The was one of the most heartfelt projects I have been involved in, to document the movement and installation of a hand-built windmill from solid redwood planks that were recovered from the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County, CA This was quite the set up with 1-time lapse camera that was stationary at the pickup point, then transferred to the back of the truck pulling the flatbed trailer with the windmill and finally on-site for the installation. I also use two still cameras which is my normal setup for most shoots which allows me to stay nimble and not have to change lenses very often. The final piece was capturing drone video and still images of the actual installation. Here are the results in a 3min video.
I started underwater photography in 1986 after becoming a certified scuba diver. My first camera was a borrowed Hanimax from my father. From the beginning of my scuba diving adventures, I have always taken a camera to show others what lies beneath our oceans. The Hanimax, a point and shoot film camera, broke on the first dive and I quickly realized I needed something more robust. At the time, that was the Nikonos line of cameras. I bought a used Nikonos II, also a film camera but no batteries, no light meter but very reliable.
Then in the late 80’s a used Nikonos V which at the time was a ground breaking camera, compact 35mm film, TTL auto exposure and excellent variety of lenses but still no auto focusing. It was a rangefinder camera so you had to estimate focus for every photo.
Finally in the early 1990’s I moved up to a “professional” custom housing for a used Canon F1n 35mm film camera. This housing was gigantic and crude by todays standards but with the Canon camera, it took amazing photos in it’s day.
In 2005 digital 35mm cameras had finally arrived and began surpassing the quality of their predecessor film cameras. At the time and to this day, the pinnacle of underwater housing was and is Seacam. I upgraded to the first full frame 35mm DSLR camera, the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II. This camera and housing allowed me to take my photography too beyond next level. All of my Great white shark photos were shot with this camera and housing, actually all of my underwater photos since then have been taken with this system and it has served me flawlessly for 15 years. Canon no longer services the 1Ds Mark II and technology has advanced in many areas related to underwater photography.
After a year of searching I finally found a used Seacam housing on eBay to house my Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR camera. While we are still in the wild west of mirrorless digital cameras this made sense for me vs buying a new housing and mirrorless camera. The 5D Mark IV has many advantages over my previous system: 1. will double my resolution, 2. improved autofocusing, 3. more compact camera and housing, 4. can shoot video, 4K.
A huge thanks to Stephen Frink (world renowned underwater photographer who sold me my first Seacam housing and camera), and to Harald Hordosch owner of Seacam who made some modifications to my new-used housing to work with the Canon 5D Mark IV camera.
I had the opportunity to spend the day with wildlife photographer Daniel Dietrich at Point Reyes National Seashore. Daniel has done what anyone should do if they want to photograph wildlife, without baiting, without staging and in their natural habitat. You must make an investment in time. Daniel has spent a number of years daily, weekly, monthly and yearly exploring and learning the habits of Point Reyes’ amazing wildlife. This holds true really for all forms of photography, it’s not about the gear but about learning the craft.
Here are a few of my selects from Point Reyes National Seashore. Bobcat attempting to get a gopher in the late afternoon light but came up empty…this time.
Fall can have some of the best diving conditions off the Central California coast and on this particular day, 11/01/2020, we had exceptional underwater conditions! This un-named spot off Point Pinos on the southern tip of Monterey Bay is quite a ways offshore and 170 feet deep, a very challenging dive. Jutting up from the sandy bottom are gigantic slabs of granite that are covered by spectacular strawberry anemones. Feeding off the cold nutrient-rich waters that are continually in motion due to strong currents and surge from passing swells they have found a perfect home to flourish. The dive to capture these images lasted 75 minutes with the first 25 minutes spent photographing the bottom structure before having to spend the last 50 minutes decompressing before returning to the surface. Well worth the effort!!!
While completing a 20-minute decompression stop in Monterey Bay we were greeted by thousands of Sea nettles. These gelatinous bundles of stinging cells enveloped us and stinging the exposed skin on our faces. Fortunately, after a few hours the stinging sensation subsided and all was good. These jellies are pretty amazing, traveling up and down to depths of 3,600 feet in a single day. With climate change, there is an over abundance of these creatures. They feed on tiny ocean going animals and sometimes inadvertantly sting scuba divers that can’t get out of their way.
The comet Neowise was my first foray into astrophotography. Each final image is a stacked image using 50 individual images and stacking software to reduce the digital noise from high ISO and long exposures. Not long ago you had to purchase a motorized tracker which is still a great way to go but with stacking, you can get pretty amazing results! I set up both of my cameras each with a different focal length lens to capture each image.
I have been an outdoor photographer for over 30 years. My photography has taken me underwater to some of our most pristine and fragile ecosystems. Above water, I have photographed while backpacking in the Sierra Nevada mountains to a number of our National Parks, State Parks, and local parks. In the age of highly capable cell phone cameras to the lastest evolution to mirrorless cameras coupled with instantaneous worldwide dissemination of our photos, it has never been more important for photographers of all kinds to be deliberate in how we treat these natural areas and to think about what effect posting our photos has on these natural areas.
Nature First is an alliance of like-minded nature photographers with common-sense pledge to think about and be deliberate in how we treat and photograph our natural environments which are under increasingly more pressure and quite simply being loved to death. The principles are common sense and many photographers area already practicing them but even for a seasoned nature photographer like myself, they are a reminder to be deliberate in how we treat our natural environments and encourage others to do the same.
THE NATURE FIRST PRINCIPLES
Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography.
Educate yourself about the places you photograph.
Reflect on the possible impact of your actions.
Use discretion if sharing locations.
Know and follow rules and regulations.
Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them.
Actively promote and educate others about these principles.
Winter sunset over Bodega Bay, California. Bodega Bay, a safe harbor along the treacherous Northern California Coast has a storied maritime past. While the present-day Spud Point marina is home to the local commercial fishing fleet, this abandoned pier with it’s missing section connecting it to shore is a remnant of a long-ago fishing industry that boomed in this small bay.
I am honored to have placed 2nd in the 2019 NOAA Sanctuaries “Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest“! NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries are our underwater National Parks and preserve the past as well as protect the future of these unique underwater regions. I can’t remember the last time I entered a photo contest but after my trip to Lake Huron to dive into the past on shipwrecks from the late 1800’s I had an image I thought would be worthy. The image I captured was exceedingly difficult with less than 20-minutes of “bottom time” during a 1-hour dive to 200 feet in 38 degree water, operating a rebreather and trying to take photographs at the same time all with the goal of doing it safely!
The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge is the winter home to literally millions of water foul that travel thousands of miles each year on the Pacific Flyway from as far away as the Soviet Union. This was my first trip here, a short 2hr drive from home. Though the weather looked promising, it ended up being a hazy partly overcast morning. I plan to return as the photo opportunities here are endless!
Here are a couple of common birds to Northern California visiting my backyard. The neighbor’s hedge/tree provides a nice background that is rendered a blurry green abstract due to shallow depth of field from my telephoto lens.
After several years of planning and training, the time finally arrived to drive 2,600 miles from California to a remote northern part of Michigan to dive on a number of shipwrecks dating back to the late 1800s. We were part of a group of twelve technical rebreather divers on a trip coordinated by Becky & Dave Schott who have extensive experience diving and documenting what lies deep in the cold clear waters of Lake Huron. Our dives were anywhere from 160 feet to over 200 feet deep for 20 minutes which required a total dive time of over an hour in 38-degree water after we spent our time doing required decompression. Two dives a day for 5 days was our goal, visiting historic steamships and sailing vessels lost over 120 years earlier after collisions with other vessels or succumbing to sudden violent storms that plague the Great Lakes year-round. Despite a number of setbacks, I was able to capture some of these incredible ships that to this day remain largely intact!