Featured Member: Rick Lieder

What kind of photography do you do?

I’ve been creating fine art and conceptual illustration for many years. My work has appeared on award-winning novels ranging from mysteries and science fiction, to books based on the X-Files TV series, to Newbery Award-winning books for children.

I also create portraits of people and wildlife, translating what I feel and what my mind sees into a physical image, its meaning malleable.

Lately I’ve concentrated on a body of work centering on ordinary backyard wildlife. These photographs capture the unique qualities of light interacting with the natural world, including luminous photographs of honey bees and small birds in flight, glowing fireflies mating and hovering over twilight fields, mosquitoes with a belly full of blood, and new-born praying mantis nymphs emerging from their egg cases.

© Rick Lieder

Story behind this image: The ongoing adventures of a honey bee, her unpredictable twists a mutiny against the sky. Thanks for all the bees: honey bees, bumblebees, solitary bees. Like treasure hidden in plain sight, dancing in the scattered sunlight, miraculous pollen-seekers with energy enough to exhaust the average hunter-gatherer, and exhilarate the patient, watchful observer.

How would you describe your style?

I’m primarily concerned with portraying light and emotion, experimenting as much as possible, and finding the image through chance and discovery.

© Rick Lieder

Story behind this image: Using only existing light to illuminate these bees can be very difficult, especially when they’re in flight, but so much of what the bee does and is IS flight. Here I was able to use the sun to light up and capture the detail in this worker’s wings. It also highlights, in another sense, how harmonious the natural world is, how one process creates life for everything it touches. In the sense that photography is light, the sun is the world, and the bees know that.

What’s your approach to post processing?

No more than is needed, but enough to express my feelings for the image. In some cases I discover more than I expected in an image through post processing.

© Rick Lieder

Story behind this image: A sharp little angel of the garden, a honey bee on her way to the wild side, too chic for her own good! She casts shadows throughout the spring air, mixing bravura style and performance in the greatest American road trip. Her natural elegance flashes fire from an understated Gilded Age.

What or who inspires you?

I’m inspired by the challenge of capturing light, and anyone who has surprised me or shown me something new. Artists I’ve learned from include Francisco Goya, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, George Inness, Arthur Rackham, Max Ernst, Winsor McCay, Charles Burchfield, Francis Bacon, Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec and Giorgio De Chirico.

What gear do you use?

Canon 5D MII and several lenses. Much of my equipment I make myself, especially camera supports, since I often work in confined, ground-level spaces.

Links

Website: http://www.beedreams.com/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bugdreams

Reflections on Weak Sunsets

Sunrise Reflections, Old Marina, Mono Lake

Sunrise Reflections. Old Marina, Mono Lake

The power and beauty of an exceptional sunrise or sunset is incredible. As nature photographers, it is understandable that we gravitate towards the most direct expressions of these incredible moments. Those sunrises and sunsets often offer not only incredible color in the skies, but also on the landscape itself–color that shows texture and contrast by raking across our subjects. Trying to pull in the whole picture, capturing all of this, is a wonderful goal.

Sadly, all too often, the skies don’t light up the way we expect. Or other factors get in the way of these hopes. In remaining attached to our vision of the grand scene, it is all too easy to give up and to forget what powerful alternatives can remain. Often, I find those alternatives include reflections. [Read more…]

An Introduction to the North Coast Redwoods, Part II

Trillum, Jedediah Smith State Park

Trillum

(Part one of this “introduction” can be found here.)

Heading North from Redwood National Park, Highway 101 passes through the town of Klamath and continues towards Del Norte Redwoods State Park. Del Norte primarily serves campers, but the challenging Damnation Creek Trail provides a beautiful 2.5 hike to a small beach cove.

Continuing north past Del Norte Redwoods you descend towards Crescent City, California, at the south end of town (and you’ll want a map or directions) you can head east and connect with Howland Hill Road which will take you to Jedediah Smith State Park. Because Jed Smith isn’t right on Highway 101, and because Howland Hill is unpaved, this area receives less traffic than the Redwood NP/Prairie Creek Redwoods SP area to the South, making for a more relaxing and meditative photographic experience, particularly in spring or fall. [Read more…]

An Introduction to the North Coast Redwoods, Part I

Trillium Falls, Redwood National Park

Trillium Falls, Redwood National Park

The coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) of California’s north coast include the tallest trees on Earth, with several examples of individual trees over 370 feet tall and provide amazing photographic and sometimes challenging photographic opportunities. This weekend I’ll be travelling to the California’s north coast (roughly betwen the towns of Trinidad, California and Crescent City, California)  to visit the constellation of four parks (Redwood National Park, Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte State Park, and Jedediah Smith State Park) that to my mind represent some of the finest redwoods photography opportunities available. In this article, I hope to give you a taste of those incredible areas and add a few words about the opportunities and challenges they present.

Starting from the south, Redwood National Park is the most natural place to begin our virtual tour, the National Park Service maintains a visitor center there (actually just south of Orick, CA) and in Crescent City which can provide excellent information and maps of both this park and the three state parks as well. A trip along the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway (which runs through Redwood NP and Prairie Creek SP) makes an excellent first introduction to the redwood environment, as the road wanders through enormous columns of tree creating a vast virtual room, carpeted with fern and trillium. The strangely-named Cal-Barrel Road (a quick turn off the parkway) offers an excellent introductory location to start your explorations. [Read more…]

Shoot the Moon!

Snowy Pinnacles at Dusk

Snowy Pinnacles at Dusk

One of the wonders of the night and twilight skies is the moon, and yet the moon can be a challenging subject to integrate into a landscape shot. There are several reasons for this, exposure problems, apparent size, depth of field, getting the moon near the horizon and subject movement all take their turns at making landscape photography with the moon a challenge. In this post, I’ll outline the different challenges in incorporating the moon into your landscape photography, and then provide some suggestions for how to work with these different limitations.

The first problem most people run into is the size problem. For a variety of reasons, we usually “see”, subjectively, the moon as larger than it is, in a pure angular sense, it’s actually quite small, perhaps half a degree in diameter. How big of a telephoto do you need to handle this? Well, if you spent over $100,000 on Canon’s biggest baddest EF lens and popped it onto a full-frame camera with a 2x teleextender, the moon would still probably barely but entirely fit in the view. That’s 2400mm of effective focal length, so if you include the moon in a 24mm image, you can guess that the moon is going to be a lot smaller (not quite 100 times smaller, but that’s not a bad guess) than the frame. If you imagine a big moon in a wide, wide landscape, you’re likely to be disappointed, the math just doesn’t work.

[Read more…]

Don’t Give Up: Keep Shooting!

Signatures of the Sun: Lightfalll

Signatures of the Sun: Lightfalll

It was about six years back; I was very, very frustrated.

I’d set my sight on capturing a particular scene in fog, a lovely grove of second-growth redwoods, ferns, and a meandering stream in Butano State Park. The location is   about a 90-minute drive, followed by a fifteen-minute hike to reach. And this was the third time I’d make the trek, and this time, as the previous two times, the fog had lifted before I arrived. For the third time, I wasn’t going to get the shot I wanted. I almost headed home in defeat, but I knew better, and I resolved to keep looking and shooting, and that has been one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.

Shaking off the frustration that day, I started kicking around the stream, with it’s perfect leading line heading into the redwoods. I was struck by the uniform size and dark color of the pebbles in and around the stream, and spent a good bit of time looking for some macro opportunities before noticing a larger yellow rock in the stream, with a rust-colored leaf held against the yellow rock by the flow of water. While not tremendously exciting to me, I started working out compositions in which I could place the rock and the leaf near a corner of a shot of stream bed. Handheld was out of the question, I was shooting 50-speed Velvia, and I wanted to shoot straight down, so I started the chilly work of setting up my tripod in the stream to allow me to shoot nearly straight down.

Finally set up, I got a better look through the viewfinder and saw something that almost got me to give up. The rock kicked up the flow of the stream just enough that the water downstream was sparkling with reflections of the sun. I figured those reflections would ruin my perfect little “zen garden” composition, so I experimented for ten or fifteen minutes trying to get rid of them, with a polarizer, by adjusting the position of the camera, and so on. Again, I was frustrated; again, I pushed on.

[Read more…]

Pacing the Oregon Workshop

Having scouted the Oregon workshop, it was now time to actually deliver the goods. Time management during the workshop is a subtle art but an important one for delivering an good experience for my customers. [Read more…]

Using Your Tripod: Why and How

In my last two articles, I talked about how to select tripod legs and a tripod head, with that gear assembled it’s time to get out into the field and learn how to use your new tripod to best advantage.

One of the primary reasons we use tripods is stability. It is simply impossible to hold a camera steady enough for a critically sharp image as shutter speeds get longer and longer, and longer shutter speeds are often an inevitable requirement of smaller apertures and wider depth-of-field. [Read more…]

If it Looks Good, Shoot it…

Into the Future

The Grigory Mikheev travels through sea ice and sunrise in the arctic North Atlantic.

If it looks good, shoot it. If it looks better later, shoot it again. –Galen Rowell

So goes one of the best pieces of photographic wisdom I’ve received. It’s more than just a simple strategy, it also reflects something important about nature photography: many of the best nature photographs feature ephemeral light. Whether dramatic (like sunsets or rainbows), or subtle (like the play of light and shadow across the landscape on a partly-cloudy day), the best light is often short-lived and unpredictable. [Read more…]

Working in Bad Weather

In my last post, I talked about how much I enjoy shooting in “bad” weather. In this post, I continue by explaining how to keep you and your gear warm and happy when you do.

[Read more…]