Teaching the Essence of Wildlife Photography

 

Beaver photographed in darkness across the lake May 2018 © Stephen Bruno

I am frequently asked about my approach to teaching wildlife photography. I have a different perspective on teaching photography classes and workshops. Drawing on my writing, art, and photography background my teaching emphasis is on spontaneous natural creativity and systematic technology.

I believe that it is the craft of ‘process,’ that creates the art of photography. Regardless of the technical acumen, the camera cannot tell the photographer what to include in the composition. No matter how advanced the camera is, it cannot create a connection with the subject nor show when to press the shutter button.

I teach The Essence of Wildlife Photography for beginner, intermediate and newly professional level photography enthusiasts primarily for people with DSLR cameras and compact cameras that offer some setting options. People with point and shoot cameras without setting options will still learn many valuable photography principles.

Included in the easy to learn field instruction on wildlife photography are natural non-threatening wildlife approaches, and camera settings (ISO, white balance, shutter speed, aperture, shooting modes: manual vs. aperture and priority vs. shutter priority, etc.). Instruction also includes learning how to hold the camera steady, obtaining clear images of birds in flight, using a variety of background effects, and creative use of the composition.

I teach wildlife photography in a patient, compassionate, and thorough manner with easy to follow instructions using lecture, demonstration and hands-on approaches tailored to the students. I photograph to be surprised and delighted!

The emphasis is on practical field practice. I share numerous professional tips and techniques from my many years’ experience of wildlife photography from film to digital. Students are encouraged to bring their digital camera, owner’s manual, plenty of charged batteries, and extra storage media.

I have a very relaxed, yet aware personal teaching style that allows me to be present with each participant since I do not have an agenda or itinerary to follow. I do want to inspire their passion, vision, and creativity and motivate them to become the photographer that they desire to be. I want to encourage their photographic inquiries and share knowledge in an easy, flowing, uncomplicated manner. Show students how to see through the eyes of an artist.

In the photography excursions that I facilitate in Cedaredge, Colorado, I know that it is all about the process of relationships that makes a difference in quality photography, including the relationship of connections, process, communication, space, light, and even unfamiliarity.

The camaraderie of other participants is a valuable part of the learning process. Nurturing new friendships that emerge from these classes and workshops. We all learn by different means. Some of us are best with auditory learning, and others learn best by visual means. Fewer prefer both auditory and visual.

Talking about what we are doing as we do it has proven to be an effective approach. Demonstration by example combines both the auditory and visual which is one reason why I take photographs right next to each of the participants and share the reasons for my approach and camera settings.

I photographed the Beaver across the lake in Colorado one evening as the sun set when I was donating my time to teach other Veterans how to photograph wildlife. It was an opportunity to discuss the challenges of photographing wildlife in darkness.

 

 

Preparing for Snow in Cedaredge

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Rescued Mountain Lion 2014 © Stephen Bruno

Somehow, I have managed to live to be 70 years old, and I want to be in as good a condition as I can to continue my passion for wildlife and nature photography. I am looking forward to moving to Cedaredge, Colorado in a few days and I’ve decided to walk every day from my home in Cedaredge and build up my endurance for continuous hiking higher up the mountain later in the new year.

Not having an all-wheel-drive vehicle I need to park and then hike into remote areas to visit some of the lakes. I’m planning on camping and occasionally renting isolated cabins on the Grand Mesa. I want to get up early and observe and photograph the Black Bears, Mountain Lions, Moose, deer, and other wildlife living in the mountains.

Cedaredge is already experiencing some snow, and it could snow on the day I move into my new home. I sense that this will be a heavy snow season. It was time to get some quality snow boots. Today I found Sorel Men’s Conquest Boots that I believe are going to work well for me. They will support me in 3+’ deep snow and -40° conditions while keeping my feet warm and dry. They also will be a benefit during the summer for hiking around the Grand Mesa.

Sorel Men’s Conquest Boots 2018 © Stephen Bruno

I’ll post photographs of my walks around charming Cedaredge and on my visits to the surrounding small towns in addition to my photography adventures on Grand Mesa during each of the seasons here and more images on my Stephen Bruno Photography website.

I photographed the rescued Mountain Lion, who I found to be gentle, at an animal sanctuary and I had the opportunity to connect with it and pet it. I took the image of the new snow boots with my compact camera.

Not Exactly My Finer Moments.

Mallard Duck, 2016 © Stephen Bruno

Many years ago, I was the Publisher and Editor of the Arizona Literary Review, a monthly literary, art, and photography magazine. Today I was sorting through some of my papers for better organization when I found a copy of the June 1992 issue of the magazine. It was a bit of nostalgia to look through Arizona Literary Review.

While looking at this June issue this morning, I valued high-quality literary, art, and photography that people submitted. When I created the magazine, I imagined that it would eventually reach across the country. I had no idea that people as far away as Paris, France would subscribe and send their submissions, including well-established authors.  As a writer, artist, and photographer It was a pleasure providing opportunities for contributors to be published, some for the first time. Decades later, I happened to meet a neighbor who reminded me that I published his photography in the first issue of the Arizona Literary Review. This visibility started his professional career, and he became a renown photographer.

I read an article in the issue that I wrote in my column, From the Publisher & Editor titled, I Fell in Love with Marie Antoinette, about imagination, creativity, and sometimes not taking ourselves too seriously. I would like to share this with you in my blog post as I believe there is still some relevance.

When we fall in love, I believe that the latent characters who normally reside passively within our psyche suddenly emerge. Our emotions intensify creating illusions of reality. Romantic songs play “just for us,” and the world revolves around our immediate needs and desires. You know the sense when the flowers are brighter, the air is crisper, and the birds sing sweeter.

With creativity, passion is also aroused and inhibited, equally often without satisfactory resolution. The quality of this relationship to creativity determines how we share our passion. Sometimes it is expressed by writing, photography, painting, dance, or music.

There are moments when I can recall a furtive glance by an inquisitive squirrel; the whooshing sound of wind embracing the tall pines; the distinctive aroma of summer blossoms, and cherished memories for a high school sweetheart. The haunting words and melodic rhythm of the 60s song, We got to get out of this place, revive the indelible melancholy and mania for my 14-month tour of duty in Vietnam. Then these memories vaporize just as suddenly.

My passion is to understand how this lingering tenderness in such sensorial experiences manifests itself in unrestricted drawing, painting, writing, and photography. I feel drawn into and captivated by this intimate involvement with my raw emotions in an undefined desire for creativity.

The arduous process of establishing an authentic relationship with creativity is an intimate, passionate process. Having our work published is a collective external experience. Poetry, fiction, photography, music, dance, and drama caress the heart soul and spirit. As an artist, writer, and photographer I appreciate the creative depth from others who also enjoy these mediums.

Relationships real or imagined are a wealth of resources for story, character, and plot development. Several years ago, I indifferently requested a book on Marie Antoinette through a popular book club. To my astonishment, I identified with her struggles, dreams, losses, adventures, letters, and trauma dramas.

I began writing a historical novel reflecting on the essence of Marie Antoinette.  The positive elements of her life and personality that are less known. Sometime during that year, I fell in love with Marie Antoinette and rediscovered my creative passion soon after I published the Arizona Literary Review. Many years earlier as Editor-Chief of my college newspaper I produced the weekly publications with great enthusiasm, but without as much passion.

I believe that we stimulate our inspiration when we experience the unusual in the familiar. In my thirties, at an airline terminal, I sketched on an imaginary drawing pad the divergence of passengers waiting to board a flight. I observed their mannerisms, conversations, and facial features which I committed to memory for later retrieval in one of my novels.

Startled out of my reverie of character sketching, I heard the last few words of my flight’s departure announcement in the loudspeaker. Reaching for my portable art bin, I remembered that the drawings and art supplies were imaginary.

Feeling chagrined, I hurried past all the passengers to the front of the line along the tarmac towards the America West Airlines aircraft so that I could get the window seat that I preferred. At that time no one had assigned seating. Unlike at many airports today, everyone walked along the tarmac and climbed the mobile stairs to board the aircraft.

Consumed with my recent creative energy and overly stimulated imagination, I climbed the portable stairs leading to the aircraft’s forward cabin ahead of the other passengers. On the aircraft at the top of the stairs, a uniformed Flight Attendant politely greeted me and asked to see my airline ticket. With a curious appraisal of me, she suggested that this was not the correct aircraft that I wanted. Trying to nurture me through my confused gaze, she said that the flight I wanted was on the other side of the aircraft.

With a slight half smile, she pointed to the last of the passengers on my flight who were on the tarmac walking to the other side of the aircraft. I couldn’t help myself I and asked if she was sure that this aircraft was not my flight. Once again, with a measure of infinite patience and smile, she said that she could assure me with absolute confidence that I was not going anywhere on this aircraft.

The Flight Attendant then gently handed me back my ticket and wished me a good flight. In addition to the previous concentration on my character sketching I had a couple of intense things in my life that needed some resolution, and I figured that being a bit distracted is understandable resulting in my attempting to board the wrong aircraft. I casually turned and noticed that the line of passengers was no longer on the tarmac.

I walked carefully down the steps trying to make sense of this unfamiliar experience until I reached the bottom of the stairs. Perhaps an intuition, I turned around and looked up at the top of the stairs. I noticed that the Flight Attendant was still standing by the door, and now with several other uniformed personnel who were all staring down at me.

With a Mona Lisa smile and the slight movement of her eyes looking to the left and down I finally realized why they all were so amused. With the sun gleaming off the aircraft I looked up and saw that the wing was empty where the engine should be. With a gleam in her eye, a nod, and a warm smile, the Flight Attendant placed her hand over her heart as if to say she understood and wished me well.

I was the last passenger to board the correct aircraft and ignoring all the passenger smiles and subdued laughter who had watched me climb up the stairs to an aircraft with no engine; I found an empty aisle seat. Yes, I was embarrassed by this careless attention to familiar detail but found the humor, nonetheless and I still do. I have since embraced the subtle and powerful influence of the familiar on writing, art, photography, and everyday life and the value of being able to laugh at ourselves.

Suspending judgment removes the shackles that inhibit who we truly are. A healthy sense of humor offers insight, humility, and tickles our judgments into a relaxed state in which curiosity offers a resolution.

When the plane landed, I was determined to make up for my faux pas by asking out a Flight Attendant who had been particularly warm and friendly to me during the flight. I was the last one off the aircraft, and as I walked along the hall toward the baggage claim, she met up with me and walked right alongside so close that we occasional brushed against each other.

Normally not too inhibited socially, I knew that before we reached the end of the hall where I needed to turn right, that I must ask her if she would be interested in sharing some time together, perhaps lunch. As we walked along, I looked at her, and she responded with a beautiful smile and a twinkle in her eyes.

I then without any apparent cognitive thinking asked if she knew what time it was. With a squint of her eye, she looked at my watch and told me the time.  We walked further in silence. What are you thinking, Bruno, I thought to myself? Soon we were going to reach the end of the hall, and I needed to turn right toward the baggage claim area, and she probably will go the opposite direction, and I only had a few moments to do better.

You can do this Bruno, I said to myself with confidence. I smiled, and she still smiled warmly back. Then, with a temporary mental fugue condition, I experienced an inexplicable state of altered consciousness and I asked her if she comes here often. I couldn’t believe it came out of my mouth any more than she could. She just nodded in unconcealed disbelief and disappointment at just the moment when we reached the end of the hall and without another word she turned to the left, and I walked to the right to the baggage claim area.

Not exactly my finer moments. It does, however, demonstrate how deeply we can be connected in creative ways using our imagination so that we lose perspective of the present.

The next day I decided to visit one of the lakes in the forest to focus primarily on creativity, my love of nature and wildlife and to get grounded. That Sunday afternoon, I was sketching on my outdoor easel the variety of people and families who were fishing, hiking, boating, and enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.

Five beautiful Mallard Ducks swam across the placid lake purposefully to the shore in front of me.  In unison, they began a powerful song as they marched single file up the steep hill and gathered beside my easel looking at the sketch thoughtfully.

Now, this is what nature is all about I mused. I wanted to capture this moment of communion and remember it. I positioned my charcoal pencil on a new page of the drawing tablet to sketch the largest Mallard Duck who was posing quietly beside me as he watched me sketch him.

I could hear rippling of the water, children laughing, and the flutter of songbirds. With the warmth of the sun and a light breeze, it was a great day to be creative and enjoy nature, and have wildlife come right up to me to share this special time.

The largest Mallard Duck remained standing next to be me looking intently at my sketch of his portrait. I knelt on the ground, faced him, and looked directly into his eyes.  I verbally shared the idea of unconditional compassion, love, and harmony with nature and assured him that I subscribed to these philosophies and that I valued his participation with me. I told him that he and his family are welcome to visit with me any time I’m at the lake.

I mentioned that I was a wildlife photographer and how I loved to capture the essence of wildlife in my photographs. This monologue drew his deep attention and he cocked his head frequently occasionally looking up at me and then back to the sketch. Glancing briefly at his impassive companions who stood several feet away, he then fixed his eyes back on mine.

I accepted this gaze as his sensibility and mutual understanding, and I felt that lightheaded rush of compassion and enlightenment in my connection with one of nature’s own. It was one of those rare moments and insight into the wonders of the universe and the reverence for life.

And then he bit me.

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

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2015 © Stephen Bruno

I took this quick image in September 2015 of the “Supermoon Lunar Eclipse” turning red during total Lunar eclipse early this morning with a Nikon D4 and Sigma 50-500mm telephoto lens on a tripod. The color is exactly as I photographed the Moon. This was a challenging project given the darkness and photography equipment that I used and that I took this photograph on my deck with street lights around me. I was primarily wanting to show the actual color more than the details of the Moon. 

http://www.stephenbrunophotography.com/

Continuing Photography Adventures

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Great Horned Owl 2015 © Stephen Bruno

This is a wonderful time of year for amateur and professional photographers to photograph wildlife and nature. During my numerous walks and hikes along the many Northern Arizona trails and sometimes, bushwhacking, I observed much wildlife. Some of these are in plain sight and most of them require practiced observation. Sometimes, simply being present allows one to see wildlife. Frequently, I watch people who walk under around and nearby interesting wildlife. They do this without even noticing what was there. When it seems appropriate, I point out the wildlife.

Some of my knowledge and skills in wildlife photography is the result of watching predators searching and tracking prey. This combined with my naturalist curiosity and knowledge has led to many fascinating experiences and wonderful photography opportunities.

In the future, I will write a question and answer article about photographing wildlife and then, posting it on this blog. This will include questions posed to me over the years. Other questions are what I learned are essential for photographing wildlife.

I am taking names again for those of you, who want to learn how to find, track and photograph wildlife in Northern Arizona. The Field Wildlife Photography Workshop, based on my many professional years’ experience as a wildlife photographer, is on Saturday, March 28, 2015. It is $45 cash for about 4-5 hours not counting travel time. We can car pool if not in Prescott. The last time I recently took a couple of people out (not a workshop), we found and photographed a Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron, and American Coots within the first hour. Please send me an e-mail to stephenbruno@yahoo.com. You can call 928 458-5737.

This week, I will be visiting Bearizona again to take more wildlife photography. I am looking forward to taking some creative and dramatic photographs of the wildlife. It is always wonderful when I can connect with and photograph their essence. I will upload the images on my photography website listed below and post a link on my Stephen Bruno Photography Facebook page.  Like and follow this Facebook page to receive notifications of future posts. Additionally, during the next few months, I will be photographing wildlife at the local Northern Arizona lakes, rivers and creeks. In the near future, I plan photography at the Grand Canyon. Most of these photography adventures I will do on my own and some, I open to others.

http://www.stephenbrunophotography.com/

Book Review: Arizona Highways Photography Guide

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I understand that creating a great photograph requires the process of numerous elements happening with synchronicity. I recently read this revised “Arizona Highways Photography Guide.” As a primarily wildlife and nature photographer, I agree with the information this book presents on how to take great photographs. Recognized internationally for their exceptional photography, the Arizona Highways Magazine highlights wonderful photographs in each issue. Currently, one of my photographs of an Osprey in-flight is accepted in the Arizona Highways Magazine’s 2014-2015 7th Annual Arizona Highways Photo Contest. Here is a link to the photograph.

I have taught many people, in my photography workshops and classes, how to use their camera to create powerful photographs. In this paperback book, there is quality information about digital and film photography and the essential elements necessary to prepare your camera for the best possible photographs. It also covers filters, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, tripods, exposure, lighting action shots, artistic dimensions, packing your camera bag and more.

Several chapters cover different types of photography including landscape, close-up, depth of field, wildlife, architecture, and travel. You learn the difference between taking a snapshot and creating a photograph. Developing the highest quality photography requires practice. Many hours of practice applying different skills and approaches. This book offers you diverse exercises to improve your skills and encourage them to become second nature.

I have lived in many different states and have purchased similar books created by photographers who are familiar with the best places to take photographs. These have saved a lot of time scouting new locations and offering their expertise in the time of day, settings and other important information. Perhaps the most significant part of this book, tailored for people who live in Arizona or plan to visit; the book describes a number of terrific locations to photograph. These include the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Navajoland, Red Rock Country of Sedona, Mountain Country and the Sonoran Desert.

Whether you are an amateur or professional photographer you will find effective tips and recommendations for when and where to photograph. There is additional information about settings. I have photographed wildlife, architecture, and nature in many of the locations presented in this book. You will find concise and informative content that will make you a better photographer. Many of the recommendations are what I have found to be true by trial and error on my own photography adventures. You do not need to be Arizona resident or even visit the state to find the concepts and tips of value to apply wherever you are.

I have read numerous books on different aspects of photography for many years. Some are very complex books covering in-depth concepts. Others offer a focus in specific areas. I am completing my own book focusing on wildlife photography based on my many years sharing time in nature with a variety of wildlife. I find the “Arizona Highways Photography Guide” to be a general approach to photography with an emphasis on Arizona locations. Whether you are amateur, intermediate or professional photographer this book will offer you guidance in becoming a better photographer.

Prescott Wildlife, Nature and Landscape Photography Workshop

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Snowy Egret 2014 © Stephen Bruno

I am offering another 4-hour Prescott Wildlife, Nature and Landscape Photography Workshop to be held on September 27, 2014, from 9am-1pm, at Lynx Lake in Prescott, Arizona.

From this South Shore initial location, I can sometimes see one or two Bald Eagles sitting atop a tall tree or flying low over the water. Other times, there may be a Great Blue Heron or a Snowy Egret in the small lagoon. I have also photographed Osprey fishing in the same area. Red-tailed Hawks often fly overhead. Nearby, there are many smaller birds including Acorn Woodpeckers, American Robins, and Hummingbirds. Walking around the lake I have photographed squirrels including Albert’s Squirrel, a variety of chipmunks, Red-eared Slider turtles, Tarantulas, Red Skimmer Dragonflies, Tarantula Hawk wasps, Tule Bluets and Cicadas to mention just a few subjects. Although I have not photographed them yet at this lake, there are sightings of Cougars, Mule Deer, and Javelinas.

The fee is only $25 cash, which you can pay the day of the workshop. Since the fee is so small, I am not asking for a deposit. I want to offer this workshop so that it is affordable to most anyone who wants to learn how to track birds and animals and get close enough to take wonderful pictures. This is much less than my all day photography workshops. You can click on my http://www.stephenbrunophotography.com/ link to view my portfolio to see the quality of photographs that you will learn to take.

This definitely is a hands-on workshop where we all will be photographing and discussing each photo shoot with different approaches, styles, and settings. I will post the images that I take on my photography website.

As I have shared before this is not primarily a technical workshop, I will show you how to use your specific camera to photograph wildlife up close without being too intrusive and how to take beautiful nature and landscape photography. I will share many photography tips that I have learned over the numerous years as a professional photographer.

Any camera will be fine. Bring the manual of your camera if you have one. Tripods are not necessary but feel free to bring one if you like.

Please confirm by sending an e-mail to stephenbruno@yahoo.com if you are interested in attending the workshop and I will add you to the list. This is a limited enrollment to keep the group small enough for individual instruction.

http://www.stephenbrunophotography.com/