am.

ALIVE

I sleep, and then there’s photography; that’s about it.

There are a lot of times when I’m in the back country, when I’m by myself, and I’m in the wilderness photographing that I really feel alive. I feel connected with the landscape, with nature, with my surroundings, and with my subject matter.

Sharing the experience

I think a lot of people who consume photography are looking for a vicarious experience. They are looking to put themselves in the photographer's shoes.

The picture can bring them a fair portion of the way there, but I think that words can bring them all the way. Words really bring that experience to them.

Visual flow

There are different ways of seeing and explaining how art composition works, but there are no rules.

The rule of thirds is a perfect example. It’s something that I think Kodak basically invented. It’s a nice simplification of other principals, and that’s what makes it so attractive to photographers; it’s easy to use.

You can just look at a scene and mentally divide it into thirds. It’s pretty simple. But there is no magic to it, and it may work every now and then, but it’s not going to work for everything. So, I decided I really wanted to delve deep into the subject and try to uncover some core principles of design, that were informing these rules that people are repeating over and over again, and trying to give people a deeper understanding of what's going on.

>> Visual Flow: Mastering the Art of Composition

Favorite places

In October 2014, I went to Alaska to photograph polar bears. That was incredible. You get out there and you would see as many as 25 or 30 polar bears at a time. It was just amazing.

You get out there on the water, and basically the bears are on this spit of land that sticks out, and the boats can get right up to the bears as they walk along the shore. There was one point I was about ten feet away from a mother and her two cubs, in the boat. It was really incredible being that close to an animal that, if it wanted to, could do a lot of damage to me.

Image over your mantle

One of the images I have [hanging at my house] is one of a mountain gorilla. I photographed the mountain gorilla through a screen of leaves, so I got really close to a bush, and I found a small gap in the leaves. Shooting with wide open aperture and a small telephoto lens, the leaves all blurred out. So I like the image because it’s kind of a mysterious presentation. I wanted to show how mysterious and magical the experience is with these gorillas.

Affect on life

When you put a camera lens in front of your face, when you are creative with exposure and composition, you’re really distorting people’s vision of reality. You’re distorting the real world around you, and you’re showing, hopefully a distortion that’s gonna be artistic and compelling.

To me that is the unique beauty of photography as an art form. It is this ability to take reality and every so slightly twist it to the artist’s whim, and present something that people haven’t seen before.

Advice

Push your boundaries. Don’t just shoot what you want to shoot. 

Personally, I try to shoot things that I normally wouldn’t shoot. Even though I’ve primarily been a landscape and wildlife photographer, I now try to push the boundary and do some street photography and travel photography here and there.

I try things that I haven’t done before, because it’s a really great way just to practice your creativity, to hone your creative vision. So I tell people, "Just get behind the camera as much as possible." Whenever you have free time, fuel your passion for photography. Get out there and shoot.

Leave a comment for Ian below. For more of Ian Plant, see IanPlant.com

Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.

David Muench - Legendary Landscape Photographer

I’m alive most when I’m out photographing either deep in canyons of mother earth or up on the tops of peaks.

>>> Click image above to see David's interview.

My first camera was an Ikoflex. I started in black and white. Then, it developed into color, of course, and then I went to a Linhof 4x5 large format. My earliest photo was taken in 1953. It’s a black and white from up on Hunt’s Mesa in Monument Valley.

Early influences

Coming out of art center school of design in Los Angles, I was really touched by many of the stars like Brett Weston, Ernst Haas in color, Cartier Bresson with 35mm, and of course Ansel set the pace for photography.

Drama

What’s most exciting for me is working the edges between seasons—running winter snow well into spring with flowers below. Working the Autumn coloring, and beautiful trees.

Going into the winter season, these changes and the edges have been the most fascinating. And of course, the brooding moods, the great moods and the drama. Most all the time is always in pursuit of that next drama.

Light

It always comes around to light. The real finishing touch is working with the light. I love sidelight, backlight. The one I really enjoy the most is ambient light now—quieter light, wet light.

When it rains for instance, or you’re in a fog. I just love fog work. Working in the fog everything changes. You get mystery. Magic comes to it, and that’s where the ambient light is.

Its not contrasty, and I love the subtlety. You can work with details. You get form, which you have to place and work with light and shade, so that it’s agreeable or enjoyable at least. You get a harmony in the image.

I’m always chasing rainbows—always chasing. I won’t quit until I drop.

Favorite places

One of my favorites is Big Bend National Park in Texas—its rock, deserts, plant life, animal life. It’s very wild, and you get a sense of wildness. It’s beautiful. I love to get the feeling of harmony in there.

There are the bristlecone locations. I love the airy quality between sky and earth with the trees reaching up in between, they really touch on both of them. I mean, even the earth around the root systems is exposed.

The root systems are exposed, and yet the top of the tree is alive and reaching into the sky.

Affect on life

It really has brought us all together. It has occupied much of our lives. With Marc for instance, they went on trips with me, just like I did with my dad and mom. By osmosis, ya know, he picked it up and has become very good.

"Embrace" Great Basin National Park

"Embrace" Great Basin National Park

Favorite image

I have one entitled, 'Embrace.' It's of two bristlecone trunks up on Great Basin National Park. That one just brings tears to my eyes, because the trees talk to me.

You can feel the weather. Not just weather. It's much stronger than that. The elements are just battering these trees, and then the backside is alive. This to me is just unparalleled.

Advice

Pay attention to what you respond to personally.

'What am I seeing? What am I thinking about? What is the value of why I am doing it?' And see what you can come up with.

Let light be a guide.

Why?

It’s part of me. It is my connection to something I love, and has been part of me from inheritance. I’m a complete addict.

It's been a life way, totally. It still is and will be for quite a while. As long as I can hold up!

Leave a comment for David below. For more of David Muench, see DavidMuenchPhotography.com 

Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.

Look for David's "Best Of" teaching coming to the ALIVE Photo online classroom in 2016. In the meantime we'll send you his free mini-course, for a limited time. Click below...